Sunday, February 29, 2004

It Might Be Worth 2 Cents

Warning: This blog contains political thoughts that you may disagree with. That’s your right, but that doesn’t mean you’re right. J

This past week I read Michael Moore’s Dude Where’s My Country? I have to say upfront that I don’t really follow Michael Moore that much. I know the basics, and I saw the Oscar speech (who didn’t?), but I’ve never seen any of his movies or read any of his other books. Dude Where’s My Country? is only 217 pages of fairly big print, and it’s a quick read. I went into it with a fairly open mind. I was interested in what he had to say, being a person who is interested in politics but who is still sometimes confused about exactly where I stand or what I’m supposed to believe. To be fair, I was probably a bit biased toward supporting Moore, because I too consider myself a liberal who is opposed to Bush, his war, and the direction he is taking my country.

The first 100 pages, however, seemed to me to be nothing but soapbox ranting. He begins by presenting 7 questions to W and then making a big issue out of 10 “whoppers” that Bush is feeding us. Some of his issues had some worth, but I don’t feel like they were presented in a rational manner at all. It seemed that he felt his argument was valid if he could simply cite some other source that deals with the same issue. Hell if that’s all it takes to substantiate an argument, there’s no invalid thoughts in the world. If one nutcase writes something somewhere, and then another nutcase presents the same argument, referring to the other nutcase’s argument as proof, that doesn’t make a nutty argument any less nutty. It just means that the nuttiness is spreading.

The second 100 pages were a lot better though. Moore finally quit preaching and got to actual thinking. He quit being the liberal that causes people to hate liberals and actually made a number of excellent and thought-provoking points. I especially liked Chapter 5 and Chapters 9-11. Chapter 5, which is titled “How to Stop Terrorism? Stop Being Terrorists!” really cut to the heart of what I consider some of the US’s greatest shortcomings in terms of how we treat the rest of the world. Among these shortcomings in serious need of redress are: the way we prop up dictators in countries that are of use to us, our energy consumption, the way we take companies overseas and pay the workers next to nothing to create products that are then sold for big bucks, our fondness for condemning weapons of mass destruction while stockpiling them for ourselves, and our policy of preemptive war. Mainly our problem is that we sometimes forget that we’re not the only people in the world. While moral grounds alone should be enough for us to start assuring that the rest of the world has a bearable quality of life, we should also remember that although we have hegemonic power right now, history has repeatedly shown that no country can maintain that. It wouldn’t hurt if we started basing more of our policy on the Golden Rule than on “we’re bigger than you and can thus do whatever we please.”

Chapters 9, 10, and 11 are titled “A Liberal Paradise,” How to Talk to Your Conservative Brother-in-Law,” and “Bush Removal and Other Spring Cleaning Chores”. Chapter 9 does an excellent job of pointing out the fact that most people have very liberal beliefs if they stop to think about each issue individually. As a country, we believe in equal rights for women, that gay couples should get the same benefits as straight couples, and that diversity where we work, live, and go to school is positive. We support gun laws, labor unions, and freedom of speech and religion. We want everyone to have health insurance, and we are all for protecting the environment. We are a liberal people, who have somehow become scared of the term “liberal”. We think liberally, but vote conservatively. Chapter 10 is interesting not only for the way that it points out mistaken reasoning as to why to vote conservative, but it also talks about the mistakes that the left has made. One thing that I dislike about liberals, even though I claim to be one myself, is their arrogant way of thinking that they are always right and everyone else is Satan. The right has some good points. So does the left. We don’t live in a black and white world. And no one is perfect. Chapter 10 kind of continues on this line by talking about what needs to be done to get a liberal victory come November. The Chapter addresses the shortcomings of liberal candidates and makes useful suggestions about how to take action to help elect a liberal candidate this election year. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem that any of the candidates that Moore supports have a snowball’s chance in hell. Clark and Dean have already dropped out of the race. Kucinich is still taking a stand, but he doesn’t have the support he needs. And Oprah refuses to be on the ballot. It’s a rough world for us liberals. But, in my opinion, anyone left of Bush is a step in the right direction. So once I come back, you better watch out. I’m going to do whatever I can to help get Bush’s opponent elected. You might not like that, but it’s my right. Thank goodness the PATRIOT Act hasn’t gotten rid of that one.

