GREECE: Summer Time Blues

GREECE: Summer Time Blues

Watching a storm brew from my house was hit by lightning 30 min later!

Watching a storm brew from my balcony…my house was hit by lightning 30 min later!

Greek summer has always been a challenge for me, even though most of my friends and relatives think I’m insane. People from all over the world spend small fortunes on heading to the land which created the first Olympic Games and has countless beaches, monuments and fascinating historical sites to visit. So when I confess that Greek summer is usually a nightmare for me they are shocked.

My main issue is the overwhelming heat. The temperature is usually between 35°C and 42°C (around 95 and 108°F). That’s just too much for me to handle during the day and it means that at night the house is uncomfortably hot. It’s so difficult to sleep and at least one of us can usually be found prowling around in the early hours of the morning trying to find a cool spot. Unfortunately, the best of these spots is directly in front of the fridge…that means that my family nearly always gains weight during the summer period! September always heralds the arrival of requests for gym membership and low fat meals.

Another issue that most parents have in Greece is the incredibly long school break. High school finishes the regular curriculum in the middle of May and resumes again around the 10th of September. When the teaching programme finishes in May the students go to school for a couple of hours in the morning several days a week to do their end of year exams. The exam period lasts five weeks. That means that parents of children in Greece have the pleasure of seeing their offspring for four whole months. There are no regular lessons, unless the parents can afford to send their child to summer school or pay for private tuition. My children went to a private school this year so I thank the Lord that they were busy until the middle of July! Having time to drink a leisurely coffee in the morning and catch up on e-mails without being hounded by your permanently hungry teen, should NEVER be taken for granted!

Private schools and tuition brings me on to my next summer difficulty: being able to save enough money during the eight months I work a year to cover the extra expenses we have during the long vacation. My teens have virtually all day free apart from a couple of hours they spend studying, revising and training for judo. Not a day passes without them asking, pleading or sometimes blackmailing me to give them money to go to the town and meet their friends! That means that I rarely go out, as I simply can’t afford it.

Most of my summer is spent at home trying to escape the gruelling temperatures. Thank heavens I have many online friends to ‘hang out’ with, otherwise the four months would never end! My teens also want to go to summer camp with their friends, so that’s another expense which makes it difficult to make ends meet. I really celebrate when September arrives and my kids only have time to go out on Saturdays! I also start working again at this time of year so things tend to get better in the fall.

So that’s the heat, the long school break, and the expense of a summer in Greece covered, but then there is also the weather…

Summer storms in the mainland area of Greece where I live are frequent and unpredictable. Last summer as I was gathering clothes from the washing line, a sheep was struck dead by lightening very close to where I was standing! It was a terrifying experience, for us both I imagine, and as a result I am very stressed this year every time I hear a thunderclap.

Our house was hit AGAIN this year and on another occasion shortly after that the electricity column next to my house was also ‘attacked’ during one of our frequent summer storms. The whole area was left without power for several days which meant cooking and cooling systems had to be abandoned. I gave away a lot of frozen food to friends in the town as the lack of fridge/freezer was the biggest nightmare. No cool spot at all during the blackout! My modem was also blown to smithereens and I don’t even want to recall the pain of being offline for several days!

Ok, so now that I told you how I really feel about summer in Greece, I will end it on some positives. Here’s goes…I can say that I enjoy having lots of time to catch up with my online friends and reading as many books as I like. This year I have also spent real quality time with my two sons who actually want to hang out with me. My 15-year old decided to stay at home while his brother went camping with friends. This was a total surprise as he just wanted to spend time reading books and chilling out with me. He hasn’t wanted to do that for several years! My 16 year old formally invited me to watch judo during the Olympic Games and actually insisted on me being with him so that we could bet on who we thought would win each match…I’m not sure whether I should be flattered by the invitation or worried that I have produced a gambler!

At least this year my two teens think I’m cool enough to hang out with in public (on the front balcony) and to participate in underage gambling (watching judo) in the privacy of our home….

How do you deal with a long summer vacation? What activities are your children involved in?

This is an original post for World Moms Network written by Ann Maria in Greece.

Ann Marie Wraight

Having lived in 4 different countries, Ann Marie finds it difficult to give a short answer about where she's from. She regards herself: Brit by birth, Aussie by nature, with a sprinkling of Greek and German based on her insatiable appetite for tasty food and chilled beer! This World Mom has been married to her Greek soulmate for 16 years and they are the proud but constantly challenged parents of two overactive teenage boys. (She secretly wonders sometimes if she was given the wrong babies when she left the maternity clinic.) She can't explain the fascination and ability that her 13 and 14 year-olds show in math and physics or that both boys are ranked 1st and 2nd nationally in judo. Ann Marie can only conclude that those years of breastfeeding, eating home cooked meals and home tutoring really DO make a difference in academic and physical performance! The family is keeping its fingers crossed that---with the awful economic crash in Greece---continued excellence in math and/or judo will lead to university scholarships... In addition to writing, enjoying a good glass of wine and movies, Ann Marie also works as a teacher and tends their small, free-range farm in the Greek countryside.

