Sunday, November 29, 2009

Random Pics and Reflections from Rhodes

So, time for some random pics and reflections from Rhodes... This time I have copied some stuff from my journal and letters, so not everything corresponds to the pics... but anyways, here we go.

This was a reflection I noticed while I was sitting at my laptop today, captured it:
I had been sitting there writing this at the time: About 3:30 pm, the power just went out for the 2nd time today, that’s the 5th time since I’ve been here that the power has gone out… and aside of the day they replaced the powerlines on my street (lane), there seems to be no rhyme or reason to it. Oh, just came back on again. Sigh.

For 3 days now the cash machine at the grocery store has been “temporarily unable to dispense cash”. I wonder how long temporary is here?

The jar of clementine orange jam (which I wrote about here) turned out to be something else. They had canned fruits in the jam section, but this was with the jams, so I figured…. Anyways, it was rather bitter, yet horribly sweet, in some kind of sticky honey sauce that left a waxy feeling in my mouth. It was marginal on cream cheese on bread, and it didn’t do much to nicely flavour some yougurt. Perhaps its meant to be some kind of chutney? Anyways, one of my less successful “I wonder what this is, I will buy it and eat it to figure it out” experiments”… heh….

Oh, ordering my first souvlaki here went something like this:… I ordered lamb. Nope, did I want pork? How about chicken? No. How about beef? No. How about pork? Yes, 1 pork souvlaki coming up.

Now on the subject of my self-hair-cut (which I wrote about here), I laughed at these 3 girls coming out of a hairdresser's in the new town... I guess that was the cut of the day, and would I have got that? heh.
Now, on the subject of transportation here....

There is a bus service into town, but figuring it out is rather amusing. The bus stops are very clearly marked, and there is one right near by. And a very detailed schedule is posted, showing the busses running every 10-15 minutes or so. Um, that must be the summer schedule…. I have heard everything from 30 minutes to 60 minutes between busses, and both versions of that were from transit people… so who knows when they actually run? I got a schedule from the manned transit kiosk in town, but it is, well, in Greek!! And even if I study it really hard, and make educated guesses, it’s still unfathomable: the only English on it says “West Coast Bus Information, Saturday Sunday Hollydays” and, besides which, it is dated “7-11/2009-8-11/2009. Going into town means going to the bus stop and waiting patiently, and just hoping it won’t be an hour, and deciding that anything less than that is good luck. Yesterday I went into town for lunch and to poke around for a bit, and I was on the losing side of the bus lottery: I must have waited 45 minutes. So maybe that means that the bus gods will give me just a 5 minute wait when I go into town next… heh.

It may be possible to flag a taxi from the bus stop, but this has mixed results. One day a cab pulled over, but he already had a passenger, so I waved him away… why did he stop? I began to wonder if there is some kind of shared taxi system, the lexicon of which is only known to locals. I wonder this again after twice I see taxis drive by me, with passengers already, who flash their lights… is this the signal? One day when I do get a cab - by myself - on the way into town, I ask the driver about this; he has very good English so I think he understands my question, but he says, no there is no taxi sharing here. I got some kind of mumbled response to my question about why the flashing lights? I am guessing now it’s some kind of “you look hot” signal that can be given when the driver can’t honk, as they sometimes do. Sigh. Heh.

Once IN town..... they have this machine. I didn't try it. I already know I'm hot. Ha!!!
Coming back from town on the bus is also possible, but it’s a cheap taxi ride (8E) so that’s what I’ve tended to do at the end of a long day in town.

When I go to the airport from here, it should be interesting. The bus goes to the airport (the opposite direction from town), but when would it arrive? Maybe a taxi will go by, but maybe it won’t? Oh, I can’t call a taxi, as I have only a cell phone for emergencies here and now phone book, and no wifi to look up a number to call even if I knew that the cell phone had minutes and I knew how to dial it…. If I wasn’t on the main drag, I could go through the rigouramole (sp?) to figure this out and arrange, but I figure I’ll just go out to the road a few hours ahead of my flight and see what happens.

