Monday, March 31, 2008

Last Days

March 26, 2008

“Do you want the bad news or the really bad news?”

I had just received an email from Huong and at the mention of bad news my heart sank. She had left Prague three days prior to head back to Chios, but I had stayed behind to meet with a photography contact.

“Give it all to me,” I wrote back hastily.

She then began to detail out the series of events that would lead to the eventual parting of ways between her, the hut, the island, and ultimately Mr. Vardakas.

When she arrived back at the hut, the warm weather, a dripping shower, and airtight doors & windows (which we had left closed) had created a steam room effect. The entire hut was weeping. Our mattresses, our blankets, our sheets, our clothes, and any paper that was left out—all of it was soaked. A ½ inch of water covered the hut floor; water dripped from the ceiling and walls, and the entire bathroom ceiling was covered in mold that was quickly spreading to the kitchen.

To top it off, the next day she awoke to Mr. V. dumping brown liquid onto the roof from a suspicious cistern on top of the hut. “Um…what are you doing?” she asked him anxiously.

“We clean the tank, “ he replied.

“The sewage tank?” she asked even more anxiously. “Water from the toilet?’

“Yeah, the water, it comes down and we clean, “ he replied matter-of-factly.

She watched in horror as the brown liquid emptied out in vast quantities onto the rooftop and inched its way to our front door. She ran inside to escape and then discovered her bed was covered in tiny black specks that had been biting her all night. During her killing rampage, Mr. V. brought her a bill for April’s rent—9 days early. “Rent is due on the 21st!” he told her happily. I could just picture her, flip flop in hand wanting to swat Mr. V. like one of the tiny bugs that had pestered her all night.

The next day, he lured her into his apartment under the premise that he had some food to give her.

“I want to love you,” he told her over some pasticcio.

“I said no already,” she said coldly.

He was not deterred. “Poppy…she’s no good for nothing. She works too much. I told her to get out. So, you can move down here and live for free.”

Soon after I received an email detailing out these events and her decision to leave.

But the clincher was what had happened the following morning.

She wrote, “And, this morning I heard him having sex.”

Later I asked her how she came to this conclusion. Was it Poppy? Someone else? Who could he have possibly convinced? She proceeded (at my prodding) to tell me about the sounds she had heard in the dark. It reminded me of that scene in Grizzly Man where Werner Herzog tells the coroner that no one should ever listen to the tape that recorded the sounds of Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend being killed. Well, I realize now that I never should have asked her to describe the sounds she had heard early that morning. It’s bad enough that she has to live with Mr. V.’s happy ending echoing in her ears—now I do, too.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Night Out in Dublin

Finally had a chance to go through some video footage and string together this little clip. Possible long load times, when you see black, double click in the frame. Enjoy.

Friday, March 21, 2008

St. Patrick's Parade

I've been a little behind at posting thanks to intermittent wifi in Prague (oh, and a crazy woman who is renting the room next door...She apparently hears voices--angry voices--at all hours of the night). She got kicked out this morning and now the wifi is also working. So! here are some photos from the big St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which had a surprising amount of American marching bands performing in it. Even one from Washington State—the Shorecrest Highlanders.

I was actually expecting the parade to be crazier, I guess the Fremont Solstice parade has made me equate parades with all kinds of wackiness and freakiness, but it was all wholesome family fun at this one.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Embrace Your Inner Irishman

March 17, 2008

I made this little list while drinking Guinness and shots of Bushmills at an Irish Pub called The Ivy House not far from our B&B. Fortunately I had the presence of mind to take notes as I managed to accomplish task#1 on the list rather quickly. So, for those of you who have yet to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, here are some tips (from the source) on how to be Irish.

1. Get loads drunk.
2. Start a fight.
3. Learn an Irish song.
4. Hate Irish celebrities.
5. Be friendly to all.
6. Wear green.
7. Know (by heart) a song by Oasis.
8. Participate in a “breezer” (as in Bacardi Breezer – insert straw in bottle, tilt head back, say a prayer, and try to finish first).
9. Slug an Englishman.
10. Snog an Irishman.
11. Do an Irish jig.

