Zambolis apartments

Zambolis apartments
For your holidays in Chania

Monday 30 September 2013

Doing your job (Να κάνεις την δουλειά σου)

It's back to work today for the regular working Greek, but not for a couple of dozen among us, who have been spending the last two nights in jail or wondering how to avoid inevitable arrest.
«Hail to the leader» yelled the wife (also an Golden Dawn MP, like her husband) and 25-year-old daughter, as their husband and father was transferred to court. «Darling, you made a mockery of them» said the wife. «Dudders, my dudders» said his daughter. 

I am relieved that the half dozen in particular who are MPs will not be showing their forever smirking faces in Parliament today. Their presence was simply to taunt, to disgrace, to curse, to bring thier street agort into a sacred institution. There will be many out there who will argue that the Greek Parliament was full of criminals anyway, but there were none like Golden Dawn. Even those who are touted as criminals know how to keep their dignity. The Golden Dawn bunch had no inkling of that - their racist stance was written all over their ugly faces, as was their murderous anti-establishmentarianism.

I am very proud to know that in the Greek police force, there is a 24-year-old policewoman who went against all the stereotypes of the Greek police force on the day that she immobilised a murderer just moments after he executed someone: she cannot have been colluding with Golden Dawn, as has been implied about the Greek police for so long. In fact, she was doing her job, and very well for that matter. She is the reason why Golden Dawn is now in jail. It was not just the death of a citizen that triggered everything; if it weren;t for her actions, instinctively apprehending someone as they were caught in the act, then it would not have been possible for everyone else to take their turn: the police and politicians were then able to bypass the privacy laws and find out who the murderer was talking with on his mobile phone. Thanks to 21st century advanced technology, everything happened very quickly after that, and we are where we are now. 

Politics is a stinky business. I spent a highly political two days last week heavily involved in food politics, and I know how easy it is to rush to conclusions and to make judgments. In the end we resorted to the old cliches to hide our disappointment when we realised that our hard work would not be taken into account to reach a fair decision: show patience, don't give up hope, believe in yourself, support your colleagues and continue to work as a team. And above all, keep smiling and don't show anyone how crushed you feel. The events of the past weekend in Greece remind me of those two days in my life, where a lot of work was put into a project, which did not yield the favourable outcome that we were hoping for (our ultimate goal).

But it made us all realise just how powerful we were at that moment when we showed what we could do, and the potential for a future success if we continue to keep a united front and work as a team. I am proud to have played a part in serving to that purpose. At the end of the day, I am very proud to be able to say that I did my job, just like that young female police officer.

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Sunday 29 September 2013

Palio Arhondiko, Kolimbari (Παλιό Αρχοντικό, Κολυμπάρι)

Remember when the EU decided to ban the use or refillable olive oil dispensers in eateries, and the UK went nuts about it, saying that the EU was meddling in things that did not serve any real purpose, with even UKIP having their say in the matter? Let me jog your memory: click here.

Go on, admit it, this setup looks much better than the first one in the above link. It makes you think about wanting to dine here, doesn't it? 

The difference between the foreground and the background reflects the vision that an entrepreneur has when thinking about the image they want to convey to their guests.

Although this is a seaside restaurant..., 

... its indoor part easily morphs into a cosy indoor space for winter.

We treated our guests to a meal of steamed mussels, 

stuffed cuttlefish,

salad with caramelised hibiscus flower,

saganaki shrimp with feta in tomato sauce,

orzo al dente with shellfish,

and 'drunken' octopus.

It was a meal to remember, not just for the food, but for the Mediterranean company, the lively conversation and the beautiful view of the calm waters of the Mediterranean sea.

In the backgrgound, you can see the Orthodox Academy located beside a monastery, which I visited at the beginning of summer (click here). Check out Palio Arhondiko on TripAdvisor.

©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 28 September 2013

Erosion (Διάβρωση)

The remains of a small pier at Koum Kapi, an inner-city beach area, are still visible in the region; most of it is now under water. 

In the background you can see a mini-cruiseship docked outside the Venetian harbour. The passengers were picked up by privately-hired smaller boats which brought them to shore. The photos were taken this past summer.

This is a sign of the changing topology of the island: the north seems to be sinking while the south is rising. 

A few beaches along the northern coast which are located close to my house have shown signs of erosion during the two decades that I've been living in Greece, notably Kalamaki Beach (to the west of Agious Apostolous). There is now no sandy beach next to Bamboo Cafe; only 6 years ago, my kids were building sand castles there.

kalamaki 2008
Above: Kalamaki Beach 2008. My kids used to build sand castles below the wall. 
Another photo of the area in 2012 is also available here. 
Below: Kalamaki Beach, summer, 2013 - you can't build sand castles now, only rock castles! 
Bear in mnd that the Mediterranean is not a tidal sea - the coastline remains in a stable position all day long. It is not tides that are causing it to come further inland.
"The coastlines of western Crete are retreating at a rate that has increased substanstantially in the past decade. As in other parts of the Mediterranean, we infer that the causes are mainly anthropogenic and include: 1. sand mining from the beaches and rivers to use as construction material, 2. poor design of coastal structures that create sand trapping and reflection patterns focusing waves on vulnerable areas, 3. removal of sand dunes to build roads and hotels, and 4. coastal construction too close to shoreline." (Nikolaos Maravelakis, Nikos Kalligeris & Costas Emmanuel Synolakis, Beach Erosion in Western Crete, 2008)
Another view of Kalamaki Beach, summer 2013.
You can read more about the problem in this paper by researchers at the Technical University of Crete (TUC). The link leads you to a downloadable .pdf file which may be accompanied by a message about how safe it is to open such files. I downloaded and opened it without any problems - it contains interesting information and some photographs for comparison purposes from the north coast of Hania that illustrate the erosion problem. The issue is being tackled by the authorities at a very slow rate, but such things take time to be managed properly.

