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‘Gia Sou’ from Greece

Hello or ‘Gia Sou’ as we say in Greece.

Greece has been awesome these last few weeks – over the time we have travelled it has been like a bit of a Shangri-La at times as we were sweating in the hot car travelling around Australia,

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or not coping with the toilets in China,

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or the food in Mongolia,

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or struggling to actually fit through the train entrance with our packs on in Russia……..

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…….We would often think – ‘ah it will all be ok when we get to Greece and can settle down’.

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At other times the thought of Greece was the end of the road for a while- when we would settle down and recommence ‘normal’ life (whatever that really is) with schools and accommodation and heaven forbid – work! The point in the map where we halt the trapesing across wild plains and continents. At least for a while. Well Greece is all of the above for us but most of all it really does feel like home for me especially – (though Yasi did try to convince me she was really Greek so why should she go to bed at 9.30pm when the Greek kids stay up till midnight!). The last five months on our mainly land journey from Australia to Greece has been amazing mostly though lots of thoughts of ‘why the @#c* are we doing this I just want to go home’ when the going got tough – and it sure did lots of times though I would do it again in a heartbeat. Travelling is always mixed with ‘tough stuff’ – our wonderful friend Fi Stewart left us with these words ‘Make all your plans – then throw them out the window and just go where the road takes you’ and many times I have thought of this expression over the last five months cause travelling is so much like that – there are so many things around corners that you just didn’t imagine or couldn’t plan for – both amazing and utterly challenging (I was going to say ‘crap’ but my lovely mother-in-law Jill hates me using that word). Anyway – now we are in Greece, actually in Crete – which I only learnt yesterday was unified with Greece in only 1913 – that is quite incredible – not sure what the history before that was but expect a blog about it in the near future.

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Crete is quite incredible really – the place we picked to try to settle in is Agios Nikolaos – and how that emerged was over a dinner at our favourite Japanese restaurant in Melbourne (Yamato)with new friends Leonidas and Lefteria who had just moved to Melbourne (from Crete) within the last year to spend two years in Australia. Well we were discussing options and ‘google imaged’ (is that even a verb?) some places like Agios Nikolaos, Rethymnos and Chania. We knew we didn’t want to be in the capital (Heraklion) as it is a biggish city of almost 200,000 people and we wanted a quieter lifestyle.

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We originally thought we would rent a cheap place in a wild wind swept village though Leonidas and Leftheria advised that it isn’t so easy to get around without a car and if we want our kids to walk to school, join football teams, or tennis teams and go to dance classes etc., as well as enjoy the incredible beaches then we really needed to be in a town – and Agios Nikolaos being about 19,000 people and looking incredible and actually quite Arabic in the photos caught our eye and imagination – so here we are.
Before I go on – the sea is so clear and blue, so clear and blue, so clear and blue – did you get that?

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It really is utterly incredible in colour and makes lapus lazuli and turquoise look quite dull and boring. It absolutely glistens in the sun and the first day when we went swimming Toby rose up from his dive and said ‘OMG you can actually open your eyes and see clearly’. I’m really not sure what makes it so clear (the only other clear beach like it I’ve seen is Coral Bay in Western Australia) – it doesn’t make that much sense to me cause this area of the Mediteranean is such busy shipping channels etc. Regardless of the science behind it, it really is so inviting and amazing to look at. We made a pact to try to swim every day we are here even in the winter (average temp 18 – 20C). At the moment it is mid 30s though feels hotter & was 31C while walking about 10pm last night.
Anyway – there’s lots I would like to share about our first few days here in Crete but I would like to backtrack a bit and share some reflections of our time in our village in Northern Greece – which seems a world away from this place. The children have written lots about all our relatives and the cows and our house there etc so I’ll concentrate on why the place is so special to me – but ummmmmm! I might leave this blog here for today as its siesta time – I have Emilio asleep, Toby playing ‘Words with Friends’ and Kalika and Zoi want to watch ‘Litle Mermaid’ (in Greek as we are trying to faze out English shows etc) on this computer I’m using to type on. Sandy and Yas are in Heraklion (the big smoke) having some special mother-daughter time. When we were home we used to try to have one-on-one time with each child every few months though that has been impossible the last five months. We thought we should resume the practice before school starts on the 11th of Sept.
Happy siesta.
Baba Christos

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FASHION

Fashion…
There is something quite wild and challenging about the fashions of Europe. I have seen things that we haven’t seen in Australia since the seventies (or photos thereof) that are now high fashion in Europe. Let me expand.

