----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire: I Went to Greece, and all I Got was this Lousy Kidney Infection*

The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire

Meet Astera (aka: me), a star in her own mind. Our plucky little heroine has embarked on not one but two difficult, low-paying career paths: writing and acting. Witness the menial jobs! The unreasonable demands! The quirky friends and family! And the glimmer of success just ahead! Through it all, Astera maintains her core beliefs: 1) She is destined to be fabulous 2) Everything is more fun with a cocktail.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

I Went to Greece, and all I Got was this Lousy Kidney Infection*

*Okay, so the country of Greece probably didn't give me the kidney infection, but still, the timing is awfully suspicious.

Hello readers! I am sure you have been waiting with bated breath for my return. And here I am.

I was in Greece celebrating Greek Easter in the small village where the Pater Familias spent his summers. Apparently, he rode a mule from his hometown village up into the mountain village. We, on the other hand, took a car from Thessaloniki, Greece's "second city."

The village was very quaint. Apparently it is now a summer getaway. It has winding streets full of houses in various states of disrepair (many of them are all rebuilt and modern, though), a church, and a "downtown," which consists of two cafes and maybe a market. Unfortunately, it was not summer while we were there. Although it was the end of April, we had wintry weather to contend with. One day as we drove to a restaurant a little further up the mountain, we saw a thin blanket of fresh snow. Yes, it was that cold! I had sweaters and long underwear and gloves, but I really wish I'd had a hat and a warm coat.

Easter is the biggest holiday celebration in Greek Orthodoxy. First, we went to church on Friday night to see the representation of Christ's bier. Tradition has it that if you crawl under the bier, you'll have good luck. I did not stoop so low. Instead, I contented myself with some fragrant lilacs that I plucked from the bier--also supposed to be good luck.

Although Easter is supposed to be a time of fasting, there were lots and lots of Greeks who weren't following that restriction. We didn't follow it, either. At one lunch, we had salad, giant beans, bread, keftedes (seasoned meat patties), tzatziki (cucumber yogurt dip) sausages, pork chops, and goat. (Yes, goat. It tastes like lamb, but a little greasier and gamier. I am not a fan.) That was a lot of food. Of course, there were nine of us, including two hungry young boys, but still! No wonder a Greek lunch lasts two hours and everyone has to take a nap afterwards! Oh, we also had wine, of course.

Speaking of wine, I think I tasted the worst wine in the world while I was in the village. I have trouble working out all the family connections, but my dad's cousin's wife's father (I think) made some wine from table grapes and then stored it in this big open barrel, I guess so that it could further ferment and turn to vinegar. Not so tasty.

Easter itself was lovely. We went to the midnight service at the church, and we all had candles. Religion seems much more relaxed in Greece. People came and left as the pleased, and everyone stood around and talked to each other, even while the priest was talking. Many of the candles were very elaborate, especially the children's candles. Some of them were decorated with butterflies or bicycles. My own candle, purchased for me by my thia Matoula, was very lovely, decorated with wax flowers. When the priest brought out his candle, all the children rushed over to try and be the first to light their candles from his. Then we all went out into the night with our lit candles, and everyone kissed each other and said Christos Anesti! (Christ is Risen!) and Chronia Pola! (Many Years!). There were even fireworks.

Back at the hotel, we had a bowl of soup (guts soup for the traditionalists and lemon-chicken soup for the squeamish), and we cracked our hard-boiled red eggs against one another's. The winner is the person who has the final uncracked egg. I lost immediately. Then we went to bed. The big celebration was on Easter Sunday.

When we came up for breakfast, we saw two animals being roasted on spits outside. We thought it was lamb, but it was more goat. Lunch was a festive affair. Some Greek music was playing on the radio, and everyone got up and danced. It doesn't take much to get a Greek to dance. And then they cry, too, because the lyrics are sad or nostalgic. Late that evening, we all sat around the fire in the lodge, drinking and waiting for the real party to begin. More and more people trickled in until the place was packed. The band arrived at about 10 p.m., but first they had to eat and drink and set up their instruments. At 11 p.m., the music started, and the dancing soon followed. I didn't realize that the clarinet was such an important component of Greek music. Finally, after much urging, I joined my relatives on the dance floor, but I didn't know the steps. The dances look simple, but that's just because everyone already knows how to do them. I tried my best, but I kept mixing up my feet. Still, everyone was very encouraging and polite.

Finally, at 1:30, I went to bed, tired and reeking of cigarette smoke. The Greeks have no non-smoking areas, except maybe in parts of the airports. However, the party continued into the wee hours. I heard it went on until after 3:00 a.m.!

For the rest of our trip, we spent a lot of time with relatives, but I did get to see the Meteora. It's these crazy rock formations in central Greece, with monasteries perched at the top. Many had beautiful frescoes, but the main monastery, the Grand Meteora, seemed more like a tourist attraction than a monastery. It didn't feel very reverent. I liked the smaller monasteries much better.

I got to explore Thessaloniki a bit, and I went to the Byzantine Museum and the Archeological Museum, both of which were quite interesting. All the treasures of Phillip of Macedonia and Alexander the Great have now been moved to Vergina, where they found Phillip's tomb. I wish I'd gotten to see that.

All in all, it was a very Greek experience, with lots of family and lots of food. Greece, however, is not quite a first-world country. There are still pit/squat toilets in existence! Dirty.

And then, we came home, and I took the first good shower I'd had in two weeks. (In Greece, there are little tiny shower stalls and flimsy shower curtains, and the detachable shower nozzle shoots all over the bathroom and gets everything wet, even the toilet paper.) I thought I was fine, all recovered from my appendectomy, just a little jet-lagged. But a day later, I was running a 102-degree fever and I was in quite a bit of pain. My doctor diagnosed me with a kidney infection, and on top of that, I think I got an intestinal bug or had a bad reaction to the antibiotics. I am almost recovered, and at least my illness allowed me to miss more work. But that's a whole other story. Opa!


  • At 6:01 PM, Blogger Stef said…

    lol Greece is heavy for you. stay sterilized XD



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