Thursday, April 16, 2020

Ringing in Easter ~ The Sounds of Silence

The church bells are silent this year.  They've been silent for weeks. So silent, that it is downright eerie at times.

Easter as it was - not this year!
To be silent any time is not normal in a Greek village but especially now in the midst of Megali Evdomada - the week between Palm Sunday and Easter. Traditionally, this is the week when church bells chime with regularity; their messages either upbeat peals of joy or mournful dirges for the dead.

No candle lighting gatherings in the square this year

On Good Friday their call is so hauntingly sad -- commemorating the death of Jesus - that they can easily give one goosepimples - even if you didn't know the symbolism of their ringing.  Then late Saturday night when the crowds have gathered -- filling the streets near the church --  to call out Christos Anesti, (Christ is Risen) and to participate in candle-lighting, their joyous clanging is so loud that you clap hands over your ears to save the eardrums.

No Easter gatherings here this year 

So to silence church bells this sacred week in Greece is nearly incomprehensible. Here, where the Eastern Orthodox religion is considered a state religion and more than 95% of the near 11 million residents are members of the Greek Orthodox Church.

But this is Greek Easter in a time of pandemic. Nothing is as it was anywhere in the world. Greece is no exception. The holiday will be observed without gatherings and celebrations in or near the holy cornerstones of every village and city in this country.  These drastic curtailments being taken by the church and state reflect the seriousness with which COVID-19 is being dealt here.

In a televised address to the nation Monday evening our Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said, "Our faith is not at risk, but the health of the faithful."

Many of you've written, asking how Greece is responding and how we are doing. The elimination of such sacred Easter traditions is the most recent illustration of just how seriously the government and citizens are dealing with curtailing the spread of coronavirus.  It is a good way to begin my answer to your questions:

What The Government is doing

Government emergency text alert to all mobile phones

Greece -- only a few years ago, the economic underdog of  the European Union --  is emerging as a poster child in the world for addressing coronavirus quickly and correctly.  Way back on Feb. 27th when the first COVID-19 case was identified here, the shutdowns began. All Karnivale gatherings were cancelled.  The numbers and scope of cancellations and restrictions built in the weeks that followed leaving no industry or individual untouched.   

Closed. . .the word of the pandemic.

Tourism has tanked. From beaches to store fronts, the closed signs have gone up in rapid succession.  Here all non-essential business, even hardware stores, are closed. All people living in the country need to notify the government when they leave their homes. We are not to visit family.  We are not to visit friends. 

PM Mitsotakis, has repeatedly likened the efforts to fighting a war. And it's clear he has a country that is willing to help him win the battle.  Mitsotakis, who has served as prime minister for less than a year (taking office last July), is proving himself to be a firm, decisive and unwavering leader. He has won the trust of the people. Opposing parties and the church are standing with him.

Stay at home orders are taken seriously

This united approach seems to be paying off.

Knowing that statistics change by the hour, I am using a snapshot in time, taken this Wednesday morning, to illustrate how the numbers look in our adopted home, Greece, as compared to our American home state of Washington:

Greece:  population about 11 million. COVID-19 cases: 2,170. Deaths: 101
Washington State: population 7.5 million COVID-19 cases: 11,154. Deaths: 544

Greece's actions may sound draconian, but you know what? We all -- Greeks and expats alike -- are appreciating them and feel safe being here because of them. Not once have I seen a FB post from a Greek or ex pat questioning the government's authority or right to restrict our movements.

Who knows when businesses will be allowed to open again

In fact when we see a friend in passing these day, we step back from them, as if they 'had the plague' no matter how thrilled we are to see him or her.  We even laugh about the 'good old days' only four weeks ago --  before the government ordered the country closed and only suggested social distancing -- we could at least have a take out wine in the parking lot and stand an appropriate distance apart from each other and visit. Can't do that any more!

Meeting a friend - social distancing - good old days - no longer allowed

The government has made it clear that this Easter Week is considered critical for containment of people and the virus. There is talk that cars could be banned from the roadways from Saturday evening until Monday evening to assure no one sneaks in that visit with close friends or decides to visit the relatives, as is traditionally done on this holiday.  That is how serious they are taking it here.

The Scout and The Scribe

A glass of wine with friends . . .in the Pacific Northwest

Aside from missing dinners out and face-to-face meet ups with friends, life in this rural part of the Peloponnese is continuing to be pretty routine at The Stone House on the Hill.  Like millions of others we've installed Zoom and learned to use it for social gatherings. We recently drank wine 'with' friends in Kirkland and Seattle during their brunch hour and our happy hour.

