Friday, October 21, 2016

How the other half lives...

It's getting cold here in Naousa, and that's no joke.
A visit yesterday to my favorite "cava" -- wine store where wine can be bought by the liter from barrels -- provided comfort beyond excellent retsina.  I also got some validation for constantly feeling cold, especially at home.  As winter seeps in, most Greeks are very worried about keeping their families warm when money is scarcer than ever. 
I had responded‎ to the  usual "How are you?" with "COLD!" -- having spent recent days not feeling well, holed up in my apartment where the temperature hovered around 60 degrees (Fahrenheit)...and also worrying that I was just being a Miami Lightweight. But Naousa is at a relatively high altitude -- think nearby ski resorts -- and gets cold early. My wine seller replied: "No kidding. I wear a sweater to bed." Wow, I'm not the only one!
I not only felt vindicated, but determined to find a solution beyond a simple electric heater someone had given me that wasn't doing the trick while pulling costly electricity. Yes, my studio apartment does have central heating, but it is dependent on heating oil that has risen in cost by over 20 percent since April and is not yet available to us. My space is small, but If the average household here needs 200 liters a month X 93 cents and is living (like half of all Greeks) on a poverty level income of 600 Euros a month --  well, you do the math...
More and more Greeks are being forced to find other solutions, like converting to wood stoves  both in villages and big cities. Or buying 1-2 small heating appliance and toughing it out with heavy clothes 24/7. Schools are not escaping this growing problem either. The Greek People are living an economic nightmare and are now facing yet another "austerity measure" winter.*

‎Yesterday I finally invested 80 Euros in what is essentially an "electric radiator," even though I will soon be returning to the USA to vote. The new models don't use as much electricity and have an automatic thermostat.  And wow again! My apartment is now at 66-68F, though I can't yet be sure of the electricity expenditure or how I will fare when it gets much colder. And I'm not sure when my building might get organized to buy heating oil to rev up the system. Or how much that will cost.  Or if when I return, I will just limp along without central heating, wearing sweaters to bed again when needed just like many others here in Naousa and throughout Greece. 

So if you don't have a heating (or AC) problem, be grateful. Because this is how the other half lives -- in Greece and too many other places.

*The 2016-2017 Greek winter would be the coldest in 50 years!
(Published in The Greek American Herald, November 2016)

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

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