Wednesday, 10 November 2010
At you the choice
(Mytilini, the capital of Lesvos)
The advantage of living on an island is that you feel far away from the hectic world where the important things are decided. Especially these last days when the weather has been incredible beautiful: high temperatures with the sun trying to dry out the humidity which makes mysterious foggy shapes out of the mountains.
However, thanks to the letter bombs addressed to heads of states and foreign embassies, the Greek capital has been in uproar. The international post was shut down for 48 hours but here at the Molyvos post office mail going to foreign countries has been taken in as usual. Let’s see how far the post will come these days.
Some of the packets were sent by courier services and normally would be delivered within a day. However, when the Speedex company had to bring my new computer from Athens to Lesvos, they took their time. First it went to Patras (how could you confuse Patras with Mytilini?!) When that mistake was discovered the computer stayed a day in Patras before going back to Athens where it stayed another day. Only then was it shipped to Lesvos. The boat arrived at seven in the morning, and you might think that somebody at the courier service would jump into a car to deliver the package to me - it was already three days late. But that was too much to be expected. When I phoned Speedex in Mytilini the employee I spoke to took no interest in my problem and told me there was no way they would deliver it the same day: maybe tomorrow or the day after!
Unfortunately, this lack of service is still common in too many Greek companies (especially those still state owned). Sometimes you think you live in a communistic country where the workers are not interested at all in their work but do everything that make the hours pass as pleasantly and quickly as possible.
Yesterday, this kind of apathy was confirmed by the results of Sunday’s local elections: only 54 % of the Greeks voted. There was even a village in the northwest – Velvendos - that broke a new record. Protesting against the new Kallikrates project 95.77 % of the villagers stayed at home! Greeks are tired of change and don’t believe in the government’s solution to the crisis. They also don’t think it’s possible to prevent politicians and other people with power from putting money into their own pockets, or that the workers will forever continue doing jobs for slave’s wages, or that anybody can get Greece out of this crisis.
However, these elections have shown that small parties - left wing or green parties – are gaining more and more votes which means more Greeks believe that by not voting for the two main parties (Pasok and Neo Dimokratia), they can change the country.
On Sunday there was indeed a lot to decide. Not only was there the choice between parties, but elections according to the new Kallikrates system took place. This means that Lesvos is no longer part of a regional island group including Limnos and Ai Stratis, but is now also with Samos, Chios and Ikaria. So people had to choose a new governor for this expanded group. Kallikrates also meant that our island’s local municipalities were also disbanded, so that now there is only one authority and again, for this a mayor had to be elected - plus a deputy and the entire council from very long lists of candidates. Each of the old municipal districts had to vote for a representative on the central council. It was the same everywhere in Greece because the national government wants this Kallikrates system to save billions of euros.
On the topic of economics, here on the street these days there are more and more people riding horses or donkeys. Will the crisis bring back the old ways of getting around? People also fear that the price of heating fuel has risen so far they won’t be able to afford it for the coming winter, so I think in a lot of houses we’ll see a return to the old wood stoves. Another sign: although the ban on public smoking is opposed by Greeks many have stopped because it’s also become far too expensive.
So, we are facing a hard winter. Although some people are cheered up by the prospect of a good olive harvest - the trees are heavy with fat and juicy fruit ready for the olive press - this year rather than paying people to do the work, many will be doing their own harvesting. This is how people are forced to face the crisis: spending less and working more. And now we have to wait and see how it will work with only one mayor for the whole island. I am wondering if such a mayor, living far away in Mytilini, will take notice that the road here in Eftalou has not been repaired since the storm damage of last winter. Do we have to wait until the road disappears completely into the sea so that people living here can only get to Molyvos via the coastal road to Sykaminia?
(With thanks to Tony Barrell)
@ Smitaki 2010