Zambolis apartments

Zambolis apartments
For your holidays in Chania

Thursday 31 May 2012

Assimilation (Αφομοίωση)

My friend Betty recently told me that she found travelling not so much fun these days. Before you even get on the plane, you are exhausted, after what you have to go through at the airport check-in. If you left your last destination as clean and tidy as you possibly can be when you are on the road, you often find your spirits dampened and nerves rattled when you realise that you have to remove most of your clothing and accessories at the security check-in and go through a touchy-feely session with unsmiling customs officials.

The way short-haul flights like to work these days is by economising as much as possible, so it's really cheap to book flights months in advance (when you don't really know if you will be in a position to be able to travel). If you want to take a suitcase with you, you have to pay extra money; you won't be served anything to eat or drink either - you can only have what you buy on board or from the expensive airport shops. Seat allocation goes on a first-in, first-served basis: if you line up first at the gate, you can run into the plane first and grab the best seats according to your preferences (I hate waiting in queues; we are always the last to board a plane). But if you want to be assured of a good seat, you have to pay for that as well, through some kind of speedy boarding service, which of course we never do because it adds unnecessarily to the costs of a trip. In essence, there is no guarantee that you will end up sitting together as a family: out of kindness (and not as a general rule), flight attendants may try to help out families with young children to be seated together - you can be guaranteed the last seats at the back, near the toilets and the kitchen area (we've sat here at least three times).

Thus we thought our journey would begin, from Amsterdam to Berlin via easyJet. But this is Holland, the land of perfection (despite a huge train crash in Amsterdam the day we arrived and the fall of the government one day later). When the official handling the boarding pass check-in saw my kids, she directed us to the priority boarding area. This is how we ended up sitting at the front of the aeroplane (for once). The flight was a very short one - less than 90 minutes - so the plane was small. I took a window-middle seat with my son, while my husband did the same with our daughter in the same row on the other side of the aisle.

An older-looking gentleman, not very tall, of medium-build, eventually came along and took the spare aisle seat next to me. He lifted his old-fashioned leather satchel up into the space for hand luggage. No one asked him if he was able to do this by himself, which made me feel uncomfortable, since I wondered if he really did need help. Northern Europeans tend to have a remote unemotional detached look on their faces; they never show how they really feel. The man did indeed seem to have a very severe looking face: his lips extended downwards, making a few dents next to them in the form of a sad smile, but his face was not wrinkled. Eventually, he managed to place his bag in the locker, and slowly sidled into the narrow space to take his seat.

"Please lift up your table before the flight attendant tells you," I asked my son. Like all children, he was curious as to everything in his immediate surroundings. It's not every day we get on planes. I spoke in English as I usually do when I give my children instructions. English is a good language for the use of imperatives. It is neutral and unemotional, coming off like a direct easy-to-understand message. The reason attached to speaking English in our house usually has to do with "Mother's telling us what to do". When I speak to my children in Greek, we may be telling jokes, or discussing what happened at school, or other such fun stuff.  When English is used, it's usually for something serious. These subtle distinctions are often made sub-consciously in bilingual families. They aren't always a good thing, but sometimes they help to maintain a workable system with constant language-switching.

After take-off, I took out my map of Berlin to check the route we would take to the hotel. Where was the hotel again? I decided to ask the man sitting next to me.

"Um, excuse me, do you speak English?"

"Nein," he answered. He clearly wasn't Dutch. I have yet to meet someone from Holland that does not speak English.

"Deutsch*?" I asked.


"Wieviel Zeit von Flughafen zu Berlin Stadt?" I asked, showing him my map. I understood that the airport was in Berlin, but the man didn't have his glasses with him, so he couldn't see my map clearly. I asked about the buses and trains from the airport to the city, but the information I got wasn't very clear, since I wasn't being very clear myself about where I wanted to go. At one point, my son asked me about something he wanted to write in his diary:

"Mama, what was the name of the city we visited yesterday in Holland?" he asked me in Greek.

"We went to the Hague," I answered, also in Greek. I turned my head round to watch the cabin crew pushing the food trolley past us.

It was at this point that the old man sitting next to me smiled. And then he did something esle that surprised me. He put his palm on my arm, and he spoke softly: "All this time we have been sitting next to each other, and we have treated each other like strangers. Neither of us has realised that we are both Greek." He spoke in perfect Greek, untainted by any accent, but with perhaps a slow and possibly clearer voice than he would have been used to speaking in had we been having this conversation in Greece.

The man explained that he had been living in Berlin for nearly sixty years, having left his hometown of Trikeri in Southern Pilio as a young man soon after the war. He was very proud of the fact that he spoke German "better than a German himself" as he told me, and although he used to visit family and friends in Volos more often in the past, now in his old age (he was 83), it was getting more difficult, even though all his sisters and brothers were still alive there. But we were travelling from Amsterdam to Berlin. What was he doing there? The answer to that turned out to be a very sad story. He had attended the funeral of one of his brothers, who had also left Greece after the war and settled there.

When we left the plane, it was hard to say good-bye to the man. But his age prevented him from walking as fast as we did; even though we were laden with luggage and were towing children, we were still too quick. "I want to run," he said, "but my legs just don't let me." We all laughed and wished him well, as he did too, waving to us in the corridor, like friends farewelling each other, knowing that they will see each other again, without being quite sure where that would be. We were all laughing, not because we thought it was funny to come across a Greek stranger on a flight from Amsterdam to Berlin, but because we did not expect this to happen. Just when we expected to find ourselves among strangers wherever we travelled, we realised that no one need be a stranger wherever they are.

* for the uninitiated, the Dutch language is called Nederlands in Dutch, while the German language is called Deutsch in German.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Taste Greek: Mani - Blauel Greek Organic Products

Taste Greek: documenting online Greek food suppliers.

Mani-Blauel Greek Organic Products
Extra virgin olive oil is one of the most sought-after supermarket commodities in the world. Olive oil is also under great scrutiny these days since the olive oil labelling scam was uncovered, involving unscrupulous tactics on the part of some bottlers. One way to be sure that you are buying high-quality olive oil is to buy it straight from the source, from the producers themselves.

Mani-Blauel prides themselves on the high acclaim that their olive oils have been awarded with for the last few years. Mani Bläuel's latest accomplishment is an award by Extrascape, which is the first international competition that awards not only the best extra virgin olive oils, but also the best olive landscapes. Fritz Blauel's motto for his company states:
Hardly anything is more boring than doing business just for money.
Hardly anything is more fun than doing business out of love for the world
Press Release:
Mani-Bläuel's roots stem back to the late 1970s and its organic cultivation program for olive trees has been running since the mid-80s. It is the oldest and largest farming project of its kind in Greece and has been awarded many times recently and in previous years.

