Inkaminicado! Inkaminicado!
Roger Green came up with a classic to describe the Rock’s permanent inmates when the summer swarms drive local denizens into hiding. Now into its third decade, the resident bard’s traditional Pirofani opening poem was spot on. We shall be blissfully Inka ...
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Who wants to go for a walk? Unanimous yes. Quandary in the port: left to Vichos, right to Hydra town, or a dip in the harbor. Happy Spring all.
Kamini April Fool?
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Romantic August Kamini Sunset Romantic August Kamini Sunset
  But the flip side of our photographic flags a fluttering in the breeze is that with temperatures in the mid 30,s  hot wind can cause deadly wildfires. (As poor Greece has already experienced recently)Please be extra vigilant and always carry water on walks, ...
Romantic August Kamini Sunset
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Honoured to be included. Latest Hydra Book
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Okay who’s next ??? Okay who’s next ???
Easy livin’ August was fun, y’all come back soon y’hear. So that is August in Kamini is almost done and dusted, who’s up for September? We are going to win this season, albeit on marginal points. Happy Fall y’All, still standing KC staf ...
Okay who's next ???
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We have heard rumblings about August “Baby Beach” being a tad crowded. Try China for fun bathing then. Surfs Up
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Mid Summer Kamini night Wild Life Mid Summer Kamini night Wild Life
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Mid Summer Kamini night Wild Life
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Kamini’s Kodylenia Restaurant – 1985 Kamini’s Kodylenia Restaurant – 1985
We took this from Mavro Maties taverna, (the large yellow and red landmark structure in Kamini harbour), closed some decades now. Could not imagine the changes to come in our little village. Always tranquil, beautiful and has remained unspoiled over the years despit ...
Kamini's Kodylenia Restaurant - 1985
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Kamini Takes Centre Stage Kamini Takes Centre Stage
Credit photo Brian Sidaway Or should we say builds a stage. An attractive addition to our valley, creative masons expanded the stone rain channel to include an outdoor theatre. Very nicely done, we don’t know who or what is going to be starring in our new amph ...
Kamini Takes Centre Stage
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Mutters & Musings

Extreme snail mail

It must be a record somewhere—nearly three years for a small package to reach our post office on the port. In the age of instant coms, it’s hard to believe that an envelope could literally take years to arrive at its destination (though the main thing is that it eventually did!).

Not so long ago an expatriate received a dog-eared, moth-eaten parcel that had somehow managed to travel half way around the world, twice, before landing on the Rock. No one knows for sure how this happened, but it evoked some speculation because the aforementioned mail had been franked in places as far away as Moscow and Montreal.

There was nothing obviously untoward about the address upon initial inspection; nor were the contents of the parcel extraordinary, just a couple of paperbacks, but it had also visited the United States a couple of times, as well as France and Italy.

It was addressed to

Mademoiselle “Jane Doe”
Poste Restante

So how did the package go on such an extended walk-about? Someone suggested that it went to both France and Quebec because the sender had quirkily titled the recipient “mademoiselle.” Another pointed out that the package may have been returned to the States, where it appeared to have come from originally, because the zip code for Hydra, 18040, is also the zip code for Easton, Pennsylvania.

It was then astutely decided that it had gone to a Russian post office because some bright spark had noticed that “Greece” had been written in an alphabet resembling Russian. Nobody could quite figure out why it had vacationed in Italy, except that Poste Restante sounded like an Italian pasta or something.

According to the stamp marks, in most cases the parcel had sat in an unknown/pending pile for a few weeks before some clerk had decided to pass the buck onto the next “logical” country.

When asked for our snail-mail address abroad, most folks don’t believe that what we tell them is sufficient. The lack of street name, house number, suburb, city, and state lines diverges suspiciously from what is regarded as the norm.

Keeping it simple works best. A sorting clerk in any post office anywhere initially looks at the address’s bottom line and puts the piece of mail in the relevant bin or pigeonhole. So, if it says Greece, it will go into an overseas box, then a European box, where it is then stuck in a mailbag destined for Athens. Once in Athens, it is then subsorted into suburbs, regions, or islands; so, something marked Hydra comes here. Once here, well, they know who we are:

Snail mail to Hydra, Greece

Whilst we do not advocate everyone keeping it this simple, that is, not even using a surname, snail-mail will find its way home … as we found out recently.

‘It’s All Greek’ for Good Reason

It is not by coincidence that the cliché “It’s all Greek to me” connotes incomprehension.  While Greek, spoken or written, is notoriously tough to master, its difficulties have an unusual twist on the island.  The dozen-odd subdialects of the mother tongue can be quite confusing to the untrained ear.

