After ICU

It felt like a bad dream: When the last drops of chemotherapy #11 entered my mother’s veins, she was unable to breath. They immediately put a tube with oxygen down her throat and put her in induced coma. She stayed in the IC,U fighting for her life, with a body that had almost exploded from the side effects of the chemotherapy. Four days later, she bounced back and was transferred to a regular hospital room to recover. Her body was extremely weak but her spirits were high. Her determination to live and become well were even higher: she started  exercising in her bed, just one day after she exited the ICU!

I can only express respect, admiration and lots and lots of emotions seeing her weak but alive and kicking again…

 

 

Parallaxis: 3 years on

Parallaxis, which is all about assisting, pro-bono,  people in their career transitions,  celebrates 3 years already. My drive to set it up was to add a brick into other people’s lives when they ask for it; through that, not only they would learn and develop but also myself. At a deeper level, Parallaxis is a way of leaving something behind as my personal contibution to the world, by influencing/impacting – even if it is a tiny bit – others, the so called Recipients.

Parallaxis3

I didn’t know what to expect when I started off Parallaxis. But I can say that it has been and continues to be  a most fulfilling experience! And of course, I wouldn’t have been able to do it all on my own if it wasn’t for the amazing Givers: professionals/ friends/ people from my network that offer – passionately and unconditionally – their time, knowledge, experience, when I reach out to them,  to also help out the various Receivers in their development journey. It is great to see so many people who want to change their lives and so many others who are willing to give, not for money, but for the sake of doing good,

You might wonder: How many have been touched 3 years on? Below are some “hard” statistics:

  • Receivers: 80 people
  • Ages served:  Minimum 20, Maximum: 61
  • Average hours spent with each Receiver : 4,75
  • Nationalities and/or countries of residence:  : 20+ across 5 continents (no Antarctica yet!)
  • Industries: 20+ ranging from Private to Public sector across a variety of functions

My aspiration is,  with the help of Receivers and Givers, to be offering The Parallaxis  extraordinary journey for many years to come!

P.S: If you want to get more information about Parallaxis (and forward it on to potential Receivers) you can either contact me or read (and upload) the pdf file on: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joanna-kouna-5837a52

The power to Ctrl+Alt+Delete

Coronavirus changed our lives in an instant. It’s as if a huge finger pressed Ctrl+Alt+Delete over our world and erased our life screens. It deprived us from things we love to do/see/touch. It changed our habits and attitudes. At the same time, it showed us what an amazing power each one of us has in our hands: we are now aware that, if any one person gets infected and left uncontrolled, he/she can infect others with such a multiplier effect that the entire world will be infected! Isn’t it amazing that one person has the power to have such a dramatic impact on the entire world?

kennedy

Oh! Since one person can make such a difference,  what if each one of us, made use of this powerful multiplier effect to create impactful, positive things? Instead of infecting, to influence and change the world! To stand up for the planet, animals, people!

We need to do it in a pragmatic way; we need to restart our hard disks by doing our personal “Ctrl-Alt-Delete” :

 – Control our fears; don’t let them paralyze us,

  – Alt: Pause, reflect, ask ourselves: how can I change my day-to-day ways of doing things and have a domino effect on the world inside and around me?

 – Delete: Erase all those personal beliefs and attitudes that prevent us from making the world a better place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Covid-19 corporate event

Deepa

When I received, via  Whatsapp, an invitation from an Indian Parallaxis contact, to  attend, via zoom, a corporate  event with a lady called Deepa Malik, I did not know what to expect.  The event – a zoom speech with questions and answers – was organized for the Indian dealers, distributors and employees of my contact’s company. They, like most of us,  are facing difficult times and immense challenges at the professional and personal front.

What I found trully amazing was that although this was a corporate event, the idea was not to talk business, finances or covid-19 statistics; it was to inspire people by hearing, first-hand, the remarkable life of Deepa Malik- who turned her numerous hardships  into unique achievements and became an example for the world! Most of us, with a split of the adversities that she has encountered, would have fallen to the ground and never stand up again! In my view, her story and stance to life, is food for thought that we need now more than ever: now that we have the opportunity to reflect and set new priorities for our lives.

Oh! How I wish more companies could organize inspirational activities like this one with the aim to create more balance in the world and shift their focus and the people’s mindset  away from just Profit and Consumerism!

Do read more about this exceptional human being :  www. deepamalik.com. Below are a few highlights:

  • At the age of 29 she was diagnosed with spinal tumor, underwent several operations and eventually was left paralyzed from the waist down.  During the time of her operation, her husband was fighting a war in Kargil between India and Pakistan.
  • To survive as a mother of two young daughters, she managed a catering business for 7 years; her eldest daugther was born with hemiplegia
  • At the age of 36 (!!!) she decided to pursue a career in sports. She became a swimmer, biker, an athlete and an adventure sports icon. Once she started she was trully unstoppable: she has won 18 international metals (and many national ones) and got many awards. She is the first Indian woman (in a country of 1,2 bln people) to win a Paralympics  medal in Rio 2016 in Shot Put. She is currently world number one in javelin sport.  She is also doing a lot of work to support people with disability… And she goes on and on…

 

P.S: This post is dedicated to my friend Donald from The Netherlands, who is also wheel-chair bound and has been my hero for many years now 🙂

 

Word of the Year 2020

If I was asked to give my vote for the “Word of The Year” 2020 I would vote for the word:

Asymptomatic

Although it is a greek word, it is only since coronavirus started dominating our lives, that I learned that the word “asymptomatic” is used in medicine to describe a patient who is a carrier for a disease or infection but experiences no symptoms.

Asymptomatic carriers could be anyone of us and as long as there is no cure/vaccine, the virus they carry is invisible, it attacks with no mercy, no exception, no notice. It kills not necessarily the asymptomatic person, but it contaminates and might kill someone who happens to pass by. Like, in the case of the very remarkable human being and beloved brother of my dear friend, who got infected by some unidentified asymptomatic patient, and died at the age of 57:

https://www.ekathimerini.com/251639/article/ekathimerini/news/eminent-scientist-theodore-papazoglou-dies-at-57-after-contracting-coronavirus

 

Hey chocolate lovers!

One of the effects of lockdown is that we not only cook more often but, many of us, also experiment with new recipes.  So, I thought of taking this opportunity to intrigue you to try a new recipe – a favourite of mine: a chocolate aubergine cake!

This might sound disgusting, but trust me: I have made it several times, it is easy to make, healthy and above all: it is delicious! The ingredients blend so well together, that make an irresistible cake! I encourage you to take the challenge and try it; if you do, I would love to hear your impressions 🙂

Chocolate Aubergine cake

Ingredients (4-6 persons):

  • 1 aubergine (200 grams)
  • 150 grams – dark chocolate
  • 25 grams – cocoa powder
  • 30 grams – ground almonds
  • 2 small eggs
  • 100 grams – honey
  • 1 tsp Grand Marnier, Cointreau or Curacao
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Preparation:

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Chop the chocolate in small pieces.
  • Take a baking tray (~ 20 cm in diameter), and place a sheet of grease proof paper on the bottom; lightly grease it with the olive oil.
  • With the help of a fork, make some holes all around the aubergine and place it in the oven. Take it out of the oven, when it is ready to peel off the skin. Once, peeled, mash the hot aubergine pieces with a fork; then mix the pulp with the chocolate. (If needed, put the pulp back in the oven to heat it). The hot pulp should melt the chocolate.
  • In the meantime, in a bowl, whisk together the cocoa, honey, almonds, eggs, liquer and a pintch of salt. Add the melted aubergine and  chocolate mix and stir well. Pour the mixture in the baking pan and bake for ~30 minutes.
  • Take out of the oven and let it cool for 15 minutes. Serve with fresh cream or yogurt beaten with  cocoa or stawberries. Simply enjoy it 🙂

 

They so inspire me

My parents belong to the “high risk” category for coronavirus: my mother (77) has cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy;  my father (81) has Alzheimer’s. Most people would fall into a depression if they had to face this situation. But not my parents! They have adjusted to the new circumstances and changed their daily routine so amazingly that they have become an inspiration to all of us that surround them:

Every day, they put on music and dance together:

My mother loves dancing – she has been taking dancing lessons for years. My father can’t wait to start dancing, as soon as he hears the music – it seems that Alzheimer’s patients respond extremely positive to music. My mother teaches my father some new steps every day. The days that she is too weak to dance, because of the chemo, she watches him dance and corrects his steps from the couch :-). My father goes on and on! They are both happy!

