Monday, July 31, 2006

So many posts, so little time...

With this new job, I'm actually busy. It's not like my old one, where I could sneak in a post or two. I'm busy. And I like it. But my head feels like it's about to pop up with all those thoughts bubbling around that normally get regurgitated onto here. This will have to be corrected. And soon.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Snake on a plane

Last week, on our way home from London to New York, I spotted a familiar face in our cabin. Our cabin being First Class, which was only possible because C works for the company.

Cue "Twilight Zone" theme song....

Oh yes, it was Papa Joe Simpson.

I wanted to take him by the collar and bellow into his face, "Do you realize what a Per-hervvvvv you are!"

I wanted to drop kick him across the cabin back to where he came all smugly smiley after having one of the complimentary spa treatments offered to First Class passengers. No doubt he asked for a "happy ending".

I wanted to ask him why he thought it was okay to discuss your daughter's breast size to a national magazine, of all places?

I also wanted to know how he could justify promoting marginal talent in the form of his spawn, as well as that of Ryan Cabrera, who looks like he hurts.

Como se dice "Ouch" en Espanol?

I wanted to tell him that I'd always suspected Papa Joe's haircut was really bad, like a poor man's Vanilla Ice. But having seen it for myself in person, it was worse than I thought.

And most of all, I wanted to ask him what it was like, as a former Baptist preacher, what it was like to have sold your soul to the devil.

I wanted to. But I didn't.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Computer Says No

Had a great first day at new job. This calls for a celebration, so I'm posting a clip of my favorite Little Britain character, Anne.

Maybe now my friends and family will understand where I got that line from.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Humor me - A final rant

Thursday night, I got together with co-workers from my last job for drinks and dinner. And I've been left with an odd, slightly depressed feeling since, in spite of my hope and excitement over starting my new job.

Of course, when you leave a job, you'll get updates and the odd bit of office gossip. And since I got back from Greece, there have been IM's, phone conversations, and get togethers like Friday. But after a while, I started to notice that all discussion pertaining to my old office was tinged with this undercurrent of negativity. Regardless of disclaimers by the speaker of gossip, backbiting, and disloyalty, the conversations I had with each person was guilty of one or the other. The willingness to talk about everyone else in the office made me realize I myself was probably not exempt from such disdainful analysis. This already confirmed what I knew and why I left - my old office environment was purely, positively toxic for the soul.

In particular, it's clear that Whiner has been happily trashing me since my departure. That I expected. But some of the things repeated back to me aren't true, or I'm not guilty of, and that depresses me. I was aware of it when I was still employed there, still able to defend myself, and disprove her claims. But the fact that she's still busily doing it after I'm gone is down to one word: pathetic.

To wit, I now have figured it out that people need to stop repeating these stories to me. What I won't know won't hurt me and all that. And I really don't want that shit on the bottoms of my soles (or should I say soul?) as I step into the next phase of my career. Ultimately, people will believe what they want to believe and there's nothing I can do about it.

But the worst thing I realized was that I totally subscribed to that environment too. I was just as bad as everyone of them. After I'd gone and saw what was going on, I was downright embarassed. Why did I spend so much energy obsessing about the behaviors of those people? Not that I was going to find the cure for cancer, but I could have been a lot more productive with myself and my time. And I also realize that being totally immersed in all that just left me sleepless and feeling physically tired all the time. If we all devoted as much attention to the company as we did to each other, maybe the company wouldn't be in the red.

"Rise above it" is a bit over-used, but highly necessary for my mindset these days.

So that's my ramblings, which I really needed to get off my chest so I could start this new job with a clear conscience. No more angry posts by Moi for a while. Happy thoughts only, because nobody wants to keep reading this shit.

Just one more thing though. The brainiacs at my last job still think I'm pregnant.

No place like home

We're back home now and I've been running around, getting myself sorted before starting my new job tomorrow. A shortlist of why it's so good to come back home from Greece:

1) Full-length tubs

2) Water pressure. Of any kind.

3) Being able to flush toilet paper i.e. no more close encounters with the E. Coli kind.

Okay, enough about the plumbing...

4) A daily diet that doesn't consist of Greek salad, kebabs, and our preferred "mixed grill" option on the menu. But I miss Greek burgers.

To take it a step further:
4a) Blimpie sandwiches
4b) Sushi
4c) Campbell's Creamy Ranchero soup
4d) Punjabi mix from Kalustyan’s
4e) I think you get the picture

5) Zoe dog, who I couldn't stop talking about the entire time we were away.

