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.
Thick and thin, that’s Greece right now. Thick: protests, rallies, list of strikes, debt, amount of honey in pastries, yogurt, accents, traffic, coffee. Thin: women, red wine, linen, the border of Athens (seriously where does the Municipality of Athens end and the Suburbs begin?), rules, and sometimes patience.
Organized, that’s me. I am a planner. I like to plan way in advance and know what I’m doing, where I’m going, how it’s going to happen. Luckily, I am also an extreme optimist and have a ready “it will all work out” attitude for most situations. That latter trait has certainly come in handy in Greece, the land of ever-changing everything (usually last-minute). One of my new CrossFit friends from Vienna asked me what my plan was after I got my doctorate. Basically, I answered that “I have a Plan A, and if that doesn’t work out then I have a Plan B, and if that doesn’t happen then I’ll just see what life gives me and go with that.” He called it a “Taoist/Zen” philosophy. I call it “being realistic”.
The recent economy in Greece has led to more strikes, rallies, and protests than usual, the goal of which are to cause the most amount of upset and inconvenience in order to pressure the government to make changes. This usually affects the majority of Athenians and tourists more than anything. Most strikes are not announced until the day before, but luckily I can find a list of everything at this great blog. Or I read http://www.ekathimerini.com/, which gives me all the latest local news (and weather, which is finally teasing us with some cooler temperatures at night).
What was it Blanche DuBois said… ah yes: “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” This is amazing advice. As my friend Jon Forney stated from his own experience: Never Decline an Invitation! Words of wisdom, those. I can’t count the times that has held true for myself. Greece has been no exception.
How do I deal with the transport strikes when I need to travel 8km south of Athens to get to the gym? Why, I call for a ride from my buddy George, of course! Sure it means riding on the back of a motorcycle, which I had never done before September, but dare I say I’m (gasp) learning to enjoy it?
How do I handle returning to my apartment to find the electricity cut because my landlord paid the bill a little late? Well, I actually was just going to sleep on it and hope my food didn’t spoil and that it would all get resolved the next day after calling my landlord. Instead, my buddy George (same guy) MacGyvered me some electricity until the company came to reconnect it. (Lesson: pick friends who are crafty and have a vehicle?)
How do I make noodle-free (zucchini works wonders) lasagna when ricotta is nowhere to be found? I go without! Extra mozzarella melts pretty well, you know!
How do I cope with returning to my apartment mid-afternoon with bags full of groceries to find my key to the building does not work, and there’s a sign in Greek posted which says (from what I can understand) that the lock has been changed and the business office has our new keys. I don’t know where this ‘business office’ is. I call my landlord… news to him, and he’s at work (30 minutes away) but will rush to my aid if need be. Fate smiled upon me just then, because one of my neighbors just happened to come home at that moment, he just happened to have made a copy of the new key, and just happened to lend it to me, a complete stranger, until I get my new one.
What do I do when my plans to go to sites and museums are ruined by the archaeological parks and museums going on strike (say what?!?!)? I head to the library and get more work done there, naturally.
Meanwhile the price of a frappe at my normal frappe place has increased 65 cents. I suppose I’ll have to cut back from 2 a week to just one a week. Oh noes!
I am slowly becoming one with the fine art of “going with the flow”, I just think of it as a dance with the uncertain present. Living in the moment as best I can.
If all else fails, just have some more baklava, right?