Every day, they take walks inside the house, since they cannot go out due to the quarantine:

They walk on separate paths and opposite directions: one from the kitchen, the hall and the living room –  the other one from the living room, dining room, kitchen and bedrooms. Along the way, they play hide and seek with each other! They so much enjoy themselves!

I talk to them every day, and hear their cheerful voices (with music on the background) – what a better way to charge my own batteries!

 

The forbidden ones…

BC (Before Coronavirus) there were things we did and phrases we used (for those things) that now, as we sit locked in our homes,- we no longer hear about them anymore; they sound forbidden:-

  •  See you on the weekend
  • What will you wear for dinner?
  • Where will you go on holidays?
  • How was your date?
  • I am going out tonight
  • The sea was wonderful. I swam for an hour!
  • I enjoyed the open kitchen of this restaurant!
  • I heard all about the life of the woman sitting in the table next to mine
  • I hate rush hours!
  • I can’t find him! I do not know where he is!
  • I do not have time!
  • I am going to the haidresser’s
  • Let’s go for a walk
  • Close your eyes and give me your hand
  • Give me five
  • Feel the softness of my blouse! I just bought it
  • I cut these flowers for you – here you are!
  • Give me a hug/ kiss
  • Let’s play musical chairs
  • Let’s meet for coffee and then go shopping
  • Come by my place for dinner or to chill out together
  • Come and visit; I’ll show you around my country
  • ….. and it goes on and on..

forbidden

 

 

In difficulties opportunities also hide

I love bread and I eat vast quantities of it, on a daily basis. Several times in the past, I had expressed the wish to make my own bread but different people I talked to, had discouraged me: it’s too difficult, you need a special machine to do it, you lose your time, etc…

But with the restictions we have with the coronavirus, it has become harder and harder not only to go out but also to find the type and quality of bread I like to eat. So, I decided to finally try to make it myself.

I searched in the internet for “easy bread recipes”. After reading a few, I realized that it is really easy and fun. To start with, I chose to make a flat, ciabatta type of bread. All and all, it took about an hour from start to end!

While it was baking, my entire house smelled like a world class bakery. As the smell penetrated my nostrils, it was hard to withhold my saliva. Like the Pavlov dogs, I was walking up and down my kitchen, in front of the oven, counting the minutes to get it out. When the bread was ready, I ate half of it in a couple of minutes! Oh! Nothing beats a warm bread accompanied with feta cheese…

In the coming days, I plan to experiment with different recipes trying out  combinations of different ingredients (types of flours, seeds, yeast, soda, olive, etc). One thing is clear: from now on, I will be making my own bread living or not living in coronavirus conditions!

Oh! I am glad that I finally made the step! After all, isn’t it true that in difficulties opportunities also hide?

 

“And People Stayed Home”

A poem by Kathleen O’Meara written in 1869:

And people stayed home

and read books and listened, and rested and exercised

and made art and played, and learned new ways of being

and stopped and listened deeper

someone meditated, someone prayed, someone danced,someone met their shadow

and people began to think differently

and people healed

and in the absence of people who lived in ignorant ways, dangerous, meaningless and heartless,

even the earth began to heal

and when the danger ended and people found each other,

grieved for the dead people and they made new choices and dreamed of  new visions

and created new ways of life and healed the earth completely, as they have been healed

 

My guide in self isolation

I am reading that:

Nelson Mandela spent a total of 27 years in jail. Of those, the first 18 he was confined to a small cell without bed or plumming. He was forced to do hard labour in a quarry. He could write and receive a letter once every six months and once a year he was allowed to meet with a visitor for 30 minutes.

lockdown

 

And I am thinking:

we are asked to self-isolate in the comfort of our homes to prevent the spread of coronavirus and we grumble. Our self-isolation has a very good reason, Mandela’s had none.

Mandela came out from this experience an even stronger and enlightened man. He is my guide…

 

 

 

Amid panic behaviour

Greece, like most countries is going through the coronavirus frenzy and taking extreme measures to tackle it. Such conditions create fear and panic and make people lose their common sense. Then they go to buy toilet paper as if there is no tomorrow. At least, in my view, toilet paper is not such a big deal – as long as we have enough water to shower and clean ourselves.

But when I went to the pharmacy to buy my parents monthly prescribed medication,  I realized how a “toilet paper buy all” panic driven behaviour, can be really damaging:

The pharmacist told me that one of my mother’s medications was sold out. Rumour was spread that the specific medication can cure coronavirus and everyone in panic mode, rushed to buy it. Amid these conditions, the pharmacist admitted that he had made a mistake and forgot to put the medication aside for my mother. As a result, he gave it away to someone with coronavirus panic attack . “I have tried to re-order it, but the supplier told me that it is sold out and they do not know when it will be available again. I am sorry..” he told me.

Panic

I freaked out; my mother needs to take her medicine without interruption, especially now that she is going through chemotherapy sessions. I wanted to shout, to cry. I felt this was the end. But I am someone who doesn’t give in. “I will not let panic dominate me!”  I told myself.  I am also someone who doesn’t give up; not before I put my mind to think, act fast and exhaust all options! So, I immediately put my mind to work: if here in Athens, people went in bulk and bought this medicine, maybe  people out in the countryside and the more remote villages have not done the same yet. They didn’t do it for the toilet paper, why would they do it for this medicine? I thought… And so, I called my friend in the village, in Epidavros, and told him the name of the pills and asked him to call the pharmacies in the nearby villages. A few minutes later he called me back. “I found it” he said! The following day he drove to Athens to ensure safe delivery!

Oh! My dear friends, this experience taught me not to panic and to instead keep my mind clear to find ways to tackle the challenge I face. And one thing for sure: until this crisis ends, we will have plenty more challenges coming our way…

 

The ring

We all agreed to cook something and take it to my mother’s house to have lunch. This would be our last lunch all together, before my mother’s chemotherapy sessions started. While sitting around the table, we focused our conversations on the food and the children; nobody talked about my mother’s health.

When we finished eating, my mother brought a small box and placed it on the table. It contained some jewelry. “I will not be wearing them now. You can have it” she said and started giving different pieces of jewelry to each one of us. She had pre-selected what she would give to whom. I was given a ring that looked like a flower with a pearl in the center. I remember my mother wearing it when she was going out for some formal occasion.

ring1

Although I do not like wearing rings, I promised myself to wear this one as it made me feel like I had a part of my mother with me. I started wearing it every day, but soon I realized that due to coronovirus and our regular visits to the hospital, I had to take the ring off  frequently to wash my hands. Every time I took it off, I was stressed not to forget it or misplace it somewhere. So, I started hiding it “well”, when I took it off. I also noticed that my mother wanted me to wear it. One day, she asked me: “How come you are not wearing the ring”? “I will when I clean my hands” I told her. “I protect it!”

