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Monday, 21 March 2016

Quilted pouffe (Πουφ)

As Greece faces crisis afer crisis, I'm just patiently waiting for the tide to recede. There's too much happening on all fronts in this country, creating widely diverging opinions and extremism. In the interim, we have to face the facts and get on with life. Crete is getting ready to become host to many millions of people starting from this week: not refugees, as we were led to believe given the various (non-)agreements between Turkey and the EU, but tourists, as the high season kicks off with an early calendar Easter. Let's see where this will lead...

To pass away the time, I've been working on little creative sewing projects to while away the quiet hours, the calm before the storm, so to speak. I poured out a bag full of scrippy scraps of denim cuts and starting plotting them onto a sturdy piece of age-stained vintage 50s calico cotton mad in Greece, originally used as storage sacks.
In essence I had made new fabric from old fabric.
I liked the idea of not wasting anything, but I have gotten tired of small projects. I still like to keep my creative fabric art functional, meaning that a finished product must have a specific use, hence the idea for a pouffe, which I first saw on pinterest, So I became a bit more adventurous ...
... until I ran out of scraps and needed to 'create' more! The last piece of of fabric had a more traditional patchwork look.
I have plenty of mattressing remnants from my local mattreess maker (which reminds me: it's hotel preparation time - there are probably HEAPS of mattress remnants going to the recycling depot...), which I used to stuff the pouffe. I also made a 'handle' from the wasitline of an old pair of jeans to pull or carry it when moving it around the house.
 
And here is the final product, something useful that will be enjoyed by many people.
It still needs a bit more stuffing, but that can be easily solved by sewing one side seam with a zip - taken directly from an old pair of jeans!!! No fuss sewing a zip on it from scratch!

It sounds easy enough, to tear up old jeans in order to embark on a similar project, but it's not that simple. This project started with a quilt made from large denim squares from old jeans:
The resulting scraps were turned into smaller denim squares form another quilt:
The pouffe was the result of the scraps of the scraps of the scraps.
It takes a lot of creativity to be both sustainable AND functional!

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Monday, 7 March 2016

History repeats (H ιστορία επαναλαμβάνεται)

The sudden closing of the "Balkan Route" took Greece by surprise. It was going to close anyway in a decision made today at a European summit meeting) but Austria closed it two weeks earlier than expected, by asking the many countries bordering Austria (except Germany) to close it. In reality, Austria did Germany a favour by being the bad guy first.
Karte Neue Balkan Fluchtroute Englisch
The closing of the Balkan route basically means the human convoy has stopped moving, right behind Greece's Balkan borders at the village of Idomeni. Greece has now transcended to a new level, from transit to destination country, with 10,000 places per week being created all over the country to accommodate the influx. Already it looks like there's a 13,000-people backlog in a village of 100 permanent residents. So Greece gets angry with Austria and recalls the ambassador, as if that will help solve the mounting problem of movers that are piling up at Greece's entry points, the Aegean islands, with people still continuing to make the perilous journey over the Mediterranean Sea (15 drowned in the last 12 hours, mainly children).

Drone coverage of Eidomeni, published 2/3/2016

A few years ago, Greece did try systematically to stop migrants from crossing into Greek territory by building a wall between Greece's and Turkey's land border. This had the effect of forcing people into taking the more dangerous water route:
"Most of the illegal immigrants are passing the Greek-Turkish borders with the tolerance or even the assistance of the authorities in Turkey regardless the bilateral agreements that have been approved for this matter since 2003. Moreover, the fact that the Turkish authorities are not complying with the terms of the signed agreements is creating several problems during the procedures of surrender of the illegal immigrants in the border areas. Non-cooperation by the Turkish side is also evident, despite the existence of specific proof in several cases (i.e. Turkish smugglers of illegal immigrants arrested by Greek authorities). (wikipedia)
"We do not need to make war with Greece", a former Turkish PM once said. "We just need to send them a few million illegal immigrants from Turkey and finish with them." But it's no time for a blame game. It's just history repeating itself at this moment, due to Greece' geographical location. A very similar migration tsunami has actually happened before in Greece, specifically in 1922, during the population exchange between Greece and Turkey. At the time, a much smaller and poorer Greece than the present one found ways to incorporate 1,000,000 people into the country. When the Asia Minor refugees came to Greece nearly 100 years ago, that period in Greek history was known as "The Great Catastrophe". The present humanitarian crisis will probably also be given a name. At the moment, it's called the 'refugee crisis', and I also saw a news headline calling it 'the new catastrophe', but it will probably get renamed eventually, to separate it from the 1922 period (similarly to the way we refer to WW1 and WW2).

Refugees from Asia Minor at the Athens Municipal Theatre in 1922: a family was housed in each gallery. You can see the trunks that the refugees carried from their former homeland sitting on top of the divisions between the galleries.

Someone somewhere had to stop the present madness of a stream of migrants all racing to the same spots. Austria was just as wrong to demand immediate border closure as Germany was to declare no limits for immigrants, as well as Greece was to allow people to pass through the country and become another country's problem. In the meantime, what do we do with approximately 35,000 migrants (with more and more and more coming into the country every day) that are now stuck in various parts of the country where hastily erected camps are being set up to accommodate them?

