Drinking and driving

Europeans like to take things slow. Except drive. Put a calm, reasonable European behind the wheel of a vehicle and they instantly become maniacs, zipping along at 130 km/hr everywhere, horns a blaring, arms and fingers a flailing. I will give them this, though – they are master parkers. They can fit a 6 ft car into a 6 inch space like nobody’s business.

Anyways, back to the slow part.

I love the fact there are almost no drive through coffee establishments here. It’s even difficult to find a paper takeaway cup with at least a lid.  (Except, of course, at Starbucks.)

It is actually quite refreshing and somewhat civilized when expected to only do one thing at a time. You are either driving OR drinking coffee and never the two shall meet. Drinking coffee is a pleasure here, not a necessity. Drinking coffee is a ritual, not a habit. Not too many moms running around with a bucket and a half sized coffee thermal mugs here. If you don’t have the time to sit and have a cup of coffee, if you don’t make the time to sit and have a cup of coffee, something is amiss. Whole countries halt at certain times to sit and have a cup of coffee, basically sometime around 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. , lasting a half an hour or so. (Please, don’t forget the cookie.)

What we consider as law and order are ‘suggestions’ to Europeans. The speed limit; a suggested speed.  The lanes and lines on a road are only guidelines. Your assigned plane seats; the suggested area you might like to sit and if you find someone is already in your seat, sit in another without a fuss. The no smoking section is more or less the no smoking section, and is only true if everyone sitting there happens not to smoke.

There are no barriers or guard rails protecting us from ourselves. The assumption is that you have the common sense to have common sense. There are no laws here to wear bike helmets. (Even if there was or is, nobody pays any attention to it anyways.) There are no fences and guard rails on the edge of cliffs. If you are that stupid to go over the edge, nothing will stop you. You are free to act like an idiot, whether it is driving too fast or going over a cliff, when you so please.

There are limited signs on the highway indicating how far you are to the next town or your destination.  What does it matter? You’ll get there when you get there and if you are running behind, just speed up.

At first this disregard for rules seemed like chaos; the lack of urgency, laziness but in reality, it now is starting to actually feel more freeing.  I am slowly decompressing from my Canadian lifestyle and I have come to realize we are too uptight in North America.  (Could be all that coffee.) We have been lawed, policed and fined into submission. We live (and are ruled) by the clock. We fill every available hour to the point we don’t even enjoy, at minimum, a full 15 minutes to simply have a cup of coffee. Drinking coffee is something we do while we are doing something else, like obeying the speed limit and staying within the lines.

I don’t think there is a comparable translation for the word multi-tasking over here, in any language. They do one thing, methodically, at a time.  And take their time, they do. Nobody is in a rush over here. Except to arrive at point B and park that car.

Είναι όλα τα ελληνικά μου

The kids and I all arrived in Greece, luggage intact. Kyla’s flight was somewhat delayed coming out of Frankfurt due to the snow storm, but by the wee hours of the morning, she made it here safe and sound.

First introduction to Greece: Tourists are free game. And that’s at the ‘real’ shops and stores; I imagine we are entertaining and fun moving targets out in the markets.

First examples: I bought a SIM card for my mobile phone right at the airport, thinking that was a pretty safe bet. Wrong. When I got to our room, it was previously opened and used. No turning back now. It works just fine but I’m now anxious the cops will show up any minute, just pouncing when that number is active once more.

Signed a sheet for the car rental, (After many emails booking and securing a BMW, when I arrived, there were no BMW’s. Settled on the Mercedes. 160. Looks and drives like a Toyota Echo.) agreeing that I will return the car full of fuel as it’s provided to me full of fuel. Two kilometres away, I realized it was 90% full of fuel, yet if I don’t return it 100% full, it will be a 5x the cost at the pump charge.

What should have been a 35-40 Euro cab ride for Kyla turned out to be 60 Euro in the end. Something about a Christmas fee for the extra baggage the cab drivers have to handle at this time of year. Riiight.

I’m actually scared to participate in any meaningful economic exchange right about now. It will take me a few days to get my BS sensors on full power to be on par with these masters.