Beaches: not only the clothing but the way people expose themselves here (I’m thinking of Ukraine) with the worshipping of the sun is reminiscent of my childhood. Bright red bodies, crushed sided by side on beaches with a 50cm rim until the next body baking party. There appears to be no ‘under a tree between 10 and 3’ philosophy. Actually, to add to the whole feel of the ‘exposure is good’ mood I was surprised and impressed by the ‘any size is the right size for skimpy bikinis’ approach. It all left me in a somewhat confused state to tell you the truth… Part of me wanted to reclaim my white baby stretched and moulded middle and break out in bikinis, and part of me is afraid to the core of painful sunburn and the skin cancer cloud. I will keep you informed of the changing state of play on that one!

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Street fashion: This is another world that helps me to challenge my body self image and ‘what is beauty’ perceptions… Guess what is all the rage? One piece, strapless pants suits in some kind of Lycra based material… Classic seventies! I wish I had the balls to try one on, actually I now formally dare myself for my next blog piece to get Christos to take a photo of me in one! Not that strapless one piece is bad, it’s jut been a while since I’ve seen one!

There was one shop in the fashion centre of Thessaloniki that had strapless one-piece, Lycra pastel pantsuits with headbands and high heel wedges- straight out of the ABBA set.

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I was too in awe to take photos of the ABBA outfits but I did enjoy these numbers in our local market iI the gorgeous Cretan town of Agios Nikolaus. (I”ll take orders if you’re interested).

When Christos and I had a day in the big city of Thessaloniki and disappointingly people responded to us as we entered a shop in English. Very disheartening … I thought I looked European! It appears not. Christos was likewise offended. He sometimes replies in Greek that his ‘yineka’ (‘wife’ is Australian, but HE was born in Greece and speaks Greek). Anyway, the point of that being that we had several conversations about why people speak to us in English… I think part of it is Christos has a hat on (that would be in the way of fashion in European thinking, I think) and other very prominent factors would be; our back packs, my red hair and white eyebrows, our teva hiking sandals (no high heel wedges for me) and definitely most prominently that my shoulders are covered! I am not in a strapless outfit! And I don’t have a massive handbag… Anyway, once again all this makes you challenge what you have become used to…. Fortunately, there are ounces of clarity in my mind and sometimes I feel okay about being white on more than 10% of my body. It’s funny about body shapes though… I think another prominent pointer to my lack of European appearance is small boobs. In Europe if you’ve got it flaunt it, size is no barrier.

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I leave you with some words from a women’s wisdom retreat website blog page that I read the other day – not sure how to reference this – it is from http://www.womenswisdomretreats.org, “and quoting India Arie with a little addition of my own, ‘your worth is not determined by the size(colour) of your body (boobs) or the price (style/era) of your clothes.’

By Mama Miliking

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FUNNY EXPRESSIONS

(After getting onto a train in Russia where we had two compartments)
Kalika – ‘Move quickly I need to get to the other room – I can’t survive without my Lego – I’ll die. Quick!’

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Zoi to Yasi (in Bulgaria)

Z: ‘Yas do I look beautiful?’
Y: ‘You are always beautiful.’
Z: ‘No not in my heart – I mean my hair!’

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(Emilio after he fell into the cold Black Sea from the pier and coped very well until we could save him albeit quite fearfully)
‘My adventure heart is going down.’

