Friday, June 30, 2006 

Sick to Death

The attack of the Killer Peanuts

I've come to the conclusion that Canada must be a disease factory.

So many people seem to be suffering from diseases which, up until now, I'd only read about in the back pages of obscure medical journals. If they're not already on disability insurance for it, they're doing their best to convince the government that they should be, or, failing that...persuading anyone and everyone around them to change their lifestyles to accommodate their wide range of (what I previously thought were) rare symptoms.

Canadians (myself included) seem to be obsessed with our health and I'm not sure if it's a result of government advertising campaigns to promote a healthier lifestyle or if it's because corporations use our already innate fear of death to manipulate us into buying their products. Either way, it's getting on my nerves already.

Let's start with peanuts. They seem innocent enough. But not in Canada. Here, they're a surefire way to kill people. In drive-through windows at fast food outlets, there are signs assuring customers that their food is not cooked with peanut oil. Attached to my son's summer day camp registration form was a reminder not to give him peanuts or any food which could include any peanut derivative (like peanut oil) in it. On restaurant menus, diners are reassured that their food does not include nuts.

The reason behind all the notices is that some people suffer a serious allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis which can be life threatening. According to Anaphylaxis Canada, about 1-2% of the population suffers from it but from all the warnings I'm seeing, you'd think 100% of the population is midst of an anaphylactic epidemic.

I'm almost 40 years old and throughout my whole life, I only know one person who is allergic to peanuts. I grew up on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches along with the rest of my childhood friends. Because I am a vegetarian, my nutritionist told my mother that she should include peanuts in my diet since I wasn't eating meat to ensure a good dose of protein to keep my immune system working properly. I feel badly for people who suffer from this allergic reaction but does it really warrant so much fear mongering?

And then there are all these people walking around wearing masks suffering from environmental illness. While I recognize that some people do feel sick from smelling too much perfume or detergent, but in the eight years I've been absent from Canada, has our environment deteriorated so much that it justifies the sudden increase in people claiming to have environmental illness? Am I that naive or insensitive to the horrors of such illnesses? Or are people just taking things too far?

We could tell the sufferers of such diseases to stay home but apparently they're not even safe there since the advertisers for bug repellant are telling us that if we don't buy their brand, then we might very well be bitten by the deadly West Nile virus carrying mosquitoes.

And I thought terrorism was our biggest threat on our lives. Coming back to all these peanut, perfume and mosquito warnings, you'd never even know there was a War on Terrorism.

Monday, June 26, 2006 

Lord of the Stubbed Toe

It's been another week in Canada's Ocean Playground and the most eventful thing that's happened was my son's impersonation of Michael Flatley doing Lord of the Dance in the living room and stubbed his toe as a result. I have to take him to the doctor today since his toe has swollen to the size of a Polish kielbasa.

I'm sure if I sent that story to the newspaper, it would receive front page placement since the biggest story for the past two weeks seems to be the Sunday shopping debate. More than half of Nova Scotians don't want Sunday shopping to come into effect citing that small businesses will suffer at the hands of the hypermarket grocery chains and workers being forced to work on the one day they can count on having off.

Both are valid reasons to oppose Sunday shopping but the way I look at it, if over half of Nova Scotians oppose it and workers don't want it, then it's much ado about nothing. The problem will take care of itself. If shoppers really don't want to shop on Sundays, they won't and the stores will open with no clientele. If workers will either quit or be fired for having to work on Sundays, then there'll be no one to staff the stores anyway.

Already some stores, like pharmacies (which are more like mini supermarkets anyway), are open on Sundays and they're just as busy on Sundays as they are any other day of the week so I guess there is a demand for it.

For the workers who are afraid they won't have one day of rest during the week, I can't say I buy this argument since the labour laws are still in effect over how much time employers can demand of their employees. It's not like employees will be working 24-7 anyway. Since I was the owner of a small business that stayed open 7 days a week, we certainly had no problem finding workers willing to give up their Sundays for pay. Many young people looking for weekend shifts and older people looking to supplement their incomes ensured us of a steady supply of shift workers--including myself.

Even when I wasn't working in retail but in advertising, I not only spent Sundays working but many evenings as well and since I had a salaried position, I rarely got paid for the extra hours I put in. I did them anyway because even if I found another job that was strictly 9 to 5, it didn't pay enough, was boring or both. As a working mother and wife, I appreciated having stores open later hours and on Sundays because it meant I could shop around my own working hours instead of stressing myself out trying to get my shopping done in stores that closed before my company did.

I'm sure that once Sunday shopping becomes the norm rather than the exception people will calm down and realize it does have its benefits as well. And maybe then they can focus on more important issues like increasing the minimum wage for workers.

Sunday, June 18, 2006 

My Left Foot & Other Anomalies

After spending a couple of days in London, England, we finally made the trek across the Atlantic. We arrived in Canada last weekend and we've been pretty busy ever since.

So far, we've:
-bought a mini-van
It seems 75% of the population own one and now I know why...they really are very comfortable, roomy and reasonably priced.

-gotten accustomed to driving an automatic car.
It took me about a half hour to figure out what to do with my left foot (having no clutch pedal to worry about) and my right hand (having no gear shift) before I can safely say that I think I've got the hang of it again.

