After Three Weeks in Greece.

Grace and I have been in Greece for just over 3 weeks now. It’s cliche, but it simultaneously feels like a lot longer and a lot shorter than that.

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We’ve had a good balance of getting around and doing things, whilst also spending days just working and lazing around the flat. The real temptation is just to go and eat out or drink coffee all the time, but that sucks up cash ridiculously fast. It’s hard to resist when the food is so great though… the tomatoes are large, cheap, and taste amazing, and you can’t really go wrong with adding feta cheese to every meal.

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Our pals Al and Becky came out for a week, and we packed a lot into those days – including caving (despite my gluten intolerance) to eat chicken souvlaki – both stupidly cheap and stupidly delicious. (Yes Keith, I used the word delicious). There’s a ton of pictures from that which I’ll upload later… I desperately need to get my Leica’s sensor cleaned though, as there’s dust spots everywhere. Shooting wide open isn’t a problem in Scotland (to avoid seeing the dust), but can’t quite get away with doing that here.

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Having folk here was great, and I’m looking forward to seeing a couple more of our pals who are going to come out and visit before we come home to Glasgow. The simple daily stuff like working on the balcony in the sun definitely isn’t to be sniffed at though, and I love the freedom that I have with my job to be able to do things like this.

In a moment of madness I sourced Irn-Bru and had a case of it delivered at some stupid cost. It’s now my emergency hangover Bru.

One thing that always happens when I go abroad is that I wish I was able to speak a different language. In particular, I’ve always been fascinated by Greek because of the different alphabet, and also because when I was younger I wanted to join in on conversations that my older cousins were having.

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I’ve gone through points where I could understand quite a lot, and then let it slide to near enough nothing. It’s pretty hard to keep up the motivation to learn a language when nobody around you speaks it, and you’re not immersed in it every day. Since I’ve been here, I’ve gotten back into things though, and am determined to make a real ongoing effort to do as much as I can.

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Outside of the really touristy areas (where everybody speaks English and will pretty much refuse to do anything but that), Greeks respond extremely well when you speak even just a few words. This, coupled with the fact that they love to talk debate at any given opportunity, means that often really simple interactions in Greek can lead to them coming back with long, complicated questions. Staring blankly back, or telling them that you are from Scotland and don’t speak too much Greek only seems to encourage their enthusiasm to converse in Greek. I quite like that. I’m fairly self-conscious about trying to put together more difficult sentences, and it can be a big knock to have somebody completely disinterested in your attempts. In that regard, the smallest gestures or successes feel massive, like the older guy who gave us some chewing gum for free when we bought some Coke, and then after asking a few questions said (in Greek) that it didn’t matter that I wasn’t very good at it – that it would come slowly… or the girl in another shop who said (again, all in Greek) that it was wonderful that I was making an effort, and then spoke a bit clearer to ask questions about where we were from and if I had family here. People are usually pleased that you can speak even just a wee bit, so I just need to get the balls to do it more.

The cock-ups can be embarrassing and amusing though. I found out that I had been saying ‘Enjoy your meal’ instead of saying ‘Good evening’ like I had thought I had… and then in e-mails I had been using ‘οραία’, which I thought meant ‘great’, but which actually means ‘opal’. There are two letter O equivalents, and I’d used the wrong one. Oh dear.

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One of the things I’ve been doing is listening to Greek music, as it apparently helps to pick things up. In doing so, I came across a ‘comedy rap’ group that are a bit like Bloodhound Gang. This track is almost exactly like Stacey’s Mom:

Maybe I’d be better off watching Sesame Street with the subtitles on.

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