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Friday 27 September 2013

Intergovernmental meeting lunch

Simple food, transparent tastes, natural colours: that was the lunch meal yesterday at an intergovernmental meeting at MAICh. 

The menu
Shrimp and seaweed salad
Freshly baked bread rolls and white wine
Crunchy cauliflower florets
Tomato salad with kritamos
Mini meat pies and spinach kalitsounia
Olive pate and askrolimbri
Lamb over stamnagathi
Prickly pear juice
Cured meat (smoked pork) and fried potatoes scented with myrtle
Sfakiani pita (seamless cheese pie) with honey

All the food was locally sourced and cooked with extra virgin olive oil. The meeting was of a food-politics nature (more on that another time). 

©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 26 September 2013

Camera tricks

My pocket camera broke down, after taking about 10,000 shots in total. It's something I cannot do without. The photos that I take on it do not necessarily reflect great skill, but they often act as a kind of diary for me, a record of what has passed before my eyes.
Watercolours - winter is on its way.
So I went along to the store, which I must admit I am rather fond of. It's big, modern, breezy, it sells all sorts of electronics gear, computers and gadgets, and it also contains a large media section, where you can browse CDs, DVDs and books (the latter are rather over-priced) in both the English and Greek languages. Many of the books are sold in both languages, a very wise move of course - in Crete, especially since it is a tourist area, the English language is used in all sectors, and people's language skills are now good enough to buy and read English books. We also have an ex-pat community and also sells touristy items, so there is something for everyone in there.
Modern emphasis - keeping young.
I wanted to buy pretty much the same camera that I was already using: a Sony Cybershot, which I found selling for 79 euro; theoretically, I would be able to use the old battery pack, with a spare for the just-in-case moments. So I asked the assistant to give me one. Unfortunately, they were out of them, as they were a very popular and well-priced model. The next cheapest Sony was 159 euro - twice the price. I decided to take the plunge. When your camera is your diary, you really cannot wait for a cheaper model to be delivered to you from an online store.
Cartoon effects - child's play.
Our first proper photos were taken last night when I made the first pita for the season: home-made pastry (flour, water, olive oil and salt) filled with crumbled feta cheese, grated (2-month-old, overgrown) zucchini and egg, seasoned salt and pepper. Nothing else was added - that was a very simple pie. My daughter helped me to roll out half the filo sheets.
Black and white - the retro effect.
"What's that amazingly good smell coming from the kitchen?" my son asked, as he came indoors after helping his dad lay some manure over the soil. That kind of observation is hard to capture in a photo.
What you see is what you get - delicious.
You'll just have to take my word for it.

I'm glad I overspent on the new camera - its new features include capturing the mood of the moment.

©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 25 September 2013

Conference food

Right now at my workplace (MAICh), there's a big scientific conference taking place, with speakers from all over the world including the UK, USA ans AUS. It is taking place at our ISO-approved international conference centre. Our chef Yannis Apostolakis is taking care of the meals.

Potato salad with yoghurt sauce, boureki pie (mine was the last piece so it has crumbled), orzo pasta salad with tuna, fancy green salad with pomegranate, white wine, cheesecake and ekmek dessert. These were among some of the offerings at the buffet.
Just like the meals we have at the Institute during the academic year, the conference meals are mainly plant-based, light in taste, they use local ingredients and extra virgin olive oil; above all, they remain transparent - you can see what you are eating. And our guests are loving it: colourful meals based on the Mediterranean Diet.

©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 23 September 2013

Greeks revolting (Έλληνες επαναστάτες)

I don't normally apologise for anything in my blog, but I'd like to apologise on this occasion for the length of this blog post. It's long because it contains a week's worth of observations during the Greek high school teachers' strike. Hence, I have added sub-headings, to make things easier to read.

Discipline is a strong word. It conveys a controlling sense which has negative overtones in a liberal world (whose tolerance of liberalism led it hyper-tolerance). But discipline usually starts in the home, and it is often acquired by example. Who sets the example is a matter of culture - in the Western world, there is a national sense of what is normally regarded as disciplined action, but in an extremist country such as that which Greece has become, the state has never managed to impose discipline on its people. Nor, by extension, has any state institution. The lack of a standard measure of discipline in Greece is the root reason of most of Greece's problems. The Greek word for discipline is πειθαρχεία. But in Greek, we also have another meaning of discipline that is connected with education: that of παιδεία. These days in Greece, paideia is just as lacking as democracy, both of which were born in Greece. They have both been distorted to a form of brainwashing.