Pavlos says, "It's all Greeklish to me too!"

A fairly common sublingo is Bar Greek, a language tailored to obtaining service, ordering rounds, and eventually calculating the tab. An inmate of the rock may hereby specify exact wishes, such as a beer and a bottle of chilled white wine with four glasses:

“Parakalo, mia beira, ke ena boukali pargomeni aspro grasie meh tessera bouteria.”

Impressive bar banter in the Hellenic third person can ensue at length to include ashtrays and directions to the head.

Once having spent an enjoyable afternoon with one old timer on the port, I stopped a muleteer and asked my companion if he could explain about keys and the whereabouts of a house for guests that were arriving. After introductions and a brief discussion about the weather, my translator ran dry.

“My dear fellow, I don’t understand a word he is saying.”

He explained that while he was fluent in taverna and café Greek, when it came to other matters, the language became a blur.

One local bloke, an Auzzie skipper marooned for over three decades on the Rock, admits that he will never get his tongue around the language—but he does speak fluent Nautical Greek. He knows the names of obscure things like grappling hook, and complicated phrases like “Your anchor is laying port side of my chain so be cautious when raising yours, as our respective yachts could become entangled.”  On land, the man needs a translator.

Similarly, other versions of Greek could leave one with the impression that all participants to an exchange were fully conversant. Ex-patriots who have dabbled in the building trade appear to be multilingual, but are in fact only partially bilingual. Cement we can order, ink not.

My pidgin has a broader base due to the selection of tasks I have performed, but the reality is that no matter how many new words I learn, there will always be some that can trip me up. A slight slant in vowel enunciation can produce an exciting response.

Early on I learned the word for soft, malakoe, so that I could explain to the chef at the Breakfast Club my preferance for runny, rather than rubber-fried, eggs with my bacon.

“Parakalo thelo avga ke baycon—malaka, “ I said, emphasizing the new word I had practiced.

“Tea!!??” my chef queried. The volume of his response indicated that he wasn’t asking me what beverage I wanted with breakfast, and anyway, I knew tea in Greek meant what.

“Malaka emay? Essee ena Malaka.”

The animated chef, unamused by my order, was calling me soft back?

“You know, you just called the guy a wanker,” said a nearby inmate coming to my rescue. He then explained to the chef that a twisted vowel had been the culprit and that I had indeed being trying to impress the bloke with my newly found linguistic skills. “Greeks are used to foreigners making a hash of their language,” he laughed. I never got yokes my fork could bounce on after that.

Another trick in expanding one’s vocabulary is to fiddle with the English word, generally adding a vowel or two.

A mate and I were in Four Corners minimarket searching for mustard.  I explained in pidgen what we were after:

“You eat it with meat, hot on the tongue, a kind of paste, you know mustard.”

Dimitri’s eyebrows jerked in the negative with each additional in description. I was running out of vocabulary, when he saw a glimmer and proudly produced a bottle of tomato sauce.

“Not tomato sauce, mustard.”

“Neh, ketzup. Sauce for food.”

“Ketzup, aye? You say potato and I say—that’s another word learned, but oxi the right sauce, the one I want is yellow in colour.”

Dimitri scratched his head muttering, and we gave up.  As we were heading out the door, his voice boomed with the dawning:

“Ahh, moustardo! Ella egho.”

On another occasion we spent an interesting morning going through the chaotic piles of stock at the Plastic Man.  The Plastic Man sold everything, but he also sported the largest selection of plastic kitchen utensils and furniture, and so by description of his store, he had inherited the nickname. Many shops on the island had acquired such monikers: the Frozen Man, not surprisingly a chap who sold frozen victuals, the Video and Gunpowder Man, whose shop sold pyrotechnics next to videos for rent, and so on.

Saying the word avga (egg), accompanied by some miming, would do the trick, we thought, an egg flipper being a common kitchen device and all. In our search for said item he unearthed a 1950s East German eggbeater, pans, whisks, poachers, and anything else connected to cooking an egg.

“Everything except a spatula,” said my mate shaking his head in awe at the selection.

“Ahh, spatoula,” beamed the Plastic man, who dove to an exact spot in the mountain of paraphernalia.

One inmate had a delivery “delay” of over a year due to a single vowel.  Once, every so often, she would go to the local courier to enquire when her parcel would arrive. The words for never and when are so similar that it is easy to see where confusion and time-lapses can occur:  pote (emphasis on e) and pote (emphasis on o) makes the difference between an immanent package and one marked “never.”

