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Lost Gold by Maria Kostaki

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  • "Όπου και να ταξιδέψω η Ελλάδα με πληγώνει. "
    "Wherever I go, Greece hurts me."
    George Seferis, Greek poet, 1900-1971

    This store wants your gold. It'll buy any form of gold. Jewelry your grandmother left you, your late father's gold watch, anything valuable you have at home in gold form. I've heard stories of the elderly selling their gold teeth. Of course, these pawnshops won't say no to silver, diamonds, or any form of other valuable. They are multiplying exponentially all over the country. Everywhere you look there is an ad, a flyer, a sticker informing you someone will buy your gold.

    It is wonderful that the owners of these shops have found a way to survive the crisis. But it is abhorrent that they capitalize off people's desperation.

    A few blocks further down the street, a farmer has set up temporary shop on the sidewalk. He's selling potatoes. Without the middleman. There's something what has come to be called the "potato revolution" going on here. With Easter just around the corner, the revolution is spreading to lamb, vegetables, etc. Sell your produce, avoid the middleman, keep prices down.

    A few weeks ago, farmers gave away free vegetables in Parliament Square. Hoards of vegetables. Crowds of takers.

    A friend went to help out at a homeless shelter, giving away clothes and food. Not even half-way through the day, supplies were out, but people still waited on the street.

    I find myself in a country I no longer recognize. Amidst a new culture I cannot predict.

    I want to help somehow, I want to change things, but I can't. Completely helpless in the face of capitalism, I find myself wanting to get out of here, go somewhere where I don't have to read about potato revolutions, homeless people, unemployment rising to above 50% among the younger generation. Somewhere where cops don't walk around with tear gas guns. Is that irresponsible? Is it a cop out? Is it cruel to desert the soil on which I grew up during it's time of greatest weakness and need?

    The owner of the pawnshop wouldn't let me take a picture of the two rows of iron bars that separate him from the storefront. First, he just banged a fist on his desk. A woman with freshly blown out hair sat next to him, admiring his manliness. I'd already snapped this shot before asking. When I asked again, explaining what it was for, he got up and angrily shooed me away, not leaving the security of his iron bars, but suggesting I may use the photo to plan a robbery.

    This is not the Greece I was raised in. These are not the people that grew up by my side.
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