Keeping the bed warm until we get back

6) Frequent phone conversations with my mom.

6a) C's apparent relief at my now-resumed frequent phone conversations with my mom. His exposure to my 24/7 expression of the inner workings of my mind was starting to scare him.

7) Proper pints of Guinnii (that's multiple Guinness in M-Speak)

8) Being back in the Big Apple, baby!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Last travel tip for the EU

There is a tax-free shopping program which applies to all of the EU, not just Greece, so you can get your VAT (tax) refund upon leaving any EU country. Although C will beg to differ, this includes the UK as well.

Either the stores don't tell you about this program, the clerks aren't really informed, or there's an unfortunate language barrier, so read this for details. Note that saving all those receipts for the VAT (tax) refund will be a total waste of time, unless you get a form from one the shops you visit.

For some reason, no shop in Greece offered us the form, so make sure you ask for it. If you show up at the airport with all your receipts to claim tax back and no form, you're screwed. Unlike Canada, where fill out a form at the border, you cannot get a form from the agent at the airport when you try to turn your receipts in. I reckon I lost out on about $75.00 in taxes, as the tax in Greece was 13.5%!

Monday, July 17, 2006

What I've learned in Greece - Final Round-up

#1 There are Acropoli in a good majority of the cities/islands you visit. But really, there is only one and a trip to Greece is not a trip to Greece without seeing it.
The view of the Acropolis in Athens from the top of our hotel
#2 Greek salad is the law. By this, I mean that the Greek government has declared that all restaurants must have Greek salad on their menu. Even if you're in one of the few non-Greek restaurants in any location, it is on the menu. "Today's special: Vegetable samosas, chicken tikka masala, and Greek salad."
This is why their crime rate is so low.
#3 It is impossible to take a bad picture in Santorini. It was hard enough just choosing one for this post.
View of the harbor from Oia
#4 In England, there is a terminology where you can call someone a Chav. I had some basic education as to the meaning prior to my trip i.e. "Kevin Federline is American mutton dressed as Chav". However, after my trip to Greece, I have had the full, Berlitz-style immersion course regarding Chavs, as I have dined and fought for my little share of the beach amongst them. I now understand they are the reason Burberry discontinued its signature plaid. There is a Chav site devoted to the explanation of Chavs; it's a little old, but still highly relevant. With their help, you can name your Chav baby, for which I found that mine would be Chardonnay Charmaine. Britney, are you listening to this?
Make no mistake, Chavs are not a purely English phenomenom. I have learned firsthand, they are an international plague, which is why I implore you that should you ever visit Crete, stay away from Hersonnisos!
#5 In reference to the above, when visiting Rhodes, it's best to stay away from Faliraki as well. Apparently, British Chavs hold their annual, three-month long convention in this part of the island every summer and you are not missing a thing if you skip it. The Chav phenomenon combined with the concept of "Brits on Holiday" is the reason why British tour groups are banned from booking anything in Rhodes Town, which is where we stayed. As a result, C and I were anomalies in what is largely a Scandinavian and Dutch resort.
If you're hardy enough, Rhodes is small enough for you to hire a scooter and make a day of stopping by to visit different parts of the island. Lindos is on the south side of the island and, like Rhodes Town, is a port city. Of the two Acropoli on the island, Lindos has the better where you can get up close and personal to the site. Do it quick, before they rope everything off there too. It's a beautiful town with a crystal clear bay that I've heard makes it ideal for snorkeling, as well as families. But if you want the history of a 12th century castle, a real Old City, and the Colossus of Rhodes, mixed in with a resort element and Bar Street, then Rhodes Town is for you.
Last Rhodes mention for Amantou beach. Go here if you want to get away from the madding crowds and have nearly pure, unadulterated beach with complete peace and quiet. Be sure to bring everything you could possibly need for the whole day.
#6 A wrong turn can be a good thing.

Anger at the world condition in the backstreets of Athens.

#7 It's commonly said, but I can't reiterate it enough - media coverage of world events is vastly different once you're out of the United States.

#8 In Greece, the difference between a traveler and a tourist becomes hugely evident. If the latter is lucky, they'll make a wrong turn after too many shots and catch that 12th century castle on the way back to the hotel.

