Sunday, 18 May 2014

Personal questions answered by an amazing CPE candidate!

My Home Town

(When it is a personal pronoun, I is always capital)

Tell us a few things about Chania

It's the second biggest city of Crete located at the eastern part of the island.  The population of the city itself (not the municipality), according to the 2011 census, is around 55.000. It's a coastal town with a beautiful old port at the north and a street layout of grid type which facilitates pedestrian orientation. Winter here is mild and rainy. From May to October, it hardly ever rains but it is not so hot as in big cities because Chania is next to the sea and there are strict regulations about the buildings’ height.

What is the most interesting place for visitors to see there?

If someone had to choose only one place or area to visit in Chania that should be the old town located at the north part of the city. Exploring the narrow winding pedestrian streets of the old town, that are more like alleys,  it's the best way to invest your time during a short visit in the city. In these streets you can discover shops, restaurants, and churches that date back hundreds of years. The architecture resembles the one of a venetian town's, which is no surprise since it was established by the Venetians. At its north side the old town ends on the old harbour, where a significant part of the city's social life takes place. That's why you can find many locals strolling in the old town before they end up to the old harbour for a coffee, a drink, lunch or supper.

Do many tourists visit your area?

Chania is one of the most popular destinations for people that come in Greece for vacations. Tenths or hundreds of thousands of people visit the city every year. In July and August the city center is awfully crowded. The beauty of the old town, the venetian harbour, the amazing beaches, the mountains, the hospitality of the locals, especially in the rural areas, the traditional hamlets, the impressive cretan dances, the history of the island,.. It's a long list! West of the city, there is a huge area with touristic residential infrastructure; from studios to big hotels and resorts. Some years ago, a travel agent told me that only the visitors of the prefecture of Chania were more that the visitors of the island of Rhodes itself. It's hard to believe, but it's true.

Do you consider tourism as a bless to your area?

In some ways. It has brought wealth to my area but sometimes, I wish that our island was not so popular. You know, excessive and uncontrolled tourism has caused many problems. Environmental damages like pollution and increased vulnerability to forest fires. Inflation. A few people, like the owners of the hospitals or the shops, make high profits but the rest of us have to deal with increased prices for goods and services. Even the local culture is being affected. One common example of this is the production of souvenirs. The local people realize that money can be made by selling crafts to visitors and after a while, crafts which once had a spiritual or cultural significance, are just goods.  Some designs may also change to meet the visitors’ expectations. Now and then i think of my childhood in Chania when far less tourists were visiting the island and realize that life was not so bad. Many beautiful things of everyday life and culture  have been sacrificed on the altar of economic profit-seeking and that cannot be good.

My neighbourhood

A few things about your neighbourhood

sparsely populated area
at the edge of the city
isolated from the city's social life
nice and quite
underpriviledged suburban area

illegally built
approved architectural drawings
building code regulation , seismic safety
streets without pavements

friendly people
more interested in talking to you and maybe quite curious who is the one that lives at next door
less snobbish and more down to earth
you can see them gather at night in the balconies or front yards, when the weather allows it, and you can hear them laugh, sing, argue

What is your neighbourhood housing like?

I think that the housing of my neighbourhood is that of a typical underpriviledged suburban area. There is nothing special about the architecture and most of the buildings are detached houses or blocks of flats with 2 or 3 floors. After all, it not a rich neighbourhood. It's not that they are ugly. They are just plain buildings. Come to think of it, at least half of them have been built in order to be rent out by students of the nearby university. Moreover, most of them are illegal constructions that have been designed on a low budget and have been built in a short time frame.

What opportunities are there for doing sports in your area?

I am not very well informed about sports facilities in my area. As far as i know, there is  a five-a-side football club nearby. I haven't visited, not even once, but i can see the field lights and hear the voices from my house. There is also a gymnasium that belongs to the nearby educational institute but i am not sure if it is open to the public or it can be used only by students and personnel. While not exactly in my area, at the beach which is just 5 minutes away by car you can find a few beach volleyball courts. All in all, there are not many opportunities for sports but maybe that is not a surprise since we are on the outskirts of the city.

About me

How do you spend your free time?

