Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Economy + Related Security Alert

Bulletin: Have just received an email security alert from the U.S. State Dept -- warning US travelers and citizens that large demonstrations will be taking place Saturday afternoon (11/17) in Athens and other towns, marking a famous uprising against the Junta in 1973. Students were killed at the Polytechnical School -- can you say Kent State? It didn't bring the Junta down, but they didn't last another full year. I remember those seminal incidents well..Leaving Athens for Italy Saturday am (where there are reported floods in Rome), will miss all the excitement...

People here are very upset and worried -- they have evaporating funds, big unemployment, more cuts coming under the new set of austerity measures required to get the next loan disbursements, things to pay that they cannot afford. One-half of the 1.2 million unemployed have already lost their health benefits. Some doctors are working underground health networks to help people, especially with medications. A woman saw a well-dressed man in the streets asking for 1 EU towards fulfilling a prescription -- she gave him 15. I didn't quiz my relatives on their economic situation per se -- but it didn't seem all that great.

Stamatis Family Homestead
Two nights ago, while we sat under the tree in front of the Stamatis family homestead, I spoke with a man helping my relatives do some work on the house (a day laborer, specializing in tile work and the like). I mentioned the 2 volunteer olive pickers and was told the day picking rate was 40-50 EU a day last year; this year it is 20-30. He said people would take 20 to put food on the table. He had not worked enough months to be able to pay his taxes, and now he had no money for his vehicle registration (essential for him to get work). So he would drive without renewing it. "How many people can they put in jail," he exclaimed.

A neighbor sitting in was worried that the world thinks all Greeks are lazy and corrupt. Anyone who thinks that's the main reason for this financial disaster needs to take a deep breath and think again. This is a real situation affecting real people in real time - and we Greek-Americans need to help, not castigate. Not to mention that things ain't so hot in our own country!

Meanwhile: Still on the road to Athens, and during our 15-minute stop in Tripolis I was reminded of my Yiayia Sarris again. She always made us put toilet paper down on the seats of public bathrooms. The Tripolis bus station has clean bathrooms downstairs, but actual no toilet seats. So I did the right thing :)
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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