Sunday, May 1, 2016

Refugees I Know: A Fourth Graders’ Interview and an Optician’s Donation

This article is not about the riots in Greek detention camps or increasing tensions over the 53,000 migrants and refugees stranded in Greece, where unemployment is too high for them to find the work and aid they need, and some refugee babies do not seem to be not getting enough formula. I will not discuss the European Union’s controversial agreement with Turkey to send back migrants and refugees who arrive in Greece on smugglers’ boats from Turkey. I will not describe the bombing destruction of a hospital in Aleppo, Syria or the “near total collapse” of the ceasefire that has led to “one Syrian killed every 25 minutes” over 48 hours in the middle of last week. I will not focus on the Pope’s visit, along with the leaders of the Eastern Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Churches and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, to refugees at the Moria detention center on the island of Lesbos. You can learn about all of that in the news, if you haven’t already done so.

I want to focus on connections between ordinary human beings, the type of connections that give me and some of my new refugee friends hope for this world and our children’s future in it. I will tell you about some of the refugees from Syria whom I know because they were living in Chania, Crete, Greece since April 2014, and my interest in learning their story turned to concern about their needs and efforts to gather food and clothing for them. I will discuss several fourth graders’ interview with the refugees who are still here, and an optician’s generous gift of eyeglasses to one who needed them. I will emphasize the personal interactions, the talking and listening, learning and getting to know each other, that the world needs. All but one of my new refugee friends have now managed—after nearly two years of waiting, in some cases—to reunite with family in Germany or Sweden. But we will not forget each other.

The refugees I met in Crete were not trying to reach Greece. Having left Syria earlier, they set out from North Africa, bound for Italy and then Germany or Sweden on a dangerous route that is being revived now that the migrants’ path through Turkey, Greece, and the Balkans has been blocked. (For more on their story, see Greek Crisis, Summer 2015, Part 2: Syrian Refugees in Greece.) As humanitarian aid groups have said repeatedly, walls and prohibitions don’t stop migrants and refugees; they just turn them in a different, often riskier, direction. Thousands have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea since walls like the ones between northeastern Greece and Turkey, and between northern Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, have been erected to prevent land crossings. The children, mothers, and fathers I met were rescued from rusty wreck of a boat more than two years ago, before Europe had seen last year’s arrival of a million refugees.

My son’s fourth grade class was one of eight or ten elementary school classes in our area to receive a journalism association’s award for the article they based on their interview with some of the refugees I know. After helping to gather food and clothing for the refugees several times during the past two years, my son’s teacher came up with the idea for this project. She, another Greek mother, three of our children, and I spoke Greek and English with five of my new friends from Syria, including a boy my son’s age and his older brother, who had quickly picked up Greek in their two years here. The ten year old boy was proud to be one of the best students in his Greek elementary school class.

Although the children did not have enough time to overcome their shyness with each other before the Syrian boys left Greece with their mother to rejoin their father and older brother in Sweden, the Greeks and I certainly learned something from the refugees. The students and their teacher shared the refugees’ stories with the rest of their class, broadening the circle of multicultural understanding. The Greek children’s article was complimented and quoted at the journalists’ awards ceremony, bringing additional attention to the struggles of refugees in Greece.

Our children learned about the refugees’ efforts to escape war in their country, where people were being shot and bombed. They heard about the refugees’ difficult boat journey, on which one man died trying to jump from one vessel to another in rough seas that knocked the boats together to crush him when he fell. They discovered that the refugee father sought a job, while the children wanted schooling, so the teenager could become a dentist. They saw the boys’ drawings of a home and school which they wanted to share with their brother, who was far away in Sweden. The learned that these children longed for a normal, safe home and school like the Greek children have. This father wants that for his family, from whom he has been separated for one and a half years. He should not have had to wait so long for the appointment with an embassy that will allow a reunion with his wife and small daughters. As he told me that reunion had finally been scheduled, my friend broke into the first smile of radiant joy I’ve ever seen on his face.

After the interview, that father told me he had consulted my ophthalmologist about his persistent headaches, and she had prescribed new glasses for him, as well as a test she would arrange for him. He said he did not have the money to pay for the glasses and asked if I could help. I couldn’t promise to do so, since I’d already asked so many people to donate money, food, and clothing for refugees and others in need in the last two years that I didn’t know if I could come up with the price of glasses. However, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask the optician in our village of Kounoupidiana, near Chania, whom I’d visited a number of times; he’d always been helpful with repairs as well as new glasses.  

