The first relaxation of the Greek lockdown is already more than two weeks old. After six weeks of sending text messages, we are allowed to ‘go out’ again. ‘Stay home’ has changed to ‘stay safe’: wash your hands, keep your distance and wear a mask. I make two of a few old duvet covers for Ron and me. They are not mandatory in most places, but highly recommended. We’ll watch what the Greeks do and adjust our behavior accordingly.
It only takes one day in the local supermarket. Then the ladies hang up their mouth masks again. Reportedly they do not find it necessary as long as we are ‘among each other’, i.e. on an almost completely isolated island with still zero confirmed corona infections. When the tourists arrive later, they will put on their mouth masks, because that’s who they are afraid of.
A study published today in the Greek media shows that they are not alone. A large majority of Greeks do not appreciate an uncontrolled influx of tourists. We are fortunate that we arrived in this port weeks before the Corona outbreak and that the residents of Ormos do not see us as a threat. When we visit a few shops in Marathokampos, the village above Ormos, we sometimes come across skittish looks. ‘Tourists’, an old Greek woman calls to her neighbors and she stares at us with a dubious look. More than ever, I do feel like a tourist, a stranger, an outsider, an intruder at those moments.
How will that be if we can continue sailing again? What will our wandering life look like then? What will be left of the Greek cordiality and hospitality? How will it be in other countries? Where can we sail and where is it fun to be? We read horrifying stories of sailors who have gotten into trouble all over the world. They are anchored in unsafe places, are not allowed to go ashore to get supplies or – sometimes even at gunpoint – are sent back to open sea. Everywhere there is a fear that these sailing strangers will carry the infamous virus.
On Facebook there is a message from the Greek City Times about two migrants on Lesbos who have tested positive for the Coronavirus. My stomach turns when I read the comments below. “Send them back” is one of the friendlier responses. People would rather see them ‘sinking into the ocean’ or simply ‘shot to death’. When it comes to the spread of the Coronavirus, these immigrants also prove to be perfect scapegoats.
If everything goes well, we can sail again in a few weeks, but what kind of xenophobic, anxious and suspicious world will we be sailing towards? Will measures like social distancing ensure that we will soon all be strangers to each other? Or are we getting used to these new circumstances and will there be a new balance in a new world?