Saturday, 27 April 2013

Today I... was in a Greek Public Hospital



Prewarning: This is not a light hearted article as it does give mention to my bowel movements. Apologies in advance. (Don't worry, there are no picture.)
Day 1:


Today I am writing from a hospital bed. What is scarier than being in a hospital? Being in a foreign hospital. For the past 26 hours I have been in the General Hospital of Arta, which is aptly placed aloft a fairly large mountain. Currently, I have 3 courses of medication queued up for an illness that I thought (and they assumed) was not so serious. From my wrist is the passage in which the medication is currently being channeled into my blood and at the place of insertion, there is a slight sting; not enough to cause alarm but enough to let me know it’s there. But I guess when you are looking at affairs of an intravenous nature it is safe to say that a little more caution is due. Another matter for concern is that my fingers on my left hand have turned blue as if they have been starved of blood. Surely you can trust these nurses. According to common opinion, you cannot.

Six hours after my admittance, I met the only native speaking English person in my ward; an Australian woman who had been there for a week. She explained to me that the nurses were very rude to her at times and many of them struggled to make injects to take blood. Apparently, they can be very catty, display shocking acts of racism and could be underqualified and uncaring. There was an Albanian woman in the Emergency ward, waiting for four hours in pain, before she was treated. They occupied themselves with every Greek person before they came to her, despite the order of service and severity.  Some of the stories my friend told me shocked her. One of the nurses asked if she was Albanian, which - she gathered by the nurse's facial expression - was a question that could potentially dictate her future treatment in the hospitally. My friend simply asked her whether her illness was Albanian. Embarassed, the nurse never gave her a problem direcly, from that point on. Only vicariously.

Certain nurses had terrible needle ability. I never saw any real problem with insertion apart from the constant discomfort. With the slightest movement, I could feel the needle point moving and putting pressure on my vein wall via a bruising pain. The moment the nurse connected the drip to my wrist, initially the vein became swollen and changed to a deep red colour which I was pretty worried about. I called the nurse over to consult her and she just said that it was nothing and walked away. Although, some of the nurses spoke good English, they insisted on speaking to me in Greek. This left me confused and feeling isolated. I don't mind that they were speaking their own language in their own country. I am completely fine with that, and am against the English attitude that has been passed down through the ages to just expect things. The only thing that I felt let down by, in this situation, was the fact that these nurses did speak relatively good English; country miles better than my Greek. In regards to bedside manner, explaining things to me in fairly competent English would have been preferred over me picking out one or two words out of a sentence in my pidgeon Greek. My employer informed me that these hospital folk were to proud to expose themselves to making mistakes, and a number of friends said that it is common for them to feel superior to us normal folk who get ill and sick.

For instance, at around 9pm I was tucked in bed fast asleep and I was awoken by a female doctor and her pride of nurses. She asked me about my condition and symptoms. I explained to her that I had black diarrhea and a light head. The way the conversation continued was compeletely amazing on a multitude of levels.

Doctor: Black like this? (Pointing to her keyboard, which was black.)
Me:      Yes.
Doctor: Black like this? (Pointing to something else black.)
Me:      Yes.
Doctor: This is black, yes?
Me:      Er, yeah, like cola. (I made this judgement due to the fact that it mixes with urine when
            I use the bathroom.)
Doctor: Cola isn't black.
Me:      (Pause in bemusement as Doctor swiftly leaves without any note of assurance or explanation
            of my current condition.)

I can understand that you can read this as her trying to make sure that she fully understood the word black in English, displaying a level of modesty in her knowledge of the English language, but I had said the word black in both English and Greek to her. It wasn't what she said, it was the way she said it. Her tone was demeaning and patronising, making me feel stupid and insecure. It was as if she thought that I didn't know my colours. Her register toward me I found disgusting. I have spoken to a lot of people who admit that public hospital are awful for hospitality. Most of the time you can hear the nurses laughing and joking in the corridors. From inside the room it feels like I am overhearing a Carry On film. According to multiple sources, these nurses like a good ol' bitch too...and I witnessed it first hand.

