Wednesday, March 25, 2020

"Menoume spiti"... even on March 25th!

Today is March 25th, Greek Independence Day. Normally we go to church ("The Annunciation," with the Tin Ypermaho hymn), then to a patriotic parade of students and groups in traditional costumes, and finally to a feast of fried cod with garlic sauce. Children wave small flags and adults  say "Hronia Polla" on their way to ubiquitous coffee shops. Not this time...

March 25th parades had long been cancelled and even The Church told everyone to stay home.  Greece is on lock-down since Sunday midnight. You can go to essential jobs, the pharmacy/grocery store, the doctor or walk your dog only by permit. So a lot of people probably did not have "bacaliaro me skordalia" on the menu. Instead, "Menoume spiti!" ("We stay home!") was the order of the day. Flags were hung and at noon many people sang the national anthem from their balconies.

What all Greeks do have is television, where the esteemed Dr. Sotiris Tsodrias gives the daily COVID19 briefing with both guidelines and data. Greece closed schools etc. relatively early in the game, but there is an uptick that has prompted the government to do ensure that Greece does not become Italy or Spain.

Yesterday, the new President of Greece Katerina Sakellaropoulou gave a rare televised address. She underscored the responsibility of each citizen to follow all the guidelines, allayed fears, and sounded the trumpet for what it means to be Greek. Next year Greece will celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the Greek Revolution.

Today's data shows 821 cases and 22 the first case in the county of Imathia where my town of Naousa is located. A 49-year-old who recently returned from a business trip to the US has been hospitalized in Veria. Most Naousa citizens have been staying home since March 13, as have many Greeks. "Menoume spiti" is the new normal.

But I am not there. I did not make it back to Greece after my 90-day exile and before all the border closings. So I can only monitor what's happening via local blogs and by exchanging messages with my friends/relatives. I am thinking especially of those who are older, like my dear friends Voula and Giorgos. And my uncle the germophobe who was at one time Naousa's most esteemed doctor and is now around 95. When I finally return to Naousa, someone I know and love may not be there.

Meanwhile, "Menoume spiti" in Greece and almost everywhere else in the world...even on March 25th.