Another tip in increasing one’s vocabulary is to differentiate the object into time periods.  If it was built or invented in the last century or so, the word for it will often have an anglicized base: aeroplane, an aeroplano, tellyorasie, a television, komputer, a computer, etc.

A lot of words are the basic foundation for the same word in in many major languages: democrasia, philosophia, catastrophia, and most phobias.  Even an association of the word’s root, a branch of it, can assist the linguistically handicapped like myself.  An earthquake is a seismos and to steal is to klepsie.  Great words that one tends to adopt in time.

Some words just look the same—difficult is disscolo. Others simply seem impossible. A toothpick is an othontaglyffeetha.

It’s a question of mixing and matching words and associations. Another few thekahdes, and I reckon I’ll have this glossa down pat  (Greek for tongue and language, borrowed no doubt from our word glossary).

Easy this language stuff, really.

The Fourth World?

Inmates of the Rock have, on occasion, frustrated with bureaucratic delays and lack of amenities, been overheard to call our island, in jest, the “fourth world.”

Plastic bag in the wind in Kamini Hydra

But here’s a thought: even in Uganda, plastic bags have been outlawed. In fact, someone caught selling plastic bags could face a US$20,000 fine. Imagine trying to enforce that law here!

Some countries, in an effort to encourage reduced plastic usage, ask consumers to pay for shopping bags. Others have banned plastic bags altogether and use only paper containers, whereas shoppers in some societies have become accustomed taking their own carriers when visiting supermarkets.

Apart from toxic waste, plastic is probably one of the most resilient scourges of our environment, considering that this skoopethia (rubbish) takes approximately two thousand years to decompose.

Whilst our ecofriendly little island’s environmental consciousness has improved in recent years, we still have a long way to go when it comes to recycling anything, never mind coming up with ideas for reducing our use of plastic.

Plastic shopping bags are given out for even the smallest purchases, and they are so prolifically used that they find their way all over the countryside. Witness the lost bags waving from fences or trapped in tree branches along our otherwise pristine coastal paths.

There may be no immediate way to solve this particular form of pollution, but there are some simple ways in which we can work to limit this problem:

  1. Reuse your bags: take them with you when you go shopping. The shop owners appreciate this (as it saves them the expense of dishing out new ones), and bags can be used several times over. Better yet, take your own cloth bag with you to the shops: they hold more and are easier to carry anyway.
  2. If one were to carry an extra plastic bag on trips to and from town, it might serve as a useful receptacle for the ubiquitous ice cream and candy bar wrappers and discarded beverage containers littering our streets (usually within sight, if not tossing distance, of a Demos bin).
  3. This may seem a little alien to some, but in other parts of the world, dog owners use plastic bags, glovelike, to pick up doggie-doo. Indeed, many countries will fine pooch owners if they don’t scoop up said poop. Many of us let our dogs run around unaccompanied, meaning we aren’t there when they make their deposits. Having a bag handy on trips to and from home, we can, however, pick up any such unsightly piles in the vicinities in which our dogs roam. There’s usually a Demos bin nearby, obviating the need to carry the package with us for long.
  4. Use the bags as rubbish-bin liners instead of buying more plastic bags to collect waste.

Of course, it would be ridiculous to suggest that no one ever take another plastic bag home from a shop or that everyone carry them around picking up trash and poop all day long. As with conserving energy and water, however, small changes in habit can make a noticable difference.

Aliens in Kamini?

The strange, almost haunting noise that reverberates periodically, day or night, through Kamini valley has apparently had locals perplexed for the past couple of years—a sound so unlike the familiar braying donkeys, crowing roosters, yapping dogs, and yowling cats that it has caused many to wonder as to its source.

Ostriches in Kamini

I was sitting on our terrace recently with a local mate, Pavlos, over morning coffee when it happened again.

It’s a din difficult to describe, perhaps like some deep-based, demented didgeridoo or a beast from a foreign jungle, but certainly not like anything native to our island.

“What is that?” he asked.

“You don’t know?” I answered, surprised that he didn’t as locals know just about everything that occurs in our little valley. “My dear fellow, it’s the call of a horny ostrich.”

In a field behind Sotiris’s mansion situated at the back of our gorge is a small flock of these enormous, flightless African birds. Some people keep canaries, others parrots, but Sotiris’s pets are a little more exotic.

“The male ostrich is an enthusiastic courter and announces his desire vocally enough for all to hear,” I explained.

Pavlos chuckled. “Well, that solves a mystery many of us have been wondering about for years.”