I was hoping Petros Andreadakis would offer a very good price on new glasses for my refugee friend, and I was absolutely delighted when the optician offered to cover the costs and service completely! He even thanked me for giving him the chance to help. This is the type of Greek generosity that inspired a Nobel Prize nomination petition, and the sort of kindness we need to see more. As Petros’s assistant and I chatted with my friend and his Syrian friend, who has lived in Chania for decades, Petros fixed my friend’s new glasses. Then he checked and adjusted their fit and provided a case and cleaning cloth. If you are in the Chania area and need glasses or sunglasses, please look for Petros Andreadakis at Aristotelous Street # 3 in Kounoupidiana, just a few doors down from the stoplight and across from a large gas station. (Petros and his assistant both speak English.) Let’s support those who are ready to help people in need.

If Pope Francis can take twelve Syrian Muslims back to Rome, why can’t other Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others welcome more refugees of different faiths into their communities as well? During this, the worst humanitarian disaster since World War II, more people need to fully understand, as the pope does, that “migrants, rather than simply being a statistic, are first of all persons who have names, faces and individual stories.” Children should have no reason to give the pope drawings of other “children drowning in the sea.” As Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox Christians, said,The Mediterranean Sea should not be a tomb.” But the more migrants are pushed away from land routes by walls, fences, and agreements, the more they seek more dangerous routes, such as the one between North Africa and Italy on which 500 children, women, and men are reported to have drowned recently.

As Orthodox Easter and May Day approached, the sun grew too hot for many of our wildflowers. Most of them are drying up, although many of the irrigated garden flowers have begun to flourish. I admire the perfect pink, white, and red rosebuds, the brilliant fuchsia bougainvillea, the bright red geraniums, the new pink and white oleander, the fragrant yellow and white honeysuckle. I can still pluck some eucalyptus leaves from neighborhood trees and fold them to release their aroma, and I know where to find enough wild and escaped flowers (including wild carrot, shrub verbena, and nasturtiums) for late spring bouquets. I send photos of some of them to my refugee friends in Germany, where their children are in school, and a kind American friend of mine has helped them settle in. I am thinking about the world’s refugees, and especially the refugees I know, today, as I prepare to join an Orthodox Easter celebration here in Greece.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Greek Liquid Gold: Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil in Crete and Athens

Cretan Olive Oil Champions 

Three weeks ago, on a rare solitary drive beyond Crete’s Souda Bay, I climbed and descended hills on curving roads bordered by towering dark green pine, cypress, and eucalyptus trees, clusters of reeds and plane trees near riverbeds, brilliant yellow acacia trees, and light green emerging spring leaves. I passed olive groves stretched out below mountains and long beaches lying next to a deep blue sea. I sped along under a bright blue sky decorated with billowy cumulus clouds in varying shades of white and grey. Every time I drive from Chania to Rethymno, I am so impressed by the scenery that I must fight off the desire to stop and photograph the view.

I continued on my way to the 2nd Cretan Olive Oil Competition awards ceremony in Rethymno, which turned out to be a combination of the ceremony I expected and a short conference about olive oil production, marketing, and quality analysis. My limited Greek left me with only a general idea of the points being made, but I was struck by the way the judges and panel leaders represented a cooperation between Greeks (such as International Olive Council trainer of olive oil tasters Effie Christopoulou) and Italians (especially agronomist, olive cultivation expert, and consultant Antonio Lauro) in the olive oil sector. 

I also understood that the judges praised this year’s considerable improvement over last year’s extra virgin olive oil samples (in the first Cretan Olive Oil Competition). In fact, the judges were so impressed by the quality of this year’s samples and the very small differences among the best oils that they decided to award a number of honorable mentions. Since I have not seen the full results of the 2nd Cretan Olive Oil Competition announced anywhere in English, I list all the winners, including honorable mentions, below this article.

