Friday, June 9, 2017

On the Road to Perdika

Greece is filled with summertime cantinas that could easily be passed by without a second thought, but this one, called Kantina Meeting, had caught our eye as we drove from the beach up to the village of Perdika, which lies between Parga and Syvota.

There was something about it . . . the detail in its structure that bespoke a clever creativeness begging to be investigated. We had to stop. And we hoped to meet the artist of such a creation.

As it turned out, the proprietor was Thanasis, a Greek who had returned to live in Perdika with his English-speaking wife. And this is how we met the very talented pastry chef, Katie, of Katie's Cakes.

She and Thanasis have 3 sons and have lived in Perdika since 2002. Before that, they lived in Corfu which is where they met. Katie's cakes are worth the trip to Perdika. In fact, after having tasted her delicious handiwork on one coffee stop after the beach, we made the trip back to Perdika just for a birthday cake which we brought all the way to Filiates where the celebration was taking place.

I find Katie especially interesting because she is a foreign "nifi" (daughter-in-law), a non-Greek married to a Greek which is something that comes with an entire village regardless of where the married couple decides to settle. And a foreign-nifi is profoundly different from a woman whose parents are Greek and comes back to Greece, leaving from the country in which she's been raised (Australia, Canada, the U.S.).  No, a foreign nifi is a Different-Language-Speaking woman who never dreamed she'd marry a Greek, who only thought of Greece as an idyllic vacation place, who expected a white picket fence and fine manicured lawn with a man from her own country.

I can relate.

But I've never had the courage as Katie has, to make Greece my permanent home, though I think I can say, I wish I had . . . but maybe I say that only because I hadn't.  My hat goes off to this courageous and talented woman.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Katie and below is the result.

Hi Katie, Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Can you tell me how you learned to bake so well? Culinary school?
Thank you for inviting me, Linda. Well, originally I learned to bake from my gran who, armed with the Kenwood chef, would always be baking up a storm for our visits. Then at college, in a general catering course, I learned a few techniques. Later, I was lucky enough to work with a Greek pastry chef on Corfu. The skills I learned from that person, put me in a different world of baking entirely.

How did you end up in Corfu?
I'm originally from Hampshire, England. After college, I applied for several positions through a magazine called The Lady. It was a publication that had job opportunities within the U.K. or abroad. I had applied for a position on Corfu but my application took some time to be approved and the Corfu opportunity was taken. So, instead I went to France. When that position ended, I came back to England and shortly after, received a telegram asking me to come to Corfu. So I went!

How did you meet your husband, Thanasis?
I met Thanasis in Kommeno Village, on Corfu. I was working as a cook/housekeeper in an Irish/Greek owned villa. Thanasis was working in Astir Palace Hotel, just down the road. I used to go swimming over there and he would try to talk to me. After ignoring him for two weeks, I finally gave in to his offer of a ride up the hill on his big black motorbike, and well . . . the rest is history!

It sounds like he is persistent, a good quality, in my opinion. Why did you leave Corfu and go to Perdika?
At the time we decided to leave Corfu, we only had two children. We wanted them to grow up in an environment that gave them more freedom, and we wanted to be closer to Thanasis' mom. After we moved to Perdika, we had our third son.

The beginning of marriage is not easy under any circumstances, but when the in-laws have a different language, as well as different culture and traditions it must be a bit more challenging. Add to that small-village life and I wonder how it was for you in the beginning of your Perdika days.
I got off pretty lightly in my first years of marriage because we were on Corfu. As you've said, when you come back to the village things become a bit more intense. Having been independent when making decisions for the boys, I found it difficult to have people correcting my actions all the time. I was very frustrated in those days. As you know, the word "prepi" (πρεπει) means "you must" or "you have to." That word still has the power to send chills up my spine.  Also, back then many of the village women came to visit or to "advise" me. My boys called them "the scary ladies." Haha. But they just wanted to help me and insure my British child rearing did not damage these young Greeks. However, it just served to make me paranoid about everything from my faulty Greek language to my housewife skills, which seemed to be often evaluated. Now that my boys are getting older, I'm starting to wonder how it might be to have a nifi and I wonder what kind of mother-in-law I'll be.

