July 2002

Cup of Soup

Mon, Jul 1, 2002

Day 14 - Corfu

Happy Canada Day from Corfu!

Today I learned the meaning of the phrase "It's all Greek to me", and that's because, well, everything is Greek here. In all the other countries I may not have understood very much, but at least I could read the signs and try to figure it out from there. Here, no such luck. Everything's in the Greek alphabet and I can only pronounce one or two letters; even if I could pronounce the words it wouldn't bring me any closer to interpreting them. Thank goodness there are five Greek-speaking members of our tour to help us out.

We got a ride from the hotel to Corfu town this morning, but we got a lesson in Greek time before that. Apparently, when somebody adds "ish" to the time, it adds an incredible amount of unpredictability. For instance, if someone says dinner will be at seven-ish, it really means anywhere between 7:01 and 7:59. Our bus was supposed to pick us up at 11:30, but the driver must have heard 11:30ish, because he didn't come and get us until 12:15.

We spent a little while in town and had some superb fast-food souvlaki. I also had to buy a new bag to carry the growing collection of cheesey souvenirs I had been acquiring at each destination. The rest of the day was spent relaxing in the pool. Ahhh... it's nice to finally sit and do nothing after 13 days of walking for hours on end and climbing stairs to the heavens and back. There was another Contiki tour staying at the hotel at the time, and we got a chance to meet a few of them, including a group of Mexicans who by pure coincidence all happened to choose the same tour, a pair of girls from Chicago, and an attractive and friendly young lady from Toronto with whom we spent much of the rest of the afternoon talking. As if the world didn't seem small enough, her sister went to school with the siblings of one of the other Torontonians in our tour.

That night we went out for a traditional Greek dinner, complete with music and dance like the fire dance and the zorba. The food was good, but the retsina didn't agree with me like the Chianti did. The bus ride home was full of loud singing dictated by a couple of pushy Aussies. I find it very distressing how few people outside of Canada are familiar with "Home For A Rest"; this ignorance must be corrected.

We ran into the other tour at the hotel again, but our new Torontonian friend fell ill and retired early. The rest of the night was spent listening to a couple of the Mexicans whine about the rest of their group. I went off to bed after I had had enough; there may be a couple of people in our group that I may not like particularly much, but I really don't feel like whining about it and segragating myself; what a waste of a trip that would be.

Tues, Jul 2, 2002

Day 15 - Corfu

This morning's excursion was aboard the infamous "George's Boat". George is an old, fat, perverted, Greek man, who happens to own a boat. He takes traveller's out on the sea to the Club Med for some watersports and a few swimming spots, all the while selling unique t-shirts, quoting his slogans "No nookie, only lookie" and "Skipsy glipsa parakalo", and singing perverted songs with a few national anthems in between.

It was one of the best days - if not the best day - of the trip. I went paragliding (and learned how bad salt water tastes), and rode a doughnut tube. I had the misfortune of falling off the tube when the three guys going with me all slammed into me sending my tube head over heels, but two of them each fell off a little later, too. The boat driver went much faster for us than for any other group, and my arms were killing me afterwards from holding on so tight. Incredibly fun, though; I would have gone again if I still had the strength to close my hand.

We were then brought to a pair of swimming spots off of little islands, one of which George called "Hanky Panky Island", where there were no rules. "Hanky Panky Island!" he yelled on the tannoy. "Coochy Coochy Island! Skinny Dippy Island! No rules here! Everyone off the boat!"

After the cruise we went back to the hotel pool to lounge in fresh water again. We played some volleyball much to the displeasure of some of the other people around us. We went back to town after dinner to soak in some local culture, wander around, and people-watch. We learned that it pays to hide the fact that you're a tourist when riding a cab. One of the passengers in our car spoke Greek and chatted with the driver the whole trip. Our fare was 2.50 euros, while the other cabs charged up to 7.00 euros. A few people took the opportunity to rant about some of the more annoying members of our tour. Compared to many other groups on these tours, our group is apparently kind of lame. There isn't as much spirit as I was hoping there would be, and it's not as wild as I had expected, but it's still an awesome time and I don't want to put a black spot on the trip by whining about them.

The only thing I'm whining about is my sunburn. Over the past 15 days I've built up a nice deep bronze tan on my face and arms, but I only removed my shirt when we got to Corfu. Now my shoulders are a bright red, getting their first exposure this summer and apparently wanting to catch up with the rest of me a little too quickly. I am not looking forward to carrying that heavy backpack around.

Wed, Jul 3, 2002

Day 16 - Corfu, Corinth, Athina

Yet another earrrrrly morning start so we can catch the ferry over to the mainland and start the long long drive to Athens, the cradle of Western civilization. The ride was pretty dull; I tried to sleep the whole way, but I have never been able to sleep on busses or planes, so the effort was in vain. We made a stop in Corinth to see the Corinth Canal. It's literally a giant hole in the ground, but an impressive hole it is.

