Saturday, December 6, 2008

Home Again

I didn't get any of the TEFL jobs I applied for in Prague or Santiago, so I am back in the USA, missing the food and the weather and the ocean and my friends. I'll have to go back as soon as I can.
The Wednesday before I left, I went swimming with Vasili at the Winter Swimming Place (it says so on a rock). Further down the coast from where we had been is a peninsula with beaches on both sides. Depending on the way the wind blows, the swimmers choose their beach. The water on one side can be whipped up in whitecaps while the other is smooth as glass. There are sheltered stony nooks on both sides to warm up in the sun. It was perfectly lovely in the salty water, and hard to get out. The same group of people swims here every day if the waves are not too big, rain or shine. Some huge rocks on the shore were riddled with holes that might have been made when they were formed, maybe from air in the lava.
Here in New England, the sun is bleak and low, and the weather is cool and raw. Exactly what we expect in early December, and a little depressing. Crete is not so far south as I had thought, and the days get short there as well, but the temperature makes it easier to get out in the sun and the water. Swimming every day sounds like such a delicious thing to do. Ahh, dreams!

Dancing at Lyriaca or Cafe Crete

Friday, November 28, 2008


I went for a three hour walk to the point where Vasili took us a few days ago. It is windswept and rocky, and there are low plants but not much for trees on most of it. The waves from yesterday's stormy day crashed and splashed on the rocks. The whitecaps were spectacular in the blue sea. It was reminiscent of Pemaquid or Thunder Hole or Ocean Point. I could have been homesick; instead I was right at home. The rocks, plants, soil are all different but the action is the same. I wandered around from rock to rock; the structures are pointed and knobby, as though the volcanic eruption that formed this land brought together different minerals that erode at different rates. Some of them formed cylindrical holes near the water.
I rubbed each plant I encountered. Thyme, of course. No other aromatics in the low growing areas. A tree with long slender leaves smelled camphorish, maybe eucalyptus.
The walk goes past four or five beaches, each with its own character. Where the stony parts met the waves, the sound was like a jet, or firecrackers. I had my shoes off, pants rolled above the knee, wading in the waves, and getting a little wet.
I went swimming on Wednesday at a little cove on the leeward side of a peninsula. There is a beach on the other side, too, full of waves; the winter swimmers choose the beach of the day according to which way the wind blows, and warm up on the rocks in the sun afterward.


Renee wanted a fireplace. She found one at Ela, a taberna near us, past which we had walked countless times, until she caught a glance of the fire. Live music starts at 10 pm, so we hung out somewhere else first and then went over. It was great! Four musicians, a bouzouki, guitar, accordion, and violin. Voices both together and separately. At the end, the youngest of the group got up with his microphone, the rest of them started playing the theme from Mission Impossible, and we were treated to an acappella rendition of the movie, with explosions, car tires, gun shot, motorcycles and chainsaws and all kinds of noise, all the things we saw at the A Cappella workshops in Boston. We didn't get home until after 1, and we were so happy we'd stayed for it.
We went again the next night. When we got there at 9:15, we were the only ones, so we got the best seats. The building was a soap factory in the 15thC., run by Spaniards who brought their Jews to the Evraiki, or Jewish quarter, to make soap, so the floors are stepped and the windows are set low to allow the soap to dry, and the beams are closer together than usual to support the stamping of the soap. The building had bee other things over the years, and was consumed by fire in the 1980's. The restaurant is the result.


