Upcoming stories from the Aegean and Marmara Sea, May–September 2019

From Athens to Constantinople and back, through East Aegean sea and as south as Patmos island – here is the list of stories that are “in the fridge”, I hope not for long, since some of them are still waiting from last year:

The first team of the 2019 MEDLand storytelling project was related to the last recorded story in 2018 – Christodoulos is actually the heart of the team now, and the focus of the story. How come? We were four plus one: Eleonora from Berlin – German. She connected to the project through Workaway platform. Her skills are radio/audio journalism, with a touch of video, too.

Bojan-Eleonora-Christodoulos-Makis (Christodoulos skipper) and Odyssey.

Christodoulos decided to do a pilgrimage-ritual trip through historical places in the North Aegean sea, from Athens to Istanbul via Limnos island, also passing  Marathon field, the temple above Chalcis where armies got together to attack Troy … then Limnos island, connected to Odyssey karma, where he betrayed his fellow men … and “it is time now to release this pain”. Rituals and conversations with Odyssey were Christodoulos’ occupation, while he was sailing on his own boat at the age of 83! BUT – newly born every day, with plenty of smiles, positive thoughts and joy for life, philosophy, cipora, vine, good food, poetry.  The final destination was his home island, Ikaria. Three films about the trip were published along the way on the WGO page.

Nazif Aksehiri and Ozan Yılmaz were among the people we approached in Istanbul, and their stories of how Istanbul and especially Bosporus is inspiring them are on the way.

Anta was born in Athens, grew up on Crete, and currently lives on Limnos island, working as an alternative tour guide and activist for sustainable development on the island.
“… we live in another era now, I don’t think we should carry the past. Maybe some practices of producing products for our own consumption, it is something that can be done easily. And this also gives us the satisfaction to working with land, that land can provide for you. I think that this relation can bring us closer to nature. This, I would keep from the past – and nothing else. People make the difference. Cretans cooperate, they are more innovative, open-minded, they make collaborations, while people here – maybe because it is a distant island and they do not have many visitors – it is like they are afraid of one another.”               

Giorgos moved from Tesaloniki to Samothraki island with Jacqueline.”If we start a family, we need to do something else … We had enough, we want to change our lives, maybe live in a community or start a community, and we thought, ‘OK, why don’t we first go around and see for ourselves’. So we took our motorbike and traveled through France, Portugal and Spain for one year. We visited eco-communities and eco private projects with very different types or organizational management. And it was very interesting to see how things worked or didn’t work. We ended up on Samothraki.” … “Either you love it or you hate it, and you have to leave immediately”, was a sentence repeated by many, especially the ones that migrated and now live here for years … And their love affair goes on. They are the active population for the needed changes in a land of “no compromises”.

On Samothraki island, I was occupied with trees most of the time. They let me know that through thousands of years on Samothraki, they are the biggest, free  open-air art galley, where living sculptures express creativity beyond imagination!

Omar
In april 2017, Omar – 26-year-old Syrian refugee – founded organisation refugee4refugees on Lezbos and Samos island, two of the most immigrated islands in Greece. The organisation, that is, mostly Omar himself, runs programs to improve the lives of refugees on the island, like education, free shop, programs for kids, engaging volunteers from all over the world. He himself is also volunteer! The organisation is one of the most notable on the two islands.
“I can see the Mediterranean full of blood, since you can not escape people from the violence at home.reffugee4refugees

Melissa,  a lawyer from Mexico, volunteering at the Legal centre Lesvos 
I was supposed to volunteer for two weeks and go back. And these two weeks turned into a month and a half, (…) and then i did get my Visa, but also Trump got elected and I was hesitant to go back.
But it was not the same after what I saw in the refugee camp, I did not feel comfortable going back to my crazy, creative comfortable life in new Orleans and not doing anything. So that is how I ended up here. Maybe many people want to help, but they cannot afford not working. Of course, it is a privilege, I tell you, everything is so unfair in life. I was very privileged, I was very fortunate with a loving family, with access to education to travelling, I learnt different languages and I studied many different things. And I think the least I can do is used these tools to do something nice and good, not only for myself. Myself and for others.” https://legalcentrelesvos.org/

Fabian from Switzerland, came to Lesbos in March 2017 to start a project  – “One happy family” The core idea is to provide facilities for refugees. “We started without a fixed idea of what we wont to do. We talked to refugees, locals, politicians, journalists, to see what exactly is needed. Besides legal rights, housing and medical care needs, they have nothing to do! Which is also a big problem … We started to build a community center together with refugees, decide what and how we want to do it, and later to also run it by them … We fight for humanity – expect us to win! No risk, no fun. Everything seems impossible until it’s done.https://ohf-lesvos.org/en/welcome/

Estelle, 27, from France is a co-director of Yoga and Sports for Refugees, which is now also part of One Happy family project.
She is organizing running trainings, swimming classes, boxing classes like taekwondo, kickboxing for women, self-defense classes for women, Yoga classes, fitness classes … ”We started this project because sports and yoga can really help mental health, for people staying in camps, to live in a peaceful environment. If we do not educate our children or the next generation about what is happening and why it is happening, it’s never going to change.” >https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=458563191343959

