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.)