Monday, December 21, 2015

From October to Now

A brief overview of our recent lives.


We had our British church friends over for Halloween Eve, only it turns out that they are not British. One is from Scotland and one is from New Zealand. It was disappointing because there are pockets in both Scotland and New Zealand where Halloween is celebrated. I thought I was going to be blowing their minds with Halloween. Instead, they already knew everything. We still made them carve a pumpkin. They thought it was sort of cool. This is my pumpkin. It follows the same basic design I do every year, because every year I panic and carve at the last minute.



We attended the Halloween party at the Embassy. It was great. Every section had their own activity table. The kids got to vote on which table was their favorite, and the winning section got a pizza party. It was extremely competitive. There was a Nerf Gun shooting gallery, face painting, dessert station, and a bunch of candy and junk food. There was also a pretty decent haunted house set up in the parking garage, spearheaded by several people from the Med Unit, bless them. My favorite part of the night, though, was when we left the party behind a guy dressed like a vampire from the Blade movies. His costume was inspired. It was beautiful. It was terrifying. We got to drive behind him as he cruised the streets of Athens in his minivan, window rolled down, clawed hand dangling casually out the side. He'd occasionally wave at Athenians on the street, who would jump in terror and confusion. I'm not exaggerating when I say, desperately and repetitively, that Halloween is not a thing in Greece. That man is my role model.

Phil dressed as a Ghostbuster. I went as myself:

Yeah, that's the demon ultrasound photo from Google.


We went home to the States for Thanksgiving. We had a connecting flight through Paris, and made it through the airport about 7 hours before they closed the borders because of the terrorist attacks. Phil stayed in our home state, while I wandered off to spend a few days with my California relatives. 

Two days prior to leaving Greece, Phil and I drove to Sounio to take photos for our Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year/Whatever cards. It was 80 degrees. Here's a photo we didn't use for the card. Bella's face is great.

It was too hot to be wearing black pants.

It was much colder back home. Luckily, we spent most of our time eating and catching up with people we love. It was great to be home, not the least because the food is so much better than everything here. I just really love food. Everyone in both of our immediate families were in town for the holiday, including our niece, who already knows how to do Thanksgiving the right way.

This is baby on Thanksgiving morning, taking in the parade.
She threw up on me later that night, after drinking too much milk.
Our trip home was great, but the trip back to Greece was terrible. The afternoon before we left, Phil went to bed with a stomach ache. I got a text from him while I was sitting in the living room, "Can you come see if I have a fever?" By the time I went upstairs, he was in bed, in his ski coat, under three blankets. My stomach starting feeling sick in the middle of the night. We had three flights this time, the first flew to Chicago, the second to Paris, and the final one to Athens. I'm not sure how we made it. I spent the next few days recovering on my now-beloved couch.


After we came back from Athens, and after I recovered my stomach, I put up our Christmas decorations. Christmas is, thankfully, a huge deal in Greece. They have pop-up Christmas stores all over the place. Christmas lights are becoming a big thing, too. I still have some leftover incandescents from our first married Christmas 3 years ago. It's a miracle. I've had to plug them into a transformer, which is a bit of a bummer, because I don't feel comfortable keeping them constantly lit from the transformer. Oh well, it's probably better for the environment, or whatever.

This depressing scene is what happens when you don't have hooks.
Phil bought me some this weekend, but I haven't installed them yet.
In the meantime, I call dibs on the stocking that's still hanging.

Bless this little tree. The white lights at the base have gone out.
Somebody fix them.

This is the 3 euro nativity I bought at Jumbo.
I was really pleased with it. The display nativity people had super messed up faces.

We went to Frankfurt last weekend to visit our friends and take in a German Christmas market, or two (or three). I want to go into more detail about our trip, and show you pictures, and tell you how much fun it was. Unfortunately, Phil has the photos on his phone, and his phone is with him, and he is at work, so it's not going to happen in this post. I promise I will write about it in the future (maybe), but I wanted to give a preliminary shout out to our friends, K and J, who let us stay in their apartment with their cat, Burt. Thank you so much, friends. We had a blast. Please come stay with us so we can return the favor.

He did not want me to hold him for this picture.
He was held anyway. Hi, Burt!


It was really interesting to see the uptick in security after the Paris terrorist attacks. When we boarded the flight to Paris in Chicago, there were several uniformed customs agents standing just inside the jetway watching passengers walk to the plane. In Paris, there were noticeably more police officers stationed around the airport. We had to undergo additional security screening before our flight to Athens, and spent a good chunk of time waiting in passport control. The French officials were a lot more thorough in their passport screenings. 

The real kicker, though, came when we flew into Frankfurt from Athens two weeks later. While we were taxiing to the gate, the Aegean crew came over the intercom to announce that German police would be screening all of our passports when we landed. That's pretty crazy, because both Germany and Greece are party to the Schengen Agreement, which is basically an open border policy among all European countries that are signatories to the agreement. In other words, they shouldn't be screening our passports. The police were waiting for us right when we stepped off the jet bridge. The girl in front of us had an ID card, rather than a passport, and the guy absolutely grilled her. "What are you doing here? Where are you staying? How long will you be here? When are you leaving? Who will you be staying with?..." 

We asked our friends, who have been traveling quite a bit throughout the EU for work, whether they'd had their passports checked when re-entering Frankfurt from other European countries. They hadn't. 

Managing the refugee/migrant crisis has been extremely difficult for the European Union. Tons of people are pouring into Greece, but the Greek government has a hard enough time coming up with resources for its own people. I can see why Germany is carefully vetting arrivals from Greece, but I can also see why Greek people might feel like they're being picked on by Germany. I'm not sure how they'll tackle these issues, but I imagine we'll get a chance to see their attempts in the coming year.

And, wow. All we wanted was some bratwurst, and a Christmas Market.

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