Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Well, I’ve completed my first week as a resident of Chania, Crete. No longer just a “tourist,” I have a wonderful modern apartment in an ancient quarter of the city overlooking the Old Port. As a resident, I shop at the market, cook my own meals, do my own laundry and take out the trash. Figuring out how the appliances work is a major triumph; finding the ingredients in the market to make the perfect tomato sauce is a victory. Starting to cook and realizing I need a garlic press or a can opener leads to some really funny MacGyver-like solutions – but I am doing it. Can I just say this? I am not a fan of granite counters (they break dishes too easily) or frontloading washers (mine bounced across the room on its spin cycle, wedging shut the door to the laundry room). But this IS an odyssey of discovery and I am doing just that.
The markets are fun – in Chania there are modern western-style grocery stores with all the brand names as well as an abundance of corner stalls with fruit and veg; fish and meat and bakeries. In the middle of town is an enormous covered market that still functions – butchers, bakers, fish mongers, produce, herbs, honey interspersed with the little shops filled with the usual tourist tat. I’ve learned that if I go to the older man that tends the stall, I have to use gestures, exaggerated eyebrow wagglings and hysterically funny sound effects to convey what I want (I tend to attract a crowd doing this); if I am waited on a younger person – no problem, they speak fairly good English. Guess which one is more fun?
City life is a different experience for me here in Greece – for Chania is indeed a city of about 70,000 people and the capital of the prefecture. I am used to village life of the small islands. In conversation with a Chanian yesterday, he seemed surprised that I like “island” life – he doesn’t consider Crete an island, I guess. And no Cretan considers himself Greek. In any event, it is very different from what I am used to and part of this experiment to see where I fit in. Urban life does have its attractions (we have a a StarBucks and a Dominos Pizza here) and fabulous internet service , but I miss being awakened by church bells and the open curiosity and friendliness of the villagers.
More later, I’m off to find chicken breasts for dinner – I’d better stick to the younger English speaking stall keepers for this foray – the gestures to explain what I want just might get me arrested – or at least a date.