We finally got to Athens early in the evening and we were greeted with a tremendously huge sea of white buildings. It's dirty, it's smoggy, and it's as hot as a sauna, but you can't help but be impressed by it's size and it's age. We had our farewell dinner at the top of a hotel that provided a lovely view of the Acropolis and Temple of Zeus at night. The meal was good, but - like most of the Contiki optional meals - overpriced. It was our last night as a group, so there were lots of pictures being taken; I think I've gone blind from all the flashes.

Late last night I discovered a little problem: my bank card refused to give me any more money, the ATMs all claiming there were insufficient funds. Uh oh. Luckily I still had traveller's checks, but all the money exchange offices were closed and our hotel wouldn't cash any until morning, so I had to borrow from my roommate until then.

We gathered at the hotel after dinner and caught cabs to a nightclub, but that wasn't without it's adventures in itself. The hotel staff complained of the noise while we were waiting and threatened to call the police. Then, the taxi drivers tried to kill us en route to the club. We have witnessed many bad drivers throughout the trip, but the Greeks unanimously take the prize as the worst. These cabbies were driving 130 or 140 kph down the street with their heads out the window talking to other cabbies two lanes over, while other cars and motorcycles passed in between. I swear, I thought we were going to knock over four motorcycles on the way; the lines on the road apparently mean nothing here. Then, as if threatening our lives wasn't enough, they tried to scam us. They turned their meters off partway through the ride, which is illegal in Greece (and really should be anywhere). Luckily, one of the passengers in our cab spoke Greek and happily gave the driver a tantrum from Hell for trying to take advantage of us, and got a nice discount.

We went to a club called Venue, and it must be the coolest bar I've ever seen. It was sort of a jazzy/dancey mix of music, open-air, and it backed onto the beach. We spent much of the time standing by the railing, watching the surf and the girls. Some of the Aussies were exceptionally drunk, and got warned by the bar staff twice; once for dancing on tables, and again for picking each other up and running around through crowds. Naturally, I couldn't escape the mayhem, and my "dance partner" from the Tuscan dinner in Florence picked me up onto his shoulder and spun me right round like a record baby round round round round. I'm surprised he didn't slip a disk.

Thurs, Jul 4, 2002

Day 17 - Athina, Milano, London

Final day of the trip, and I'm going on 3 hours of sleep. First thing on the agenda was to visit the Acropolis, so we got a nice tour of the Parthenon and adjacent ruins. That takes care of #2 on my list. I got into a bit of trouble at the museum, though, as I forgot that flash photography was not allowed. Oops. Our next stop was to the Stadium, where the ancient Parthenian Games were played, and the first Modern Olympic Games. I sat in the stands and cheered for Canada.

Our tour ended and we said our goodbyes, wondering if we'd ever run into some of these people again. It's a small world, as we all learned, so I wouldn't be too shocked if we crossed paths again somewhere. A few of us went for lunch and had the longest wait for food ever. Over an hour's wait for a plate of souvlaki that took ten minutes to eat; then we got slapped with an unexpected 6-euro cover charge. I don't know if I'll ever be back in Athens, but if I do, I'll be sure not to eat there again.

From there, it was a mad rush to find my last cheesey souvenir, get back to the hotel to pick up my bags, and then find the right bus to get to the airport. The Athenian airport is way the hell out of town; I don't know why they had to build it that far away. But, when I got there, I found my flight was delayed by 45 minutes. I eventually reached Milan for my connecting flight, and was overrun by the panic. I think I was the only calm person in that entire terminal. Everywhere, people were yelling, and running, and shoving, trying to get to their gates. I sauntered along, got to my gate in plenty of time, and found that the flight was delayed by another hour. Groan.

I eventually made it to London, and ran into my money predicament again; I had no Pounds Sterling, which I needed for the tube to get to the hostel. It was late, so all the shops and money exchanges were closed, but I was lucky enough to be able to get 10 pounds out of a bank machine, so I was able to catch the subway. I didn't make it to the hostel until 12:45 in the morning, which only gave me four or five hours of sleep before I had to leave to catch the train to Gatwick. My roommates in the hostel arrived in the room just as I was about to leave; they had apparently spent the night at a very exclusive club and spent 800 pounds there. Ouch.

So, I made my way to Gatwick for the 8-hour flight home on 4 hours of sleep that night and only 3 before that. I'm going to sleep well when I get home...

Fri, Jul 5, 2002

You'll have to excuse me I'm not at my best
I've been gone for a month
I've been drunk since I left
These so-called vacations will soon be my death
I'm so sick from the drink
I need home for a rest

Mon, Jul 8, 2002

Just give me a moment, please... getting my life and 13 rolls of film in order...

Wed, Jul 10, 2002

The cups of soup brewed in Europe are now available for your dining pleasure below, so simly scroll down and enjoy! A picture gallery of Chicken Noodle's travels is coming soon...