If it's any consolation, I think your experience as a young mother living near in-laws is a universal one. However, your baking talent puts you on a different plane. I think any nifi would be honored to learn from you. I personally prefer the "eating" portion of baking and look forward to my next visit to Kantina Meeting.
Thank you Linda. We look forward to seeing you again.

Among the Zinnias, The Nifi, and Your Own Kind are available in ebook and paperback. And they're free if you have Kindle Unlimited. I hope you will give one of them a try!

Independent authors often have quite a challenge in getting exposure for their work. I hope, dear reader, you will consider writing a review on Amazon or

Saturday, June 3, 2017

"Age" old Experience

When looking for a new physician, are you the type who wants an older more experienced doctor?

Once when given a choice while making an appointment for an orthopedic, I was asked by the receptionist, "Do you want to see the father or the son?" The two doctors practiced together. How sweet, I'd thought. Of course I wanted the father. I pictured a twenty-something-year-old son. However, when the old man hobbled in, I realized my mistake. The problem was with me, really. I didn't know I had gotten older. I've always felt more comfortable with a physician who is at least my age or a bit above, but that doesn't quite work anymore.

This was also Giovanna Boeri's experience, in Among the Zinnias:

“What have we here?” The young man said as Giovanna looked at the unfamiliar face and thought he might have been any one of the young people who came in the summer months to visit parents and grandparents. 
          He couldn't have been more than sixteen or seventeen, she thought. He was wearing jeans, a very wrinkled tee shirt and tennis shoes without socks. Certainly a white coat or at the very least, socks, would have added to his age.
          “Where’s Doctor Michalina?” Giovanna asked as she pulled back from his hand that had rested on her shoulder, “She takes care of me.”
          “She’s gone. Finished up last Wednesday. I’m Doctor Giovanni—call me Gianni.”
          He smiled and held out his hand while the nurse pressed more gauze to Giovanna’s eyebrow.
          When Giovanna ignored his extended hand, the young man looked at some papers that lay on the nearby counter.
          “Well, look at that,” he said in a pitch he usually reserved for small children, “We have the same name—kind of.”
          Giovanna did not respond.
          Normally, she would have heard about the change in doctors. There wasn't much more news around the island other than the occasional wedding or birth and the not-so-occasional funeral as she lost one friend after another. But the gossip surrounding the medical center doctors was the most common because the doctors were outsiders, none had ever stayed permanently and it seemed socially safe to squawk on about them. But she’d been so occupied lately. She rarely got out alone anymore. Taking Pastore di Capre out was like taking a toddler who kept her from finishing a full sentence or hearing the ongoing conversation. She’d have to ask Maria about this new doctor.

Independent authors often have quite a challenge in getting exposure for their work. I hope, dear reader, you will consider writing a review on Amazon or

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Back to Eden

The winter yoke has been removed. Summer is on the horizon and my bags are packed.

Epirus, Greece is my eden. What's yours?

Everyone needs that special place, a place into which we escape, remove ourselves from our usual environment for a short respite, a place with no newscasts, no mail, no set daily routine . . . a place where we can break free of all those rules that bind us.

Of course, once we've returned to earth, there is that deep depilating depression at knowing there is a long wait for our next departure.

But let's try not to think about that, yet.

For now . . . and for our physical health, mental stability, emotional well-being .  .  . let's find that hacksaw, cut those shackles loose and run free!

Independent authors often have quite a challenge in getting exposure for their work. I hope, dear reader, you will consider writing a review on Amazon or

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Hero or Narcissist

How does a national hero suddenly become a narcissistic nut?

When the book, A Man, came out in the early 1980s, I was barely 30 years old. At that time, Panagoulis was a brave Greek freedom fighter. My opinion of him was heavily swayed by the fact that I was enamored by my own Greek rebel who adored the book and the character.

Now, however, thirty years later as I've finally gotten around to reading it, Panagoulis seems more like a self-absorbed narcissist. But it's the woman who loved him intensely who has convinced me of this.

