THE LAW!!!

I am on a train for a 5-hour journey to the famous Monasteries in Meteor, Northern Greece.

There are piles of snow on the ground and it is cold; -2. It is a spectacular train ride. It goes right through the mountains, and they are very high.

But this blog is to tell you about my adventures in customs to retrieve my vitamins. I had ordered my vitamins from Canada in November and they arrived at customs in Athens on Dec 4th. It was saying they would be delivered in a few days. On Dec 20th, I decided to go to customs. Customs is near the airport and since my friend Carol was on her way to the UK with my driver Nickoss, I went along for the ride!

Customs is about 2 km from airport. It is a massive area with about 10 buildings each the size of an IKEA store.

When I finally found the right building, it was full of mail in large bins with labels on them from around the world, but no people working.

Someone finally appeared and took my pick up number and ID. When the lady came back, she told me it would be delivered in 5 days and I couldn’t pick them up. l told her I wasn’t leaving without them! I said due to Christmas, there is no way they would be delivered in 5 days. Next a young man came out from customs. He looked like he had just rolled out of bed! He stood right on top of me and I told him to back away. He brought me a declaration form and said they will be delivered in 5 days. I asked if I fill out the form, why couldn’t I have them now? First of all, he said he didn’t know where they were, but I knew he did because my name and bin number were on the form. He appeared back saying I could have them if I paid the 27 percent tax on the bill. They even charge tax on the courier charges.

The problem was that I had to go to airport (which was 2 km away by highway) to the Post Office to pay my bill of 37 euros, and had no way to get there. Since I had sent Nickoss back to Athens, I had to find another way. I discovered the staff bus did the circuit between customs and the airport. They let me on the bus and I went to the airport, paid the bill, then was ready to head back to customs to hopefully get the parcel. I found the staff bus, and by this time I had a special permission slip to use the bus. So, I got my vitamins and was faced with a new challenge; how to get back to city? A taxi wasn’t an option because they couldn’t get through security. I was told there was bus across the highway in front of the IKEA store, but how could I get across the highway? At that point a man appeared and drove me to meet the bus, which was very kind.

There is a word about all of this which I won’t use. The whole time I was being told this is the LAW. I finally said why you don’t use word procedure instead of law? It sounds a little better.

So, after five and half hours, I was back in Athens exhausted drinking a glass of wine!

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Happy Holidays!!

 

Card 6

All the best for 2018,

Betty

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More From Athens

My normal drama of accommodations happened again.  The flat that I was going to rent was without heat until December 15th.  When it was turned on, it was for only 3 hours a day. The flat was very damp and the bedroom was in the back of flat without sunshine. On top of that the hot water couldn’t be left on because of cost. I had asked all of the questions about heat and hot water before I agreed to rent and I was told all was well.

The flat was in a great location.  Luck was with me; a small hotel called Athens Studios was right across the street owned by Ozzies.

I have a lovely studio apartment. It has 2 terraces, a bedroom, a bathroom, a living room and kitchen. It is very well maintained and serviced every day, oh and with breakfast. I would recommend this place to anyone. The price is very close to what I was going to pay for a flat. It’s a good price because tourist season is over.

Athens weather is mixed; not too much rain. The temperature is 13 to 20 and most days there is sunshine, which I just love! I seem to be very social here, with friends, lots of events, (fun). I will be taking the ferry to one of the islands to see friends this week.

As I said in last blog economy is still very difficult and people are reinventing themselves and trying to stay very positive e.g . I met two Architects last week and had both lost their jobs. The cleaning staff at the hotel are from Africa and think of working here as another family.

Athens has a brand new state of the art Cultural Centre, Opera House and National Library all funded by the Stravos  Niarchos Foundation for 650 million Euros and 5 years of maintenance. It has nearly 1000 employees and I was very fortunate to have a private front and backstage tour. It is just magnificent. I also got a ticket for the Opera next week, which wasn’t easy.

Next door is a major hospital funded by Mr Onassis. He was married to Jackie Kennedy, and these gentleman were in major competition in the shipping world. Now they have left legacy projects to their country. I thought it was interesting that these buildings were next door to one another!