And, no, I did not stumble on a photo-shoot and try and squeeze in a shot... this really was a girl I came across in the new town. I tried to pretend I was taking a picture of the nothing-interesting-about-it building behind her (I'll bet she was thinking, "silly tourist")...
Now, a couple of old town pics... a typical street...
A square in the old town....
How they manage the sun in some parts of the old town... I got some neat closeups of this.
My first day here, hearing someone calling out a message, over and over again, on a loudspeaker, driving through the neighborhood. I thought at the time, if I was in Turkey I’d be freaked out (not sure why), but I’d felt safe on Greek soil when I’d arrived, so just pondered…. Could it be: warning of an impending disaster? A mobile news agency? Messages from a political party? A message from the government? Something for sale? Didn’t know.

But later, reading Dinner with Persephone, I thought of this when I read a passage, something about how Greeks sell things from cars.

Sure enough, last week, I heard the same sound. So I went out on my deck and stood up on the riser by the fountain (which doesn’t work) and peeked over. There was an old truck or van moving along the “street” I live on (it’s more like an alley) with rolled up rugs in it. Here, you don’t go to the store to buy a rug. Just be home at the right time, and the rug comes to you.

Not something I’d see at home, but sure seems logical. What would happen if someone did this at home? Would they be forced to get a business license? Or not be allowed?

Here's a little something I found on the beach, thought it was rather iconic...
What are you having for lunch lady, and can I have some?
Loved the signage at the laundry place in the old town...
This cactus was so HUGE I had to take a picture of it. It was way taller than me. Never seen anything like it...
Last week I hear some cheering and chanting, kind of a mix between the voices of youth fooling around at some game, and a protest, wonder what it is, and let it go. But then I hear it getting louder, and I realize it is coming down my street. Once again, I go up on the fountain ledge and peer over. By this time they have passed by, but what I see from behind is a small group of children, maybe 20 of them, and maybe 12 years old? (I cannot see their faces and, come to think of it, they may have been all boys)… walking, shouting, with a couple of placards. This is early afternoon otn a weekday, maybe 1 or 1:30. Shouldn’t they be at school? Or maybe this is some aspect of school, learning how to protest? As I am living on a tiny lane, I do wonder, though I guess there is a chance that there is a school down the road. I don’t know, but it just strikes me as interesting. And not something I’d see at home.
Only interesting thing today was that my doorbell rang. Or, should I say, my patio bell rang. First time since I’ve been here. Fortunately I had my sundress on. This was maybe about 11:00. By the time I put my glasses on and walked outside and opened the door, there was a guy starting to walk away. I said “Hello”, he said “Sorry, I don’t speak English”, I said, “and I only speak English” and he walked away. WTF? LOL. But he was young (35-40) and hot. I was so baffled I didn’t know what to say, I just closed the door. Who was he, and what did he want? And would he come back? LOL.
And, finally, a few bits I found interesting in browsing the weekly English rag (Athens News)...

Homes for rent (with some interesting descriptions):
  • “Paleo Faliro, seaside two room apartment, just painted, all virgin new furniture, air conditioned, fourth floor”
  • “Ekali, lovely 4 bed single house of 300m2 standing in own private garden. Logical rent.”
Land for sale (more interesting descriptions):
  • “Spetses island, 22000m2, without forest, fended, amphitheatric, panoramic views to the sea, Peloponese, round islands, 5 minutes from the harbour. Real opportunity.”
Jobs (lots of stuff that would not be legal in Canada):
  • “Adams Agency. Butler man, live-in is needed by old lady. Necessary to have driving licence.”
  • “Assistant wanted by international shipping company for it’s offices in Likovrissi / Kato Kifissia, Athens. Candidate must qualify only and strictly following requirements: Global class and thinking / No family obligations / Able to travel anytime / Age 35 years old max. / University graduate in Chemistry or Business Administration / 3 fluent languages: Greek, English, other / Computer Expert i.e. Word, Excel, PowerPoint / Experience needed in similar position. The appropriate candidate must be flexible, smart, pleasant, communicative, able to complete tasks within strict deadlines, willing to work. References necessary. Please send CV with recent photo.” (there is a gmail address to respond to)”
  • “Filipino young woman, cook & maid, who speaks english, for yacht”
And this was interesting... (oh, really?):
  • “Doctors, Canada has a doctor shortage and encourages all International Medical Graduates (IMG) to apply for an IMG kit which will establish a medical competency and Practice Ready Assessment (PRA) to practice medicine in Canada. There is a fee. Doctors only please.” (there is a hotmail address to respond to).
And some general observations:
  • The ads that include a phone number ask the person to “ring” rather than “dial” or “call”. Just a simple difference that says I am somewhere new.
  • In the area where things are offered for sale, there is a Yachting section.
  • In the Lessons section there is a language training school called “An Other Langue”
  • Words like “harbour” are spelled with the “u”… presumably the expat newspaper is British driven, rather than American? Just a guess.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Culture Through the Lens of a Brand