The ManiBlauel team

Perhaps you already know a lot about olives, or maybe you're only familiar with the basics... Do you know, for example, how many factors are involved in harvesting and producing extra-virgin olive oil of the highest quality? Or why Koroneïki olive trees yield the best olive oil on the planet?

Have a look at our website: you can read about this and the broader benefits of organic agriculture. If you're just simply after some delicious, healthy condiments, take a sneak peek at our products: we don't just produce organic olive oil! And if you'd like to buy something, hyper-jump directly to our e-shop.

NB: Although I am unlikely to buy from them, I often browse online Greek food suppliers for items unknown to me. If I like what I see, and I've dealt personally with the people behind the e-shop, I write a review. I don't personally gain or profit from writing such reviews, so everything expressed in this post is my opinion alone. If you are a Greek food supplier, and would like your online site reviewed, feel free to contact me: mverivaki at hotmail dot com.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki. 

Tuesday 29 May 2012

From scratch

I still can't get used to eating heat-n-eats. It has to be a really bad day for me to produce a meal like that. It simply feels strange opening packages to create a meal, without cleaning and chopping, frying or boiling, and possibly roasting anything, especially when I know I can prepare the same food with fresh ingredients. This pre-supposes that I have the fresh ingredients needed to cook with, and at the right price, which not everyone has access to, which of course I do. This has come at a personal price - we sacrifice our spare time by spending it on planting a garden, maintaining fruit orchards and foraging, not to mention the preparation and cooking of all our natural food.

I've made it easier on myself by preparing food overnight for the next day's meals, given that we are all working or studying. I also prepare some meals in large batches, where appropriate, so that the meal lasts two days. Many people shy away from leftovers, feeling that they may not be edible after more than a day, but I've never found that with my home-made meals, as long as they are stored appropriately (eg in the refrigerator); some meals even improve in flavour as they age (eg stews).

Chicken jalfreyzi, asparagus spears, curry balls, oven fries - they all came from heat'n'eat packets. Only the rice was prepared 'from scratch'.

Over a heat'n'eat dinner in London, I joked with the UK side of my family, telling them that they don't really know what's in their food if they keep eating whatever comes out of a packet. It's rare for anyone in our house to simply open a packet, place the contents on a plate, heat it up in a microwave and say: "Lunch is ready!" I'm sometimes scolded by very busy people for believing that cooking is easy, but being a very busy person myself, throughout my blog, I don't think I've ever shown anything that is too complicated to be prepared by a novice. But as I mentioned above, the fresh ingredients have to be available at a decent price, and I've noticed that this is not the case everywhere.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

Monday 28 May 2012

The way we always will be: Octopus and dolmadakia (Χταπόδι και ντολμαδάκια)

When Betty Blair began writing her book Sun, Seasons and Souvlaki in the early 1970s, she was looking for ways to introduce foreigners to Greek culture. Among those themes was also included the subject of food. Greek tourists at the time knew very little about modern Greece - their knowledge was mainly limited to ancient culture. Picking up common threads in the Greek identity as the main topic, she identified a number of themes which she explored as briefly as possible, without complicating the issue. The food topics she included give us a hint of timeless Greek food.

Betty Blair, 1973, Athens, writing her first book Sun, Seasons and Souvlaki on the balcony of her apartment, in the company of potted plants and canvas awnings. She also uses some rocks to keep her papers in place in case of wind. Balconies in Greek apartments haven't changed much; Betty's apartment was a ρετιρέ, ie penthouse, on the top floor, so it was probably bigger than normal. The marble mosaic floor and the shaded glass also tell us something about Greek home renovations during the junta regime: construction had a functional rather than stylistic role. When I came to Greece in 1991, most of the apartment blocks erected in the building boom of the 70s had not been modernised, giving Athens her grey look in the inner-city suburbs.

We often think of cooking from a book in the form of recipes with a list of ingredients followed by a list of instructions. Even so, there are also many times when we are annoyed to find that a given recipe 'doesn't work'. But most home cooks around the world do not cook according to books. The recipes are carried around with them in their head and they move in their kitchens as if on automaton. They've been cooking the same meals so often that there is no need to refer to any other source. No doubt they have watched someone else cooking those meals, and they cook from memory. And their recipes always work.

The average Greek household cook prepares a similar range of meals as her contemporary counterpart on a daily basis. When cooking from the range of traditional Greek meals, most of the time, she will have learnt to prepare them from her mother and/or grandmother. At any rate, when her first time comes to prepare a particular meal, she will ask her mother/grandmother directly for the recipe. 

Sun, Seasons and Souvlaki approaches Greek cooking in the same simple way. Betty Blair was as much a novice cook as her intended (English) readers would have been. But her descriptions show that she was very eager to learn how to cook the meals she had gotten used to eating during the time that she lived in Greece, and that she had been watching someone preparing them before she picked up any skills. Instead of writing recipes in the conventional way, Betty simply tells you the story of the recipe. By reading Betty's story, you too can learn to cook Greek classics in the same way. It's a case of  'just do it', and eventually, you'll get it right.

I've made dolmadakia and octopus countless numbers of times before I came across Betty's book,; Betty's versions do not differ from my own first experiences of making these dishes. They also provide a fresh approach to cooking and Greek cuisine.

Above: Betty's recipe for dolmadakia (stuffed vine leaves). Below: doing it just like Betty says.
Pick the tenderest vine leaves, mix some herbs with pureed tomato and rice, roll the leaves into tiny parcels, place them into a saucepan lined with more leaves, pour the remaining liquid from the rice mixture over the dolmadakia, cover with more leaves, pour some water and oil over them - and don't forget to cover all the vine leaves with a plate before you place the lid over the pot.
Above: Betty's simple octopus recipe. I bought a fresh octopus, removed the ink sack, washed it and cooked it in a closed pot till soft. Then I lifted it out, cut the tentacles off, chopped the head in half and packed it into a small clay pot with olive oil, vinegar and salt. I left it in the fridge overnight to marinate. Octopus is very easy to cook - it requires no technique!

Being spontaneous in the kitchen at times often gives you the most interesting results. It does however require some effort. These days, you can easily buy canned dolmathakia and octopus in any Greek supermarket. Why compromise on taste when these delicacies are so easy to prepare at home?