Morning routine
In the summer holidays (which are bloody long in Greeece - between 2 and 3 months, depending on which stage you are at school), I let the kids wake up whenever they want. But during school term, I have a routine, which I dislike breaking:
The breakfast bar - an old filing box, given a new leash of life. A possible winter project: cover it, make it look prettier, and hide its original use.
  • 6.53am: while it's still dark, the alarm rings (I have to get up to switch off), I get up and wake the kids
  • I start making my coffee
  • 7.00am: those still in bed get the sheets rolled off their bodies
  • 7.05am: those still in bed get the light switched onto their face
  • the kids prepare their own breakfast (helped by my establishing a breakfast bar on the kitchen table): choice of home-made jam or tahini chocolate spread (they always go for my jam!), butter, fresh bread, cereals, milk, cheese, and anything esle in the house that is vaguely healthy and can be considered breakfast food
  • the kids prepare their own school meals: anything including a piece of fruit, a home-made muffin, a home-made sandwich, etc - and don't forget your water bottle
  • 7.30am: last call for breakfast 
  • 7.35am: face, hands, shoes, bag (it had better have been prepared the night before!)
  • 7.45am: we're in the car and on the road
  • 8:00am: we usually manage to be outside the high school (and I am still early)
If I didn't do all this, then I could never get my kids to school on time with something in their stomachs before they got there. That's one of my jobs - to help my kids learn a routine that works well for them, which they can adapt in later life, according to their changing needs. It's my job to do that as the person raising them. If I didn't present this disciplined approach to our morning routine, what would end up happening is that my kids would get up just a few minutes before they needed to have left home to get to school, they'd eat nothing, they'd complain that that they are hungry, I'd have to fork out money for the school canteen, I'll end up with a constantly emptying purse, and they'd be fat. Or will they? 

Early start, early finish
Schools in Greece start at 8.10am all over the country. It's rather early, but if I were to try to explain this time within the framework of working hours in Greece, then it all seems to fall into place with the public servant mentality: 8:00am is regarded as the start of the working day for most Greek public servants (even in office jobs, many start at 7:00am, but most start at 8:00am - very few start after 8:30am). Needless to say, the earlier you start work, the earlier you are allowed to finish, in line with the communist-style 8-hours-work, 8-hours-sleep and 8-hours-play mentality. Teachers are public servants, hence it could be said that democracy is being served in this way in its full form (as long as you are a public servant, that is).   

To strike, or not to strike
On the first day of the Greek high school teachers' strike (Monday, September 16), I had to take my son to his school, to find out if his teachers had chosen to strike or not (the pseudo-rules of how to announce you are striking in Greece are explained here). I decided to wait outside the school until I found out what was going on, basically to save driving time and petrol money. When we arrived at 8.00am, I noticed how empty the front of the school yard looked, especially the teachers’ parking spaces. (Damn them, I thought; they had decided well before this morning that they would be striking. They were all still in bed while my son and I were at school.

Following the sheep
At 8.05am, my son comes out of the school and tells me that he may do 1 or 2 periods only. I asked him how he found that out. he said the other kids in his class told him. Then you really don’t know what is happening, do you?” Greek schoolkids are like sheep - they follow on from the others who seem to know what they are doing. Kids with older siblings possibly know the routine better. They are kept uninformed by teachers, which is why they resort to this tactic. But very few times do they actually know in full what is happening; they have roughly an idea of what is happening, and that is what causes a lot of confusion. Few of them make an attempt to know exactly what is happening. If only they knew something: if they did demand to know exactly what is happening, they would more likely extract this information on a more consistent basis, and their lives would change completely. 

At 8.10am, the bell rings. The children are all assembled informally in the school yard. I hear the headmaster speaking to them via a megaphone. As he calls out the name of each class group, rounds of cheers are fired by the children. Some children file out of the school just as soon as they had arrived for the day. This meant that either they had no lessons for the day at all (because all their ‘professors’, which is what all high school teachers are called - with the use of the same title at university) - were striking, or they had a free period before their first/only lesson for the day.

I told my son to inform me about the strikes in the way that the headmaster had explained on the first day: by phone – according to the headmaster, they are allowed to use the staff telephone to do this. Only a few parents, mainly the mothers of first-year pupils, were waiting outside the school in their cars, like myself, with the same hope I suppose that they wouldn't have to drive back and forth from home to school and home again. But I saw my son come racing out of the yard at 8:13am to tell me hurriedly through the car window: One lesson only, we’re having it now, then school's over!” He was excited, happy, almost glad of the outcome.

A sea of faces
Naturally, I waited till he finished - I would still have time to drive him back home and go to work on time myself. For the next 45 minutes, I sat in the car, observing an hour of life passing by outside a small village school. My first observation was rather amusing: I saw a boy I had never seen before, who I thought looked just like his father. We were classmates together at one point in New Zealand and although I hadn't seen his father since his wedding day, the face of the father was unmistakably imprinted on the son’s face. In that sea of Greek boys' faces, I remembered this boy's father as his spitting image. (He does indeed live in the area, something I knew before I came here.)  

