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.