Monday, 6 May 2013

The People vs the State

The kids wanted to spend the afternoon at the beach. It felt a bit early in the season for the sea. It's only May! But the temperatures have been in the high 20s for a while now, and as it was a holiday, there wasn't much else to do, especially since there was no cooking to be done - we were having Easter leftovers. 
SO I took them to the local beach not far from our house. The parking spaces were all gone, the beach was full of mainly young locals and I felt a little silly wearing a long sleeved T-shirt in the good weather. How Greek I have become, keeping myself covered until the heat of the summer can be felt in its full force!

I found a wooden bench that was empty and seated myself there, keeping a mindful eye on my children, watching them as they entered the icy water with trepidation. Without realising it, I had plonked myself right in front of the 'raketes' - a whole lot of young people, mainly boys, were playing tennis on the beach, and it looked like some competition was being organised.

Then I noticed something else that i didn't expect: the cafe was closed, the beach umbrellas that are usually set up for the tourists and the usual organised beach setup were not operating - but everything was painted freshly, some landscaping had been to the nature areas and the deckchairs were clearly being used by the sunbathers for free.

It wasn't particularly hot - by 6pm in fact, I felt quite comfortable in my long sleeves in the shade reading my e-book - so I didn't feel a desperate need for water or coffee. But a closed cafe when there is this much busiuness to be lost is a strange sight for any point of attraction in Greece! What was going on?

The operators of the canteen came to sit at the same bench where I was sitting. They chatted together - sometimes in greek, sometimes in Albanian - about how annoying it felt to be running this business for 20 years only to be told that they could not yet operate this year for the season. The local council has not granted them permission yet - they may open only after the 15th of May. That's six weeks of business lost for them, since it has been very hot since calendar Easter when the first tourists began appearing from Northern Europe. 
The people continue to try to catch up with and acclimatise to the new order of things as they stand in Greece. There is a desperate need for people to work under a different way of working. But the state, as usual, holds them back. It cannot catch up as quickly as the people are catching up - it is being held back by its own traditionally slow pace. It cannot see the people's urgency. As usual, the people are kept waiting, while the state lags behind.    

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