One of the things I enjoy most when travelling is seeing what brands are the same, what are different, and also just what is interesting on the store shelves. Here are a few from Greece:

So.... that glass, the one that says "Ban" - I confirmed, the brand is a knock-off of Fanta orange soda. Hopefully they aren't trying to appeal to North American tourists, as the memory of Ban deodorant is just too strong... heh....
I had to buy more jam today (for toast, and I also make my own fruit yogurt by adding jam to the plain stuff), and noticed this on the shelf. It has real fruit inside, which I guess I'll need to cut up. But it says "clementines", which makes me wonder if that's what I had the other day when I picked up bitter oranges from below a tree (see here). Will see in the morning...
Interesting wine bottle! I picked it up, it is real ceramic.
So, does "The honey that goes everywhere" go in one's purse? Neat idea. Well, except for the fact that I have first hand evidence from my 20's that jam and honey do not belong in one's purse, if you also have a hairbrush, regardless of the fact that they are free in restaurants and handy for camping. LOL.
Laughing Cow brand is big in Europe, lots of shelf space. Here I found it in tubs. Yes, the same stuff in the little squares in a spreadable form. Yum!
Isn't this brand name kind of corny?
OK, not from Greece, but got this in Berlin when my friend didn't lose her luggage (long story)... Nivea is HUGE in Europe, big stores like Clinique. This is deodorant, but has words on the packaging that I don't associate with such products...
The Greeks have these evil breads and croissants stuffed with chocolate the consistency of pudding. I only tried them because I missed breakfast flying from Athens to Rhodes, so was happy to eat two on the plane. Then bought them a couple times. Not sure about the "7 days" brand though... does that mean it will last 7 days? Not sure that's the best advertising for "fresh"... and they could probably last 30. heh.
So the other day I saw Becel brand yogurt. I associate Becel with magarine which - I don't know about you, but for alot of people - is fake butter. And not something considered healthy. Was this the best brand to use for yogurt? On the other hand, haven't seen their margarine here, but then again, not looking... (toes thrown in for good measure)
Just some interesting bottles in the liquor aisle at the grocery store...
For the most part, I am suffering way less culture shock in Greece than I thought I would. Saw a lot less familiar brands and products in Rome. Here, the very modern grocery store down the street boasts about half brands I know. Sections like cereal have nothing unusual (boo), as I usually like to try local stuff; for now I am content with my Weetabix and Alpen.

Just interesting food for thought... once this trip is done, I should put together a collection of all the brand/food pics I've taken... I'm often pulling my camera out in stores and there are some interesting exhibits scattered amongst my pics of art and ancient sites...

For now, I am going back to my Mythos beer. I always drink the local beer - and this one is good!

Friday, November 27, 2009

And the quiz prize goes to...

... Bryan! A few days ago I posted a quiz about some of my recent adventures here. Bryan is the only one who got them 100% right (nice work Bryan, you beat my family!).

