Panagiotis (Peter) is sitting passively at the little pull out table leaf in the kitchen, slurping his bread from the bowl while his mother tidies around him. As she passes she also tidies up his shirt collar and smooths the wrinkles in his jumper, brushing crumbs away and making sure he has enough to eat. He watches serenely while she busies herself around him.
After his breakfast, Panagiotis offers to show me his donkey and before revving up his motor bike, proudly announces that he has 3 stone houses up in the hills and when I come back to Kardamili I can rent one; he would like to buy a horse so that he can ride into the village.
His mother says girls are a problem. He is ‘look look’. I think it may be getting harder to find one. At a guess he is nearing 50 and his mother tells me she is in her late 70’s. His father 83, is patiently cracking almonds and then goes up the precarious step ladder to change the light bulb.
I have noticed many adult sons in dream mode while their mothers work around them. When these man marry, will they and their wives settle for the same pattern?
Unemployment is a huge problem for so many, and the tradition of family ties is what helps everyone to survive.
As an example, I hear that young newly qualified Doctors are sent to work in small village practices for their first year of work….. there is no money to be made and so nobody would volunteer to set up in these more remote areas. One such young Doctor has not been paid for 8 months and so has to depend on her parents. The long standing Pharmacist holds the fort by giving much needed advice and support.
I think feelings of frustration and helplessness are very close to the surface. While he was kindly giving me directions a man suddenly burst into a rage about the situation and was then so embarrassed he was apologizing profusely to me. I didnt properly grasp what he was saying, but I felt so sorry for him. These are just 2 examples. There is not room here to go into more detail, but suffice to say that things are really dreadfully difficult everywhere.
Even so, for every abandoned new-build, there is also work going on too. The dying art of stone-masonry in Greece has meant a big influx of skilled Albanian workers, renowned for their craft, and who are replicating the style of the traditional tower and stone houses of the area. The history of the architecture and its function in the Mani is truly fascinating. (thanks Lesley!)
These trials do little to dent the natural generosity and warmth that I have already spoken about and been so fortunate to receive almost everywhere I have set foot. It is this wonderful spirit of hospitality that I will most remember; I hope I too will put this more into action with visitors to my own country and that I will carry it with me as I continue.