#9 Not about Greece as I'm in England as I type this, but why do we not have Heinz Curry Ketchup in the States?!?!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

What I've learned in Greece, Rhodes - Part IV

#1 You haven't lived until you've been in a bar full of Dutch tourists trying to sing along to "It's Raining Men".

#2 Apparently, one of the ancient wonders of the world - The Colossus of Rhodes - used to stand here. I think that's pretty awesome. Pictures on that later. Updated: Here you go - apparently, the antelopes indicate the actual location:

#3 If you're like us and you get lost in the middle of the Old City, you may stumble upon a fish restaurant where you encounter a lovely, eccentric owner, who invites you to the kitchen to view that day's catch, before having the best meal you've had in Greece while surrounded by locals. Once you leave, don't hope to find it again. No matter how hard you try.

#4 Sunstroke is not fun. Thankfully, it was mild.

#5 Considering how I'm viewed with some amusement by some locals and expats, I'm informed Americans don't visit Rhodes that much unless they're with a cruise, which I'm not. They should.

More lessons and pictures to come...

Monday, July 10, 2006

What I learned in Greece, Part III - Crete

#1 Greek taxi drivers must be so confused when they visit the U.S., because 99% of Greek taxis are Mercedes-Benz. Here are all these American big shots preening around and souping up their Benz, while the cab driver from Crete is scratching his head, wondering what the fuss is all about. "Nikos! These Americans, they are crazy! They bleeng out their taxis!"

#2 I'm spoilt for Feta cheese after my visit here. I will never be able to order a Greek salad at home again. The feta tastes nothing like how it is here and it should. I love salt as much as the next person, because Americans are creating a sodium-induced frenzy by what we have done to the poor unsuspecting Feta. Let the Feta be Feta! I swear, if I could find a chunk big enough, I'd float myself home on it just so I could have it in my fridge.

#3 When it comes to signs, menus and stuff like that, the English language sometimes gets mauled. Fine. I can't speak a second language fluently and I wish I could, so anybody who speaks English as a second language gets huge respect in my eyes. Who am I to talk? But after opening up a menu and seeing this, I couldn't ignore it anymore:

Beaked omelette? I'll assume it's typo, but imagine if it wasn't. What a disturbing visual. I mean, considering an omelette is made of chicken eggs, and chicken have beaks, know where I'm going with this, right? It's like "Hello, you've got the foodie equivalent of Bambi right here on your menu! Don't tell the kids!"

#4 Coming to Crete is a bit of a culture shock after Santorini. I'm not sure what to make of it, as I'm a bit shell-shocked. I've never seen so many Europeans on holiday congregated in one space. If you put them all on the Mute button, it's not that much different than the Jersey shore, but nicer.

Post note: Heraklion rocks. I love that city. Forget Hernossious (sp?) - if you ever go to Crete, go to Heraklion.

#5 No other place on Earth besides Hernossious reiterates the fondness most European men have for the Speedo bathing suit when on holiday. I'm not sure why, as it looks rather uncomfortable for both the wearer and the individual who has to witness the sporting of the Speedo. From an aesthetic point of view, hmmm, maybe some guys can get away with it. But 99% of the time, it's. just. not. okay.

But this guy (slapping my forehead)...this guy just had to go that one extra mile, didn't he? Not only did he do the Speedo, but he did it with socks. Because feet can get really burnt, you know! Oh, by the way? At the time this picture was taken, I was eating breakfast. While suffering a massive hangover of epic proportions. You do the math.

Coverage area of sock vs. coverage of all other pieces of clothing =

highly, grossly disproportionate.
#6 I'm not sure why it is, but we've gotten an inordinate number of complimentary shots served to us whether we're at a bar or out to dinner. I'm scratching my (hurting) head over this. I don't do shots these days, but it would be rude not to accept these free libations, no? Of course it would! So we can't decide. Is it because:
a) they really, really like us? (That's my Sally Fields moment right there)
b) they hope that we'll stay longer for more drinks?
c) or they find something funny about seeing an American girl and British guy completely drunk?
Somebody help me with this one.
#7 There is no hospitality like Greek hospitality. Seriously. And this has nothing to do with the shots.
#8 "The Magnificent Palace of Knossos" was a huge disappointment. Not because we were expecting a song and dance, with lyrics by Elton John, on the rise of Minoan civilization, because we weren't. But it's kind of hard to get enthused about a bunch of stones, while the original frescoes have been replaced by the two or three copies that were there. Now, I'm determined to take C back to Pompeii before they take all the casts of the bodies in volcanic ash for someone's private art collection.
#9 Riding on a quad on Cretan roadways had me both exhilarated and swearing C was out to test me. Impromptu off-roading found ourselves at the end of some dirt road, engulfed by an olive grove. My worst nightmare. Not getting lost, silly, the olive grove! Thankfully, I had eaten lunch, so I didn't have to contemplate what I would do if I were really hungry.
#10 I'm going to be so farkin' sad when we leave this country. I am having such a blast, but what am I getting sad for now? We still have Rhodes to go and more lessons to be learned!