Lena from Lesbos island: “They try to convince us that we are war-logs, and by nature selfish … Otherwise, we will die sooner or later, that this is nature of our race. No, no, this concept totally fucked up our planet, this is how ‘they’ want people to think, and a majority do not use much brain, that is true, but I believe many young people want something different …” Lena runs a very popular restaurant where refugees and locals cook and serve. Half a million crossed Mikilini – the capital, so Lesbos also was a start-up group for setting up Pikpa camp, where 50,000 people went through since 2012. You can change things by doing things, and this change will be multiplied by other people, and so on.”

Lefteris from Ikaria
“I go to pick up plants usually in the morning, then I make a product. And in the afternoon, I have guided tours. I organize interpretive experiences, it’s about regenerative tourism, as I call it. So I’m trying to slow them down a little bit, and to get them in contact with the character of Ikaria, and if I manage to inspire some of them, I’m quite happy. So what I’m trying to do is to raise social and environmental awareness … Now we started a new project to renovate a refuge place on top of the mountain, as well as look after a hectare of land, since we want to prove that many different plants and endemic trees are growing up there. There are five times too many animals – goats and sheep – on the island, and shepherds are denying it … Not long ago, Ikaria was one of the most forested islands in the Aegean sea. Direct democracy, communalism and de-growths were the values of Ikarian people in the past, and we’re not even aware of it. One of the projects across the whole country is to develop society in line with these values…We (Lefteris and wife ) support other producers, our place is open for visitors, so we try to raise awareness about the idea of self-sufficiency.” Lefteris also spends time in his lab to implement old knowledge of using herbs. ” We know that natural substances when they are combined like it is done in nature, are completely different from doing concentrated substances synthetically or extracting substances and use them in high concentration.” As for many on the islands, specialization is actually having different types of knowledge which are related to the basic needs to live.” >>  Ikarian Footprints

Women coop on Ikaria island
Gabi came from Italy. “It was no coincidence that we founded the cooperative for women: Women on such small islands have very little opportunities to find a job, also because when the children are small, there is no kindergarten or other childcare, and the good thing about women cooperative is that you don’t have to work 8 hours a day, but everyone is able to contribute as much as she can, the salary depends on the working hours, not the month. So a housewife or a mother who raises her children can work on a flexible schedule. And women have more power, that is just the way it is.
What they do: it is a sweet shop, pie shop, food shop, with fruit products, coffee place … All done from local ingredients from neighboring farmers. 7 women, two of which foreigners, are running the coop. It started in November 2009
https://www.tasteikaria.com/?section=1923&language=en_US

Dimitris from Ikaria ”I came back because I made a deal with my wife that if we have a child, the child must grow up in a safe and healthy environment, which is not Athens. I think for example my child here on Ikaria from six years on goes alone to the town to the Square because everybody is checking what’s going on and looking at my child, as  I am looking for the well-being of other children. We do not have policeman here, we are doing the job by ourselves, always checking if everything is OK so the thieves don’t steal anything, because if the owner catches you, they hit you and the only way to survive this is to run to the police station, but we don’t have it here…” Dimitris has three diplomas and does many jobs. His big concern and activity is to study, explore, preserve and educate others about the Ikaria natural environment. He is a speleologist and knows over 40 caves in Ikaria. He is also in a rescue team. ”I do many things, because I don’t like to be bored … I try to show the nature, the beauty of the pictures to the locals especially … That’s why I do photography.”

Urania is a dedicated and native Ikarian. Her father opened the first tourist agency on the island, which upheld the values for sustainable tourism from the very beginning. “When we started the agency, I remember my mother saying we should do it in the way that will not spoil the island. I use my skills, art and knowledge in tourism …  All the aspects of our life come from aesthetics  Aesthetics has nothing to do with art only, it’s about how we choose the people around us, our environment, how we dress, what we eat. Aesthetics is also very much related to harmony, and harmony is based on the human proportions. The purpose is to be in balance, and in that case we never go against the natural flow of energies. Aesthetics will make us better, will make us happy, because according to our taste, we choose our partner or our lifestyle, a glass of wine we enjoy, and finally, this is the meaning of life. But we don’t pay much attention to aesthetics. We have to train children to watch, to observe, and make their own choices.  For me, this is the beginning of one’s personality. It all has to do with our lower instinct, but if we don’t use aesthetics, we cannot be the master of our instinct logic and soul. Brain and soul,  it is these two potentials that we have to balance. We must respect our contribution to, or our existence in the universe, and not try to force the change of the rules, because then it’s really toxic and catastrophic. Aesthetics is about the big chapter. It is a big part of philosophy. This canbe applied philosophy in life, this is the key to make us open windows, to see things differently , to re-estimate our position as humans, as individuals, smaller groups, as well as people as part of the universe. Dolihi Tours, Urania Mytika

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