Barking in Varkiza
April 12, 2011 § 19 Comments
For all you lovely people who have been emailing asking sweet things like where the hell are you, and are you alive, and will you please help me as I am the caretaker of a vast sub-Saharan fortune the protection of which requires all of the personal information of a strange American picked out of an email spam list who is to receive naturally a substantial cut of these ill gotten gains, yes, Luca and I have landed in Greece after several weeks in Santa Fe, where we decided to cool our heels while our stuff journeyed what is surely the wrong way, historically speaking, across the Atlantic. We are in Varkiza, on the coast south of Athens.
(Mom, this is in Europe, along the Southern coast, between that unadvisedly trendy knee-high stiletto boot on the left, which is Italy, and Turkey on the right, with a blue sea cluttered up with islands between us and Turkey. Look on the map on the wall. At the Europe part. It’s above Africa. No? OK, I’ll tell Diana to stick a post-it on it.)
Moving from New World to Old reminds me of the old joke about what happens when you run a country record backward: your wife comes back, your dog comes to life, your car fixes itself. Only I imagine us marching backward, speaking in weird diphthongs as prosperity flows away from us, we get shorter, our wallets get lighter, our waists nip in, our expectations shrivel up like tidal anemones given a poke with a stick, and our health becomes suddenly insured.
Today is my sixth day in Greece. I write you from the Hotel Stefanakis on Afroditis Street, after another day spent assembling IKEA things in the new still uninhabitable apartment, and going here and there asking questions of the handsome, earnest Greek women who work everywhere, are helpful and kind, and whose faces, in repose, look almost nauseated with fury.
I have no right to employment here (yet) and even if I did, there is something like 15% unemployment in Greece so it would be silly to try to find a job, given that the only thing I know how to say in Greek is that I don’t understand Greek. I am therefore stuck as housewife for the foreseeable future, with a novel to write and paintings to paint, all activities of the lady of leisure really, not something I was ever raised to want, but I won’t pretend to make a fuss as you know and I know that I am the luckiest bitch in creation, if on occasion a little bored, so I have seized upon something I can do that needs doing: telling you about Greece.
Oh, well, isn’t everyone doing it? No. I looked all over to find someone in English discussing on the Interwebs the ins and outs of doing what I am doing where I am doing it, and I was concerned to discover there was no English-language Yelp! to tell me which are the good restaurants here, which the good supermarkets, which the English-speaking pharmacists, and how to feel about that ****ing filthy stupid insolent dog that lies in the middle of the street on the corner of Vasileos Konstantinou and Afroditis all day interrupted only by episodes of chasing cars and barking and biting at their wheels as they drive past.
Cats: installed in very nice modern apartment with terraces facing the mountains and coast; animals are suffering gastrointestinal distress due to suspect European pet foods with very little information on the cans, though one claimed proudly in Italian that the food was “not tested on animals.”
Apartment: no electricity, no phone, no Internet, no major appliances, and our furniture is still in transit.
Weather: sunny, cool breezes, exactly the same for a week straight, but chilly in the shade and at night.
Husband: installed at the Alexander Fleming Biomedical Research Institute, setting up his office and lab space and thinking night and day about possible experiments.
Self: learning Greek via Pimsleur Modern Greek, trying to figure out the shopping, and looking for something to read next, having just finished in the last month The Light Years and Marking Time from Elizabeth Jane Howard, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas père, and the surprisingly plodding Fanny Hill: Memoirs Of A Woman of Pleasure (Wordsworth Classics) by John Cleland. All suggestions welcome.
I know this post is disgustingly scatterbrained and probably does not tell you a thing that you were actually wondering about, but I’m sorry. It is all I can do. I have been eating souvlaki and salad twice a day for a week and taking Costco vitamins that, now that I look at the label, seem to be prenatal, how optimistic. (No, I am not pregnant, Mom. I think. Today.)
I am beginning to dream of gyros, the diligent man in an apron manning four spits at once with his gyro scraper, shaving, shaving, shaving into sandwiches, day and night, day and night, there must be a Karate-Kid–type application for this repetitive motion, stroke down, down, down, turn the spit, stroke down.
God bless the gyro man! Do I dare to say he is my — no, I do not.
In the days to come, I hope to tell you about Varkiza and surrounding areas, or at least the little I have seen so far, the Pimsleur method and how successful it has been in making me a Greek speaker, Greek drivers, Greek infrastructure and government services, and how well cats travel.
For anyone else hot to come to Greece, I direct you to a wonderful blog that I have just found, which is far better organized and serious than mine, which (the other blog) is Athens-centric, and to which I have already referred often: