Chapter 15: Aeolus descending

Μόνο γύρισε τα μάτια της κατά την θάλασσα, και τραγούδησε ένα παλιό τραγούδι του μακαρίτη του γέρου της: Η θάλασσα ξεβούρκουση, τα ράχτα πα τση δέρνει….
She only turned her eyes towards the sea, and sang an old song of her dead old man: The sea convulsed, she racks and beats the rocks….
«Νησιώτικες ιστορίες», Αργύρης Εφταλιώτης, Λέσβος,  1894
“Island Stories», Argyris Eftaliotis, Lesvos, 1894

‘The forecast is for rain, strong winds, and a temperature drop down to 10 C°’ Alexandros says. ‘I do not think there will be more boats tonight’ he adds, ‘so we better all go and get some rest’. ‘I will stay on a little longer, until past midnight’ I tell him, ‘just in case’… Elena and Martha, two EINA doctors, spending their first night at the coast, volunteer to stay late as well, along with Yannis. The rest pack up and leave for the various villages where they stay to get some sleep.

There is not much to do, so we all huddle up under the now deserted food tent and talk a bit about our lives and what brought us here. Yannis, after playing his dive light beams out to sea for a while, quits and joins us. The patrol with the Greek police jeep passes by, ‘How is it going people?’ they ask, ‘Quiet’ we say, ‘let’s hope it remains so’ they say, wave, and continue on. Elena and Martha work in the large hospital in Patra, and were moved by the images of refugees they saw on TV, and especially the still recent image that shook much of the World, the 3-year old Aylan Kurdi lying lifeless on the Turkish shore as if gently sleeping. ‘That was it for us’ they tell me, ‘…we had to do something’. Yannis does not say much, he just looks out to sea anxiously, ‘I hope nobody sets out in this kind of weather’ he says worryingly, ‘not in the kind of boats they ride…’ he adds. The trees around us now started shaking violently in the increasing wind, ‘whoever takes out to sea tonight is in for one frightful passage’ I say to myself, ‘I hope nobody does…’

Elena continues on to tell us about the nuns in the Greek monastery hosting her and some of the EINA doctors, apparently this camp is not in their ‘radar’ at all, she tells us. She finds this strange, until I tell her about who set up this camp and how. An anarchist-autonomous group out of Athens, with some local support from a similar cell in the city of Mytilene, taking over a piece of public land that belonged to the municipality of Skala Sykaminias. ‘No wonder the nuns did not acknowledge the existence of this camp, I would be surprised if they did!’ I tell her and she laughs. ‘Truth is, our anarchist friends started some serious problems with the mayor of Sykaminia and a few of the locals’ Yannis says, ‘their takeover of public land next to the village without any consultation has not been taken lightly’ he finishes. Upon hearing this, I sensed that a different kind of wind could soon buffet our operations.

The winds now rose to a seven in the Beaufort scale, shaking our tents strongly, ‘I hope Apollo and his friends pinned those down well’, I think, ‘we could not afford to have a messed up camp with missing tents in the morning’. Elena and Martha leave around 1am, but I stay a little longer with Yannis.  He starts recounting a few stories from Mani, a place of Southern Greece where part of his lineage is from, and where he often went for diving. ‘Dramatic waters there, large depths near-shore, and a lot of piracy around the capes of Tainaro and Malia and Cavo Grosso for several centuries’, Yannis says. ‘Remote rocky shores, inhabitants known for defiant bravery, but also damn dirt poor because of a very poor land’ Yannis answers when I ask the reason. ‘In a tale called ‘Kakavoulia’, Kostantinos Radios tells that one year there were such bad crop yields and such dryness that the inhabitants of Mesa Mani started dying from hunger and even lack of water. So when a foreign ship appeared near their shores they were very happy to assault it. Then they went aboard to find people even more wretched than themselves, refugees from some other fucking war in Western Europe. Maniates then took them in their villages and gave them food and asylum despite their own desperate conditions…’ Yannis says. ‘This my friend is bravery with your own stomach and that of your children on the line, sometimes that is way more difficult than having your ass on it’ Yannis concludes in his typical language.

A hard rain starts abruptly coming down, and a strong wind gust blows off one pole of our food tend. ‘Fuck! This will soak all our food supplies!’ Yannis barks, and we scramble to bring the tent structure back up again, so that it can shelter those supplies that now stand exposed in the driving rain. We manage with difficulty, and only after using several of the food boxes as props and support structures around the tent poles. Those boxes we will lose to the rain as they will definitely be fully soaked by morning.

By the time we are done it is 2am, with Yannis and me being on the coast since seven o’ clock in the morning. I do not know how I will be able to drive back to Kaloni, an hour’s worth of drive, without falling asleep at the wheel. I manage alright at the end, fear of crashing does it better than coffee I guess. I stagger into the small apartment and fall asleep with my clothes on.