Yeah, so I'm still in Greece. Just got DSL, finally.
Hmmm, how to sum up all this time. On the relationship front, all is very well, still engaged, still very happy in my relationship. You all would laugh, in that she's never really played computer games before, nor wanted to, but I asked for Civ IV for X-mas. I asked her as an extra present to me, if she'd at least sit down in tutorial mode for 10 minutes, just to see what I was so excited about. Well...yeah, you might have guessed it, but several hours later I got her hooked on Civ. We play Hot Seat games with us as a team, against 3-4 other teams of 2. She has her single players games, and I have mine. After the first three days of playing, when we'd play 6-8 hours a day...we decided we had to set a time limit and alarm beforehand. Now the funny part to me is that I end up being the one saying, "Okay, but only 2 more turns. You should have (X) done by then." Where X is raiding some city, or building a city, or getting some tech or building some wonder or other.
The whole being in a very different environment thing has been difficult at times. Not so much the, "whoa, I'm living in Europe" as much as the, "My god, I'm living in a city of 4 million people and 70% of them smoke." I'm allergic...so life did get complicated a bit over what passes for winter around here. It's now getting to be "spring." Everything here seems a bit more emotionally...intense. Everyone (yes, men do too) kiss each other on the cheeks in greeting, and it's not rare to see 2 people break out into a fist fight over a very minor fender bender, and of course there's the strikes every other month (where there's fighting), the protests (less fighting), and the occasional anarchists (who torched a van near my Greek class one day). But people here are very welcoming, warm, kind, etc. and at worst sometimes embarrassed if their English sucks as bad as my Greek. I've taken one intensive language course, and have books that I'm slowly learning from, but I'm hoping to get into another class in the next couple weeks. My comprehension is getting okay, but my verbal skills are the bad.
My entire sense of time and seasons passing is very messed up. I'm used to 5 months of snow, or 4 months of snow and 1 month of slushy muck. Greece is sunny all year. It actually snowed (which is a big rarity) and it stuck around for 2 days, bringing most everything to a standstill. Mountains and the sea are pretty much everywhere you go, so it's pretty here. It's also arid, and nothing like forested, lake-and-river-filled Michigan. Which is weird at times. Athens is a really spread-out, sprawled city where the tallest buildings are maybe five or six stories (earth quake concerns). Oh yeah, had my first real earthquake. The whole apartment moved back and forth for six or seven seconds. Very long seconds. If we do stay in Greece, I think Urban Life (tm) is not for me. I love the choir that I'm in, but I hate being on a bus and the metro for an hour to get there. I gave up the paying choir gig I had, cause it wasn't paying that much, the commute was worse, and most especially because the director drove me nuts (no musical knowledge whatsover, he just raised the money to pay people). Sorta too bad, cause the professional choir sang only in Greek, which has helped my reading and pronouncing a weird alphabet tremendously.
Sometimes things have been very difficult. Not as much from anything here, but old ghosts and pains sort of creeping up on me. I miss my dogs alot. More than I can describe in text. And I think part of starting a new life means mourning for the one you're never gonna have again. It's strange, and hard to articulate, which in some ways makes it more difficult to deal with.
Some trivial stuff: seafood here is amazing, costs half of what I'm used to, and is caught the same day you eat it. Grilled squid has become my favorite (even if that sounds weird, trust me if they just caught it...it's really good). Ice cream here is so-so (even the Haagan Daas franchise) and costs 2-3 times as much. Of course, there's like a whole industry of sweets/dessert shops that are simply dangerous to go near...mmm things made with chocolate and/or honey.
Right now my "job" involves a growing clientelle of young kids I'm teaching English to. (yes i thought it'd be funny to end that with a preposition). doesn't hurt that my fiance has access to "free" materials, as she's the director of marketing for one of the biggest publishers of English text books. I'm learning what that means these days, though, as she's gone more and more frequently to seminars and exhibitions all over Greece (which, granted, is like the size of Alabama if you don't count the 1500 spread-out islands). I travel with her sometimes and get to see some cool stuff. Like http://www.meteora-greece.com/
I've been making up for lost time since I got DSL a week ago with some BF2...on European servers. DSL is new to Greece. The phone company has a virtual monopoly on charging you a huge rate, on top of which your actual ISP charges you another huge rate, for slow speeds. There's some alternatives, which we found, but it would be hugely expensive to go faster than 512k. (I had ~2.25mbs in Ann Arbor). Imagine paying 100 Euros (so like $118) for 1mbs per month, when the average Greek income is like 800 Euros per month. Incomes in general here are approx. 1/3 what's normal in the U.S., but many things (besides seafood) cost around the same....
Last but not least, I thought these things were like, airport-only cars when I first got here, but people actually drive these things (which are about as long as a normal car door) on the highway, and park them...on the sidewalk:
do a google image search of "smart car" and you'll see what I mean.
I missed you guys. It feels strange popping my head in and saying hello, but at the same time...it feels very, very good.