As per usual, I have found excellent laundry and coffee. Lunch here is not until 2 or 3.  I attended Thanksgiving dinner hosted by the American Republican party. It was a very interesting evening. They love Trump and think he is doing marvelous job. I decided to stay quiet, but the first course of dinner was served at 11.15.

Not sure how long I will stay here. Will be back in Toronto early March for another Bar Mitzvah. Also a lot of Leonard Cohen music here. He lived on Greek island, I think where he met Marianne.

All for now!

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Wonderful Gritty Athens!

I have been in Athens about 10 days now.  The flat I am renting is in the heart of the city and the underground is about one minute away. The underground is very pristine, built for 2004 Olympics. It looks and is excellent!

Rosamund, my friend who owns the flat is Australian and is going home for Christmas. I think she is coming back in February sometime.

I have been very social, reconnecting with friends I met here 3 years ago, so lunches, dinners, teas and drinks! This whole city is very social and they love to meet up for whatever. Rosamund had a party to introduce me to new friends.

The Canadian Cultural Association is very active and I have joined the American Embassy discussions. Very interesting stuff about Trump etc.

I plan to visit friends on a couple of islands.

Rosamund is leaving next week, so maybe I will have time to think about the book.

Athens seems to be friendly; more than when I was here before. Things are still very bad economy- wise, jobs etc. I just think people are resolved to whatever life brings. The homeless on the street are all displaying wounds and cuts to get money. I met a man, very well dressed, black leather pants, white shirt, and good shoes with a great suntan, apparently he lives on the beach! (Who knows)

I have even been talked into helping with a Church Bazaar for Christmas. It’s very large and I am told the helpers are served coffee with Bailey’s when they arrive. I will let you know.

So all in all great beginning.

 

PS: Oh, I forgot about the demonstration. In 1974, 18 students were killed, so every year on November 17th they are remembered and the city is closed down and I mean everything!

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21st trip to India!

I wasn’t planning on taking a trip in 2017, but changed my mind when I was invited to Call of the Time meeting; COTT for short. The invite came from the Brahma Karmaris in Mt Abu. 25 people from the around the world, from all walks of life including; Education, Business, Social Services as well as individuals that have creative projects in the Arts etc. Our time is spent discussing world topics, meditations and silence time in a very beautiful setting.

Also, for me seeing old friends is always fun.

Very quick 10 day visit as I had to get back to Cambridge to attack my age old issue of luggage. Paul has adopted my luggage and is very helpful (wonderful friend). I am now repacked for Athens! I just had 3 days in UK and was very busy seeing people etc. and catching up on politics (What a mess).

Back to Mt Abu, my friend Dr. Sharma is truly a renaissance man. He is a poet, writer, painter, and he donates his time to many different causes and people. He will have art exhibit in Toronto arranged by an old friend (I have nothing to do with it). Art is on its way as I am writing this blog and the sale of the paintings will go to a Blind School in Mt Abu.

I have arrived in Athens with 5 bags. Easy Jet has a very easy and cheap way of transporting bags as long as you book your number of bags ahead.

I am staying at lovely old flat with a large terrace in the centre of the city, It is owned by my friend Rosamund, who is showing me the ropes before she leaves for Australia.

More later!

I was upset by news of Kevin Spacey, he is one fine actor and cancellation of House of Cards, just sad.

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Whirlwind 2 weeks in Toronto!

Once I arrived in Toronto from New York (after the excellent trip on the freighter ship)

I visited with kids and grandkids. I arrived in time for a visit with granddaughter Spencer, who was home from University. I also had a visit with Megan, a very articulate young woman, and was able to attend a few hockey games of Ben and Dawson. It is a privilege to see these kids grow up and thrive.

I spent most of my time driving back and forth to downtown Toronto for appointments and getting ready for my India trip and next stop Athens. I didn’t even have a lot of time for movies, but did go to see Bat out of Hell, a theatre production written with the music of the old rock and roller Meatloaf. It was amazing! I caught up with the Bk and my adopted family, plus many friends.

All fun and felt good.

Next year is decision time for me.