From where I am in Crete, I see the misery and wretchedness of migration waves from the comfort of my living room while I'm watching the evening news reports on TV. Spring weather is very changeable in Greece, and it often rains in the north. The camps are set up on muddy fields with little sanitation, aiding the spread of illness and disease. The generosity of Greek people means that food is the least of the migrants' problems, although shortages still exist due to the sheer number of people involved and the work required to collect and distribute that food efficiently. A survey has found that 6 out of 10 Greeks have helped in some way in the refugee crisis, Greeks generally don't want our borders to close and they believe some refugees can be incorporated into our population.

Scenes at the Greek border 

Not everyone is generous - we are not all the same. So far, I have heard of farmers ploughing up land so that it cannot be used for setting up tents and arson attacks on supply storage sheds. And there was also that ridiculous photo shoot last week of celebrities 'helping' refugees by providing (inadequate) emergency aid, and creating a stampede at the port of Pireas as they were dishing out their meagre contributions. A volunteer at the port who wishes to remain anonymous explains the "circus of exploitation of the refugees by supposed philanthropists", all done in the name of a pretty photo:
"People are pushed to the boxes of the Mission but no one knows what they contain (I was told what they contain, and I knew where they would end up afterwards). People get themselves hurt just for a couple of biscuits in the van and children are crying because they did not manage to get a Mission bag. What we ask from individuals not to do, but just on a larger scale. The cameras are snapping a beastly sight, they fail to say that what they did created this situation. There is a signal from Gate E1 about an 18-day old that must be urgently taken to hospital. I ask why the ambulance that arrived with the Mission's vaccination unit cannot take the baby to hospital, but the vaccination had not started, so it can't be done. The cameras are still rolling. The driver of the ambulance is smoking a cigar, while the baby at E1 is waiting for an ambulance that does not come because the phone service does not answer."
It has been reported in the press that migrants will be distributed around the country, with some coming to Crete where they will be housed in children's summer campsites, a former psychiatric hospital and a disused military camp. I'm wondering how the migrants will react to being moved to another part of Greece. Victoria Square in central Athens where migrants were congregating out of the fear of being placed in closed camps (they don't exist in Greece) was cleared by Sunday morning, which was only sensible, as having people sleeping and pooing in a city centre public park is not wise. Apparently, it took a bit of convincing to get them away from there. When the time comes for their distribution to other parts of the country like Crete, or if they are to be taken back to Turkey (as is being discussed by European leaders), how willingly will they go, especially if they have to get onto a boat again? They only know that Europe involves a land journey. No doubt people smugglers based on Greek territory will be doing a roaring trade soon .

On a very long walk I took recently to gather historical information in preparation for a seminar, I came across a part of the Venetian wall of Hania which is connected with refugee history. The long black markings on this part of the western side of the wall on the outskirts of the suburb of Nea Hora were made by the iron hooks that were nailed into the wall for the refugees from the 1922 population exchange, where they set up temporary shelter with the use of tin roofs. They camped out in this area until they were allotted land to build a home and live off. Nea Hora, meaning the 'new town', was named as such since it was the first suburb to be built outside the western walls. The suburb was mainly built by refugee stock, starting from the Muslims living in Crete who were escaping the fighting with the Christians. When they left, the Greeks from Asia Minor took over, where a mish-mash style of architecture mushroomed. The houses were all originally small bungalows with gardens. As the town grew and people became wealthier, these small plots of land were turned into apartment blocks.

Given that the EU will be providing aid to Greece for the humanitarian crisis, I really wonder what employment opportunities (legal ones) this will bring to a country battling unemployment. Surely this is a chance - surreal as it may seem - to use certain Greek people's skills, esp in the department of human resources, jobs that qualified unemployed Greeks couldn't find work in due to low demand. Also of interest is how these jobs will be allocated - by foreign NGO's or by the government? We know all too well what happens in the latter case - Syriza is no exception to nepotism.

Last week I read about a group of people in Hania who are sending over donated refugee aid. My conscience got me out to a supermarket where I spent 21 euro on items listed by the agency and I took it out to them immediately, in time to get delivered to the port of Pireas the following day where an estimated 3,500 were camping in conditions of squalor. The scenes on TV news are indescribably painful. Time is of the essence here. Money isn't of much use at this time. People in need require direct assistance, and the people providing them with that assistance don't really have time to go shopping for the goods they need in order to help the helpless.


Small bottles of water, UHT milk, diapers, soluble tea, hot cups, biscuits and a collection of hotel-size soaps. This box contains 20 euro worth of goods, destined for northern Greek migrant camps which are much much poorer and more desperate than the ones in Piraeus-Athens.

Living in Crete basically means you don't see pr feel the problems of northern Greece and of the islands that are affected. The only time we are reminded of what is happening in the other Greece is through the mass media. In my case, so far away from it all, helping the refugees at this time is more a way for me to help my own people who are living through the crisis more closer to their own homes.

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