Vasili made dinner for us last Thursday, slow-cooked lamb and vegetables, salad, feta and fresh tomatoes, a couple of kinds of bread. Red wine from a friend in a village, with overtones of cherries, very light, and better than any you could buy.No headache afterward. He makes a syrup by reducing wine to 1/3 volume and has it on bread with olive oil and it's good for sore throats; this is petimezi. Some people mix it with cold water to make a drink, or dip bread with feta, or sweeten rolls. Dessert was like Boston cream pie, with bananas. Cold, creamy, chocolate, and banana... He has his own olive trees, too, and keeps the oil in a big barrel in his kitchen, with a spigot on the side.
He has dried herbs in big bunches in his cupboards, some of which he picks in the mountains and others from friends. He rubbed bits of each one between his hands for us to smell and perhaps identify. Sage is faskolio; marjoram, oregano, chamomile and basil have familiar names, and he had bay laurel, and dittany and malotira.
He makes a "spoon sweet" from Pergamondo, a warty green citrus fruit. A little in yogurt is wonderful. Well - the fruit has a familiar scent - it's bergamot! Other fruits are used this way; it's like a preserve where the fruit keeps its integrity. I have to try it...



A quiet day, a little rainy between the partly cloudy sun. Not many people out; it has that late summer sad feel we get in late August or Early September in New England. Cooler, and breezy. The wind from the north decorated the blue, blue sea with whitecaps.
The walls around the old city in Chania have trenches next to them. I puzzled over them, thinking perhaps they were the source of material to build the walls. But why so regular, and 100 feet wide? Apparently there was once sea water in the trenches - a moat to protect the Venetian city!


We took another Greek lesson , with the new batch of students, but it was the same as our first and we didn't come back for more.
We took the bus to Rethymno, about an hour East of Chania, to take a look around. On a hill by the water is the Fortezza, an ancient fortress. We climbed the hill and saw crenellated walls with shooting holes, arched doorways through twenty-foot-thick walls, towers and turrets, a domed structure that could have been a mosque or an observatory,a little church beside it, an amphitheater, stepped ramps up the hill, views far out to sea and over the city, a sunken room beside the outer wall, with eight foot stone circles in the floor and arched stone rafters, though no roof. The museum was undergoing "urgent" repairs, and the rest of the buildings were unused, so our questions went unanswered. It was a magnificent sight.
We ate at Avli, which Renee found online. We entered a courtyard of several levels, wenth through a small dining room ( Raki Baraki), past a gourmet grocery, to a stone chamber with what looked like Venetian mosaic tile baths set into the floor and covered with thick glass to walk on. the ceiling was arched stone, and there were niches in the walls to suggest that the building had once been a bathhouse. We talked briefly with the architect; the light fixtures were abstract art and there was evidence of an artists eye everywhere. He must have enjoyed putting it all together. The conglomeration of uses took up the whole block, and above them were luxury rooms and suites to rent. The meal was artfully presented, and enough but not too much food. We shared roasted vegetables with feta and balsamic vinegar; Cretan Delicacies including Dakos, which is like bruschetta, with barley rusks topped with softened tomatoes and mizithra cheese; a wonderful greens salad, and a beef fillet over tiny potatoes, under a delicious sace, that just melted in the mouth. Most of our food adventures here have been to order several dishes and share them around.
On the way back, a bank of clouds offshore rumbled and flashed as the Gods threw thunderbolts at each other. Casseiopeia sat serenely overhead in a clear sky.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Theriso and Beach

Yesterday afternoon we took a trip to Theriso with Vasilis, to have the best lamb dinner ever! Theriso is at the other end of Theriso Gorge, a place I had wanted to visit but the buses don’t run on weekends. The gorge rises vertically above the narrow road on both sides. The road crisscrosses the ravine, and it is usual to drive wherever one pleases on the road. The cliffs are pockmarked with holes and caves. The rock looks vaguely like coral, with lots of rounded bits sticking up between grey foliage. Theriso is where the resistance against the Turks began, at the beginning of the (last) Century. On the very top of one of the cliffs flies a Greek flag; Greece only got its independence in 1913.
In Theriso, there are ten or fifteen places to get this good lamb, which is spit-roasted or oven baked or grilled lamb chops. This is a place where the Greeks go to eat, and the road into, out of, and all through the town is lined with parked cars. The tavernas are packed, and “everyone” goes there. The owner wears the traditional baggy pants, knee boots, loose shirt, and netting tied around his head, all in black.
We ate lamb cooked in its own juices, Greek salad with mizithra cheese, mizithra in hot olive oil, baby lamb chops, bread, a light red wine; our meal started with raki and white radish to “open the digestion”; Vasilis called the vegetable “rappa naije”. We finished with a pastry filled with mizithra and drizzled with honey. Renee and I were very happy, and I think Vasilis was, too, to be able to share it with us.