Oriana Fallaci was, without a doubt, a gifted writer which remains apparent throughout the book. But she had the opportunity to depict Panagoulis, the man she claimed to love, as the superhero many Greeks saw him. Yet her portrayal of Panagoulis seems more like a psychological profile of a very self-centered hyperactive boy. When someone suggests to Panagoulis that his desire to create another act of defiance against the dictator, is really his own ego trying to stay in the limelight, Fallaci says, "I hoped this would be a beneficial crisis," as she alludes to a sort of agreement with this assertion. Later, as Panagoulis hatches a new idea for rebellion and must wait for all the pieces to fall into place, Fallaci writes, "waiting. . . was the acid test of your stubbornness, of the monomania that afflicted you every time your faith spawned an idea and the idea became a psychosis." There is a moment when Panagoulis seems to reach a turning point and tells Fallaci that he has changed and that, "the real bombs are ideas. Any imbecile can pull a trigger." But he's lied so much to her, that the reader feels a sense of frustration when she believes him.

Along with these statements, there are the situations in which Panagoulis blatantly disregards Fallaci's feelings or well-being. He wants a "companion" and is a lonely man, yet he sneaks blocks of TNT into Fallaci's bag without her knowledge. In fact he lies to her and tells her, it's a rock from the archeological site which they're visiting when his TNT contact, slips him the explosive. Fallaci doesn't find out his lie until they've left the park. Panagoulis' actions are constantly a testament to his self-image, his own needs and his disregard for others.

Okay, so maybe the translator of this text makes Panagoulis seem like a narcissist and the original version, written in Italian, does not have the same cutting choice of words and phrases. After all, I've learned from translator, Franca Scurti Simpson, that translation is an art and not all translators would choose the same path with any given translation task. Unfortunately, neither the author nor the translator are still alive so we are unable to ask them.

So, I've asked several Greeks what they thought of the dictatorship in Greece and their ideas of Panagoulis.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

When Your Dad has Alzheimer's . . .

You watch him deteriorate with a mixture of sadness and frustration. But there is also fear. It's a fear that permeates every bone of your body, and after he's gone, that fear slips to the background, rearing its head now and then. A forgotten name, a missed appointment, lost car keys . . . that's normal, right? But as you age, you count the years between you and that deadline, the one in which you surmise it all began for him   . . . but nobody is really sure when exactly it did begin. After he passes away at the age of 79, mom tells you it was a 20-year disease. He hid it from us all, she says. And I understand this now. Yes, he probably did.

It was very hard for mom to watch him slip into oblivion. She brought him back to Long Island from their home in Florida, hoping to remain, but instead, it turned into a short visit. During that time, dad was hospitalized for a fall he'd taken at my brother's house. By then, he'd already lost most of his ability to communicate. He was often confused and agitated. It was my turn to stay overnight with him at the hospital. When I got there to relieve my sister-in-law, his wrists were tied to the bed to keep him in it. Her face was ashen and she said, "The nurse did it." I took some small scissors from my purse and cut the ties. His hands were free. I quickly reached into my bag and pulled out a salami sandwich. I unwrapped it and put it in his hand. He smiled and began to eat.

But he refused to stay in bed. He got up and walked around and I walked with him, and the nursing staff gently tried to suggest he shouldn't be walking around. I wish I knew the name of that one nurse who came up to us as we shuffled along the corridor. It was way after midnight and she said, "he likes to walk, doesn't he? Okay, then let's walk." And she took his other arm and began to sing, I was walking in the park one day. . .  And dad began to sing along with her. He seemed happy for a few minutes. But the usual agitation soon returned. I think he just wanted to go home . . . wherever that was. He began hitting and yelling and I tried to talk to him. "Please, dad."

Saturday, April 1, 2017

What's in a name?