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Emilio to Sandy (at the beach in Odessa)
‘Why are your muscles so wobbly’

Sandy – (looking outside train window in Moldova)
‘Those cows almost look Australian’

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(As we were walking to our favourite local pool in Plovdiv, Bulgaria)
Christos: ‘That building over there is so OTT!’
Kalika: ‘What’s OTT Baba?’
Christos: ‘You’re a bit OTT sometimes Kalika.’
Kalika: ‘Yeah but what is it?’
Christos: ‘It’s kind of like when a person is quiet and another is crazy and running around like a nut, the quiet one might think the crazy one is a bit OTT.
Kalika: ‘Oh! I think this swimming pool is OTT but I like it.’

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(Toby at the local playground close to our first tiny apartment in Agios Nikolaos)
Toby: ‘Greeks just do really wierd things. I mean that boy over there jumped straight off the top of the monkey bars and straight onto his skate board. That’s crazy.’
‘But he did do his cross three times and prayed first’.

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Yia Sou (Hi) from Greece

Kato Ydrousa (our village)
Andoni is the best uncle ever. He is so strong. When we see him we jump onto him and wrestle him to the ground. In this photo we were at a festival party and there was lots of Greek dancing. We had fun dancing around on his shoulders.

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Do any of you know how I did my hair like this? Mousse! My aunty Filio helped me to do my hair like this. I am almost stronger than Toby and my whole family. Look how big my muscles are.

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This is me on my chich’s shoulders – I was saying “everybody dance now”. In the front is my Popou Doni and he is very old and even older than Giagia in Melbourne, beacuse he’s her daddy. He always buys us treats at the kafenio in the village centre.

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This is me on the front of the motorbike – It is Darly’s bike – Darly is my Giagia’s first cousin.he took me back to Aunty Seve and Uncle Mihali’s house to play and see the cows. When we went to visit Darly and Olga his mum Aunty Konde always gave us sweets and chocolate.

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I walked up the hill to where there were bamboo plants and I used them as spears and stuff in my pirate game. All good pirates need good sticks. I played them with Angeliki and Kalika and Zoi but I was the one who went up with baba and mama to get the sticks.

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My uncle Kosta came to visit us and gave me a ride on his motorbike – it was epic.

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By Moocha

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From Bulgaria to Northern Greece – my stories and photos

Teta Ketsa
In Bulgaria we went to Teta ketsa’s house. Teta means aunty in Bulgarian. Teta Ketsa is my papou’s sister. Her sons Kotse and Goche made us some ice cream. It was home made. They took us to a restraunt. There wasn’t room inside so we had to sit outside but it was very hot. We ate meat and potatoes and salad. They gave me a present – I got a flower that is plastic and moves its leaves and is in a plastic bowl.

Kate is our cousin she is so good at doing nails but she is also studying to be a very good dentist. I lost my tooth when I was there and I got 3.20 Leva from the tooth fairy in Bulgaria.

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Rene and Mitko is my aunt and uncle and they were really lovely because they took us to lots of places and we played and played and had fun.

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Now we are in Greece in a small village and we are staying in our Greek house. It is really Giagia and Papou’s house but we just call it our house.

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It has 3 big bedrooms and a lounge and a kitchen and a sitting room.

We like staying here and we even found some old toys from when the bigger kids came here before when they were were really little.

We walk up the hill where there are no houses and we get some blackberries. We go with my Chich George and Aunty Sally. We are collecting them to make some jam or a cake. We put them in the buckets and in the fridge.

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Yesterday we went to Aunty Kouli’s house for lunch. She is my Giagia’s sister.

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Our uncle is Thio Vasili and her kids are Kosta and Evi. Kosta is married to Vicki and they have a little girl called Angeliki.

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We played at her house and she had lots of toys. When baba and mama went home with Yasi and Toby we really didn’t want to go with them so we stayed and played and played and played and they brought us home later. Angeliki is fun.

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Andoni is really cool – he is our uncle. Everyday we play with him and jump on him and get him down and play stacks on. He is really epic fun.
I love Andoni – he’s the beautifulest uncle in the world.

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Mihali is awesome cause he cuddles me lots of times. He is my great-uncle and Andoni’s baba. We try to wrestle him but he didn’t come so we stacks on with Andoni. He gives us milk at night and it is warm when it comes out of the cow. I have cornflakes with the milk or hot chocolate.