Well, what do i do in my free time? The truth is that there are a lot of things that i would like to do but my free time is something not easily predictable so it's difficult to schedule an activity. However, one of my favorite activities in playing my mpouzouki (a traditional Greek string instrument- always explain Greek words briefly). Playing the instrument just makes makes me feel good. It allows you to express or intensify your feelings. Happy songs make you happier, while sad songs are comforting. It helps you relax, feel content, all depends on your mood and the song's melody. You can sing while you play or you can just listen and feel, let your mind travel. Takes your mind off your problems. It's an escape from the everyday routine.
Apart from that, i also try to work out regularly. You know, for the likes of me, whose job demands sitting many hours in front of a PC, exercising becomes a necessity if you want to keep healthy. But that's not all. Exercising can help you get it out, if you had a stressful day or keep fit without worrying about calories. And if you don't have much time for this you don't even have to go to a gym. With 2-3 pieces of equipment and some good music you can exercise without leaving the house. You only need some space. Moreover, my neighbourhood is a quite one with very little traffic, so i can also put on my running shoes and go out.
I also like dancing, reading, playing table games but as i have already said there is not enough free time for all of them

Could you tell us about some of your favorite foods?

Although there are a lot of foods that i like, i will try to pick out the first ones that come to my mind. First of all and one of my specialties, stuffed vegetables with rice. A traditional Greek recipe. The most common vegetables used are tomatoes and green peppers, though sometimes you may see aubergines and zucchinis, too. Some fill them only with rice and some use rice mixed with minced meat (usually beef). 

Another favorite is lamb with wild greens and herbs cooked in a stew pot. This is mostly a Cretan recipe but there is another version used in almost every place in Greece which uses lettuce instead of wild greens and adds avgolemono (egg and lemon sauce) just before the end.

The next is an outsider. It's not a food that will make you excited but i use to enjoy it very much in the winter if it is well cooked. Lentil soup! A very simple recipe with only 4 ingredients:  lentils, onions garlic  and laurel leaves. You can escort it with olives and salted fish.

What do you look forward to most when you go home at the end of the day?

I think some relaxation is what i need the most after a long day. I want to rest my mind, forget about all the responsibilities, the deadlines, the things you "have to" do. Put some good music on, watch a good movie or look for companionship. Spend some time with friends saying jokes, talking about our news, our problems, our ambitions and expectations. There are times that i am so pressed in my work that i spend most of the night thinking and planning about the next day. This is neither good nor productive. The matters of a single day are enough for that day. But it just can't be helped sometimes, especially the days that you can't hang out with friends. 

About studying english

Why do you learn English?

I need it for my job. It's a way to improve my employment prospects and that's something everyone should do from time to time if he wants to be competitive. Usually, i work for projects supervised by academic institutes and there is a trend lately to require an advanced or proficient level of English knowledge. To be honest, it's not the procedure of learning English that i enjoy the most but what comes as a result of this. I like it when i watch a movie and i can understand what the actors say without reading the Greek subtitles. Sometimes,  the quality of the greek subtitles is poor so that the meaning of the dialogue can be changed at some points. I also like it when i can understand the lyrics of a song or read signs, instructions and tourist guides when i travel abroad. I think that's more than enough to keep me motivated in my study.

Is English your main subject of study?

No, i wouldn't say that. Because of the nature of my job , you could say that most of the days i have to study about new technologies that come out or advances in my field of expertise. It can't be helped. The advances in IT are so fast that require you to study every once in a while.  But this kind of study does not follow a specific pattern. You can do it whenever you have the time and for anything you think it worths. Apart from this and as a amateur bouzouki player i have to study a little bit of this, too, almost everyday. Most of the times, the purpose of this study is not to improve my playing ability but just to preserve it. Unfortunately, i don't have enough time to go a step further, so i usually just go through the things that i already know.

Do you spend more time studying alone or with friends?

I usually study alone. I think it works better for me for two reasons. First, i can control my studying environment. I can pick a quite place if i need to concentrate better and avoid distractions or i can study at home with some music. I can take breaks whenever i want, i can learn at my own pace and the list goes on. Second, i usually don't like to share the responsibility when part of the studying includes the delivery of an essay or the preparation of a presentation. As a student, i was disappointed many times by fellow students that either were expecting from me to do their part of work or they just couldn't put some quality into their work. Of course, group studying cannot be avoided all the times. Sometimes you need a second opinion,  or some help because you are facing a difficult problem or because there is not enough time. After all, they say " two heads are better than one". However, i usually try to avoid such situations.

How important is to speak a foreign language in your country?

