Greek Hospitality - Reality or Myth?

I heard on the news the other day that the treatment of illegal immigrants to Greece is the worst in Europe. Now, I don't know what the standards are or how it was measured, but it made me think.

Greece is always promoting the 'Greek hospitality' and yet what does this treatment of illegal immigrants indicate? Now, I'm not condoning illegal immigration, but one would have thought that if one has a hospitable nature, then one wouldn't treat these people in a worse way than than anyone else does. Or am I wrong?

Another item on the news related that a priest who was christening a child, refused to complete the ceremony unless two Islam friends/relatives, who were present, left the church! An isolated incident? OK, yes, but still!

It makes you think that perhaps this hospitality is just expressed when material benefits can be gained. A couple of years ago, Corfu had applied for Corfu Town to be listed as a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site and a representative came here to make a report. This representative, however, was going to wander round the town incognito - nobody would know who she was (we did know that it was a woman!). So one of the Members of Parliament for Corfu told everyone in the town to be on their best behaviour and be kind and hospitable to all the visitors on that particular day, as we didn't know which one of them might be the UNESCO representative!

It was like saying it doesn't matter how you treat the visitors on all the other days!

Now, I've travelled to quite a few countries - both in Europe and other continents - and what I've found is that there are hospitable people everywhere - without exception. In the same way, there are definitely hospitable people in Greece (though I don't know if I would include the taxi drivers in that group!) and there are also inhospitable people.

I know a lot of you who have come to Greece on holiday will say the people were marvellous, warm and hospitable. I'm sure they were. Some of them would be genuinely hospitable and others would be like that because you were visitors with money. But the thing is that whatever country you visit you will find the people like that.

If you live in a country, then you will start to see the reality. I firmly believe that there are hospitable and inhospitable people everywhere. Greece has just used it as another marketing tool to try and encourage tourism. If you want to come to Greece, please do - there are many good reasons, that I won't list in this post, for you to do so. But don't come expecting to find the most hospitable people - we're just the same as everyone else in that respect.

Ecological Credit Crunch

We may be going through an economic credit crunch caused by, to put it simplistically, spending more than we have, but there is an ecological credit crunch coming up - and who is going to bail us out when that happens?

WWF publish a Living Planet Report every 2 years and the 2008 edition has just been released. And the news is not good - as if we really didn't expect it. Put simply, we are using up earth's resources so quickly that we have got ourselves "into debt" and by the mid 2030s, according to the report, we will need 2 planets to maintain our lifestyle!

Just as reckless spending causes a recession, so reckless consumption of our natural resources is "depleting the world’s natural capital to a point where we are endangering our future prosperity."

Our global 'footprint' now exceeds our capacity to regenerate by about 30%. The 5 countries with the largest footprint are the United Arab Emirates, USA, Kuwait, Denmark and Australia. The 5 with the lowest are Bangladesh, Congo, Haiti, Afghanistan and Malawi.

Just as some nations are economically in debt to other nations, so there are 'ecological debtors' - nations whose national consumption has outstripped their biocapacity. At the moment, more than three quarters of the world's population live in countries that are ecological debtors. What this means is that we are supporting our current lifestyle with ecological capital from other countries. It is frightening to read that if we all had the USA's consumption patterns, then we would need 4,5 planets to live on!

Another factor coming into play now is our 'water footprint'. The Mediterranean area is facing greater and greater water stress and 5 of the top ten countries with water footprints are from that area - Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Cyprus. Around 50 countries are suffering moderate to severe water stress.

'Sensible' people always go on about 'good housekeeping' - spending what you have and only borrowing when you know you can pay it back. What we are doing with the planet we are living on is completely at odds with that, however. Do we need to reach the point when the crunch actually comes before we face the situation? It will be too late then. As I mentioned above, there is nobody to bail us out of an ecological crunch when it comes. On TV here, we are seeing more and more people in the USA who have lost their homes and are having to live in tents or their cars; if we lose our global home, where are we going to live?

Many people perhaps believe - maybe even just subconsciously - that it won't happen in their lifetime. What about the next generation, who are going to have to pick up the tab? Would you spend money recklessly all your life and just say, "I'm going to die and my children can just pay off all my debts."? What kind of a parent does that?

Anyway, the good news is that, according to the report, that it is still not too late - the trend is not irreversible and we have the means to do something about it.

Food Force

Food Force is a free educational video game telling the story of a hunger crisis on the fictitious island of Sheylan and has been produced by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the world’s largest humanitarian agency.

The downloadable game is comprised of 6 mini-games or “missions”, which take young players from an initial crisis assessment through to delivery and distribution of food aid, with each sequential mission addressing a particular aspect of this challenging process.

The basic themes that are demonstrated through playing the game are:
  • What is hunger and who are the hungry?
  • Why are people hungry and malnourished?
  • What can we do to help end hunger?

Though designed for children aged 8 - 13, the game can appeal to a variety of ages and each mission's gameplay is unique in order to increase that appeal. The idea of the game is to motivate young people to become actively involved in the fight against hunger and to work together to free the world of hunger.

Food Force follows on from the WFPs successful Free Rice game, where by answering some vocabulary questions correctly, you donated rice.

To find out more about the work of the World Food Programme and ways in which you can help, you can visit their site.

Collecting Olives

We went collecting olives yesterday. We have a few trees that have what are called Kalamon olives, which are the ones you eat rather than make into oil. You may be familiar with Greek Kalamata olives - Kalamata is a town and area in the Peloponnese, Greece - well, the Kalamon olives are that type.

You collect these so-called "table" olives directly from the trees, rather than spread nets underneath, which is what you do with the olives that you use to make oil. We will be collecting those olives in January.

