Getting back into the groove

Thursday, December 20, 2007
Posted by chelsea 7 comments

I've been busy filling my time with getting back into the groove of my American life and spending as much time as possible at Midnight Oil.

When I wasn't warming my spot on the couch at Midnight Oil in the past few weeks, I was busy buying a car, editing photos, and taking photos.

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to photograph Nate and Erin Copeland's week-old baby girl, Kate Copeland. I'm fairly certain that baby photography is now my new favorite kind of portrait photography.

I'm sure after a few more sessions I'd get tired of that too, but hey, I like it right now, so that's all that matters!

My epic return

Saturday, December 8, 2007
Posted by chelsea 5 comments

So, I guess it's about time that I officially reveal the fact that I'm back in The States. I arrived in New York City last Friday (Nov 30) and stayed with some friends until Monday when I took a train down to Philly and stayed with JCliff through Thursday. I made it back to Searcy last night and was biting at the bit to reveal myself, but only managed two surprise visits before it was too late to go knocking on anyone else's door, so the rest had to wait until today.

I've known I was leaving Greece for close to a month now, so the anticipation has been building for quite some time. I was determined to keep it a secret and made a point to only inform those that just had to know (like my mom, who would have started to get suspicious had she believed I was still just hanging out and being a jobless bum in Greece).

A huge element lending to the glory of my epic surprise return was the fact that I was coming back just in time to participate in the annual Christmas tree stealing out of Renee Lewis' office. Dustin Vyers has always been my partner in crime, and the first year (2005) started out as a war of tree snatching between the Student Publications Office and the Student Life Office. I, of course, immediately sold out and stole the Stud Pub's tree, showing my allegiance to Dustin and his cause.

Last year definitely raised the bar, as Dustin had accepted a job at Pepperdine and now lived in California. I connived as always, and stole the tree to send it off to Dustin at Pepperdine, who glady received it and later brought it back in person on a surprise visit to Searcy. During this visit, he and I secretly infiltrated Renee's apartment and stole her home Christmas tree, replacing it with the small one from her office with an attached Polaroid photo of us swiping the tree. Her reaction was priceless, as she had not expected Dustin to be in Searcy.

This year though, oh, this year would be good. I was living in Greece, and as far as anyone knew, wouldn't be coming back for quite some time. Our planning started weeks ahead, and since Dustin now lives in Texas, we had two outside recruits (Corey McEntyre and Nick May) vow their allegiance and scope out the tree situation. This morning was go-time, and as I sat in Corey's office (ironically enough, the Student Life office...he has Dustin's old job) in excited anticipation, plan after plan to lure Renee from her office failed, as she had a deadline to meet and would not leave for anything.

Stumped, and not wanting to stay in hiding much longer, Corey and I called and consulted Dustin, who decided that we should just rush in and grab it in plain sight. Agreeing, Corey pulled out a video camera and we headed out for the mission.

(*side note* As we were attempting to leave the Student Life office unnoticed, my friend Scott Light spotted me and as I started to run he ran after me yelling, "You can't just do can't just come back and not tell anyone!!!!!! You CAN'T!!!" It was hilarious and wonderful and by far the best reaction I've had.)

After we escaped from Scott's scene-causing yells, we retrieved Corey's car and parked it next to the exit closest to Renee's office. Corey led the way, video camera in hand, and stepped into Renee's office. She was slightly confused and just about to inquire as to what he was doing when I dashed in, swiped her tree and high-tailed it out before she'd had a chance to even process what had happened. The rest was a blur, but I vaguely remember hearing her yell, "Wait...what? CHELSEA!?!?!!?!?!" before we busted out the door and hopped into Corey's car for our quick getaway.

This year's tree stealing shenanigans may never be topped.

Cutsie just ain't for me

Thursday, December 6, 2007
Posted by chelsea 2 comments

For the girls' tea the other night, I volunteered to plan something for it, and went with an activity I'd done with my youth group in middle school. It involves paper or books with everyone's name and you pass them around the room for everyone to write something they love about the person in each one. It's slightly cheesy, but it has always been something I loved the idea of because no matter how cheesy it is, it's always uplifting to everyone.

Instead of simply having a piece of paper to write this all on, I dedicated a few hours to making little booklets for the girls...which turned out to be a really simple project that I'll probably use in the future for something else. girly-cutsie booklets...

It went over fairly well, and all the girls seemed to really enjoy participating. It ended up feeling more like a yearbook signing than anything, but hey, if they're happy, I'm happy.

I did get called out by DiMy afterwards about the fact that I'm really uncomfortable and awkward around the girls and completely at ease around the guys. To this day I don't know if I'll ever get over that, but that's just how I am...I just wish I could hide it better!

Free travel is upon us, so the students are emptying out of the Artemis and getting on their way. I'm not jealous one'll be ridiculously cold.

I suppose that's about all for my update...I hope those of you who are in school are hanging in there through your finals!

Tis the season

Saturday, December 1, 2007
Posted by chelsea 2 comments

I usually get a freddoccino (an awesome cold frothy coffee drink from Everest), but when I walked in the other day and spotted their new Christmas hot cups, I had to opt for a cappuccino instead.

What do you Christmas packaging ever?

The little tidbit on the cup says "Now you can be Santa Clause" or something of that nature. I'm not a fan of it...but I can handle it since it's in Greek.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Posted by chelsea 3 comments

My favorite homeless man in Athens is getting into the Christmas spirit.

Some of you might remember him from my art show...I had a large b&w portrait of him called The Traveling Belgian.

A Thanksgiving feast fit for a king

Friday, November 23, 2007
Posted by chelsea 1 comments

The past few days have been filled to the brim with preparation for Thanksgiving here at The Artemis. My tasks included making homemade marshmallows to top off the sweet potato pie, baking peanut butter cookies to welcome the students back from Israel, and making pecan pie bars. I also helped Fofi prepare cream of mushroom soup and fried onions to make green bean casserole and peeled chestnuts for the stuffing...and that was only the day before Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving day was just as busy, but luckily there were more people to help out. I mostly spent the day setting up and later doing an innumerable amount of dishes. We had a total of sixty-seven people sharing the meal with us, so The Artemis was packed to the brim.