I think speaking a foreign language (especially English) is a must nowadays for every professional. Globalization of the economy on one hand and the fact that Greece is a very popular traveling destination on the other hand raises a demand for international communication. Anyone who works for a shop or a company that deals with tourists must be able to communicate with them. The same holds for the government employees for obvious reasons. Anyone who is involved in trading must be able to read English in order to search for products and communicate with vendors abroad. Last but not least, anyone who wants to travel abroad must be able to speak some english and traveling abroad is now much more common and easier than it was 20 years ago. 

How important do you think it is to have a routine when working or studying?

Routine a something vital when you try to self-organize your activities and that's a general truth no matter if this activity it's your job or your studies. Many professionals have a really hard time when they decide to work as freelancers because they undergo a significant lifestyle change.  You see, when you have a boss who tells you what to do and when, you don't need to think about schedule because that is dictated by the flow of your work. That same holds when you study alone as opposed to studying with a teacher. A routine helps you keep your activities organized and allows you to make better estimation of the time needed by each activity. It's important for one more reason. To much freedom makes you feel that you are free to take a break at any time but also makes you feel that you may return to work at any hour. But human beings are creatures of habit. So when you don't adopt good habits you can easily go out of rhythm. Most of the times, the secret lies in the morning routine. What time you get up, what you do first and what second and for how long. If you just jump up and dive into everything is thrown to you it can spin you off in the totally wrong direction. 


With more shopping being done over the internet, what future is there for ordinary shops?

Well, internet shopping may be very convenient but a think it's a bit overvalued. Most people use the internet just to have a look or compare prices but when the time comes to buy the product most of them will march themselves to the real shop. Even if this is not the case, we can't ignore the fact that some people make online purchases just for curiosity. But this curiosity and their lack of experience, doesn't live forever. People with some experience in internet shopping know that many times there is a gap between what you see on the computer screen and what you get in your hands. Moreover, the evaluation of an online product can not be 100% trustworthy most of the times. For example, if what you are aiming for is clothes or shoes, you can't try them out nor you can be sure about the real color. If it is an appliance like a TV, you can't get the visual experience through your PC. So the first timers are often disappointed by what they get and even maybe by the procedure of returning a product and getting a refund/ getting their money back. 

Do you think people will still go to the cinema in 10 years’ time? 

I suppose, yes. It's not easy to get such a big screen or sound experience into your living room and i don't think living rooms will be much bigger after 10 years. But the frequency that people would go to the cinema will be lower. Even today, most of the movies are available in the internet just a few days or weeks after they have come out to cinemas. Anyone can get them using an internet technology for sharing files called torrents. Of course, people above 30 are not so familiar with this technology at the moment. But, as years pass, this will change. Nonetheless, as i said, cinema will stay alive. After all, going to cinema is many times just an excuse or a change to hang out with some friends or the girl you like.

If you could afford to, would you take a trip in space?

Hmm, let me think. A trip in far as i know the only trip in space that is possible and safe for the moment is just to be in orbit around earth and therefore what are really talking is about having an earth view from space. So, it's all about a magnificent view and not about discovering "what is out there".  Yes, i would take such a trip under two conditions. First, that i would have someone to share the experience with (probably, my girl). Travelling alone is not  interesting at all. Second, that i would be so rich that spending a great deal of money on such a trip wouldn't change the fact of being rich. Otherwise, i can think a lot of better ways to spend my money.

What do you think is changing most in your country?

Nowadays? I suppose the way that people think. Apart from the apparent decrease of salaries and the great increase in unemployment, financial crisis had a very positive impact that most of us overlook. An impact on the quality of life. A quality not measured in financial terms but in social and ethical terms. People have started to be less haughty and snobbish. They have stopped going out almost every night and they work harder. They are simpler and more down to earth. Most of them, now appreciate more the simple joys of life. We have started gathering again in friends' houses and it's easier now to talk about your problems because you know that most of your friends have problems too and you are not the only one. You should say that it's not their choice but they are forced into it. I say "that's ok". It's a start. We are moving to the right direction. God blessed!

If you could live in any country , apart your own, which would it be? Why?

If such a country exists, it is without question located in southern Europe. At the lands where olive trees and vines grow. The temperament of the south cannot be much nor replaced by any other lifestyle. No one can deny that there is a vast gap in the "quality of life" definition between the north and south european countries. I have seen that in some way in my trips and i have been told that from north Europeans that have been moved permanently in Greece. So, it would probably be Italy. South Italy. They are also people who love the sun and the sea. People who like to flirt and be romantic, who love music and singing. Their music is also beautiful. Even the language sounds interesting. I think it's not luck their country is located next to ours.

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