November 2011 >> Page 1 2 3
Thursday 3rd - The one thing that can be expected 100% from Greece is that something unexpected should be expected. The world markets are now at the mercy of a country that doesn't know how to balance it's books. Push too hard and this is what happens, possible and probable chaos. Greece's governments have squandered tax payers money (the few there were) over the generations and in the space of a year were expected to clean up their act. It was never going to be possible, let alone happen. A quick example: Just recently a house tax was imposed. This tax is not collected by the tax department (although that will be its eventual destination), but by the electricity co. DEH. Now, the thing is that only legal houses (houses that have building permits etc etc) get electricity, so all the thousands of houses that have been built illegally around Greece will not have to pay this tax as they are not in the DEH system. Then, just to add a little more annoyance, it appears that the taxes imposed, are in some cases, hiked due to the wrong information coming from the Councils in regard to the value of the property. Sometimes the difference being double the amount it should be. So, ok. It's a mistake, but guess what? Those home owners are expected to pay the (mistake) amount and then go through a process (we, who live in Greece, know very well what any one of these processes involve - headaches and more headaches with months, even years, of waiting) until a government body makes a decision. Fixing Greece (financially) would mean throwing the baby out with the bath water and starting all over again. Whatever the solution for Greece, one thing is certain, the solution will not happen just because the EU wants it to. There needs to be a change at the core of Greece, in the psyche of Greece. That won't happen just to get the 6th payment. It will take a long time. This is just my opinion. Let's face it, if we all did the right thing and what's good for us, the world would be a much different place to live. Unfortunately, it's human nature to take risks with ourselves and with our communities, emotionally, physically and of course, financially, win or lose. Thing is, someone ends up paying.
Now, let's have a look at some of the nice things about Greece, primarily, Ithaki, where life isn't as bad as it seems elsewhere. Right - Pilakata, just outside of Stavros. Below - Looking across to Cephalonia from Stavros.
Above - View down to Frikes from Varka region in Stavros. Below - A facelift for one of Stavros' icons, Valentino's Cafe. A new paint job can make the world of difference.
Above - Stavros during the afternoon, is now very quiet. Only a worker cleaning the street was in the street. The Cafes were closed and there wasn't a sound apart from the distant motor of a moped.
Ithaca has its own little battle going on at the moment. Seems the ferry co. has decided that there will be no more stopping at Vathy, only at Piso Aetos from now on. Trucks were lined up today outside the KEP office, staying put. Their reason? They can't get their trucks down to Piso Aetos. For years this subject has been a bone of contention. It's more fuel efficient for the ferry to go from Sami in Cephalonia to Piso Aetos as it's a shorter distance, but certain facets of the Ithaki community have been fighting against it for their own reasons. Anyway, this means that the ferry will probably leave Ithaki a little later in the mornings (not a bad thing), it will also arrive on Ithaki a little earlier on the late run (also not a bad thing). Piso Aetos does have its difficulties, firstly it's not really set up as a proper port. Access is poor, which in winter will mainly effect the trucking traffic, but in Summer, does effect the hundreds and hundreds of tourists who battle the obstacles to get out of the port area. Piso Aetos is a little remote and has always been a nightmare during the summer. At this stage however, I'm quite happy we have a ferry that comes to Ithaca twice a day, no matter where it decides to dock at night. Unlike some islands, we at least, have a way off when wanted or needed at regular daily intervals. Right - View from Lefki down on the Cephalonia Strait.
Above - Around Stavros. After a very noisy summer, it's such a dramatic change to have it so very, very quiet. No building noises, no motorbikes roaring up and down the main streets, no anything other than birds, dogs, cats and sheep. I have to make a mention here to the establishments who remain open during this time of the year. They do the island a great service, even though it doesn't really do much for their pockets. In the north of the island, these establishments, remaining open for business for such a small population, make a big difference to the quality of life. In the south, Vathy has a big enough population to warrant shops remaining open.
The weather has been absolutely amazing here over the past weeks. 19 - 20 degrees C in November? It's amazing and wonderful. There's bound to be a change on the horizon soon, but for now we can enjoy blue-sky, sunny days with some crisp nights.
Went to the fruit market in Stavros yesterday to buy bananas... None. Why? Because the trucks that deliver them can't get to the island due to the ferry docking at Piso Aetos. Answer: Use smaller trucks.
That north Ithaki has a school bus is great. There's no denying that, but that it has to be so big is dumbfounding. Firstly, there aren't enough kids to fill it, secondly the roads are better suited to smaller vehicles, thirdly, and in this economy, quite importantly, the fuel costs seem to be a waste of money. Maybe we should get a female bus driver. I don't think size actually matters that much to a woman... well, for some things like buses at least.
I just loved it this morning when I turned on the television and the first thing I heard was a BBC report where the reported said "Forget about Greece, all the attention is now on Italy". Unfortunately, no matter how much we would love to be able to forget about Greece's situation, we're stuck with it for some time yet I suspect, and while attention is now on Italy, here, elections are planned for 4th December. In the meantime talk is that an interim government will be set up. This body will be made up of non-political people with no alignment to either of the major parties, and will be voted on by the parliamentarians, not the public. SEND IN YOUR RESUMES. YOU could be the captain of a sinking ship, seeing no one else wants the job between now and the 4th Dec. Within a month, Greece will decide who will be the next person to blame for the state of things. We'll still need the loans and we'll still have to pay them back, so it doesn't really matter who puts out the bad word 'tax'.
On our rock, people have been complaining about the 'less than adequate' performance of ADSL over the past week, at least in the north. Not sure if it's an island problem. After many phone calls, there is still a problem that the HELP desk people won't acknowledge. "I have checked your line and it's working" they say. At almost 50 euro a month, I would like to be able to do my work at minimum and load down more than an email every 30 seconds, if it doesn't stick and stop altogether. Anyone out there know anyone in high Connex places? If I hear another Help Pest person telling us that it's working when it obviously isn't, I'm gonna... Ring again? Stop using the internet? Go with another provider? (Is there another here on Ithaki?) Yell at someone really loud? Not pay my bill? Complain to someone? Put up with it? None of the above? Do something illegal? Hire a 12 year old to hack the server?
Ok, enough ranting and raving. On Ithaca, all is very quiet. There's not much to write about or report. I can tell you that many people have left the island looking for work elsewhere, especially Albanians, Bulgarians etc., but also Greeks. It makes me wonder if Ithaca could return to the island I first knew back in '83, when life on the island was limited outside of public holidays and summer heights when people would populate its villages. No one really knows what to expect so let's keep our fingers crossed the ithaca will survive the economic fall-out and remain the place it has become to be in our hearts.
Ithaca Dreaming
November Tuesday 1st - More fine days ahead, just a shame there are so few people here to enjoy them. Left - The Lefkada ferry ran ground today and was therefore stuck in Frikes all day. It was still there late afternoon with the crew waiting, waiting and waiting for something. Below - Nektarios has a right to yawn in the middle of the day. His Season is now over at Rementzo, so it's clean up time. Symposium however, still has its tables out and seems to be open for business, as is Fiorendino Bar at night and of course Kiki's mini market is still catering for the locals in the village of Frikes.
Above - Lots of falcons flying around this afternoon. Fish were also jumping out of the bay in Frikes. Above Left - Stavros views. Left - Raxi covering in smoke from the olive season preparations. Below - Looking for a place to go? The Kathara Monastery is still a special place, whether in summer or in winter.
Saturday 5th - Crazy times for Greece. 2 days of watching Government house speeches. So will we see Papandreos remain or will the leader of the opposition Mr. Samara get his foot in and collect a nice big pension in 3 or 4 years. Seeing either or sees the need to remain in the EU and want the package, I personally don't see any reason to change the figure head. Either/or will need to do what they're told by the EU. No matter which way you look at it, there are hard times ahead for this country. What is a little ironic is that when it came down to a real democratic process, a referendum, everyone in parliament (all parties) urged against it. The birth place of democracy gave democracy over for a dime. Personally, I thought it was a little late to ask Greeks whether they wanted to remain in the EU now, but it was probably never about that anyway.
On Ithaca, there is so much burning off during olive harvesting, that the sky is constantly murky from smoke. In the low lying areas it's like living on the edge of a forest fire on a daily basis. Some mornings especially, it's difficult to breathe.
Monday 7th - Left - If ever there was a time for worry beads, this is it. Greece has put on a circus for the world and for itself over the past few days. Supposedly today, there will be news of a positive progression, but it's sure to metamorphosize over the coming weeks and months, and just how positive and for whom, is yet to be determined. News forecasters predict that Papandreos will most likely step down as insisted on by the opposition, who by the way, was an equal culprit in this economic crisis. 40 or so years between the two major parties is plenty of time to have messed it up. No point blaming anyone, Greece's population was in on it and benefited from it in various ways. Pointing the finger to score points is useless at this stage of the game. It's time to pay the Piper before the Piper decides to give someone else a haircut, leaving Greece dreadlocked.

