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Greece

“ELA! Welcome to Greece!”

Those were the words spoken to me last night as I turned the corner towards the Evangelismos Metro stop only to find it was unexpectedly closed. I was not the only one surprised by this discovery. As I pulled out my phone to call a friend for a ride to the gym, a man next to me uttered those words (he, too, was on his phone calling for a ride). Well, he’s not wrong. Yes, “This is Greece”, after all. Expect the unexpected.

I happen to be in Greece during the dawn of much change, I think. The strikes and rallies are pretty routine by now, and they are typically scheduled in advance, but much is going on beyond that. The euro crisis, the bailout, the referendum votes, the possibility of a new PM soon, Greece maybe not being a Schengen State (I wonder how that will affect my Visa…). This is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s a volatile situation, and I’m curious to see how it will play out.

Now, I say “curious”. If I were Greek, I’m sure I’d be using a different word, perhaps “anxious” or “desperate.” But, then again, the Greeks have a certain love for life and a way of being familiar with change and working with it instead of seeing it as a setback. However, this current kind of change is a huge obstacle, and it’s already affected too many. I’m in an unusual position here as a foreigner in a Athens with Greek friends who spends much of her time in the richer parts of Athens. I get to view this whole fiasco from many different perspectives, and they certainly clash.

Some of my Greek friends just don’t talk about it. Whether because they actively want to ignore it out of fear or for other reasons, I’m not sure. Others do talk about it, and no one is happy. Others seem to view Athens as full of the “haves” and “have-nots” and all financial issues right now are poorly affecting the latter group. The former group, however, is worried for their safety, as well they should be. Those desperate for money often turn to desperate measures, and the crime rate is increasing. Watching the riots in Syntagma you’d think Greece really is on fire, but walking around the streets of Kolonaki you’d think Athens is a prospering city going about business as usual (especially in the afternoon when many are sitting at corner cafes sipping casually on espresso freddos, smoking their hand-rolled cigarettes, watching the day pass, without a care in the world). And as an American who spends most of her time in the library I still feel pretty removed from it all, just watching it all unravel — or explode, as the case may be.

So there’s a vote of confidence today in Parliament. Will Papandreou still be the PM next week? Will the ‘haircut’ work? Will more austerity votes take place? Will Greece be a part of the Schengen states? What will happen to the euro? What about the US stock market? How many more people in Greece will become unemployed? How many more strikes and rallies will take place? The questions of political and economic uncertainty are too numerous to list. Greece is walking a razor-thin line here between chaos and, well, I’m not sure what’s on the other side but I’m not sure it’s ‘stability’.

Whatever happens today, and tomorrow, and in the next week and month, I hope it’s for the better and that Greece finds a way to haul itself out of this economic hole.

“Every time I see Greece I just want to give them a big ol’ hug.” Awww it’s true, though.

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About Elizabeth

PhD student in Classical Art & Archaeology at UVA with a focus on Greek heroes and iconography (yet forever awed by Roman 2nd and 4th style painting). Salsa and Argentine tango dancer extraordinaire. Weightlifter and Crossfitter the world over.

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