It was definitely one of the best Thanksgivings I've ever had. Sadly, I have no entertaining stories to tell, so I'll share some photos instead...

My homemade marshmallows...they didn't come out as fluffy as I'd hoped, but they definitely tasted like the real thing.

One of the beautiful turkeys...and sweet potato pie in the background.

DiMy making some last-minute adjustments.

My homemade pecan pie bars.

I hope that all of your Thanksgivings were filled with lots of wonderful food and love!

The Fire is So Delightful

Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Posted by chelsea 4 comments

As much as I loathe how dependent our society has become on the internet for our source of anything from information to entertainment, I'm, admittedly, just as addicted as the next person, if not more.

I do everything from keeping up with my favorite tv shows, learning how to pick locks to researching new cookie recipes to bake for the HUG students when I get bored.

Last night, as I sat draped in a blanket and a snoring Callie the Cat, I realized that the thin fabric and whiskered creature were no longer enough to help me maintain a decent body temperature. I sat for a few moments, shivering from the chill that had crept into my bones, and contemplated what I should do. The HUG students have been in Israel since last Monday, and the heat was turned off until they return, so turning on a radiator wasn't an option.

Should I pile on more blankets, go take a hot shower, make yet another cup of tea?

The answer was obvious...I would build a fire.

There is a lovely fireplace in the dining area, which isn't a very cozy room to begin with, but after I dragged a big comfy chair over and strategically arranged some pillows, I was ready for the fire-building to begin.

Now, I've been on my fair share of rugged camping trips, all involving bathing in rivers and eating trout cooked over an open fire for every meal, but one of the things that apparently didn't ingrain itself within the confines of my brain was how to build a proper fire.

I had what I needed...dry logs, small sticks and newspaper, but try as I might, the newspaper simply burnt to a crisp and the sticks and logs remained untouched by the flames I so desperately needed to warm my freezing body.

I then did what any other internet-reliant person would have done...I Googled it.

Surprisingly enough, I came up with an abundance of fire-building how-to's and set to work after reading no less than five of them to be properly prepared for the task ahead of me.

Doing exactly as I'd been told, I balled up three pieces of newspaper, then I stacked small twigs and sticks in criss-cross formations above the newspaper and finally laid a few logs on top of my architectural masterpiece. Convinced that I'd have a fire going in no time, I held out the lighter and ignited the balls of newspaper.

Slowly but surely, the flames licked through the paper and moved onto the twigs, and then quickly spread along the bottom of the logs I'd so carefully chosen for the job. Success!

Five minutes fire came to an abrupt and disappointing halt as the flames snapped out and left only a few glowing embers below. I spent another ten minutes pushing around the logs and embers, and blowing furiously in hopes of reviving my short-lived fire. When all that was left was a small fleck of red pulsing beneath the ashes, I gave up and hoisted my comfy chair back to it's spot and resigned myself to using Callie the Cat for heat once again.

Not twenty minutes later, a loud pop echoed through the room that sent Callie jolting from my lap. Curious as to what had caused the noise, I cautiously eased up from my chair and walked into the dining area.

There, crackling and popping in all of its flaming glory, was a thriving fire. Thoroughly confused, but incredibly pleased, I chalked it up to the fire gods teaching me a lesson in patience and perseverance, moved my comfy chair back into place, and spent the next hour getting toasty by the fire.

100 Things

Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Posted by chelsea 8 comments

I decided that I should update my blog and saw that Renee and Jim had done this and thought it looked thought-provoking, so here goes...

Here are 100 things you may or may not know about me.

