It’s only Wednesday and what an exciting week. All public transportation workers were on strike Monday in protest of legislation about austerity measures and reforms that was being voted on that day. There were no services on the Athens metro, the tram, the city buses and one of the commuter railroads. Some schools were also affected as teachers staged walkouts in some places. Flights were cancelled from noon until 3 as air traffic controllers walked out during that time as well.
We don’t watch the news much … so Demetri and I were astounded at the amount of traffic on our way to Greek school on Monday. It normally takes us 50 minutes or so; Monday was 1:20. Even though I noticed a completely empty metro station we pass along the Attiki Odos (the highway on the outer loop of the Athens metro area), I thought nothing of it. We got to school and learned the reason. It was a banner day for taxis.
Strikes are fairly common here. Demetri, who has been caught mid-strike trying to leave Athens for the US at least once, has a longstanding theory that most people strike on Friday or Monday to facilitate a three-day weekend. What’s lucky is that the strikes are announced ahead of time, so you can sort of plan around it … if you watch the news, that is. We’re glad we weren’t flying on Monday.
The legislation in question — and under significant protest downtown on Monday — has to do with the EU bailout from the ongoing economic crisis. Greece is slated to end its bailout program later this summer in August but is promising its creditors more austerity measures because it wants more favorable repayment terms on the loans from the EU and IMF. There’s a meeting next week of EU finance ministers to determine whether Greece has done enough to curb its frothy spending habits.
There does seem to be a bit of blue sky lately, though: a few weeks ago Greece did its first open market bond in 10 years and it was completely oversold. This year saw a budget surplus. And, there’s been an increase in GDP. All significant and good signs of recovery.
Monday’s legislation wasn’t without drama though. Protesters sprayed police with red paint, there were cries of ‘heresy’ and ‘dark ages’ from Members of Parliament opposed to the measures, rocks were thrown and pepper spray was used. The bill passed.
Monday night there was an earthquake – “o seismos” in Greek. It was a 4.3 magnitude recorded right outside Marathonas, which is, of course, 26.2 miles from Athens. I asked Demetri why the building was shaking as I watched the crystals on the chandelier bounce and felt my chair vibrate. No injuries. Everyone probably knows this – I didn’t – the USGS monitors all earthquakes and there are several around the world each day. Kansas also had one Monday; it was a 1.8 on the Richter scale.
Demetri had a PRP injection in his ankle, so today he wasn’t in shape to go to Greek school. I drove myself all the way to Marousi (it’s like driving from Parker to Westminster) which was quite a feat if I do say so myself. Athens traffic is beyond insane. People don’t want to wait in line to turn left (or for anything else) so they pass the turn lanes and swing in front of them to wait in the intersection so they can turn left first. No joke. I want to tell everyone that anarchy is not a free for all, it’s being mature enough to care about yourself, others and the things around you to be mindful and act appropriately.
The genitive case in Greek is going to be the death of me. Oops, the death of mou.