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

Sunday 27 May 2012

Oscillation (Tαλάντωση)

Anything could happen from now till the elections. We've been given a long long long time to decide who to vote for, in a day and age when things change so quickly. Every day, my idea about who to vote for may change according to what I see and hear going on around me. I find it difficult to work out how I will decide: on the one hand, the Greek media pushes only mainstream opinions onto us, while on the other hand, the international mainstream media treat the Greek elections with total disrespect, with horrendous press coverage given to the wrong issues. Both the Greek and international media are misleading people by the way they cover only the "Will she stay or will she go?" issue. Greece is at the forefront of global news every day, but only in this context; no consideration is given to the real issue: "Greek people want a government that works in the interests of the whole nation". 

I listen to Greek news in Greek, but I prefer to read news in English. Here's how I've seen the election period since voting day was announced. I hope it adds a different dimension to the issue, as well as giving an insight to the Greek identity; we cannot remain unaffected by the current events. The opinions expressed in this post are mine alone. 

"The problem with the Greek media today is not just that thousands have been left out of work. It's also that democracy is on the line .... The very same people who created this crisis insist today that they will overcome it. In reality what they do is that they manipulate public opinion. They're matching the policies of the Troika and the IMF and they control journalism. All those who have been thrown out of the media organise themselves and create their own experimental cooperatives which can provide real information as opposed to the directives coming from the elites who are selling austerity and authoritarianism."
D. Trimis, the president of the Union of Greek Journalists

Wednesday, 16 May 
Second election date announced: 17 June. Schools close 15 June - why are they giving us so long to decide? Probably to plan the Grexit from the €ΕU - or maybe to give everyone time to take out all their money from Greece safely: Greece will always be a poor nation full of rich people.

SIRIZA: it’s all Greek to foreigners! They sound like commie bastards to me: civil servants will get pay rises, OTE and Olympic will be renationalised and the memorandum will be scrapped. Does Tsipras think Merkel's going to say: "Wow! What a magnificent idea, Alex, let's do it"?

New PM: Panayotis Pikrammenos. Does the foreign press know what his surname actually means*? Once they cotton on, they will have a field day.

Thursday, 17 May
"... either that, or those who lead the party have no idea how Europe works" - is Tsipras misleading people or is it time Europe changed the way she works? Samaras continues to spit his venom: SYRIZA was a coalition of forces ranging from anarchists to “those who want to resurrect the hammer and sickle.” All he cares about is that the old two-party system has been busted, and he's up against SIRIZA, but wishes it was PASOK - better the devil you know. 

Husband: All parties will be included in the next round, but a few will become coalitions: Dora goes back to ND, along with a few more δεινόσαυροι** while Katseli goes with Tsipras. No wonder he named Arsenis to lead the interim government – that’s her husband, for crying out loud! Kammenos, Kouvelis and the Greens may join someone else too. Maybe I can still vote the Greens...

Bloody hell: Dear Mr #Tsipras: stick to the Greek language and use an interpreter. Did he really need to experiment with Amanpour?!?!?!

Friday, 18 May
via FB: Tsipras declared €48,000 in income last year, with €9,000 in savings, his own home (114 sq. m.) and a 650cc motorbike. (Average Greek his age makes €0, with €0 in savings, living in the family home and can only afford to take the bus. Γεια σου ρε Τσίπρα, παιδί του λαού!
- Αλέξη τρέλανέ τους ΟΛΟΥΣ!! Βγάλε την Ελλάδα από την Ευρώπη και βάλτην στην Ανταρκτική, να την ψάχνουν ΟΛΟΙ για να πάρουν τα λεφτά τους πίσω!
- Όποιος ισχυρίζεται ότι οι "ξένοι" μπλοφάρουν και ότι "μας φοβούνται" και λοιπά φαιδρά, ας διαβάσει προσεκτικά λίγο Ελληνική πολιτική ιστορία απ'το 1920. 
Everyone is playing bluff: everyone keeps forgetting that we are all in this together.

via online news:
Merkel has just given Papoulia a call - what game is she playing, by calling her subordinate? And why not Pikrammenos insteaad? Perhaps she sees him as a temporary puppet. The French PM says "We waited too long before helping Greece" while Schauble says "It's up to Greek politicians to explain the reality to their people and not make false promise. We want Greece to stay in the euro but meet its commitments and that's a decision that's up to the Greeks." Everyone is pretending that there is no problem: Greece's relationship with Germany and the eurozone is a case of pushmi-pullyu.

a few OMG's:
Easier said than done
Papariga's thinking of getting a nose piercing: Αν φέρει νόμο κατά του Μνημονίου, να μου τρυπήσετε τη μύτη (she can get Μαίρη Συνατσάκη to do it for her). I love Paris Match's first page headline: Tsipras is the fear of Europe?!?! SCHULTZ says keep to what we agreed on and we will  keep supporting you; if GR leaves the euro, it's logical that others will leave too. Maybe they will see how easy and better it is to start over. And one from the μπαμπούλα, Mr Scary Spice himself: he can't wait to see us go.

Husband: Europe has realised that the μαλάκες in Greece have all gone home to bed.

Saturday, 19 May
Iraklio window display
my colleagues at the English examinations in Iraklio: 
"You're not voting Tsipras, are you?!"
"He looks so smug, with that baby-faced cheeky smile of his."
"What does Tsipras know? He's just a kid!"
"I used to be a student activist and I was always a member of the δεκαπενταμελές at high school, because I believed in what I was doing and I believed that I could help to make a change. At university, I realised that no one else actually believed in what they were doing, but they were only interested in getting voted into the student bodies. I've quit politics forever since then. It's simply a power game, no one enters it for the good of the people."
"I like DRASI - they sound like economists who know what they're doing." (they're headed by an ex-big-party man - ουστ for me).

taxi driver in Iraklio:
"I'm voting Tsipras, girls. He's offering a rope in the well. We can't see what's at the end of it, nor do we know if the rope is rotten, but it's better than nothing." (NB: He didn't use a meter, and he over-charged us - and, like good Greeks, we said nothing.)
Above: Olympic Hotel breakfast from the buffet table. Below: Every time I leave home for work purposes, my kids know that I bring back presents (this year, it was chocolates). This is how Greek people will vote: not on national interests, but on personal ones.
Sunday, 20 May
TV news snippet - heard before going down to the hotel breakfast:
"Dora/ND marriage may take place today."
Another TV news snippet - heard at home once I returned home from Iraklio:
Merkel wants a referendum on EU membership - she is so over.