This morning, we walked with Vasilis for almost two hours, around over the beaches and rocks to a rocky point to the west of Chania. I was very happy scrambling over the rocks and along the water’s edge, very much in my element. Vasilis found wild thyme growing at the point and gave us each a pinch, instructing us to rub our hands together and smell it. It seems a little different from my thyme at home: thicker leaves, and a little more resinous. The soil is reddish, though the beaches are sand colored. The vegetation is sparse, and the ground is spotted with 1”snails. Some of the beach was stones instead of sand. It was a very healing trip for me, because I have been in Chania for a month and it is very manmade even if it is four hundred years old or more. The streets of the Old Town are paved from door to door. There is not much of the underneath showing. Trees grow in amphora or sidewalk squares. Some houses do have gardens, but the soil seems lifeless under the orange and pomegranate trees.
The sky was gray and promised rain. When we were about half way there, we heard thunder, looked at each other, decided we didn’t mind getting wet, and continued. It continued to rumble occasionally, and to drip softly on us as we were on the way back, but the real rain held off until we were back in our rooms. The idea of boots is appealing because the streets are paved so that it can be hard to find a part of the street that is not under water.

Hotel Sun

Hotel Sun
I have a room in the Hotel Sun for two weeks, at 10 Euro per night. The room is as wide as the length of the double bed; it is about three times as long. I have a little frig, night table, small wardrobe, two chairs, and a sink. The bathroom has a shower base with no enclosure, and a handheld spray shower, plus a toilet flushed by pushing a button on the tank overhead. The room is as wide as the shower base, so one maneuvers around the toilet to get to the shower, and leaves the towel outside the door to keep it dry. The water is solar heated, so early morning showers can be a problem, and there can be a limited amount when the skies are gray.
My shuttered window looks across to a well-maintained ruined building. It once was Venetian, with an inscription in Latin up on the wall, and now encloses a garden of sorts within its roofless pink walls. I believe the Etz Hayyim synagogue is on the far side, “sensitively” restored by Christians and others since it was wrecked during WWII. The alley below has paving stones that are slightly raised and set on the diagonal to a double line of longer stones down the center. The rain runs between the stones to the center, where it collects to make a stream down hill. Some of the streets are steeper and so have steps and terraces, and the water rushes down their centers, too. I could imagine a donkey making its way up these stepped hills; a scooter would not do well there.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Correction

