On Sunday 15 May we had planned to have lunch on the beach at Pandeli with Simon and Christiana, but it was grey and windy and raining in and off, so we abandoned that plan, pottering about the boat, catching up TV and going for dinner at To Petrino with Simon and Christiana, where we both shared the superb as usual bon filet. In the morning the electricity blew. It turned out that our immersion heater had shorted – probably because the element had overheated when we ran out of water. The problem with fitting a new element is that the tank is squashed tight in behind the batteries, so will probably have to remove all the batteries and the battery box to get at it.
After many hours repeatedly checking connections and testing voltages, on Sunday afternoon Simon finally diagnosed the problem with the wind instruments – we haven’t got any. Simon thought he should check that the cups are spinning properly, looked up the mast and saw that there was nothing there. It had obviously blown away in the winter. As we have had trouble with all the instruments, which are very old, we have decided to take the plunge and get a complete new wireless system.
One drama I forgot to report last week – two port police were looking in the water at the end of the quay. Later everyone was told to leave the marina because two World War II bombs had been found in the water. Soon everyone was allowed back. The bombs were taken away a bit later and detonated on a hillside, apparently with a large explosion. Apparently they had been dug up during the building works in the neighbouring naval officers’ quarters and had been dumped there.
On Sunday night two of the refugees from Pikpa left for Patras, nobody knows why and they did not want to go. We did not see them off, but there was a very emotional leave-taking as they have been here two months (https://www.facebook.com/lerossn/posts/898900713570937 ).
On Monday morning Lin went off to teach the children, who are getting better at timekeeping. She has got into a routine of getting to Pikpa before nine, gathering the children and walking them across to the school.
While we are here, she is helping Anna with the school when it operates on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. Although this is only the second week of school, the children are settling in to a routine and Lin and Anna are able to identify particular needs. Anna uses computer based English language programmes that she uses to teach Greek children and is able to pick relevant bits. Most of the children are very eager to learn and some of them came already able to read and write Roman script. There are obviously some very able children who are learning very fast. There is some unsettled behavior from some of the younger boys, who have been through pretty distressing experiences. Many of the kids, boys and girls, young and old, throw themselves on the volunteers, even strangers, for kisses and cuddles, whether in Pikpa or when we meet them out on the street.
After school Lin helps prepare and distribute the lunch before coming back for her own lunch.
Simon tried to sort out how to get at the hot water tank to replace the element and noticed a small leak at the outlet. After an hour or so working on it, he failed to stop the leak. He also tried to get the materials to put a stopcock in the pipe to the tank, so that we can isolate the hot water tank and drain it, but the old British water system uses non-standard pipes so he could not find suitable connectors and gave up, ready to get a plumber in. He did do various repairs and treated the stains on the deck, ready to wash it down, which we did after lunch at Poppy’s.
Nobody has come from the yard to fix the immersion heater, so on Wednesday (May 18th), while Lin went off to school, Simon got down to it again. He found enough fittings in his plumbing bag to fit a new stop cock and drain hose, so he could empty the hot water tank.
On Wednesday evening we met a couple of young Syrian Kurdish guys, one from Pikpa and one from the hot spot, who were shocked to see a Turkish flagged boat. “We thought Greece and Turkey were enemies, I want to stamp on that flag”. We suggested that might not be a very good idea”!
On Thursday Simon cycled up to Partheni to get a new heater element from the chandlers. He then went to the engineering shop from which Frank had borrowed a big socket to remove the old element, but they had lent their socket to Agmar in Partheni, expecting it back in the afternoon. After a beer and lunch Simon struggled to remove the screws that prevented him from lifting the tank to get access to the element. He got two out, but two more were inaccessible, so he had to remove the batteries to get at the tank. He went back to the engineering shop, but Agmar had not returned the socket, leaving the owner fuming, but he found an old socket that worked, so the new element was fitted and the batteries replaced and connected in time for dinner. Although the old heater element was only three years old, the huge sacrificial anode had been completely eaten away. The hot water outlet is leaking, but Argiris has promised to get us a fitting from Agmar.
On Friday morning Lin went to help Anna teach the refugee children. Simon went along to take some photos, though some of the older ones did not want their photos taken. One pleasant surprise was that Mohammed was back from Patras – it had not worked out and somehow he and the other guy had been able to get back here. Anna gave Lin a little basil plant as a thank you for her help in school. Her contract has been renewed for another month and she has been asked to provide classes for the adults too. Some local people had warned her that she would have trouble from Lerians for helping the refugees, though in our experience the majority are very sympathetic to refugees and it is only a small, if vocal, minority who back the mayor. Anna gave Lin a beautifully wrapped plant as a thank you for her help. Anna came back from Australia and her English school is in her beautiful house, built for a senior Italian naval officer, which she showed us round.
After school we talked to Antoinette, an Irish volunteer, who is only here for ten days but has done fantastic work. She has worked in mental health for thirty years and has been badgering the local doctors and psychiatrists to see those with clear mental health problems, including an old woman in a wheel chair who clearly has advanced Alzheimer’s but needs a diagnosis so that she can travel to Athens to join her family, who have settled there. The psychiatrists have given her a prescription for anti-psychotic drugs, which just keep her, and so everyone else, awake at night. Antoinette has managed to get her into a nursing home for a few days to give everybody, including her son, some relief. Antoinette has also provided counselling for some of the depressed parents, who had switched off from their kids so that the kids were starting to run wild, and that has made an amazing difference.
The biggest problem with the refugees is that everyone is slow to adjust to changing circumstances. The refugees are no longer in transit, they are probably going to be here long term. There is a big stock of clothes and shoes, but they are mostly winter clothes and shoes, appropriate for the winter trek up to Austria and Germany, not for a summer stay on an Aegean island. The food is survival food, meal after meal of pasta with tomato sauce, a bit of salad, a slice of bread and half a banana, which gets so monotonous that people lose their appetites. People are sleeping in bunks in male and female dormitories, or in Portakabins in the hot spot, which become stifling in hot weather. The children need schooling and the adults need something to keep them occupied through the day to avoid creeping institutionalisation. With the monotony, frustration and erosion of hope there are increasing mental and physical health problems. The children, especially the girls, are very vulnerable to every sort of exploitation. These problems are very apparent even in Pikpa, which is a paradise compared to the hot spots and mainland camps.
On Saturday morning we went shopping to stock up ready to go to Arki on Sunday. We had a coffee with Marietta and Sheila, an Irish volunteer at Pikpa joined us. She and Antoinette have been doing fantastic work with the refugees, but they are going back home. Two guys from UNHCR sat at the next table. They have just upgraded the wifi in Pikpa, but Sheila asked them if they can restrict it because the children are running wild while their parents spend all the time on Facebook!
We had been hoping to get new connectors to cure the leaking hot water outlet pipe. Argiris kept phoning the yard, who thought they had some but were not sure and had still not come up with them when they closed at 1. Argiris hoped to get them on Monday, but if not they would have to order them from Athens, which takes a day or two. After mulling it over we decided to stay until we have fixed the hot water system, using the time to do lots of other jobs that we have constantly put off.