A few days later, when I put the washing machine on to wash some clothes, I heard an unusual mettalic noise. I thought that some part of the machine had broken and I went closer to see what it was.

ring2

To my shock, I saw my mother’s ring spinning around, being washed together with my clothes! Oh! No! Not this ring!  I stood there waiting for the washing to end, watching the ring being stuck on the front of the door. At least, it wasn’t lost! Would the pearl fall apart? Will it be disfigured when I open the door? How useless I am not to be more careful with something that has such an emotional value for me. I felt deep sadness and frustration.

Well, my dear friends, it was a miracle that it was found and a bigger one that it came out intact. Now “my mother” is back on my hands and I hold her tight!

 

 

 

Our “arc de triomphe”!

The tractor broke down. Oh! the world of tractors and the people that surround them, they are alien worlds for me!

The broken tractor was taken to the ex-mechanic of the village  (turned fish farming employee!) to give his verdict, like a leader of a tribe would do. He dismantled the tractor and asked for the 3 different pieces that “created the problem” to be sent to “specialists” in Athens to have them repaired. After several weeks of waiting, the conclusion was that the central piece was beyond repair and that the tractor could be thrown away. Although I know nothing about tractors, I could have reached the same conslusion without the intervention of all these middlemen who just saw an opportunity to make some quick money out of someone’s despair – the end bill was ~ 1,200 euros for the work of the “specialists” plus giving away the tyres of the broken tractor to the ex-mechanic!

Since a farmer cannot live without a tractor, the next step was to look for a new one. In reality that means a used one, since a brand new tractor (with a minimum price of ~40,000 euros) is prohibitive for a small farmer. You can get a used tractor either from an agent who sells (used) agricultural equipment or directly from a private owner who wants to sell.

First stop was to visit the agents, who are known and easily available: one had such used-down tractors that I thought it was a joke that he was even selling them,  at ridiculously high prices! Another one, although he had his equipment all polished and attractive, we were – later on – warned and discouraged not to fall in his trap because this agent follows the principle: “what is nice on the outside is by no means a illustration of what lies inside the vehicle”. So, we gave up on the agents!

“You have to buy a tractor from a widow!” we were then told  “since her farmer husband is dead, she would want to sell it”! I am yet to figure out how to identify, name by name, “widows with tractors”… So, we gave up on this channel, too!

As a last resort, we started asking people in the villages whether they knew of any private persons who wanted to sell their tractors. (I could write one amazing story after the other, with everything we encountered). At the end, we found one that fulfilled our needs.

Exhausted and fed up with all the search, we instantly agreed on the price and started the paperwork to finalize the transfer. But I forgot that the world of tractors is not my world!

The owner and his servicing agent took weeks delaying every step of the process. When, finally, we went to the ministry of Transport to file the application, we asked the officer whether he sees any problem with it. He did: the licence was making reference to an obligatory arch that the vehicle should have on it for protection against falls. We asked the owner if he had this arch. He didn’t. The owner wanted to follow the easy and cheap solution: to bribe the officer and pass the arch problem to us, the new owners. Although we desperately needed the tractor, we reached our limit: we refused to buy it if the arch was not placed according to the specifications…

….It took strong nerves and more delay, but after almost two months, the tractor  was legally transferred with the “arc de triomphe” included.  :-). Below, my dear friends, is the march with the arch!

tractor

 

 

 

I put the ribbons on!

Our apricot trees are gradually waking up from their winter hibernation. To help them breathe and grow healthily, we first cut their old, long branches. This will give them room to  flower and to give us their delicious fruit, by June.

While our trees are following nature’s call and doing their unmistakable work, the birds and the other flying animals are also preparing eagerly to savour their fresh flower bulbs! This battle between the trees and the animals would be tackled, by  conventional agriculture, with chemicals and pesticides. But not us! Organic farming is all about doing things that do not harm people, the environment, the trees or the animals.

So, for the past few days, my job has been to do my share to protect – in a natural way – each one of our trees against the flying invadors: I used shiny, golden and silver ribbons that I tied around the branches of each tree. I did my job in the most meticulous way: I took care of the distances where I hung each ribbon and of the way they look from far away. Since the ribbons are light enough to move and make a sound with the slightest blow of the wind, I had to ensure that the end result would be a perfect choreography of hundrends of trees, combining the sound, movement and colour of their ribbons.

Oh! My dear friends, when I put the ribbons on, I felt proud…. proud like a mother, who prepares her daughters to go to a school performance by decorating their hair, over and over again, with colourful ribbons to make them the most beautiful!

Well, my friends, I guess that this is also the secret to what we do: we treat our trees like our children!

 

 

It’s all about values!

The message below is a copy of an e-mail that I received from a Greek friend whom I know since highschool and who lives in Scotland:

” On Sunday at 22:30, I took my dog out for a last walk before going to bed. We live in a small village (4 miles away from Aberdeen) with beautiful, well lit roads and woods all around. As we were walking in one of the roads, we suddenly saw many cars coming and stopping. Most of the drivers came out of their cars holding torches; they started searching in between the bushes, under the trees and all around the house gardens. I approached them. I was informed that someone had published on our village’s Facebook page that he saw, in the exact area that the search was taking place. a passing car hitting a cat.

All these people, had come out, in the cold, on a Sunday night, to look for this poor animal and help it! Among them, were two vets and a representative of the Aberdeen Animal Welfare Association. Also, a short while later, the police came and informed us that the cat had been found and transported to the nearest vet station for First Aid.

This incidence is from a different culture (to the Greek one): it’s about people that care about animals and act to help them, on a voluntary basis. During the 25 years that I live here, I have never  seen a dead dog or cat in the streets – I have seen rabbits, pheasants, and very rarely deer (my daughter hit one 6 months ago!). Even for these animals, people here take care to collect them from the streets so that they do not disintegrate (in the open air) where they died. Most importantly, people here, take measures to put signs, impove the lightning and distribute leaflets  to inform the residents of what happened and how to avoid such incidences happening in the future. It’s a different mentality, a more human and animal friendly culture.

I felt wonderful that, since I know you both (he refers to me and my sister), you dared – for Greek standards – to offer your help to the animals that were in need. And I felt wonderful that life has taught me these values next to you.”

cats

Oh! Μy dear friend, if you knew how your words came to me at the right moment:

In Epidavros, since the local residents and the municipality do not care about the hundrends of stray animals that suffer in the streets. I recently decided to take action:

I bought feeders which I placed outside my house to provide food (and water) to the stray cats of my neighbourhood. More than 30 cats come daily, my way! I also started sterilizing them – with my own money – by taking them to the nearest vet which is 40 kilometres away, one way!

One neighbour said to me: “Don’t you have anything better to do?” I said nothing to him but I do say to you: “Thank you for your message and for recognizing my values”. It gives me the strength to continue…

 

5 years ago

5 years ago:

  • I spent most of my productive days sitting in an office,
  • I attended one meeting after another – often with an unidentified goal, no action and no follow-up
  • I put most of my energy attempting to understand and balance corporate politics,
  • I was puzzled with most of the business practices around me,
  • I travelled regularly on business trips abroad – exhausted from flying in and out the same day,
  •  Oh! I wore fancy clothes then, had money flying in and people to run around me!

Many “envied” my status…But not me!

I  felt that I was trapped in a golden cage. I had access to all the material things I could wish but had little time and peace for myself. My mind was overwelmed with toxic behaviours from my corporate life. I felt like running around like a chicken with its head off or like a hamster on a wheel. The gap between what my inside wanted and what my outside was doing, was getting wider and wider.

It is 5 years ago that I decided to stop all this, to leave my corporate life and start anew. Since then, I embarked on the most wonderful and fruitful journey:  to construct my dream life.  I left “the cave” as Plato would say 🙂thecave

 

A special guest for my Nameday

….And so, like every year, I celebrated my Nameday, today, with a gathering of people very dear to me, in “Trata” my favourite fish tavern in the historic town of Elefsina. We were 18 in total.