Children were milling in and out of the school by now, while some were still arriving. A very few were coming on motorbikes (and another tiny minority on bikes). Not a single motorcyclist was wearing a helmet, despite the declaration that we were asked to sign in the junior high school about means of transportation to school: if the children used a motorbike, they had to ensure that the child (who wouldn’t be legally licensed to drive a motorbike anyway at the age of junior high school, unless he is repeating classes and he is in his late teens) would be wearing a helmet. One child walked by wearing shorts, with a thick scab visible, nearly 3 inches wide, from the very top of his left leg to the very bottom, probably acquired during the summer. He didn't look more than 15 years old. No doubt, he would be having sleeping problems. 

For every two years that I have lived in Greece, I can name a dead or seriously injured motorcyclist (always a young person) that I know or whose family I know of. This month, I added another to the list: one of the two motorcyclist deaths that took place on the same day in Hania during our mini-break in Southern Crete. A trainee policeman who would write you a ticket for drinking and driving died in the same way. The woman refuse collector he smashed into has now had her leg amputated. She was an immigrant, living and working in Crete - her life has been shattered by this event.
Junk food
Most kids were carrying a schoolbag. A few were also carrying mobile phones (not allowed according to a teacher I spoke to about this). Most weren't eating anything, but a visible minority were eating packaged food: large chocolate bars, crisps, baked-till-dry salty pastry snacks, ham-and-cheese filled bread rolls (doesn't that cost something like three times to buy it ready than it does to make it at home?) and packets of chocolate biscuits. Drinks ranged from locally produced soda (I was surprised to see this - no one was drinking global labels like Sprite or Coke), juice boxes (we're in the πορτοκαλοχώρια - orange-producing village - here!) and styrofoam coffee (they probably cost 7 times to buy out than to make them at home). One girl even arrived licking an ice-cream rocket cone. No one was munching on fruit or anything that looked barely home-made. (My son had an apple in his bag. I know that one day, he may be embarrased about bringing the apple out of his bag. That's why I insist on a large breakfast every morning. You won't need to eat much until lunch time then.)

Some of the kids eating this food - both boys and girls, from both senior and junior high school as the schools are located in the same place - were overweight; but some were not at all overweight. It's not the junk food that's making the fat ones fat. It's probably a combination of factors, such as eating large portions of food and inactivity, just as much as eating hi-fat, hi-sugar, hi-carb food. This store-bought food, which requires a small fortune to buy on a daily basis, points to the fact that in this school catchment area, which ranges from the rural lowlands to the remote highlands of Hania, there is no shortage of money. It should also be noted that there were more children eating nothing, and they too came in all shapes and sizes. Obesity and junk food are only partly related - junk food is just one factor in a collection of factors, working negatively towards obesity.
Our celebration meal last night, a happy junk food treat - my son got the first prize in his category in the Pan-Cretan fencing competition held yesterday in the town of Moires (Iraklio). This is one of their favorite junk foods: fried potatoes with bacon, cheese and pink sauce. 
It's not a crime to eat junk food, but there is a place and time for everything, and it's not for breakfast on a school day. When Greek kids eat junk food, it is not a sign of poverty. It's a lack of discipline. Neither does junk food signal a lack of decent food in Greece. It signals a mismanagement of priorities. I can guarantee that in the houses of those village children, there is something stewing on the stovetop or roasting in the oven every single day. 

Very little loitering was taking place. Who wants to loiter in the burning heat, under a scorching sun, on the concreted road outside a rather ugly-looking school? Across the road form the school, the area is filled with orchards groves and olive groves. It is a busy road linking the south with the north of the island. Most of the kids who were leaving the school moved away from it, probably going home, or perhaps hanging around in a more convivial environment close to the school. Those who had classes but were enjoying a free period in the first hour had to keep close to the school in order to hear the bell. Some parents came to pick up their kids, but most children would be going home on the school buses, whose drivers had been informed to come and pick them up early. 

Village schools are handy in this way: they do not attract undesirables. In the town cetre, there is more serious cases of loitering. It isn't the children that are loitering, though. 

At one point, a group of 5 kids passed by my car in a straight line. The sole boy in the group was wearing very brightly coloured clothes, dressed in a similar way to when I saw him on the first day of term. He had a Jennifer Aniston haircut (when she had cut it short, pageboy style, just above her shoulders), his pants were bright red, his t-shirt bright blue, and he was walking boldly in the middle of a group of girls, just like he was doing on the first day of term. His clothes were just as much out of the closet as he was; he made no attempt to disguise his homosexuality, and he was not being chastised or ostracised for who he was. In fact, I've never seen any prejudice against gays in Greece. There's always been a certain amount of tolerance to homosexuals. They are still treated as 'different', like anyone else who stands out form the crowd, but they are not targeted, as it sounds like when you read the Greek anti-press which often clumps minorities together, eg homosexuals with HIV+ carriers. Gays who get into confrontations usually do so for other reasons, and their gayness is then used derisively. It's not usually their gayness that gets them into a confrontation in the first place.

But the boy's - possibly - effeminate clothing and hairstyle still have to make us question why he prefers to stand out in this way. After all, he could have been heterosexual and still worn these clothes. This comes as no surprise to me - this is exactly how homosexual men are depicted on all Greek TV shows that feature gays. It's like they do it on purpose, that a gay man can only be effeminate. So this village boy's role model is mainly this one: the effeminate gay men on TV. But gay men that I have come across are never like that in the first place. As for gay Greek women, who? They are invisible in our society, as if they do not exist. (But they do, and Greeks can name well known ones - we just don't call them lesbians in the written press.) Greeks are still learning about the homosexuality issue. They aren't brilliant students, but at least we aren't Russia (but we probably won't become the Netherlands, either). 

