|The Stone House on the Hill |
The comment was in response to this photo of bougainvillea on our Stone House on the Hill. It does show the serene side of life here. And I'll admit I prefer to write about and photograph the best parts of life here, often times omitting -- both in this blog and on social media -- the more negative realities of 'living differently' in a foreign country.
|We live above Agios Dimitrios|
The last three years we've chosen to make our home in a rural area of the Greek Peloponnese, a place that reminds us of those vast empty lands of the American Southwest. In the Mani, as our area is known, the sweeping and sparsely-populated wide open spaces are bordered to one side by towering peaks of the Taygetos Mountains and the Messinian Bay on the other. Small villages and isolated churches are scattered randomly about the rugged landscape as if jigsaw puzzle pieces waiting to be put together. We are among a couple dozen expat Americans and several hundred expats from countries on this side of the Atlantic..
Most of the time our expat life here, while not always 'charmed', is a good one. But we've learned that life in this Grecian paradise isn't always as perfect as I am guilty of leading you to believe it is. So this week I'm focusing on the back story - life beyond that bougainvillea.
High and Dry
On the other side of the wall on which the postcard-perfect bougainvillea clings is our master bath. Its shower pan is lined this summer with rather unsightly mismatched plastic buckets - our crude attempt at recycling gray water.
|The Stone House on the Hill|
We did ask those questions the following year when we turned on the taps and no water came out.
|The reserve tank is hidden by bouganvillea and oleander bushes|
That was our introduction to water shortages in Greece. One of our first home improvement projects was installation of a 2,000 liter (528 gallon) reserve tank to provide back up to the 1,000 liter tank on the roof. (Most homes being built now days have one or two reserve tanks, another for rain water and some even have gray water tanks. Fifteen years ago when our home was built that wasn't the practice.)
Nevertheless, our reserve tank has served us well. It has been drawn down as the water supply diminishes in the summer but seldom did we go completely dry. Well, that was until this year:
|Our plumber and assistant work on our water tank on the roof|
With little or no snowpack in those towering Taygetos and little rain (which did make for a rather 'charmed' winter) we are experiencing one of the most severe water shortages to hit this area in recent years. The standard routine for DIMOS during scarce/low water times is to ration water by turning off the source of off water to one area and providing it to another for alternating periods of time. This year the balancing act of sharing water has been put to the test. Many times there has been little if no water in many areas.
|Adonis, our modern-day Water God|
As I write this post we are waiting for the water truck to bring a supply of water. Our taps were dry again this morning. It will be the sixth truckload of water we have purchased from a private vendor in as many weeks. We've severely curtailed our water use this summer - taking dash-in-and-out showers, doing laundry less frequently and setting up a makeshift system of collecting gray water to use on desperately water-starved plants. I've let most of our garden go - tomato plants and sunflowers are withered and dead. Flowering plants are struggling. The small amount of gray water helps keep the remaining plants alive.
|Water from our reserve tank passes through this filter to the house|
Our lives seem focused on water or the lack of it. I ask The Scout, 'Did you check the tank this morning? Can I do a load of laundry?' Since learning one toilet flush uses 10 liters of water we flush judiciously. And let me tell you that COVID 20-second handwashing can use a ton of water!!
DIMOS released water 10 days ago for a day allowing our tanks to fill.. Today we again wait for the water delivery. We've realized how much we taken this precious resource for granted.
|Refilling the water bottles at the drinking water faucet|
Our drinking water comes from community fountains, believed to be spring-fed, located throughout the villages. Those community faucets provide water for drinking and cooking. This year as if the water shortage wasn't enough some residents began questioning the quality of the potable water. Water tests showed high levels of bacteria and no levels of chlorine. They've called on DIMOS for answers and help.
We went to fill the drinking water bottles today in the village and found the water taps there were also dry.