This year, we met for lunch and sat in my favourite blue room -used exclusively by us. The room has huge windows which allowed the sunlight to enter and caress us, in the most loving manner, especially in a cold winter day like today. We had made special sitting arrangements this time: instead of sitting is small groups across different tables,  all 18 of us sat in a huge square table so that everyone could see and talk to everyone. It was really wonderful!

trata2020

Above all, the most wonderful present this year was my special guest: my mother; a present like no other! What more could I ask for?

 

My wish for 2020

My dear friends,

For the New Year ahead, I wish to have this greek lady’s:

fotoxoriogiagia

– clarity in the look of the eyes

– determination

– wisdom

– tranquility

– health

– fearlessness

– proudness to expose my face and hand lines

– strength to look away from the “lenses and the spotlight”

blue attention to detail

 

 

Whom you avoid, you run into

BC

Every time one specific lady in my Book Club opened her mouth to express her views, she  became a source of irritation for me. She would use radical expressions like:  ” I know this… I know that… How is it possible for someone to believe this…”. She would start talking and forget to stop. If I didn’t agree with her, she would raise her tone of voice and continue repeating what she had just said with a body language that – I felt – discounted me. She would leave no room for another view; it made me suffocate! So, after a couple of clashes of that sort, I started wondering: “Why should I tolerate this woman and her behaviour?”

And so, when we closed for the summer holidays, I left our Book Club with an accelarating dilemma: “Should I stay (and get infuriated with this woman) or should I stop attending the Book Club?”

The months that followed, I discussed my dilemma with a couple of good friends.

  • “This woman came your way to give you a lesson” one said.
  • ” This woman is like a mirror that will help you look at yourself: her behaviour triggers things inside you; you have to understand these things and work on them!” another one told me.

I started doing “my homework” to understand myself better vis-a-vis the woman’s behaviour. I still had some way to go until the autumn came and the Book Club meetings would resume. I had to skip my first meetings as they had coincided with other obligations, so I would have more time to decide on my dilemma .

In the autumn, my Philosophy classes also resumed.  The first day, as I entered the room to go and take a seat for these classes, I saw my source of irritation- the “Book Club woman” sitting next to me!  I couldn’t believe my eyes: I have been going to these classes for many years and I had never seen this lady there! Now that I have been thinking about avoiding her, she appeared in front of me in a totally different setting, in a totally different part of town!

“Oh! YOOOU – HERE?” we each said to each other in almost a shock.

She told me that she decided not to go to the Book Club meetings this season and to attend philosophy classes instead! Some might call it carma – I do not know what to call it! I only know that the woman was there to stay! Interestingly, I felt no anguish of all that was unfolding in front of my eyes! I think that it had to do with all the reflection and work I had done – with the help of my friends 🙂

The second day of philosophy class, the woman sat next to me again! “We need to address the elephant in the room” she told me. “Shall we go for a drink to discuss about it?”

… And so we did… And I am glad I faced what I had avoided….

 

My mother’s diagnosis

 

SAHL1117When my mother went to the Diagnostic center to pick up the results of her breast ultrasound and mammogram, she was told to “go and visit a specialist right away”. Something didn’t look good at all.

With the help of a family friend, she booked an appointment to visit a doctor the following evening. “It’s a tumour” the doctor told her. “You have to have it removed, as soon as possible. Go to the hospital tomorrow to have a biopsy and prepare your papers for admission”. And so, within a day, the biopsy confirmed the need to act fast. That same day, we also prepared all the required paperwork for my mother to get on the waiting list for the operation.

Now, we are waiting for the hospital’s call to enter this new phase of our lives…

 

Starting from the blood

How true and so well said, I find the words of a favouritre Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis. This is an extract from his book called “Report to Greco:

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” Both of my parents circulate in my blood; my father is wild, tough and never smiles, my mother is tender, good, holy.

None of them has died, I carry them with me throughout my life. As long as I live, they will live inside me and they will be fighting, each one in opposite directions, to conquer my thoughts and my actions. My entire life, this is my battle: to befriend them, to have one give me his strength and the other one her tenderness. And to turn their discord -which bursts non-stop inside me – into harmony in my heart.”

 

Confessions at the hairdresser’s

She is an old lady who has lived all her life in the village. Since her husband died, she lives alone, waiting for her turn to come. Her story has been just work, work, work from morning till night. Work at home, then in the fields and then back at home. All her life, she was the first one to wake up and the last one to go to bed.

She recently went to the village’s hairdresser to have a much needed haircut. These were rare moments that permitted herself some pampering and relaxation. While she sat in the hairdresser’s chair and her white hair was being cut, she was continuously staring at herself in the mirror. Gradually, something started to build inside her: strong thoughts and feelings came in and out of her mind and soul. They were coming uncontrollable, like waves… one after the other… trying to make their way to the shore. Her mouth became the shore.waves She spoke to let her internal waves break out. She spoke as if she was talking to herself:

“You know, the most important thing in life, is neither money nor work nor anything material. The only thing that trully matters is Love. …Love for one’s companion.”

She directed her gaze to meet the hairdresser’s eyes and continued:

“I realized this, since I lost my husband….While he was alive, I was constantly busy, and never took the time to give him enough love. Now, it’s too late to make up for it…” she said regretfully.

I saw the Light of Delos!

Delos is a small, rocky island in the centre of the Aegean sea and a few miles away from cosmopolitan Mykonos. The entire world knows Mykonos but who knows that Delos is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most important arcaeological, mythological and historical sites in Greece? I certainly didn’t!

When I visited it, a few days ago, I had a lifetime experience: I felt I walked through history through the centuries: initially, the island served as a holy pilgrimage place, then as a political center (as it was the base of the Delian League) and later on as a commercial harbour with luxurious houses and markets.

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In ancient Greek culture, the island was considered “the most sacred of all islands”. According to the myth, it was there that Apollo, god of daylight, and his twin sister Artemis, the goddess of night light, were born. (Actually, Delos is the brightest spot in the Mediterranean and of the top 3 in the world!). It therefore became a cradle of gods, and as such, the island was sacred. That meant that no mortal was allowed to be born or die on the island! Even today, its landscape is home to nobody and is used exclusively as an archaeological site. IMG_8147

Because of its rich history (which starts from the 3rd millennium BC), there are a series of monumental antiquities to see, all witnesses to the Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic periods. The Avenue of the Lions, who guard the Sacred Lake, the birthplace of the 2 gods, is one of  the most photographed ones. I sadly learned that one of these lions, was “taken” to Venice and stands in its Arsenal with a new head added to it in the 17th century!

Oh! My dear friends, what made my visit a bigger life-time experience was an exhibition of contemporary sculpture by the british artist Anthony Gormley, which took  place for the first time in the site’s history. With his iron “bodyforms” which were placed unexpetedly, the artist repopulated the island, restoring a human presence,  generating, for me, enlightened feelings and reflections.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating 4 over 50, today.

Today, I have completed one more year of life.

“Don’t tell (your age to) anyone” I am told more and more often. “You look very young, you do not look your age. How do you manage to keep in such a good shape?”.CQHA2702

Oh! My dear friends, When such comments come my way, I try to keep the perspective and not to fool myself with words of the moment. Because I know that ageing is merciless and it touches everyone. With every year that is added to my account, whether I hide it or not, I cannot escape from the body’s accelerating malfunctions and mortality.

Keeping the perspective also means being more focused, seeking truthfulness, avoiding excesses, learning to observe, enjoying moments of unity with my self and others. It means that what I do every day, is the result of very conscious choice/s. I have therefore become more and more selective about how I spend it and with whom.

When I look back at this year, my biggest achievement is the comment that the son (early 20s) of friends who came to visit me, wrote in my visitor’s book:

…”Perhaps the biggest challenge you overcame, was to refute the stereotypes surrounding cat-ladies. They are (surprisingly) not at all moody, annoying and lonely”

Isn’t that an achievement to be proud of, especially when it is conveyed by a young person?