Other mothers
During this time, I stayed in the car, pretending to read a book about herbs, with the window open (it was very hot). I tried to look like I was minding my own business (while I made notes of my observations). Mothers came by and stopped to make some polite standardised chit-chat. Greek village housewives do not have much to in the morning. Some walked a little further down the road to have a drink at the cafe close by to the school. From the chit-chat, it seems that they are resigned to the situation at hand: they have lived through similar circumstances, they are used to it, and they don't seem to believe that much change can take place. They have not lived in a different environment, and I probably seem too foreign to them. 

I asked them why they should support the striking teachers. Their answers were very typical of what most Greeks would answer to this question: "But what can they do when their jobs are at stake?", "They are within their rights", "It's up to them if they wish to strike", "They are being treated like slaves". They answered like sheep, with cliches; they had either once worked for the private sector or had never had a paid job, let alone been a public servant. They shrugged their shoulders and moved on. One mother claimed that she supported the teachers' strike, because they are helping the cause for anti-slavery: "When our children are supposed to find jobs, all there will be is slaves' wages." This particular mother was very strong-minded. She is a cook, and had been on a €1,500 salary, which has now been reduced to €800. (Just for the record, I am a Masters' graduate, and I barely managed to reach €1,200 at the most, which has now gone down slightly.) She was getting a high salary because her union had argued that cooks did βαρέα-ανθυγιεινά (heavy-duty and unhealthy) work, so they should be paid extra money for that, managing also to secure early retirement for them. This occupation has since been reclassified to 'normal working conditions'.

I now understand better why Greeks may be seen as supporting the teachers' strikes, and hence the status quo. They want the freedom to express their opinions and be who they want to be, simultaneously being employed on well-paid salaries, because without these two elements, they fear slavery. Slaves to who though? It can't be the Germans: my son bought home yet another paper that I had to sign for his second foreign language choices (the first foreign language choice in Greek schools is compulsorily English). "Tick German," he told me, "everyone wants to do German, not French." So that's how they are hoping their kids won't end up being slaves - by learning German. (I wonder how they'd react if Chinese was offered as a foreign language choice.)  

One of the mothers mentioned how she had always supported the sit-ins that take place every year, when children overtake the school premises, stay in the buildings at night and forbid entry to the teachers. "Would you seriously allow your child to do that?" I asked her, clearly showing my annoyance - this is something that we are not used to in the Western world, children as young as 12 taking over the school premises and not allowing teachers to enter (considered perfectly normal in Greece). She explained that she was never allowed to stay overnight at school, so she only attended the sit-ins during the regular school hours, and then went home. 

So what did she achieve when the school remained closed, and the children who went to school expecting to do lessons found that the teachers had been thrown out, the teachers didn't make any attempt to enter the school, the headmaster allowed the children to have their revolution, and the school buildings and furniture were destroyed, which meant more money being needed to repair the self-inflicted damages, and more complaining teachers, students and parents when the repairs were not made swiftly?

The mother may or may not have been aware of her adherence to a specifically Greek form of liberalism, which the Western world has already explained as a pseudo-left trend. Her answer was that she was glad to have had the chance to be able to express herself in a 'free' and 'democratic' manner, and she hoped the same for her kids. Another mother admitted that the only time she agreed with the sit-ins was when Papathemeli introduced a law back in the mid-90s to stop cafes in densely populated areas from continuing to blare loud music past 2am which prompted young kids like herself at the time to revolt by staging sit-ins at their school, destroying the equipment and trashing the premises at the same time, without the police being called to intervene. What is now seen as, fair, logical and reasonable, ie showing some consideration for others and having no-noise times, was regarded as a breach of freedom in her time! 

How my kids spent the national strike day - it took them three atempts to get this almost right.

National strike day
The second day of the strikes ran much like the first day. My son had 3 periods, so I arranged for his father to pick him up. On the third day - which was supposed to be a national public sector strike day for the whole country - we still had to go to school and we still had to wait to be told if his teachers would be striking. The cats teased the mice that day - he had no lessons. Coincidentally, neither did my daughter at her primary school, but she was informed the previous day, as is done in primary school. What's the difference between primary and secondary school? One of the mothers insisted that even primary school teachers did not have to tell people if they were striking until the last minute. "They're going against the law," she claimed. But they were showing more respect than the secondary school teachers to both parents and pupils.

On the last two days of the week, he had four periods on each day. This is despite the fact that on that fateful Thursday, there were two revolutions taking place on the streets of Greece: the national public sector strike which was continuing from the day before, and the anti-fascist demonstrations against the death of the far-left musician by a far-right fish market worker. So on the day when the public sector should have shown its full force, it ended up showing its full weakness - after three days of strikes, most teachers went back to work. Not even acts of fascism were strong enough to make them revolt - their pockets spoke more loudly. (I wrote this part of the post on Saturday morning; by Saturday afternoon, I heard that the teachers' 5-day rolling strikes are over, after just one week. Too few wanted to continue with a five-day strike, so a two-day strike is being proposed (a three-day strike was ruled out - again due to low participation levels). Either their pockets spoke louder, or they have tired of the 'nothing' revolution, and are showing acceptable of the inevitable). 