I was wrong: Souda Bay was prominent in the Second World War; the song is The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, by Eric Bogle, and the bay is Souvla, the site of the Crimean War in 1915.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Beggars are everywhere, huddled on the sidewalk with a thin plastic cup or walking around with babe in arms. I gave one of them a few apples. A man tapped me on the shoulder and gave me a good fright, with his gaping mouth and sunken eyes. The man across the street must have a cleft palate, because his voice is nasal and has no real consonants, but he hangs out with the other guys next door and carries out his day just as they do. People are people everywhere.
For breakfast this morning, I had a twisted wheel of phyllo wrapped around spinach and cheese, and a box of orange juice. After I'd paid for it I noticed the machine that squeezes fresh oranges. Oh, well.
We took a trip to Iraklio/Heraklion to go to the ancient site of Knossos, but planned it poorly and had no time to see it when we got there. We had ten minutes to see some of the exhibits in the Archeological Museum, which is undergoing renovation; they set up an annex behind it and put out 400 or so items for us to see. I don't know what I was expecting, but: wow! What we saw was a bunch of Greek antiquities, just as I've seen in books and museums. I liked the fertility figures, and the snake goddess; the pottery was OK, but bland, in a way. Perhaps with more time it would have made a better impression.
The bus turns on its heel, almost, as it swings out of the station, narrowly missing the building across the street, and honking at cars in the way, whether they're parked at the bus stop or going the wrong way. The street is the width of the bus plus one car, and that's it. Music plays on the bus, a cross between Middle Eastern dance music and Ooh, Baby, Baby pop.
It's been very dry; the olive harvest usually takes place in November, but the owners are waiting for some rain to plump up the fruits to get more oil; they are shrivelled up now, looking like oil-cured olives. Along the road were tables with rows of red bags holding freshly picked oranges, the way people sell blueberries or shrimp in Maine.
The bus stops in Souda, which has a large military presence. Greek,US, I think, and probably others. The song Waltzing Matilda mentions it. Souda has a long, deep bay protected on both sides by mountains.
The bus also stops in Rethymnon, which has a largely intact ancient fort on the edge of the water, the Fortezza, they call it. I could see it from the bus station. On the way home in the dark, one of the Greek Orthodox churches had blue neon crosses on each domed tower.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008



“The winds blew down from Africa…” Joni Mitchell

We took a bus trip to Paleohora on Sunday; the name means “Old Place”. It was an hour and half ride over the White Mountains to a beach town on the southern coast of Crete. The narrow road was all switchbacks, and dropped off steeply to one side. The hillsides are about as steep as one can get and still be called “hills”. There were constructing bridges across some of the ravines to take out some of the hairpin turns, and to make the road a little wider. It became a one-lane dirt track around the same tight corners; our driver used all parts of the road to get us there. Some roadsigns just had an exclamation mark in a triangle; I felt that same way.
Olive trees are everywhere, with netting underneath to catch the fruits as the trees are beaten with sticks, or they fall naturally. November is olive harvest month, and many workers go from serving tourists directly to picking olives.
The bus stopped along the precipice several times to take on and discharge passengers. There are little chapels beside the road, no bigger than a doghouse or a mailbox, and shaped like little churches. Some of the rockier hills are covered in gray plants. Other fields held very short grapevines.
We swam in the waves in the Libyan sea, in warm breezes coming across from Africa; it must have been close to 80 degrees. We ate in a taverna, on what was their last day of the season and made a sumptuous meal of little things. We walked past an old castle on the hill, and gazed at the mountains plunging into the sea; we could really see why the pirate Barbarossa loved the place.

Saturday Night

Saturday Night

Saturday night in the Town of Chania can be a noisy place. the men next door watch a football game, and shout and cheer through the open door. Opaaa! HAHAAAA! EHHHH! (stream of Greek commentary) Opaaa!
Motorbikes race up and down the narrow streets, and their mufflers don’t do much muffling. A woman in high heels (everyone wears high heels, even the police women) clops unsteadily up to an attractive man and throws something at him, which shatters on the ground. A glass, maybe. She shouts, pushes him, grabs him. H speaks quietly, walks out with her; their conversation is heard all over the alley. The next day, he is seen with someone else.
Chairs squeal on the stone paving in the restaurant below. Voices of happy conversation, or of people strolling by. The whole town is on the street tonight, strolling along th water or sharing drinks in one of the many harborside restaurants.Dinner starts at 8 or 9 and continues late into the night. The baker across the street started around 4 to bake four cakes for a funeral, with the man’s name on top in silver dragees nestled in piped white icing. His mixer is pretty loud, 20 feet away across the street.
Renovations area taking place in the apartment above his shop, with sounds of a chainsaw or sawzall, cutting something hard. The restaurants have generators, and refrigerators, and exhaust fans. Churchbells play from a different church at sunset, a nicer tune since we are not being awakened by it. Mostly, though, the motorbikes and voices; all day, all night. It is a little quieter on Sundays.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Our House