Before the awards ceremony, the governor of Crete, Stavros Arnaoutakis, and the mayor of Rethymno, Giorgos Marinakis (who’s also president of SEDIK, the Association of Cretan Olive Municipalities), emphasized the importance of the “brand name” of Crete and the Cretan diet. While I’d never thought of these as “brand names” before, the governor and the mayor had a point: these words could be used that way, especially since the Agronutritional Cooperation and the Region of Crete have begun certifying certain high-quality locally grown produce and traditional products with the Quality Label “CRETE.”

The mayor discussed the need to forge more links between tourism and Cretan cuisine and products, so tourists taste and purchase more local products such as olive oil. I’ve heard this argument before, and it seems self-evident to me: Greece has wonderful fresh, local agricultural products and foods which all my non-Greek visitors rave over. Tourists’ discoveries of incredible food and drink here should carry over into a desire to take some of that home with them, and then to import it to their home country. This would benefit everyone: tourists would have excellent healthy products, they would help improve the struggling Greek economy, and they could introduce their family and friends to Greek products as well as sharing stories about Greek beaches and archaeological sites.

Food Expo Greece

The day after my trip to Rethymno, I woke before dawn—not an easy feat for me--for an early flight to Athens and a day-long visit to the Food Expo that was conveniently located a short shuttle bus ride from the airport. It was my first visit to a major trade fair, aside from book publishers’ exhibits at the large literature conferences I attended back when I was still an English professor in the U.S.A. The Food Expo’s scale was impressive, with its 55,000 visitors from 55 countries and more than 970 Greek and international exhibitors, including 153 exhibiting olive oil—my main interest, as an Olive Oil Times correspondent covering the event and manager of the Greek Liquid Gold: Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil Facebook page.

Wandering around the 55,000 square meter Metropolitan Expo site, I must have covered many American football fields’ worth of territory that day, from the Oenotelia international trade fair for wine and spirits to the Mediterranean Food Experience with its exhibits of products from different regions of Greece, its group of white-clad chefs tasting the dishes prepared below and projected on a movie-theater-sized screen, and its audience listening to interviews and enjoying samples.

I spent most of my time meeting with dozens of olive oil businesspeople, talking with them and sampling their extra virgin olive oils, as well as small appetizers, snacks, and vinegars. Many were excellent, but I think my favorite sample was the chocolate mousse with olive oil offered by E-LA-WON. I never would have guessed chocolate and olive oil made such an incredible combination, but try it with a really good extra virgin olive oil, and you’ll see how amazing it is. E-LA-WON’s luxury olive oil with bits of real edible gold flakes floating in the liquid gold of the oil was also visually and conceptually striking, although I didn’t get to taste it.

It was exciting to see such a vibrant illustration, at the Food Expo, of what motivated Greek businesspeople can do, even in the midst of a continuing economic crisis. Everyone I talked with offered high-quality products in attractive containers, and they spoke with confidence about their contacts with international buyers. Moreover, many simply seemed like nice people to talk with. Forget the stereotypes of lazy Greeks and Greek inefficiency; I saw the opposite at the bustling, well organized Food Expo. This is not an advertisement; it’s the truth.

Before I came to Greece with my PhD in English and my love of photography, I was more interested in academics and artists than businesspeople. But since I have started learning and writing about the Greek olive oil industry, I have come to understand that good, conscientious businesspeople, including talented marketers and designers as well as intelligent olive oil bottlers and exporters, can do a great deal to help the hard-working producers of olive oil earn a fair living. Together, all of these people can—and should--help the Greek economy recover, if the end product is a high-quality item that is marketed well to bring the price it deserves.

Overall, I found the Food Expo an invigorating, encouraging sign of hope for Greece, its people, and its economy. And I hope the foreign buyers there will order a lot from their Greek contacts. As Philippe Poli of Philippos Hellenic Goods told me, just "like you have different wines, you can have different [olive] oils each day, sold together in a shop." Hear, hear, international buyers! Order a wonderful assortment of Greek extra virgin olive oils, and offer your customers impressive health benefits as well as excellent tasting oils. Individual consumers can either ask their local supermarkets and gourmet stores to order Greek olive oils, or go to companies’ websites to order. (See the Greek Liquid Gold Facebook page for links to many of these websites.)