My herb addiction

I have gradually started using fresh herbs in my cooking. So much so, that herbs are now a must in my daily nutrition. Oh! I just looove the smell and taste of fresh coriander, parsley, fennel, dill, rosemary, oregano, celery, basilicum, mint in my food. For me, the use of fresh herbs takes off the culinary experience to another level. What can beat:

  • a salad with juicy tomato cut in pieces, spread with lots and lots of finely cut parsley and dill?
  • a zucchini soup with lots of rosemary?
  • fried halloumi  cheese in a sauce of fresh coriander, lime, mustard and olive oil?
  • an omelette with fresh green fennel and cheese?
  • lentils with fresh celery stalks?
  • feta cheese with mint and cucumber?
  • a juice with green apple, lemon, cucumber and mint?

As soon as I developed this habit, I realized that it was hard to get the fresh herbs I liked, when I needed them. This was even more difficult when I looked for organic produce. So, I decided to grow my own herb garden so that I can control their quality and have them instantly on my doorstep:

Recently, I also started making my own sprouts: the first try was with organic lentils that I grew in a water bottle. Within 3 days, I made a wonderful lentil sprout salad combined with carrots, goat cheese and a sauce of (our) organic olive oil, mustard and balsamico.

Oh! How my life gets richer and richer with all the herbs in it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our first jam was sold out!

IMG_7614For the first time, we decided to make home-made organic apricot jam, for sale.

We hand-picked the fruit from our trees which are proudly standing in the area of Epidavros, next to the olive trees where my friend makes his organic olive oil.

 

We set off, with a lot of passion, determined  to create an exceptional product identical to what we ourselves “make and eat at home”. We used  the best ingredients that nature  gives us: our organically certified apricots , honey produced by our friends in Creta and lemons from our garden. Our goal was to preserve the fruit in terms of taste, smell and texture in such a way that when clients tasted it, they would feel “as if they have just cut the fruit themselves from the tree” – even if they live far away from nature!

To achieve this, we worked non-stop from morning till late evening. We read a lot of books about making jams and sterilizing vases. We talked to a lot of people. We prepared about 10 “prototypes” of jams in order to choose the final composition of our ingredients.

At the end, we decided to create 2 products: an apricot jam with honey and lemon and a second one with organic unprocessed sugar instead of honey. The entire process was done with our own 4 hands!

Then, we reached out to our olive oil clients, who were thrilled to hear about our jam. They had already given us extremely highly marks on our organic olive oil; and that was enough for them: their orders came in overwhelmingly! The feedback from those that tasted our jam exceeded all expectations:

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“The best apricot jam I have ever eaten”

“It is dangerously delicious! Love, love, love it!”

“Exceptional jam! Congratulations!”

“Wonderful jam! I like the light flavor and the smell of the fruit that emerges in a very unique way”

“ Unbelievable taste”

“ I am so happy I have met you!”

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…And so, our jam has sold out within 2 weeks! Next year, we expect to have a bigger production to satisfy the demand (We have already received some pre-orders!). For the moment, we stay with the wonderful experience of putting all our love and effort to create something  pleasing to share.

P.S: Akis, don’t worry, we’ve put your order aside to pick it up when you are in Greece 😉

 

 

Elefsina: what’s in a myth?

Our Philosophy class of 2019 read the Homeric “Hymn to Demeter” and went to Elefsina – a town  20 kms away from Athens – to hear and see all about the ancient greek goddess Demeter and the Elefsinian Mysteries/Rites dedicated to her.

IMG_7122….And the myth goes like this: Demeter, the goddess of fertility and the fruitfulness of the earth, had a daughter named Persephone. One day, while her beautiful daughter was happily picking flowers in a field, the ground opened up, in front of her, and Hades emerged, the king of the Dead, riding his chariot. He abducted Persephone and took her to the underworld to become his wife.

Upon learning of her beloved daugther’s abduction, Demeter entered the world of mortals and disguised as an old woman looking for her. She arrived in Elefsina where she befriended the royal family and agreed to rear the king’s only son.  In secret, she raised the boy so that he would eventually become immortal and eternally young, but she was prevented by the queen’s unknowing interference. Demeter then, cast off her disguise as an old woman, appeared in all her glory as a Goddess and demanded that a temple be built for her in Elefsina, outside the palace. The temple was built the next day.

Sitting in her temple, Demeter continued to rage on her stolen daughter. Her grief was such, that that year, none of the seeds grew in the fields and humankind was in danger of starvation. Zeus, offered her all types of gifts, but Demeter was obdurate: she would not allow the crops to grow until she was reunited with her daughter.

IMG_7127Zeus then sent for Persephone to come from the underworld. Before she did though, Hades forced her to swallow a few pomegranate seeds so that he would still have some claim on her. Like that, the story goes, Persephone would have to spend part of the year with Hades and the rest above ground reunited with her mother. ….And so, this explains the exchange of the seasons and the circle of the seeds: in the cold months, Persephone lives under the earth but when spring comes, the world rejoices as she and vegetation return to life! But above all, the myth reflects the concept of tranformation and the cyclical nature of life: one’s existence did not end with death because there was no death; there was only change from one state of being to another!

Based on this two-fold story of Demeter’s life – her separation and reunion with her daughter and her failure to make the queen’s son immortal – the Rites/Mysteries of Elefsina were established and celebrated annually.

IMG_7134The participants, walked the Sacred Way from Athens to Elefsina and re-enacted Demeter’s search for her lost daughter. The rituals were so important, that this Sacred Way was the only road (no goat path) in all of central Greece; everyone who was “anyone” was an initiate of the mysteries. The rituals were done in absolute secrecy and the initiated, were sworn on pain of death if they would disclose the details of the rituals; no wonder, we know very little as to what exactly they entailed.

What we know though is that those who participated in the mysteries where forever changed for the better and they no longer feared death. Oh! And how I wish I could have lived in antiquity (just temporarily!) to be initiated in the Elefsinian Mysteries and learn the secrets of life 🙂

P.S: Elefsina will be the cultural capital of Europe in 2021. That gives you enough time to plan your trip 🙂

The orange grove’s orchestra

It’s this time of the year that the orange trees have blossomed in Epidavros. The village’s immense orange grove reaches up to my back yard. The (thousands of) trees are full of (millions of) white flowers that have an intense, fine smell that fills the air. The smell enters my house, even before I open any door or window. It reaches my nostrils and makes every breath I make an ecstatic experience. I feel overwhelmed; Have I reached heaven? The aroma invites me to go out, to walk on the pavement which is full of white flowers, to stand among the trees and do nothing else but to listen to the orange grove’s orchestra:

the singing of the birds sitting among the branches… the buzz of the bees that fly, non-stop,  from one orange flower to the other to get the nectar…  the ethereal sound of the falling orange blossoms as they detach themselves, one by one, from the stem and fall on the ground. Each one making a distinct sound, like a different musical instrument. Oh! How do they all team up to play such an exquisite music? And how they make me feel that I live in eternity!

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A great holiday

What makes a great holiday?

Well, I got the answer from a dear friend who was just here visiting me with her family (for the records, they were my first visitors of the year). The last day before flying back to their country, my friend, told me:

” I will return soon,  and when I do, I want you to treat me as if I haven’t been here before. I want us to do all the things we’ve done together and to repeat everything  that I lived and felt during this holiday”

…And I am thinking:  Isn’t that a definition of a great holiday?

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A refined moment

IMG_6373The blue of the sea and the sky. The caressing sun. Absolute silence. Me, sitting under the olive tree synchronized with the elements of nature. I am full of life, blissful, radiant, carefree, gratified, captivated. I am conscious of my being and my feelings.

