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Living in Rhodes Part III

February 13, 2018

Another busy time, but now calming down a bit.  Christmas was fairly low key – a family time for Greeks so not much in the way of events.  The actual day was lovely, so I enjoyed a walk on the beaches that we had visited with Mara.  The rock formations were really weird.

Limpid pool

Rhodes was decorated with pretty lights on the streets and a small Christmas fair was set up in the square near Mandraki harbour.  I visited, but all the stalls were just serving fast food – burgers and sausages mainly!

Greek systems continue to both thwart and amaze us.  Just before Christmas an order from Amazon arrived, message sent to my phone from the Greek post office (ELTA) with the address of the post office for collection.  After carefully checking the address and code of the post office I was intrigued to find that it was in a small town on the west coast called Kremasti.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I set off in the car on a lovely day to find this office.  On arrival having admired the scenery on the way and a pretty town, the parcels desk was free – long queue at the other counter!

“Sea Glass”

The helpful lady took my phone and looked up the parcel information – oh no, not this office, the one in the main town!  Ah well, it was a nice day for a drive back along the coast!  Eventually I found the main post office and the parcel, overlooked by a couple of pigeons roosting on the light fixtures in the parcels depot. I treated myself to a large coffee and muffin at Starbucks – handily next door – as a reward.

Wonderful views of the fortifications

The parcel was a couple of “tower” style multi socket extension cables that accommodate multi-national plugs as well as a couple of USB sockets.  They are brilliant and save us changing all our plugs to the continental two pin variety.  On the negative side, another order for something similar but a different style never arrived.  Amazon kindly refunded the price when I had given up waiting.

The moat, never tire of it

On the subject of Amazon, I had been using the Italian version (no Amazon in Greece).  But now I find that Amazon.de has an English version so will use that in future.  Parcels seem to get routed through Germany anyway.

Flower

Having more or less got ourselves furnished my mind wandered to the boxes of “stuff” we had left in my sister’s house in Broadstairs.  I contacted Nomad again for a collect, pack and delivery option.  It was expensive but cheaper than trying to do it ourselves – and less hassle for everyone.  We arranged a date for collection in January to fit in with Jessica’s schedule.  The guys arrived, extracted everything they could find and that Jessica had put out and put 17 boxes on a truck headed for Greece.

Where will we put it all?

Two weeks in transit, and it all arrived on Tuesday 6th February!  It was amazing to unpack things that we hadn’t seen for 9 years – some of which we had forgotten about completely!  Our pride and joy stereo system is great to have back, Brian was really pleased to find the big chopping board he had made, and we are enjoying having pictures to hang on the walls.  Lots more things that we are really pleased to have back and Jessica is probably pleased to have got rid of it all at long last!

Unpacked and ready to play loud music!

Between Christmas and New Year I put a lot of effort into finding a 2nd hand car to buy.  Vehicles are really expensive here, so even an old banger is quite an investment.

How to sell a car in Greece

I found a few cars through the Facebook (ugh) Rhodes buying and selling site and made arrangements to see some.  Also people stick yellow “for sale” signs on cars and I followed up with text messages to a couple of those.  The hunt narrowed down to a Hyundai Accent – 200K kilometres and 12 years old but quite nice.  A bit bigger than we had wanted.  I went to see it in the garage (after more misdirection) where it was being serviced.  The mechanic asked if I spoke French – so we continued the discussion in French! That upset my Greek head a bit.  He had a full maintenance history on the car so it looked good.  I continued the dialogue with the young man selling it.  Then I found out that it had been owned (and therefore taxed) by his mother who had recently died.

French speaking mechanic

This caused a furore with all my kind advisors – Seich cars who we had been renting from and Tsampika the insurance lady!  Eventually it all fell through as he couldn’t sell it until the probate had been sorted out and the car had been transferred to  him (the son)!   Very sad about his mum and he didn’t know about not being able to sell the car.

