Saturday, February 25, 2017

Naousa is proud of its Carnival traditions, in spite of the weather

After going out earlier in a drizzle to shop at the Saturday outdoor market, I am waiting here with baited breath to see if it will rain again in Naousa this afternoon. Everybody plans to be out with barbecues in the street 2 days before Lent starts. I also expect frolicking satire/dancing to the music of zournades (think clarinet) and daoulia (think bass drum)‎.  The Naousa holiday theme is "One City, One Celebration." While $$$ times are very tough, the people here are all-in for a good time all Carnival week thru Clean Monday

The worst days of one of the harshest winters on record (down to - 17C!) seem to have passed, and my studio apt is now fully heated (costing more than the rent!) -- but bad luck vis-à-vis the weather continues. Last 3 days it has been sunny and around 65F, but now the forecast says rain/50F tomorrow, a VERY important day. But that won't deter anyone from celebrating the historic rituals/traditions that go back centuries.  

"Yenitsari and Boules" are men in special costumes, who during the Ottoman Empire danced through the streets under the guise of Carnival to collect money to buy supplies and then go into the mountains to fight for Independence. So both Sundays start with a ritual dressing of each "soldier" in his family home by his parents, some accessories being sewn on right then. When his "boulouki" (think platoon) comes to fetch him, he greets them, does his cross, kisses his mother goodbye, and joins the group to go collect others. Then they go to the Town Hall for permission from the mayor to dance through the town on a special route so never-changing that it printed on a map. At 5 o'clock they reach stop #8 Allonia -- the neighborhood where my Dad grew up -- and take off the special "faces"(masks) crafted primarily of wax. They dance, and then so does everyone else. Opa!

Such an amazing and moving spectacle that I had only known superficially till now. During my time at the Farm School 68-78, I did visit Naousa a few times for a day or two. But living here the whole week -- Yenitsari without masks dancing through the town every day! -- I really get how proud the people of Naousa are of this unique tradition...and how dedicated, resilient, and fun-loving they are. And I am proud of them, too.

(Just wonder what Efstathios Xanthopoulos would think of all this...)

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

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Breaking News: Back to business, in a manner of speaking...

Heading back to and Greece and Naousa today for another 3-month stint, and looking forward to the historic and quite famous Carnival celebration there. But NOT to the snowy, cold weather I been reading about lately -- or what kind of mess I might find in my studio apt since the pipes froze and burst a few weeks ago. Who knew Greece would have one the coldest, snowiest winters on record THIS year?

Before I left in October, they gave me a book with step-by-step descriptions of the Carnival happenings, including the ritual dressing of Yennitsari and Boules in elaborate costumes. The unique celebration lasts 10 days, prefaced by "Tsiknopemti" which is this coming Thursday and kind of a Halloween said to be the totally spontaneous and satirical. Thinking of going as a "We won't pay for The Wall" Mexican. We'll see...

The people of Naousa have vowed to celebrate Carnival to the hilt regardless of more ridiculous and painful pronouncements/pressures from "The Creditors" -- and in case you have forgotten what's going on there, you can catch up: A Greek tragedy: how much can one nation take?  Just last Thursday, the German Finance Minister insisted that Greeks not only need to endure MORE pension cuts/higher taxes, but debt reduction is not possible unless Greece leaves the Eurozone. REALLY?  (Indeed, the note inside a Xmas card that I received from one of my relatives said this: "...we're a mess. There is no work, businesses are closing, and people are besides themselves. I don't know what will happen. The pensions are constantly cut and necessities get more expensive...")

While projections have the Greek economy picking up on paper in terms of so-called "bailout" goals, the effect of multiple pension cuts and 24 percent unemployment has been catastrophic (and disgraceful, I might add without hesitation) on real people who are really suffering. Some of them might be your own relatives who have been loathe to admit it!

Then there is my Extended Family of approximately 200 AFS Girls School graduates, most of whom I now have on speed their many children and grandchildren that I have met in my travels.  I have heard some amazing stories of grit and determination by strong women over the past 50 years of topsy-turvy Greek history.

What will be worse? Potentially below freezing weather or coming again face-to-face with an unfathomable 2017 Greek reality or having to explain why the American people elected Donald Trump? For a few days we will be able to hide behind masks. Then back to business, in a manner of speaking.

PS: If you read Greek, you can follow the very timely and informative Naousa/Veria blog EPEA PTEROENTA here. Opa!