-found a house.
We won't be able to move in until August. Hopefully our furniture will arrive before then.

-replaced my Swiss Army knife that was confiscated from me at the Athens airport.
I know you're all thinking "why on EARTH would she THINK she could take a knife on board a plane. I'll tell you why. Security never took it from me when I went to Olympic events and I even took it to Spain with me two years ago and the airline didn't have a problem with it then so I figured I could still get away with it. Besides, a girl's gotta have some protection if a plane is ever hijacked. So there is a method to my supposed madness.

-confirmed that smokers are second-class citizens in Canada.
90% of public spaces ban smokers. Although we did find one waterfront pub that allowed us to smoke on the back patio. How gracious of them. I'll definitely be returning there. I've heard that by December 31 this year, I won't even be able to go there either since there'll be a 100% ban on smoking everywhere. A question to ponder: why is it that Greece, with almost half the population smoking, has the same lifespan with Canadians where only 21% smoke? Either way, I'll probably still have to quit because I can't afford to spend $10.25 for a pack of cigarettes.

-realized that my husband will take quite awhile to adjust to nature.
He kept telling my sister and her husband that one of their cell phones was ringing. They weren't. Apparently he can't tell the difference between a bird call and a ring tone.

-realized that pubic servants can be friendly and helpful.
When we went to get licence plates for our mini van, the plate she gave us ended in an odd number. My husband jokingly remarked that it would be nice if we could have an even numbered plate so he could remember it better. She promptly got up from her chair and returned with an even numbered plate. Christmas came early for my husband. AND when she told us we needed photocopies of our ID, we started to gather our papers to get them done, when she stopped us and told us she was going to do it. I felt like I was on another planet.

-seen more rain in one week than we had in Greece all year.
Out of the 8 days we've been here, it's been raining and/or completely foggy for 4 of them. No wonder most of the houses here look like doll houses with their perfectly manicured lawns and spotless interiors...Canadians have nothing else better to do on rainy days but to clean. I'm doomed.

Since it's another foggy day today and most likely will rain again, I'll be trapped inside doing housework. Because I'm staying at my sister's house till we move into ours, she'll be thrilled and perfecting her rain dance skills.

Thanks again for all your good wishes on my last blog. If there is such a thing as "positivity", then all those comments should have a positive effect on my life over here. Good or bad though, I'll still be blogging it all.

Thursday, June 01, 2006 

Time to Fold

Back in January, I wrote a post where I questioned the logic of staying in Greece or returning to my home country of Canada. I felt, at the time, that we could probably wait until the situation in Greece improved. When phone and electricity bills would stop climbing. When tax laws might improve and tax inspectors would eliminate their 'personal salary supplementary payments'. When the education system might get reformed and we wouldn't have to spend hundreds of euros a month on extra lessons at frontistirios. It was a lot to hope for in six months, and therefore, it hasn't happened.

So, it is with mixed emotions, I have to announce that my family will no longer be living in Greece as of next Thursday. With the price increases in utilities, declining sales and the sharp increase of customers who can't or won't pay their bills, our businesses have suffered the effects of a population burdened by debt. We sold the stores in March (although due to bureacracy, the sales were only finalized 2 weeks ago) so we could focus on another technology project of my husband's. While he received rave reviews and positive feedback, it wasn't enough to consider continuing this part of the business in Greece where internet penetration is still very low and people haven't adopted the view that computers are a necessity and not a luxury. He decided that Canada would offer him more opportunities to grow this part of his business in earnest without having to deal with the corruption and limitless bureacracy we experience daily here.

We talked to our son as well about the possibility of moving back to Canada, and like all kids, he has visions of Christmas with snow, deer in the backyard and camping by lakes so he was only too happy to move. When we told him that his life in Canada wouldn't be a permanent vacation and that he'd still have to go to school, do homework and chores, he was still positive about the move since he'd also see his grandparents, aunts and cousin again and live in a house with an actual yard and not a balcony. I thought he would probably change his mind once we got to the actual move but it's upon us now and although he's feeling sad about leaving his friends, he's absolutely determined to go.

Even though I know that from a business and education standpoint, leaving Greece is the wise thing to do, I am not doing it with excitement or happiness. I will miss so much about Greece that I've come to love which makes it very hard for me to say goodbye to the country which was my home for the last eight years. I will miss the Greeks on the streets, in stores, on public transit who engaged my son in conversation about his world of dinosaurs, sea creatures and stray animals. I will miss seeing them hug and kiss him as if he was their own. I will miss Greek food, Greek islands, Greek culture and history and of course, the famous Greek weather. It is just too bad we can't live off those things alone.

I don't regret moving here despite all the problems we've had over the years with the system. I may regret leaving. If only Greece had some semblance of a responsible and competent government, we wouldn't have even entertained the thought of leaving.

I will continue to update my blog from Canada but the focus will change as I begin my life again. I hope all my readers will still continue to read my blog from time to time--there's enough scandal happening in Canada as well so I doubt my blog will suffer from lack of fresh content. Someone has to blog it all so it may as well be me!

I'll see you all in about a week since I'm off to the land of hockey, beavers, snow and Molson's!