Tuesday, May 15, 2012

in Greece now...

Yesterday I talked with a former basket ball player who said he "stopped playing because things got unprofessional". He told me how the team went from traveling in business class and staying in nice hotels to 9 hour bus rides, no overnight stay, cold showers and no salary for months on end. "What is this?!" he kept saying. Another sportsman told me he only received part of his 2011 salary in March 2012. Players are being signed up a month at a time.

These are people who were well off here in Greece, and by far and large they still are. I mean they are still managing to pay for private schooling for their children here in Athens and have set up businesses of their own targeting the wealthier population. However even they are considering moving to the UK (where they once lived) or to Cyprus (where the weather is also nice and Greek remains the main language along side Russian). Many cannot say the same and have nowhere they can go to.

The taxes are so high that it's becoming impossible for people to keep paying them while feeding themselves.  Even for us expats, the taxes on electricity and heating are sky high and way higher than the so called "housing allowance" we receive. For the first time in 6 years since we became expats, we cannot pay our bills out of our local salary. And we are not alone among expats. 
Yet the supermarkets in our posh area are still (thankfully) full and many shops are still open although dozens have closed even in the past six months. The light-bulbs in the traffic lights are replaced only half the time (so for example only the red light works and when it goes off then it means it's green) and the potholes in the road are taking longer and longer to get repaired.

Thankfully we are healthy and none of needs to go to hospital where medication is lacking and patients' families bring meals for the sick from home.  Unfortunately the stress from all this seems to be sending more and more people to hospital; the anger and anxiety coming out in physical ailments such as palpitations, heart attacks, liver inflammation...

As the past elections showed, the population here is rejecting Europe, the Euro and the austerity measures on an emotional level. The question is can they move past that quickly enough for the next elections and rationally elect people who will not sell them flaky hope and nationalistic anger as the one an only "plan for the future". 

I am truly at a loss as to what will happen here. I cannot imagine Greece going back to the Drachma. But it seems the angriest and poorest believe it to be a way forward. "If I already have nothing I don't give a shit if you elect this one or that one" said one person I talked to. "There is already no hope for me".

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