I have lived in Athens for a few months now. I have realized life is very different. Some of my everyday habits I had back in the village where I have lived my whole life are becoming hard to follow. It came as a shock to me that in the city, I have to depend on somebody else for every need that comes up. I never used to buy or visit a market for fruits or vegetables of any sort, not even pasta.
Because we lived in a small village in the mountains we grew everything on our own, except for fish. We would wait for the soil to be ready and give us the crops of each season, like figs and corn during the summer. In the village we knew where all the things we consume or use come from. Until recently, most of the meat we had at home would be either from our own flock or some neighbor’s that lived nearby. Here in the city it seems like you have to run errands for the simplest things, even just to buy bread.
Before coming to Athens, I would cook with what my gardens would provide me with, so I would always eat according to season without realizing since we never really used pesticides or other fertilizers to grow more crops. Often, I would ask a neighbor or a good friend to provide me with something I didn’t have in return for something they wanted, goat cheese, milk, eggs or something else, so visiting markets wasn’t really necessary. I really miss this type of bond between people, it brought us closer together.
Somehow, we always found a way to provide other things too, even after more products became available: for example, I would always prefer green olive soap, which I made myself, to common laundry soaps or. There is a relief in being able to provide for yourself, it made us calmer even though it is tiring. It seemed we didn’t know what stress is. Another thing that surprises me about living here is how much we have to throw away. I don’t remember throwing away so much garbage in my life: fruit and vegetable peels I would give to the chickens I kept near my house or to my neighbor for composting, something that excited me because it helped with my own plants as well. It seemed as if nothing went to waste.
Some years ago, we kept larger numbers of flock. Whenever we had meat, we made sure to use everything that an animal gave us. It is harder to consume much meat when it is not packed in a fancy package. Knowing you can have your own homemade things, work with your own soil gave me a certainty and calmness. It is very hard to understand, here in the city, that I have to depend on the supermarket for everything and it just feels harder to ask for the things I need. Being close to your soil and nature made me wait and be patient. I’ll be happy to return to the village soon.
Story collected by Flora Malatanou as part of the Stories for Future international pilot project.