Here, you can see a bowl with some of the olives after they were picked. You don't eat them straight off the tree, but there is a simple process you put them through before they reach your table.

First of all, you discard the ones that are damaged or have been eaten by insects. Then you score them on two opposite sides with a razor blade (not a knife) or on three sides if they are large. Having done that, you put them in a jar filled with water and change the water every day for 20 days.

Once that time has passed, I'll post again explaining and showing how the olives are finally prepared to go on the table and get eaten!

Italian Blogger

One of the great things about blogging is that you "meet" so many people from so many different places. In a sense, blogging opens windows onto other countries, ways of life and ways of thinking.

I came across the blog from someone in Italy - Andrea's Weblog - and I found it gave me a feeling for the life in that country and the everyday thoughts and concerns of someone living there. The blog is written in Italian, but Andrea has kindly provided translation into 6 other languages.

Corfu has a particular affiliation to Italy, not just because it is geographically the closest part of Greece, but because of the influence of the Venetians, to whom the island belonged for hundreds of years. Witness to this influence is the architecture, musical heritage and some of the local dialect still dates back to that period.

So it is great to be able to connect with people from that country and following their blogs - as with Andrea's Weblog - helps you "get into their heads" to a certain extent and gives you a much broader perspective and much more open mind.

I find these blogging connections are invaluable and one of the most important aspects of the bloggers' world - if not the most important.

John Cleese on Sarah Palin

Now I don't normally get involved in politics, and this blog will not go in that direction, but I came across this short clip with John Cleese giving his views on Sarah Palin and I just had to share it with those of you haven't seen it.

I grew up when Monty Python first appeared on TV and I always have time for what any of its members have to say. The Michael Palin that Cleese refers to, by the way, for those of you who don't know was also one of the members of Monty Python.

Flaming Rats!!

Just recently, my wife decided to burn some garden rubbish. Now, it is illegal to have fires in your garden or on your land in the summer - to avoid the risk of forest fires, which are quite prevalent in Greece, but we had thought that October was OK. It was a small fire, anyway, and completely controlled.

Well, in under half an hour, someone from the Fire Service came by - they had apparently seen the smoke. It was actually quite comforting to see such a quick reaction, and to feel secure in the knowledge that the Fire Service was completely on alert and quickly responsive!

What they told my wife was that the ban is not lifted until the beginning of November. So, obviously she put the fire out immediately and we avoided a €1.500 fine.

The officer told her that it is actually a dangerous time of the year and explained that rats and other rodents catch fire if there is something burning and in their panic to flee, they leap into trees and bushes and spread the fire quickly in that way! Well, I wasn't there, but if I had been, I would have asked why that was a greater danger in the autumn than in the summer.

Are there more rodents about in the autumn? Are they more lively than in the summer heat, when they don't have the energy to flee?

Anyway, for whatever the reason, it is something that I hadn't even thought about before, but on consideration it does some pretty logical.

Well, you live and learn as they say.

10 Bands and Musicians from Corfu

The island of Corfu has a musical heritage - going back mainly to the time that the island was under Venetian rule, hundreds of years ago. There are now traditional Corfiot songs and dances, as well as the 19 brass bands, or "philarmonikes", which everyone knows about. However, I believe that culture is an ongoing process and there are modern musicians from Corfu that are equally (if not more) important.

So, continuing my Lists of 10, I'm posting 10 contemporary bands and musicians from Corfu. This is not an exhaustive list - though it is pretty eclectic! - and I'm not claiming that they are the best 10. The only thing I would like to say is that I have a personal preference for the first 3 - Dead Eyes of Youth, Kore Ydro and nVerne.

At the bottom of the post there is a YouTube clip from Kore Ydro, if you want to listen to them.

Dead Eyes of Youth
Kore Ydro
Indie / Pop / Experimental
Classical / Classical Opera and Vocal / Electronica
Rock / Metal
Bill Fishy Psarras
Freestyle / Funk /Folk
Blues / Rock
Michalis Skolarikis
Pop / Rock / Acoustic
Escape Velocity
Ambient / Electronica / Psychedelic
Anastasios Kimpizis
Metal / Experimental / Progressive


This is just a brief post to let you know where my blogging name symposio came from.
Symposium - or symposio as it was called in Greek - originally referred to a drinking party (from the Greek "sympotein" which means to drink together). It was a key Hellenic social institution in ancient times, where men would come together to debate, plot, boast or simply party with others.
So now you know!

Your Own Fundraising Site

I've just discovered these British and American sites, where you can set up your own webpage to raise funds for the non-profit organisation or charity of your choice. The UK site, which was the first, is Justgiving and the USA site is Firstgiving.

The UK organisation has been around since 2001 - the brainchild of Zarine Kharas - and Firstgiving was set up in 2003. I've only just heard of them, but I suppose that's because they can only work with UK and USA charities and non-profits.

I think it's a great idea, and enables people to easily set up their own standard site and raise money for whatever charity they wish. In the UK there is the added benefit that Gift Aid can be added, so that for every £10 that's given, almost £12 goes to the charity. In the time that they have been going in the UK, 6,210,796 people have raised £344,490,538 for 5,642 charities through Justgiving and in the US, 1,322,516 people have raised $72,918,876 for 14,865 non-profits through Firstgiving!

From what I can see, it seems very simple to set up your page and get up and running. There is also space at the bottom where the people who have donated are listed along with the amount and their comments. I don't know if it's possible for someone who wishes to remain anonymous, not be publicly listed.

Anyway, it seems such a simple idea that empowers so many people to be able to raise money easily.

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