Anyhow, as a final thought, I suggest you read the book no matter what side of the fence you’re standing on or whether you’re still straddling it. It’s not wonderfully written. It’s not the constitution of liberals everywhere. It’s one man’s thoughts. Some of them are ridiculous. Some of them are interesting. Regardless, I found it thought provoking. And if nothing else, his sarcasm can be laugh-out-loud funny at points.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Maybe I Am Employable

Good news on the job front. There are people in this world who think I might be qualified for a "real" job. Neat, huh. Last night, I received an email from the Holocaust Museum, saying they'd like to interview me for a position I applied for in Visitor Services. Visitor Services Representative is not my dream job. But the Holocaust Museum is my dream place to work. So it's a foot in the door and a way to move into museum education work. I bet they want someone to start before I can, and an interview doesn't guarantee a job, but it is all a step in the right direction. I posted before about not knowing what I want to do, so I thought I'd provide a brief update. I've decided what I most want to do is work in a museum. I think I'd like to go back to school to get a degree in museum studies, but that will have to wait a year or two. Until then I'd like to work and save money. So in regards to that, I've now applied to four jobs. This one in Visitor Services at the Holocaust Museum, a development job at the Holocaust Museum, a development job with the Civil War Preservation Trust, and a museum education job with the Discovery Creek Children's Museum. All of these jobs are located in DC. I'm hoping that by the time I come home, I have some kind of offer. That's a lofty goal, but perhaps obtainable. If not, I'll just keep looking once I'm home. No matter what happens, getting a positive response so quickly from somewhere I want to work is a boost.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Smells Like Spring

On a little traffic island that I pass on the way to and from my play job with Konstantinos, there is always a young guy selling flowers. They are arranged in bunches of the same type of flower and stored in plastic buckets. These are some of the most beautiful flowers I’ve ever seen. There are daffodils, Gerber daisies, tulips, lilies, pretty much any flower you could want, and they are all absolutely vibrant. I can’t imagine more colorful flowers. I love the way they sell flowers in Greece. You don’t have to go to a florist. You don’t have to get some crazy arrangement complete with weird green stuff that you don’t really want. You can get flowers that look like you just cut them from your own yard. And you hardly pay a thing for them. It’s wonderful. Today was especially nice because when I walked past the buckets of flowers, there were lilacs. It was beginning to rain, and the scent of them was especially strong. I love the smell of lilacs. It reminds me of my backyard at Easter time and playing around the big green electric box. (Do you think they really mean it when they say to keep away from that thing? We always used it as a base, and nothing bad ever happened to any of us….Unless that has something to do with why we’re all a little weird.) I stopped a few paces past the flower seller and thought about buying some, but I didn’t. I kicked myself the whole way home after that. I don’t know why I didn’t. Flowers here aren’t expensive. They’re gorgeous. And they can transform a room. On Saturday, when I am walking home from Konstantinos’, I’m going to buy a bunch. I just don’t know what kind yet. Maybe I’ll start buying them every week. A different kind every week. I always said that “when I grew up,” I’d have flowers in my house all the time. Seems now is as good a time as any to start admitting that I’m getting close to being grown up.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Things That Deserve A Second Thought

What’s the difference between lemons and limes? Are we definitely sure that they are not the same thing? We have a lime tree in our front yard. During the summer, this tree was full of bright green limes. We would use them sometimes, and thus were certain that they were, indeed, limes. However, now that it’s winter, the limes are gone. But the tree still has fruit on it – bright yellow lemons. I swear I am not making this up. We’ve used some of these too, and as far as we can tell, they’re lemons. In the summer, the fruit looks, tastes, and smells like limes. In the winter, the fruit looks, tastes, and smells like lemons. Any thoughts on this?