Here I am with my short "do"... this shot does not to justice to the very boyish blunt cuts on one side of my head! I did a few corrections after this, but it was not a good idea! Thank goodness, hair grows...
These are the oranges I found on the ground, pictured along with my matching orange purse (from Florence), my I-adore-you-Camper-sneakers (from Barcelona) and my pretty blue tank top (from my sissy):
Here were the options - and what really happened (reminder, I did two of the following things today (the other eight I did not do!):
  1. Accepted a ride on the back of a motorcycle - not a chance, especially in a place where they do not wear helmets~!
  2. Ate an orange found fallen from a tree - bingo!! but it was waaaay too bitter to eat, one touch of my tongue and I was sputtering and laughing - and tossing the fruit away
  3. Bought a piece of breakable art that needs to be shipped back to Canada - nope, though I saw stuff worthy
  4. Reused the coffee grounds in order to have a second cup when the bag ran out - nope, but I wouldn't put it beyond me
  5. Took a stuffed animal to the beach to take a picture - ok, I am way too shy to admit that I am not travelling alone, let alone make a trip in public....
  6. Cut my own hair - bingo!!! you know when you hear that voice in your head that says, "this may not be a good idea, I should stop now"... if you have scissors in your hands and are in front of a bathroom mirror, I really recommend listening (I didn't); btw, I thought about going to the hairdresser's across the street, but the woman's hair there looks like a skunk - I did you not! Not good advertising...
  7. Ordered a pair of custom-made leather boots - nope, I'm not enough of a fashion diva for this one; actually, "fashion diva" and "Roberta" should not be used together, really (says the girl who is walking around with holes in her shorts!)
  8. Got a tattoo on the spur of the moment - I thought about it, but the place was closed
  9. Had coffee at Starbuck's - this is one thing I have not seen in Rhodes, that I have seen elsewhere.... I have taken great pride in avoiding these (only 3 visits so far in 5 months), I figure I didn't come all the way to Europe to have coffee at Starbucks! I'm going local...
  10. Had lunch at McDonald's - not a chance, tho there IS one here... and I have been known to use their facilities once in awhile throughout Europe, but no way am I going to eat in one
Thanks to all who played along - it was fun to see your guesses. And Bryan gets a glass of wine when I get home.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Poinsettias, lemons and... a quiz!

In another first in my life, I stumbled across a real, live Poinsettia plant with it's roots in the earth. In Canada, Poinsettias are found in the grocery store at Christmas time. In Greece, Pointsettas are found in your garden.

Here is a close up I took of the Poinsettia... with a lemon (from the accompanying lemon tree, of course!) blurred in the background:

I rather like this second shot, in which the focus/blur is switched between the two:
What it's like to stumble on a Poinsettia bush on a sunny afternoon:
The lemons sure are a bright yellow in the direct sun:
Found these the other day on an afternoon walk near my flat here in Axia, just north of Rhodes town. They were on the side of the main road/highway....
Now, for something a little different.... I did two of the following things today (the other eight I did not do!):
  1. Accepted a ride on the back of a motorcycle
  2. Ate an orange found fallen from a tree
  3. Bought a piece of breakable art that needs to be shipped back to Canada
  4. Reused the coffee grounds in order to have a second cup when the bag ran out
  5. Took a stuffed animal to the beach to take a picture
  6. Cut my own hair
  7. Ordered a pair of custom-made leather boots
  8. Got a tattoo on the spur of the moment
  9. Had coffee at Starbuck's
  10. Had lunch at McDonald's
Can you guess which TWO of these things I did?
To continue the fun, just because I can, I'll wait a day or two (or three) to post the answer ;-)

Update: the answers have been posted here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Me and my shadow... and a moat!