  1. I always keep 2-3 backup toothbrushes on hand.
  2. That has turned out to be incredibly useful at times.
  3. I moved to Greece in August to be an au pair.
  4. I spent at least 75% of my time as an au pair hating my life.
  5. The only reason I didn't quit before they "let me go" is because I was afraid to have to move back to the states and be seen as a failure.
  6. I am and always will be "one of the guys" and "the girl that guys are just friends with."
  7. I wouldn't change that for anything.
  8. I prefer peanut butter over syrup when it comes to pancakes and waffles.
  9. Boysenberry syrup gives me hives.
  10. I've been having insomnia paired with intensely bizarre nightmares lately.
  11. I started writing a novel three times this month.
  12. I realized I'm far better at writing blog-sized blurbs than anything novel-like.
  13. These days, my best friend is Callie the Cat.
  14. I talk to Callie in Greek.
  15. I have no idea why.
  16. I watch more tv shows now than I did when I lived in the states and had cable.
  17. When I was back in the states for my sister's wedding, I almost cried when I thought the pecan pie was all gone because it was the single thing I had craved since moving.
  18. I burnt a batch of cookies last night and it almost ruined my night.
  19. The HUG students ate every last one anyway...and told me they loved them.
  20. I have become incredibly attached to each and every HUG student here.
  21. I'm deathly afraid of spiders.
  22. And giant centipedes.
  23. I didn't like strawberry ice cream when I was a kid.
  24. Now it's one of my favorites.
  25. I used to lie a lot.
  26. It's because I couldn't be honest with myself.
  27. It is now one of the things I loathe most in people.
  28. I hate SUVs and automatic cars.
  29. I would be happy if I only ate Greek cuisine for the rest of my life.
  30. I used to be a fantastic oboe player.
  31. I still pick out the oboe in music played in movies.
  32. Sometimes it brings tears to my eyes when I hear it because I miss playing it so much.
  33. I hate having my photo taken.
  34. I am a photographer.
  35. There is not one day that goes by that I don't doubt every decision I've made leading up to this point in my life.
  36. I don't regret any of them.
  37. The Fourth of July is my favorite holiday.
  38. I only like holidays if I'm spending them with other people's families.
  39. I don't know why.
  40. I refuse to purchase anything from Starbucks in Europe.
  41. I actually really enjoy traveling by myself.
  42. Except when I get stuck next to really disgruntled passengers on a long flight.
  43. I love long road trips by myself.
  44. Those are something I miss from living in the states.
  45. Incorrect spelling is one of my biggest pet peeves.
  46. I get intensely car sick unless I'm in the front seat.
  47. Sometimes people don't believe me and think it's just because I want to ride shotgun.
  48. I have thoroughly researched becoming an expatriate.
  49. I haven't found anything helpful on the subject.
  50. I love kids.
  51. But I don't want to have any.
  52. I'm too afraid they'd turn out like me.
  53. I was horrible as a teenager.
  54. I'm so thankful I can look back on it and grow and change accordingly.
  55. I wish more people could do that about themselves.
  56. I love disco balls.
  57. I used to collect pumpkins as a child.
  58. I would sleep with real live pumpkins.
  59. My mom would take them out of my bed after I fell asleep so they wouldn't fall and crack open.
  60. When I was an au pair, in the mornings when the little girl woke up, I would put her socks on first while she was still in bed.
  61. My mom did that with me when I was little and I didn't remember that until after the girl's mom asked me why I did it.
  62. I absolutely love camping.
  63. The real kind of camping, where you eat rainbow trout that you caught yourself for breakfast, lunch and dinner and you bathe in a frigidly cold river and sleep under the stars.
  64. Sometimes I wish my life were a movie or tv show so there would be a good excuse for all the ridiculous things that happen to me.
  65. I used to be really into cars.
  66. I was a member of a car club and I was voted "Best Car" for my senior superlatives.
  67. I am incredibly proud of my mom.
  68. And my sister.
  69. I didn't used to be, and that makes me sad.
  70. I worked at Baskin Robbins for over two years.
  71. I can make and decorate a mean ice cream cake.
  72. I also consider myself a milkshake and smoothie-making expert.
  73. I was addicted to caffeine in high school.
  74. And in college.
  75. I only have one cup a day now.
  76. I love tangerines.
  77. I hate popcorn in movies.
  78. If I had a superpower, it would be to go back in time just to watch the past...not change it.
  79. I don't talk to my dad.
  80. I used to want people to call me by my middle name.
  81. My middle name is Marie.
  82. I've lived in Greece for exactly three months today.
  83. I've learned more about life from my three months here than I probably have in my entire lifetime.
  84. One of those things is that I'm not immune to loneliness.
  85. Another one of those things is that there is still so much more for me to learn and grow from.
  86. I don't like weddings.
  87. I'm a wedding photographer.
  88. Most of the time, I'd rather photograph a wedding than be in it.
  89. I love cooking elaborate and gourmet dishes.
  90. I really enjoy washing dishes by hand.
  91. I wonder every day about what I'm doing with my life.
  92. Most days I just remind myself that I'm living exactly how I've always dreamed of living life.
  93. I'm a huge procrastinator.
  94. I am obsessed with scarves and fingerless gloves in the winter.
  95. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever settle in any place for more than a year or two.
  96. I don't think it'd be a bad thing if I didn't.
  97. I don't want to get married.
  98. I do want companionship.
  99. I'll probably be a cat lady.
  100. My favorite sound on earth is the sound of tiny pebbles being tossed back and forth over each other by the waves of the ocean.
Well, that was definitely a thought-provoking process. I hope that if you read my blog and have one of your own, you'll consider creating a list of your own.

A Novel Idea

Thursday, November 1, 2007
Posted by chelsea 3 comments

I've often been told that my life should be made into a movie, or that I should write a book about my life. I sometimes enjoy the fleeting thought of who would play me in a movie about my life or which stories I would share if I were to dive into the literary world, but I honestly don't know how any of that would be obtained.

After yet another person urging me to write a book, and a "sign" in the form of a link to the website for the National Novel Writing Month, I've decided to give it a try.

Aside from a published letter to the editor of The Oracle (USF school newspaper) and about 18 columns on the Through The Lens page in The Bison at Harding, I have no formal experience in writing anything deserving of being published. And, as my short list of accomplishments in the literary world shows, I've had no experience in writing anything longer than a column-sized anecdote worthy of a college newspaper.

So, with the that being said, I'm going to dedicate a month of my time to achieving 50,000 words and/or 175 pages of writing that might actually end up being a semi-worthwhile use of my free time as an unemployed bum in Greece.

I wonder if that means I should stop using all my "good" stories for blog material.

Chelsea's House of Horrors

Sunday, October 28, 2007
Posted by chelsea 2 comments

Attempting to move forward in my life as an independent and capable young woman in Greece, I moved out of The Artemis on Monday, to what I hoped would be my new home for the next few months. Sadly though, my new accommodations were far better suited to be used as the setting for a horror movie.

The bottom floor of an unused three-story house on a dark street in Porto Rafti, the studio apartment is what could only be described as a "fixer-upper." With wood flooring that was rotting out in places, a hole in the bathroom where a window should have been and corners covered in wasp nests and spiderwebs, I had to make a huge effort to convince myself that it could be transformed into livable quarters.

I began last Thursday by spraying every nook and cranny with bug spray and letting it sit for the night, hoping the countless spiders I had seen would vacate before the next day. Friday, I swept the cobwebs and mouse pellets out the front door and followed with the mop. After the four hours that took, things didn't look much better, so on Sunday I steamed the walls, corners, furniture, floors, ceiling...everything, in hopes that it would somehow transform into my own cozy little house.

Cozy definitely wasn't going to be a word used to describe this place, but just as I had started to actually believe it would be livable, I was graced with the most horrifying creature crawling at breakneck speed toward me. It was a centipede*, it was at least 6 inches long, and it seemed to be coming at me with intentions to kill.