Sanitizing the community dumpsters

Certain routines remain the same as we must make regular runs to city dumpsters to deposit our garbage and to fill water bottles from the community taps. On such occasions if we happen to pass friends we feel giddy at the social interaction even if it is calling out hello in passing.

The mobile phone permission texts are becoming second nature. We have six destinations or reasons allowed for leaving our home.  And now that we are into the routine, sending a text isn't a big deal at all. In the photo below my notice is in the green, my approval is in the gray.

Destination sent, permission granted

Shopping once or twice a week, we wear disposable gloves. We've yet to wear face masks. Some clerks wear both masks and gloves. Some stores have also installed glass panels to separate the clerks from the customers. I suspect those panels will remain a part of our 'new normal' life when this seemingly winds down.

The food supplies (including fresh grown/harvested veggies) are plentiful as is the sanitary hand scrub, detergents and disinfectants and. . .Ta-Dah: toilet paper!  Our selection and supply of paper goods would make many of you green with envy.

We have no need to use Insta-shop or stand in long lines waiting to be admitted into a store. We don't need to call week's in advance to get a delivery time slot nailed down. There's usually been fewer than a dozen people in our large supermarket and maybe two or three in the smaller stores when we've been shopping -- all keep their distances.

Dinner out has a whole new look - at home

We have a few cafes and tavernas open for take out beverages and food.  Such food pick-up runs have become the new 'going out for dinner'.

Last Sunday we had Easter (the one celebrated in the Catholic and Protestant religions) dinner -- turkey and trimmings -- from our hangout, Hades. This coming Sunday to celebrate Orthodox Easter we will have a take out spit roast lamb meal from Hades.  We schedule a time to pick up the meal and it is ready for us.  If not we sip a glass of wine, from a plastic glass standing outside while it is packed up. The wait time is never more than a few minutes.

Our village service stations are open and stocked with supplies of gasoline and diesel.

Preserved lemons and dried orange slices

Instead of planning and daydreaming about trips, we have found ourselves focused on home and garden projects. I have been experimenting with craft projects -- all those things I've never taken the time to pursue before. I've been preserving lemons and drying oranges. I have a chair rehab in process for the garden and other crafty things that I likely would never have gotten around to had it not been for the stay at home order.

The Scout burns olive tree trimmings

Meanwhile The Scout is focused on garden and grove. In the last two weeks we've had our olive grove trimmed and the trees sprayed. We did our final burn for the allowed open fire season, cleaning up the grove as a fire prevention move ahead of the dry summer that is predicted for this area.

Earlier this week a two-man crew arrived for a small construction project that had been scheduled before the lock down began.  In each case the workers kept their distance as did we and the jobs were done. Life does need to go on, even if a bit differently than in the past.

What is Next?

Going out for a glass of wine - pandemic-style

Now in our third week of our government enforced lock down, we've learned it will be extended to May 11th. At that time - if the curve remains flat (and you all know what that means these days) -- the restrictions will begin letting up. There is a series of re-opening steps planned to take place slowly, slowly (siga, siga as we say here). However the government has made it clear that we 'elderly' ones over 60 are going to be among the last turned loose so we are hoping that by July we have a less restrictive world.

Pantazi Beach like all beaches are empty

Of course we wonder how many of the small businesses here - especially those dependent upon tourism; of which there will likely be none or very little - will even reopen this year. So our world could look and feel vastly different even when everything is 'back to normal'.

Sunset from The Stone House on the Hill

For now we are enjoying temperatures in the 70F's and each day celebrating the fact that we are not among those statistics I listed above.  Carpe Diem is the mantra and we are trying to do just that.
We hope this finds you and yours wherever you are in the world also staying safe staying healthy and being at peace with the actions taken during this unprecedented time in history.

Where are these two vagabonds dreaming of as their first destination once our restrictions are lifted?  Let me tell you. . .it is our hair salon in Kalamata!  It might end up being the best trip we take this year!!

Thanks again for being with us and we look forward to hearing from you in comments and by email.  What is on your list as your first destination when you can again safely leave home?

Linking with:

Mosaic Monday
Through My Lens
Travel Tuesday
Our World Tuesday
My Corner of the World Wednesday
Wordless Wednesday


  1. A wonderful post, Jackie. This really captures the strangeness of our times and the resourcefulness needed to adapt to our new world. Thanks for this and keep on writing! I know you're having problems with your comments, so I'll cross my fingers this reaches you.