Return to the Cretan Spring

It was refreshing to return from the vicinity of the Athens airport to the blossoms, blue sea, and sky of the Cretan spring, but we were hit by the worst dust storm I’ve ever seen a day later. It blew out the large plate glass window on our elementary school patio, so school was dismissed early. In place of our view of the Mediterranean sea, hills, and mountains we saw a strange gray-orange haze of African dust.

By the end of that week, however, we could once again enjoy the calm touch of a Greek island spring and the extensive  array of Cretan wildflowers in and around my neighborhood: giant fennel rising like little trees from a feathery light green base to spherical clusters of golden yellow florets at the end of multiple branches; Cretan rock roses with five delicate pink crepe paper petals surrounding a miniature sun; the soft lavender spikes of thistles above their treacherously sharp leaves; my beloved fuschia field gladiolas beneath the tiny white blossoms of olive trees; bizarre little pink tongue orchids between the trees; and radiant gold and white crown daisies bordering roadsides. Ah, spring in Crete! A few tourists are here, but most will miss this season’s beauty. More should come early, so they don’t miss the wildflowers!

Winners and Honorable Mentions at the 2nd Cretan Olive Oil Competition

In two categories, conventional and organic

Conventional Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Gold ELEA (or “olive”): Liokarpi PDO, a Koroneiki monovarietal (that is, an extra virgin olive oil made only from the Koroneiki variety of olives, the most common type of olives in Crete) from Emmanouil Protogerakis Sons

Silver ELEA: Omega, a Koroneiki/Tsounati blend from Kardia Food

Bronze ELEA: Toplou Sitia, a Koroneiki from Biokalliergites Sitias

Honorable Mentions (all but one Koroneiki monovarietals)
Amphorae from AS Messaras

Plora – Prince of Crete and Euripidis Messara PDO from Euripides AE

Cretan Prince from Botzakis

Drop of Gods from Bio Kritika Elaiolada Mon. EPE

Crete Gold PDO Kolymvari from Kreta Food EPE

Kakoulaki from Kyralaki Theonymphi

Extra Partheno Elaiolado Assargiotakis from Assargiotakis Ioannis

Kreta Koumadorakis Olive Noel, a Tsounati from Kreta Koumadorakis Olive Noel

Terra Zakros from Nikolaos Ailamakis

Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Gold ELEA: Liokarpi Bio, a Koroneiki from Emmanouil Protogerakis Sons

Silver ELEA: Kardia Tsounati, a Tsounati from Kardia Food

Bronze ELEA: Kardia Koroneiki, a Koroneiki from Kardia Food

Honorable Mentions (all Koroneiki monovarietals):

Terra Creta Organic from Terra Creta

Toplou Sitia Bio from Biokallergites Siteias AE

Evlogia from Biokritika Elaiolada Mon. EPE

Oliviennos from Olivos Gourniezakis Ioannis & Sia EE

Ladi Bio from Tsouderos EPE

For more photos, olive oil news, recipes, and information, including links to articles about the health benefits of olive oil and the websites of award-winning Greek extra virgin olive oils, see this Facebook page: Greek Liquid Gold: Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Farmers’ Roadblocks and Refugees’ Walls

Refugees Unwelcome

As of yesterday, the cessation of hostilities in Syria seemed to be mostly successful, insofar as violations were quickly contained by a “crisis group” rather than leading to an escalation of attacks, according to U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura. This raises hopes that peace negotiations could resume, although it remains unclear whether the real peace that shattered country needs is possible in the face of such factors as Russian and American disagreements over the definition of “terrorist,” various powers’ differing goals, beliefs, and allegiances, and arguments about who has committed war crimes in Syria.

Two of my new Syrian refugee friends recently joined their family in Germany. Now there is just one father in Crete, far from his wife and two young daughters, as well as one mother with two sons here, while her husband and eldest son wait in Sweden. My friends emphasize that Islam is about peace and love. They say Daesh (ISIS) is “crazy” and “the opposite of Islam.” Shams emphasizes, “Mohammed told us you cannot kill anybody—not even an insect.” He appreciates President Obama’s visit to a mosque and wishes all the world’s leaders would visit mosques to show that Islam is not equivalent to Daesh. Now he feels like most of Syria is stuck in the middle, between equally crazy Daesh and Assad, and he fears “all the people like us in the middle will die.” I am relieved that these families, at least, now live in relative safety—although that is not true of their parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews, who are still in Damascus and Aleppo, lacking electricity, struggling to buy food, and fearing bombs. What shocks me most is that children still live in Syrian cities and walk between the shells of bombed buildings. Have you seen the videos?