Do conjoined twins only have to buy one bus ticket? It’s not like you could throw one of the two off the bus for not having a ticket. They can only move together, so does that make them one person in regards to things like tickets? Are there guidelines? If they’re connected at the head, they’re one person, but if they’re connected at the shoulder, they’re two? Does it depend on how many butts they have? Is the fact that I’m using “they” a tell-tale sign, that conjoined twins are obviously two people. Bet that gets tricky for people selling tickets. It’s probably such a sensitive subject, they just let the conjoined twins make the decision and leave it at that. I wouldn’t want to argue the semantics of it with someone who has to deal with being conjoined.

When I am old and wrinkly and decrepit will someone still bring me flowers? Yesterday as I waited for the bus at Panormou, a little old man walked by carrying one pick rose wrapped up in pink tissue paper and tied with a pink bow. It was so cute. When I’m that old, I hope that someone is still so in love with me that they bring me flowers. Just one pretty flower will do. But seeing that I don’t even get flowers now, I’m not really keeping my fingers crossed. It’s okay, though. I’ll be happy enough if someone is still that in love with me, flowers or no flowers.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Go Fly A Kite

Today is a holiday in Greece. It's "Clean Monday," the first day of Lent in the Greek Orthodox church. As with all holidays here, everything is closed. There's no work, no school, nothing to do except go fly a kite. And that's exactly what Greeks do on this holiday. I went into town today to the area near the Acropolis, and on a large rocky hill, I watched hundreds of people fly kites. It's as serious a tradition here as setting off fireworks on the Fourth of July is at home. The kites are wood-framed paper kites, and today was a perfectly breezy day for the flights to take off and soar high over Athen's ancient sites. The kites reflected the personality of the flyer. Some were covered with the logo of a popular soccer team. Some were made to look like clowns. Some were fanciful swirls of color. It was a beautiful sight, and sitting around watching families fly kites, I decided that it's a very nice tradition. A holiday for kite flying...I like it.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Oh, The Wild Joys of Living