Jumping on the bed, I aimed the steamer I had been using (which was, sadly, the only accessible weapon) and pulled the trigger. A narrow line of steam shot out of the wand and did absolutely nothing more than increase the velocity at which the centipede pursued me. With a warrior-like scream and a desperate will to live, I leapt off the bed, grabbed the broom and swept the little monster outside. Knowing it'd only return for another fight, I took to throwing bricks at it from a pile of rubbish nearby and didn't let up until I was certain that it had perished.

After that deathly encounter, I was a bit nervous about making the move, but did so on Monday night. After putting sheets on my small metal cot (I was convinced the bugs could easily crawl up the wooden bed), I set towards the bathroom to brush my teeth before settling in for my first night in the house of horrors. As I reached up and turned on the bathroom light, I was startled by the sight of a centipede identical to the one I thought I had killed the day before, poised and ready to attack.

Screaming, I retrieved the broom and went about sweeping the armored car of a bug out the doorway and into the garden, this time sparing the brick-throwing scene from the previous day for a simple slamming of the front door and a ceremonious-like sprinkling of poisonous powder around my bed.

Needless to say, I barely slept a wink, and the few hours I did manage to slip off into dreamland were filled with nightmares of giant centipedes killing me in various scenarios, all of which took place in my lovely new home.

After my first night there, I felt I had overcome a huge milestone and it would all be downhill from there, but the centipedes had set the mood and the following three nights were no different.

Friday I made the mistake of coming to see everyone at The Artemis and was told how much they all missed having me around. After recounting the tails of my new quarters, the Myhans seemed just as horrified as me, and with little more than a suggestion from them and not a moment of deliberation, I had not only agreed to move back to The Artemis, but I didn't even bother returning to the haunted house for my belongings until the next day.

I'm now nursing a fist-sized spider bite on my leg as proof of the nightmarish creatures that lurked in the horror house. I'm certain a few more nights in the creaky old place would have resulted in an all-out war between me and the critters, most likely ending in favor of the critters.

The HUG students are now inquiring about the use of my house for a Halloween party.

* I pulled this off of Wikipedia....

"Centipedes are fast-moving, venomous, predatory, terrestial arthropods that have long bodies and many jointed legs. Some species are highly venomous and often produce very painful bites, but only one human death has ever been recorded..."

...I bet I would've been the second if that thing had gotten to me.

Callie the Sith Lord Cat

Sunday, October 21, 2007
Posted by chelsea 6 comments

Last night I celebrated the first rainy day I've seen since I moved to Greece by staying in, making a mug of hot cocoa (on the stove top of course), and watching a movie on the big screen in the common room.

Since the HUG group has been gone to Egypt since Tuesday, I've really started to feel the emptiness of The Artemis in the past few days. So,when I picked out a movie, I tried my best to not pick something scary, not wanting to conjure up images of murderers lurking in dark corners or stairwells afterward. I settled on Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith, knowing I wouldn't suspect Darth Vader to be waiting for me when I ventured back to my room later that night.

As I settled onto the couch to enjoy the movie, Callie (the Myhan's sometimes sweet, but mostly devilish cat) jumped up beside me and climbed onto my lap, purring and kneading in contentment. Callie is an outside cat, but with the sudden onset of chilly rain, I felt compassion for her and let her in after it got dark to enjoy a bit of dry warmth before I kicked her out on my way to bed. And besides that, she's been getting extremely lonely with everyone being gone, so I try to cut her some slack and let her lounge with me in the evenings when I'm around.

Another detail about Callie is that she's not at all stealthy, as most cats have a reputation to be. She has quite the belly wobbling below her as she walks, and she wears a collar bearing a small bell that jingles in an announcement of her presence whenever she is near. Last night though, as she sat watching Star Wars with me, she must have absorbed some stealth knowledge from the Sith Lords, because although the movie didn't frighten me, she managed to scare the bejeebies out of me on a few different occasions later that night.

During the movie, I paused it three times to do various things such as: make more cocoa, go to the bathroom, get a candy bar, and get a sweatshirt. Each time I got up from the couch, Callie did so as well, sauntering off to who-knows-where as I completed my task.

The first time I got up, which was to make more cocoa, I was walking through the dining area towards the kitchen. There is a large fireplace in the dining area, and as I passed, I noticed a sudden movement to my right and found Callie perched in pounce-ready stance on the edge of the mantle...inches away from my face. Stifling my gasp, I patted her small head and moved on, chuckling at the fact that Callie had managed to startle me.

The second time I got up, I walked over and used the public bathroom near the lobby, then made my way through the dining area to the vending machine to get a candy bar. Just as I turned the corner and walked past the vending machine to grab some change I had set out earlier, I felt a movement above me and looked up to see Callie leaning the front half of her body over the edge of the top of the vending machine, staring with her gleaming eyes looking as if she was ready to kill me. This time I gasped out loud and moved away to coax her down from the machine before I made my purchase and returned to the couch, a bit shaken, but still chuckling.

The third and last time I got up, it was for my sweatshirt, which was upstairs in my room. I took the elevator up and retrieved it, but as I came down, I accidentally pushed the wrong button and ended up on the second floor instead of the first. To make the elevator go again, you must open and close the door before pressing the button of your destination-floor, so I did just that and resumed my journey back to the first floor. Just before the elevator stopped, I felt a prickling sensation on the back of my neck and I looked down to see Callie squatted at my feet, ready to leap to battle with my face if provoked.

Reaching the ground floor, I leapt out of the elevator and shut the door on Callie, lecturing her through the window about what a bad kitty she was for scaring me like that. After a minute or two of lecturing and a few seconds of self-examination after realizing I was lecturing a cat through an elevator door, I opened the door and released her, quickly returning back to the couch to resume my movie.