    1. Came through loud and clear, Karen! Thanks for stopping by to leave a comment and glad you enjoyed this one! xx J.

  2. Good to see you are doing well over there in Greece. With your happy hour get together via Zoom with your Washington State friends I'm sure you know we are doing things fairly similar here, minus the text permission to go out. We are not going into stores to shop right now, using Fred Meyer's pickup feature outside. Have to stay up to midnight a week in advance to get into the queue but you can get just about everything minus paper products. The few things you have to go inside for we have on the shelf. And of course there's Amazon but they are overwhelmed with deliveries right now so wait times are longer. The TP shortage is over but hand sanitizer is still near impossible to come by. Looking for some along with masks and gloves so we can head down to Tucson to button up our RV for a long hot summer. We left it there in storage expecting to return on March 30. Could be worse, it is in a safe RV park with power to keep the battery charged. Stay safe and enjoy a another glass of wine with friends. - Margy

    1. We are now moving into that conflicted state: really ready to be out and about again but wondering just how safe it will be to be out and about again. Margy, I am loving your reports from the NW so do keep them coming!

  3. Really enjoyed your article, Jackie! How fun to see us in your Zoom photo. We’re grateful to be living in a state run by a sensible governor. Our “normal” travel plans at this time of year would involve visiting our friends in Scottsdale and Palm Desert. Like you, Steve and I fantasize about seeing our hair stylists! I’m guessing that we will be staying home through the end of May.

    1. Yes, I am applauding your governor (I guess our governor as well) for the hardline stance he has taken on this. Too bad the response in the States has been so scattered and the populace caught up in political bickering over it. In a perfect world the four of you would have come back for this year's Jazz Festival (which, like all things, has been cancelled). Let's think about next year for a return visit!

  4. We too have found that life has changed in some unusual ways since the pandemic began. Easter was not what we were used to by any means, but humans find ways to adapt. Like you two, we have found that dining out has turned into carryout only. Let's hope this ends soon.

    1. You two should consider a post on finding the best take out places and things to consider when seeking dinner (to take) out! Stay safe!!

  5. All quiet on the western front over here too :-). It was no big deal for us since we don't really celebrate it anyway. How cool to be able to use oranges that you preserved yourself. At times like this, I do long for some outside space like your garden which looks awesome since you can "see" again :-). Stay safe.

    1. I do think our outside space is the key to my positive response on the staycation. If I were confined indoors with little or no outside time I would likely go nuts. Glad they've allowed us the freedom to exercise!

  6. Group and total citizen buy in is important along with complete government oversight on this from top to bottom. Good to see positive strides there.

    1. Well I would take this any day over what I am seeing happening in the pockets of the mainland US right now. I waiver between being angry at the protestors and worried for the germs they will likely spread among themselves and those victims who came close to them in some other setting.

  7. It sounds like people around the world are dealing with the reality of this terrible virus in similar ways. We all miss interacting with other people, and we all missed celebrating Easter in the usual way. And I'm sure we all hope next year is much better.

    1. It really was a test for the Greek people who so love this holiday but the media scenes of empty roads but families dining in their homes and on decks were heart-warming -- maybe as result we all will have a few more Easters to celebrate!

  8. Very sad that people can't celebrate Easter in their normal way. I was in Greece one year at Easter and remember what a big occasion it was - standout memories include seeing a sheep being slaughtered by the side of the road (presumably for a family feast) and coming back to the apartment to find some beautifully painted eggs waiting for us.

    1. I told the folks at the taverna that they had prepared the best Easter lamb ever -- maybe it tasted so good because I hadn't seen the poor creature roasting on the spit prior to sitting down to eat. There are advantages to take out! ;-)

  9. I had been wondering how you were in Greece. And am so glad to hear you are well and that statistics remain low in Greece as they are here in Australia. You are probably thankful you are not in USA! Our Gov has put in really strict controls here too. External borders shut to the outside world, internal borders closed between states, and internal borders imposed between regions within our state - except for transport companies and essential travel. It has kept us safe. Yet I float between feeling safe and feeling stressed and anxious. Who knows what the future holds for us all. I think easing of restrictions will come in gradually. Schools opened here today for term 2. I haven't heard yet what attendance numbers are. I think it would be a stressful time for teachers. We are experiencing beautiful weather autumn weather here, though we desperately need rain. We have been watching Rick Stein in Greece this past week. Easter and Anzac Day were very different for us this year. Take care, stay safe and have a good week.

  10. Glad you are doing well. I'm envious that you have faith in your PM has won the trust of the people of Greece. The virus is bad enough; the way its being handled here is just salt on the wound. It boggles my mind that the entire world is in lockdown. Stay safe and healthy!


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