It was never intended that I would stay long in the volunteers’ house; apart from anything else, someone else is booked into my bed on Friday. But it did what was intended, providing somewhere for me to stay immediately I arrived, and giving me the chance to meet everyone. But the intention was that it would also give me time to use local knowledge to find somewhere else. Somewhere a little more… private.
Actually, that proved something of a washout. Carolina, one of the volunteers with some administrative responsibilities, has been looking for local accommodation for the volunteers for ages, with no success. So it was just as well that Val was able to find an AirBnB apartment that, at least on paper, seemed just the ticket.
I moved in today (with the help of Leah and Adrienne driving me here in the van), and have to say that, for almost the first time since I arrived, I was able to breathe. The apartment is wonderful. In many ways it is similar to the place I had in Mytilini, being a studio apartment – everything in one room. One big difference is that this version is much more modern and high-tech, with a real sense of style (while the Mytilini equivalent had a sort of faded charm.) Secondly, this place comes with an amazing view over the nearby lake and mountains (though the disadvantage is that this means it is at the top of a steep hill.)
One big change in my plans is that, with everything so uncertain, we have only booked it for a week in the first instance. The reality of coronavirus has finally come home to Second Tree, and in a big way, with the enforced closure of all schools and educational establishments (including NGOs running classes in refugee camps.) A week – or maybe two – might be enough time for a clearer picture to emerge, and for me to decide whether there is much point in my staying here.
The other noticeable impacts of the virus in Ioannina? The streets, shops and restaurants are definitely quieter, and the supermarket cashier pulled on gloves before serving me. But it was fun to see a group of middle-aged men take over the empty schoolyard to play a lively and clearly enjoyable game of basketball. It is, as they say, an ill wind…