The Wealthy Plains
In March to Athens on 20 March 2012 at 22:27
Day 133-LIX, Μεσοπόταμο.
Day 134-LX, from Μεσοπόταμο to Ρηζά, 18 km.
Riza, March 20
We took a resting day in Mesopotamo, and during the internal assembly comrade Nicolas communicated the current state of Greece in numbers.
I’m not able to reproduce all of them, and even if I could, I wouldn’t do it, because numbers don’t tell the story. It more or less came down to people earning an average of about 500 euros a month after tax, with rents being at around 300 euros a month, and prices a little higher than in France. Pensions are being cut by double digit percentages, health care spending is being cut, and all wages are blocked for the coming years. Electricity has more than doubled in recent years, and 400.000 families – over ten percent of the total population – are cut off because they can’t pay the bills any more.
In the end it didn’t mean a lot to me. Hearing a list of figures always makes me think of communist regimes boasting about ever increasing productions, while the reality is one of shortages and misery.
Here, in Mesopotamo, it was more or less the other way around. While comrade Nicolas summed up the disastrous numbers, I realise that we are in an extraordinarely rich village. People are doing great here. No need to worry.
The flood plains of Mesopotamo give wealthy crop yields, and many of the people in this village are remigrants who made their fortune in Germany. There are lots and lots of fashionable bars all over the place, at least one every ten inhabitants.
In the late afternoon the local youth gathers in the square, young boys on motorbikes and young girls who desperately want to look like the bimbos they see on tv.
What really surprised me in this village is the almost complete lack of curiosity among the locals. While a band of Spanish, French, Italian and other vagabond revolutionaries put up their tents in the main square, they hardly lift their eyes from the game of cards they are playing in the bar. No-one took the trouble to come to our assembly. Apparently our march is nothing special to them.
The only people who show some superficial interest in our march are the youngsters. For as long as their attention span lasts, they want to know who we are, where we’re going and why. Then they drive away, they ride around the village on their bikes, in two or three without helmet, just to show off and make some noise.
I was glad to leave the place this morning, under the cover of the fog. We walk on, in between the mighty hills and the sea, to the next village, Riza, where there is nothing at all. Eighteen houses with their mailboxes all next to the little Orthodox church where we camp.
And still, even if there are only a couple of dozen inhabitants, they show much more interest in us than the people of the plains. A lady offers to cook pasta for us. She makes less than the average wage, and so we refuse, even though we are running low on food. Instead, she offers us bags full of oranges from her garden.
Oranges grow in abbundance here. They have become an important part of our diet. We pick them along the road, together with wild vegetables which we use to make soup.
“It’s time for us to become soldiers,” comrade Milton says. We will need to improvise when we cross large pieces of almost uninhabited territory. If anything, it makes you appreciate the value of food. This way even yesterday’s cold sticky pasta with a spoon of sugar becomes a delicacy.