“What a dream, living in Greece! (But I have to wonder, with all the ‘news in the news’ about the economy are you concerned about the future of your investment/life there?)
This comment was made by a reader of our blog in response to our post about this spring’s stay at The Stone House on the Hill. I suspect that question, or similar ones, have crossed the minds of many of you who’ve been following this adventure of ours in Greece.
Perhaps it is time I quit writing about chasing daydreams and talk a bit about catching reality.
For those newcomers to TravelnWrite, we bought a house in Greece last December; less than a month before the country’s election resulted in new leadership and new approach to its debt agreements. It wasn’t long after the election that Greece and its European lenders entered into a boxing match of words – the type of which can send world markets on a roller coaster ride as result of a single remark by either side. The verbal sparring continues nearly six months later.
|The Stone House on the Hill|
But as one American media recently reminded the world: The ‘day of reckoning’ for Greece is fast approaching. June 30th is the day of reckoning. . .so it seems by the headlines.
Will the two sides work out a solution to the debt repayment that leaves both claiming a win? Or will the talks have a final breakdown? Will Greece leave the European Union? Will it return to the drachma? Will banks Greek banks close for a time? Will currency controls be put into place? (Meaning limits on how much of your money you can withdraw from your bank account, like what happened in Cyprus a few years ago). Do Greece and its lenders have a ‘Plan B’ for carrying on after June 30th – no matter the direction it goes?
So many questions; so few answers. Our guess is as good as yours.
Yet the scope of speculation seems to grow each day. Recently we’ve learned a new acronym: PIGS, (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain). It is used when contemplating the possible domino effect if Greece were to leave the euro-based world. After Greece, those other three could be the next to go. . .and that could produce some rockin’ and rollin’ in the world markets. . .
As much as we love Greece, we are ‘outsiders’ – we see a small slice of its whole as we go about our rather carefree life here in The Mani. We are aware of the vast number of scenarios that could play out because we do follow a number of media reports.
In the meantime, here we are, “The Americans” who own a home in a country that could be on the verge of economic collapse.
We’ve not spent our days fretting about what could happen as we’ve been too busy working on the house and garden. When not working, we are usually spending time with friends – other ex pat types – and then we are too busy sharing tales of our experiences in our adopted country to wring our hands and break out in a sweat over the future.
What we know is that we’ve already booked our return for this fall. We are talking about olive harvest. We know of two sets of friends planning to visit then.
That is not to say we haven’t given thought to ‘the situation’. So while I don’t have any answers for you, I do have some thoughts to share, so come, let’s take a stroll through our olive grove and chat:
* The truth is that had the sale not finalized in December, we would not have purchased our ‘daydream home’ here until later. We’d have taken a wait-and-see approach (and from what we see, we’d likely still be waiting).
* The reason is the uncertainty: You need to pay in full the price of the home at the time of purchase. In our case, our money was converted to euros and wired from the United States and sat in our Greek bank account for several days before the scheduled closing. With the present uncertainty we wouldn’t have risked our funds having been converted to euros, arriving at the bank, and while sitting there facing the possibility of currency controls being implemented (as described above) or or risked devaluation on the off chance Greece did switch to the drachma during that short window of time.
*You’ve probably read of ex pats and Greek depositors who are withdrawing money from banks in large amounts – thus adding to the economic problems. I can assure you that we have been among them, leaving only an amount in our account which will cover automatic utility withdrawals while we are not here. But unlike those who’ve moved their funds out of the country, we’ve spent ours here on purchases and improvements to the house.
* We didn’t ‘bet the farm’ on this purchase. If forced to walk away from this investment, you wouldn’t find us singing for donations on a street corner at Seattle’s Pike Place Market (or counting on this blog for income).
* In reality, if we weren’t following the economic reports in the world media about Greece, we’d never know that anything was amiss based on the amount of tourists who are filling the villages around us.That street in our Agios Nikolaos village (Wine and Watching) I showed you two weeks ago has been made a one-way street during the day and closes completely each evening – after that big bus I photographed lumbers through on its last trip of the day– so that cafes can fill the street with tables to accommodate the many tourists.
* On the flip side, Greek media is reporting that privately-owned tourist rentals are down 50 percent this summer because of the economic uncertainty.
* Construction cranes dot The Mani landscape with new home and hotel construction. Whether those building feel their property is safer than other investments or if they are optimistic about economy recovery is difficult to speculate.
* Greeks sipping coffee fill the tables at the hip, modern sidewalk cafes lining the pedestrian plazas in Kalamata. There is no appearance of hardship among them. However, there are a number of old and young who approach with hands outstretched asking for money (this isn’t new, they were doing so last winter).
*We’ve watched a soccer field here get a new surface and a basketball court be added. Yet,we are told that children have passed out at schools in the area because of hunger and that some families are leaving their children at churches in Athens as they are no longer able to feed them.
All are slice-of-the-pie observations or hearsay – as an old newspaper reporter, I know neither is a reliable source from which to make conclusions about Greece’s economic situation.
I chose our olive grove for this reality post for several reasons. It is a happy place for us; one of our favorite places on the property. It represents the daydream; both chased and caught. And it represents permanence – some of the trees are nearly a century old. They were here long before the house and us, The Americans. The olive tree endures through the centuries – much like we suspect Greece has and will.
You just can’t predict the future. And that’s one reason we chased the daydream. That plane that shuttles us between Seattle and Greece could go down. . .One of us could have a health crisis that would cut this adventure short. . .Greece could leave the European Union. . .Oh so many things out there in the uncertain future. . . It is simply another good reason to enjoy today!
“Every man has his folly, but the greatest folly of all … is not to have one.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek
That’s it for this week from The Stone House on the Hill. Thanks for being with us and the interest you’ve shown in our adventure here. I know a number of ex pat and Greek friends read TravelnWrite so I am hoping they will share their thoughts and observations in the comment section below (on the blog’s homepage for you who subscribe and receive just the post).
Our time here is again too soon drawing to a close. We’ll be heading back to the United States and I promise then I will start writing of our Far and Middle East travels and show you the changes we made to our place in Greece.
A big hello to our new followers and subscribers! And happy travels to you all. Thanks so much for recommending us to your friends and for sharing our posts with others. Can’t tell you how nice it has been to read your comments and emails while we’ve been gone!
Linking this week with:Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route