Thursday, May 31, 2012

the expat mum blues

Ever have a friend you like as a person but totally disagree with them as a parent? or the other way around? 
As an expat mum of young kids, a lot of the acquaintances I make are through the kids' kindergarten on the school playground. So it happens that I might quite like a person until -  Bam! I see her interact with her child and then realize that we have totally different values on quite important things. This becomes totally blatant if the said mother's child hits/snatches/kicks one of mine/somebody else's kid and the mother does not intervene at all or ineffectively. Believe it or not, it actually puts quite a strain on the (potential) relationship.
On the other hand, you can also spend time with mums who share similar values in terms of child rearing (and whose kids have a happy friendship with mine) but with whom you might not share a great deal with otherwise. 
I guess this goes with the play-date territory and it is certainly exacerbated by the fact that E & W attend an International School where all kinds of nationalities and cultures showcase many different values and ways.  In a non-expat situation I imagine this is balanced out by the fact that you still manage to see your school-day/work-day friends more.

Right now, my favorite people to talk to are my hairdresser, my pediatrician, (who are both Mums) my yoga teacher (a Mum and grandmum) and my pilates teacher (trying to have kids).... Perhaps because parental values are not tested through hard reality with these people and because we mostly talk about other things. I've also realized these are working people who are not spending their days just shopping, cooking, child minding, gossiping, making themselves beautiful etc.  Oh! how I sometimes wish I could have a another job than being a full time expat mum. 

Here is quite a good talk with my beloved child psychotherapist, Rachel Melville-Thomas,  on how to help children choose good friends.

Emma on her way to a birthday party
 William food shopping with Mum - he loves fruit!

Steph's favorite dessert

By Steph ;-)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Week-end on Andros

We had our first week-end getaway on an island. We went to Andros, only a 2 hour ferry ride away from Athens departing from Rafina harbour.
On Saturday the weather felt more like that of Brittany - plus the very early days in the season and the fact that tourism here and elsewhere in Greece has dropped by about 40% compared to last year (and that was not a good year) meant it was deserted. Still,  we kept our spirits high and played and walked in the rain.

Luckily for us, on Sunday the sun was back and the island literally was transformed by the light and colours.

More pics of our week-end on Andros here.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Cannes and melon, petits pois à la grèque and roasted peppers

Cannnes! Ah Cannes... it is that time of year again. 

When I was a student in London, exams finished before those of friends in Geneva and so I would often fly to Belgrade to visit my Baba (grandma).  Together, in the evenings we would watch the TV reports from the Cannes Film Festival and eat melon. Great memories.

I would also get to fill up on yummy dishes after a year of student food and my own concoctions.  It felt so good.

One of the dishes she prepared (although not specifically a summer dish I think) was peas with dill. I love dill and quite like peas  - and recently tasted the dish here in Greece. It turns out here it is Greek style peas and so now I have their recipe too which is pretty much the same but I never knew it was Greek. ;-)

Another thing I remember watching her prepare (amazed that she would manage not to burn her fingers) are roasted peppers. Once the peppers were near black she would wrap them in old newspaper to get the skin to loosen more easily. The smell has stayed with me ever since.

I love roasted peppers in olive oil and garlic and it looks like it runs in the family as William could eat them forever.

My Dad often told me how surprised he was that I enjoyed cooking so much. Well, I think here's why: apart from it being one of the only creative things I manage in my Mummy schedule these days, food is a really important thing in my life because I like good food.  It's a part of what I want to give to (and teach) my kids.  Good food should be part of every kids family memories. But I love cooking because it is part of my family heritage. Great food is really important, no?

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

And she goes...

As an update to this post here is a short film of Emma cycling alone on her bike without trainer wheels for the first times.

These were filmed Monday evening after dinner.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

in Greece now...

Yesterday I talked with a former basket ball player who said he "stopped playing because things got unprofessional". He told me how the team went from traveling in business class and staying in nice hotels to 9 hour bus rides, no overnight stay, cold showers and no salary for months on end. "What is this?!" he kept saying. Another sportsman told me he only received part of his 2011 salary in March 2012. Players are being signed up a month at a time.

These are people who were well off here in Greece, and by far and large they still are. I mean they are still managing to pay for private schooling for their children here in Athens and have set up businesses of their own targeting the wealthier population. However even they are considering moving to the UK (where they once lived) or to Cyprus (where the weather is also nice and Greek remains the main language along side Russian). Many cannot say the same and have nowhere they can go to.

The taxes are so high that it's becoming impossible for people to keep paying them while feeding themselves.  Even for us expats, the taxes on electricity and heating are sky high and way higher than the so called "housing allowance" we receive. For the first time in 6 years since we became expats, we cannot pay our bills out of our local salary. And we are not alone among expats. 
Yet the supermarkets in our posh area are still (thankfully) full and many shops are still open although dozens have closed even in the past six months. The light-bulbs in the traffic lights are replaced only half the time (so for example only the red light works and when it goes off then it means it's green) and the potholes in the road are taking longer and longer to get repaired.