What was an expected 30 minute drive to our room, turned into a 3 hour adventure in getting lost. You have never been lost, as lost as you can get in Greece. First of all, the signs are in Greek and then Greek words but spelled with Latin letters. Except for the STOP sign, which is in English and says STOP. (Just like in France – take that, Quebec language cops.)

Now, I don’t expect the world to speak or bow to English, nor would I want it to, I’m whining the fact I was totally not prepared for this. As in totally, blondly, not prepared for this. (Whaaat the…??? Everything is in Greek here!) In other European countries, with a little imagination or reasoning, you can basically figure out the language as there are many words that are somewhat similar in English. After all, English is a homemade pot of soup that uses ingredients from many different other languages. Except Greek. I haven’t found one word that is similar to any English words that I am familiar with.

Sure, there’s the obvious Delta, Omega, Alpha but what are those items in English, really? Are they tangible? Oh yah, I left the alpha on the delta, you know, by the omega. I’m not on Star Trek here, people.

I am insistent that I immerse myself into the culture, no matter where I am. In Canada I bitch about the government, drink too much coffee, eat French fries with gravy and watch hockey.  In Holland I bitch about the government, drink too much coffee, eat French fries with mayonnaise and watch English shows with Dutch subtitles.

In Greece, however, I want to drive extremely fast on every street, drink Greek wine and eat Greek food. (I’ll pass on the ripping tourists off part.)

Except I can’t read the labels on the Greek wine. No wonder we can’t find it in Canada; even if we could, we wouldn’t know what it was. I guess I’m going to have to match the colour to the price. The ones I don’t like, I know my starving student daughter will enjoy,  they certainly won’t go to waste. I might just find a fun way to learn Greek.

Cory in the kitchenCory in the kitchen at the rental.

At least I know I’m not going to starve. I love Greek food. Tonight we are headed to eat authentic Greek food, a restaurant suggested by the host of our rental. As long as I give them the shellfish allergy heads up, I’m just going to let them surprise me. Even if I ordered it myself, the way I butcher the language it would end up being a surprise anyways. It’s all Greek to me.

Greek rental 009

Square toilet. Not too many crosswords completed in here!

Greek rental 010 Greek rental 011 General living areas in rental. Very nice!

They drank up the wine and they started talking…

For the second time in my life, I have no idea what’s in store for me. None. Zip. Nada. I THINK I know but I thought I knew everything before, too and that was all wrong. The first time was when I got pregnant with my son.

I landed in Holland with a dog and no luggage. My son greeted me and within seconds I was pleasantly surprised by a welcome hug from my daughter. Suddenly, my lost luggage didn’t seem to be such a big deal after all.

We have been talking about this for years. ‘This’ is basically selling everything and becoming citizens of the world. We finally pulled the trigger and sold the house, gave or sold excess items and put the rest into storage. The feeling of being free from your possessions is amazing. No wonder they call them possessions; they possess you rather than the other way around. No more mortgage, upkeep, utilities, cleaning, upgrading, nor fretting over security and theft. I wouldn’t be surprised if when we got back we end up selling the remaining items we so carefully set aside for our return.

Only fully furnished rentals for me from this moment on. “Hello, Mr. Landlord, umm, yah, the toilet is plugged and the sink is leaking. See you at 2:00 pm.”

It all started so far back I can’t remember when the idea first came about. I’m sure it was over a bottle of wine, or two. I guess you could say I’m living one of the great ideas that come about when one is drinking wine. You know, how to fix the world ideas that don’t make any sense in the morning.

This I know for sure: Today I am in Holland. Last week I was in Edmonton and -20C tempuratures with 20 cm of snow on the ground. Friday I’ll be in Athens, Greece with the kids for Christmas. I will be back in Holland on January 4th. On January 7th my husband will join us. The kids return to school and we will drive to Spain January 11th and have a villa booked until April 30th. After that, anything is on the table.

I suggest during that time in Spain, we break out the wine and come up with the next good idea.