Wednesday, 1 January 2014

New Year's resolutions (Αλλαγές)

As Greece changes and veers off her 'normal' (I know this is a politically insensitive word) course into abysses unknown, those of us who have remained in Greece and continue to live here without the thought of emigration crossing our mind need to reconsider our lives and routines. "Happy New Year" is just a saying - we really need to think about how we can actually turn 2014 into a happy new year, because all the signs point to a grimmer reality: despite the lower corruption, despite the improving economy, despite the record-breaking number of tourist arrivals which is set to be broken again, despite the dirty truths that have been exposed for the first time ever, despite the dropping of immunity for crooked politicians and even putting some in jail, and, incredulous as it may sound, the return of massive amounts of bribe money received by politicians which have been put back into the Greek coffers, both of which are firsts for Greece, the average Greek citizen is set for a very difficult year. His/her savings have been depleted, taxes continue to rise, comfort zones are removed and even those people who thought they were heavily cushioned from feeling the worst effects of the crisis are now starting to feel its grip. 2014 will be a critically difficult year for most of us.

So what we really need to do in order to ensure that 2014 will be a better one is to turn our pessimism into optimism. Unfortunately, for the average Greek, that is really, really hard:
"We find meaning in conflict and separation instead of in unification and building together. We find meaning in endless philosophizing rather than action. We laud the past, ignore the present and deny the future. We canonize the beggar and demonize the person who strives for self-sufficiency through daily toil. We find meaning in the concept of the victim, but not in the quandaries of hope, choice and decision making – because the latter entail assuming responsibility. And as we know all too well, for someone who always feels like a victim, it is always somebody else’s fault."
Damning words, aren't they? With that kind of attitude, no wonder we find oursleves up the creek without a paddle and hating the fact that we are still living in Greece. That's what horrifies me most - this country is full of people who have never known any other country, and they hate the only one they have ever known. But it is that very reason that made me start blogging daily just over two years ago because I wanted to write about how I was coping with the crisis rather than breaking down together with the economy; the media already doe the reverse well enough, in terms of reporting about the shattered lives of shattered people living in a shattered country.

I don't want my children to be reading this blog some time in the future and thinking that their parents blamed others for their own state of affairs, that they were deluded by the state, and worse still, that they didn't do anything to improve their lives but carried on as if nothing was amiss. They hear plenty of deluded opinions from people amongst us, most of whom have never stepped outside the country, their country, the only one they have ever known. More importantly, I don't want my kids to hate their country. We've seen what happens when people cultivate a feeling of hatred for their country, both in Greece and abroad, with some well-known examples (they became terrorists). I don't think I will easily forgive, not just my kids, but myself, if my kids were to reach that extreme. I will not allow them to bad-mouth their country. Through my daily blogging, I wanted to show that I can rise above the misery and tackle life as it is given to me. Over the last two years, I believe I have succeeded in doing that. So now, I won't be blogging every day. There is no need to do this any more now that things have taken their course; in spite of the serious problems that Greece still faces, Greece is putting on a face of a 'normal' country to the outside world.
31 December 2013 · 

My blog originated in August of 2007 as a seemingly Greek recipe blog. But by the end of that year, I had already written my first identity crisis story. I didn't tag it as 'identity crisis' back then, because it looked more like a crisis of modernity, a consumer crisis rather than an identity crisis. Back then, if I told a Greek that the story I had written showed the early warning signs of an identity crisis, they'd have called me nuts. Back in those days, I would have been told how little I understood the Greeks. The Greeks' interpretation of how I viewed what was happening would have been cynical: "You're jealous of others, Maria, because you can't live like them, or perhaps, you don't want to live like them." Better late than never, I say; at least we are now unable to continue in the way that I describe the people acting in the story.

At the same time as blogging about the food I cooked in our home, which has not changed much over the last six years, I incorporated stories, often based on food (to act as a cover), that described elements of Greek identity, usually in the form of fictionalised facts, and characters grounded in my real life acquaintances. I foresaw that one day I would not have anything to blog about if I simply stuck to recipes. There is only a finite number of foods that genuinely Greek cooks cook for their family. The idea of veering into the world beyond Greek food (apart from learning to use our garden produce in different ways) simply reeked of commercialism, and it did not suit my frugal nature. In short, I didn't want my food blog to start looking like a foodie blog, because that was never the point of my writing. What's more, I really liked writing the stories much more than the recipes. For this reason, I have decided to concentrate from now on only on the stories associated with living in Greece. They naturally take much longer to write. Hence, I won't be blogging every day, and I won't necessarily be blogging about food.

I was recently playing around with some of my older blog posts, turning them into e-book files, and I was amazed with how beautiful I could make my blog look on an e-reader. This led to something that I knew I would have to do a long time now, having often been reprimanded by friends for not having done it already. I am starting to write something bigger than a blog, something that will be able to go into print. I won't call it a book, because, in essence, it will not be a book exactly, though it may have a bookish form. Nevertheless, it will be something printable, and hopefully unique, combining Greek food and Greek identity. The project will be revealed slowly over the course of the year. Because I am working on it all by myself, I don't really know when it will be finished. It probably won't be available commercially, so the blog remains the main platform to develop it.

Whatever form that bigger-than-a-blog thing takes, I really want it to be something quintessentially and timelessly Greek. I don't want it to be something that will look interesting for a week or so, until you've flipped through it and read it, and then you put it away and don't bother again with it until you start dusting your shelves. I certainly don't want it to become ephemeral and obsolete, being taken over by something more modern as soon as it came out. You are probably right in believing that I have set myself an immesely difficult task, which is made all the more difficult by my doing it all by myself. But I think it's achievable, and I am not at all worried about failure, as I'm setting my own goals. For this reason, I will not be blogging on a regular basis this year. I'll simply be keeping readers updated through my story writing. But if I do chance on an interesting recipe, I will definitely share it with you.

As my blog changes course, and morphs (once again) into something new, diving into its own unknown abysses, I am simply rising to the challenge of not remaining stagnant. To have a happy new year in Greece, we need to feel the need to be part of a changing world; otherwise, 2014 will turn out to be just as horrible as 2013. More than ever, we need to stop showing the world our pessimism. So if you are Greek, I hope you can rise to this challenge too, of being more optimistic. Can you do it?

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