Their inspiration for the task - and the follow-up (an essay in English). They combined English language, physics and environment lessons together with pairwork in this project. I cannot afford to give up my salary and home-school them. But that doesn't worry me - I'm good at supplementing their schoolwork.

My son tells me that classes will be back to normal on Monday (not surprising, given Saturday's newspaper article - see above paragraph) with six-period days. Is that what a 5-day rolling strike is all about? If it's a choice that the worker can make, in this case, the teachers are preferring the work. But is a teacher a worker? I've been a teacher all my working life, but I've never felt like a worker. The word 'worker' conjures up a different image in my mind: someone whose work environment is boring, tiring, dirty, monotonous. That cannot possibly describe the work environment of any teacher, no matter how much they like their job. If they detest it, then they probably did not have a calling for the profession.
Your teachers can often predict if you have a calling to be a teacher. My school report for 1977 (above: Primer 5; below: Primer 6) is typical of my Clyde Quay School reports in general, and of course I remember all my teachers: Sara was an American Jew who had migrated to NZ and had taken up NZ citizenship, and Paul was a half-Greek Kiwi (which explains the report being written in Greek, for my parents - Paul's mother wrote it for him). High school was different.
Approachable teachers
This diatribe is not a criticism of Greek teachers' teaching. We haven't seen much of that yet! They may be highly intelligent (my son told me how he really liked his only maths class to date because the teacher appeared very knowledgeable), they may also be nice people (they are just people after all, first and foremost), but they need to remember that they are doing a job which you must have a calling for. I don't think that this is what they all had in mind when they were given their jobs. Their strike behaviour is bound to reflect negatively in their teaching if none of them put students before their political convictions. For example, students remember their teachers by saying: "Oh, that one always goes on strike". You cannot write off your students, keeping them in the dark until you feel like opening up to them again, and expect to gain their trust. They need to really think about this - they are not just public servants when they come to school to be in contact with children and young people. 

Having said this, the headmaster made a positive impact on my son: On Tuesday, he talked to his class group for two periods, possibly using the teachers' strike time to help keep the kids in school longer. He probably found a moment to talk to all the new class groups in this way during the week. "He seems really nice, Mum," was his impression. My own thoughts on the headmaster are generally very positive too, from the few occassions that I've talked to him; my son knows full well how easy it is to get on the wrong side of a headmaster/teacher, and to be ignored, neglected and misunderstood.

Lack of discipline
Discipline shows respect, and vice-versa. If I learnt anything from the strike period, it is that a large minority of Greeks lack discipline in their own homes, and therefore by extension, respect towards their fellow Greeks. Rules are treated contemptuously - they are not for us, they are only for other people. Kids eat junk food for breakfast and they ride motorbikes without a helmet or license - parents give them the money to do this. Teachers act secretively, keeping information from their pupils. This is how they expect the student to be kept in their (lower) place. But they are not showing respect to the intelligence of the open young minds of their students, some of whose parents are not teaching their kids any discipline. While they all collectively enjoy a high level of hedonism, when economic problems arise, they cry wolf; economic problems are never explained by the possibility of misplaced priorities. Greece can't get her house in order because in many cases Greek homes lack order. But no one would admit the latter - if I said this to those other mothers, they'd think of me suspiciously: she is a ξένη, she is not really Greek, she has been raised like a Protestant. 

Distorted democracy
I think it is fair to say that there is a large group of Greeks that have a rather distorted view of democracy. They regard the new fiscal order as a form of slavery, even though they have amassed enough personal wealth to continue living as if nothing has changed. They want the right to continue amassing wealth without losing their comforts, and they are not prepared to give up something in order to win something else. A friend of mine called Greeks left-wing capitalists, alluding to their communistic work ethics which they combine with their delight in amassing consumer goods. They fear slavery but they don't realise that they are already slaves to money, wanting more to have what they they think they deserve, without really having earned it in the first place, or even having compared costs to see what they can afford. If it took two decades approximately for some Greeks to admit that Papathemelis may have been right when he was seen as "trying to control nightlife and as being contrary to the Greek spirit of leisure", perhaps they will need another two decades to see why they really can't both have their cake and eat it. And when that day comes, they will know for sure that they cannot have everything, and that they cannot go back to the days when they believed that they could. 

Greece seems to be a very divided country at the moment, with her visible extremism, but the different labelling of political parties is a misnomer. The far left is no better than the far right (they are both enti-establishment and violent), while the centre is not in a position to exercise self-power: they are simply there to execute the EU's/IMF's orders. The leader of the main opposition to the government even went as far as to ask schoolchildren to support their teachers in their 'cause'. Tsipras thinks he can brainwash them, and why not? Most voting Greeks have been brainwashed into believing the promises of one political party or another. Tsipras also knows how effective it is to draw people near him in their young age - he spent a lot of his time in his youth staging sit-ins at school, holding banners and protesting on the street. (That's one reason why his English skills are severely lacking - his rich dad's money was not enough to keep him in frontistiria; there was a lack of discipline in his home, for sure.) People relate to him well - they can see themselves in his person.

