Saturday, July 08, 2006

Lucy, I’m home…

What follows is a bad day in Crete. Every vacation has its lows; this is one of them. Today is the last day with the rental car, so we decide to head into town and then return the car, which we have to drop off at the “Xania” airport, which is really the Souda airport.

Friday 8 July 2006
9:30 Aunt Flo arrives. If you get this, my apologies, but it helps you understand my day.

11:00 Drive to Xania.

11:45 Enter one of several ridiculously small parking garages. Corolla barely fits. I have about 6” clearance. I have to negotiate four levels down (read that as 4 floors x 4 tight turns per floor) to finally get a parking space. Driving here really sucks.

12:00 Memorize street where garage is located, then walk around town.

1:00-ish eat lunch at a crappy taverna. One thing about Greek tavernas: they often “run out” of half the stuff on the menu. This is frustrating when trying to eat vegetarian. One place said they had veggie burgers. Great! Sorry, all out. Pasta? Sorry, all out. Stuffed tomatoes? Sorry, all out. WTF? Then we have to use the toilet. Oh boy. There’s no toilet paper and it’s a coed toilet. Yuck. There’s also no towel to dry your hands. Do the cooks even wash their hands? I don’t want to know. But how do women in this country survive? Now I’m really grumpy. I keep a load of tissue with me at all times. Survival gear.

2:00-ish walk around tourist area surrounding old port. Boring. Shopping? Boring. Cramps? Yes. Let’s leave.

3:30 leave garage. (Cost 5.80€)

5-ish arrive at apartment. Decide the airport is too far away for Terry to run home (we had thought it was 18m, but it’s more like 60km—don’t trust the maps here.) So I get to drop off the car solo and make my way back to Kissamous while Terry takes the kids to the beach, makes dinner, and such. Remember Aunt Flo? I’m oh so happy to attempt to speak Greek and sit on a bus for several hours. I decide to take my note book for writing and my Hemingway book. I convince myself that time alone is a Good Thing.

5:15-30-ish Leave for airport. Drive to Xania. Airport is actually in the next town over, Souda. Directions from car dealer: “take off the exit for Souda, go under the freeway towards town, then follow signs to airport. Very easy…”

6:15 Pass the US base. Ah ha! So those fighters I saw really were US planes (and if you look on a map and plot a flight course from Souda base to Matala, you’ll see the line heads to Saudi Arabia.) Continue up and over 2000’ mountain. Am I lost? No, there’s a taxi. But this looks like a goat road. Nope. There’s another taxi. There’s finally another sign for the airport. Oh, and a beat up sign saying I can’t photograph or tell you anything about the US base because if I did, I’d be breaking the PATRIOT Act. (I’m serious.) So, I can at least tell you it’s an unimpressive base. If you don’t hear from me, contact Alberto Gonzales or Donald Rumsfeld.

6:30 Arrive at airport. The guy who’s supposed to be running the kiosk at the parking lot isn’t there, so I leave the keys under the mat with the car unlocked. (We did this with the first car we had. When we asked if this was safe, the answer was “what is someone going to do? This is an island. There are three ports all monitored. Nothing leaves.” OK. And people don’t lock their doors either.

6:35 Ask for info about busses to town. “Yes, there is a schedule outside.” Head outside, read schedule, shit. Four busses per day. Next one comes at 10pm. I thought they said there were regular busses here?

6:40 Ask taxi driver to take me to Souda. “Why Souda? You want Chania.” No I don’t—that taxi ride would break the bank. Souda! “Why? There’s nothing there.” Souda port. Finally. Up and over said 2000’ mountain, driver nearly hits man on bicycle. (Steve, what were you saying about biking?) I’m wearing my seatbelt; driver is not.

7:00-ish As we turn into town, we pass the bus labeled Xania. Shit. I wonder how long until the next one? Decide to get a beer. Cost of taxi: 15€.

7:05 Order beer (it’s useful to know this in several languages: una cervesa por favor, ein beire bitte, une bière s’il vous plait, ena bierre parakalo…), ask waitress if she speaks English, then ask about busses. “Yes, they come there,” pointing, “twenty minutes, yes.” I figure I can sip my beer and still make the next bus. Next bus comes by. Hey, that’s only about 10 minutes. Cool! Next bus will be “no problem.” Unfortunately my watch crapped out on me several days ago, so I have no idea what the exact time is. Finish beer. Rip off taverna (because it’s near the port). Cost for 330ml Mythos 2.80€. (Cost in store, 50 cents, cost at reasonable tavernas 1€. Best bet 500ml for 1.70€. Gotta know the price of beer when traveling.)

7:15 Waiting for bus.

7:20 Waiting for bus.

7:30 Waiting for bus.

7:35 Start talking with a Greek-Canadian, her daughter and grandson. They are speaking English and saying how typical this is—nothing works in Greece, they say. We are headed into the same part of town. They speak Greek, talk on phone, blah blah, then the daughter tells me they will take a cab and I can come if I want. Sure. They flag down one taxi. He says no. Second taxi also refuses job. Mother laughs and says “typical. Everyone here is lazy and doesn’t want to work!” She starts talking about Canada.

7:40 Third taxi accepts job. I get in, put on seat belt. Two-year old Ioannis sits on mom’s lap. No one wears their seat belts. Drive into town is short. They are all laughing and speaking Greek, but I can tell the driver is flirting and telling some story. He’s a player—you can tell because he’s dressed up with shirt unbuttoned too low, wears too much cologne, and has these shiney silver-rimmed squarish sunglasses. He talks slowly with his hands gesticulating every word. (I’d prefer it if they stayed on the steering wheel.)