It was 1am and I was fast asleep. I had struggled to sleep because the arm attached to the drip kept moving when my body relaxed and the pain would shock me awake. After finding a position with a little leeway and got some slumber. Little did I know that after an hour of snoozing four nurses and two doctors would come in, turn all of my lights on and have a good natter. From what I could pick out, they were laughing (very loudly) at other patients throughout the ward and a little bit of romance was also in the air. I rolled over and sat up in bed and simply watched them. They ignored my presence. I can only guess that they chose my room because I don't speak Greek and they felt that they could say whatever they wanted. They kept me awake for around 15 minutes before exiting the room, leaving my door wide open and all my lights on.

I was under the impression that I was to be discharged the following morning. I had been misinformed.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Update

Sorry about the silence. I have been in hospital. Will post about that fiasco tonight or tomorrow. Cheers

Monday, 22 April 2013

Tonight I... Live in Arta

This post must be opened with a blunt apology. My camera is in no way designed for nighttime shots, and I hate using the flash. As a prior warning, the images do lack clarity and focus. No need to adjust your eyes. Please note that these are the clearest out of all of the photos I took last night. I have wanted to post some information about my hometown for a while now. This is but a snub. A more detailed account will posted in due time (hopefully).

The Church in Agios Dimitrios Square.
(I believe that the man is texting, not snoozing)
In this post, I hope to capture some nighttime images of the town that I am currently living and working in. By day, Arta is a manifestation of tall buildings, cafes, beautifully decorum lining the streets, an energetic shopping mentality and God-awful parking. By night, during warmer periods, it is a socially active hub; cafe-turned-bars with expanding from the central location of the Άγιος Δημήτριος Πλατεία (the Saint Dimitrius Square). Just off the square is a long walkway with courtyards ouside cafes/bars where you can sit in the splendour of the night and enjoy the peace found in this town.






Walkway from the square.
Needless to say, there are plenty of places if you feel the need to venture out at night. If you fancy a bit of a dance and a club/bar atmosphere, there are many venues that play Greek pop music. If rock tickles your fancy, you can wet your whistle at very specific bars hidden away in secluded back streets or my personal favourite, The Old Post. If you are feeling like a culture sponge and strive for something a litte more traditional, there is always one or two places playing live music, be it acoustic artists playing covers or full blown bouzouki-based acts. Either way you will be amazed by the technicality found in traditional Greek music and how it doesn't take away from the beauty of the song but adds flavour.

As stated before in my post about cafes in Arta are well decorated and themed, and its easy to find yourself in an interesting looking establishment whilst enjoying the luxuries of the night. One of these places, I recently came across is Myrovolos. I will be posting a separate article about this particular spot due to its uniqueness. Hopefully, it will make a hearty read.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Today I... Were By Blue Water Again (Preveza pt 2)




Today I continue my account of Preveza after a second outing to this location of pristinity. Beyond the beach is a village called Mitikas, which rests beyond a slight acclivity. The views from this area are phenomenal. Being at a complete deficit when it comes to knowledge of a botanical nature, any comment I make about the environment and nature will be in the form of an obtuse commentary. For example...


A lit match.
Just look at that lean! It's pretty beastly for a tree! 

On a slightly more serious note, there were many interesting trees just like this one; resembling lit matches that nobody has the right to put out. Strong winds warp and bend the tree trunks on this summit leaving everything wind-swept and wonderful.










Like the majority of Greece, there was an abundance of golds and greens that brought a relaxing warmth as the scenery became absorbed into my flesh. Yet another place that has the ability to soothe me on such a level that I no longer mar the world around me, but marry it. This country has bored its way into my heart. Leaving it will be difficult, but I know that one day I will return to reignite these memories that I will crave to be living once more. 

Also, the sea was just lovely.

To be continued...

Real Talk: Fiddler on the Roof

A view from my roof.
Don't worry, you dirty minded few; the title of this post is not a double entendre regarding moments of erotic self-entertainment on a Greek rooftop. It is simply referring to how I enjoy spending the majority of my free time on my roof playing guitar and writing songs in the sun.

