As an expat in Athens, I’ve been living through a headlining crisis. Thanks to the recent capital controls it has come to a point where a visit to my Greek bank’s ATM shoots out my 60 daily limit, if it hasn’t run dry.
That’s one reason loved ones from around the globe have inquired about my situation here, and I’ve assured them of the reality. Greece is as safe as ever. Yes, there are bank queues, but there is no chaos. There’s food, gas and people are still going to work and going out. The weather is just as glorious. Life goes on. Recently, I’ve written for major English-language media about the tourist situation and despite some inconveniences, visitors are still having a ball here. What‘s not to love? Greece will always be a country of amazing culture, history, food and people.
I won’t claim to know everything about politics or economics, but I can say I am an observer and someone who has had the privilege to get to know this country and its people from the inside. For me, it is simple. A country that cannot rebuild itself is dead. I don’t want to think of Greece in that way.
Greece has served as my inspiration. I thank it for my wonderful relationships and friendships. I thank it for my expat experiences (however dramatic) that lead to my first novel. It’s a place that spurned a career I love as a writer and travel writer. It’s a country of pure beauty that also makes it a joy to publish a travel blog dedicated to that beauty. Greece holds a dear circle of friends and family, is home to my business and a way of life I’ve come to appreciate.
While I won’t be voting Sunday since I am not a Greek citizen, I have strong feelings about Sunday’s referendum vote. It’s exciting to think Greece can make an amazing statement about change and the world will be listening.
Instead, what I observe is fear. It’s understandable. Fear mongering seems to be turning OXI (no) into NAI (yes). As the clock ticks down to voting day, many of the news channels and all types of ads continue to feed into the worst fears of the Greek people. I was beginning to feel sorry, sorry that I knew enough Greek to understand.
Then, I found myself in the middle of a gathering in Syntagma Square last night. I was a dot in a sea of tens of thousands. Greek flags and OXI flags fluttered above and around me in the cool, fresh Mediterranean night. Voices boomed and chanted with confidence. Legendary Greek artists, singers and Prime Minister Tsipras rallied the peaceful crowd, a crowd of young and old, families and friends. It was a crowd teeming with passion and spirit.
Later, I learned the gathering, which stretched down every main road leading to the center of town, could’ve been larger. People simply didn’t have room to spill out of the subway metros. So, they rallied where they were underground.
In this Greek tragedy, both sides are at fault. Greece didn’t get to where it is overnight. I’ve observed enough to see why things are the way they are in this country. Creditors are to blame too, demanding excessive repayments without a way to restructure for growth. The mistakes of the past by these players have led to a suffering of a wonderful people.
I don’t know if OXI supporters will manage to win considering the propaganda. I’ll be surprised, and I’ll be proud if they do. In the end, the referendum is not about a no to Europe or the European Union. It’s about a no to a system that isn’t working. It’s a no to austerity.
As I stood, lost in the OXI crowd, surrounded by a language I have come to love and people that mean the world to me – I was in awe. I was standing in a place that had become familiar, where democracy was born and where a real movement of change has the true potential to take off. That means something to me as Greece has come to mean so much to me. No matter what the outcome, I only wish her the best.