7:45-ish Arrive in downtown Xania. This place is too much of a crowded city with shopping as the only activity. Get me outta here! I walk past the first bus station (local only) and head to the second bus station.

7:55 (I see a clock now.) Buy ticket to Kissamous, 3.90€. Ask when next bus leaves. 8:15. Good. I head to the bathroom again. Oh my God. Not only is there no toilet paper, there are NO TOILETS. I have a lovely HOLE IN THE FLOOR. How ghetto is that? I mean, I’d expect that in China or Burma or Laos. There are two plastic corrugated foot-pads next to the hole. Great. Remember the start of my story? Again I ask how do women here put up with this? No wonder they all wear black, smoke like chimneys, and never smile.

8:10 Call to board bus. I can actually understand this in Greek, so I am at the front of the line.

8:15 Bus leaves. I’m writing frantically, ranting about this place in words not fit to print. By the second stop, the bus is packed with people standing. I believe I’m the only one wearing a seatbelt. I have visions of a wreck—don’t they know how dangerous driving is here? I think I need some chill pills. Ena Mythos, parakalo!

8:30-ish I work on my story. (Steve’s nagging is ringing in my head.)

9:00-ish I tire of the guy next to me looking at my writing, so I switch to Hemingway.

9:15 The lights go out in the bus. The route I drove was the inland National Road (like a highway); the route we’re taking to Kissamous is via every podunk town along the coast. Then we turn inland, cross the highway, and drop people off in darkness. Where could they be going? There’s nothing close to the road. One stop there’s a building with no lights, but it’s not a house. The bus drivers tend to honk hello each time they pass each other. And for some reason, the mopeds honk too, and the bus driver honks back. Hello honk honk hello. There’s a crazy driver in front of us with his hazards on. He crosses the road, drives on the wrong side of the road, slows down. Our driver honks and then starts mumbling something in Greek and I laugh because I feel his pain. The guy next to me laughs too, but he at least understands the words. When a stop approaches, the driver yells. If people want off, they yell back nai, nai (yes, yes). (Oxi means no.)

9:45 Thankfully I’m paying attention to street signs and know I’m in Kissamous because the driver never actually says Kissamous or Kastelli (the town has two names).

9:50 I approach our apartment. The windows are open. I can see Terry and the kids huddled on the two twin beds. They’re watching TV. I get closer and say, “Lucy, I’m home!” The kids run over to the door. Teagan shouts, “Mom we were worried!” Devin stretches his arms, says “huggie” and wraps me in a bear hug. Erin, in that typical pre-teen American way, says “so, like, what took you so long? Daddy said you’d be home an hour ago?” She hugs me and I retell the story. But first, a beer. Then two. How about some Ouzo? Oh, and a clean toilet!

11:00-ish Terry and Devin head upstairs to bed. I open the front door to cool off the apartment, and the girls go to sleep quickly.

11:30-ish I’m tired of watching the Matrix and decide to pass out. I shut the front door but leave open the windows. I can hear more people arriving at the tavernas two buildings down.

1:30-ish bathroom break. They are still loudly partying.

3:00-ish another bathroom break. They are still partying. My god, will they ever go to bed? The Greeks party en masse, especially on Friday nights. There’s really nothing else to do around here.

3-5am Dorks on motorcycles are racing through town. With every rev of the engine, with every shifting of gears, I expect to hear squealing tires and a crash. I know he’s not wearing a helmet. Just as I’m dozing again, the waaaah-wuuuh-wuuuh of the bike jabs into my head. If I shut the window, we’ll all roast. The girls are sound asleep.

6am-ish the rooster is crowing and crowing and crowing and the dog next door is barking and barking and then the doves coo cooo cooo! and the other birds are chirping, and where is my pellet gun?

8am The construction workers arrive to work next door. There’s banging and slamming, and then Terry’s at the window, back from his run. He’s off to shower and then hit the internet café up the road. I’m pulling the sheets over my head. Can I get an hour of sleep? I’ll have to take a nap before the game tonight. (Go Germany! Portugal ugh—they beat England, so I hope they lose now.)

9:30 Crap. Can’t sleep. Decide to write. Thus ends my version of 24.


At 11:05 AM, Blogger sarette said...

"....where is my pellet gun?"

Oh. My. God! I'm finally rubbing off on Kelly.

I know this was a bad day for you, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. Glad you got in, um, almost a WHOLE HALF HOUR on your book. I can't wait to see what that passage looks like.

Of course, now that DHL has you for telling us about the airbase, we'll never see that book....

(Now THAT would be a bad day).

I do hope you're taking lots and lots of pictures. You could write a whole other novel about this trip.

At 10:30 AM, Blogger Kelly A. Harrison said...

I have about a thousand photos. We're filling up the 512MB card and moving the photos to my hard drive at night. But the last few days have been slow photo days--mostly hanging out at the beach.

I've discovered here that our house in SJ is a rather quiet place. Sure we get annoying birds in the spring, but nothing like here. The roosters have got to go, to parrot Chris Rock. Ditto for the baying mutts down the road. But most of all, I'd like to take a Harley and sit outside the bike and moped riders and rev the engine while they sleep. Terry suggests the afternoon siesta. Honestly, 2-5 is the quietest time around here. No one on the streets, the roads are empty of cars, mopeds, motorcycles.

And you know, I never see anyone riding a BIKE. I know why--to freaking dangerous.


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