Tuesday, February 28, 2006

All apologies

[from here, without permission (yet)]

Monday, February 27, 2006

village sunday

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photo by sophie

I arrived at the church a little late, sat towards the back, directly, as my luck would have it, in the priest’s line of sight. “You’ve got a week,” he was saying, “before the start of Lent. You should think carefully now, and spend this time with your conscience, because the devil is always waiting. You may think 40 days is a long time to be deprived, but that’s nothing in the face of eternal hell.”

He’s a likeable guy. He must be all of twenty. And he’s not only young. He’s also a foreigner, Bulgarian. In the village, foreigners are either loved or reviled. Americans are loved, remembered fondly for the help they and they alone gave the village after the Germans left it in a ruin of ash. But Bulgarians, Albanians, these people could go either way. It’s an agricultural area, and somebody’s got to do the hard work.

The priest is tall, imposing but gangly, and still soft somehow, young. He knows the liturgy, but even I can detect a few mistakes in the language.

I’ve just finished reading Margaret Mead’s autobiography, Blackberry Winter. She must have been a force of nature, but still, she could go to remote and unheard of villages, and within three months, not only learn the language from scratch but also be so immersed in it and the culture as to explain it all in a best-selling book in a matter of months. It’s been a year since I started spending a lot of time in the village, and, loved or hated, I am still as strange to it as it is to me.

After the service, the priest, along with everyone else, came over to the hotel for coffee and cookies. After a lot of hand-shaking, which made it impossible for me to even think about eating the cookies, I made a minor faux pas, shaking the hand of the priest instead of kissing it. I felt justified, though, when I heard him say to the widow, “It’s been a year, and I know it’s difficult, but only in the church, only in the church, can you find comfort.”

There was a whole village around her, and a whole world around the village, the sea to the south and a mountainous ridge, many, to the north. There is comfort everywhere, though it may not look like much. I went up those mountains til my stomach turned inside out. On the way back down, the dirt road in a whirl of dust, I looked forward to lunch, and the people who had made it, with me in mind.

Friday, February 24, 2006


What the hell?!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Hate it!

Friday, February 17, 2006


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Monday – almost destroyed my computer, and my innocence. Thank goodness somebody knows the techie stuff, and a zillion other things.

Tuesday – a geometric e-card, a surprisingly nice walk in the rain, a box of chocolates, and a biography of J. Edgar Hoover

Wednesday – could hardly believe my eyes, or my heart

Thursday – had juice on a sunny sidewalk with Maria amid 9,000 gypsies asking for money, got kissed by all my colleagues and dissed by all my students, saw a jacket I liked and a really cute pair of shoes

Friday – it’s early, but I have some ideas

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Perverted rabbit

This bunny creeped out of a conversation the other day.

No idea where he came from...

Slightly disturbing, but in a cute way...

Friday, February 10, 2006


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the raw and the cooked

I worked that iron. It was a firetrap and a saltbox. It spit, it leaked, it shot sparks, and it melted the elastic in my underwear. The steam button released more salt than steam, and sometimes the clothes would end up more wet than dry. And yet, somehow or another, everything got ironed. Amid complaints and curses, I, like the iron, worked in fits and starts.

Until… somebody got tired of my griping and got me a new iron. A fancy new iron. Knowing what this could mean to me, I took my time, I read all the instructions, I used bottled water. I got it all set up, plugged it in, and nothing. Oh, my new iron still has all the promise of when I first took it out of the box. I believe we’ll have a long, steamy, wrinkle-free future together. But the old iron, that jealous, temperamental bastard, just had to get one last laugh before being relegated to the dustbin. Turns out that in its final spark-filled performance, it shorted out the wall socket, the only one I’ve got convenient for ironing.

Which means, new iron or not, this week, unlike almost every single week within recent memory, nothing got ironed.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


This is my dog.

Monday, February 06, 2006


"I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free"

I hope. And I fear. And no, I am not free.

But I want.

And I hope...

distinguishing characteristics

"Grannies with sunglasses meet each other along the village mainstreet and have a chat in front of a butchers´s shop." --- Czech Republic.

Saturday night, somebody was commenting on a book he had read about an American who comes to Europe to be struck by two things about Europeans: their sunglasses and their cell phones.

I said things have changed in America in recent years as far as cell phones are concerned. Even my mom wants one now. And you have to wear sunglasses in Greece.

But he wasn’t talking about Greece, or anyplace remotely Mediterranean. He was talking about London.

I conceded that sunglasses are more of a fashion icon here than they are there. There’s that, he said, and the fact that Americans are always wearing hats. To think, I had never even noticed.

But it’s true, Americans have a proclivity for hats.

The sociology project continued in a family fishtavern on Sunday. It was determined that 90% of Cretan women shout rather than speak. And if you ask them to lower their voice, they say, well, that’s my voice. And it’s no wonder they all turn out that way. There wasn’t a single baby girl in the tavern not wearing pink, nor a single baby boy not wearing blue.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


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half trees

I’ve had this feeling lately that I owe the blog. I admit I haven’t given it much. I took a few weeks off, and then came back with nothing but a few minimal retrospectives. I haven’t written anything about what’s really happening, and it’s not because things aren’t happening. I don’t think anybody cares what I have for breakfast in the morning or how long I have to wait in the post office, but I don’t want this blog, my part of it anyway, to get so detached and impersonal that it’s not even me anymore.

So I just want to be clear about this: there is one thing. The rest of life goes on, as it always has and will, but it’s all secondary to me now. It’s not that I can’t see the forest for the trees. I see it, but it just doesn’t matter so much anymore. For me, now, there is only one thing.

Unfortunately, it’s not something I can talk about widely. It falls under internal affairs, and in any case, it’s still in the research and development stage.

I don’t want February to be another January. I will write. I can’t say how well or how much; the content may lack a little conviction. I say all of this by way of explanation. It’s not an excuse.