And by a silent brush stroke
the world was painted
Buying second-hand is definitively wise price-wise. And it can be lots of fun too. I particularly like buying household items and paraphernalia as I am not too much of a cloth-shopping enthusiast. Being overwhelmed by rack after rack of apparel is not my thing. Too many impressions, too little patience.
So no shopping therapy sessions for me, but this occasional dropping by at a second-hand store to see if, maybe, perhaps there would be such and such a thing that I have convinced myself that I need, is quite entertaining, I must admit. No dress, no stress.
Items in (almost) perfect condition can be purchased for peanuts. Like the lamp I bought for two euros and then realised that the light-bulb would cost me three times as much…An identical twin of my new old flowery pillow, was spotted on a shelf at a price ten times as high.
Yes, there is indeed a certain gratification to re-using stuff and it is not only price-related. These things that have been sold and owned at least once already, re-enter the game. A new loop, a new cycle.
Back on the market babes, waiting to be discovered anew. Isn’t that a cool idea?
Assignments and deadlines. Two long days spent in solitary confinement trying to finish a paper.
Despite the thinking and the preparing, deadlines always catch up. Sneaky things.
A compressed mind, an aching back and protesting buttocks. Changing positions on the chair. Trying a different chair. Typing sitting up on the bed, hating having to spend hours hitting small keys. Gently, but still…
Alternating between tea, cocoa, caffeine free coffee, just as if hot drinks were a remedy for declining motivation.
It is funny how it is always the same. The most mundane things become attractive. Sweeping the floor. Peeling potatoes. Whatever can take your mind off the thing you need to finish. And then, somehow, you do finish it. You become the master of your torturer. For some fleeing moments, time becomes your humble servant and you’ve got a pocket full of kryptonite.
Breakfast out, a long walk and a climb up to a panoramic spot for a beautiful early sunset.
Simply a much better day.
Rosy light on a blue sky. I open the window to let the fresh early air circulate in the room.
Then I have my morning tea, in bed. Actually not in bed, but on bed. Drinking tea in a reclined position is not to recommend. Yunnan organic black is my new favorite. Strong and coarse, a real pick-me-up.
And then I have my new woolen blanket that I bought for two euros at a second hand market. It acts as a soft and warming pad between my notebook and my lap. I am comfortably leaned against a set of new old pillows and the emerald green of my borrowed bed cover completes the color symphony.
This is however, given the limitations of here and now, the best way of studying macroeconomy I can think of.
In a class of Macroeconomy. Introducing terminology. Explaining models. Trying to keep track of combinations of letters that organise concepts into units of meaning small enough to fit into crowded formulae where they contend with coefficients, brackets and signs.
Of course, at some point the expression financial crisis came up. It was bound to. And ironically enough, this old hellenic word is nowadays vested with semantic overflow featuring the new-Greeks…
Some comments are half ironic and some a bit more than that…
“But what do they expect when they retire at the age of 55?!”
“Eh, what do the Greeks have…? Olive oil? Tobacco? Eh, they can mix drinks, they have the sun, but that’s about it”
True my fellow Europeans and compatriots.
Believing that the Greeks could actually face their ridiculously high debt with quinquagenarian pensioners living the vida loca, fancy umbrella drinks stirred for tourists, thirty-five degrees in the shade, olive oil and tobacco is probably as naive as believing that sometime in the fifteenth century a little boy actually saved the city of Brussels from a fire by a miraculous pee-pee.
There is a coefficient of ignorance and lack of knowledge in any human interaction. Let’s face it. Even in united Europe, the average Swede and Greek live most their lives in non tangent realities.
Pride does not blind me into not seeing the ridicule in Greece’s situation. However, one must tread very carefully when people’s lives are at stake. As so many other Greeks, I have many reasons to be mad.
I am mad at the mentality that has led to all the wrong people doing all the wrong things and playing with the future of generations.
I am mad at votes wasted on politicians serving their own rights and interests.
I am mad at the fact that the public sector has been the playground of nepotism.
I am furious at those who are ready to sacrifice the gift of democracy to some unacceptable neofascist ideology.