As I rounded the corner to plop back down, I saw a fluffy little ball of fur, purring furiously and acting disturbed when I sat down, as if she'd never left her spot once. Callie had managed to not only beat me back from the elevator (a mere 25-30 feet away), but she'd done so without me seeing her until she was settled back to her spot.

I am never watching Star Wars with that cat again. I'm certain she was watching with one eye open, soaking in all the stealthy Sith moves she could, determined to scare the wits out of me.

Maybe being alone in a big hotel for more than a few days isn't such a great idea after all.

To Florida and back again

Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Posted by chelsea 3 comments

For those that didn't know, I flew back to the States last Wednesday to attend and photograph my sister's wedding. It took place in Florida and was probably one of the most beautiful weddings I've ever attended (and being a wedding photographer, I've attended many).

My short jaunt in the US ended yesterday when I landed (sans baggage) back in the Athens Airport after a long and sleepless journey back across the ocean. I had anticipated a fairly decent return trip, but I wasn't so lucky.

My flight from Dallas to Zurich was delayed an hour and twenty minutes, putting me down in Zurich only 20 minutes before my flight to Athens was scheduled to depart. After a horrible 9 1/2 hour flight next to a cross-stitching sourpuss, I wasn't about to be stuck in Zurich for 6 1/2 hours (when the next flight to Athens was scheduled), so I hightailed it off the plane, determined to make my connection. Running through the terminal to transfer gates, I hopped aboard an escalator and began taking the stairs two at a time. Getting about halfway up, the tip of my shoe caught on a step and I flew forward into the side of the escalator.

For those of you with any experience in escalator-riding, you're well aware that even though the rubber handrail moves with the stairs, the sides of it are stationary. This particular escalator's sides were made of glass, and I found myself struggling to pull my weight up as my face smeared against the glass siding, squeaking and slobbering (and probably providing a delightful sight for those lucky enough to be on the other side) for a few feet before I gained control of my body once again.

Of course this all happened while I was laughing hysterically at my own clumsiness, so anyone who hadn't seen the actual fall had their attention drawn by me desperately trying to gain composure as I crawled back to my feet and stepped off the escalator. And, as luck would have it, I did make it onto the plane, only to find myself seated next to a fellow that had taken great delight in standing only feet behind me when this all occurred.

So I'm back in one piece, and happy to be resting up from the horrible jet-lag I've been experiencing for almost a week now. I'm meeting with a photographer tomorrow about a possible job opportunity, so keep your fingers crossed!

The fishing trip that wouldn't end...

Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Posted by chelsea 3 comments

Since I started this blog after I'd already returned from my working vacation on the island of Skopelos, I never shared any of the stories from those adventure-filled two weeks.

I figured now would be a great time to do just that.

The second week there, I was given the chance to go fishing one morning. I've always loved fishing of all kinds, but to actually experience an authentic Greek fishing trip would be a dream come true, so I jumped at the chance and agreed heartily to getting up at 5:30am the next morning in order to do so.

Forgetting that I barely got any sleep at night because I was stuck in a room with a 3.5 year-old with an earache and an actively teething 1 year-old, I went to bed that night with anticipation for the coming morning. As I should have expected, both of the children woke multiple times in the night, leaving me miserably groggy in the morning, however, still in good spirits for the fishing trip.

We boarded the brightly colored wooden boat at 6am and sputtered away from the port into the rocky waves of the Aegean for what I imagined would be an entertaining and plentiful excursion. Little did I know, a traditional Greek fishing trip consists of quite a bit more than just a creaky old boat and an adorable old Greek man.

There are two parts to the process. The first part happens the night before, from around 11pm to about 3 am, during which time the fisherman goes out and drops weights attached to floats on two ends, with hundreds of baited, evenly-spaced hooks, between them. There are usually around 5-10 of these lines baited and dropped to then go back and retrieve in the morning. The next part of the process, which was what I was present for, consists of the fisherman pulling each and every one of those hooks out of the water by hand, and removing the fish (if you're lucky enough to have caught any) and remaining bait.

Around 6:30am, the sun poked out from behind a nearby island and spread its vibrant oranges and reds across the sky, which was the highlight of the trip, and we were only just getting started. I had failed to do any research about what the fishing trip would entail, so really, it was my own fault, but honestly, you'd think they would have warned me when I seemed so overly excited to be going on what they considered to be a boring chore.

Two hours into the trip, my spirits were down, my stomach and it's contents felt as if they were about to come up, and I had already nodded off twice (which nearly resulted in the old man having to fish me out of the ocean along with the empty hooks we were pulling up). Ashamed that I hadn't been adequately prepared for the trip and was now having to force myself to stay awake, and fighting the urge to regurgitate everything I'd eaten since coming to the island, I refrained from asking how much longer we would be out there as not to offend the sweet old fisherman.

Four and a half hours later of what seemed like pointless drifting, we had caught a total of ten despicably ugly fish that barely resembled anything worth eating, four starfish, which I was thankful have the ability to regrow their limbs, a huge mollusk-thing that the fisherman kept and later threw back after it opened up and spewed ocean-sewage onto my feet, and a shoe that looked like it had been down there for a few decades.

When we finally turned the boat towards the port and began the tiresome journey back to shore, I was already brainstorming the different scenarios depicting what would happen if I jumped overboard and made a swim for it. Most of them, of course, involved me being swept out to sea and accepting my fateful death with a serene sense of relief. However, destiny had other plans for me and I avoided my watery demise. Managing to endure the forty-five minutes it took to motor back to the port, I climbed back onto the shore having never been so deeply thankful to be back on solid ground.

But at least I can say I've gone on a real authentic Greek fishing trip!

*(The photo above is of the actual boat we went fishing to make larger.)

One isn't always the loneliest number

Sunday, September 30, 2007
Posted by chelsea 3 comments

After anticipating that The Artemis would be a fairly creepy place to be alone at night, I've been surprised to discover that although there are some especially dark corners and odd noises, it lacks that distinct eerie quality that you'd imagine an old hotel to have after dark.

