Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Guest Post: Pregnant in Greece by Anneke Kamerling

This is the last in a guest blog series written by Anneke Kamerling about her expat life in Greece. If you want to find out more about Anneke and her collection of anecdotes, take a look at Typical Greek.

It's not stomach flu after all....
Suddenly I know for sure. I'm pregnant. At first, as I was quite sick, I thought it was the stomach flu, but after visiting the toilet I just felt hungry again. I do not feel ill. So I go to the astonished pharmacist in Pythagorion for a pregnancy test and sure enough, the swab turns blue. I better not say anything yet, I think. My mind focused on guiding those taxing and very bumpy Jeep safaris and walking tours every week. Just continue for now, I decide.

After three months of secrecy, I inform the homefront in the Netherlands and Norway and also tell everyone at the office about my pregnancy. I receive plenty of congratulations and well-intended advice, too - such as; I should not sit with my legs crossed, because then my child can't breathe.

When I walk into the office later, two colleagues are waiting for me. They stand solemly behind chairs with two embroidered cushions and ask me to take a seat. Well, I want to, because I've just returned from the walking tour and feel more or less exhausted. I plop down on the first chair. Alepou nestles at my feet. "Ena agori (a boy)", they cry out enthusiastically. "What boy?" I ask. "You get a boy, a son", is the answer and once again I am warmly congratulated by all. I must get up and under the pillow where I sat, a knife is hidden. Had I known, I would have been a bit more careful. A pair of scissors is removed from under the other pillow. If I had sat there, I would have a daughter, obviously.

Photo: Feikje Meeuwsen
I've lived in Greece since I was 19 years old. From student life with its macaroni dishes, I went straight into the Greek kitchen. When I by exception want to cook something Dutch, I call my mom to guide me. But my taste is changing at the moment. Usually I love all different Greek dishes with loads of garlic, but now I cannot stand garlic anymore. Unfortunately since I am pregnant I can smell a lot better and the garlic smell is prevalent everywhere. I feel sicker and sicker. I crave a steak with spinach and potatoes! Or, yes, garden beans! Behind my house garden beans are grown and I can reap as many as I want. No sooner said than done. I pick some beans, call my mother in Holland and enjoy a typical Dutch meal. Voula my colleague raises her hands to heaven when I tell her about my delicious meal. "Garden beans?" NOT good, I understand. Myth has it, they cause a miscarriage. Now I am instructed to lie on my back on the floor with my legs on a chair. Since that is pretty comfortable, I do as I'm told. Voula rushes across the street and comes back with a blue stone on a long chain, which she puts around my neck. With every movement the stone gently touches my belly and this way my baby is well protected against the evil eye.

Unfortunately I seem to summon the evil eye on my baby myself time after time. I walk with Alepou near my house, when he suddenly is attacked by a cat. I'm so stupid to interfere and then the cat hangs with claws and teeth in my leg. It appears to be a nursing mother, because now the little ones emerge from the high grass. Exceptionally I kick like my life is depending on it and finally the cat let's go. Hissing, she disappears with her offspring back into the grass. I realize I need a tetanus shot and I go to the Dutch doctor, who does the control of my pregnancy. I ask her about the beans story. "Oh no", she says. "Beans are high in folate and that is good for you! But that steak should be cooked well done, that's best." I'm feeling reassured. I also have to have an ultrasound made at the hospital in Samos town. This is standard in Greece. I emphasize that I do not want to know which gender the baby will be and the gynaecologist almost lets the cat out of the bag. He is used to announcing the big news and I can tell he thinks I am a strange case.

I can cope better and better with my nausea. I drive across the whole island until I get home in Limnionas, run to the toilet, empty my stomach and then plunder the fridge. I hold information meetings, where I must visit the toilet during breaks, rinse my mouth and answer the questions from my guests. Breakfast consists of three sessions: A peanut butter sandwich, the toilet and another peanut butter sandwich. My stomach begins to get rounder.

When I rub my stomach at the office and sigh that I just have to have some watermelon, Voula jumps up in panic and spits at me, "ftou, ftou. You do not want your child to have a wine stain birthmark on his belly in the shape and the size of a watermelon, do you? Are you crazy?" she lectures me. "A bunch of grapes, then?" I ask teasingly and rub my sweaty neck. "No, no, stop!" is her response. Could she really believe in those myths? I wonder.

Just back from their delivery rounds...
A few months before childbirth, I leave for the Netherlands, loaded down with lots of gold, blue eyes and sachets filled with garlic and herbs against the devil's influence on my future son. And yes, it's a boy! But what do I see on his neck? A small wine stain birthmark, consisting of tiny red balls. "Oh, that will disappear soon enough", says the paediatrician. "It is a stork bite."

Stork bite, grapes, I do not know. And I don't care. My son is healthy and he is named after Dionysus!

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