Nice photo choice for Mark Lowen's question about whether Greece has the energy for a fight - a beggar in Athens against a background of rioters. Is that Greece or is that just Athens? "It could all read like a script from an Aeschylus tragedy... Germany knows that most Greeks like the Euro. Greeks know Germany fears that one country leaving could lead the whole European project to unravel. Which side will blink first?" But it's not Greece doing the fighting, it's other countries bickering over Greece's decisions for herself.

Monday, 21 May
Th BBC has probably already written the first article that will come out on the day Greece exits the €ΕU. And the bogeyman strikes again: he can't wait to see us go. Balls to him then.

Mega channel news: Chippy's in France - wanted to meet Hollande but couldn't prendre du cafe with him due to presidential protocol
- PASOK's Anna Diamantopoulou actually said so many sensible things; why didn't she ever say them before?
- Tzohatzopoulos' diaries show he'd oiled everyone in politics. That's it: I'm not voting for PASOK, ND, KKE, anyone who was previously involved with them, NAZIs, or rich people who have nothing better to do than be involved in politics; maybe I can vote λευκό, or make my vote invalid. Or simply not vote. Whatever road Greece takes, it's going to be bad. (DO NOT VOTE for any spin-offs, no matter how nice their candidates seem - the party's well and truly over and they really do know it, end of story). 

Tuesday, 22 May
via FB: Δηλαδή, όποιος αρνείται ψήφο στο ΠΑΣΟΚ και στη ΝΔ λέει όχι στο ευρω;
Από πού βγαίνει αυτό ρε παιδιά; Κι ύστερα λένε για μας του Πόντιους !
(Χάρρυ Κλυνν)

via online news:
- Poll reveals 72% believe Greece will leave single currency: the Brits would really like that; they are so out of touch, but at least they seem to have cottoned on about the bogeyman...
tsipras efivos
Boy Wonder in the 90s, when he spent 
most of his time in demonstrations
- They're all dying to meet Boy Wonder - για να τον κάνουν με τα κρεμμυδάκια και να τον φάνε λάχανο afterwards?? Congratulations Chippy - calling someone Olandreou is definitely not going to get you friends; neither is telling them to come and spend their holidays in Greece to show their solidarity with the crippled Greek people - they will think you just want their money.
- For God's sake, we are not Argentina! We cannot be Argentina, even if we wanted to! I'm with Argiro on this one - there will be no drachmageddon because Greece will never be allowed to leave the €EU.
- Is the wolf real this time? Tsipras is a bit like a person who’s wandered into a rich guy’s living room and is threatening to shoot himself in the head unless the rich guy hands over some cash. It’s not a very credible threat. Malkoutzis reminds us that politicians are uncooperative power-hungry bastards.

indie press:
France's Hollande and Greece's SIRIZA are both nothing more than a left or not so left flank of the political establishment. But Hollande did meet up with Venizelos, not Chippy - they are all in it together to try to keep the euro intact and silence the small guys.

Wednesday, 23 May
via online news:
- Samaras heads to Brussels to cultivate ties with the grey suited men (and "Europe’s movers and shakers"): pack a brolly with you, Antoni, it's probably raining there.
- As usual, Greece is leading the world: when she coughs, everyone catches her cold even if she wasn't really sick; stocks have always been over-priced in the first place. Trust the BBC to report this one as the main headline; Brits' money is tied up in virtual intangibles - do they own anything with real value?
- Tsipras is the Pied Piper - I'm probably right on this one: he played truant at frontistirio classes.
- Lucky this happened 3 weeks before the elections, and not 3 days before, otherwise, Golden Dawn would be running the country now. 

Thursday, 24 May
Pharmacy in Hania, with an olive tree growing in it from its basement
- The EU wants Greece to stay in eurozone; but the Americans sensationally predict we will be thrown out. The UK, their satellite state, colludes with them.   
- Helena Smith probably doesn't know of the phrase 'είναι φαρμακείο' (literally: 'it's a pharmacy'; it loosely translates as 'it's expensive')
- I don't believe Anna was forced to leave her baby at the hospital - this is probably being sensationally misreported; it wasn't even reported in the Greek news, except in translation from the BBC article (and Anna is anonymous - go figure). They probably told her to find a way to pay her debt - the word 'immigrant' comes to mind; they have families here too, and they have been living here for generations. 
- The crisis through a child's eyes: “The biggest problem is that our politicians are bad and instead of making things better, they are making them worse”; “Once upon a time there was a country that had all that was good. The people were brave, ambitious, kind and hardworking. Slowly, though, they began to steal, not to work as hard; they became greedy. The politicians used tricks to make the people vote for them. Other countries, seeing the mess, began to take advantage of them. Many people lost their jobs and no longer had the basics; no longer had a home.” Tzohatzopoulos should read this. Greek politicians have destroyed at least two generations. Cry, the beloved country!
- Greece embraces fascism - where do these mushrooms sprout from?

Interesting facts on the new Berlin airport - it failed to open on time due to fire regulations not being met and it cost more than double the original budget. Yet, Germany borrowed money yesterday with a zero-percent interest rate. Greece should leave the eurozone - it's a special club for hypocrites.

Friday, 25 May
- If we are through, then they are through - forever bound together.
- GREXIT: something that scares the pants off foreign financial analysts (stated by radio announcer on Melodia FM radio in a list of newly coined global phrases concerning Greece).
- Over lunch with Danish friends: they are amazed with the foliage of Crete; shared a few North-South jokes. 
- A bit of contagion in the Very Far East: “... students had something that no doubt someone will call a riot in Auckland last night dragging some rubbish bins around, they need the Greeks to show them how to do it.” Send a Greek over there to teach them.
- The village of Kalavrita is reeling with the news that their spiritual leader supports fascists. Remember that all the men in the village were killed by the Nazis in Novermber 1943 and let's not kid ourselves: reparations have never been made because Germany believes it has done all it possibly can do to make up for the crimes of the Nazis, which is absolutely nothing in the case of Kalavrita because no one can bring back the dead. Which makes me think that we shouldn't have to pay back any money to anyone if we really can't because they shouldn't have lent it to us in the first place since they realised we couldn't pay it back. Let them lose their money instead. Make them throw us out - this is what they are afraid of: having to play the bad guy.

This monument has always stayed in my mind after my visit to Kalavrita 12 years ago. 

Saturday, 26 May
If we win Eurovision tonight, let's ask Germany to host the contest on our behalf - we don't more expenses.

