local-kiwi-alien

Thursday, 1 June 2017

My Greek story. Part One

It is rather long so I'll break it up into two or three posts.

Born and bred in far away New Zealand I had to get out and see the rest of the world and all the relatives in the northern hemisphere.  Nowadays this is called the OE (overseas experience, I think) and almost every young person downunder has that same urge to get up and go.  Youth.

  I just did not go back.  Not for 11 years.  Seems incredible now but after 3 years in London and 2 trips around the Continent (Europe) I found Greece and my greek.   I came out on holiday from London with a friend and found a job for the summer in a hotel on the island, working with my husband's cousin.  We visited Marthitsa on her name day. Word went round the neighbourhood in an instant that there were some foreign girls (think 'aliens') at her house and in another instant the funny little cave like house was filled with eager 'sightseers' peering in at us, including all the male cousins.  And that's how I met K.

 At the time he was already in the Navy working on a destroyer and had a tiny roof top 'apartment' (think store cupboard with a bathroom) in Piraeus.  We married without his parent's blessing but for me it didn't matter, we lived in the city, a long way away.  With the first child came acceptance, even though it was not a boy.  My mother in law told me she would not have objected if I had a dowry, a house of course, which my brothers should have provided, unbeknown to them, when we married.

  We married, had two girls and now we have five grandchildren.  Doesn't matter how long I'm here I'll always be a foreigner.  It's not just my accent, it is my whole way of thinking. 

On children.  Back then every good greek wife was supposed to provide half a dozen sons and a couple of girls to look after their parents in old age.  In some places when asked how many children they had a mother or father would answer 'two children and a daughter' instead of 'three children'.

  Just a note on the accent.  I always prided myself on my wonderful grasp of the Greek language and the masterly way I spoke.  Prick that bubble!   I heard myself on tape one day and couldn't believe the way I spoke, with harsh New Zealand vowel sounds and the way I tortured the pronunciation was excruciating.   No wonder my grandchildren laugh at my mistakes and my neighbour screws up her brows trying to understand. 


It was, and I believe still is, difficult for a kiwi to stay here for any length of time.  I had to apply for a visa or leave the country every 3 months and re-enter to get permission to stay for another 3 months.  Twice I left the country taking the overnight ferry from Patras to Brindisi, getting an exit stamp and coming back on the next boat to receive another 3 month stamp in my passport.



Yes, that really is us.  Love sick pigeons.


But we did get married and I got dual citizenship.  Citizenship and the marriage meant a lot of work.  So much red tape, so many papers to gather, from the embassy, the police, the department of immigration and references from the community.  A paper to say I had not been married before, translated offically by a women in  a grotty office up 5 flights of stairs in the middle of Athens.  Another paper from the church in NZ to say I had been baptised Church of England and could thus be married in an Orthdox Church without being re-baptised.  My mother just happened to be working as a secretary for some Church of England Bishop and arranged it quite easily.  I had a paper from our local Orthodox Priest to say..what?  I was a nice Christian girl?  I can't remember.   And finally I had to swear before a Notary and sign in triplicate that I would let my children be brought up as Greek Orthodox.

Meanwhile my mother in law, through some educated neighbour, had written a letter to my parents telling them to come and take their daughter back home.  They would find a nice Greek girl for their son.  On the wedding day the Priest almost backed out because someone had phoned and threatened him a with a lawsuit if he carried out the ceremony.  Back then Naval officers were not supposed to marry without the permission of a senior officer.



Kyria Eleni, my mother in law.  We eventually got to almost like each other.  It took a few years but I did come to realise that I really was an alien as far as she was concerned and I turned her known world upside down.


Reading all that I am gobsmacked that I am still here, legally married, 40 years later, with a Greek family!

  Now with civil marriages between foreigners in places such as Santorini and our own 'Daskalio', the little heart shaped island as you enter Poros harbour, it has to be so much easier.

  It is many years since NZ had an embassy here.  There is a phone number you can ring and a man in some small office will advise if you're lucky.




22 comments:

  1. Thank you Linda. You said you would tell us one day. You must have been extremely in love to go through all that in order to stay and a hostile mother-in-law to boot. Amazing. You both look extremely young in the photo. Thanks againx

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    1. First time I have ever written it down. Sounds as though we were madly in love. I suppose we were...and young. Exciting times. We were both doing something exotic. Lucky it lasted. A lot of 'liasons' back then did not.

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  2. I wondered how you came to Greece, of course your story is much similar to my own, well the young and falling in love bit. My husband was also in the military, when I look back, it must have been heart-wrenching for my family members to just up and leave their world. I love Tennessee, my life, and my child and grandchildren (two), but I consider myself English, think English, but have a foot in each country.
    Fascinating read.
    Thank you for sharing.
    ~Jo

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  3. It is hard to know who you are after so many years. Your home is where your family is, husband, children, but those roots go down so deep. I will always feel more kiwi than greek.

    It is only after you have children of your own that you realise how hard to must have ben for your parents back then to basically lose a child. My grandmother in the end forgot who I was, I had been away so long. Sad.
    I bless every day I have here with my own children and grandchildren so close. And of course todays technology makes the world a much smaller place and we can have daily contact with lved one where ever they are.

    Thanks for your comments.

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    1. I remember in those early days, we didn't even own a telephone, and the only way I could communicate was through weekly letter-writing.
      I splurged at Christmas by using a neighbors phone, 1.50/per minute, but I talked as long as I could.
      Hugs,
      ~Jo

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    2. Yes! Same story here. Because of the time difference I often woke my poor parents at 4 o'clock in the morning!

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  4. So glad I stopped by for a read! The things we do for love - good job you have backbone!

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    1. We were certainly determined. Fortunately it all turned out well!

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  5. You both look so young and beautiful. You must be very brave and in great love to do what you did:) .

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    1. Oh Yael when you're young you do all sorts of foolish things. But this lasted ,40 years

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  6. I thoroughly enjoyed reading that, lovely picture of you and your then hubby to be xx

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  7. Wow! He is sooooo,lucky you stayed. Tell him that lol
    What a lot of work! Good job you loved him. And your an amazing woman for putting up with all that.
    Well done you. May you have another forty years together. At least!

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    1. Phew, another 40 years?? It tires me out just thinking about it lol

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  8. I so enjoyed reading this post . An amazing story! Even better read while I'm sitting I Crete.

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    1. Thank you!! You've got to read the next instalment! We spent 3 years on Crete. I loved it and alas have never been back. Have a glass of Cretan wine for me! Lucky lucky you

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    2. I look forward to your next post!! Will raise a glass of wine to you or maybe a Raki.

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  10. I know most of the story but it is amazing reading it!!!I am soooo proud of you!!!xxx Danae

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    1. Ooh, gulp. I'm so lucky to have you and your sis! Thank xriso mou paidi

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  11. This was very interesting to read! Thank you for sharing. I love finding out about life stories. You were very brave at the time! -Jenn

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    1. I didn't think I was brave then...in fact I didn't think at all!!! Crazy!!

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