Tuesday, July 14, 2015

51 and counting, in spite of all the troubles!

Left Greece yesterday firmly believing that the ship I am temporarily abandoning is, for all intents and purposes, unsinkable -- and if you are at all familiar with the history of Greece the last 100 years, you know what I am talking about. The Greek people will never go down without fight!   

The newest proposed austerity measures look to be worse than ever, with just vague prospects for economic recovery.  The lack of cash has caused a cascade of serious problems that most American citizens would find unbelievable AND intolerable. It was impossible to see the end of the tunnel if The Creditors do not cut the debt, like others did for Germany in 1953. That is why Greeks followed the lead of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and voted OXI (NO!) in the July 5th plebiscite. I am very proud of how they stood up for themselves no matter who is to blame for the current situation and how nasty Herr Schäuble has become.  

For the last 6 weeks, I ran around trying to find relatives and then graduates of the American Farm School's Girls School Department...forays into towns and villages which gave me even more insight into the economic situation. I worked at the School in 1968-78 and was pretty tight with the students and their families. I kept in touch with many up until about 1985, then radio silence...my fault. Now the floodgates were open!

So how do I explain that I have now ‎visited with 51 such graduates who acted as if 40+ years have not gone by? "Miss Paula" is now much older and overweight, but they don't seem to care...maybe because some of them aren't so svelte any more either. The beautiful, mind-blowing way I was greeted went beyond my wildest expectations.‎ I could have stayed 6 months if I took them all up on their invitations to stay in their homes!

That must be what they call unconditional love. I like to think it is because we had an extraordinary program for kids from villages, especially for girls who were not sent to high school by their parents. They spent 2 years with us and we filled the time with traditional classwork, homemaking/handicraft training and anything else we could think of to mold mothers and community leaders. A few remembered that I taught them play badminton of all things, others the "Smile" awards I conjured up for best dorm rooms, etc. One even used a certificate we gave her for best candle-maker to get a loan for an amazing decorative candle company she created -- but which has now gone by the way because most people can't afford that sort of expenditure any more. (The same for many small businesses which couldn't compete in markets saturated with goods from China and the like.) 

Most importantly, these now 50+ years-old women loved getting together with others they had not seen or heard from for many years as I went around gathering them up and sharing contact information. They loved talking about their school experience and how important it was. Eleni, Tassoula, Fotini, Aleka, Mairi, Despina, Chrystallo, Isaiah, Peristera, Glykeria -- some are widows, others are still working hard (at the very least helping pick cherries or peaches or olives during harvest seasons in their hometowns), and most are grandmothers tending to large extended families challenged daily by these severely depressed times.  

So my new and unforeseen mission in life is to reach them all, creating some sort of network/association for today -- to renew the friendships they had, share their life experiences, and help each other when they can. 51 was great, but 232 will be a whole lot better.

Kali andamosi!

NOTE: A big shout-out to my partners in crime (above top photo), Vasso'74 ("Sherlock Holmes" as I dubbed her and a leader in her Kavala area village) and Ioanna '73 (hostess, driver par excellence, and teacher in a special needs school for 26 years!) -- who not only came along for the ride‎, but organized a good bit of it. They seemed to enjoy those encounters even more than me and are working on the next phase as we speak. Double Opa!

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE network.

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