So, I'm in Rhodes and the living is goooood! Here is a summary of my first trip into Rhodes (I am staying in Ixia, about 5 minutes north by bus). Here I am on the bus, there is even a seat at the back with an ocean view!
Once I arrived into Rhodes, I chose the "old town" for my first visit - as opposed to the "new town" (which isn't really new, but is certainly newer). My first introduction to the wonderfully preserved medieval old town was, to my delight, the moat!!!!
Yes, I truly was walking in a moat! It was very cool. If you click and read the below though, you will see it's not all fun and games, as thousands perished on this very spot in ancient conflicts. It's sobering... yet also neat to see new life here: people running, children playing, tourists and lots of greenery and flowers...
I was at the spot in this old town map shown by the read arrow (click to enlarge). I explored his and a couple of adjacent spots, maybe 3-5% of the total thing, and that took me an entire afternoon. So much more to still explore!
After exploring the moat, I stopped and had lunch: pork souvlaki! Tried for lamb, but to no avail. The places that are open this time of year have scaled back menus. But it was incredibly good, sitting there in the sun. I call this my "not Ouzo lunch" as the first carafe of wine he brought me was actually ouzo and was quite a surprise when I took my first sip! Didn't hate it though, and will try it again. In the end, drank the lovely wine quite happily....
After lunch I set out to explore a bit more... The city's road makes one short detour through the old town's walls - in one gate and immediately out the other - right at this spot (otherwise, cars in the old town are limited to residents [yes, people live in the old town!] and handicap vehicles. This bench I was sitting on was ancient (I think) and was right beside the ruins on the site of the Temple of Aphrodite (didn't get a good pic, will return later to get a good one I can post).
Here's starts the bit on my shadow.... For some reason, I was feeling playful (must have been the moat that did it!) and I was shooting my shadow all day... Here I am playing feet shadow puppets!
... and my legs as I walk on these cool stone paved sidewalks they have everywhere here.
The last spot of the old town I visited was right by the sea, and I caught this vista of the outer wall that looked out from a little courtyard as I entered it...
Super cool shot through the old wall, looking out to the ancient pier (still in use today, I think it's considered part if the new town, but not sure...). More on that shortly...
Now this is one cool shot: my shadow on the beach just outside the old walls... I took this picture looking through a slit in the wall, and I am lit up from behind in the dying sun of the day. Neat, eh?
This little guy was begging me to take his picture: (warning, if you don't care for cats, it's time to stop reading... heh)...
Pleeeaaaaassseee pet me?
I'd resisted the petting of Greece's cats until then, but rubbing up against my leg? I become putty in a cute kitty's paws....
... and "me and my shadow" takes on a whole new meaning!!! This guy was very reluctant to leave my side after a bit of attention, and followed me for quite awhile (sorry, computer is turning the picture on it's side, sigh...)...
Me and my shadow cat....
Still have a few more pics of the day to share, but first this: the view on my way home at the end of the day, sunset time, taken from the back of a taxi!
I looking through one of the walls of the strucures on the peir, and I didn't ask the seagull to pose, he just did it! Honest!Now, just a few more cat pics, because one can never have enough, right? I literally took hundreds.... heh... This one was an encouraging sign at a spot where volunteers put out food for the cats at the end of the pier (and, yes, I emptied my pockets of change):
In this spot alone - where the cats were fed - I counted 17 cats, in every shape and size possible. All looked very content and rather healthy. (I probably saw 100+ on the pier during my walk).
Now, click to enlarge this pic and tell me how many cats you see?
Ah, yes, there I am with my shadow again.... It's a theme I return to several times and makes for an interesting aspect of my trip photo collection. Maybe I can publish a book just of my shadow travelling Europe. LOL. Would go well of my collection of pictures of me in mirrors and reflective surfaces....
Overall, Rhodes continues to be great. I did that 5 minute bus-ride on foot one day... I think it took me well over an hour, but it was spectactularly lovely!!! Oh, that 5 minute bus ride? It's great, the only problem is that no one can tell me the schedule (transit responses vary from 30 minutes to an hour apart - and the schedule they gave me is in Greek and based on the summer schedule). When I go to town, I go and stand at the stop and figure if it takes less than an hour to come then it's a bonus. On the day I am writing this, it only took about 5 minutes to arrive.... but I've waited as long as about 35 minutes so far... LOL. It's why I often take a cheap 8E taxi home at the end of a day in town...
And the answer to the # of cats in the last picture? The answer is FOUR. You might have to look closely to see the 2 cats sleeping so curled up they appear as one....