The murder of the musician confused the teachers' strike, exacerbating the tension, causing a melee, making the strikes lose their focus. We don't know which revolution we are fighting for anymore, or whose side we are on. Are they much different anyway? If we still had παιδεία, we would know that they are not.

It's Monday morning now, and I'm about to take my son to school again and wait at the gates until he tells me what he is told will be happening for the day. It's difficult to imagine that I will have to go through this for the next 6-7 years. The teachers will get tired of this game, and their pockets will suffer. I don't think it will last long. Patience...

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Sunday 22 September 2013

Aphrodite's Embrace: Winner!

Thanks to all for taking part in the giveaway for the natural beauty products from Aphrodite's Embrace. I got a very good turnout of comments and I hope those of you who checked out Michelle Lasher's products have come away with the feeling that it is possible to make a change from store-bought cosmetics to more natural products.

The winner of the draw was chosen just past midnight, with the help of, using the True Random Number Generator, which started at 1 and ended at 28. (Nos 2, 3, 12 and 26 were not included; they were my comments or the same person commented twice.)

And the result was: No 9 - congratulations to Joy Bonaccorsi (who happens to have a New Zealand connection)! Please email me privately at mverivaki at hotmail dot com so I can send your email address to Aphrodite so that she may embrace you!

UPDATEAphrodite's Embrace would like to add a free waterproof lip balm to anyone who makes any purchases in the week after the winner of the giveaway is announced, so if you make a purchase, make sure you mention my blog in the comment boxes when you place an order.

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Saturday 21 September 2013

Cherry tomatoes (Ντοματίνια)

"Want some tomatinia?" my uncle asked me. We never say no to tomatoes.

"Sure, we do. Have you got a plastic bag handy?"
"Plastic bag? I give you heaps of plastic bags every time you come to pick something! How about returning some one day?"

So I found a plastic bag drying on the washing line and stepped onto the soil where I began picking the cherry tomatos off the plant. I picked and picked and picked till I thought I had picked enough. When my uncle saw the bag, he said
"Is that all you picked? There are hundreds still on the plants! Go an' pick some more!"
So I picked some more, till I nearly filled the bag, and if I picked any more, they would have spilled out.

Last chance to enter the draw for some natural beauty products by leaving a comment on this post in my blog.

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Friday 20 September 2013

Greek-style simple comfort food: Orzo pasta rice with chicken and peas (Κριθαράκι, κοτόπουλο και μπιζέλια/αρακά)

Here's a picture that won over many people's hearts on my facebook site:

The vegetables were cooked separately from the pasta and chicken: I cooked them in this way, because some of us prefer the vegetables and the others prefer the meat and pasta. If I combined everything, it wouldn't have had the same effect on the family. It looks like double the work, but it gave double the pleasure. Both dishes are made in the same way - and it was terribly easy to make.

For the orzo dish, you need:
some chicken (I used about 500g of chicken with the bone, in small pieces)
1 onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 large fresh tomato, grated
3-5 glugs of extra virgin olive oil
350g orzo pasta rice
2-3 cups water
1 large red bell pepper (optional), finely sliced
salt and pepper

For the pea dish, you need:
500g mixed peas and other frozen vegetables
1 onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 large fresh tomato, grated
3-5 glugs of extra virgin olive oil
1 large red bell pepper (optional), finely sliced
salt and pepper

Proceed in the same way as described below, for each dish: Heat the oil, add the onion and garlic, and cook till transparent. Add the grated tomato, red pepper, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Mix till smooth. Lower the heat to minimum, then add the chicken/mixed vegetables. Cook till done with the lid on - the chicken will need about 30 minutes, the peas etc about 15. Add only a little bit of water if needed, to ensure the food has enough liquids to cook in and won't stick to the pan.

For the orzo, now add the water to the chicken and then pour in the pasta, mixing carefully so that the pasta isn't clumpy. Let it cook slowly on minimum heat, with the lid off. The water will be absorbed by the pasta - turn off the heat just when the water is almost absorbed, and you can still see some liquid in the pot.

You still have time until Sunday to add your name to the draw for a natural beauty package from Aphrodite's Embrace

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Thursday 19 September 2013

Blood (Αίμα)

La démocratie est morte, a commentator wrote in a French newspaper article, là où elle est née ! Diogène: sort de ton tonneau, ils sont devenus fous.