Our house is about eight by twenty five feet, a little wider at the back. The ceilings are about twelve feet high. The backgammon players drink coffee at a cafenio in the next building, essentially in the next room. Across the street is a baker who makes large decorated cakes for special occasions, of which there are many in Greek life. Your birthday is not as important as your saint's name day, and you celebrate with everyone else with the same name. Next to the cafenio is a potter; down the other way, there is a weaver, across from Steki, our favorite place to eat and hang out. There are a couple of T-shirt shops, a shop with olive-wood bowls and utensils, yet another cafenio (cafe'), and several other houses, all in about one hundred feet of our little street, which is also about eight feet wide. There is a scooter across the way that has been there for years, apparently, in a pretty arched niche in the wall.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sunday Walking Around

I wandered around the backstreets today with a camera. I will eventually get tired of ruins juxtaposed with newer buildings, but I’m not there yet. I saw archaeological excavations of Minoan structures, marked for the levels in the ground. The city was called Kidonia before the Venetians came and renamed it La Canea. I saw old monasteries. I saw a lot of partial buildings joined to other buildings. It is a little hard to conceive of so much history all in one place, coming from an area where the visible history is less than three hundred years. There are many pieces of wall with windows enclosing nothing but air and vines. (There are lovely Morning Glories blooming cascading blue down the walls.) A sign on a ruined monastery advertised rooms to rent, with bath and kitchen. The rooms were actually located in a building that was behind the roofless stone walls and gaping arched windows, which I saw only after I did the double take.

I saw minarets and old churches; Byzantine arched buildings under restoration; scrollwork wrought iron doors and balconies; blooming bougainvillea and hibiscus; what looks like poppy buds except the leaves are wrong; geraniums; ripening oranges, plums, lemons, pomegranates, roses, olives, morning glories, several varieties of palm, grapes and another vine. There is not a lot of green space in the old city, but there are a couple of small parks farther back from the harbor.

Saturday,October 25

We had a wonderful fish soup at Steki tonight. It was a special request of a regular customer who is going back to Denmark soon, and we got to share it. The broth is a sort of AvgoLemono and comes with a tray of fish and vegetables, which you then add to the broth as you please. I found the recipe in a Cretan cookbook; when we went back to buy it later, the shop was closed. I will try again; this food is really good. We were offered ice-cream for dessert, also not something they usually have. Johnny warned us that it was not fresh but frozen, and that it was served cold… We split a dish among three of us.

Camilla and Hazel were at Steki on their way to a disco party. Camilla had told us about her costume earlier, and we got to see it first hand. She is Danish and works in a jewelry shop, but is going to Denmark on Thursday. She was wearing white knee-high boots with platform soles and very high heels, over white knee socks that formed a cuff at the top. Her dress was a referee-striped halter with a fitted long bodice and a skirt about 8” long from the hip; she also wore a lacy petticoat, which extended the hem length another four inches. The dress had in its breast pocket a red card for handing out to reject a prospective suitor. Johnny made sure she also had a yellow one in case she wanted to say maybe. I don’t think she had any in green.

What We Did in Crete

Last night, three of us sat on the doorstep with our laptops, and provoked a chuckle from the neighbors. They felt better when we told them we were working and sending messages to our children; they are not keen on computer games, I think. It would have been a great photo: “What I did in Crete”. Sometimes we can get a wireless signal in the house, sometimes not. This time, we found it on the doorstep.

Smoking seems like a national pastime. Our teachers all smoke. Sometimes we have to get up and shut the classroom door, form, though they don’t smoke in the classroom, the office is right next door, or the balcony, and they don’t think about how the smoke travels. All of us students are bothered by it, but what can you do? There is often smoking at the next table when we eat. It really is everywhere. Our sheets and towels smell of cigarette smoke. We are glad to have the chance at a lot of fresh air between sessions. It will get harder as we shut the doors and windows, of course.