The Greeks and Italians share a common custom of confusion. It's in the naming of their first-born sons. When the parents of a first-born son follow tradition, that child gets his paternal grandfather's name which means when an extended family gets together for an event, it results in several cousins with the same name, and a scene such as that in the clip above from, My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

In both cultures, the results are some interesting nicknames to distinguish who is who. For example, Grandpa Anthony might have a fifty-something-year-old grandson, Little Anthony, and a thirty-something-year-old GREAT-grandson, Baby Anthony. The nicknames are created to distinguish one from another but somehow once created, become as permanent as cement. In a situation where cousins and extended family have several Anthonys, the nicknames can become quite creative and are often very telling of one's personality or physical features. And sometimes that nickname just comes up because of a momentary situation that never again presents itself but leaves the recipient with that unusual label, thereby changing his identity for eternity. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Mom's Marijuana

Mom had six kids. Yeah, okay, so did dad . . . but it was the 1960s & 70s in suburbia America. The U.S. may have been in the midst of women's marches and cries of equal rights, but mom and dad were still children of the 1930s which meant mom was in charge of the kids and dad was in charge of bringing home the bacon . . . for quite a while, anyway.

Some of those six kids, or maybe all of them, were influenced by the marijuana of that time. And one in particular, or maybe several, thought it would be an interesting experiment to try and grow her own plant. However, if one were to start growing a plant in her bedroom closet, there would be a moment in time when she would need to transplant that creation to a healthier environment. Luckily mom also had a garden.

The garden was on the only sunny side of the house and could be seen from the front sidewalk. Mom noticed the tall healthy plant as it grew taller than her tomatoes and she watered it faithfully and weeded around it, waiting to see what type of fruit its purple flowers would yield. That is, until Mr. A. from down the street walked by one evening and stopped to talk to mom as she stood in the middle of her garden watering her plants. Mr. A. was a New York City detective and very knowledgable about many subjects.

A few of us kids were at the kitchen window as we watched the plant ripped from the ground in one full swoop and sail over the fence into a wooded area.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Age of Wisdom?

When exactly is that age of wisdom, I'd like to know. We 1950s children were supposed to be "seen and not heard." Our elders knew best. And yet now that we've reached that frontier, we are no longer the valued wise.

Who needs elders when there is Google?

We are a generation of in-betweens. Sandwiched between young people who cannot grasp the idea of having an agreed-upon meeting place in case they get separated while shopping in the mall, and older people who annoyingly refuse to learn to text. It seems an odd place to be, and yet I wouldn't trade this newer age of technology for any age of wisdom . . . if that were to be the trade off.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Among the Zinnias

It's here! 

Among the Zinnias is now in ebook and paperback!



Independent authors often have quite a challenge in getting exposure for their work. I hope, dear reader, you will consider writing a review on Amazon or 

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Hoarder

I saw this post in The Facebook group, A Good Greek Read and I thought the book title looked familiar, Inside Hitler's Greece.

Sure enough, I found the book among many others in my basement, where books seem to accumulate.

Copyrighted in 1993, I remember someone in my family reading it, so with the prompt from Facebook and the fact that I had the hardcover in my hand, I decided to read it.

It's not a light easy read by any means, but it is an interesting one, especially when considering my father-in-law, Tomas, was among the resistance fighters who fought against the Germans and was very much privy to the wide spread starvation that occurred as a result of the German occupation.

As I read the book, memories of Tomas emerged. Both the Germans and Italians occupied Greece during the second World War. Tomas told me some stories about the Italians, which at the time, I thought were just his way of being nice to me, his Italian-American daughter-in-law. But I've just read similar accounts in this book.

According to Tomas, the Italian soldiers were mostly kind-hearted and tried to help the Greek civilians. He told of Italian soldiers giving their food rations to the children of the village and then catching turtles to boil and eat, instead. The children would aid the soldiers in catching the turtles, knowing they'd get the soldiers' food in return.

The Italian government also did as much as they could to supply some food to the starving Greeks. This was in contrast to the German government and soldiers who took what they could and shipped much of the Greek food supply back to Germany to feed that hungry population. Thus, especially in the cities, the Greek civilian population dwindled rapidly under these dire conditions.

Another memory of Tomas and his war stories is about two men who had come to the countryside from Athens in search of food.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Blanket of Snow

Photo credit: taken from Facebook Group, Parga Paradise, posted February 8, 2017 by Lloyd Gowland who credited the original post of Rosario Grazioso.

A small sprinkling of snow, like the shake of a snow globe can create a scene of beauty and is a tolerable situation.

An even coating, perhaps a few centimeters, is a bit of a nuisance but barely disrupts the flow of life.