So far in the revolution that has been developing over the last four years, manifested by an identity crisis, Greece has managed to keep the bloodshed levels down. Apart from a few near-deaths where a lot of blood was actually shed, just 3 people (the bank workers) have been killed during Greek protests in the last four years, while a couple (or three - I am not keeping track) suffered heart attacks or seizures during a protest that they had taken part in. I will not count the increasing number of suicides that have taken place (these people weren't killed - they killed themselves).
As we continue to mourn the lost potential and unlived lives of three young Greeks who died in the Marfin fire, we should also appreciate it is a minor miracle that many others have not lost their lives in such an abrupt way over the last few years as our anguish, anger and hate has poured onto the streets of Athens and other cities. Apart from Dimitris Kotsaridis, the 53-year-old construction worker who collapsed amid the tear gas in front of Parliament in October 2011, and at least two fatal attacks on migrants by suspected supporters of Golden Dawn, Greece has numerous broken bones and other ailments to count, but not deaths.
Until yesterday, Χρυσή Αυγή (Golden Dawn, Aube dorée) supporters had managed to keep fatal attacks to dark-skinned victims. Yesterday's death is significant, because the victim didn't have dark skin, he didn't come from another country, he wasn't living in this country illegally and he wasn't taking part in a political demonstration - he was a young Greek musician. Golden Dawn's motives had always been to start a civil war in Greece, and with yesterday's death, they are bound to be feeling some degree of having succeeded in that.
According to a friend of Roupakios (the 45-year-old charged with Fyssas' murder) quoted by To Vima, [Roypakios] was on Golden Dawn's payroll as were members of his family. He is alleged to have been working in GD's Piraeus office canteen while his wife reportedly worked as a cleaner. His daughter is also alleged to have worked for GD while all family members reportedly participated in the party's "Greeks only" food handouts.
Greece has always had a problem with its covert legalisaton of violence for many years now. Violence has been seen as a democratic right to express yourself with when you are unhappy, and as long as you get away with it, no attempt has ever really been made to stop you from using it to get your way or express your anger: democracy at its finest. Yesterday's death will now be the reason, or should I say the excuse, why more action will now be taken to ensure this doesn't happen again. Without a death, the state would still be pondering the issue, ruminating in the same way as it mulls over economic issues without taking action.
In reaction-happy Greece, preventing a meeting of a democratically elected body because the left doesn’t like it is an everyday occurrence. Even if they had walled the professors into the building it would still have been seen as “nothing” and any police intervention deemed as “unprovoked.” There is even a precedent. In October 2009, a court in Xanthi, northern Greece, cleared six young men after they walled in the vice rector of the University of Thrace, Thanasis Karabinis, in his office. The prosecutor confirmed that the crimes of violence and disturbing the peace had been committed, yet the court said that the six youths were innocent because they were ignorant of the law. Obviously they believed that the law is the right of the student to wall rectors into their offices.
So far, the pathetically ineffective and paltry Greek state, the one that actually allowed a group of biased prejudiced jerks to enter the Greek Parliament and is paying them to be there despite their lack of an action plan for the country, whose presence so far has been characterised by making fund of, cursing, jeering, mocking and poking fun at the pitifully shoddy attempts of the state to rule the country, has let Golden Dawn get away with everything so far but murder. In popular opinion, this has been translated as possibly trying to make the state look angelic in comparison to the opposition. But now that the red line has been crossed and what it hoped would never happen has taken place, does the state really think that it is seen as an angel, or just a silhouette of delayed death?
Το ξέρουμε όλοι ότι η χώρα βρίσκεται σε εξαιρετικά κρίσιμη στιγμή. Και ότι ο λαός μας υπομένει τις μεγαλύτερες θυσίες. Για να νικήσει την κρίση. Και να πετύχει την οικονομική του αναγέννηση. Δεν είναι ώρα για εσωτερικές διαμάχες. Ούτε για ένταση. (A very lacking apology by the Greek Prime Minister about the state of affairs in Greece today.)
Now that somebody - and not a "nobody", such as a nameless undocumented migrant - has actually died through a swift planned attack, the state has suddenly realised that it must do something. But what? It's practically too late now, because the deaths have already started and Golden Dawn's support has gained great ground. We are now able to see their true nature - that of an ogre - but we knew that this was their main feature. Why did we - yes, we, the whole lot of us, despite our political convictions - allow this destruction to come? We'd be lying if we denied that the chaos was coming.

Has the tide now taken us? Can we do anything about the bastards that continue to destroy the threads of the democratic state that have remained? A lot has been said about banning them and driving them underground. But surely it's too late for that too. If I could handle this myself, I'd take the 45-year-old father-of-two murderer's telephone, and work out who called him out close to midnight to support a planned attack against the rapper, then I'd work out how many people that person called, and who was calling him, and continue along the phone-number chain, swiftly, efficiently and transparently. It is all so easy, and it would even do a world of good to the Greek state. Then I'd begin to bring these freaks to light, one by one, highlighting their odious and monstrous personalities, displaying their thug-like faces on television, and making people see what they really are. (It's not true that an ugly personality can be hidden by a beautiful face - look at this bastard: he never smiles, he just sneers.) There are simple ways to complicated things done.

A 45-year-old suspect arrested over the fatal stabbing of 34-year-old hip hop artist Pavlos Fyssas in the southern Athens suburb of Amfiali, early on Wednesday, allegedly told his wife to throw away his Golden Dawn party card when he realized that his arrest was imminent, Kathimerini understands. Police found evidence of the suspect’s Golden Dawn affiliation in a garbage bag outside the suspect’s residence in Nikaia, southeastern Attica. «Τα έκανε όλα για το χαρτζιλίκι της Χρυσής Αυγής

I am still against banning them; they are the ones that need to be placed behind bars forever, not some old-aged politician, whose assets can be seized so that he is penniless and forced to live like the average Greek, counting the coins in his pocket to see if he can afford a drink at the local cafe.

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