So I was out having a drink on Friday night. A grilled kalamari, aubergine dip and houmous to share with a friend whilst sipping over cold raki at Psirri. It started to drizzle, summer has been unusually cool this year. Gentle and refreshing drops turned into thundering rain. We rushed to the metro, greeting each other semi-soaked and laughing on opposite platforms. We had no clue as to what had been announced.
When I got home, I switched on to the news to see what’s up in the world and there was Tsipras, he had just announced the referendum. Shocked? Not really. After all that has been going on the past five years, with raging negotiations over the last fortnight, no I wasn’t. Surprised yes I indeed was, by the panic that has ensued. I think most of Greece had stayed up watching news and debates, trying to work out in our heads what on earth is going to happen. And by Europe’s stance, incomprehensible in my eyes. It really feels Greece is not negotiating but being given ultimatums. This is the deal, take it or leave it.
I left my flat Saturday morning to head to the center for a history tour. It was about places of memory, related with WWII Greece, a harsh period of occupation. We visited what used to be the headquarters of Nazi occupation, the cells and some torture chambers still standing in the heart of the city. We talked about the riots and the strikes, also the far right parties that were formed, a part of history so dark. At Korai 4, the building was used for short-term detention, it is open to the public and along with its bareness and chilling atmosphere if anything stays with you it’s the messages carved on the walls. Women faces, ship sketches, flower sketches, messages of thirst and hunger. Along with these one message stuck with me:
It is easy to get in, hard to get out.
We were a group of twenty walking our beloved Athens and you could tell from the dark circles and the bags under our eyes that hardly anyone had managed to get any sleep. We were all watching the news until we just fell asleep on a couch. We passed by the Parliament too, the road was closed to cars and politicians cars were just rushing in for more talks.
I run back home to get ready for the evening, friends were getting married. On our way to the venue the radio was stuck to the news, listening to what the prime minister was saying. At the wedding, no one approached the subject. It was as if a pact of silence was struck, we will not spoil the fun. The night was long, the drinks plenty and dancing kept on until the early hours of Sunday.
I woke up to the news, my legs ached from dancing and I admittedly had a soar head: Tsipras announcing capital controls. The TV was going mental on what is happening, people apparently were queuing at the banks, hoarding food from supermarkets, featuring empty shelves and putting gas in their cars preparing for the uncertainty ahead. To what extent this was true I cannot know. Because yes these things did happen but the supermarkets didn’t suddenly got rampaged. You could see queues outside ATMs of a dozen of people but not a sea of people as you would think. Funnily enough, the passing joke was this: I only have 6 euros in the bank, are they dispensing coins?
There is obviously a huge discussion over the referendum, yes or no? Shall we stay or shall we go?
There is a lot of blame to go around, too, that is for certain. For a start the opposition came out with scenarios blaming the government of having it all planned, trying to pull Greece out of euro and the EU. Opposition from center left and right, that when in power did little to secure better terms and drove Greece to deals with such unfavourable terms. An opposition that tries to put a blame without having any work to show or an alternative.They merely contributed to a disaster, not just now but for years before today. Greeks are disgusted by politics, I can tell you this. Not a single person has come out over the past 5 years to give a solution.
So people are standing against the fear of uncertainty, of not knowing how the next day is going to plan out. It is hard to keep a cool head and not to worry. And there is a referendum waiting on the next turn.
A chance of saying NO, a very loud no to what would be more austerity with uncertain outcome. No, to a situation that has brought Greece to an impasse from which we cannot get out. With loans to save a banking system that 5 years ago had brought the whole of Europe to its knees. Do we remember the US and Lehman Brothers back in 2008? Does Europe remember what it was like when the banking system trembled and the shock reverberated for years to follow? Does London remember what it was like when people were loosing their jobs and homes? This is still happening here in Greece. We haven’t left it behind, we cannot forget, because we still live with it. Every, single, one of us.
Because if you think this money given is helping, think again, it’s loans Greeks pay for dearly, with a lot of sacrifices and it goes straight to the banks. It’s no rescue package to aid Greece restructure. What I am really annoyed with though, is that no government has tried to take action on issues that are burning like combating corruption, reforming an ill civil service to make it more efficient, give breathing space for people to do business, evolve, go forward. Instead of solving serious issues and correcting the woes, they suck every single penny out of people and force hospitals to make savings with cuts on their drugs supplies.
There are also people inclined to say Yes, because uncertainty of the next day scares you. It leaves you numb thinking that a no would mean an exit from euro, Greece isolated and helpless, abandoned from the EU that has bailed us out so far, taking as interest rate the lives of people still unborn. And yes people panic, because it is not nice waking up to doomsday. Is it going to be a scared yes or an angry no ? For all I know, no one has a bloody clue. People feel we are being played at.
For the first time there is going to be a direct democracy procedure. I am strangely relieved to see this happen and being here to vote, and at the same time scared. This level of uncertainty is hard to stomach. People will truly have their say. For a yes to continue paddling murky waters as we are or a no to break loose from all things that are keeping us behind and try for something better? I just hope the next turn is going to be for the best.
Still here? Glad you are, the eggs are already broken so let’s do some cooking: scrambled eggs the Greek way, with lots of tomatoes. It is delicious, especially if you know how to make the mix work.
This is what you will need:
- 3-4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- 6 eggs
- a pinch of sugar
- 1 tsp of oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
- olive oil
- Some feta cheese for topping
What to do:
- Warm up the olive oil and place in the tomatoes with all their juices
- Give them a good stir and season with salt, pepper, oregano and the sugar.
- In a bowl lightly whisk the eggs.
- Once most of the tomato juices have evaporated, stir in the whisked eggs.
- Gently fold the eggs in until cooked and all liquids have evaporated.
Perfect to enjoy with some fresh bread! Yes or No, I bet we will still enjoy cooking.
Before I go, I would like to share a couple of articles that drew me in.
Zoe Williams’ piece on the guardian: The moral crusade against Greece must be opposed
and Paul Krugman opinion piece on the NYT: Grisis
I would love to hear your views on the matter too. Feel free to write your thoughts in the comments below.
with love from Athens,