So I got back onto the internet and finally found another smaller car, Fiat Panda.  Again 200K km, and 12 years old, but a pretty metallic blue colour and black alloy wheels!  I went to meet the guy (Moustafas and his girlfriend/partner Maria) and they gave me the key for a test drive!  It felt and looked fine.  Moustafas needed to sell it in order to buy a van for his decorating business.  With lots of help from Seich, who checked it out, got the price reduced and then fixed suspension, brakes and tyres for me, I bought it.  Savi Seich(?) also made sure Moustafas had all the correct tax papers.  We went to the KEP (Citizens Advice Bureau) to register the exchange, paid at the bank, back to the KEP, got a temporary ownership document and only then did I hand over the dosh! So all that took until nearly the end of January. Now I have the proper green card too.  Tsampika arranged insurance.  It is the car that is insured (with a named owner) so anyone can drive it.  Quite cheap too – compared to the UK.

My sporty new car! 2nd childhood?

I found out later that the young guy had managed to get a van from Seich! What goes around comes around on a small island like this.  I guess I might have twigged, with a name like Moustafas and that Seich is a Turkish family business.

Phew – all that took an inordinate amount of time trailing around and going square eyed on the computer.

Old city gate

After Christmas I decided to check the cinemas as “The Last Jedi” had just been released.  Sure enough, one of them was showing it, so I went along to see it.  I think the reviews were right – a bit patchy, 3 stars out of 5 probably.  Good fun though!  There were only about 30 people in the theatre, which is walking distance from here.  I should keep a look out for other films I might like to see.

The road to the cinema

We did consider subscribing to Netflix but haven’t got round to it yet.  Just finding a couple of hours to sit and watch a film seems too indulgent at present!  What with Greek homework, browsing the internet, emails, doing admin stuff etc – time seems to fly by.  Brian spent several hours trying to fool BBC iPlayer that we were in the UK, but to no effect. Especially as we don’t have a TV license!  But even the commercial stations won’t let us in.

Poinsettia tree

I may have let myself in for a bit of extra work though.  Last weekend there was a meeting by the group that organised the old city tour last year.  It was basically a coffee and chat session, but with a presentation by a guy (Panos) representing a new electricity supplier – Watt & Volt, would you believe!  Anyway a) I decided to offer to help out with the group, and b) got a quote for electricity as our electricity bills are fairly hefty.  They came back with a good offer, which I am about to sign up for.

Hibiscus bush covered in buds

On 6th January (Epiphany I think) it was the annual “throwing the cross into the sea” event.  I had missed it last year, so made an effort to go and look.  It was a lovely warm and sunny day.  But by the time I got to Mandraki harbour  it was packed with people lining the harbour walls, so I only got glimpses of the ceremony.  Essentially though, a church service, then a pile of priests in fancy getup go to a platform on one of the stone jetties and do a lot more chanting.  Then one of them throws a (wooden?) cross into the sea.  Meanwhile a gaggle of lads had disrobed on the bow of the local lifeboat (brr) and at some point had jumped into the sea and gathered off the priests jetty.  One of them presumably caught the cross – bringing good luck for him and associates I guess for the year – and clambered up onto the platform to give back to the priest.  Lots more chanting, then the band started up and they all paraded off back to the church!

Thousands of people lining the harbour

Antonis (landlord) who has a boat in Mandraki and is a member of the yacht club had invited me to the club after the ceremony.  I wandered in that direction and found Antonis, Vaso and Anthi (wife and daughter) and a group of other people.  Free tea and cakes, but also two huge square cakes with Happy New Year in icing on them.  Ah – I remembered later – the cakes had a coin buried in them again for luck for the finder.  The priests then turned up at the club, got regaled in their regalia again and chanted over the cakes.  One priest cut the cakes into small pieces, while the yacht club commodore (?) started his speech.  I counted the number of pages in his hand and gently sidled away!

 

I rounded off the afternoon with a lovely walk through the moat and a coffee and cake at the Swedish café near our house.

Coffee and cake at the Swedish cafe

I have wandered through the alley ways between our house and the old town now, so know my way around a bit more.  It is fascinating and much closer to the old town than it seems!  We have heard nothing from the owner of the house we were looking at before Christmas, so I started making a note of others I came across and have been making a rather desultory effort to look into them.  There are a couple of neo-classical mansions opposite each other that look interesting, but one is a wreck although it is listed as it has classical painted wooden ceilings. It also has a single storey addition with a small garden that belongs to the church behind! Hmm.  The other isn’t for sale but looks deserted….. The estate agent is looking into it – some time.