Thankfully we are healthy and none of needs to go to hospital where medication is lacking and patients' families bring meals for the sick from home.  Unfortunately the stress from all this seems to be sending more and more people to hospital; the anger and anxiety coming out in physical ailments such as palpitations, heart attacks, liver inflammation...

As the past elections showed, the population here is rejecting Europe, the Euro and the austerity measures on an emotional level. The question is can they move past that quickly enough for the next elections and rationally elect people who will not sell them flaky hope and nationalistic anger as the one an only "plan for the future". 

I am truly at a loss as to what will happen here. I cannot imagine Greece going back to the Drachma. But it seems the angriest and poorest believe it to be a way forward. "If I already have nothing I don't give a shit if you elect this one or that one" said one person I talked to. "There is already no hope for me".

Monday, May 14, 2012

Potty, dolphins, biking and the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

In all honesty it has not been the best week-end: mainly the kids were just crazy impossible (pink marker on the couch and poo smeared in the toilet bowl for the billionth time made me crazy) and whiny despite a really nice visit to the zoo and the dolphin show followed by an afternoon at the beach. 

The dolphins at the Attiko Parko show

 flamingos at the Attiko Parko Zoo

I think we really need to get some time away from them -  we are so tired of repeating the same things over and over again that it's just driving us nuts (and how crazy am I to be going to Geneva with them for 2 weeks on my own with no camp or day-care huh???!!!)

They say it takes a village to raise a child and being expat parents makes that difficult.  Sure we have kindergarden and all the International friends we make along the way and a bi-monthly baby-sitter but I could just really use a week-end without kids from time to time... (sigh) We could just sleep in, talk around coffee for an hour in the morning and read a magazine or just spend hours wandering on Internet...(sigh again) and just be in SILENCE.  Just some time-off. And the kids would love to spend a week-end with their grand-parents too I am sure!

Still, Steph and I had a lovely night out on Saturday (thanks to that baby-sitter I mentioned) ; we discovered a place that actually makes real Italian Pizza (with a thin crust - not the hut or domino's stuff) and enjoyed normal conversation without 30 billion interruptions, spills and wipes and then watched a truly delightful movie: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which was really uplifting and colourful. It practically made me want to be a healthy pensioner ;-)

Back to the kids with more positive news: on Friday, Emma did a fantastic job and biked on her own and without the training wheels. Yay! We've been going out for 20 or so minutes every day after (and sometimes before) dinner first with the training wheels and then without. At first she was just screaming in panic but once she felt comfortable that she could touch the ground and catch herself (and that I was running next to her holding the handle bar) she started to calm down enough to make progress. She still needs to practice of course but at least she now knows she can do it! Poor Will on the other hand has been left very much on his own on his balance bike and ended up getting rather upset so we'll have to make it up to him.

 Emma and I went for a Saturday morning 
orange juice and saw snails for sale!
Will is still pouting and steering away from me if I am not the one to get him out of bed (i.e. if Steph is). I then have to go out of my way to cajole my way back into his heart with songs and tickles and all kinds of tricks. He does this both mornings and after nap time if Steph gets him out of bed and not me. Of course if I do get him then he is absolutely fine with Steph. Isn't that weird?!! What a character!!

He has also been peeing in the potty! Only once a day so far.

It all started last week after he woke with a dry nappy for a few mornings in a row and I suggested we try the potty. It is summer after all and he seems to like the idea as he is always wanting to sit on it prior to bath time. 
So off we went and now we go there every morning.  So far he has only peed in it in the morning but I guess gradually he will use it before bath and when we come home.

I'll keep you posted. 

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

April update and second grand-parental visit

Wow! It's the 8th of May already and in about 5 weeks school is over and the kids and I head off to Geneva for a little while. Time is totally flying for us at the moment, especially as this will be the first year where we actually have no "school"  over the summer. Oh! that is another thing I miss about Vienna; the 365/year day-care!!! 

Anyway, the pollen that has been making us wheeze and itch has almost settled and the kids are healthy,  the weather is starting to warm up here (30°!!) so the fly swatters are out and we have been to beaches, picnics and BBQs and some of us even swam in the sea!  (I am in search of a decent waxing studio -another concept I so miss from Vienna!! so that I can participate in the beach fun). 

Unfortunately we were much too busy actually doing all this to take any pics so here are some of our second grand-parental visit in April (click here to view pics of the first

Mum (Gogo) and Chris on Hydra

The 3 girls - Gogo, Emma and me on our terrace (my eyes were so itchy from the pine pollen!)
 Gogo and Emma on the climbing frame
 Emma on the sea-saw in her school uniform
 Gogo and Emma ready for our first out-door lunch on our terrace
 William ready to try the Greek "Wurscht"?!
 The BBQ Chef in person!
 William fighting for more chips!
 Gogo and Will on a walk at Varibombi

That's all for now folks! ;-)