The only thing I can really see from my roof is other rooftops and array of balconies. There is something strangely soothing about looking into the distance; all of these towering houses built into the mountains lining the irregular serpentine streets, leaving the houses at irregular angles and seeming randomly placed. A lot of the balconies are beautifully decorated and, stangely enough, it is nice just to sit their watching, making a few shapes on my instrument, and creating a soundtrack over the lives of people pegging out their washing or maintaining their railings.

One particularly blustery day, I stalked on as a middle aged woman hung out some of her washing over a sedated rendition of 'Wonderful Tonight' by Eric Clapton. She packed her washing line with careful intricacy as, in my eyes, she had overburdened the line. Low and behold, the line snapped and her washing, flapped violently in the wind and cascaded down three storeys like falling leaves, landing on balconies and the street below. I just watched. I don't think there was much I could do as I had no idea where this house was. Feeling bad I turned my attention away from this spectacle wishing for the best outcome for this poor woman. On this day, I lost just a little bit more of my humanity. Another day, another squalor.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Today I... May Have a Problem

Today, in correlation with practically every other day that it is feasible to say that I am in 'existance', I identified a certain aspect of my life that may cause complications if not addressed swiftly and with due concern. I am now, for the first time, officially packing timber.

It is no secret that I have been purposefully gaining weight over the past few months to look slightly more healthy as a man and to reduce the chance of being carried off on a light breeze. With certain students of mine I have a running joke that has developed regarding my exapanding waist-line with my corresponding remark simply being that it is simply a feature created for comfort. Secretly, it is a swelling reaction to an insatiable hunger, a love for rich Greek food and a chemically-altered metabolism. Originally, it was comfortable and not an issue; now, however, things have happened that have made me change my mind.

I popped a button; something that I have never actually done before. The first time I came to know of this phenomenon was when it happened to Porky Pig in a cartoon. So, when this happened I immediately looked at my relaxed mass as more of a danger. The embarassment of this moment was exacerbated by the fact that it was in the gym. That bugger just flew right off! Other moments of deep concern include the difficulty putting on jeans, fastening belts and the growing need to have a daily 'fat kid nap'.

Needless to say, I am one stomach poke away from spending two months wages on souvlaki, eating my way into oblivion and dying a very happy, garlicy mass of man.

Monday, 15 April 2013

For Boston

As simple as a sentiment comes, this post is in light of the incident in Boston. Recently, I have decided not to express too much of an opinion on any topic found in the news, but after learning about this utter catastrophe and seeing images of the carnage, my thoughts are with those affected. Truly chilling state of affairs. To suggest that I hope whoever caused such damage to a community - potentially tarnishing the memory of such a prestigious, American tradition and hurting so many people during a time of national unrest - gets his comeuppance can be met with the sight of an angered cartoon character aiming a fist at the sky and shouting 'curses'. In other words, it is pointless as there is nothing you can to a single person to come close to the result of this travesty. It will sit as a landmark in the American timeline, as does any tragedy of this scale. I fear to imagine the kind of person who could do something of this nature and live with themselves afterward. To end on an adage, 'How do they sleep at night?'

Today I... Got Sand in My Shoes (Preveza pt 1)

Broken by smooth, wet rocks before drunkenly trickling onto the warm sand.
Today I made my maiden visit to Preveza and I gots ta tell yous, it's a pretty magical place. It's like an artist's representation of the euphoria that can be found on the face of a simpleton eating ice cream whilst watching a film involving Ben Stiller in a wig. That magical.

So there I was, alone, before a great expanse of restless ocean, my current track of the moment playing on repeat in my left ear (as my right earphone is broken on my iPod). Staring silently at the slight curvature of the horizon as the waves met the shore, broken by smooth, wet rocks before drunkenly trickling onto the warm sandy beach. For someone to say I seemed content would be a porjection of travest followed by a polite request to kindly ask desist from observing me in public. Especially, when I am wearing shorts.

