Archive for the ‘People’ Category


This is Vangelis and I have known him as long as I live on this island. Vangelis is a man of all trades but he is often hired to bring building materials to houses in places where no cars/trucks can come and to take rubble from the houses that are built and renovated. The materials are picked up by the horses/mules he owns. In the old days everything was transported via these beautiful, hardworking animals.

What can I say about Vangelis? He has a hard life trying to find work in a time where the economic crises almost wiped out the building trade on Skopelos. Lately the economic situation is picking up and more people dare to renovate or built properties and Vangelis has work. To find a steady job is pretty difficult because the last five years, during the economic crises, the Greek government allowed one person to be hired when five persons retired or stopped working for the government.

Fortunately the Greek government, now, also allows people to have jobs that last for eight months, in villages and cities. Cleaning jobs, waste management, forestry clearing jobs and clerical jobs at town halls and citizen’s help offices and other governmental organizations.

Vangelis has found an eight month job at the forestry office. He is trimming trees, cleaning up land and paths After these eight months he is jobless again for a while until he can apply again for these kind of jobs. Until he finds this kind of job again he roams around the village with his horses and quietly makes sure that all the rubble and building materials reach their destination.


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Maria, my landlord of my office in town, happened to be the first person who called me after I arrived on the island again a couple of days ago. I was off the island for personal reasons and she asked me how I was.

Maria takes care of the saint Michael church in town, she cleans, she makes it ready for sermons and is a key holder and when I told her I would be away and that a certain day in the week ahead would be important for me she said:”I will light all the candles in the church and all will go well” Whether I believe or not it doesn’t make a difference. Her genuine concern and that act made all the difference in how I felt during my absence and how I feel now.

Maybe I am a late learner but the real concern of one human being towards another human being is what life is about. Thankfully I have many people like that around me and I want to thank them.

These people are really listening when you have a conversation with each other so you and they detect where help is needed and in what way, if necessary. It has nothing to do with power or money and what you can do with that. No the real deal is the concern for that other person or persons. Maria is the personification of all those people and I am thankful she and all the others are in my life.

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A couple of weeks I was visiting a neighbourhood in Skopelos town for an errand and when I could not find the person I needed I decided to wait and say hello to a lady ( Mrs. E) who I know from the flower decoration evening in the church at Easter.

When I knocked on her door Mrs. E invited me in and when I came into the tiny living room I saw an elderly lady on the couch, eating her porridge (Quaker) She acknowledged me but was silent. I started talking with Mrs. E and she told me that the woman on the couch is her mother. She is 93. She is ok healthwise but needs to take a lot of medicines and cannot be left alone because she walks with great difficulty and can fall. So they spend almost 24 hours a day with each other. There is no money for another carer but fortunately her two children help out when it is needed.

When the porridge was eaten I asked the elderly lady if she liked the television programmes on tv and if they keep her company and she said:”no I don’t really watch television, I read…” I then asked her what she was reading at the moment and her daughter picked up a book from a small pile. It was the diary of Anne Frank… How wrong about people and their lives can you be if you don’t know about their past!

I told the elderly lady I am a librarian and that I love reading too. When I saw that she had double folded her page to know where she stopped reading I immediately thought about all the book markers I have at home and I told her I would bring her one. I have an embroidered one with spring flowers and this one I brought (washed and ironed) to her yesterday. When I gave it to her she said nothing but her fierce eyes were thanking me. I am so happy that from this unexpected visit so much joy came and the friendship and understanding with this Greek family has another layer of memories.

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Walking down the ring road for an errand I saw this woman looking at the elementary school playground. I know her and asked if she was looking for somebody. She said:” my eldest grandchild has just started in the elementary school and I miss her” So S. goes to the school to see her when she plays in the playground.

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The queen is gone

(Katherina’s work)

This post is to announce the very sad passing of Mrs. Katherina Provias, yesterday the 7th of September. She was buried this morning at 11. Katherina was the figurehead of Magic Cars and the tourist information office she managed for many years. Many people knew her and admired her strength. With Katherina you always knew exactly what she thought. She would never beat around the bush. She would go all the way for many people. She was very generous and always would try to find a solution for a problem. She adored her family, her children, the grandchildren and the contact with the hundreds of people she knew! Goodbye Katherina Καλό Παράδεισο.

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Going where ?

As a foreigner in Greece with two children I was sometimes at a loss in understanding how the Greek school system worked and very worried whether my children would be able to walk through it with “success”. As a foreigner you have no clue how everything works and the first years the advice of other parents was vital. The first thing though I needed to do was stop comparing the school system I knew in Holland with the Greek. The second thing I did was: I became a member of school parents boards to understand more of the system, the curriculum etc.

As a mixed family (Greek-Dutch) we try to speak two languages at home but by the time the children reached the middle and high school, greek was the only language that was used to explain and to talk about lessons. Greek now is the children’s first language, english is the second (because many children follow extra english lessons and try to obtain an english diploma which helps them in the future) and Dutch is their third language. I feel the children know quite a bit about the dutch language and with some extra time their knowledge of the language will become even better.

When the children reached the high school they took a private test of about 500 questions to find out what their interests were and what kind of subjects/schools fit with them.This test helped a lot with the final direction of classes that the children wanted to follow and the choice of higher education later.

We chose to give the children the opportunity to follow extra lessons in subjects for their finals. This money the parents pay out of their pockets. Not every parent is able to do this and many children get to higher education schools without it but we felt that the teacher could help us with many questions we had about the whole process. After school they would go there. The children continued to participate in other activities like sports and it helped them psychologically too.

And then came the finals this year. You can do finals in four, five or six subjects. Unfortunately everything is decided at the finals and there is not much room to up your grades if you have a really bad exam. If you have a bad day, tough luck. The amount of points you gather enables you to get into higher education schools like a university. If you don’t have the required amount of points you can also go to a private school (you pay for this type of education)

Our oldest child graduated and has been accepted in a university. The result of her hard work. Our part in the whole process was listening to her dreams, trying to find out what possibilities she had and trying to support her every step of the way with the help of many people.

The heartfelt congratulations of so many people has overwhelmed us completely and we want to thank everybody from the bottom of our hearts. Here on Skopelos the children have to leave the island if they want to go and study. It is considered a big thing and rightfully so. Many people on the island (and off) follow and learn about the results and find out where students are accepted. Next steps getting there and finding an apartment …. Oh my ….

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Last night, a Saturday night, which was a good Kastro bar night, Yiannis “ZORO” Rafaelidis died. Yiannis was ill for a while. He was buried this Sunday afternoon.

He would take it easy, get his pension and start fishing more and he would start organizing parties again and talk and talk because that is what Yiannis liked, talk to people, get to know them. That was his thing and that is why the famous Kastro bar that he owned was so successful.

Zoro was a great plumber and his sons Thodoris and Stelios followed in his footsteps and took over the business. Yiannis was thankful for that and he started making his plans. He wanted a website about Kastro bar. The beginning is there. John Gill set it up for him and loaded up many photos of that wonderful time between the end of 1970’s and the middle 1990’s. The history of the bar is there. The link is here; Kastro bar

Zoro will be missed by many many people.

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