And last, but not least…

12. Be sure to tell someone “Póg Mo Thón” (kiss my ass) or just wear the shorts! these shorts make my butt look big?

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Gotta love technology. I'm currently at heathrow posting from my iPod touch. I love this little gadget. Thank you Henry!! I'm on my way to Dublin for St. Patrick's Day and then headed to Prague later in the week where the forecast calls for snow. Then it's back to the hut in time for Greece Indendence day, which has got me wondering if there are any countries that do not have an independence day. The Uk perhaps?
But back to St. Patrick. A couple interesting facts:
-Yes, he was a real person.
-At 16 he declared himself a pagan.
-He was captured around the same age and sold into slavery by a band of maurauders.
-He spent 6years in slavery during which he found god.
-March 17th is the anniversary of his death.
-The Celtics celebrate Mar 17th as the rebirth of spring.
-In Celtic lore leprechauns were cranky ferries who were forced to mend the shoes of other (I would say more fortunate) ferries.

Okay kids that's all for now my index finger is tired of pecking this screen.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Day at Sea - Part Deux

More from our day at sea. This is my tribute to Bear Grylls by way of Mr. Vardakas. I call it "Man vs. Tiny Sea Creatures." The load time will probably be long and you might have to click or double-click in the black box to get it to start. Please ignore my frizzy hair.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Day at Sea

March 9, 2008

Huong and I have taken a time-out from our normal routine at the Internet café to get a cooking lesson from Mr. Vardakas on how to make tsatziki. It’s best to let the tsatziki sit for a bit to release more of the garlic flavor, so he suggests that we go with him for a fishing lesson. Today he will be hunting sea urchins, or “ah-hee-nee” in Greek.

Sure, we say, and soon after we’re heading out to Agnusa, a small island north of Chios and closer to Turkey. The wind is with us so the trip should only take about an hour.

We didn’t realize it, but entertainment was included! I couldn't post this video to Blogger for some reason, but go here to view:

And here are some stills. These poor little things were alive, it seemed so cruel!

How to eat a sea urchin:

Crack the sea urchin in half using a knife or fork. The juice inside can be drank and Mr. Vardakas assures us that it will do wonders for you.

Scrape away the grayish-greenish-brown gunk, which I believe is its waste.

The orange (meat) that is left are eggs, sea urchin caviar.

Scoop out, squeeze fresh lemon on top of it, put on some bread (preferably lagana, a Greek sesame bread), and enjoy!

It tastes very similar to raw oysters. I don’t need to have one again. For additional photos from our day at sea, go here:

The weather got a bit rough on the way back to Chios and Mr. Vardakas emboldened by ouzo, or maybe the sea urchins, decides to chat me up while piloting the boat. He’s sitting too close for comfort, but as moving about the boat to escape is not an option, I’m a captive audience.

“You watch the show the Honeymooners?” he asks.

“No, not really,” I reply.

“Oh…I used to watch it while I made donuts in New York—late at night. I have lots of tapes at my house, if you want to watch,” he offers. “My daughter, she gives me Titanic—have you seen it?”

“Yes, many times,” I say.

“I have that also at my house. And…other videos, too—sweet videos,” he says with a smile. “You like sweet videos?”

I’m desperately wishing the sea was infinitely rougher so that he would have to give all of his attention to steering the boat. I look around at the sky, there are thick clouds over the island and I begin to wonder what the chances are of a freak thunderstorm and 40mph winds.

“Sweet?” I asked, feigning confusion.

“You know ‘sweet’,” he emphasizes. Oh god, here it comes… “Sexy videos,” he says and gives me a knowing grin.

I'm suddenly reminded of time? I laugh uncomfortably and then become intensely occupied with photographing some detail of the boat. He begins to serenade me with a Greek song. I glance back at Huong; she’s sitting on a bench bundled up against the cold wind and his advances. She’s grinning from ear to ear. “Your team,” she whispers so only I can hear. I resist the urge to give her the finger.