Day to Day

We finished the first week of classes a little incredulous; it’s hard work, and hard to believe that so much time has passed. We arrive at the school each day at 9, having been awakened by churchbells behind our house around 8 (if we slept through the set at around 7; time here is approximate) The pattern is the same, the number of repetitions varies. Some of us might write a rap song as a teaching tool, based on the churchbells.

We have a series of classes, different each day, on teaching methods, classroom management, lessons in an unknown language so we experience some of what our students go through, grammar and sentence structure, games and exercises, lesson planning, and actual teaching. We break briefly between each class, and for lunch/siesta around 2, to return at 5 to observe, to teach, or to take more classes. We finish around 8:30 for dinner, though the schedule is very fluid and changeable. Sometimes we have only an hour for lunch, so we can work on lesson planning for that evening’s students.

We have lots of homework, some of it solidifying what we already know, and drawing from our own learning or teaching experience, and others are for practicing new skills. We usually have a couple of days to do each paper, which can be up to three pages of essay.

Our house has stucco walls, tile floors, exposed beams, and a spiral staircase. It is over 400 years old. The houses are limestone, all one right against the next without any space, along the stone-paved street. The front door is a vaguely Mondrian metal grid, with a swing-away reinforced bubble glass insert, something akin to a storm door in NH. We turn on the water heater twenty minutes before taking a shower; the third floor bathroom has solar water heating, like many other houses here. Toilet paper goes in a bin, not down the toilet; the sewer systems here and in other parts of the world can’t accept paper, and the consequences have been described to us; we’re doing well remembering. All of the windows have shutters but no screens; if you want ventilation with privacy, you close the shutters and leave the window open.

The streets in this old section are narrow, wide enough for a scooter or a donkey, I suppose. A car could come through, though very slowly; there is a lot of life in the streets. Our street is called Eleftheriou Dorothea. The sidewalks on the larger streets are tiled. The streets are cobblestone of various types.

There are fewer people out and about since I came a week and a half ago. October wraps up the tourist season, and it has started to get colder these last few days. We might decide to wear socks, or to put on a sweatshirt. Today, the wind is blowing out of the north and piling the waves onto the stone-edged harbor. The restaurants around the water have all put up transparent walls to keep out the wind and spray. Some shops are packing up for the year. If we see something we like, we’d better get to it soon.

Two of our group have gone to Santorini, which is apparently a must-see, except that the ferry ride made a few passengers very uncomfortable, and the ferry coming back was cancelled because of rough weather. They’ll make a roundabout ferry trip through Athens and back to Crete, or fly instead. Santorini is an island north of Crete, perched on top of a volcano, and is very picturesque. The ride up the very steep hill from the port to the town was traditionally done via donkey; there are taxis and cars to do it now, but is just as precarious.

We often eat at Steki, or To Steki, which means “the Place”. It is a family restaurant right next door, closer than most college dining halls, and Johnny is the manager. He is originally from Albania, and we love him, as, I think, do most people who meet him. He takes our orders, serves us, brings a glass of wine, joins us between serving other people. The wine carafe is bottomless. It takes hours to eat dinner. Johnny turned 30 in September, and is training his nephews in the business. A couple of times, we’ve been to seafood restaurants beside the harbor. We walked past one where the boats come in and were offered a grilled seafood plate for four, for what we thought was 14 Euro. It turned out to be 40, but was still good deal. Not everyone heard the fish part, though, and thought there was meat in a “mixed” grill, so we had a lot left over. We had calamari rings, tiny whole octopus, six-inch tentacles, bream, snapper, shrimp, sardines, bourbonia. I wish we’d thought of asking to bring it home. The little fish were cooked whole, the way we do smelts. I was very happy.