Meanwhile, Europe squabbles over which refugees should go where and whether borders should be closed to prevent the entry of migrants. Even the appearance of unity is gone as increasing numbers of countries follow Austria in introducing more border controls and limitations, and the whole concept of open European borders comes into question. Turkey finally seems to be taking some action to stop the people smugglers who have pushed thousands of refugees to their deaths by drowning. However, refugees continue to make their way across the sea to the easternmost islands of overwhelmed, underemployed, crisis-stricken Greece.

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) allows refugees to leave Greece only by the dozen, so 20,000 to 25,000 are now stuck in Greece—a number expected to double or triple in the coming weeks, since another thousand arrives daily. Who could really believe that it’s a good idea for Greece to become a giant refugee camp or “parking lot” for migrants, with 25% unemployment after years of economic crisis? Who could believe it’s a good idea for refugees and migrants to wait in cold mud without adequate food or shelter, as 7,000 are now at Greece’s northern border?

In “The Syrian exodus,” Nikos Konstandaras writes, “The EU has faced the refugee crisis with its usual lack of purpose. After pretending that there was no problem, it took half-hearted measures which forced each country to deal with the flood of refugees and migrants as it could (or as it wished). In Greece we see the usual marriage of state inadequacy and self-sacrificing volunteers.” Outside Greece, according to Ivan Krastev, “everybody is trying to stop the refugees before they reach their borders.” Too many have grown tired of the “Refugees Welcome” ideal. But where are the refugees supposed to go? A few countries can’t provide their only welcome. It is time for wealthy countries that have not yet provided many homes to offer far more of them, in the USA, Canada, Europe, the Arabian Peninsula, and elsewhere.  


The Same Old News in Greece

Lately, I’ve been reading the all-too-repetitive news about Greece with a sinking feeling. Yet another government is failing to satisfy yet another overseers’ review of yet another loan program that seems to bring still higher taxes, still more fruitless austerity, still less hope for improvement after years of economic crisis. Although changes are likely after more than a month of protesting farmers’ tractor blockades of roads and meetings with the prime minister, the taxes and pension and insurance contributions proposed earlier for the self-employed and farmers could take away 69% to 84% of those workers’ income—leaving what to live on? No wonder the leftist-rightest coalition government faced more widespread protests than ever, with farmers, fishermen, freelancers, and professionals adding to the pressure felt and provided by refugees, pensioners, the unemployed, and Greeks unable to repay their loans.

In “Want smokes for 1.50 euros? Greeks lose millions of tax on bad habits,” Bloomberg’s Nikos Chrysoloras implies that the Greek government would rather increase taxes on the self-employed and farmers and even cut pensions than combat smuggling and tax evasion in cigarettes, fuel, alcoholic drinks, and online gambling—which could bring in more than enough money to avoid pension cuts. We are still waiting for the crackdown on large-scale tax evasion by the wealthy that Alexis Tsipras and SYRIZA promised, but no Greek government has managed to deliver. A recent proposal seems to imply that the government believes any type of crackdown on tax evasion is so difficult that a 60% tax rate on incomes over 30,000 euros is preferable. Just tax, tax, tax those who already pay. Never mind how much it increases the brain drain and leaves Greece a land of the very poor and the very rich, minus much of its best talent.