Twenty years ago, Nikos Portokaloglou was faced with the same dilemma many young Greeks are facing today: should I stay or should I go? This song came out of his anguish.
Από πείσμα και τρέλα θα ζω
σε τούτη τη χώρα
ώσπου να ΄βρω νερό
γιατί ανήκω εδώ.

*Pikrammenos = embittered (cf πικρός = pikros = bitter)
** δεινόσαυροι = dinosaurs - used to refer to Greek politicians who have been around for too long

*** *** ***

There are still three weeks to go - this expensive form of torture of the Greek people isn't over yet. The general conclusion so far: "Does she stay or does she go" is simply a hoax. Remember the 2000 computer crisis? It's still hush-hush in most circles, probably because it cost billions of wasted dollars.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

Saturday 26 May 2012

500: Boureki

The phone is ringing; the screen lights up with the word 'HOME'.

"Baba, lunch is ready! If you don't come now, we're gonna start without you!"

"What's for lunch?" he asks.

"It's a surprise!" his youngest yells and disconnects.

It's half past twelve, and he has been up since seven today. In total, he has travelled 15 kilometres in his cab. And he has made €11.50 (gross), in a cab that requires €32 to run in expenses (petrol not included) on a daily basis. Should I stay or should I go? plays round in his mind. On hearing his child's voice, he starts up the engine. By the time he returns home, he will have driven 20 kilometres; his takings will stay the same.

He arrives home to find the children setting the table. He takes off his jacket and slings it over the armrest of the sofa. The plasma TV set on the wall above the mahogany kitchen unit is blaring out foreign babble in musical form on MAD TV.

"We couldn't wait any more, Baba!"

"Good thing I came now, then!" he laughs.

Just then, his wife comes out of the bathroom with a fresh load of washing.

"Just let me hang this up and I'll be with you in a minute!" she calls out to him as she makes her way to the master bedroom.

He follows her. She goes out to the balcony to hang the laundry, he goes to the ensuite to wash his face. Summer has come too early, leaving him with a parched skin. He can't sit in the cab all day, but he can't stay out in the sun, either. It's going to be a difficult summer.

As he heads back into the kitchen, he looks out at the garden he planted: to zucchini has already come up, the tomatoes have flowered, the vlita has practically created a lawn. 

He joins everyone at the table, which has been set according to the family's daily dietary traditions: there's a little bowl of olives, a plate of feta cheese swimming in olive oil, a leftover sausage from the previous evening's meal (cut up in small pieces for everyone to have their share), and a slice of bread next to each person's plate, which is empty.

"Is that all we're having?" he said, feigning a moan. Just then, his wife came into the dining room holding a large baking tin. He could smell its aroma from where he was sitting.
"Boureki! Where did you find the zucchini? You didn't cut off all the small ones, did you?" he said reproachingly. 
"They're not from our garden. Yiani's plants are already overproducing and I saw him carrying a huge bucketful as I was taking out the trash."

"What do you mean? Was he going to throw them away?"

"No, he was taking them to the chicken coop, and I simply asked him if I could have a few."
Well, he thought, thanks to her resourcefulness, as least we won't starve.
*** *** ***
As a friend of mine noted recently, "Democracy, like social justice, is not handed away, it has to be earned in the hard way, and that's what we are going through now. We are in our learning curve and we are still at the bottom. However, out of this borrowing that we will never pay back, we have infrastucture as a country, investments in tourism and agriculture, nice houses to live in, and cars to last us for another 10-20 years."

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

Friday 25 May 2012

Cheap 'n'Greek 'n' frugal: Horta

Prices are in euro (valid in Hania). All ingredients are Greek or locally sourced; those marked with * are considered frugal here because they are cheap and/or people have their own supplies.

The first plate of horta for the warm season has already been served in our house. In the summer, our garden provides us with ample vlita (amaranth, en anglais), which are always boiled and served with an olive oil and lemon dressing.

The dark green variety of greens on the left is the new one I picked; the other greens are all vlita.

This year's first plate of horta contained an added bonus: I tried a new wild-growing species in our garden. As I was weeding it, my mother-in-law was watching me.

"Hmm, are you going to cook some vlita with that, Maria?"

"Is this edible, Mama."

"This horta? Of course. They're κοβρίδες*. They're just like vlita, only less sweet."

"So can I eat them alone?"

"No, we always cooked them with vlita."

This kind of knowledge you can only gain form old people who have been through much much much much worse than we will ever know.

You need:
Our vlita garden
My newly foraged horta
- as many vlita heads and stalks as you can forage from your plants - cut only the tenderest parts, preferably the off-shoots and topmost of the stem
- one more wild variety of horta, preferably a more bitter one (I usually use stifno - nightshade - but today, I used κοβρίδες*), using 1 part bitter to 2-3 parts sweet horta
- a few small zucchini, boiled (or steamed till tender - generally speaking, Greeks do NOT like their vegetables half-cooked)
a few small potatoes (or you can cut them to size), peeled and boiled (or steamed)
olive oil, lemon juice and salt

The most important aspect involved in foraging greens is to clean them very well. If you suspect that an area is polluted or contaminated in any way, you shouldn't forage there. Whatever you pick must be washed in plenty of rinses of water.

Then, boil some water in a large pot and add the greens. Boil the vlita for about 5 minutes, then change the water (to remove bitterness) and start all over again, boiling for 20-30 minutes without covering the pot. We prefer them soft, but others prefer their horta to be chewy. I like to switch off the element after 20 minutes, cover the pot with a lid and allow the vlita to keep cooking on their own.

All varieties of horta need to be cooked separately, because they have different cooking times. The new variety that I picked on this occasion didn't need much cooking time at all - only 10 minutes, and the stalks were done. NB: Don't boil the potatoes or zucchini in the same water as the horta; they will discolour. Cook the potatoes first, then the zucchini, if you want to use the same water. Never use the same water to cook different varieties of horta - cook each one separately (due to different chemical reactions and toxins).

Arrange all the different horta and vegetables on a plate, or allow eaters to take a heap of whatever they like and arrange their own plates. Provide the dressings for everyone to use on their own plate.

Horta are traditionally served with bread. During a fasting period, they are eaten alone, but if you aren't fasting, you can supplement them with a boiled egg, a piece of cheese, some small fried fresh fish or biftekia (meat patties).

Total cost of the meal for four people: about €2-3, together with the eggs/cheese/fish and bread; about 50-75 cents per serving.

