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Today, Memorial Day in the U.S., is the end of our first week in Greece. The language is daunting, after having such a relatively easy time with Italian, but English is widely spoken, and we’re sure pick up a bit of Greek over the summer.
It’s quite an adjustment from Italy and Sicily in particular. For a country that has such problems providing basic social services, Greece manages to support formidable levels of bureaucracy, making checking into the country the most complex process we’ve seen since Costa Rica. Sheet after sheet of paper to be filled out (carbon paper quaintly interleaved), while scowling officials try to figure exactly which sets of papers you need to complete.
Still, though, a lovely country, wonderful food, and we can’t forget the fine retsina. The weather has been fine, and unlike in Italy, we’ve found it easy to stay on anchor in protected bays. Anchoring is such a treat – no maneuvering around crowded marinas, no fees, no crummy restrooms and public showers – the way to cleanliness is just to jump off the boat!
Dense levels of tourism, though. We were anchored off the town and small marina of Platarias when a fleet of some thirty chartered sailboats, full of Brits, Dutch and Germans, pulled in and jammed the marina and the small beachfront restaurant. Corfu Town was full of tourists, and tourism is clearly the major source of income for the Ionian Greek communities. Prices are considerably higher than Sicily, but not yet at Seattle levels… Happily, anchorages are a short day-sail apart, and we’re very much enjoying the relaxed little bay of Lakkas at the north end of Paxos Island. Our fresh water consumption and the state of our batteries are the only concerns. We have enough water for a couple weeks, at least, and our batteries provide all the power we need for three or four days without running the engine.
But while we’re swimming, rowing, cooking and doing little boat projects, there is terrible news from not far away – in fact from waters we have recently crossed. Refugees from Libya are attempting to cross the Mediterranean to southern Italy, and just in the last week some 700 drowned when three overcrowded and unseaworthy vessels sank. Just so far this year nearly 41,000 people have been rescued in the Med., and the death toll very likely surpasses 2,000.
Now that much of the flow from Syria through Turkey to Greece has been largely bottled up by the E.U., the majority of the refugees leaving Libya are people fleeing catastrophic situations in sub-Saharan Africa, including Nigeria and Ghana, and those escaping from the chaos in Libya. But the re-directed flow of misery from Syria may augment the traffic of the Libyan smugglers, who are every bit as unscrupulous as the European nations that refuse to commit sufficient resources to stop the slaughter.
This tragedy, including the deaths of many, many children, is hard to consider calmly.