A Widespread Problem - No Solutions in Sight
|Greece is known for the sea that surrounds it|
An article highlighting the water problem in Greece appeared in National Geographic, May 2020. It carried a dire prediction by experts that unless some new sources of water are found (desalination plants are among the suggested solutions) Greece is going to find itself high and dry in the not too distant future. The article points to a number of Greek islands where water demand is outstripping the supply. Seems like the same is happening on the mainland as well from our point of view.
In Greece, according to this report, households account four 14 percent of water consumption. It is one of the highest water users in the European Union with nearly 40 gallons (177 liters) being used per person, per day. I can assure you not that much is being used by us this summer!
What A Bunch of Garbage!
Another less-than-charmed side of life is: garbage. Piles and growing piles of garbage.
|Do-it-yourself-garbage hauling is the practice here|
We don't have curbside garbage collection in this rural land for several reasons: no curbs, narrow roads and homes scattered in such remote areas that it would take months to complete the pick up. So we take our garbage to communal bins, usually located on the outskirts of villages and along highways. We know when 'tourist season' is about to start because bin area is pristine. But DIMOS seems unable to keep up with tourism's impact on the community's infrastructure and often garbage overflows the bins as it has been doing this summer.
|Welcome to Agios Nikolaos - a contrast with my normal photos of town|
A visitor to our village, Agios Nikolaos, will pass this garbage collection site on one of the roads leading into our village. A sharp contrast to the beauty of the village itself, don't you think? We often wonder what tourists think as they drive into the village for the first time. We 'locals' don't like this sure sign of summer but protests and complaints to elected officials continue to fall on deaf ears.
|After the garbage bin welcome you arrive in Agios Nikolaos|
We'd given little thought in the past to where the collected garbage was taken. We'd believed it was to a 'landfill' or dumping ground out in a remote area of the region. That was until a cry went up for help a few weeks ago went up from residents living just a few miles/kilometer from us alerting the entire area to a disgusting dumping ground a few hundred meters off the main road and a residential area.
|Mounds of filth just meters from homes in our area|
While nearby residents and other concerned citizens take their pleas for help in cleaning up and removing this dumping ground (alleged to be private property leased to DIMOS) through various levels of bureaucracy the putrid smells it generates are matched only by the thousands of flies that swarm among the piles of rubbish.
'Mounds of filth'
|Our local landfill spills out beyond the fenced property on which it located|
Again it isn't just our area of Greece, waste disposal seems a major problem throughout this country.
Back in 2013 the BBC News did a story on Greece with the headline being, 'Mounds of Filth'. I suspect the tourism folks weren't pleased! From that article I learned that Greece buries 80 percent of its rubbish - and back then, that accounted for twice the European Union average.
The article went on to say that in 2005 the European Commission took Greece to court to force closure of 1,100 illegal landfills but eight years later 70 of them remained open. Brussels launched a second case against Athens threatening a daily fine of 71,000 euros. I suspect from the size of our local 'dump' that the threat of fine had no impact on behaviors.
Just this week a report appeared in the Greek City Times saying that by 2022 the island of Santorini plans to close 14 landfills and is opening a recycling facility. Let's hope the idea catches on elsewhere. . .like in The Mani!
Beyond the Bougainvillea
|Bougainvillea, oleander and olive trees icons of Greece|
|Our bougainvillea and side deck|
Parked cars line the beach access roads now. The temperatures are in the 80's and the sky is blue. Life is good in Greece for tourists and residents alike. . .but it isn't always charmed. I will continue to tell you of the wonders of life (the good does outweigh the bad) here but every so often I plan to provide a touch of the reality as well. I know a number of you reading this are planning to move to Greece as soon as the world's situation allows. You've asked our advice and today I offer one more piece of it: look beyond the bougainvillea.
Next week we are back to travel. We've got a palace just a couple hours away and I plan to take you there! Until then, thanks for the time you spent with us and where ever you are in the world: stay safe.
Linking in the near future with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
My Corner of the World Wednesday
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
My Corner of the World Wednesday