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I love Aunty Kouli cause I just do. She’s Angeliki’s grandma and Angeliki’s grandma is sister with my gorgeous Giagia.

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This next photo is at our aunty Mary’s place – we loved playing on the swinging chair. We had dinner there – we had kore which is like plain pasta with butter. When we weren’t eating we played stacks on Toby on the swing.

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Sally was letting Chich drink from a bottle that the little ‘mouskaris’ (baby calves) drink from. Sally is lifting Chich and cuddling him. In the background we are playing stacks on.

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By Zoi

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My third time in Greece…….

Florina is a small town in Northern Greece – almost at the border of Macedonia and Albania.

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(These photos go from small scale to big)

Florina is the town that my Baba’s family is from. My Baba was born here and he actually grew up in a small village near Florina called Kato Ydrousa.image

The village is fifteen minutes by car from Florina. In The village so far we have seen lots of people. We’ve seen Aunty Seve and Uncle Mihali – Seve is my Giagia’s sister. She’s a good cook.

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Filio and Andoni are their kids. Filio is engaged to Chris and lives in Thessaloniki – he’s really nice.

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We spent lots of time with Andoni in Melbourne because he came to Australia for my uncle George’s wedding. Filio is Toby’s godmother (nouna) from when we got christened in the village when we were one year old.

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My godfather (nouno) is Kosta and Vicky and why have a little girl called Angeliki who is five years old. Kosta is my Baba’s first cousin. Also we’ve seen his sister Evi.

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My uncle George and aunty Sally also came to Greece on their way to work in London. It what’s been so nice having them around beacuse we hadn’t seen them for a long time. Sally’s parents – Joy and Bob were also here for five days but they have gone back to Melborune now. It was lovely to spend lots of time with them.

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At my Baba’s parents home We have sat around and rested.

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It has been nice to sit around after travelling for so long. when dad was born he lived in a very old fashioned house made of stone and mud. They built another house (which is the one we are staying in) in 1980 because the other one was falling apart and they thought they would move back to Greece to live but then they decided to stay in Australia.
We went to a festival on Wednesday and Thursday night this week. The festival was called ‘Panigiri’ or the festival of ‘Panagia’. We got to eat lots of souvlaki and did some Greek dancing in a circle in the village square.

We went out about 10pm because they stay up really late here. We got home about 1am but our uncle Andoni got home at 6am. He’s a party animal. On Thursday we went to church which was actually a little church on the edge of the village. Our village has three churches and we went to the smallest because that one was having its festival day.

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For lunch that festival day we ate lots of meat and salads and kalamcru and rice and pasta and potatoes that our aunt Seve and uncle Mihali and Filio made and brought to our house cause there is much more room here and there were 18 people at lunch.

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It was really yummy.

By Yas

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Moochie’s first Bulgarian trip -(not including in Mummy’s tummy)

Teta Mirka is old and tall but not as old as my Papou (he’s her brother) cause he is older than she is. She never got stuck in a lift cause she lives on the first floor – the door is actually a normal door with a handle that opens normally – you don’t need to go in a lift. We watched some telly at her house.

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She is the best cook – she cooked delicious food like potatoes and beans and I like everything she made. She went up on a hill we very morning to exercise with my Baba.

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I swam in the big pool which is fun. There’s a water slide pool too – Toby always puts his feet up and I jump over his head instead of his arms.

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Toby is lots of fun because he just is. The pool was just so amazing.

Kate is our cousin but she’s so big – she’s 20 years old. Her mum and dad are Rene and Mitko and we played with them lots. They had a giant’s TV which was epic. They took us bowling. Zoi and I won.

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The bus trip from Bulgaria to Greece was fun cause we watched tennis and I got to see a gynormous trophy that one of the girls won. We didn’t watch it for very long – just the last episode because it was a night bus and we did have to sleep. When we woke up very early at 5 in the morning we were in Greece in a big city called Thessaloniki. We had to wait for a train to my baba’s village.

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By Moochie