*κοβρίδες - ko-VRI-thes: and I've just discovered that this 'weed' is lamb's quarters or pigweed - Chenopodium album.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

Thursday 24 May 2012

The way we are: Elections revisited

I always vote because it's a duty, the only responsibility I've been given to choose how to run the country. Those who don't vote and then complain about the way their country is governed have no right to voice their opinion.

In the first round of this year's elections, I voted for the Greens. All other times I have voted in general elections, it's always been for KKE, as my way of saying "I want a coalition government"; KKE always secured seats in Parliament, but only once (before my time in Greece) did it help to secure a coalition, albeit a short-lived one. I never vote for 'big' parties (ie the governing one and their main opposition) because even in my early years in Greece, I felt suspicious of them. Now everyone admits that they only ever worked for their own limited interests rather than for the common good. Even if their leaders are really saying the truth now, it's obvious the party is over for them - Greeks are sick of the old boy's school club, and the whole of Europe knows this now.

This time, I also let go of KKE for the same reasons that I don't vote big parties. Apart from having tired of the outdated sickle symbol, in the same way that I'm tired of seeing the same faces in politics over the last 20 years who helped destroy Greece, I'm now also tired of uncooperative pretend-do-gooders: KKE knows it will never govern the country on its own majority, but it doesn't want to work with another party to do this, either. Hence: Ουστ!

The Greens didn't muster enough people's votes to secure a voice in Parliament, but I don't feel that I didn't come out a winner; the effect of voting for a small party in the previous elections did something that no other election did in the past: it smashed the system. Not only was there no clear majority, but the two main parties in Greek politics for the last 40 years were now two of the main three parties - SIRIZA took second place in the polls, sandwiched between ND (with a similar overall percentage of votes) and PASOK (who got the raw end of the stick). Even combined, these three parties didn't even get half the vote!!! Other winners included spin-offs whose leaders are former members of the other parties (ie I would never vote for them, either), as well as the Greek version of the Nazi party (who will probably get fewer votes next time round because they do not give a good image in the media).

I don't know what to make of SIRIZA, a fresh new party with a young leader. "Alexis Tsipras, head of SYRIZA, said ... the radical left coalition wanted to put an end to austerity, keep Greece in the eurozone and strike new alliances to overcome the crisis." It all sounds good in theory, but SIRIZA didn't cooperate with anyone who was given the chance to form a new government which led to the new elections. When SIRIZA was handed the reins to form a government, they did manage to get some support from one other party, but it wasn't enough to secure the seats needed. SIRIZA is probably counting on their new-found popularity: ‎"Tsipras argued that the existing political system had been taken by surprise following the recent May 6 elections and was now fighting back." They're suffering from the same megalomania that the other parties have/had, wanting to win with a majority on their own, presumably so that they don't have to cooperate with anyone else when they make their decisions (in the same way that the other parties governed Greece in the past). 

SIRIZA is a whole new kettle of fish. It's still all Greek to most foreigners, who are trying to work out the New Greek Order since the last elections. But it looks as though SIRIZA is going to be a very Greek thing after all. Alexis Tsipras is only 37 years old, a home-grown kind of kid with a fresh face, who's been in politics all his life. But his English stinks: wasn't I arguing a couple of days ago that all Greek children learn English at private language schools? (I wonder what he was doing when he was a little boy.) When Tsipras speaks English, he reminds me of an awkward backwardness, a kind of village bumpkin character that I thought the Greek identity had surpassed.

Listen to Alexis Tsipras speaking with CNN's Christiane Amanpour - she had to simplify her own linguistic style in order to have an interlligible conversation with him.

Tsipras' rudimentary English skills (I'd class him as close to the B2 target, but not quite there), make him a truly home-grown potential leader. For years, Greece had been ruled by people who had grown up or been born in another country, or had studied for so many years abroad, that their thinking patterns resembled the Anglo-Saxons. Papandreou was called an American, Simitis was called a German, Samaras was educated in the US (where he attended university with Papandreou); no one can make such a statement of Tsipras.

Tsipras would do better to speak Greek instead of English to the foreign press, and hire an interpreter, just like his bigger-and-better European colleagues. Merkel is only heard speaking German, while Hollande is only heard speaking French. When Tsipras speaks, it should be in Greek. That's something that was missing from our previous leaders - they were all rich, foreign-born or foreign-educated and had powerful relatives, unlike this new man, a grass-roots Greek at all levels. 

We had our fun in the last election. Now, we have to play the game more seriously. A leader (from amongst many bad ones), preferably among a coalition, must be elected this time round. We can't afford a third chance to decide this, in the same way that we (and the whole of Europe, for we are in this together) can't afford the drachma. I'm keeping track of all the opinions that are swaying my vote on an everyday basis as a way to help me decide who I vote for on June the 17th, 2012 (which I'll start sharing with you soon).   

One thing I'm sure of is that I am so glad I'm living in Greece at this time of my life, to be witness to the destruction of that hated Greek elitist system which got the most stupid people into positions of power, while the most useful among them were relegated to the dark silent background. I'm glad to be in the thick of something new, in the same way that people remember the rise of Papandreou and PASOK in 1981. This novelty is not limited to Greece; it's pan-European, with a global outlook. And I am also very lucky that my children are at just the right age to not have to worry about how their country is being governed at the moment. By the time they leave school and finish with compulsory military duty (if it still exists then), things will undoubtedly be better, no matter who is leading us. 

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Taste Greek:

Taste Greek: documenting online Greek food suppliers.

ILIADA Green Olives stuffed with tzatziki

The only olives I eat are from Crete. This is not just due to a personal bias; Crete is one of the most important olive growing areas in the world. Therefore, it's only natural that some of the best olives will be grown here.

Cretans happen to be very traditional in their food beliefs. So the idea of filled or marinated olives isn't a popular one among the main producers and olive processors. Even though you will find these products being sold in many Cretan supermarkets, you won't find them in the bulk displays of the the traditional food suppliers of the town markets.

Flavoured olives are a refined taste. They are the kind of luxury morsel that you want to have to accompany a good beer or wine. Such flavours are meant to be enjoyed alone, rather than mixed in with too many other foods, where their taste cannot be appreciated.

A lot of new flavours in Greek food have come on the market, combining the aromas and scents that people often associate with Greek food. Taste Greece sells green olives stuffed with tzatziki and preserved in sunflower oil for a lighter taste - a 100% natural product with no added preservatives. Enjoy!

