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Ochi Means NO!

May 30th, 2010

It’s a quiet Sunday in Piraeus, a bustling suburb of Greece, where I’m staying at my friend Kat’s gorgeous apartment for the weekend. Sunday’s here in Europe everything shuts down, so I’m lucky that the taverna’s along the square near the apartment are open. I pack my book into my purse, put on my sunglasses, and walk the few blocks to the square. I choose a taverna, sit down, and order a fresh orange juice, a double espresso and a spinach pie. I eat and drink slowly, all the while reading my book. I sit there for hours, lazily wasting time, because I don’t want to head back to the tiny, sleepy village of Vrachati just yet. I finish the book (“The Memory Keeper’s Daughter” by Kim Edwards, borrowed from the house in Vrachati), pick up my iPhone and search for a free WiFi connection.

There’s no internet connection at the taverna, so I walk into the square and see if there are any WiFi connections that don’t require passwords. I find one and connect my iPhone. I check my email, update my Facebook page, and play my scrabble games. I’m sitting on a low wall under a tree for shade, minding my own business, just using the internet on my iPhone.

Up walks an old man wearing a white shirt and khaki shorts. He’s carrying a plastic bag and using a cane. He looks scraggly, unshaven, but not entirely homeless. He sits next to me. I glance over at him, and deciding he’s harmless, don’t bother moving. He pulls a cell phone out of his plastic bag and checks it. I’m watching this from the corner of my eye. I know how licentious older Greek men can be, although (tap wood) none have made any moves on me in the month I’ve been here. I figure it’s my height – thankfully I’ve found that being tall seems to ward off a lot of freaks and weirdoes.

The old man says something to me in Greek. His mouth is full of gold teeth and his slacken lips are shiny with saliva. I shake my head and say “English.” He tries to say something to me in English. I understand he seems to be asking me where I am staying – he says “Hotel or House.” I say “Apartment” and then realize he doesn’t know what apartment is, so I say “House.” He nods. Says something else in Greek. I do not understand. I shake my head, and focus again on my iPhone. He sits next to me for some time – I’m thoroughly engrossed in my iPhone and not paying any attention to him. Another man comes up, asking me if I want to buy some CD’s or DVD’s. I say “Ochi” (which is “No” in Greek), and he leaves. The old man then gets up, and as he moves to stand, he gestures, points at his chest, and says “House” and motions for me to come with him. I gather from his use of body language that he is asking me to come to his house with him. I shake my head and say “Ochi.” He walks away.

I lose my WiFi connection, so I get up and walk to another part of the square, where the connection is stronger. I continue to check my phone and play my word game. I’m leaning against a tree for shade; it’s a hot day. The old man shuffles back. This time he holds up a newspaper, which he has written in shaky handwriting at the top: “50 Euro.” He again says “House. 50 Euro,” and gestures for me to come. I am appalled. Really? Do I look like a prostitute?!? I’m dressed conservatively in a t-shirt, jeans and flats. I am rather shocked that this old man is propositioning me and offering me money to come with him. Thoroughly disgusted, I say “Fuck no!” in English. Then I make a motion with my hand across my neck, and say “Ochi! Ochi!” He still tries to proposition me. I say “Ochi!” and make the motion again, swiftly moving my hand across my neck, “Ochi!”

He finally gets the point. I’m not coming with him. I’m not a prostitute. He can’t pay me 50 Euro and expect me to come back to his house. He finally scuffles away. I can’t say I’m entirely surprised, but I am a little taken aback. I mean, really? Do I look like someone that would go back to the home of an old, bedraggled, unkempt man? I mean, really?!?

6 Responses to “Ochi Means NO!”

  1. Chris says:

    Sorry you had that insulting experience, but you ARE a sexy woman! :)

    Interestingly, the cafe where I work is called “Port of Piraeus”.

  2. Nikos says:

    Hi Naomi! I serendipitously came across your blog, as I was looking for some photos of my hometown, Vrahati. I’m sorry to hear of your trials and tribulations, and especially how boring you find Vrahati! I too myself find this place quite uninteresting, or, I should better phrase it, I find the people here quite uninteresting! The place is simply charming with a lot of Bay Area hues and tones (I spent my college years at Berkeley). I hate to promote pessimism, but my lifetime experience has taught me that it can be very creative as well! So perhaps, it’s not the place, or the city -Vrahati, in our case- we should be the put the blame on but, as Cavafy claims: http://cavafy.com/poems/content.asp?id=58&cat=1

    Ave et Salve,
    N.

  3. Jenna says:

    great blog title! you really are a masterful writer. in the years i’ve know you, your writing just gets better and better, too. i loved the way you described everything. getting propositioned was the last thing i expected in your story. but who knows… MAYBE… (probably not, but just maaaaybe) he rents rooms and wanted to save you some money? the only word i know in greek is faristo. not sure if i’m spelling it correctly, but i i’m trying to say “thank you.”

  4. Lester says:

    Wow Mi Scuzzi! Lol!

  5. Jana says:

    Maybe he wanted you to pay him 50 Euro! …he’s probably still wondering why you turned him down…

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