Friday, July 07, 2006

What I've learned in Greece - Santorini, Part II

I have loads of pictures to add to these posts, so check back at some point in the near future. We've just got access to wi-fi, having flown back from Santorini to Athens, so we can transfer to Crete. Thanks to D. for the info in the previous post and yes, we loved Athens! Going on to more lessons learned...

#1 Santorini is beautiful. I used to think it was a pretentious statement on behalf of people who could travel all that distance to this little island off the coast of Greece. I was wrong. It's not a designer statement, it's a fact. The sky is blue, the grass is green, Santorini is beautiful. I think quite possiby the most beautiful out of any place I've visited in the world.

#2 There are stray dogs here as well. Do they have a ferry service for them or something? Or maybe they use scuba gear. I mean, how did they get on the island? Personally though, if I were a stray dog, I'd be rowing my ass to Santorini too.

Let sleeping dogs lie in Santorini

#3 There is a very picturesque path on top of the cliffs along the water. This is not just because it's a pretty place to walk and get your pictures of Fira to show folks back home, it's also to save your butt from becoming human roadkill if you walk along the streets. Flashback to me on Tuesday night, sitting rigid on top of a ledge next to the road, refusing to come down after a scooter decided it would be fun to swerve at me. If I didn't know better, I'd say someone announced there was an American on the island. But no, that's just their sense of humor.

#4 Greek plumbing - For the sake of our friendship, all I'll say is that it leaves something to be desired.

#5 No amount of expat bars can alleviate the withdrawal symptoms I'm having for a proper pint of Guinness. I now know how my friend A. from L.A. feels.

#6 Apparently, there were Hobbitt people on the island. No, I'm serious. They dug tunnels into the cliffs and volcanic rock and lived there and everything. When we took a ride around, I actually saw one of the entrances to the tunnels. I wonder if Frodo prefers souvalaki over kebabs?

We've got to go, so the rest will have to come later...

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

What I’ve learned in Greece – Athens, Part 1 (Or is it Part I?)

#1 Greek men flirt. It doesn’t matter if you’re married, have screaming kids tugging at your arm, or what your age is (or theirs, for that matter), it’s what they do. They sleep, they eat, they flirt. I think they're taught this right after learning how to walk.

#2 If you are like me and cannot stand the sight of olives, keep it to yourself.

#3 If you decide to go out to eat at the first sign of hunger, you are too late. Contrary to popular opinion amongst travelers, in Athens tipping will not make the waiter move any faster. You. Will. Wait. Plan accordingly and train your stomach to accommodate Greek service.

#4 It’s not Diet Coke. It’s “Coca-Cola Light”.

#5 Despite the valiant efforts of Athenian government to clean up the city for the 2004 Olympics, the stray dogs are back. They don’t bother you if you don’t bother them; mostly they just like to chill out wherever the people are and sleep. They’re like the Cheech and Chong of dogs and it’s enough to make you want to take one home. Mom, Dad, meet the newest member of the family.

#6 Only Greek women can maneuver the streets with the grace of a gazelle in high heels and wedges. The rest of us should get fitted for a body cast prior to departure, so it’s ready and waiting for us when we get home. Otherwise, just suck it up, succumb to Tevas (no, that’s not a Greek God), and declare yourself a tourist in the eyes of the locals.

Greetings from Athens - wish you were here

#7 It’s called “Plaka”, which is Greek for “Old Town” and it lies in the shadows of the Acropolis. What it really means is “If the shops could peddle shit as gold to the tourists, they would”.

#8 Much to my dismay, they are straw hats everywhere, indicating this is an epidemic of international proportions. On the heads of people, in the shops, everywhere. I even saw a purple straw cowboy hat (shudder).

#9 When it comes to gore, the movie "The Hills Have Eyes" has nothing on a visit to a Greek butcher. I'm talking stuff along the lines of that scene from The Godfather.