I am deeply disappointed with the spiritual leaders who do not use their position to set some things straight once and for all.
I hate how the media act as distorters of truth and poor entertainers, rather than as informers and educators.
The sad truth is that many people cannot afford feeding their children properly, or heating their homes in the winter. Of course, these people never lived in any kind of luxury.
Despite everything that has gone wrong, I know for a fact that the average Greek bread-winner never retired at the age of fifty-five. Nevertheless, public servants could retire after thirty years of service (25 + 30 = 55).
In the eighties and nineties, while growing up, I knew the kind of people who raised their families in seventy square meters and commuted to work in crowded buses. The people who spent their holidays in their villages and towns of origin.
I knew a lady who worked in a cookie factory assembly line and many more who were the work force of the booming textile industry. Their long working hours were tacitly acknowledged by tags stating “Made in Greece“. The same tags that now say made in Bangladesh, India, or People’s Republic of China.
My uncle who passed away some years ago, spent his young years on heavy manual work and then worked his sitting bones off driving a taxi in Thessaloniki. And yes, he paid taxes. And no, he never spent holidays in Thailand.
I guess that people confused the notion of wealth with identity and real progress. Plastic money and loans came to replace the down-to-earth values of land and property. Sadly enough, one for all and all for one was not in fashion. But later on we all found out that when one falls, many others will too.
What I personally find really ironic is that the politicians who prioritised quid pro quo deals in sectors such as defense and telecoms with foreign governments serving the interests of their own industries did not see how the deficit in education and health care would back-fire on them.
Greece may not be entirely saved by olive oil, but in a way, the good old olive tree will play a part in the process of recovery. The earth that nourishes us will return as an unquestionably stable value, and so will the sun and the sea. It is no coincidence that 15% of all goods transported by sea are carried by Greek ships. After all, Greeks have a longer tradition as seafarers than as bar-tenders.
Maybe, in some years time, when the country has looked its problems right in the face and hopefully healed its wounds, Greece can become that place where olive oil flows abundantly and the sun shines for everyone.
A small spot on the world map, but a blessed place for healing and recollection. A country with no heavy industry, but with industrious people.
At the supermarket. Browsing for two life-sustaining, or should I say enhancing, commodities – cocoa and cinnamon.
Fair-trade cocoa and chocolate, I do not hesitate much over. I still compare prices because I like to. The difference though is sensible, especially considering what I get in return - the food of the gods and a clear conscience…
The case of cinnamon is a tougher one… The kilo price for the organic and fair-trade spice is of a different caliber all together compared to the conventional option. The sachet price though, stays affordable.
I convince myself that I was not planning on buying a kilogram of cinnamon anyway, and that I am holding in my hand a nebula of precious aromatic particles from the bark of an exotic tree, contained in the vacuum between two pieces of paper…
The cinnamon pack ever so gracefully lands in my shopping cart next to the powdered beans from far away lands.
Being a consumer in these times of abundance of goods and information is not simple. Neither are the mental processes that take place in my head when I am trying to make informed decisions.
Some things cannot be taken with just any pinch of salt…
Next morning, coincidentally, a voice from cocoa-planet lands in my bowl of cereals. It belongs to a female “chocolatier” cum engineer, who one day decided to buy a party-venue and together with it, a more than a century old chocolate truffle-recipe…
Trying her hands on chocolate made her curious to explore the full cycle of production, from raw material to finished product. She traveled and unraveled also the less romantic aspects of the choco-trade. The exploitation and the poverty. But also the faulty refining processes that damage the beans and very frequently call for the use of chemicals to conceal deficiency in taste.
In brief, enough information to choke on your chocolate.
However, determined to make chocolate the good and the right way, this female entrepreneur decided to buy a small cocoa plantation in the Dominican Republic. Not only to ensure the high quality of her raw material, but also to create a ripple-effect in the industry by the use of high ethical and technical standars.
This story made me quite happy about the contents of my cupboard, I must admit.
Because it is a fact: I cannot afford buying a cocoa plantation. But I can afford buying fair-trade cocoa.