Neo Classical wreck for sale

In conversation with Areti, my Greek teacher, I was educated about why so many people here are so stuck for money.  Apparently, until the fiscal crisis here, anyone who worked built up a state pension.  However they could retire at any age and take a large part of their pension in a lump sum, but also still be paid a pension for as long as they lived, in some cases equating to their final salary! Ah. So they would buy a property with a bank loan, assuming that they could pay off the loan with their lump sum when they retired.  Now, of course, the rules have changed, and the lump sum has been cut by 80% and monthly pensions similarly! Oops.  Needless to say this conversation was in English, prompted by my Greek exercise in which I said that someone who had retired was still quite wealthy.  She didn’t understand – what do you mean? Here people who retire are (or were) more wealthy that when they were working she said!!

The house over the street

We are slowly fixing things around the apartment.  We filled a few of the bigger holes in the walls and found some leftover paint to match a few of the more obvious fillings.  Brian is now sanding door jambs, surrounds and doors where the enamel type paint has fallen off or is cracked.  He is filling the gaps, then priming and painting with gloss that we have mixed to approximate the original cream colour.

Flowers

I managed to get hold of some large spherical Chinese paper lampshades from my unfavourite shop, Jumbo, as we had bare bulbs in most of the apartment.  Some of the light fixtures were just wires sticking out of the ceiling, so I got the ladder out and connected a couple of bulb fixings.  Brian stood at the circuit breaker board, turning everything off, while I plugged the wires into the “chocolate block” fittings (yes, very Greek).  One of them took four goes to get the right connection, without it tripping the whole apartment! Neither of us have yet worked out why it made a difference which way the live and neutral should go!!!  But now we have light (LED bulbs) everywhere, and it is a lot better.

Two of the animals next door. No, they don’t quite fit!

My study is becoming more business-like, now with a book case and a proper office chair. The balcony outside this room also serves as the clothes drying area, with washing line draped around the railings.  However I note that it is frequently the least windy area of all the buildings around!  Other people’s washing is flapping nicely in the breeze, while mine just hangs limply, taking a long time to dry if it is cold and humid.

From the beginning of February the weather has perked up.  It rained quite a lot in January, but now the bushes and trees are starting to flower.  The yellow trefoil like weeds are in full bloom as are the dog daisies in the Hellenic fortifications at the end of our street, and a very pretty orange flowered shrub in the hedge around the municipal gardening depot.

Flowers in the hedge

I have started going to the Wednesday and Saturday market for fruit and veg more regularly, dodging along the pavements around the trees. The pavements are fairly narrow in the first place, but then they plant pine and other trees in the pavement that get so big that it makes it very difficult to navigate sometimes!  Most people just walk in the road.  I noticed this first in Leros, but it is endemic to all these islands!

Moonrise

Early in January I made use of the health insurance we took out to fix a minor infection that was lingering.  I had to visit a doctor on the insurance company’s list, about a mile or so away.  In contrast to the UK, there are doctors’ and dentists’ on almost every street corner – often in clumps of medical practises of every description.  Of course, the ones near us aren’t on Tsampika’s list!  I was sent for a few tests at the fancy medical centre.  It is almost empty and very posh!  Again, due to austerity, Greeks now have to rely on the free public health service when in the past they took out private insurance.  It is strange walking around an almost deserted hospital!

The moat, never tire of it

I did find another accountant – recommended by Rosemary, wife of the A1 shipyard owner.  I showed them our tax registrations which were noted to be incorrect – we should be shown as UK tax registered and also as married!  I had applied for a copy marriage certificate from the Gov.uk site which arrived and is being translated.  Now I am waiting for certification of UK tax residence from the same, and Mr Kasekas Jnr (Fotios) or his mate Tsanoikos will sort it all out for us!  Fotios studied finance at Salford University (where I worked for a couple of years)!

St Dimitri of the Myrrh – church near to our apartment

I am also having to get certified proof of identity sent to some financial organisations so we can get access to funds that have been sitting there for 20 years, in order to replace the significant sums we had to spend getting Butte Farm back into shape.  Something to do with money laundering! This is a real pain, but the accountant seems happy to put his moniker on our documentation so I can send it off.  Of course, this all takes time and now the markets have tanked – hey ho.

That is about it for the moment.  Nothing much more to report, and no significant plans for the next month or so.  I had better get this finished and get back to my Greek homework.  I have just started book 2! Wow!

Arabic fountains hide in strange places

 

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