Life is fickle. Sometimes, like yesterday, it just keeps kicking you in the ass, even after you’re down. But then life has a change of heart, and not only does it help you back to your feet, but it also showers you with kisses. Today was one of those days. When I woke up, it didn’t really seem like it was going to be such a good day. Our water had still not returned. It was now 72 hours since I’d last had a proper shower. Pretty gross, but in a way, not as bad as yesterday. I was already nasty. One more day didn’t matter so much. I cleaned up as best as I could with bottled water, put on some half-clean half-dirty clothes and headed into town. My plan was to pick up the plane tickets I’d reserved for my mom and me and then just to head back home to wallow like a pig in my filth. The ticket man had other plans for me though. I went in, paid, was issued a receipt and was told to come back in an hour to pick up the actual tickets. Great, I thought, an hour to waste on a Sunday when nothing is open. I headed down Ermou, window-shopping. It was actually nice to be on the street without a million other people usually jostling. At the end of the main shopping area, I stopped and actually paid attention to the small ancient-looking church situated in the middle of the street. Normally I just walk around it as I move from Syntagma to Plaka to Monastiraki. Today, I noticed that the church was actually open. People were going in and out. Something was going on inside. And all along I had just thought it was one of the many random ancient ruins scattered around the city. In Monastiraki, I wandered around the flea market to see what kinds of random things I could find today. Nothing too out of the ordinary jumped out at me, but I mused over the old victrola, the violins with broken strings, the wooden shoe models, and the army helmets. I gathered with a crowd (mostly men) as two potential buyers argued with two potential sellers. The object of interest was an intricately painted vase and bowl set, and the price was at stake. The potential buyers would point out small chips and scratches. The potential sellers would point out the rarity of the pieces. Money was waved around and then returned to the pockets. Voices were raised. Multiple times one would refer to the other as “malaka,” an all-purpose vulgarity that has lost most of its sting through overuse. I was waiting for someone to pick up one of the other pieces resting on the blanket and throw it at the other. But then when everyone’s face was as red as one can imagine a face getting, everyone simply burst out laughing. A deal was made, backs were patted, hands were shook, and everyone went away happy. That, I thought to myself as I stood there, is Greece. Rough and even unappealing on the surface, but underneath jovial and light-hearted. And there’s something about it that won’t let you just walk on by. You have to stop and take part in it all. After moving on from the flea market, I found myself face to face with the Acropolis. I walk by it all the time. I sometimes notice it. But I’ve never actually explored it. I figure I’ll save that for when I have visitors, all who will, of course, want to see it. Today, however, I walked through the gates into the ancient site. On Sundays it is free, so I figured I might as well take a little walk through it all, especially since the day had turned out to be beautiful. I wore my coat, but the sun was warm, and the snow was quickly disappearing like a dream in the day’s light. I didn’t even venture toward the Parthenon or any of the other ruins which typify the site. I wandered through the remains of statues of emperors and up to a small temple. I took in the view and wondered how it had all come to this. It seems odd to me that such magnificent buildings could be allowed to come to ruin. I’m sure it had to do with war and times of economic hardship and changes in government and religion, but still it seems that someone in the thousands of years between when it was built and when it was preserved as a park would have had the insight to maintain it all, if for no other reason than that the buildings are nice and already built and could have been used for something. I’ll leave that thought for now though, because I’m sure it could turn into quite a long tangent. By the time I left the Acropolis, it was time for me to pick up my tickets, so I wandered back through Plaka to the travel agent. He handed me my tickets, I checked them for accuracy, and then I went to grab lunch. I didn’t know the water situation in the house, so I figured it was best to eat out than have to worry about cooking and cleaning without water. After eating, I headed to the metro to go back home, but as I was about to enter the underground network, I heard a band playing and decided to wait to see what it was before continuing my journey home. The square around the metro is under construction, so I had to go to the upper street to check it out, and I found a parade coming towards me. There was a small band of men and women in blue pants and red jackets, playing patriotic sounding music, followed by a group of eight men dressed in traditional costume and carrying Greek flags. At the front of the parade were four women in traditional dress carrying a large wreath. The parade went over to the Tomb of the Unknown Solider, and I followed. A few words were said, some music was played, and the wreath was placed at the tomb. I don’t know what it was for, but it was interesting to watch nonetheless. Then, looking at my watch, I realized it was almost time for the changing of the guard, and since I had never seen it before, I stayed around to watch. As with other such ceremonies, it was full of elaborate steps and gun maneuvers. Now, I thought, time to go home. But life wasn’t through showering me with kisses yet. I was carried past the metro stop, down the street, and into the National Gardens. As it is only a week until Lent, the Greek version of Carnival is underway. The main festivities were supposed to take place Thursday night, but that is the night we were blanketed with snow. Today the National Gardens were filled with people celebrating. Children dressed in costumes ran through the park, throwing confetti, dragging balloons tied to their arms, and shooting each other with cap guns and silly string. Vendors sold cotton candy, popcorn, and other treats. Old men with streamers stuck to their shoes unknowingly dragged rainbows of color throughout the park. A statue of cupid poked out from some bushes. A fountain sprayed water into the air. And on the playground, princesses and cowboys occupied the swings. I wish there had been some way to capture it all in photos, but it wasn’t any one thing or place or person that made the day so wonderful. It was life, and life can’t be captured in still frames. I did my best to capture it in my memory though. And in the end, life rewarded me for taking note of its pleasures. I came home to hot water and a nice, long shower.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

And Greece is a Developed Country?

Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a third world country. Today is one of those days. It started yesterday with the lack of hot water. I know some of you were confused as to why a bit of snow would knock out my hot water, so let me explain. The water heater here is located on our roof. Yes, that's right, outside on the roof. It really doesn't hold much water and while the water is heated electronically, the temperature is quite dependent on solar heat. In the winter, our hot water supply is terrible. Two short showers will drain it for hours. When it snows, the entire tank freezes and we thus have no hot water at all. But today, things went a bit further. We no longer have water at all. It seems as if a pipe on campus has burst (at least that's what I'm getting from the fact that water is pouring unchecked from the fire hydrant and has been all day). So now we're in a real mess. Now it's not just hot showers we can't take, it's showers at all. Now the issue isn't flushing toilet paper (which you normally can't do in Greek bathrooms), it's flushing toilets at all. We can't brush our teeth, wash our hands, do the dishes. We really can't do much of anything. But we also can't just leave our dishes lying around, because Greece has serious roach problems and we don't want those in our house. So we've resorted to collecting snow, boiling it, and using it to wash dishes. Neat, huh. I went down to the kiosk and bought 4 liters of water to take care of personal hygiene as best as I can, but right now I'm hoping and praying that come morning my water is back and I can use the water for its intended purpose - drinking. The Little House on the Prairie/Living in a Third World Country adventure is neat and all, but I'd really like to return to living in the modern world soon. Keep your fingers crossed for me. Here in Greece, it's going to take a miracle...especially if I think someone might even consider doing work on a weekend.