March 8, 2008

Saturday night in Chios and we’re at our favorite gyro place by our hut. Isadora, who owns the restaurant and speaks a little English, is working and we chat with her and her father (another Stomatis – much nicer than the one at the bar), take some photos of the two of them, and practice our limited Greek vocabulary.

“We are going into town tonight to go dancing,” Isadora says pointing to the other girl (Eleni) who works at the restaurant as well. “Do you want to come with us?” she asks excitedly.

I look at Huong, who is non-committal and ask what time they plan to go.

“Oh…probably around 2am,” she says.

Huong starts shaking her head, laughing, and says that she will be fast asleep by then, but tells me that I should go without her.

Hmm, I thought, weighing the idea of heading into town at two in the morning. It reminded me of a night in the south of Spain with my best friend, Leah…

We had been staying at a timeshare that was very reminiscent of the resort portrayed in the movie “Dirty Dancing.” We had had our fill of bad flamenco dancing and couldn’t take it anymore. In desperation, I had asked our waiter where we could go dancing. “Ah,” he had said, “meet me at reception at 2am.” Of course, he had replied in Castilian Spanish (my Spanish was conversational at the time) and so “reception” actually sounded like “ray-thep-thee-own”. After a few tries my brain engaged and we nodded happily that we would pick him up at 2am as we had Leah’s parent’s rental car for the evening. The night had ended at a private villa in a swimming pool with me wearing a pair of speedos and a t-shirt that said something like “I like beer.” So, naturally, when Isadora suggested going into town at 2am, I was up for the adventure.

At half-past midnight, I got a call from Isadora. “Maybe,” she says, “it will be another 2 hours.”

“Okay, so 2am?” I ask to confirm.

“No, 2 more hours after that,” she clarifies.

“4am?” I laugh. A 4am start is pushing it even for me. I tell her I will go next time, when I have a chance to take a nap.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

History of the Hut

March 6, 2008

At about 11pm there was a rap on our door.

“Hello, girls!”

It was Mr. Vardakas—in blue pajamas.

“I saw your light on, so I come up! I looked in the window and saw you weren’t sleeping, so I knock!” he says grinning enthusiastically.

The window he is referring to is right above my bed. It takes all of my willpower not to look at Huong. The image of Mr. Vardakas peering in at us while we were sleeping was comical enough, but I might just burst into laughter at the look of horror that was surely crossing her face.

He had given us food earlier that day and it was surprisingly good. A homemade version of spanakopita and then a shrimp risotto of sorts. Tomorrow he said he wanted to make us another dish.

He looked around the room and began to tell us about all the improvements he had made to it over the years. How he and his ex-wife had lived in the hut when they were first married. His eyes rested momentarily on his most recent contribution to the hut—my bed.

“You know,” he began, “one day I was on my boat—out at sea. There were no fish, but I see this log on the water…And, well, no one was around, so I stopped and pulled it up.” He pauses to laugh as he remembers and continues, “So then, when you came, I said, ‘Whatta I'm gonna do?’ and I thought, I make a bed with this log.”

“This?” I asked, pointing to the bed I was sitting on. “You made this out of a log you pulled from the sea?”

“Yeah,” he said shrugging nonchalantly, “sometimes freighters/Russian ships pass by, things fall off… Well girls, sweet dreams!”

With that, him and his blue PJs shuffled out of the of hut and back downstairs. Kind of nice, I thought to myself, being carried off to sleep every night on a piece of old driftwood.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Invisibility Cloak

March 4, 2008

I've started waking up and doing yoga on the rooftop--well, a combination of yoga and kickboxing moves. I'm sure I'm giving the neighborhood something to gossip about, as we're situated in a very visible area, but I don't care--I am a ninja.