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GUEST POST: Greek Super Grans

GUEST POST: Greek Super Grans

The Super Greek Gran of this story is pictured above.

The Super Greek Gran of this story is pictured above.

The greatest invention EVER!!!

I hope that all you moms out there are coping with and even ENJOYING your summer vacation! Having kids at home all day and every day can be challenging even for the most organized, and creative of us, especially if we also have to work outside the home.
Do you have help with feeding, entertaining, and generally nurturing your offspring?

I wonder how many of you busy multi-taskers are as blessed and fortunate as I am to have a super-soulmate, super efficient ma-in-law to LITERALLY pick me up when I’m down and totally out of action…and yes, I did say

I have been bedridden for a while and in excruciating pain due to 3 herniated discs on my spine which have plagued me for years. Yiayia (Greek for grandma) makes sure that I have priority in getting meals and having clean clothes, then gets to work doing the same for my hubby and two teenage sons. She makes mouth watering traditional Greek pies and delish soups, so believe me, it’s almost worth suffering flat on my back so that she makes her culinary delights for us!

It’s hard to believe she was born with a severe physical disability and has undergone a series of operations over the years on her legs and hips. Although she can only walk with the aid of crutches, her doctors say that it’s a miracle she is mobile at all! At 83 years old, I truly admre her abilities and her absolute dedication to her three children and their families. The great news is that she is typical of women from her culture and generation.

In Greece, Yiayia is greatly respected and in many households a godsend for working moms. Having a hot meal on the table when your tired daughter/daughter-in-law gets back from work is an example of what Greek grannies consider their duty. Believe me, these ladies REALLY know how to cook!!! Imagine the quality of food our offspring are getting as no Greek from this generation puts takeaway or prepacked food on the table. This would be an outrage! Only dishes based on the Mediterranean diet, passed down from generation to generation are considered good enough for nurturing a healthy family. Really great, right? So, even if at times you might not see eye to eye with the older members of your clan-Greeks are exceptionally clannish-then try to remember that goodwill, especially towards your mother-in-law, has more benefits than negative aspects!

I know that in most cultures around the globe the mother/daughter-in-law dynamic is considered to be one of the trickiest and sticky to manoeuvre.

Haven’t you ever felt at some point in your relationship with the in-laws that a fistful of Prozac or a bowl full of magic mushrooms would be a blessed relief?

Come on now-be honest!

More often than not one or both women feel a  need to have the upper hand when competing for the attentions of hubby/son as well as children/grandchildren. At least in the beginning of the relationship with our new partner things can be pretty tumultuous until the boundaries and expectations are (hopefully) worked out.

My relationship with my Greek in-laws was definitely tumultuous when I first came to live in the family home 16 years ago! My husbands father was certainly NOT pleased when his boy came home with the XENI NIFI or foreign bride!!! Remember that great comedy; MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING ?
That wasn’t a comedy for me but MY LIFE!!!
It’s truly staggering how my relationship with my (now) beloved ma-in-law has progressed over the last one and a half decades! These days I think of Grandma Vasiliki as my own mother who ALWAYS supports me if I have a disagreement with her son. My poor hubby is pretty fed up hearing from his own mother that I’m more practical and wiser than he is (even if it IS true) and therefore I should have the final say in any major family decision making! I sometimes wonder if he rues the day he brought me to live in the family home. After all, the two women who are closest to him have become loving allies and so he can’t get away with anything. AT ALL! There are two sets of beady eyes constantly watching him…sound a little spooky? Well, I’m more than half Greek myself nowadays and I can tell you most Greek families really DO tend to live in each others pockets! I was actually born in the UK but such close proximity and familiarity would be considered very claustrophobic there. In Greece however, every family member feels they have a right to express an opinion about all things great and small, whether it concerns them directly or not! Usually Yiayia has the final pearl of wisdom to share…and more often than not is the wisest of all.

My husband has a great saying in Greek we use when we need a babysitter, cook, housekeeper or a shoulder to cry on. I find it hilarious although it loses something in translation;

“Greek Super Grans- the greatest invention EVER!”

Do you have a mom or mother-in-law to help out when things are tough?
Would you like someone to be this close to you and your family, or would you consider it too interfering and claustrophobic in your culture/part of the world?
What types of behavior would you find acceptable or not acceptable from a grandma?

Enjoy the rest of your vacation wherever in the world you may be!

This is a guest post by Ann Marie Wraight who lives in Greece.

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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