Preveza is an amazing haven; as lush as anything a divine creator could muster and keep out of the public eye of the global tourist world. Granted, it is a hot-spot in its own right, but I am glad it is not like an 18 to 30 Greek island - predominantly Scouse and riddled with herpes. Last Summer I ventured to Zakynthos with two of my American friends. We aimed to enjoy a boat tour of the island and rest out the stresses of a week's hard study. To my surprise, the streets were plastered with red-skinned Topmannequins, dressed for a 1980s Miami cop-show, begging girls for bedside comforts whilst sipping from cans of cider in a bar subtly named BJs. As a rule of thumb, if you are in a holiday desination (outside of Britain) that supplies cider on mass, you are not truly visiting the country you say you are. The presence of cider indicated that the culture was tailored for the unsatisfiable maw of commercial Britain. Preveza does not sell cider.

My journey in Preveza began with a quick scan of the sea, before sitting for the mandatory 1pm coffee installation. Truth be told, I had a water, but coffee was present within our ranks. No sooner had we settled in the cafe, did I became restless. Staring at the ocean under shelter was not enough for me, so I broke away from my company and journeyed down the promenade alone.








The scenery on the road next to the beach was phenomenal. Even the architecture competed with the natural environment to be the most exotic. The way the buildings are structured is just amazing. The planning seems sporadic to me as a man from a country of mostly red brick and crazy paved driveways. In most parts of Greece many buildings have no set definition of a template, which makes for a lot of interesting speculation and observation.

Who lives in a house like this? A glass spiral staircase on the outside...

 
Of course, this does not coincide with densely populated town centres, with their towering high-rise apartment blocks, built to meet the clouds. This aside, the coutryard in front of pretty much every house were amazing and the greenery easily rivalled Britain's countryside. This is possibly due to the fact that the shubbery and plant-life actually looked like it wanted to be there, unlike our turgid stubborn chutes that mainly live under a ceiling of greyed sky. On top of all this, some brilliant example of man-kind had his donkey parading around his front garden; a very pleasant sight for me to come across. It even pulled a smile to my blank face. Turned out to be gas, which was also pleasant.

...my friends found me.
On many occasions I find myself in a complete dream-like state, even when I am with friends. It must be difficult for my friends at times. I tend to shut myself away in spirals of thought, appreciation and have been known to produce spells of impulsive camera-based isolation. I definitely make terrible company. It is not unusual for a conversation to simply die - much to theu tter  dismay of my friends - as I unconsciously sever my ties to reality. For this reason, I decided to explore alone for a while. Alas...  -------------------------->






A cuttlefish that has seen better days.
I had no problem with them being there, really. I got the opportunirty to share the experience with them. The silence of appreciation was one drawn from solidarity. This is an experience that I wish I had the chance to share with many more people in my life. This average report, these average pictures say nor show what I have witnessed in Preveza, let alone my travels to date. I hope that others will take the time out of their lives to really see what another country has to offer.








To be continued...




Friday, 12 April 2013

Today...I Get Sentimental

Today I realised that I can, figuratively, count my remaining days in Greece on one hand and it leaves me feeling slightly restless. There is an overwhelming excitement swelling under the surface due to the fact that I am going home to be reunited with my family and friends. There are many people to catch up with and I look forward to hearing new developments in their lives over the last year. Because a year is a pretty long time. The year that I have spent in Greece is coming to an end now, and this is met with a kind of sadness that I am not used to.

Leaving only one year of my life behind is far more difficult than I could ever have imagined. The plan was to experience a year in a different country, become one with myself and get out unscathed with a new, clean conscience. And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for these meddling kids! It's these kids, you see. These emotion factories that bounce around the room in excitable tantrums, whilst bobbing their tongues out with a mouth full of ice cream and bad words that they learnt off the television. Because that's one thing I must admit, I allow bad language in my lesson, as long as it is used in a relevant context. Swearing is a big part of phatic Greek interaction. 'Asshole' is literally another way of saying 'pal' and is as common as the word 'Reem' was in England in 2011/12. So, on ocassion, I let some words slide as long as they are saying it in English and it is in a safe context. I could rattle on about some of the ludicrous stories from my lessons, but I feel that this is for another blog.