I start reading my book.

At some point, I hear some gentle noiseIMG_6375 coming from my distant left. It’s the footsteps of a gentleman who is out for a walk. He takes his time for every step and move he makes, as if to make these moments last forever.  Oh! He, too enjoys every second of his existence. As he approaches, I see that he holds a rose bulb in his hand. He briefly stops in front of me with the smile of an elightened man. He hands me the flower. No need to talk.  He continues his walk and disappears on my right.

 

Carnival in Rethymno – Creta

Every year for carnival, I visit a different part of Greece to see the local customs, as they differ from place to place. This time round, I chose the city of Rethymno in the island of Creta. We arrived, by boat,  in the early morning hours in the city of Chania. We couldn’t have had a better start, with a stroll around the old town and its port, all wrapped up in the colours of the rising sun including the mountains which were filled with snow on the background.chania

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Then, we went on to the town of Rethymno, a beauty of its own right; it was all in carnival mode. Some say that the city hosts the biggest carnival parade in the whole of Greece. All I know is that I witnessed a sea of people dressed in colourful costumes that came in waves of diverse themes. It lasted for hours and I couldn’t stop waching them under the blue, blue skyes:

 

 

The following day we visited the Arkadi monastery, which is designated by UNESCO as a World Freedom Monument. In 1866, Ottoman armies laid siege to the monastery where 700 children and women and 260 Cretan warriors  had barricated themselves refusing to surrender. After a two day siege, they blew themselves up in the gunpowder building of the monastery and this became the most important event of the Cretan history.

We left for last the visit to a one-year old museum  of Ancient Eleftherna and the nearby pittoresque village of ” Margarites”

Creta is an inexhaustible world of its own; like all good things in life, one has to take it in chunks to allow oneself to enjoy every bit of it!

A spider by my eye

“Take this spider away from me” I shouted, with horror, to my friend as I was trying to get rid of a black spider which was climbing up and down my right eye. He rushed to my side; he saw nothing. I kept following the spider movements with my finger. But my friend couldn’t help me. I started shaking my whole body to make the spider go away. Alas, we soon realized that the spider was created by my eye, an illusion that only I could see! I went to bed, expecting that all will be fine by the following morning.

But the spider was still there, as active as ever! So, I went to the ophthalmologist. After an extensive examination, I was diagnosed with “Posterior Vitreous Detachment”, an eye problem where the gel inside the eye shrinks and detaches from the retina. “It comes with age” the doctor told me! For a month, I am neither allowed to carry any heavy weight, nor to put any pressure on my body or bend it! No swimming either! We hope that the detachment process will go smooth and that I will be back to being able to do all I love to do!

For the moment, I am happy I can still see the beauty around me and appreciate it even more than ever, even if a little spider is around my corner!

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Α letter about birth and death

It’s been a few years now, that I take Philosophy lessons. This is my way of getting food for thought for life’s essential questions. I remember, the first day I went to class, how surprised I was to find out that the course would be taking place in the university’s “Applied Mathematics and Physics” building. Philosophy was part of this Division’s curriculum! Until then, I believed that Philosophy and Sciences had nothing in common; actually that they even contradicted and fought each other! Now, I have realized that they walk hand in hand -and that one starts where the other one ends.

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The text below, although difficult to grasp in all its detail,  demonstrates this. It is an extract from a letter written in the 1st century A,C, , by the philosopher Apollonius to the king Valerius:

“There is no death of anyone, save in appearance only, even as there is no birth of anyone or becoming,  except only in appearance. The change from essence into nature we consider it birth or becoming, and in the same way,  the change from  nature into essence seems to be death; though in truth, no one is ever born, nor does one ever die.  It is simply a being visible and then invisible; the former through the density of its matter , and the latter because of the subtlety  of being – being which is ever the same, its only change being motion and rest.

For being has this necessary pecularity, that its change is brought about by nothing external to itself; but whole becomes parts and parts become whole in the oneness of the all/universe. And if someone asks: What is this which sometimes is seen and sometimes not seen, now in the same, now in the different? It might be answered that it is the way of everything here in the world below, that when it is filled out with matter, it is visible, because of the resistance  of its density, but is invisible, owing to its subtlety, when it is rid of matter, though matter still surround it and flow through it, in that immensity of space which hems it in, but knows no birth or death.”

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Feeding the trees and …myself

All my professional life, I spent it in an office, in the services sector. That means that I neither had to  produce anything with my hands, nor to hold, touch, move, turn around, squeeze or transform a tangible product. Ididn’t have to make my hands “dirty” as I had no link to nature –  the view from my office was mostly concrete buildings – with the exception of the Acropolis at my last employer.

For 5 years already, I am far away from all that; I am close to nature and can no longer imagine a day in my life without being close to the soil, fields, trees, mountains, rivers, the sea. By now, I have developed a great admiration and respect for all that has to do with the environment, the land and the organic agriculture. I have learned to pay more attention to the seasons and to understand what they mean in terms of the earth’s production cycle: for example, the olive harvest season has just ended; now, I’ve learned, is the time to give food to the olive trees.

So, when the opportunity came, to take part in it, I literally jumped on it! First, I jumped on my car, to follow the tractor to get to one of the fields where a huge pile of organic fertilizer was unloaded.  With the use of a shovel and a bucket, we filled a container – which was attached to the tractor – with the fertilizer. I used the bucket to do it. Then, we had to drive the tractor (and the container) to the various olive fields. Some were easy to reach, others – which were on the steep side of the mountains – were much harder to access.

We gave food to each olive tree with no exception – no matter how far, difficult to reach or small it was.  A parent doesn’t make any distinction among his children and leaves noone unattended :-).  As I got more involved and fully integrated with the nature around me, I let each tree guide me how much food it needed: whether half a bucket, one or two.  Just like a baby would do! The feeling of interacting with them and “talking” together was unique!

It took us a couple of days of hard, hard physical work to finish all the trees.  But whatever fatigue I got, was offset by the “pschycological food” I got: being in nature (which has already given me my life) and nurturing it, with my own hands, so that it keeps on producing additional, healthy life! What a pleasure and privilege 🙂

 

How to grow old

In my mind, a New Year brings new opportunities, new experiences, the possibility to do new things. But, it also brings an extra year on our shoulders that adds to our inevitable mortality!

Oh!How shall one deal with growing old? The philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote about it, in his essay below: “How to Grow Old”:

The best way to overcome the fear of death – so at least it seems to me – is to make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life. An individual human existence should be like a river: small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past rocks and over waterfalls. Gradually, the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being. The man who, in old age, can see his life in this way, will not suffer from the fear of death, since the things he cares for will continue.  And if, with the decay of vitality, weariness increases, the thought of rest will not be unwelcome.  I should wish to die while still at work, knowing that others will carry on what I can no longer do and content in the thought that what was possible has been done.

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New Year’s resolution

My dear friends, for the New Year that is about to enter, I wish to borrow the quote from William Burroughs (american writer and visual artist):

” One resolution I have made , and try to keep, is this: To rise above little things”

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Ancient Messini: my last trip of 2018

Messini,  an ancient (370 BC)  city in the Peloponnese and a UNESCO World Heritage site, has been on my list to visit for some time now. Ι finally made it, just on the finishing line of 2018!

The city, which was founded after the Messinians were freed from a 350 year Spartan rule, was designed to keep a watch over Sparta and protect itself from any future attacks. This is why it was completely enclosed by a 9km wall. Remains of this wall can still be seen today; we desperately drove parallel and away from the wall a couple of times, looking for the site entrance. But the archaeologists can’t stop surprising us: one is obliged to drive through the ruins of the wall in order to reach the site!