Interestingly enough, like a true ninja I have developed a certain amount of invisibility, although my invisibility stems from being an immigrant dishwasher rather than years of practiced stealth. It's amazing how much you're ignored when you don't speak the language and when you're at the bottom of the social food chain. It's like a handicap that my co-workers would rather pretend didn't exist than having to deal with it. They actually don't even know my name. I think they've been calling me “Poppy”, the name of the Bulgarian dishwasher. Hmm…maybe “Poppy” is Greek for dishwasher?

There's been some debate over my employment at the bar. I had stopped by to see Stomatis, one of the bar managers, to talk about my schedule. He's a small, blonde, possibly gay man who doesn't seem to like me very much. Perhaps this is because I called him Stomachness when we first met.

“Okay,” he had said, “you work Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.”

Whoa…whoa…hey now...

Huong was right, the old bait and switch. Originally when I “interviewed” with Steyo he had been very open to whatever shifts we could work, which in my mind did not include 5 days straight of the vampire shift. Not to mention the shifts were so long that even doing 2 equaled 20hours a week. And that doesn't even factor in the recovery time from an all night shift. I was lucky to get to bed at 7am and even being exhausted it was hard to sleep past 11am with the bright sunlight streaming into the shared, one-roomed living space. Huong had actually never taken the job, she decided being a zombie wasn't for her.

So I told Stomachness/Stomatis what Steyo and I had discussed. “Okay, I'll check with him,” he said and took my number.

“Uh, do you want my name?” I asked, looking at the scrap of paper that he had scribbled my number on.

“Oh,” he replied absently, giving me the pen when he had no clue how to spell my name.

When I walked out of the bar Huong was waiting outside away from the endless cigarette smoke trying to catch the Wi-Fi signal. “Well?” she asked.

I started laughing. “I think I just got fired.”

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Tech Support

March 2, 2008

Huong’s computer died two days ago and she’s been mourning its loss ever since. I can’t blame her; our laptops are our lifelines to the outside world. We have no TV, we can’t read the newspapers, and most of the locals are indifferent to our presence. If it wasn’t for the Internet, we could almost forget that an outside world exists.

The last couple days have been spent lazily walking to town and hanging out at our favorite wi-fi Internet café, Cosmos, sharing my laptop. It’s a huge step up from the InSpot Internet café with its rows of desktop computers, teenagers playing video games, and constant cloud of cigarette smoke.

Yesterday Huong went to pick up her laptop from one of Mr. Vardakas’ cousins. He has a shop that sells heaters, stoves, washing machines, random kitchen appliances, and apparently can fix laptops, too. We both were skeptical. When we arrived, Huong asked meekly if they were able to save anything.

“No,” Costas, the technician, replied. “Big problem.”

That was as much information as we could get out of Costas. Much to Huong’s dismay, they had reinstalled a Greek version of Windows XP, which left most of her computer indecipherable. On top of that, the wireless modem and DVD drive was no longer working. Even more to her dismay were the several text messages from Costas asking her to get a drink. Perhaps the half-fixed computer was all a ploy to see her again.

We went back to see Costas again and dropped off her computer. We have no idea what he’s going to do with it.

Meanwhile during my stint as a dishwasher, I had missed out on some domestic drama that Huong filled me in on: she thinks Mr. Vardakas is in love with Poppy, the Bulgarian dishwasher. Everyday he takes her to work and every night he picks her up. He lets her stay with him (in her own bedroom) free of charge while she sends all the money she makes at the bar back to Bulgaria for her children, who are 19 & 21. At every occasion Mr. Vardakas likes to mention how stupid this is. “They should be making their own money,” he says adamantly shaking his head, “but instead she works herself to death. Stupid woman.” Ah, yes… such terms of endearment.

“No, really!” Huong tries to convince me, “There were tears in his eyes as he was talking about her!” Hmm…was this before or after he mentioned how badly he wanted a girlfriend, I asked.Poppy seems only irritated by Mr. Vardakas’ attentions and as she speaks only Greek and Bulgarian, our conversations are currently limited to pleasantries.