Leaving these kids behind will be difficult. With the knowledge that I may never see these young faces again -  and that these may potentially be the only children that I teach in my life - a large part of me will remain with every single one of them as I return to England as the prodigal son (A bit much?). As much as I get annoyed in my lessons, my students are the closest thing I have had to family whilst I have been out here and they have really grown on me. I would be lying if I said that I didn't treasure every smile, every laugh and everything I have learnt from them. Those moments I will hold dear. Everything that the children have made or done for me in their spare. One student who graduated in December, went on a trip with her school in March and brought some chocolate back for me. Such a small gesture, but on a deeper level, three month after finishing my lessons, this student thought about me when she was on an outing. This sort of thing really moves me, as I must admit to myself that I am a sensitive man. I will never be a lumberjack. Other things I must admit to myself is that I will never be able to grow a beard or make a woman truly happy. Truths that can be bore.


Note: I wanted to accompany this post with some pictures of some of the gifts given to me by my students, but unfortunately I have lost them off my camera when changing over laptops. :(

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Lake Zirou: The Lake that Wanted to Drown Mountains



A perfect reflection of the world surrounding it, Lake Zirou, on my particular day of visit held some peculiar conditions that made the encounter special for me. The water reached out for the road and there was a wealth of natural resplendence just teeming at the shore's edge. Being known on many occasions to escape within my own discomfiting mind, the sheer level of fecundity and ambience of this expanse of beryl green water left me completely sedated*. It was like being on drugs (I assume). Nonetheless, a pixie or two would not have looked out of place during this most memorable outing. With every environment akin to this, there is an ecosystem; both thriving and delighful. There were an abundance of tadpoles, ants and small fish. I scared two watersnakes into retreat, slithereing into the refuge of the calm waters. Oh, and there were flies. So many darned flies.


The road leading to the lake reminded me of something from back home. Everything was green and windswept. As my friend modestly put it, 'It is like you are no longer in Greece. It's as if you are in Ireland or something.' He was not wrong. It was impossible for me to hide my adulation for this particular area, only half an hours drive from where I currently live. It has a certain familiarity. It made me feel like I was wandering around 'The Chase' in Cannock, England. To be so far away from home and find a place so homely is definitely welcoming.

 
After spending hours by the lake, observing the wildlife and passively watching the hours escape us, we ventured uphill to explore what was in the nearby forest. My friend entertained us with stories of wolves and how they only attack when they are hungry. Not un-nerving whatsoever. As the topic moved onto the dangers bears, we came across a quiant, abandoned church in midst of the trees and the darkening sky. I can remember how my hands felt very heavy as we walked around the courtyard and I began to feel very uncomfortable to say the least.

As the day drew to a close, I left feeling the most sahtisfied that I have in years. The experience had seeped through  to my bones, leaving me writing this with an unbeatably smug sensation. A song comes to mind; a title in particular: 'I Found Away' by Alkaline Trio. Deep down, this title, let alone the song, speaks to me. I am constantly looking inward to find a different plateau of thinking; for something that I can project, for something I can offer the world. Something that will one day define me as an individual, not on a grandiose scale, but sufficient in my eyes. 'Away' is that place inside, that you have to find if you are to allow yourself to find a purpose. A sort of nirvana. Days like yesterday bring me one solitary step closer to this understanding, and leaves me a little less stressed about the future, with its imminent difficulties, struggles and the inevitable rise of the Justin Bieber clone army.



Here are a few more pictures! Click them to enlarge...


Vicky and I -  looking swell...or swollen, whichever pleases you)
Legs by the lake.
Close-up of the previous.


Trees emerging from the waters.

Trees, if you please.
View from the afternoon: A small haven

Ambience left me completely sedated.
As twilight (not that one) approached we simply were.
At the end of the day I made a wish...







*Apologies for this wordy sentence. Best have a dictionary at hand.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Today I... Disappeared

Today I left myself behind...

A clean emerald lake, hued tan in the shallows of the bank. It had risen due to the amount it has rained of late. The lake itself had a voice and an even harsher tongue. It looked up at the sky and threatened to drown the mountains. Never have I been draipsed in such tranquility. By no exaggeration, it became me. There were two others in my company but for most of the afternoon we were as silent as strangers.

