Tuesday, May 15, 2007

How Do You Spell D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R

I have been waiting to write about the Habitat for Humanity fund raising dinner for a while because I thought with time the horror of the night would wear off. I think I am finally ready to write about it, although I still haven’t recovered completely.

First of all, we organized this dinner to raise money for our trip to Romania in July. We need quite a bit of money and we counted on this dinner providing about 10,000 euros. We rented a private room at a Chinese Karaoke restaurant and planned on selling 120 tickets at 50 euros a seat, providing entertainment from around the world (with yours truly as the m.c.) and having a silent auction. We had to pay 30 euros a seat, so that was a 20 euro profit on each ticket. We also planned on making about 7000 on the auction and donantions.

First thing that went wrong: we only sold about 40 tickets (remember this part as it will be important later). So right off the bat, we came up 1600 short of our initial projection.

Despite the negative beginning, everyone soldiered on and put more effort into getting really cool stuff to auction (thanks to everyone who sent stuff!). We had all sorts of neat items, including a week sailing trip off the coast of Nice. We figured we could easily make about 6000 on the auction stuff because we had such great items donated.

For the entertainment we had African dancing, a French band, a saxophonist, and a guitar soloist. The saxophonist and the French band were my contacts; the saxophonist is a friend and the band members were my students. I felt really strange about asking my students to perform, but in the end, we were too desperate not ask them, because my saxophonist ended up not being able to come because of confusion over the dates.

The day of the dinner, I arrived at the restaurant about 30 minutes late. When I walked in, everyone was oddly quiet and I thought they were upset because I was so late. We really didn’t have time to chat because we had to start setting things up.

The guitarist showed up drunk (no, I am not kidding). He could barely walk straight. I thought, “Great, a nice kink in our plans.” I finagled the program around and placed him last so he would have time to sober up.

About 30 minutes later, my students showed up carrying their amps and instruments. As soon as they walked in, the wait staff started freaking out and yelling. Apparently, since we didn’t sell all the tickets for the seats, the room was no longer private and we couldn’t have live entertainment because it would disturb the other patrons!

Nobody thought to double check with the restaurant about the entertainment. I almost started crying because, in the first place, I felt strange about asking my students to perform and secondly, because they drove so far for no reason. What’s worse, everyone had found out that night before I arrived, but nobody bothered to tell me. Nobody!

I wish this was the end of the sad tale, but it gets worse. Since the room was no longer private, the karaoke machine was brought out in all its glory. I don’t know if you have ever had to listen to Chinese karaoke for any length of time, but let me tell you, it isn’t nice. Not only did it continue non-stop for 4 hours, it was also at a volume that made my ears bleed. Conversation was impossible. My speech that I stressed and worked on for days was quickly scrapped.

Next disaster: for some reason, some of the people who sold tickets failed to tell the people they sold the tickets to what the menu would include. It was seven courses, five of which consisted of some type of seafood. Three of the 10 people at my table were allergic to seafood so that means we had at least three, probably more, really unhappy people.

Final disaster of the evening: the auction only made us about 3000 euros. The nail in the coffin.

After it was all said and done, I tried to look on the bright side of things, but being delusional or optimistic or delusionally optimistic or optimistically delusional is not really my style.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

See, I Am Not Dead

I have a lot to catch up on and originally I thought I would put it all in one post, but after I got finished writing the Crete post, I decided to break it up. My trip to Crete…it was fabulous, although I didn’t do much. Crete, from what I can tell, is a beautiful country. I stayed in the town of Rethymnon, which is about a 90 minute drive from Iraklion. It is a port city and has a lot of mixed history from the Roman, Greeks, Turks and oddly enough, the Germans. I walked into town everyday just to get some exercise because the trip was half board, which I have found is an extremely dangerous thing. I mean, really a breakfast and dinner buffet, free of charge?! Anyway, the town was small and charming and the people were lovely.
Crete is really famous for feta cheese, olives, honey, mushrooms, goats, mythology, certain herbs, and its history. All the stores catered these areas of interest. I came back with a ton of olive based skin and hair care products, honey and olive oil.
I went shopping and exploring the two days it rained and was cold; the other days I spent lying by the beach or the pool. I know, it seems really boring, but I NEEDED the sun. The hotel was great and the people who worked there were really nice and helpful and not Greek! One of the women was Dutch and the other was German. I think Crete probably attracts all sorts of people.
I had two exceptional experiences while I was there, one good and one, well, rather strange.

The strange thing happened my first day on the beach. I was lying out, reading a book when I man walked up and asked if he could lay by me. I didn’t know what to say, so I think I said something like, “Um, sure, ok.” He practically laid down on top of me. I tried to be politely rude to show him he was unwelcome, but he kept talking, asking me such questions such as, “Are you married; do you have a boyfriend; would you like to go out tonight; how long are you going to be here, etc?” I tried to get rid of him by telling him I was on vacation with my boyfriend and I was just waiting for him….that didn’t work. After about 5 minutes of chitchat, he wanted to rub oil on me and I thought, well I don’t want to print what I thought, but it wasn’t a nice thought. I told him I didn’t need any oil. This seemed to appease him for about two seconds until he grabbed my bum a few times and said something about giving me a massage. That really made me uncomfortable and there was nobody else on the beach to help or intervene, so I turned over and started gathering my things up in order to make a quick getaway. He started moving around too and I just happened to glace over and he was very graciously showing me his manhood. I remember saying, “Ah Jesus!,” before getting up and practically running back to the hotel. However, in retrospect, I wish I had pointed and laughed.
The second thing was fantastic! I met a woman at a restaurant. She was my waitress; we just started talking and she invited me to her house for dinner one night. I half expected not to hear from her, but she called me a few days later and invited me to her house for dinner. It was fantastic. She prepared a feast. I think we ate for four hours. We had the best conversations; she told me all about the myths and history of the island and her family. I was really, really pleased to be in invited and that I said yes! Usually, I wouldn’t do something like that, but it turned out to be a great experience. I have to send her a “care” package from Paris as a thank you.

All in all, I loved Crete! It was beautiful and the people were fantastic. I hope I can go back someday when the water is warmer.