Thurs, Jul 11, 2002

Now you can follow Chicken Noodle's travels through Europe with a short picture gallery! Enjoy!

Tues, Jul 16, 2002

It's not having what you want
It's wanting what you've got

I'm gonna soak up the sun
I'm gonna tell everyone
To lighten up
I'm gonna tell 'em that
I've got no one to blame
For every time I feel lame
I'm looking up
I'm gonna soak up the sun

Fri, Jul 19, 2002

Soak up the sun, indeed... and what better place than a cottage-country beach? So, that's what D.E. Dan and I did yesterday by taking a trip up to Wasaga Beach.

Unfortunately, we spent most of the time stuck in traffic, the whole day was overcast and a little chilly, and there was a significant lack of college-aged girls in skimpy swimsuits.

Nevertheless, a nice little nap on the beach is never a bad thing...

Sat, Jul 20, 2002

Well, it was inevitable. It was bound to happen eventually, and I guess I could only outrun it for so long.

I found a job.

I start on Monday. My days of being a lazy good-for-nothing bum are over, and now I join the real world and pretend to be a responsible adult. I was kind of liking not doing anything; it does wonders for stress. I'm sure that if whoever it was that had coined the phrase "be not a sloth" had gone and tried it, he would have rethought his philosophy.

Maybe the real world won't be so bad. Maybe I'll make big bucks working short hours and still be able to take more trips to exotic places. So please, no one try to teach me the meaning of the terms "mortgage", "RSP", and "insurance", lest you collapse what's left of my fantasy world.

Sun, Jul 21, 2002

World Youth Day festivities are starting up here in Toronto soon. I have family attending the events, but I myself am not going, at least not to most of it. A friend of mine asked me why. I said that it was partly because I would most likely be working by that time (which I am), and also I wonder how exciting it can really be; it's going to be full of confessions and stuff.

"But it's going to be full of Catholic girls." she continued. "Think of how many phone numbers you could get."

Pause for a moment.

"Ah, crap, I never thought of that..."

Tues, Jul 23, 2002

Oh boy, I need a nap...

Fri, Jul 26, 2002

Starting a new job downtown, I needed to determine a way to make the commute from the 'burbs to the city. Two years ago, I used the bicycle and train, which worked out well - the duration was reasonable, and I got some exercise while I was at it. There was only one problem: my 18-year-old bike self-destructed on my second-last day of school.

Off to buy a new bike, then; a nice one this time, that doesn't weight 300 tons, and won't make my ass feel like I'm sitting on a concrete block with jaggedy edges. I picked up a nice one from my neighbourhood Canadian Tire on Saturday, and shovelled out a hefty $350 for the whole package.

I spent a decent amount of time assembling the accessories and tweaking it to make it fit me just right. The weather was bad Monday and Tuesday, so it got it's first use to the train station on Wednesday, a mere three days ago.

Today, it was stolen.

Some punk-ass kid must have cut or picked the lock. The time I've worked since I started riding it will barely earn me enough to pay for it.

I hope that whoever took it will neglect to use the helmet he also swiped and crack his skull open trying to pop-a-wheelie.

Sat, Jul 27, 2002

The aspiration that humanity nurtures, amid countless injustices and sufferings, is the hope of a new civilization marked by freedom and peace. But for such an undertaking, a new generation of builders is needed. Moved not by fear or violence but by the urgency of genuine love, they must learn to build, brick by brick, the city of God within the city of man. - Pope John Paul II, World Youth Day 2002, Toronto

Wed, Jul 31, 2002

I was a pretty good student in school. I was a quick learner, I grasped new concepts easily, solved problems intuitively, and I was usually near the top of the class. The one discipline I was never good at was foreign languages. I spent eight years in school studying French, and it got me nowhere. I spent four months in Montreal and my French got even worse while I was there. I'm amazed I ever learned English. My brain simply doesn't know how to tackle that kind of problem. I guess I'm used to breaking issues down, examining their fundamentals, and reconstructing solutions using logic or algorithm. You can't do that with languages; you can't break down the word "brincar" beyond identifying it as a verb. You just have to memorise that it means "to play", and I was never very good at that. I guess that's why I was naturally drawn more to math.

This deficiency causes problems of course, and those problems are flashing themselves in my face right now. We have relatives from Portugal visiting at the moment, and despite being surrounded by Portuguese my entire life, I've never picked up the language. So here I sit, understanding only a fraction of the conversation going across the dinner table, fuming in frustration. I feel like an idiot; I can't even talk to my cousins because I don't know how to form some of the simplest phrases in everyday conversation. I can just imagine them describing the pictures to their friends back home. "Oh, that's scary cousin David; he says 'hello', 'yes', and 'no', mumbles unintelligibly, sings on occasion, and eats a lot of Oreos."

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