The ancient city which is situated on a fertile valley and undergoes ongoing excavation, is as extensive in size as ancient Epidavros and Olympia. Messini has the rare advantage of not having been destroyed or covered by latter settlements and that means that you do not need to imagine things, they are just there in front of you. Most of its monuments are intact and still stand in their full height.

There  is a theater, an agora, a sanctuary of Asklepius – consisting of a rectangular courtyard fringed with Corinthian columns. Oh! There are many, many columns…Actually, I do not recall having seen so many, standing upright in the same place, carrying so many centuries on their shoulders. There is also an impressive stadium and an enormous gymnasium,  a grave memorial and an extremely well kept mausoleum and more and more to see…

The site is vast and well preserved and thus it constitutes a rare testimony to the urban environment and living conditions of an ancient Greek city and its way of life.

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As I was walking around, I was infused by the philosophy the city was built to cater to the body, mind and soul of its citizens, all at the same time. I felt like an ancient Greek, in spirit, inspired to follow the same philosophy to balance my own life. And then who knows, if I follow this, I might also reach the same peace as the one expressed in the face of Artemis that was exhibited in the small museum nearby. IMG_5802

 

 

 

 

 

 

Organic olive oil: made with stoic philosophy and Parallaxis support

My dear friends, I want to tell you a story. A true story that I am very proud of. It’s about shifting perspectives and making a solid next step. A Parallaxis story. I chose it – among the 50 or so true and wonderful stories I could tell you about-  as a way to celebrate the second anniversary of Parallaxis (see attachment: Parallaxis).

It’s the story of one of the ~ 50 people that have knocked the door of Parallaxis during these past 2 years. It unfolded 1,5 years ago, in Greece, in the Peloponnese, in a village near my summer house (my second home, by now). That’s where I met a passionate producer of organic olive oil.

I heard how he had dedicated his entire life to cultivating his land and loving his trees; something that the previous generations in his family had done out of necessity. But although he also had the same necessity to make a living, he was different from the rest: from a very young age, he felt the need to find the true meaning of his existence and of what he would be doing.  For 35 years, he has been buying specialized and rare books to read more and more about farming and agriculture; gradually about philosophy and sciences, too. He  self-taught himself absorbing all the knowledge through his readings. In 2007, he decided to use the existing family land for organic farming. His family was against it; they believed – like everyone else in the village- that organic farming is devilish and would radically decrease their income. But, he stuck to his decision. He gave his battles and faced the suspicious looks of both his family and fellow villagers for years. An outsider would say that life has not been easy for him.

You need to meet him though to realize that he has developed a stoic stance to life that has equiped him with a lot of strength, humility and dedication to his cause. That’s what enabled him to be producing extremely high quality organic olive oil.  

But, our friend is not a businessman. He  sold his olive oil to intermediaries who bought it at a price below cost. That’s where Parallaxis came into the picture:

We helped him to understand his costs and to determine the minimum acceptable selling price. To achieve this price, his sales model had to change by going directly to the end consumer instead of the intermediaries. We developed a leaflet (see attachment: ELAIONIO) and a Facebook page to inform people about his GLYKEIA GI (Sweet Land) organic business –  olive oil is the starting product. We are also helping him to develop an entirely new client base that shares the same principles like him: trust, transparency, interest to learn/be informed, love for quality organic products, fairness. It’s these principles that are also reflected in the packaging of the GLYKEIA GI olive oil: it is sold in packages of 5 litres specially made to protect it from exposure to light and oxygen. Each package is personalized, writing the name of the customer, the olive variety/ies the particular oil is made of, the olive collection and oil production date (which are the same day) and the level of acidity. Finally, it is offered at an extremely competitive and fair price for the consumer.

The goal is to channel all this year’s production to the end consumers. That is well on its way: the GLYKEIA GI Green Olive Oil (αγουρέλαιο) has already been sold out; the same goes for half of the GLYKEIA GI Extra Virgin Olive Oil production!

For those of you that reside in Athens, I invite you to try it (you can contact me for more information)! Also, if you want to get informed about organic farming/products and olive oil you can “Like” the GLYKEIA GI Page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/glykeia.gi/

And last but not least, let’s all wish Parallaxis a very happy 2 year Birthday and many more stories to come!

 

The Candles

This is from my favourite Greek poet Constantinos Kavafis; it’s called: The Candles

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The days of the future stand in front of us

Like a line of candles all alight

Golden and warm and lively little candles,

The days that are past are left behind,

A mournful row of candles that are out;

The nearer ones are still smoking,

Candles cold and melted, candles bent,

I do not want to see them; their shapes hurt me;

It hurts me to remember the light of them at first.

I look before me at my lighted candles,

I do not want to turn around and see with horror

How quickly the dark line is lengthening,

How quickly the candles multiply that have been put out.

 

My autumn getaways

I had the need to refresh my body, mind and soul in a different way! So, I went away for two consecutive, long weekends, to two opposite parts of Greece:

  • My first getaway, was on the south of Greece, in an ecoculture retreat center, built and operated according to the permaculture principles. Permaculture (for which I knew nothing about prior to going there) uses the patterns and features of our natural ecosystem to design the agricultural, social, political and economic facets of daily life.

I stayed in a wonderful place…

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…followed a yoga detox program, had excellent vegan food and met inspiring people. I also met the happiest animals (worms, chickens, pigs, donkey, cats, dogs, birds, insects,ducks, etc) that live in full harmony with their environment and play a crucial role in creating a regenerative and self-maintained habitat. My dearest and sweet friend Afrodait (with whom I was so happy to be together in the retreat) had a real challenge making a selfie with Maya, the donkey, (I’m hidden somewhere behind the bamboo leaves)!

 

 

I left enthusiastic and hopeful how we can each seek to minimize waste, human labour, and energy input by building, permaculture systems into our respective microcosms. Do read more about permaculture; it is really fascinating!

  • My second getaway, was in the north part of Greece visiting the thermal baths of Pozar.

Sitting outdoors in the hot springs, surrounded by mountains and huge trees with autumn coloured leaves, hearing the sound of the water as it descends  through the gorge, being part of the waterfall, what a better way to refresh my being?

 

 

 

My catharsis at sea

When I find myself swimming in the sea, something magic happens: my body becomes light; it takes second place; it feels absent. With every stroke I make, my mind is emptied of my thoughts;  they go away, one by one. My emotions, whether it’s fear, insecurity, guilt or bitterness, give way to the water flow. I hear its movement and I let my whole being drift along with the water. I swim until I cleanse my body. mind and spirit. I let go of all the things that have annoyed and bothered me. I get rid of all those petty things that have magnified their importance in my life.

I hear the sky, the mountains, the sun. The birds. The oranges that are ripening. The olives that are ripe. I hear the innocence of the fish. The discreetness of the rocks.

Only then, am I ready to go back to shore and start afresh.

Oh! My dear friends, how I hope I keep on swimming well into the year!

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Fighting the Lernaean Hydra

In Greek mythology, Lernaea Hydra, was a serpentine water monster that possessed many heads. The half-god and hero Hercules,  was sent to kill it as part of his 12 Labors. Only he could perform such a task, because for every head that was chopped off, the Hydra would regrow two heads.

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Oh my dear friends, for some months now, I feel that I am also fighting a monster like the Hydra that regenarates heads, without an end:

It all started in the beginning of the summer, when my parents decided to discontinue their internet connection at home. It took my mother several visits to the telephone company offices to have her request registered. Each time, she would go there (by bus, under high temperatures, in the town next to hers) they would send her away without giving her any proof that her request was registered.  I later realized that they were avoiding to do it, in order to keep on charging for the unwanted internet service! In order to send her away, they would tell her that they would call her on her mobile phone later in the day to confirm her request. And so, each time, they would ring her once and hang up! That obliged my mother to call them back so that she gets charged for the calls! “Things will be settled within 10 days” was what she was told every time. But things never did. My mother had to take several pills to tackle her high pressure throughout the summer. Her request was finally recorded at the end of July.