Friday, October 24, 2008

More History

Here's a more comprehensive history of Chania:

The Minoans were here during the New Stone Age, around 2800-1150BC
During the Classical period, the city was called Kydonia, until the 7th Century.
826-961-Arab occupation
961AD - taken over by the Venetian Emperor Nikiforos Fokas
1204-1645 - Venetians
1645-1669 - Venetians build old town (castelli) in the port of Chania
1645 - 1669 - Turkish occupation
1821 - Greek Revolution against Turks (unsuccessful)
1866-1869 - bloody uprisings, Europe starts to take notice
1878 - Crete became semi-autonomous
1897 - protection of European forces
1908 - Appointed High Commissioner Prince George, headquartered in Chania
1905 - Revolution of Therisso, led by Eleftheriou Venizelos
1913 - Greek flag raised on fortress of Firka
May 20-29, 1941 - Battle of Crete, one of the most famous and memorable battles of WWII

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cooling Off

The weather is cooler now, and we've taken out out long pants at last. The tourist season ends here in a couple of weeks, when the rainy season starts and it won't be as nice to be outside all the time. The restaurants all have tables outside. The men next door play backgammon in the street. It feels almost surreal, like a movie set. You walk in and out of places and the air feels the same. It's like the buildings are furniture within a greater space.

There is so much history here! The Venetians built here in the 13th Century, on top of Minoan walls, and possibly older cultures. The Minoans were here BC; Chania is one of the oldest continually occupied cities in the world. Noone knows exactly what happened to the Minoans, who just disappeared, but they might have been wiped out by a tidal wave from a volcanic eruption. The rocks around the shore look volcanic, with holes and irregular texture. The mountains rise quickly and steeply from the sea, and may be rather young, as mountains go. The Venetians built a walled city to protect against pirates, including the famous Barbarossa. They built a second wall a century or so later, enclosing a larger city, probably also to ward off pirates. The pieces of the wall hold corner bastions, with what look like gun turrets along the outer edge, really just holes in the wall, surrounded by strong stone to hold the guns.

The ocean below the outer wall is shallow and full of fossils, which may be sharp on the feet. The White Mountains rise up behind the city. The island is only 38 miles wide, although 168 miles long, so the mountains have to rise up and fall again in a hurry.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Life is a Beach

We expected the weather to be cooler in October, averaging 70 degrees,as it said on the Internet, but it's been warmer most days. We decided to go to the beach yesterday, which is a fifteen minute walk around the harbor, past the fortress; past a defunct beach club with an empty pool and waving curtains; past a fishing pier; past a little park with a dirt floor and a playground under palm trees. Chania is a great mix of past and present. We paid a couple of Euros to use beach chairs and umbrella, and went into the clear, green water. Delicious! It will be worth going again. We stopped for lunch at one of the seafood places across from the beach, but, although I have happily eaten little fried fish with the heads still on, the others did not feel the same, and we may look for lamb or beef for our next meal. The salads are wonderful, and it is easy to eat well on very little.
Last night, we decided to walk around the other way and find another seafood restaurant. We were drawn in by what sounded to me like a good deal - fourteen, we thought he said, but it was forty, still a good deal for four - for a large plate of grilled seafood, and bread, and salad, and sweets. Shrimp, snapper, barbossa, sardines, something like swordfish, little whole octopus, sliced calamari, and six-inch octopus legs. I was again very happy, but the others though they'd heard mixed "grill", and hadn't caught the fish part, so there was a lot left over. We almost brought it home. There are cats and dogs everywhere in the streets, and we had three courting us as we ate. I hope they got some of what we didn't eat.

