Having seen very little of Ioannina, on Sunday I decided to go for a walk, trying to avoid going stir crazy, and reckoning on being able to keep a metre distance from anyone I might meet. At first, I did feel that I was in one of those dystopian movies where the city is deserted, but as I made my way closer to the lake, more and more people were also out and about. There did seem to be more police about than usual – not that I know what usual is – but no-one questioned my right to be out and about.
Food shops and pharmacies are allowed to be open, but the nearby chemists were both closed, as was the supermarket, though the fishmongers was open (though I reckoned those fish on the slab would still be there at the end of the day – there was no-one about.) Bars and restaurants were closed, but places selling takeaway food – kebabs, coffee, ice-cream – were open. All the shops were shut, except for one place selling religious souvenirs and walking sticks, and another with phone cases and cheap earrings!
I strolled a little along the path by the lake, and then found a bench to myself – keeping my distance – to sit and read for a while, and then I walked home. I had thought it would be pleasant to stay in Ioannina for a while, to take the time to see the area’s attractions, but nothing is open, and the pressure is on to stay in.
On Monday, there were a series of meetings, formal and informal. The main meeting of the teaching team, plus management, also had one person represented by laptop, (propped up on the arm of the settee) as she was joining us by skype. This was Anna, a brand new volunteer from Germany, who had immediately gone into self-isolation when she arrived, having come from an infected area (where isn’t!?) Giovanni gave an impressively calm and measured outline of the effect of coronavirus on Second Tree: that at least one person at the meeting was virtually certain to catch it, and therefore we all would, but that should not lead to stigma; that people should make their own decisions what to do based on their own circumstances; that nobody could know what might happen.
Other meetings were more chats: first impressions of the house, of the camps, of the kids; expectations of what might be achieved; organisational structures that might give enough time to make real progress…
But all of this is to be put into the category of the unknown. Since there is little that I can do in terms of teaching, and since there is little for me to do as a tourist, I shall (inshallah) be flying home on Wednesday (with the intention of returning when the world returns to normal.) Wish me luck.
(* – Walking and talking: my thumbnail description of that most basic of art-forms, Drama)