My take on the EU and Greece's Economic Crisis in the form of the most cliched sayings - (As I get into trouble occasionally when what I write is misinterpreted, misunderstood and/or badly translated, I advise those for whom English is their second language, to look up the sayings as a whole and not use google translate)

Don't put all your eggs in 1 basket Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth What goes up must come down Beware of Greeks bearing gifts The bigger they are the harder they fall A bird in the hand is worth 2 in the bush Can't see the forest from the trees Too many chiefs and not enough Indians 2 wrongs don't make a right Ships passing in the night The grass is greener on the other side Like a bull in a China Shop Money is burning a hole in your pocket It never rains, it pours And pigs can fly No use crying over spilt milk People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones All in good time Walk don't run From the frying pan into the fire Money doesn't grow on trees

Good news for banana lovers is that this afternoon, the north of the island had bananas in the shelves again. Looks like the trucks made it through Piso Aetos afterall.
Tuesday 8th - Left and Above - Trucks are still parked opposite the KEP office in Vathy. It is easy to see that these trucks have difficulty boarding and disembarking at Piso Aetos port, but seeing the ferry co is in no mood to compromise now, the probability is that the trucking people/co.'s will need to make the compromise... just not yet, by the look of it. Ferry departure time from Piso Aetos is now 7.30am instead of the usual 7am. Below Left - Fishing along the Vathy bayside. Below - Untangling nets before taking the boat out to fish is a necessary chore that always looks romantic when its being observed, but doing it is quite another thing. Tedious work.
Left - When there's a yacht this big in Aetos bay at this time of the year, everyone notices. Below - A little bit of an Australian native right in Vathy Square. You would think it's odd for a 'bottle brush' plant to be this far from home, but considering there are so many Greek Australians living here, it's to be expected. We have quite alot of eucalyptus trees on the island too.
Left - The Frikes Oil Press doors are open, but this year not for making olive oil, or at least that was the latest. Maybe someone cleaning up?
November 2011 >> Page 1 2 3