Oh yeah, isn't Valentine's Day sweet? :-)

Friday, February 13, 2004

Three Day Weekend

The weather in Athens is whacked out. Last Friday, Kate and I went to the market wearing thin cotton shirts and no jackets. Spring was unmistakably in the air. Or so we thought. Today, one week later, I am home from school on a snow day. The snow started last night around 6pm and fell quickly, coating the trees, grass and even the streets with thick, wet snow. By 9pm, it seemed to have stopped, but a couple of inches had already accumulated. In outlying areas, the snow was at least a foot deep. Athens is set in a valley surrounded by mountains, so when the center gets snow, the rest of the area is in deep trouble. Despina was out tutoring a family that lives on the outskirts on the city and ended up stuck at their house. No cabs would come pick her up, traffic was horrendous, and the snow was still falling. Around midnight, she finally made it home. Thank goodness. She would have been stuck there all weekend if not. Sometime during the night, the snow began again, and it’s still coming down. I didn’t get this much snow the whole time I lived in Germany. I don’t know what is going on, and the people who live here seem even more confused than I am. The news is showing nothing but the snow. Everything is closed – schools, businesses, the airport, and even the National Road. People are needing snow chains to travel even the main roads, and some people were stuck out on the roads all night. This city is not at all prepared for this kind of weather. Not that I can say that this city is actually prepared for much of anything. But definitely not an accumulation of snow. It’s kind of pretty to look out the window and see the lemons hanging on the tree in our front yard capped with snow, and I’m more than thankful that it happened on a Friday and I didn’t have to go to the elementary school. (Trust me, I was standing on the porch last night begging loudly for God to let it keep snowing enough to cancel school). But I really hope it stops soon. This wasn’t the weather I signed up for when I decided to come to Athens for the year. And not having any hot water and having all six of us stuck in the house with nothing to do really isn’t all that exciting. I’ll try not to worry about that for now though. I’ll just be thankful that I’m not dealing with small snotty children and keep my fingers crossed that the whacked out weather patterns continue and tomorrow it’s 75 degrees and sunny.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

