Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Canadian Woman Who Goes to Church

I have officially arrived in Greece - at least, in the assessment of the locals.

The Greek people, it seems, are sort of like their landscape: forbidding, rugged, harsh...

This past week there was a notable shift, though. The various people that, for the past month, I have seen on a thrice weekly basis (at least), instead of staring right through me or giving me a death glare, started to smile, and say kalimera, or yassas.

Then, yesterday, I dragged myself to Church, and had the privilege of being smiled upon by about 75 percent of the ladies who, last week, shot daggers through my heart with their beady eyes.

So, feeling rather pleased with the welcoming vibes I was getting, I settled down to a coffee, at which point things got even better.


I was suddenly pounded on my shoulder by a huge hand and I looked up to see a beaming face.

"You are the Canadian woman who goes to church every Sunday, eh?!"

I nodded my assent, although I wondered how he knew I was Canadian, and how he knew where I spent my Sunday mornings. I had never seen his face in Agios Georgious.

"My friend over there, he tells me all about you." He pointed across the square to the usher who always makes sure I get some blessed bread at the end of Divine Liturgy (he is officially nice person number one, by the way).

I have never talked to the usher, except to exchange a "good morning!" and "your health!" I felt a slightly sinking feeling of bewilderment.

"Where you from? Ottawa? Montreal? Toronto?"

"I am from the West - Alberta. Calgary."

He shrugged his shoulders, and raised his eyebrows in classically Greek gesture that can mean any number of things. This time it meant: "I don't really know what you are speaking of, and I don't really care because it means nothing to me, and why should it?"

"So, you like Church, eh?"

Well, that's a loaded question. It depends on the day.

I just nodded enthusiastically.

Again, he shrugged his shoulders and raised his eyebrows. This time it meant: "I don't understand this behavior of yours, and I would never choose to do it, but if you like it, whatever, but you are wasting your time."

"So, I used to live in Halifax! I learn English there, and cook in a restaurant. Thirty -five years ago, now."

I could see he had a lot more to say, so I just smiled and nodded. He told me about how his son is now in Halifax and keeps complaining about how cold it is, he told me I was paying three times more rent than I should be, and then he started to grill me.

"Your family is here?"

I shook my head.

"You alone?"

I nodded yes.

"Is good, I guess. You like it here? Is beautiful, yes?"

I was going to explain how much I like it here, when he hit me with another one: "You married?"

This question always makes me laugh nervously.

a) I am pretty sure I was still playing dress up just a while back. What kind of weirdo thinks a kid who plays dress-up is ready for marriage?

(And then I realize that 15 years (ok, maybe 10....hmm...maybe 5) does not really qualify for "a while back." And then I remember that about half my friends are already married. And then I have to grudgingly admit that I really am not a kid anymore. Begone, dress up bin. Begone tea parties. Begone dreams of being a princess thank you very much Kate Middleton. In fact, when my own mother was my very own age now, she had already birthed 2 children. Cue.... hyperventilation.)

b) Why are you asking? What loser is going to be thrown at my head now?

I laughed nervously and shook my head.

"Hah! So Mary isn't married." He patted his ample belly. "So, you like this coffee shop?"

"I do. I also really like Cafe Art."

"Hah!! So you are not loyal to one place - you hop around, eh?" He laughed uproariously, and slapped my shoulder again.

I got the strange feeling he wasn't really talking about coffee shops.


Noticing some clouds blowing in, and not wanting to be caught in a storm, I made a move for my grocery bags, and he jumped in surprise. "You go?"

I explained about the rain.

"So. You like pasta?"

I'm not the biggest fan, but I nodded assent, to be polite.

He started to walk down the street with me.

"You come, just a moment."

I followed him into a little bakery. Before I knew it, he had sat me down in a chair, and placed in front of me the most monstrous piece of cake I had ever seen. He meant "pastry," not "pasta," and all I could do was smile weakly.

"Eat. EAT. Is delicious."

I took a bite. I felt a diabetic coma coming on.

"You like orange juice?" He motioned to his Fanta.

Dear God, please no. Not a can of sugar.

"I am fine with water. Goes better with the cake."

"Good, eh?"

I nodded, and forced in another bite.

I am a loyal chocolate girl. The darker, the better. This slab of white sponge cake with mounds of white cream and piles of maraschino cherries was well on its way to killing me.

"You want another one to take home?"

Dear God and all the saints in heaven, and the Buddha for safe measure. Please. No.

I shook my head.

"Why?? You is SKINNY."

Right. In the world where I wear Chanel suits, carry Birkin Bags, and teeter around in Laboutin shoes.

I forced in a third bite and downed the rest of my water.

"You go soon, before the rain? You full? You not eat enough!! No matter. I get them to pack this up." He toddled off, and I looked longingly at my bag of ripe tomatoes. They are all the sweetness I need in life. They are my sun, my moon, my stars....

Jimmy - his name, by the way - interrupted my reverie and came back bearing a large box. "I get him to put another one in for you. You have some today and tomorrow."

Wonderful. Food for the homeless cat who has adopted me.

I thanked him profusely, gathered my bags, and walked with him out the door. We parted ways - I went up the street, and he went down. He yelled back to me that he would see me next Sunday.


I was about a block away from the bakery, when a motorcycle ground to a halt next to me. It was the guy who had been sitting next to me and Jimmy. He had laughed every time I looked up. Perhaps he could sense my desperation.

He stopped, and started speaking in rapid fire Greek and making a multitude of hand motions.

I just shrugged.

"Cell phone?"

Oh, he needs to borrow my cell phone. Fine. Whatever.

He grabbed it from me, punched in some numbers, then pulled his own ringing cell phone out of his pocket.

I stared at him, bewildered. He handed my phone back.

He gave me an appraising look - "I call you" - and then zoomed off.


They need more girls in this village, man.


  1. Oh great Mary, now he knows you are unattached and alone, with no family to protect you. By now so does every male in the village. Next time you talk, tell him your brother the marine is coming to visit soon, and bringing you greetings from your fiance recon marine who can kill men with a flick of his pinky. Or just tell them you are a nun on vacation:)

  2. LOL

    I seriously have not laughed that loudly in a while.

    My favorite part:

    "Cell phone?"

    Oh, he needs to borrow my cell phone. Fine. Whatever.

    He grabbed it from me, punched in some numbers, then pulled his own ringing cell phone out of his pocket.

  3. haha! oh my gosh Mary, you are so lovely! Every single man in the town will be fighting in the streets for you soon!

  4. hahaha you need a body gaurd. love you so much.