Filothei Skitzi Strapping girl 2021
Yesterday was Greece’s version of Independence Day, in their case the day the War of Independence from the Ottoman empire started in 1821. Unfortunately, it was so brutally cold -for Greece, that is, at 0ºC- that festivities were “dampened”. Moreover, due to Covid restrictions, people were barred from attending the traditional military parade (due to 1821, and having Turkey as a neighbor, many Greeks still love having an army) in the streets of Athens.
The only ones “allowed” to watch the parade were now the likes of Prince Charles and his
horse wife, plus some ambassadors etc. While after almost 5 months of severe lockdown, and spring on the horizon, people really needed some relief in the form of a party. And a national party works best for that. Oh well, spring will come soon, and then soon after that, 39.9ºC. That’s where the weather service always seems to stop counting. It’s like the Y2K bug. A running gag.
I was re-reading the last things I wrote about the Monastiraki kitchen, November and December 2020, just to get back in the spirit, and to find things that I have already talked about, so as not to repeat myself. Cooking food is not the most exciting activity in the world by itself, to write about, or to film, as I always notice when I happenstance upon some TV cooking show.
What’s interesting about the social kitchen we run here is all the stories around it, not the cooking itself. I -and you, my readers- have been supporting this initiative for almost 6 years already, imagine that!. Many things have happened, many things have changed along the way, and wouldn’t you know, in the hardest time of all, the lockdowns that take everyone’s breath and life away, being involved in “the kitchen” -as we call it- feels better than ever.
It’s not just that the homeless need us more than ever before, though that is undoubtedly true, it’s also that the volunteers who work in the kitchen get even more of a sense of pride and self-worth from doing something that really changes human lives. Don’t underestimate the loss of pride, of having a goal in life, there are so many facets to this, of not being able to do your job for 5 months. And then to be able to contribute to helping the neediest people in your society, it gains a whole new meaning.
After a year of lockdowns, off and on, societies that have lived through them will irreparably change, even if the people that live in them, will not recognize that now. Most people still think of a return to “normal”. There will be no such thing. Once governments stop propping up businesses and workers financially, which they will have to, there will be a flood of unemployment and business closures. We will need a new “paradigm”, but that will take time.
Greece depends on tourism and hospitality to a much larger extent than most economies. And tourism won’t come back to former heights, this year or next. The virus is not gone, and vaccinating everyone will not solve the issue. Not that politicians and “experts” won’t pretend it will. Greece will win back some part of its tourism industry, but that risks bringing more virus into the country. And tourists, like the British, will be told not to come, by their own governments. Some “repair”, but far short of full.
So once the bars and restaurants open here, they are going to start firing people. The government is well aware of this, and talks about 100s of 1000s of job losses. This will happen everywhere, but in an economy so dependent on hospitality, much more. Summer will feel sort of okay, but after that, we will have many more clients in the Monastiraki kitchen. It’s as clear as day.
Filothei and I went to purchase €1,000 more in supermarket checks, from your donations, on Tuesday. She managed to spread the first €1,000 worth out over 3 months. Me, I like that she is aware of value, respect etc., but I also say sometimes that it’s alright to spend some money. For her, it‘s about every penny, every comma. But that has disadvantages as well: she spends so much time trying to get the best deal on everything that at some point I am sure that her time could be spent in a better way. And that people will understand that.
Example: the kitchen needs plates. We had a donation, 2 years ago, from a company that makes them, of 21,000 plates (they were misprints). We want, in industry terms, “bio-boxes”. As in, not plastic, but paper/cardboard. Those plates are now gone, and we need more. But these things are expensive, and Filothei thinks all donations should go to buying food. I agree, but at the same time, a social kitchen must do what it should do. I personally think some company should donate them to us, and they can put their logo on it, and feel good about supporting us, but in lockdown, no companies make any money. And we still need the plates.
We will buy maybe 6,000 of them soon, and pay maybe €600 for that, and yes, it’s not food, but it’s necessary. In these times, you can look at these companies’ websites, and their products, but most “bio-boxes” are for sandwiches, not hot meals. Yeah, entirely new issues for me too 😉 And all the companies are closed too, so it’s very hard to go check them out. That’s when you realize how crazy these times really are.
Other things we did this winter: we bought an umbrella. I told you the place where the cooking takes place is a little stone yard, with no roof. I also said we would pay the €200 for the umbrella with €100 from donations and I would pay the rest. And then it took 40 days, 30 phone calls, and people from the kitchen going there themselves, to finally get it. Welcome to the lockdown economy .
But isn’t it beautiful? It covers almost the entire yard. Yeah, again, it’s money not spent on food, but it’s needed nonetheless. It has been on several occasions already, and it will be there for years to come. Money well spent.
Another thing I bought is more facemasks, I paid for those myself, not from your donations. I don’t like the mandates for them much, with people wearing masks outside in the street, that doesn’t make much sense. But for the kitchen, with people working close together, and later handing out the food to the homeless, it does. Risk assessment. Only, wear the best ones then, why wouldn’t you? Why wear a sock on your face when you can get actual protection? These are FFP3 masks, in US terms that would be N95+, they have extra strips inside to connect them to your face, and their active ingredient is activated carbon, not salt. Why not do it well if you do it anyway?
Oh wait, that’s true, Filothei last week made 60 kilos (!) of lemon marmalade (which probably took 70 kilos of sugar) to hand out, because “the homeless need sugar and salt when it’s cold outside”.
We are up to 2 cookings a week at Monastiraki now, plus another one at Piraeus that depends on our staples to a large extent. And we’re not going to stop, or halt, or pause. Yes, the summer weather will relieve the pressure somewhat on the “immediate front”, but we need to look ahead too. The economic troubles won’t go away, and neither will the virus. And the people to be first hurt by that are always the same, the poorest, and their legions are growing. And that’s why we do what we do. This team is unbeatable. Despite all the police threats of fines and prison and what not, people always show up for “work”, and the food always gets delivered.
And we do it with love. Lots of it.
I’ll leave you with the same last paragraphs I’ve used the past few times when I wrote about the Monastiraki kitchen. You know how this works.
Most of you will know the drill of this by now: any Paypal donations ending in $0.99 or $0.37 go straight to the Monastiraki kitchen, while other donations go to the Automatic Earth -which also badly needs them. (Note: a lot of Automatic Earth donations also went to the kitchen this winter).
I dislike few things more than asking people for money, even though the Automatic Earth now runs primarily on donations, and there’s some sweet justice in that as well, in depending on people’s appreciation of what we do, instead of ad revenues.
But I cannot do this on my own right now. The Monastiraki kitchen will realistically need about €1,500 per month. I don’t have that to spare. So I’m calling on you. Unashamedly, because I know there is no reason to be ashamed of the cause.
I love all you people, and I’m sorry I can’t thank you all individually who have supported -and still do- the Monastiraki kitchen and the Automatic Earth all this time, and I ask you to keep on doing just that. The details for donations on Paypal and Patreon, for both causes, are in the top of the two sidebars of this site. Could not be much easier. If you’d rather send a check, go to our Store and Donations page. Bitcoin: 1HYLLUR2JFs24X1zTS4XbNJidGo2XNHiTT.
Love you. Thank you. This kitchen would not exist without you, these people would not get fed.
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