Press Release:
Tastegreece Food Trading Limited is a new family business, run by the Montes families that have recently moved from Greece to New Zealand. Having a strong background in the media and marketing sector, they decided to research all Greece and find the best products that could be offered to the New Zealand market, always considering the best quality/cost relationship. Their Greek olive oils are the ones they would consume in their households and naturally, they consume a lot!
For more information about Taste Greece products please visit Check them out on facebook too.
NB: Although I am unlikely to buy from them, I often browse online Greek food suppliers for items unknown to me. If I like what I see, and I've dealt personally with the people behind the e-shop, I write a review. I don't personally gain or profit from writing such reviews, so everything expressed in this post is my opinion alone. If you are a Greek food supplier, and would like your online site reviewed, feel free to contact me: mverivaki at hotmail dot com.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

English examinations (Εξετάσεις Αγγλικών)

I spent last weekend examining Cretan students' spoken English. The food-related picture cards below were used in past EFL/ESL examinations (this examination format is no longer used in Greece). Bear in mind that examination candidates in Crete (and most of Greece, I'd say) that take EFL exams are predominantly school-age, with a small percentage of tertiary students.

While still in primary school, and in the years leading up to the final high school class, Greek children sit examinations to measure their English language skills. Some of these examinations are internal (ie the examinations are written by Greeks and the examination session is organised by a Greek body), but most are external, held by international examinations syndicates like Michigan University, Cambridge University and Pearson's (which recently replaced Edexcel in Greece). Twice a year, I travel to another part of Crete to conduct English language oral examinations for an external English examination company. I call it a company because a lot of money is spent by parents for their chidlren to sit these exams, and few parents do not send their children at some point to do these exams. This year, enrolments for these examinations were down by a staggering 20-25%, all due to the crisis of course: not only are fewer children attending the preparatory lessons (at the frontistirio) before they sit these exams, but they are not sitting the examinations either because they are very expensive - each exam costs the parents on average €150. Pass marks (ie scores greater than 60%) are not always guaranteed, but some examinations are notoriously 'easier' than others, hence they are more popular, keeping both parties happy: the parents will be pleased they got something for their money (although such certificates are quite meaningless in practice), while the examination company is keeping their customers happy.

Intermediate level students, under the general theme of travelling:
Cretan students can relate to this kind of photo because there are a few Asian restaurants in tourist areas on the island. What I found was that they couldn't relate it to the idea of young people travelling for experiences; they thought this would make an interesting meal out for a one-off experience in their own town.

Examinations take place over the weekend. The body that organises them always provides food and overnight accommodation to the visiting teachers. For a weekend's worth of work away from home, we are paid very well, with all due taxes deducted, and without delay. It used to surprise me to hear the complaints of some of my colleagues about their perks we were provided during this period: for example, when the inner-city luxury hotel where the examinations used to be conducted in was changed to the dingy suburban school premises of an out-of-town state school, when the a-la-carte menu we were served lunch from was replaced by a buffet from a catering company, when the coffees were limited to a certain number per day instead of the freely available room service by phone call. The most moaning and groaning was heard when the hotel was changed: for some of those teachers, it seemed that the move from a luxury hotel with silver-service breakfast taken by the pool, to a cheaper hotel with smaller rooms and only a basic continental breakfast, was a very difficult one.

The poshest place I've ever stayed at is Galaxy Hotel in Iraklio where EFL exams used to be held.
The high-quality accommodation standards that the English teachers had gotten used to in the past were due to the fact that the profession had a lot of money entering it. As I mentioned, we were paid very well for a weekend's work: I recall making €420 (net) at one time, which used to be half the average monthly salary of a Greek private-sector worker. For this, I sat at a desk for 10-12 hours each day for two days, getting up only to open and close the door to let the next student in and to have lunch. Each day, 70-80 students would be interviewed by each pair of interviewers: one would examine, while the other would assess (this year with fewer enrolments, we interviewed about 60 students per day).

Intermediate level students, under the general theme of travelling:
more of the same as above. Cretan children do not have such a well-developed concept of independent travelling as a young person.

Lowering living standards is a hard concept for people to grasp when they were used to a very materialistic throw-away lifestyle, even when it was provided to them for free. But I am happy to say that I don't hear these complaints any more. The frequent complainers have recently been dealt with quite swiftly. For the last two years, I've noticed that this side of the profession has been filtered out with a fine-tooth comb: these people were the first to go as the crisis hit the sector. It's sad to say this, but the truth is that this particular group of teachers wasn't always the most professional. Some would treat the working weekend as a holiday. Stories abounded of the empty mini-bars in the hotel room and the room service orders. A few of them would even invite their friends along for the weekend, so that they could go out in the evenings, despite an early-morning start the next day (we have to be up by 7am to wash, dress and have breakfast before we start work at 8.30am). Some of them would not even bother to show up to the exams, cancelling at the last moment. Who turns down such money, whether during a crisis period or not? Especially when you have been specifically selected to do the honours? Keep in mind an important point about the identity of these teachers: they were mainly foreign-born Greek women (ie native speakers of English). Teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) is definitely woman's territory in Greece.

It has always been too easy to become an authorised EFL teacher in Greece: you sit a European-certified C2-level examination for English language proficiency, and if you pass, you can apply to become a non-state-school EFL teacher, although most teachers often have more than just this qualification nowadays, because of the competition and the fact that most university graduates are unemployed, so they get involved in private teaching of some sort. I have often worked with women who have simply finished high school and gained one of these certificates - really good students of English can achieve this level before they leave high school. These teachers have no idea about teaching methodology, they have very little knowledge of theoretical English grammar, and they have never created their own teaching materials. This isn't necessarily a criticism: ust because they aren't always highly educated doesn't necessarily mean that they don't make good teachers at the end of the day. Their experience as both learners and teachers helps them to teach in a manner suitably directed towards passing an examination. I've also found that most of the time, students pass exams regardless of who the teacher is (in other words, the students took in whatever the teacher had to offer).

Intermediate level students, under the general theme of employment:
this picture was easier to handle than the previous ones, as it is a universally understood topic.

The profession is full of people who don't really have advanced knowledge, even though most of the teaching is very bookish. On this point, frontistirio owners are bombarded by publishing companies (both national and international) selling expensive course books, and some even make deals with them to use specific book series for a number of years - that used to provide perks for the frontistirio (eg advertising stationery with company logos) and sure book sales for the publishing company. English-language frontistiria were often run in the past by people whose qualifications level is quite basic, sometimes lower than the teachers they hire (while some operations are a one-person show); this has changed over the last few years, again due to more competition - frontistirio owners in Crete tend to have ESL qualifications.   

