Unreal

Perhaps there will be war with the Turks, the Greek fisherman whispers. We are having a drink with our neighbors, Ruud and Annette, and Yannis has also joined. Sometimes Turkish jets fly over Samos. Sometimes we see Greek soldiers driving around the island. Erdogan has opened the borders for refugees who want to go to Europe. The situation around the camps on Lesbos and Chios escalates almost immediately. The situation on Samos is also unsettled. It is forbidden to sail here. We are stuck on our sailing yacht Coco in what appears to be a war zone, but we don’t notice much of it here in Ormos Marathokampou. Sometimes there’s a silent witness on the beach: a disheveled life jacket. Empty. Lifeless. Unreal.

Wall painting in Ormos Marathokampou

But none of that seems important now. It doesn’t even seem to exist anymore. We have a new enemy: the Coronavirus. Silently it has crept into our lives. At the beginning we laugh about it. We laugh at the Greek neighbor who no longer wants to shake our hands. We have a drink with our neighbor Marie and the 82-year old Greek Manolis, who still shakes hands at goodbye. But our laughter – and that of the Greeks – quickly dies.

Little church in Marathokampos

The street are getting quiet. Even the church services have been canceled. The first tentative preparations for the new tourist season stop as abruptly as they started. The one and a half tavern that was still open here is now also closing its doors. Four fishermen are chatting on the empty terrace. Each at an angle. At a safe distance. The lady working in the supermarket is wearing gloves. Next day the lady from the bakery also is.

Fortunately, there is no hoarding in our local minimarket yet. Although strangely enough, the stock of spirit, which has just been replenished and is the fuel for our stove, does disappear like snow in the sun. Later I find out why at the bakery. After paying, the baker hands me a bottle of it. The Greeks are using this as an antiseptic hand gel.

Alleyway in Marathokampos

The woman from the pharmacy in Marathokampos is angry. She dutifully works here alone in her village pharmacy every day. Yesterday Prime Minister Mitsotakis thanked everyone for helping to fight the virus, but he forgot the pharmacists. Ron tries to still give her the recognition she deserves. A faint hint of a smile appears behind her mouth mask.

I wonder how the already shaky Greek health care system is supposed to deal with this crisis. In the Greek hospitals face masks are already out of stock, causing doctors and nurses to become ill en masse. This while the number of infections in Greece is still lagging behind the rest of the world.

Walking along Kampos beach

Meanwhile, I compulsively scroll through the news on my phone hour after hour looking for clarity that can’t be found. We are no longer allowed to sail. The ports are closed. We should stay home as much as possible. Life is on pause and no one knows when we can press ‘play’ again. This is not the adventure we were looking for. It is more like a chapter on war and bubonic plague escaped from a history book. Surreal. Unreal.