A heavy blanket, however, one that stops traffic, closes businesses and blocks the television satellite programing is respite from the unruly spin of daily routine. I for one, welcome it. (Retirees, this is not meant for you, and stop telling me how great your life is).

Friday, January 20, 2017

Lost in Translation

She said she doesn't want anything from you. That's what he told the older woman. That's how he translated my message.

However, my actual words, having been carefully chosen and sculpted, were meant to spare her ego. What I'd actually said was: Tell her, I appreciate her effort very much and would love to have something to eat later but I've just eaten and would not fully appreciate how delicious her food is. Tell her also that she's such a wonderful cook! (big smile from me to the woman awaiting translation.)

Most people would agree that, although both statements declare the same basic truth, each gives the listener, in this case, my mother-in-law, a different perception of the speaker. What other reason is there for language than if not to communicate what is in one's mind. And if a person takes the time and effort to mold the message into just the right words, one would hope that it would be that precise message that the listener receives, no?

Such mistranslation, for that is what I'd call the above encounter, has been without a doubt a strong motivator for my learning Greek. But this is not about me and my incompetence with the Greek language or my feeble attempts to communicate with my Greek relatives. Rather it is a revelation that speaks to something I'd never thought of despite the fact my life has been surrounded by people with whom communication is a monumental effort . . . and yes, an art.

This is about reading translated editions of books.

But how does the encounter above relate to reading? Can different translators have different renditions of translated material? I'd never thought about it much until I read the article, The Subtle Art of Translating Foreign Fiction, after which I thought about my new favorite author, Donatella Di Pietrantonio. But she writes only in Italian and I do not read Italian. So, does that mean my love for the author is actually meant for the translator?

Friday, December 9, 2016

It Only Takes One Generation to Forget

He was stripped naked, forced to kneel in the snow as a dull sword was given to a 16-year-old villager, a sort of baptism into soldierhood, though there were plenty of guns available for the job. It took the boy several blows of the sword to accomplish the task. The victim: an Italian soldier taken prisoner in the mountains of Greece during World War II, a young man who now lives in my psyche and haunts my dreams.

This true account was taken from the diary of New Zealander, Tom Barnes, whose daughter-in-law turned those pages into a book called The Sabotage Diaries. He and his men, part of a team that was parachuted into Greece, witnessed the account but were not able to stop it. For several reasons, this book is more than just an interesting read. The narrative of that one unfortunate Italian captive, is but a few lines in the tale and yet, I cannot let it go. I see those family members of mine who were players on that field. My father-in-law, Tomas was a young andarte (partisan-guerilla) among those the British allies came to help. My mother-in-law, Chevi, was a young woman who suffered the consequences of the war and was one who carried the munitions for the soldiers as Barnes was aghast to learn--women in Greece were the pack mules.

But it's the words of my father, Carl Fagioli, that ring in my ears. An Italian-American, born of immigrant parents, he suffered throughout his life from bouts of anxiety that in later life he attributed to his time in World War II. His mother, a widow and he an only son could have deferred the deployment but they didn't know. She was a barely-literate immigrant trying to make a living in the Bronx. When dad was sent to the front, he was grateful it was in Asia, for now the relatives back in the old country were deemed enemies and he wasn't sure how he'd be able to survive if he had to fight against them. Was that young prisoner in the Greek mountains a relative? A friend of one whom dad would visit in Italy forty years later? Would the family members of that young soldier have ascendants who'd come as tourists after a few generations to swim on the Greek shores? It only takes one generation to forget the atrocities of the past. . . That's why it's so easy to repeat them.

My father-in-law, Tomas had told a few war stories in his time and of course these colored my reading of Barnes' book. Another quick mention of a seemingly insignificant character in The Sabotage Diaries was a young twenty-year-old woman who the Greek guerrillas deemed a poutana (whore) for collaborating with the Italians. The Greek rebels that the allies came to help were actually split into two factions, leftists and right-wingers. It would be the only time they'd work together and even before the world war had ended, they would battle for control of Greece until the people were left in destitute tatters with broken hearts, broken homes and widespread starvation.