English language teachers have helped immensely to boost the family income. In rural areas where there are few positions of employment available, an English teacher could make a respectable income away from the local food processing plant or fieldwork, supplementing her household income quite handsomely, without too much initial outlay in setting themselves up as such. In a country with high unemployment, teaching English is perfect work 'on the side'. Private one-to-one tuition is rarely taxed (before the crisis, lessons cost anything from €10-20 an hour). Some unscrupulous frontistirio owners don't declare their employees (or even businesses, if they are running them from their own home) to the tax office (and this is continuing, as far as I know). In this case, it's the employee teacher that you have to keep in mind. She's often paid a low rate per hour, she may be uninsured, and when the business closes down for the summer holidays (like state schools do), she has to register at the unemployment office - which she can only do if she was being paid legally: the frontistirio owner would have to be declaring her employment, paying taxes and, most importantly, paying her national health insurance contributions.

Intermediate level students, under the general theme of employment:
another easy topic for our students.

This is what gave English language teaching its weird side in Greece: a lot of those schools and their teachers relied on image projection (pretty teachers and high pass rates) rather than highly qualified appropriate teaching staff. Word of mouth was the main form of advertising; but because frontistiria are as common as zaharoplasteia, souvlatzidika and corner shops (or at least they were before the crisis, while paying a small amount in salaries to some employees who are in a dead-end job), and they are run in a similar way (a little family business providing employment for most members), people often prefer to send their children for ease of access to the closest one in the neighbourhood. When a visiting professor from the UK came to Greece to conduct a seminar for English language teachers, he made an interesting remark at the beginning of his report: when he entered the lecture room, he wondered if he had been sent to a hairdresser's conference by accident, so saturated was the profession with image-conscious women that it was difficult to see its more serious side.

In the good old days when EU loans were pouring into the pockets of Greek state employees, this sudden wealth created the need for services that they could pay for with their new money, which in turn created a host of new businesses (which make up the Martyr's Party, as labelled by Petros Markaris), including frontistiria. But they had been around well before Greece's entry into the EU; however, they were not accessible to everyone. My husband, for example, used to work on construction sites in the summer and the money he earned from there would pay for his English lessons during the winter. In the 70s, there was much less money in the pockets of the average Greek than there was in the 80s, carrying on through to the first decade of the new millenium.

Advanced level students, under the general theme of pollution:
this topic was way off the scale for our students - and our teachers, as I subsequently found out when the topic was discussed over lunch. The idea of carbon footprints and food miles is only recently getting attention in Greece, but not in the form that it takes in the UK (where these exams and picture cards originate).

Such micro-businesses as the frontistirio have been hit hardest in the Greek economy. Civil servants have had their salaries reduced (in theory), but they still get paid something every month, while all those little support services in the form of private businesses that sprouted up around them have mostly gone completely bust. The economy's decline will have a number of repercussions in the frontistirio business, but moving away from the many hours Greek children spend in a frontistirio is actually a positive step in many ways. It may seem as though children won't have the opportunity to become as educated as they were before, but that's looking at the issue in a one-sided way. Most importantly, fewer hours spent in a frontistirio will assist children in their creative development. Frontistirio lessons take place in conservative environments and they take up most of the free hours of a child's afternoon and/or evening. All of the downsides of a move away from frontistiria are counter-balanced by the new technology available to us, which will continue to be available even with a return to the drachma.

The way Greek politics is going paves the way for a new form of frontistirio too. The old system has been crushed or severely bruised, and it needs to be replaced imminently with new ideas. There is no real need to go to a frontistirio these days to learn English (my own opinion - I know there will be a public outcry on this one) because we live in the internet age, and these days, it's unlikely that young Greeks will not have any grasp of basic English skills (check out a potential Prime Minister candidate's skills here! - he clearly didn't like going to frontistirio when he was young). But there is still a need for the frontistirio and its teachers:
  • private language teachers will still be needed, but on a more individualised basis - their salaries won't actually be reduced (but they will need to work harder to keep their customers and build up a clientèle)
  • private language schools won't need to close down - like publishing houses, they will diversify: many (but not all) are already using interactive whiteboards (or laptops connected to an overhead projector)
  • the publishing companies that brought out the course books can now diversify their products and sell online programmes instead of paper material
  • children's after-school hours won't be clogged with more sedentary activities, which is what is happening now in Greece (unless they have no one limiting their time on the computer) - Greek children are already regarded as some of the most obese in Greece (and it's mainly due to the many hours they are involved with school work, including frontistiria)
  • instead of children relying on being taught English by someone, with internet-based online lessons, the onus will be on them to learn what they need to learn, and at their own pace
  • the days of teaching EFL should be regarded as over and done with! It's ESL (English as a second language) that should be taught now!!! 
Before the crisis, Greek parents were forking out thousands of euro per year for their children to learn English. I'm glad my children are caught up in the period of change in Greece, when this kind of spending has clearly lost its significance. It may seem as though children won't have the opportunity to become as educated as they were before, but that's looking at the issue in a one-sided way. Individualised learning programmes require some knowledge of the specific needs that will be included in a tailored learning programme, which is a novel way to approach learning in Greece, since it is still very bookish. But all that is about to change in the coming year (September 2012):  the organisation which used to produce Greek school books has been closed down, because the Ministry of Education (MoE) has decided to produce more online material. Frontistiria can't continue to require that their students spend hundreds of euro (or drachma) a year to buy course books when the MoE will be providing theirs free - for the frontistiria, it will be a case of monkey see, monkey do. It will mean a lot of work in the transition stages, but you don't get something for nothing these days.

Advanced level students, under the general theme of cultural diversity:
students still needed prodding to get them to talk about the actual topic that this picture covered. Most students discussed their interests in the food and music of other cultures, rather than race relations (it was much easier for them to 'see' the topic in the non-food photo below). Bear in mind that students are given only one photo: it depends on their luck as to which one they get.

Since we live in a highly connected world, the frontistiria owners and their teachers are not the only ones who will suffer economically. Remember those examination syndicates offering tests to prove your English language skills and proficiency levels? They're all based in the UK or the US. And Greece - believe it or not - was one of their biggest customers: in other countries, teachers aren't even employed to conduct the oral examinations (they are all taped and sent to the UK, which is where they are assessed, but this isn't possible in Greece where hundreds of thousands of students sit exams all in one weekend). Leading people to believe that they need a commodity is something of an art in the maintenance of the global economy. Somewhere the bubble has loosened and air is being released. The balloon won't burst, but it's already shrunk considerably, and there isn't much air in it now.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.