My sabbatical with the Canadian health insurance is up in September 2018 which means I have to spend a number of months in Canada or do I want to spend most of my time in the UK? (at this point l have no idea)

I am writing this after just arriving in India. The sun is shining and it is warm. October has perfect weather.

PS I also attended 3 Diwali celebrations (which I call Indian Christmas)

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On the Atlantic!! (this is a journal as I traveled, as there was no internet on board)

We are finally on the Atlantic ocean. It isn’t dawn yet, it’s rough, can’t see a thing.
We are 5 passengers on board! 2 men, one is a pharmacist, the other is in finance from France, the other two are a couple from Hamburg Germany, both retired teachers. The pharmacist is a traveler. He just travels with a sleeping bag and knapsack, and takes 2 months every year to do this. The new Captain is a breath of fresh air, a different feeling on ship all together. We also have a different chef. He is very good. Just imagine top chefs on TV, pony tail, striped pants, (that’s him).
The Captain had a little Champagne party for Passengers. It was lovely! We chatted with officers. We also had a safety drill with our special suits. If we have to jump in water, they are bright yellow (with everything even feet built in), they will keep us afloat and warm for many hours and of course yellow to be seen!
The sea is very rough and the Captain doesn’t know if he will keep on this course or have to go south to come back up North for NY. So our arrival time is out big time. We were suppose to arrive on 2nd, but now it is the 3rd at least .
My day is breakfast, exercise, sometimes in the gym, walk around the ship, nearly one mile, emails, journal,
lunch, write new book in afternoon, which is going very well, dinner, maybe a movie, maybe Netflix that Mark downloaded for me. I am trying to write 2 to 3 hours a day, Oh, and a little time for the sun if it’s shining! My chair happens to have Charlie Brown characters all over it.(cute)  We are REALLY rocking and rolling on the North Atlantic!
It is very interesting on board to see all the radar screens, weather, location, depth of ocean etc, storms are just stuck in the ocean, it seems!!
Hope to be taken to engine room soon! Last night was very rough, 50 mile an hour winds and waves 6 meters high lots of rolling around. The Captain says we are through the first bad patch, we have 2 to go.  One of the things I have learnt:
hurricanes, cyclones, tycoons are all the same, just called different names in different parts of the world. The Captain has said he will give decision on arrival in NY on Saturday‎. The Captain is a Leonard Cohen fan, he discovered a workshop I attended on my blog.  Crew members have a number of guitars on board, so music is played. One thing I am missing on board is short wave radio, that would be a asset. We have hit another storm with high winds and rain. The stars are spectacular; seem to be right on top of you. It reminds of me trek many years ago in Peru, with the guide that used to read the stars every night.


The Captain just told us we are hitting big storm tonight with 7 meter waves! (which is 21 feet) And to lash everything down (which is nautical term for) tie it all down.
Apparently the cruise ships have wings for bad weather; we don’t.
We just had a tour of the Engine Room that turned out to be at least 3 floors of pipes, tubes and machines. It alone is worth the price of admission. The chief engineer said when they are at the Red Sea it can get as hot as 55 degrees in those rooms.
The morning has arrived and we are fine. It should be a very rough day, but we are safe.  This Captain and Crew, I cant say enough good things!!
I just asked the Captain at breakfast when is the ship is in danger. He said anytime. For example, if an engine broke down! We are skirting around 2 hurricanes, Maria And Lee,and we even had sunshine, part of the time.
(I wanted adventure!!!)
Two days before arrival and we seem to be through the storms and we are traveling at good speed. Captain has invited us to his table for lunch, so the pressure seems to be off the crew and the thinking about packing has started!  I am told customs can take up to 4 hours in US. We are all taken for interview. (no fun)
Well, the Captain,was surprised, he just told us we have one more storm that is number 5.  A smaller one, but still very high waves, it sounds as is we are just pounding through the waves!
Last day on board, lots to do! Carlo, my producer and screen play writer for My Way is meeting me at the ship.I hope to have time for a nice lunch before I fly to Toronto.
Enjoy the photos!!!

P.S

I have gained  total respect for the sea and the men and women who work on it. It is very difficult and you are at the whim of nature‎! The Captain and his crew are very well trained think they attend school for 7 Years .(a very special breed).

 

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