The Itsy Bitsy Spider Tried to Kill Me

Well things just keep getting more interesting around here. On Monday, a small bite appeared on my left arm right next to my elbow. It wasn’t a typical bite – not a mosquito or bee sting or anything else I’d ever had before. It stung and made my whole arm hurt, and it just kept getting more and more painful. The bite wasn’t that big – simply the size of the tip of my pinky, but it was red and inflamed. There was an open sore in the middle, a ring of white around it, and a bigger ring of red around that. By Tuesday night, any amount of pressure on my arm hurt, even the way my shirt pressed against it. Wednesday I tried to see the doctor, convinced now that I’d been bitten by a spider (having looked up pictures and info on the Internet), but the doctor wasn’t in. The nurse, who doesn’t speak English, put a topical antibiotic on it and covered it. Through an interpreter, she told me that the bite was infected and I needed to come back on Thursday to see the doctor and probably get an antibiotic. With my arm extremely inflamed and painfully sensitive to even the slightest touch, I returned to the doctor on Thursday. I explained to her what I thought it was, although I don’t really think she listened. She told me that she needed to cut it open and drain it. I looked at her like I thought she was crazy…I was in a school nurse’s office for God’s sake…but she said it was the best thing to do, and I thought who was I to disagree with a doctor. So she cleans it up and then just cuts into it. Nothing to numb it or anything. The bite hurt like hell if a kleenex touched it, and she was cutting it open. I had to bite my hand to keep from screaming out loud. Surprise, surprise, but the cutting it open (followed by her squeezing it), did nothing at all except make my arm bleed. No pus or venom or whatever came out. Basically, she just cut my arm open without any form of anisthetic. After cleaning that mess up and bandaging it, she tells me that it wasn’t as superficial as she thought. No shit. She prescribed a topical and an oral antibiotic, which I went and got at the pharmacy and began to take. Unfortunately she prescribed no pain medicine, and now I had not only a painful spider bite, but also a cut open arm. I couldn’t walk, move, anything, without my whole arm burning like someone was pouring acid on it. Thursday night I was crying because it hurt so bad. After borrowing pain medicine from my roommate, I managed to fall asleep. My arm still hurt on Friday, but it seemed that it was a little better and there was a slim possibility that it might not fall off. I went back to the doctor for her to look at it and re-bandage it. Isn’t there something in doctor training that tells doctors not to make nasty faces when they are doing things to their patients? It really didn’t make me feel better to see her looking grossed out at my bite and what she had done to my arm. Anyhow, I could provide a lot more details, but the good news is that it seems to be getting better. What looked like green nastiness last night has now turned into a scab of sorts. This morning Kate and I took a picture of it. The picture came out quite good. It looks really nasty though. I’m trying to find a way to post it, so you can all check it out. I know you’re excited. Just remember this picture is of it looking good. But anyhow, I’m hoping it clears up soon, and I can go back to using my arm. I’ve discovered that quite a few things are difficult to do with just one arm…floss your teeth, put in contacts, put on deoderant, wash your hair, etc. So what I’m trying to say is be thankful you have two arms. God knew what he was doing when he gave you two. And also, stay away from spiders…and Greek doctors.

PS. Thank you Matthew for the great lyrics to the SpiderBite song. There really is a song for every occasion.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

What is that White Stuff Everywhere?

Greece...sunshine, blue water, islands...and snow. Lots and lots of snow. On Friday, I set off on a roadtrip with two of my roommates, Kate and Despina, and Despina's brother who is visiting. We planned to go around the northern part of the Peloponnese, where there were supposedly numerous interesting and beautiful villages. Making good time, we arrived in Diakofto around 11:15. There's a rack and pinion train that connects Diakofto and Kalavryta through a gorge. We decided to park our car in Kalavryta and take the train from there, because there was more to do in that area and we'd want our car there. The two towns are only about 40 km apart by road, but you have to go over a mountain. Starting up the mountain, it began to rain. Then the rain turned into big fat drops of wet snow. Then suddenly snow was everywhere. We stopped the car and played in it for a bit, delighted by it. But upon getting back in the car, we realized we were stuck. All around us, people were stopping and putting snowchains on their tires. Of course, we had none. There was no way we could go any further up. And being that the road was a narrow, windy, precarious mountain road, there was also no way we were going down. While trying our car around, we ended up off the road. We sat for a while pondering what to do, and occasionally running quickly away from the car as a coke truck and then other cars preceded to slide dangerously in the direction of our car. As we sat, about a foot of snow accumulated. Eventually Angelo, D's brother, rode down part of the mountain with a man in a truck to get snowchains. But the trouble didn't end there. While trying to get back on the road, the chains end up stuck around the axel instead of the tire and our car ends up in a ditch. Somehow, by a miracle of sheer willpower, Kate, Angelo and I push/lift the car out while Despina steers. Three hours after we headed up the mountain, we ended up back at the bottom of it, freezing cold, soaking wet, filthy dirty and exhausted. It wasn't quite the trip we had in mind, although it was certainly an adventure.

We ended up spending that night in Pyrgos. The next morning we made a trip to Ancient Olympia since we were close. It was a pretty good site, and the day turned out to be surprisingly nice. There are a good amount of ruins, plus the site is very pretty with trees, flowers, and mountains. After that, however, we just cut our losses and drove home. It just wasn't meant to be.

So that was my weekend in a nutshell. Trust me, there is plenty more to it, but if you want to hear it, you'll have to email me. Not quite what I was expecting from Greece, but hey, how many people do you know who can say they've been stuck in a blizzard in Greece?

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