A lot of that is probably due to the fact that the entire building is made of stone and marble, so there are no creaking floorboards or settling walls to cause you to conjure images of the bogeyman in your head. So far, the scariest things I've come across are Callie the cat (but she has a bell on her collar, so usually I hear her coming) and the ice maker (particularly at that prime moment when it dumps the new ice onto the ice pile).

The HUG group will be back from their cruise tomorrow morning, so the normal hustle and bustle around the hotel will resume, but I've thoroughly enjoyed having this little slice of paradise to myself for a few days.

Aside from the fact that having a hotel in Greece to yourself is possibly one of the coolest things ever, I've discovered a few other key factors that have made me truly appreciate being the only soul wandering the halls this weekend.

I now present, the top five reasons having a hotel to yourself is the coolest thing ever...

5. No noisy neighbors to keep you up at night.
4. You can turn the volume up as loud as you want.
3. There's no one to argue with you about which movie to watch on the big screen.
2. You have the entire pool to yourself.
1. The elevator is always on the floor you left it.

Yes, it's been an enjoyable weekend indeed.

Just minutes after I posted this, the ice maker dropped its load, causing my heart to skip a few beats and sending me a few feet into the air.

Home Sweet Home

Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Posted by chelsea 1 comments

So today, at approximately 7:00 pm, I arrived on the doorstep of my home sweet home. I'm currently sitting on my new double bed, cozying up to a mug of mint tea in room 245 of The Artemis in Porto Rafti.

Thank goodness for Dianne and Jerry Myhan, or I might've been out on the street...or at least forced to endure highly inferior accommodations. I'll be staying at here until October 10, when I will make my triumphant (and temporary) return to the states for my sister's wedding.

During my time here, instead of paying for room and board, I'll be put to use and become a temporary HUG employee. This couldn't have worked out better. I'll be doing anything from cleaning and organizing to fetching the mail...and happily at that. Anything will be easier than the last month and a half.

As I was dropped off at the metro station after telling the kids goodbye (Alkistis threw quite the fit), a wave of relief swept over me. The past few weeks have been running me ragged, and as much as I was telling myself that I would get used to it and that I could make it for an entire year, I'm fairly certain I was just in denial about how bad the situation really was.

Seriously people, rent The Nanny Diaries...I really should have watched it before I left, if only to have had some warning about what was coming.

On a happier note, the Myhans and HUG students welcomed me with open arms, and I not only partook in tea time tonight, but I got to enjoy a movie with a few of the guys before their curfew. They all leave tomorrow for the cruise trip, so I'll have the place to myself for the weekend, which is exciting and possibly a little bit creepy. I'm pretty sure I'll just sleep in every day and spend my afternoons by the pool or at the beach.

Yes, that sounds like a wonderful idea.

Chelsea-Poppins No More

Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Posted by chelsea 3 comments

As of Friday, this blog will be renamed "Adventures of an unemployed American in Greece."

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I'll be leaving my current living and working situation for a cardboard box on the side of the road. Well, maybe not a cardboard box, but I most definitely won't have a room that looks like it was straight off a page in an Ikea-catalog anymore.

I'm somewhat disappointed things didn't work out, but I know this is for the best. The situation is complicated, but as of now, I'm hoping to score a job teaching English (I've heard there are plenty of opportunities for that in Athens).

Keep checking back...I'll try to keep updating as much as possible...this time without any mention of poopy diapers and screaming kids.

My First Christening

Sunday, September 23, 2007
Posted by chelsea 1 comments

Yesterday was George's christening. I've only witnessed baptisms in a Church of Christ, so I'd been looking forward to being a part of this particular Greek Orthodox tradition. I was the only non-Greek there, so it was hard to not stand out as I stood to the side before the ceremony began. Thankfully, I'd already met about half of the attendees, so I didn't feel too much like an outsider.

The church was a beautiful white domed building with lots of gold and religious art gracing the incense-filled walls on the inside. We settled into our seats as the bearded priest began to recite verses and phrases in Ancient Greek, accompanied by another priest chanting in a monotone voice behind him.

After quite a long bout of this chanting and reciting, the godmother was required to read a passage of Ancient Greek as well as the priest prepared the water (blessing it) for the baptism. George was then stripped down and held by his mother as the priest anointed him with oil. Following the anointing, George was handed over to the priest, who dipped him down into the water three times. Being the beach baby that he is, George giggled and splashed around happily, even attempting to dive back into the water after he was pulled out. The priest then cut a small section of his hair off (traditionally, they never cut the hair of the baby until their christening).

The godmother then took him and dried him, and the parents put his official baptism clothing on (an oversized suit of white linen, complete with a bonnet and cap...which resulted in him looking like a smaller version of the Michelin Man). From then on, the ceremonial part was pretty much over and some formalities were taken care of before we all headed over to the cafe nearby for the reception.

At the reception, George was handed off to me to feed him and walk him in the stroller so that he'd take a nap. After successfully getting him to eat without a large orange stain resulting on his bright white suit, it took me only five minutes to get the little fellow to sleep and I was free to socialize as well.

I found the tables with a few of the families I'd gotten to know while we were on Skopelos together and sat with them. Now that I'm an "honorary parent" (someone who takes the full responsibility of the kids without actually physically having them), I get along quite easily with other parents, which is great and scary at the same time. My ability to relate to other parents with children of similar ages at least provides me with some conversation at events such as this, but all of the sudden, I find myself not bored that these people are talking about their kids constantly, but interested as well as willing to share my own stories and experiences.