But the memory of one particular story from Tomas, had me reading about that so-called-whore with a heavy heart. There were groups of fighters vying for favor with General Zervas, the perceived leader of the Greek guerrillas. And bringing her to the general appeared to be a move to please him. Was that poor woman a traitor or a pawn? Someone who had jilted the amorous advances of one of the local boys-turned-guerrilla? A starving villager who'd succumbed to an Italian soldier's charity? An unlucky woman drawing water from a village well when the guerrillas passed by? Eventually she was taken away and shot.

This is my father-in-law's story:

Cousin Theodore was an andarte fighting against the Germans with the leftists. Tomas joined him with the thought that it would be better at least to have family within the ranks of whichever group he followed.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Split Second Decisions that Define a Future

The first Greek I ever met, was the one who hired me for a diner job in a New York suburb back in 1980. I didn't know he was Greek, probably couldn't have found Greece on a map. After all, there'd been no point in high school for attending to useless drivel like geography. If it wasn't going to make me a good wife or if I couldn't enter it into my journal while I cut classes and sat in the library writing, I simply wasn't interested.

I hadn't had any intension of taking that diner job. I'd just given up on a failed hairdressing career. Actually I was a shampoo girl. My fate had been sealed several years prior when I'd gotten caught ditching my high school Spanish class. That was my solution to some nasty bullying. All I knew was that I couldn't go back to that class and when one hapless guidance counselor got the unpleasant duty of reprimanding me, he'd tried to scare me with some line about needing Spanish coursework for when I applied for a university. Silly fool. College? Me? I'm one of six children and a girl. Didn't he know anything?

"Well, what are you going to do with your life?" he'd asked me.

"Be a mother and a wife, of course." I thought, "what else?" But he seemed to want an answer. I knew I liked to write and to read books. But you can't make a living out of that, can you? Hmmm, well, I also knew a girl who was in a program to become a hair stylist.  I liked blow drying my hair. I was pretty good at styling it. I really couldn't think of any other profession at that moment and I figured he needed an answer. It was his job after all. Guidance counselor. So, I gave him something mostly so I could get out of his office.

"I want to be a hairdresser," I said.

Oh that sweet man! From then on, he worked with a vengeance to get me into the 2-year cosmetology program and my hairdressing career was off and running. The first thing I learned was that I didn't really like to touch other people's hair. But the commitment was made. So, I'd give it all I had, which turned out to be very little. I never made it past shampoo girl and I was tired of living in my parents' house. Remember the six kids?

Friday, December 2, 2016

Insects and other creatures.

Imagine insects and small creatures crawling into your window at night or just living in the cracks of your stucco walls.

I've just reread the hilariously entertaining book, My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durell. As Durell, a young boy living on the Greek island of Corfu in the 1930s, recounted his intimate relationship with the creeping crawling creatures of the area, I could not help but think of my own, not-so-romantic experience on Corfu in 1987. I'd missed the last ferry to the mainland and had to spend the night in a hotel that boasted a closeness to nature like none I wanted to experience. I'd thought my stint on the mainland in the village of Margariti, a few years prior, had desensitized me to those creatures. But I was wrong.

Rewind to that first experience of the Greek countryside in Epirus, 1983. Within the altered state of mind-numbing culture shock, I'd become hypersensitive to sounds--not only to the lilt of approaching Greek-speakers but also to the barely audible sounds of small creatures that only I seemed to hear until they made their presence blatantly known. Take the Greek termites, for example. A small scratching sound, almost imperceptible, unless you happened to be lying wide-eyed in the middle of the night, a thin sheet sticking to the sweat on your body. In that case, as was the case for me on those sweltering, pre-air-conditioned nights, I implored my husband, Nick, to identify from where the sound was coming but he couldn't hear it. I, on the other hand, could localize the vicinity somewhere near the floor by the door but when I turned on the light, there'd be nothing there. It wasn't until we'd needed that one wooden chair for a dinner guest, that the scratching sound was accurately identified. I retrieved the chair from the bedroom and brought it to the guest beneath the grape arbor where the family had gathered for a meal. The guest sat on it, and with a small creak, the chair disintegrated under his bottom and he fell to the ground.