Monthly Archives: July 2015

Displaced – Take Two

Displaced was written by Hilary.  I wanted to write something different.  We saw two different groups of people entering Greece, and no doubt bound for northern Europe.  We had this confirmed by islanders as well, that many of the the migrants would head for Athens and then leave Greece.

The first group was young people, mostly males.  These seemed to be coming mostly from Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.  We saw ripped up UNHCR papers with text in Turkish, identifying individuals from these countries.  Refugees from conflict, but like all young people desperate for a better future willing to travel to find it.

The second group were Syrians.  These were family groups, men, women, children, infants.  People who had risked not only their own lives on a night sea crossing across shipping lanes, but the lives of newborn.

So why risk the crossing, why risk life and limb on the hope of reaching France, Germany, UK?  Why not remain in Turkey?  Why is this movement of displaced people happening?

Why not remain in Turkey is probably the easiest one.  Jobs in Turkey are hard to find, when they can be found, wages are not good.  Sometimes are commission only, sometimes it is all day in a field for a few lira.  Foreigners are often not allowed to work, and to be honest, there are more than two million known refugees in Turkey, Turkey is struggling to cope, the refugees are on the streets with nowhere to go, and the EU is not providing the assistance to Turkey to help the refugees that it is treaty bound to do.  So the refugees leave.

Why Northern Europe.  Well in a sense it is chasing Shangri La.  It is where jobs pay decent money, even in the black economy.  It is perceived as safe, where it is safe to bring up children, safe to express ideas, where the rule of law is upheld, where human rights are protected.  This is the perception and to a point these people are right.

Why flee their native countries?  This is of course the real source of the problem.  The simple answer is they are fleeing war, genocide, hatred.  I ask all who might read this…..  If you were living in a country where the military might drop a barrel packed full of explosives and nails onto the street where your children were playing, would you stay?  Would you stay in a country where your daughter might be abducted and raped because she was of a different religious sect?  Of course you would not.

But the real question we need to ask is how have we got to the position where these things are happening?  What part has the Western world played in creating this unprecedented movement of displaced people?  The west has raged military war on Afghanistan, on Pakistan, on Syria, on Libya, on Iraq.  The west has raged economic war on Iran.  The west incited political unrest and civil war in Libya, Syria.  I could easily add more to each list.  The reason for all of this is not political, is not ideological, it is all driven by greed, by the desire to acquire resources, to plunder the local wealth, to asset strip, to essentially take the wealth of these nations, these peoples, and transfer it to western economies.  It is therefore no great surprise that when people are forced to flee war, terror and genocide, they follow the route of their plundered wealth, to those very countries which created the unrest in the first place.


Lesvos 201514Something I have wanted to write for a while about our wonderful holiday in Lesvos.  Something I have been thinking about a great deal.  Something that has been on the news.  Something that was in the Guardian just after we got home.

I think we all know by now that there are more displaced people in the world than there have been at any time since the Second World War.  A lot of those people are trying to get into Western Europe.  Thousands and thousands of people every day are getting into inflatable dinghies in Turkey and making their way across the sea to Greece.

Skala Sikaminia, the very charming little fishing village where we stayed on Lesvos, is about five miles, as the seagull flies or the inflatable dinghy rides, from Assos in Turkey.  Riding from Mytilene to Sikamenia on our very expensive motorcycle we saw somewhere between five hundred and a thousand people walking.  Most of the people walking were young men, young men of military age, young men in smart jeans and smart t-shirts, carrying very little.  There were some families.  Some very young babies.  But most of the people we saw were young men.  Many of them smiled and waved as we rode past on our very expensive motorcycle.

It is a long walk for some of them.  65 or 70 km.  Though some are landing at Mytilene harbour.  We saw people sleeping in patches of shade by the side of the road, we saw people sleeping in the road.  People who were clearly exhausted from walking in the heat.  We did not take photographs.  Our feeling was that to take photographs would be to compromise their dignity.  We are not photojournalists, just individuals and bloggers.

On the beaches we saw tattered remains of the dinghies.  The outboard motors, apparently, are being salvaged by the locals.  They are worth something.  We saw piles of abandoned lifejackets (good quality) – clearly not worth the trouble of salvaging.  We saw torn up paperwork – Turkish work permits, papers confirming refugee status.  These displaced people are abandoning their own identities in order to find themselves a future in Western Europe.  A lot of the young men we saw are Syrian, but there are some from Afghanistan and Pakistan.  All seeking out a better life.

