Zambolis apartments

Zambolis apartments
For your holidays in Chania

Sunday 21 January 2018


Many many years ago, probably more than 35, some time in the early 80s, I remember a Kiwi woman coming into the fish and chip shop that my parents owned and operated. I happened to be there too, so it can't have been a schoolday. The woman was a customer, not a very regular one, but maybe she felt like some fish and chips that day.

"Are you from Greece?' she asked us. Yes, I answered (the children were always their parents' representatives in the shop).

"Oh, what a coincidence" (no, not really; Greeks were the main owner-operators of fish and chip shops back in those days), my daughter is living in Greece. She met and married a man on the island of Crete."

"Crete?!" my parents exclaimed, their faces lighting up gleefully. "We are from Crete! Which part of Crete does your daughter live in?" they asked.

"Hania," the lady replied.

"Hania?!" my parents cried, not believing what they were hearing. "We are from Hania! Is she living in the town?" they asked.

"No," said the lady, "she's living in a village called KOU-NOU-PI-DEE-AAAAA-NA". 

Split-second pause. "A-ha!" said my parents, but from the look on their face, you could tell that it was not really an a-ha moment; it was more of a shock to their ears, for they could not believe that this city woman's daughter gave up her comfortable urban life to move to a village where water supply was scarce, and there were more goats than people. 

We exchanged more niceties. If I remember correctly, she showed us a photo of her daughter holding her first child, the lady's grandson. When her order was ready, she paid for it and we said goodbye, at the same time wondering whether we would also see her coming into our shop once again, but this time with both her daughter and grandson; you had to be one tough cookie to leave urban life and go live in a goat village.

"The foreigners are taking over our country," said my mother, mindless of the fact that she was an immigrant. "Who would even want to live in Kou-nou-pi-dia-NAAAAA?" said my father. 

Turn the clock ahead four decades. Google Kounoupidiana and you will see no goats. Instead, you will see a whοle new town, whose residents are fully served in terms of any service, public or private, that they may need: schools, doctors, lawyers, sports centres, chemists, churches, shops, houses, apartment blocks, English language schools, confectioners, all the supermarket chains operating on the island. It even has a university, one of the best tertiary institutes in Greece. The 6,500 residents of Kounoupidiana - 8,500 including the 'suburbs' of Kounoupidiana) can easily live in their own little bubble, without even venturing to the central town of Hania, only 10-15 minutes away by car, depending on the traffic - not the four-legged variety, but the four-wheeled.  

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Last night, I met up with Philippa, the woman's daughter, whose life became firmly rooted on the island, despite being a stranger to the Greek world. It wasn't difficult to recognise her, as she reminded me so much of her mother, even after all those years. It's possibly the third time we have seen each other since I moved to Hania. We were at a Kiwi get-together organised by a former Greek Kiwi like myself. Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch Greeks reminisced their time in a faraway land, sharing some moments together. Funnily enough, among the little παρέα that we created, we were nearly all related, each one knowing someone else's relatives and acquaintances, notably our koumbaroi, meaning the primary attendant to the couple in a wedding ceremony or the godparent of one's child(ren). It really was a small world among the Greek diaspora communities of old. 

And while we are on the subject of Kiwi Greek life, I feel as though I have gone through the full Greek circle, having just invested the last remaining Kiwi dollars of my parents' savings (they both died too young to use it themselves) into the coveted - in Greek terms - 'investment property'. My parents both died too young to use their earnings themselves, but I am sure that they will be very proud of what their daughter did, to firmly root her life in our wonderful island. 

Naturally I will be super busy from now on as I work on my new project. Watch this space...

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