Hazel's Birthday

Friday was Hazel's birthday. Hazel is Scottish and took the TESOL course here in March. She never left, she liked it so much! She's leaving on Tuesday, and her many friends wanted to celebrate. She has a big heart, a big body, a big smile. She loves to dance, and her body swirls around her like chiffon fabric. She loves to drink, and can easily put away a bottle of Martini in an evening. When the ice clumped together so she couldn't get it into the glass, she poured her Martini into the little ice bucket and drank it with a straw.
Steki is the restaurant a couple of doors down on our little alley, and they do serve good food, and cheap. The doors are wide and usually open, to remove the boundaries between inside and out. We began with a table for six outside, and, as more people arrived, set up another and one more, until there were eighteen people, of fourteen nationalities: Scottish, Norwegian, British, Egyptian, Romanian, American, Australian, Greek, Syrian, Dutch, Polish, Danish, Georgian, and, I think, French. All speaking English in an outdoor cafe in Crete!
Hazel wanted to go to ElMondo to dance (and drink!), which is an expat bar nearby. Everything is nearby, easy walking, a block or two. It was full of obnoxious German soldiers who had been on the boat for two months. The music was too loud for my ears, I was tired of having alcohol spilled on me, and I left after a polite length of time. Bars are not my scene, though it was fun watching the people.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Last night, I walked out on the breakwater that goes across the harbor. It was built by the Venetians, out of cemented blocks of stone in a three-level amphitheater shape. There is a lighthouse at the end, but the top of the wall got too rocky to walk on, and too high to jump to a lower level, so I didn't get all the way out. I met Jusuf from Lebanon; he had come to Chania to work, but his English was very limited, and I can't say we did much real communicating.
the harbor is lined with open air restaurants and lit up at night. People promenade the edges of the water all night long. Today I want to to see a beach or two, around the other side of the harbor.

The view from my bedroom window.
Hi, all - I had an uneventful trip, except for catching a cold. Internet service is erratic in the house but should be better in the school, so I'll send what I can, and will keep trying to get the blog going. At the moment, I get a message in Greek saying it can't find it, and I should check the address.

We're in a little house, one room wide, two rooms deep, three floors high. The streets are narrow, and you take your life into your hands to cross; traffic signals go mostly unheeded, and the motorbikes go everywhere one might walk. Chania has the feel of a typical seaside town, with lots happening in a crowded area near the water, better and cheaper food a block or so back from it, and tiny shops, which sell absolutely everything. The tourist season is almost over, but the day is warm and sunny and there are still lots of people here, lots of languages. Most people speak at least some English.

The students are coming one or two at a time, and all seven will be here by the end of tomorrow, I believe. There are three Australians, three Californians, and me. We ate outside last night, across from an old ruined stone wall, and had a "crazy" salad with beets and blue cheese and nuts, mixed with greens, and a large round sandwich with falafel and other veggies, which we sliced in wedges. Most of the food is sized to share, and we'll probably try a lot of things, though we also stocked up with fruit and tea and eggs for other times.

Outside our door, a group of men hang out to play backgammon, which they call something like tavli. They play in the morning and in the evening, and talk and drink ouzo. There is a siesta in the middle of the day, when everything quiets down.

We'll have four hours of class in the morning, break around one for lunch and siesta, and return around five for another few hours, which is when we'll be teaching. The classes start on Monday. We'll be pretty busy during the week, and will have weekends off, when various trips will be organized if we're interested in seeing other places.

I still have not seen the beaches, or the harbor by daylight, but they are all easy to walk to, and there is a fort across from a castle at the mouth of the harbor, which I want to see. My head is a little dizzy from congestion or jet lag, but should settle soon, and I'll tell you more!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Starting Out

"Well, my bags are packed, and I'm ready to go. I'm standing here outside your door. Already I'm so lonesome, I could cry..."
I'm not lonesome, though; I've got awesomely generous friends and three particularly wonderful children (I am so proud of you, each one!), and resolved some of the marriage tension. My car is taken care of. I emptied the summer garden of anything we might eat. I have almost everything I need for this trip. Rose will drive me to the airport tomorrow morning and I will arrive in Chania on Wednesday night. I have nuts and fruits and a book to read to fill in the hours of waiting in airports. The TESOL class starts on October 20, so I'll have a few days to explore the town and shore, and to adjust to a seven hour time difference.