Ironically, according to Stefanos Saronikos, all the new and increased taxes imposed on Greeks annually since 2010 have resulted in less revenue being collected each year, rather than more—8.1 billion euros less in 2015 than in 2010. In a recession, with high unemployment, reduced pensions, and excessive austerity, how are Greeks supposed to come up with the money to pay more tax? Only a small minority of Greeks is secretly rich these days; most are struggling. People earn less, consume less, evade taxes more, and move out of Greece if they can. As Saronikos argues, “the evidence suggests that tax revenues are not dependent on the level of rates, but on the state of the economy, the effectiveness of tax assessment mechanisms, even the psychology of the markets.” So the lower tax rates of 2006 brought the Greek state more tax income than the higher rates and new taxes of 2015. Taxing people to death (sometimes literally, in the case of suicides) is not the answer to Greece’s financial problems.
Greeks, migrants, and refugees are being pushed to the very edge. The question is, the edge of what? Desperation? Disaster? Europe? Greece’s border with Bulgaria saw long backups of vehicles due to farmers’ blockades and counter-blockades on the other side, putting more pressure on an economy already struggling under continuing capital controls as the flow of agricultural and commercial goods was disrupted. The border with FYROM has become a refugee camp where fences and restrictions lead Greece to wonder if it is being pushed out of Europe. Yesterday, desperate refugees broke through border fences, only to be repelled by FYROM police firing tear gas into a crowd that included children. Why not traumatize those children with more war-like responses while they’re at it?   


Hope Springs in Winter


In Greece, where everyday conversation begins with a fervent wish that we at least have our health—and the patience and courage necessary to keep going here--hope comes in small cupfuls. But at least it comes. Tassoula Eptakili explained how a new “’Suspended Coffees’ campaign revives [the] tradition of buying a brew for those less fortunate.” In many Greek caf├ęs, fast food restaurants, patisseries, butcher shops, and even some hair salons and pharmacies, it is now possible to pay for one’s own order, and also for someone else who may come in later, unable to pay, whether because she is homeless, impoverished, unemployed, retired, or a struggling student.

Students at the Delos School of Dramatic Arts made a short film about such transactions last November, and it went viral on the Internet, “spreading the word around Greece” about a grassroots initiative that follows up on what a homeless people’s group started earlier. That, in turn, continues a tradition that may have started a century ago in Naples, disappeared after World War II, and then resumed in various parts of the world, “with hundreds of businesses in 112 cities and towns in 17 countries registered for the scheme” now. What an excellent idea! 

Alexandra Kassimi writes that another Greek initiative offers online help to bullying victims aged 10 to 18. “Live Without Bullying” uses trained counselors and peers in a confidential, anonymous online discussion of children’s concerns with the goal of finding solutions to bullying problems online or at school, as well as educating teachers and children more generally. There is an endless supply of serious problems here in Greece, but there are also people with good ideas who make a positive difference here--and not only the hard-working volunteers in the eastern islands who have helped so many thousands of refugees, or those who have donated items to refugees and impoverished people all over Greece. Even in the face of crisis, Greeks tend to be generous, and their kindness can give people a reason to get up in the morning.

So can Greek natural beauty, for those fortunate enough to be in a position to enjoy it. Yesterday morning, I paused to listen to a medley of tweets, chirps, coos and other birdsong interspersed with bee buzzes. Other days, the roar of military planes or the neighborhood dog bark chorus overwhelms the migratory birds. (Or the paliatzis—the junk man--comes around, his old pickup truck’s loudspeaker droning a recording about collecting old things.) But yesterday, before the powerful winds full of African dust sprang up to whip dirt into my eyes in the afternoon, the birdsong prevailed. I seldom see the little creatures who must hide in the trees and bushes, but occasionally a quick flying form or two flits across my field of vision. These days, I hear them around me when I open the windows or wander among the wildflowers and low, thorny wild bushes and herbs on hillsides above the sea.

There are flowers, but no promising new movement, in Greece’s early spring. This time of year, the siren colors of the wildflowers seduce me, and I cannot manage to walk briskly for long. I set out for my aerobic exercise, but the wild orchids, herbs, cistus, and daisies draw me to them, and I cannot resist their fuchsia, lavender, white, or yellow enticement. I stop to photograph the most striking blossoms, pick a few of the common blooms, share them with neighbors, and receive a bag full of a neighbor’s fresh, sweet lemons in return.

Afterwards I wonder how I lost an hour. But it wasn’t lost. My favorite grade school English teacher, Mrs. Sullivan, used to tell me to stop and smell the flowers. Here in Crete, at the height of our wildflower season in February, there are plenty to smell. (I counted 45 species in one outing.) Even when our winter doesn’t feel as warm as spring, as most of it did this year, May Day should come to Crete much earlier with its bright wreaths of flowers. Tourists should also come to Crete earlier. It’s already lovely and still peaceful here, in spite of the country’s problems.