The reception lasted quite a while, but as the children of other families grew tired and cranky, the crowd dwindled down until at last it was just the five of us slumped at a table, with ten pieces of leftover cake in front of us. I ate two, sharing a few bites here and there with Alkistis, and we talked about how the day had gone. Natasha and John were both really pleased at the success of the day, and I mentioned how I had looked completely out of place, being the only blonde-haired green-eyed girl, not to mention the only one under thirty other than the kids. Laughing, they agreed that yes, I did stand out in my looks, but that everyone loved me.

It was at that moment that I realized this whole time, I've not only been on trial to impress the family I work for, but their extended family as well as all of their friends. These are Greeks in fact, and the opinions and feelings of their friends and extended family mean just as much as their own, so to have learned that they all "love me" absolutely made my day.

Two weeks from now, their friends have a christening for their little girl and have invited me along, so I'm excited to get to go to another one so soon. It seems that most of their friends have kids around the same age, so there's a "christening season" going on right now (John and Natasha are at another today in fact). To me, they are comparable to a wedding in the states, with just as many details and costs involved. More than anything, it's just a big traditional ceremony and an excuse for a party with all of your friends.

As long as there's cake, that's just fine by me.

Caution: Sheep Crossing

Thursday, September 20, 2007
Posted by chelsea 2 comments

Besides the hour to hour and a half when George is taking his morning nap, my favorite part of the day are my walks with Little George. I usually take him on a walk at 9:30 am for about an hour around the neighborhood before it gets too hot, and sometimes another just before sunset before it gets too cool (and dark). After exploring every road within about a mile radius, I've fallen into taking the one route in particular that takes me past my favorite houses, dogs and views.

Because of this, I've come to know each and every detail of my walk so well that I could map it out according to which cat sits on what corner. Among this detail, I know which houses usually have someone on the balcony or in the garden, which fig tree has the best figs to pick from, which dogs bark and which stay quiet, but most importantly, which streets sometimes double as a sheep-herding route.

It's true, another one of the many things that give my new home an ever-growing personality is that sheep are herded through our neighborhood on a regular basis. We don't live in a rural area by any means, but many of the houses a bit further up the mountain have small areas containing sheep, goats, rabbits, roosters, chickens or even turkeys (there's one right down the street that I can hear gobbling each morning). Little did I know, they don't just leave the sheep in the fenced areas, but herd them to different grassy knolls throughout the rest of the neighborhood.

I learned this fact while I was out for my morning walk one day last week with George. I was at an intersection, and as I always do, I stopped to look both ways before heading across with the stroller. The right was clear, but before I could even look left, I felt a soft nibble at my foot. Looking down, I was surprised to see a small sheep loitering at my feet while about 50 more came trotting up the street towards me. Not sure what I should do, I tried to gently shake the sheep away from my foot and backed up just a bit to let the herd pass.

The sheep that had been gnawing at my foot remained where it was, staring up at me expectantly. As the pack dwindled down, I noticed a lone man walking briskly behind them wearing bright blue overalls and carrying a large stick. When he got a bit closer, I smiled, glancing down at the sheep that had now huddled next to my leg, leaning into me as if I were its dear friend. Returning the smile and nodding, the man then smacked his stick on the ground, sending the sheep into a frenzied trot up the hill after the rest of the pack.

Of course, the whole time this was going on, George had his hands outstretched in the air, pointing and giggling with delight at the fuzzy little creatures baaing and bleating past us. Sadly enough, I didn't have my actual camera with me, but my mobile has a camera in it and I was able to grab a photo right as the last one was running up a the grassy hill.

So, despite how "routine" my walk has become, there will always be random sheep herds to look forward to.

They smile for the camera

Sunday, September 16, 2007
Posted by chelsea 1 comments

For those of you just dying to see photos of the two little rug rats in my care...

Alkistis will turn four on November 21. She is absolutely adorable, which I'm now certain is a trap to fool you into thinking that she's harmless. Seriously though, she's a handful, but also a delight.

Little George just turned a year old on September 4th, so he's at the stage where he's walking and teething and getting into everything. He's generally quite happy and a joy to be around.

Souvlaki Night

Friday, September 14, 2007
Posted by chelsea 1 comments

Fridays are my favorite day of my nanny week. This, of course, isn't counting Sunday since it's my official day off each week, so it would obviously win if it were in the running. Fridays, though, are the most cherished day of my working week because they contain the much anticipated "Souvlaki Night."

After the kids are sleeping soundly in the back room (usually around 10-10:30pm), Natasha and I "suggest" to John that maybe we should order some souvlaki to eat while we watch tv and relax. The mere suggestion is enough to get John on board with the idea and the next ten to fifteen minutes are then spent figuring out what we will order and which souvlaki place to order it from.

Picking the souvlaki place is actually the more tricky part of this endeavor, as you have to consider all of the variables involved when doing so. First off, once you decide what to order, you must rule out certain places depending on what item is their weak point. This seems easy enough, but with three people ordering a variety of selections, this can really make things a bit more complicated and require someone to make a compromise after deciding on the second factor. The second factor, of course, is whether or not a place delivers to our area if no one wants to drive to go get it.

Once all of the details of the order are worked out and the souvlaki place is finally settled upon, we either call in the order (if it's delivery) or send the chosen driver out to pick it up. The next 30-45 minutes are spent in heated anticipation for that steaming bag of goodness containing lamb and pork on sticks and wrapped in soft melt-in-your-mouth pitas surrounded by globs of tzatziki, chunks of bright red tomatoes and spicy onion slices.

Most of the time, we include a double order of potatoes (you call them fries) as well. Now, these aren't your ordinary, skinny, overcooked, fast-food, freeze-dried "French" fries. These are thick, fresh, made from real potatoes and are cooked to a pleasantly soft (yet strangely firm) perfection that allows the potato "innards" to ooze forth from the thin and flavorful outer skin (lightly dusted with oregano) when you take that first mouthwatering bite. These are the kind of potatoes that are so good that you not only feel no guilt for having consumed them after 10pm, but would willingly do so again even if, as s direct result, the scale read an extra five pounds the next morning.

