Expat Magazine

How I Got Lost in Translation and Found the Doorway to Destruction

By Sofiaessen

What Real Estate Agents call a “Renovator’sDream” is a homeowner’s nightmare in reality. A “Fixer Upper’s Delight” is farfrom delightful unless you have limitless funds to allocate to the endlessamount of fixing up it requires. And a “Bargain Villa” is more often than not aruin without plumbing. Here in Crete, Real Estate Agents prey on haplesssummer vacationers who pause to gawk at glossy photos of “Authentic GreekHouses” pasted to their office windows. The Agents paint a charming picture oftraditional village life on a Greek island, making it sound idyllic andstress-free. They even suggest the hapless vacationers can do a lot of renovationby themselves – any fool can learn how to mix up a batch of plaster, can’tthey?I’m embarrassed to admit I was once such a haplessvacationer, charmed by the island and a well-practiced tale of tranquil living.I fell in love with a beautiful wreck of a house. And I was indeed convinced I possessedpreviously dormant carpentry skills. Oh yes, I was almost certain I was one ofthose people who can build you a shopping mall if you hand them nothing but alength of rope and a Q-tip.   Let’s suffice it to say I was quicklybrought back to earth with a resounding thud when I fell off a ladder whiletrying to change a light bulb… so I hired a contractor. Three days before Mr. Manolis, my contractor,was supposed to begin turning my ruin into a habitable dwelling, I came homefrom a jog on the beach to find a three-man crew lined up in my driveway.   “Hello,” I puffed. “Are you starting today?Did I get the date wrong?” The three men looked at each other,shrugged, and then stared blankly back at me. I took a moment to catch mybreath and regain my equilibrium before asking the same questions in Greek.They looked at each other and shrugged again before staring down at the groundthis time.  “Okay,” I sighed. “No Greek.”The almost scarily tall and scarecrow thinman on the left shook his head. “And no English.” The considerably shorter and much wider manin the middle nodded. “Italiano?” I tried. The average height man of normal weight onthe right cleared his throat and said, “Bulgaria.” “Great,” I muttered as I opened my frontdoor and ushered them into the hallway. “Just great.” I spent the next half hour in my studytrying to locate Mr. Manolis. After having called his cell phone a dozen times,paged him and called his office just as many, and finally talked to his wifewho had no idea where or how to reach him, I gave up. I returned to the threeBulgarians who were shuffling aimlessly around the hallway and said, “You cango.” “Go?” they parroted in comical unison. “Yes.” I pointed at the open door. “Go.” I watched in silence as the three of themwhispered to each other for several minutes. Finally, the human beanstalk said,“Okay. Go.” I smiled in relief. “Good. Thank you.” I went back to my study and booted up mylaptop. Then I made myself a sandwich and a cup of instant coffee. Just as Iwas about to settle at my desk, an earsplitting creak followed by a thud andthe sound of glass shattering sent me bolting back into the hallway where Ifound Larry, Curly and Moe standing in a gaping hole where my massive woodendoor hung only minutes earlier.   “What?” I gasped. “What did you do?” The vertically challenged and rotundbarrel-like man grinned in triumph, gave the front door that was now laying onthe floor a kick with his booted foot, and said, “Go!”     Now, almost three years later, I've sold the house to another tourist with more optimism than sense... and I'm nearly fluent in Bulgarian.       

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