Nothing happened for weeks. One day in September, my parents told me, exasperated, that their fixed line had stopped working all together. I spent 3,5 hours talking (on my mobile phone) with the telephone company. They informed me that they had closed the case since they had discontinued the internet – 39 days after the application was registered. Their slow implementation meant extra months of charging! “But the phone is not working” I told the technician on the other line. “This is because your parents telephone line is damaged. I will register an official request to have it fixed” he responded. In the meantime, my parents have been receiving telephone bills with full charge. I requested a reversal of the charges. ” You have to call another department to discuss this” I was told. And the bills keep coming!

Two days later, someone called (always someone different) to inform me that the damage had been repaired. He hung up without waiting for verification. His claim wasn’t true since my parents phone still didn’t work! I had to make another call (again talking for hours – one “responsible” passing me to the other). To my surprise, they had closed the case “as solved”. I had to file a new request to ask for the damage – which was never repaired – to be repaired again! I also asked to register an official complaint. They didn’t like the idea and tried to lure me by offering some free time on my father’s mobile phone. They passed me on to talk to several people until I had my complaint registered. I told them what exactly to write and took the incident number.  Then, I heard nothing for days. My parents phone kept on being dead.

I have been calling every few days (of endless talking hours), using my mobile, to request the status of the repair. When I gave my compaint number, I felt that something was rong. I asked the person on the other line to read to me what was written on my complaint, To my surprise, they had not written what I had asked for! I therefore had to ask for a new compaint to be opened! By now, I have lost track of how many complaints and incident numbers we have opened!

This is because, every time I talk, a new Hydra head comes up:

First, I was told that it was due to a damage of the specific line. Another day the problem was due to a more general damage that affected an entire network of cables and impacted more telephone lines. (Needless to say that my mother asked in the neighbourhood: noone else seems to have any problems with their telephone lines). Later on, I was told that they had to get approval to order new cables. As of yesterday – 80 days on – I was told that they are waiting for approval from the archaelogists to be allowed to excavate!!!! My parents live in this house for the past 60 years – no arcaeologists have ever been involved in any cable excavation!! Why now?

Please, someone needs to find Hercules to kill this monster!!!

What really counts

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He knew I was too sad. He knew that words were too short to take my sorrow away.  He therefore said nothing with the mouth, only with the internal voice of his eyes. He hugged me, continuously, with the same intensity, for a long time. He dropped his tears next to mine. He swept them until they stopped falling. He tuned into my soul and transmitted his compassion and peacefulness to me.

He then came with a marble sculpture in his hands.”I made this for you” he said. “I named it “The Sleep”.

Off he jumped and disappeared…

” I never want to see him again” the vet said to me, when I went to pick him up. Ginger had stayed a full week in the vet hospital, following his operation. ” I have never seen a wilder cat” she said, relieved that  I was taking him away, for good.

They say that for each one, there is at least one other soul in the world, that loves and accepts him: I was that one soul for him!

Ginger came into my life, in the summerhouse, as a grown-up cat already. From the moment he arrived, he was determined to become the lion of “my jungle”, using all the force that nature had given him. He therefore did not allow the other cats of the neighbourhood to come any close to me and never left my site and side. At first, I ignored him thinking that I should let nature take its course, although  I have to admit that I made sure he had sufficient food and water.

In the beginning, he often attacked my feet- without any apparent reason, it seemed to me. I realized that his aggressiveness had nothing to do with me. It was the remain of how he was brought up as a stray cat. Gradually, we started building trust toward each other. He became my protector. He always sat next to where I was, taking a posture similar to the one of those lion statues that guard the old roman empire buildings. He was ready to observe and attack anyone that would come my way. Eventually, his attacks towards me, consisted of wrapping his claws around my feet, in a fast manner, avoiding to put his nails in my flesh.

IMG_4473And so, little by little, I wanted the best for my Ginger and  started bying him special treats. I would feed him, daily,  ham pieces, directly in his mouth. I also bought him a hairbrush, when he expressed the need to be caressed. This brush became a crucial code of communication between us: whenever he saw me holding it, he would come running! He simply adored to feel it on his fur – not his whiskers though which he kept at a distance for the brush not to catch them!

During the last weeks, Ginger had shown signs of pain in his mouth which intensified; he had difficulty eating and more and more he run away shouting. I decided to take him to the vet, although I knew that this would be a big challenge. It was a huge task to put a lion in a cage! So, I asked my mother, who has a lot of experience with cats,  to come to the summer house for help. The plan was not to feed him for a day and to place some food inside the cage the following morning, as bait. That morning, I used the hairbrush to make him approach the cage. He looked at it reluctantly  but then he turned and looked at me straight in the eyes, with the usual look of full trust. Then, he entered the cage to get the food I had placed inside, at the very end of it. I closed the door behind him. That’s when the trust broke between us irreversibly!

I placed the cage on the back seats of my car. My mother was holding it while Ginger was shouting with the wildest voice. He was making great efforts to open the door. After I drove for some 15 kilometres to reach the vet, I prepared myself to take the cage out of the car and bring it to the vet’s premises. My mother told me that the cage door was open. We made several attempts to close it, but the door corners were impossible to stabilize and stay still. There can be many maybes on what exactly happened and what not, but what importance do they now have? My Ginger proved stronger … he got out, jumped off and disappeared in front of my eyes…

My third year in the 50’s

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Here I am: swimming in the sea. Can you spot me? Maybe not, but for me, I consider it a great achievement to reach 53 today and be able to be this miniscule, negligible drop in the immensity of the sea… I am grateful to still be part of this wonderful  living world in full consciousness and health…

Today, I complete one more year of a fullfilled life; I just love the magic of it all!

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Eight scoops of ice cream

She came to pick me up. Our plan was to drive a few blocks away to the center of town, leave the car and go walking.  “I want to get an ice cream” I told her. “I have gained too much weight recently” she said “so I will just get something to drink”.

We parked the car near a square and got out. Without talking, we looked at each other with meaning: “There is a new ice cream shop that opened in this square; they use buffalo milk to make it. Shall we try it?” we both said to each other. I can’t remember if we actually said it in words or if we read each other’s mind. Whatever it was, off we walked to the buffalo ice cream place forgetting anything else in our lives! We just needed to have this ice cream in our vains!

We orderded 3 scoops each and sat down to eat it. It tasted like heaven! I quickly finished eating mine. Oh! That’s when my torture started: how could I bear seeing my friend and all the other people around me eating and enjoying their ice cream and me not having one in my hands and mouth? I had to take part in this pleasure again! So, I went to get some more ice cream. This time, I decided I would try 2 new flavours: strawberry and dark chocolate.

While I was waiting in line for my second order, a woman walked by who had just tasted a cone with two scoops. “Aaaah! It’s delicious” she said with her lips dug in the cone. “What flavours are you having?” I asked her. “Tryyyyy the banoffee” she mumbled. … And so, when my turn came, apart from the strawberry and the chocolate flavours, I also asked for the banoffee! That made it 3 scoops in total…In the meantime, my friend who had finished her first round, also decided to order  some new flavours for herself, too!

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After finishing our second round of pleasure and having had 6 scoops already, we decided to stick to our original plan and go walking “to help the ice cream burn”. We walked about 1,5 hours before we reached another ice cream shop. “Have you tried their ice cream here?” I asked my friend with a devilish voice. “They make very special flavours! I particularly love the lemongrass one”. We looked at each other again, with compassion. There was no need to talk to each other, our palates did the talk! And so, we each ordered two  scoops of ice cream of different flavours… We ate them while walking, until we reached our car. and drove back home.

Our evening of the  8 scoops of ice cream was completed!