When the souvlaki finally arrives, the meal itself is eaten in an almost holy, quiet bliss...up until the fourth or fifth bite, which is usually about the time the baby monitor blinks to life and sends me tumbling back into the reality that not even Souvlaki Night is immune to the constant call of duty as a live-in nanny.

Regardless, I will continue to live my week gauged by how close or far away Souvlaki Night is. Because if there's one thing that can motivate me to "just make it through the week," it's most definitely a night dedicated to my favorite Greek treat.

The Nanny Diaries: Incredibly Accurate

Thursday, September 13, 2007
Posted by chelsea 4 comments

When you’re a nanny, spare time is something not to be squandered away on frivolous things such as watching tv, reading or even just relaxing. No no no, free time is something much too rare and precious for that. It must be spent doing necessary things such as laundry, catching up on email correspondence (a must for me since I’m thousands of miles away from everyone I know), or sleep (if you’re lucky).

So the first mistake I made today when the grandmother showed up and I was granted four blissful hours to myself was that I chose to watch a movie instead of taking a nap. My second mistake was what I chose to watch.

After hearing several people tell me they’d seen The Nanny Diaries and thought of me, I decided I had to check it out for myself and spent the majority of my free time today plopped on my bed in front of my computer screen, entranced that my life might actually be comparable to a movie.

That’s right folks, I subjected myself to living vicariously through a movie that portrayed exactly what I’m living right now in real life. Why? Maybe because I wanted to be able to tell people to watch that movie if they wanted to know what my life is like...or maybe because I’m a very sick and demented person who doesn’t get enough out of being a nanny in real life and must seek it out in make-believe form as well.

I definitely related to most everything in the movie except for the situation with the family. I’m blessed to have landed in a wonderful family that cares quite a bit more for my well-being and happiness than the family did for the nanny in the movie. Also, I live in Athens, Greece…not the Upper East Side in New York City, so the situations involving the culture were much different from how it is here. Some of the specific situations (ex: nanny’s pants being pulled down) were ten times more hilarious to me than they would have been a month ago simply because now I’ve actually lived them.

So, if you’d really like to get a bit more well-rounded in the ways of the nanny, go see The Nanny Diaries…and think of me while you watch it.

More than just a poopy diaper

Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Posted by chelsea 5 comments

I knew being a nanny would be an adventure, but I really had no idea what I was in for when I dove headfirst into this.

Yesterday, Alkistis was incredibly angry at me because I wouldn't let her drink milk from the jug and had taken it away and put it in the top shelf of the refrigerator. During her temper tantrum, I noticed that George had pooped (he never stops...) so I picked him up to take him to the nursery and change his diaper. Alkistis of course wanted my undivided attention while she was kicking and screaming so she moved her tantrum to my leg and attached herself quite effectively to my right foot and allowed me to drag her down the hall as George decided he'd like to join in the screaming and began to holler at the top of his lungs and beat his little fists on my chest. As soon as I got George onto the changing table with his diaper undone and baby wipes poised, he swiftly reached down and stuck his hand in his own excrement and then proceeded to attempt to launch himself off of the table. I caught him midair and wrestled his twisting little body back to the table and attempted to clean him up and finish the always unpleasant task of changing him. Just as I was gaining a bit of control back, I realized I'd been so distracted that I hadn't noticed the screaming at my feet had ceased and Alkistis was giggling with delight below me, busying herself by pulling my jeans down to my ankles.

I did end up making it through the traumatic experience alive, but it took an extraordinary amount of patience and reassuring myself that it "would be over soon." I'm learning so much more than I could have ever expected from this job. I will never ever be one of the people that thinks stay-at-home moms don't really work.

Things to Do: Learn to read Greek

Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Posted by chelsea 0 comments

I think I'm coming down with a cold because my throat has been quite sore lately. Little George (turned a year old today!) has the sniffles and he puts his hands everywhere (including my mouth and nose if I'm not fast enough), so I'm pretty sure he gave it to me. I decided I needed to get myself some vitamin C from the pharmacy around the corner. On my walk with George (I walk him in the stroller for an hour each morning) I went down and got what I could find, which looked to me like those tablets you just pop in your mouth and chew up. I was excited that I could take one immediately and as I set out on my way with George, I popped one in my mouth to let that vitamin C take action. Unfortunately, they were the tablets that you're supposed to drop in a glass of water to dissolve and they fizz like Alka Seltzer...definitely not chewable. Immediately, I began to foam at the mouth as the bitter orange-flavored tablet went to work. Not wanting to waste a perfectly good tablet, I did my best to swallow the foam as it continued to accumulate faster and faster in my mouth. This went on for about 3 minutes before I just couldn't take it anymore and was forced to spit out the remainder of the tablet on the side of the road.

I'm sure that it was quite a sight to see a 22 year-old American girl walking a little Greek baby around in a stroller while foaming at the mouth and coughing.

If there were ever a time I wished I could have read Greek, that was definitely it. From now on, I'll wait until someone gets home before trying to self-medicate.

Driving in Greece 101

Thursday, August 16, 2007
Posted by chelsea 2 comments

  1. There is no right on red...ever.
  2. The speed limit is the suggestion, but the general rule is "go with the flow," which is usually at least 20 kilometers above the posted limit.
  3. Motorbikes can do whatever they want for one simple reason...they're smaller than you.
  4. The smaller the vehicle you drive, the better off you are.
  5. In roundabouts, the entering car has the rightaway.
  6. The side mirrors of cars fold in for a very good reason.
  7. Skillful backing up is an extremely important talent, as soom of the neighborhood roads are only wide enough for one car and you'll find yourself in a game of chicken quite often.
  8. The lines separating lanes are merely a suggestion...and by suggestion, I mean decoration.
  9. Park wherever your car fits.
  10. If a stop light is out, just ease into what looks like a pileup waiting to happen and eventually you'll make it through without a scratch.