Fire on Hydra!

The fires are out, but the debate continues…


Fire approaching Kamini

It was our plan to present things in humorous light, articles that would show the lighter side of life on our little Rock. But there is nothing funny about this: in fact, even any humor in the initial rhubarb in which conspiracy theorists claimed that one of the contestants in the ongoing mayoral dispute of 2006/2007 was to blame has paled with the smoke-screened sun.

Fires above Hydra town

Yes, our duelling “mayors” were in Athens in court on July 25 (our future-former-post-almost mayors), and the rumor that one of their “henchmen” had deliberately set the Mandraki dump alight in order to embarrass the other is now yesterday’s bad joke.

Fire encroaches upon Hydra town

Our poor island has never seen the likes of this fire: neither the great fire of ’85 in which three brave volunteers died nor the three-day blaze in ’87 subdued Hydra like this.

It’s akin to a war zone. Helicopters, fire planes, and the navy have shown unbelievable skill and courage in fighting this blaze from dawn till dusk for two days now.

Helicopter bringing water around Kamini

Our headline could have been anything from “Fire Fight for Survival” to “Brave Pilots Fly Every Daylight Hour to Save the Town.” But we have simply called this one “Shame.” Shame, because this should not have happened, and it’s about time we stood up and said so.

Fire raging behind Hydra town

It could well be diplomatically correct to point out that with literally hundreds of wildfires raging across the country as a direct result of record-breaking heat wave temperatures, this was an inevitable result and yet further proof that this global warming stuff is for real. But the truth is that our island is on fire because of a simple lack of foresight, which is a polite way of saying stupidity.

It’s not like we didn’t have fair warning or time to plan for this disaster, as both previous serious fires started at the garbage dump, and already this summer two minor fires were extinguished in the same location.

Fire early day two from a boat

So why shame? We are not experts in municipal economics, but it doesn’t take much logic to understand that the cost of the capsized and unsuccessful Miaoulis fireworks boat could have saved us from this.

How? A pump and/or small reservoir at the “skoopethia” landfill could have stopped the fire in its tracks long before it spread. Now, our beautiful isle looks like it has been blitzed. In a way it has, and the cost cannot be tallied in terms of cash loss.

Plane fighting fire behind town

Why does it always take a disaster to make folks shout for what is right? In their efforts to gain favour with the popular vote, our “authorities” have advocated such wonderful schemes as paving and illuminating a road to Vlichos, spending thousands on the placement of pretty little benches and other artistic paraphernalia to enhance Hydra’s unique landscape. Grand ideas to be sure, but shouldn’t somebody have reserved just a few coins for the unattractive but practical project of ensuring that the repetitive source of fire could be combated before it became an island emergency?

It is too easy with hindsight to point fingers and lay blame, but come on chaps …

Plane going into the smoke

One would assume that now, maybe, something will be done to prevent such a catastrophe from occurring in future. But then, we said that in ’85, and again in’87, and heard it murmured about after several small-fire near misses subsequently.

Helicopter picking up water

In closing … absolute kudos to and admiration for the firefighting pilots and volunteers who have fought so desperately to save our island from total incineration.

Perhaps now, with Mr. Anastopoulos’s uncontested reinstatement as mayor, we can focus on serious matters.

David and Jennifer took the following pictures of the fire’s aftermath
during a boat trip around the island.

An entire valley destroyed on the back of Hydra Island
An entire valley destroyed on the back of Hydra Island

The new forest destroyed

The new forest destroyed

Beautiful Limonitze bay blackened

Beautiful Limonitze bay blackened

More evidence of devastation on the back of the island

More evidence of devastation on the back of the island

Fire devastation down to the water’s edge

Fire devastation down to the water's edge

A coastal chaple saved

A coastal chaple saved

A coastal home destroyed

Thanks to Jan McGiffin for sharing her photos from the days of the fires and from a hike to Episcopi showing the aftermath.

Fire on approach to Hydra town seen from Kamini

Fire on approach to Hydra town seen from Kamini

Fire bombing over Hydra as seen from Kamini

Fire bombing over Hydra as seen from Kamini

Night fires in Mandraki seen from Kamini

Night fires in Mandraki seen from Kamini

Night fires heading toward Vlichos and Episcopi seen from Kamini

Night fires heading toward Vlichos and Episcopi seen from Kamini

Fire devastation along the coast of Hydra island

Fire devastation along the coast of Hydra island

Fire devastation around an inland chapel

Fire devastation around an inland cottage

Fire damage right up to the door

Fire damage right up to the door
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