Lake Zirou burst its banks.
As evening approached, the lake became bathed in a different light. The pastel mountains in the distance became mere outlines, and the mountains half-submerged by the still waters had began to fade away. Even if only for a split moment I felt like I was in a painting. Perfection had become pervasive.

We watched as the sun made it's way behind the trees opposite; an audience of three, watching as it gently shied away. Time seemed to suspend; if only it could have suspended me.


 More pictures from the lake will be posted tomorrow.


Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Real Talk: Germany's Getting Scary Again...

Germany's blatant economic success has created much controversy around Europe over recent years as they. have reversed the global financial trend successfully and managed to keep the stain of recession out of their cheerful lederhosen and tears out of their steins. From what I have gathered, their contribution to the European financial situation is set to be of a massive profit to them. A great example of this is the current Cyprus debacle. Europe should seriously be considering the way they think about their recession and about whether to get back into bed with Germany, because they are always the big spoon.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Update

After a long yet stressless day of teaching, I decided that I will (as pretentious as it sounds) have another crack at writing my novel, The Flights of Icarus. I shall reveal nothing of its plot nor context, but I may post short snippets of it on here.

In other news, thanks. The personal responses that I have got in regards to my blogging activities have been extremely positive, constructive and generally chicken soup for the soul. I am still at a loss considering the direction of which my blog will follow in due time, but I sincerely appreciate the readership.

Yesterday, I almost hit 1,000 views. Decent. If you feel there is anyone who would enjoy a certain piece of my writing, let 'em know. Let's fight to keep the written word alive (or something as  asphilosophical and ripe with passion)!

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to cut this post short. Early start tomorrow morning. I am going to head to the gym to work on my reflection...

Cheers

Jon

Monday, 1 April 2013

Today I... Went to Koronisia

Today I did find a skull on the beach and, in all my maturity, I did pick it up and move it around the beach. I controlled the impulse to chase a girl into the sea with it. Kudos this way, please. Cheers.


Koronisia is a peninsula in the municipality of Arta (my hometown) and in the summer I imagine it to be lively as it is close to the sea and easily accessible by car. Today, however, the sky was filled with fast moving grey clouds that constantly dimmed the sun and allowed short bursts of perfect warmth. It was one of those days when your jacket was constantly being put on, and quickly removed, accompanied by a few choice under-breath profanities.

Today I... If I Told You I'd Have to Kill You


Today I went to an undisclosed location with a group of people that will remain nameless, the reasons of which are entirely my own and will forever remain a secret. The events that occured on this day will be a mystery for most and known to but a few. The day became us and we drank it in.

Celeblog: Rita Ora - Not Right Now

Rita Ora (without make-shift beard)
Known mainly for her Ore-inspiring talent and beauty, Rita Ora is a woman hiding an Oreful truth from her past that she has kept to herself for so long; but now it is out. Under false authority, Rita Ora's dark past will now be revealed.

Rita Ora, 22, is currently a chart-topping Britosovan diva. She found commercial fame in 2011 whilst running a viral campaign which was concluded with her hit music video 'Hot Right Now'. This was not always the case for young Ora, however. She was not always a product of youtube fabrication like Rebecca Black or Loney Island. Raised in London, she lived in the shadow of the beardomaniac, Noel Edmonds and his House Party. At night, whilst sleeping, her father would regularly sneak into her room and carefully etch a healthy beard onto her face in permanent marker. This led to her missing a lot of school and, in turn, led her to music. In the spare time created by her father's hi-jinks, she found an affinity for the arts and literature. On many of these absent days, with a make-shift goatee (slightly faded by her own tears), Ora would make collages of her idols, Robson and Gerome, out of dulux colour samples. She would also create effigies of Edmonds out of mucus, body hair and nail varnish, but that is not something I will go into for libelous reason.

In her professional career she began as a songwriter and quickly became recognised for her striking aptitude. Working with monumental artists such as Baddiel and Skinner, The Ink Spots, John Barnes and Rage Against the Machine, a talent such as Rita Ora definitely has a lot more to give the world of music by giving music to the world.

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