It is hard to know what to think or what to feel.  Lesvos itself is hardly rich.  The people there, on the whole, are sympathetic to the plight of displaced humans, but have a limited amount to give.  We saw people from the dinghies in the restaurant where we ate, we saw them in the corner shop, buying water and cigarettes.  The people in the shop told me that they feel sorry for the displaced people, but they can’t really cope with the influx.  We also saw them walking.

They walk to Mytilene where they get papers and a ferry to Athens.  I don’t know where they go from there.  I don’t know what they hope to find or whether what they hope for actually exists.

There are terrible things afoot in this world.  People run from those things.  People run to what they perceive as a better life for themselves and for their families.  People put themselves at risk to achieve this.  This has always been the case.

But, right now, there are more displaced people than at any time since the Second World War.  Where will those people go?  What will become of them?

Mixing it up

We have not done anything food related for a while. so.  Time to correct this.

We have a load of basil growing in pots.  Far more than we can eat or give away, and the locals do not seem keen on the idea of using it in food.  It is not the Italian variety, but a local broad leaved one, just as tasty but a little less sweet.  Ashley thought it a good idea to make pesto.  Pesto can of course be made with many things, here it gets called ezme whether made with basil and pine nuts, or black olives.  Tapenade = olive ezme.  Pesto = green ezme, or herb ezme, or something else similar.  A Mexican habenero salsa would probably be chilli ezme.    I am sure you get the idea.  Anyway, I digress.

Back to pesto.  Pine nuts are expensive.  So we hit on the idea of using pumpkin kernels.  Sunflower seeds were also considered but the local Migros did not have any and other options  were closed for bayram, so pumpkin kernels it was.  We briefly considered grinding the kernels and basil by hand, it is hot, 36C hot, grinding stuff by hand, no, way too much sweat and effort.  So the huge pile of basil leaves went into in a pot, along with loads of pumpkin kernels and olive oil, and out came the hand blender.  Blend, taste, blend, add more oil, a little salt, a few more kernels.  Blend, taste.  Until it seems right.

Adding cheese was considered, but, we had no Parmesan, and cheese can always be added at point of use.  Talking of point of use, and the theme of mixing things up, today we went out and bought some manti.  Manti is sometimes called Turkish ravioli.  It is little pinched together pieces of pasta with a filling, so yes, much like tiny ravioli.  Commonly in Turkey it is served topped with yoghurt and flavoured oil, which is of course delicious.

So we cooked manti, it is easy enough simply drop it in boiling water for 5 minutes.  Then we spooned over some of the home made pesto and pieces of local goat cheese, turned it all very gently to coat all the manti, and served.  Delicious. Perfect with a salad of tomatoes dressed in oil and balsamic vinegar.

Ashley adds. I need to learn to make pasta.  So many different fillings and sauces.  So many options to mix things up.  Ravioli, Manti, Dim Sum, Gyoza,

Lesvos 2015 – Skala Sikaminia

Lesvos 201501

For Hilary’s birthday we decided to visit Lesvos again.  This was not a mistake.  It is an easy three hour ride to Ayvalik where Hilary discovered that her watch had stopped.  Ashley sat in the customs house cafe and drank tea whilst Hilary walked into town and found a place to fit a new watch battery.

Very little hassle getting the bike through customs and onto the ferry and a very pleasant 90 minutes cruise to Mytilene.  We stayed in Nikos Motel again.  He is very hospitable and the place is excellent value, convenient but far enough from the Centre to be very quiet.

Not that it was quiet anywhere on the Island the Friday before the Referendum.  We dined on the harbour side to the sounds of a political rally.  The rally was very much Oxi, as were most of the electioneering loud speakers mounted on cars cruising up and down…

After breakfast next morning we headed to Skala Sikaminia which is a tiny fishing village with two hotels.  Our hotel was lovely and whilst the room became hot in the early mornings, the smell of bread from the baker below made up for the discomfort.  Maria, who runs the rooms, noticed from Hilary’s passport that it was her birthday on Monday and left a lovely present hanging from the doorknob!

The first night we were there we got swept up in a huge Christening party which was taking place in the restaurant along with some live music.