When I left Free and Real in June, I knew I would be back again before the end of the year. It’s that sort of a place. It took slightly longer than I expected (six months in fact), but I was very happy to be finally heading back to Evia. The last time I was there, I spent just three days learning and experiencing what Free and Real is. This time I would be staying for a total of six weeks – a great chance to play a more active role in shaping the Telaithrion project and to gain a more in-depth understanding of the philosophy behind this non-profit organisation.
After a hot and sticky bus ride over from Athens (it’s still hot over here folks) I was greeted by the familiar sight of the ferry coming over from Edipsos:
But was rather surprised to see how empty it was:
After taking in the view for a few minutes,
I was reminded how nice the people are over here. Kostas (pictured below) came over to chat to me and we exchanged our life stories – well, we exchanged as much as I could say and understand in Greek! Luckily he spoke a little German when I couldn’t understand what he wanted to say – it turned out that he’d worked in Germany close to Freiburg and now lives in Evia, where he runs a small cafe and makes tsipouro (a Greek spirit made from grapes). When we went our separate ways I asked him how old he was. Have a guess and then hover on the photo to see the answer. I couldn’t believe it…
When I arrived back in Agios (the F&R headquarters) I was greeted by a French film crew who were making a documentary on Greeks that are finding creative ways to respond to the economic crisis. It soon became clear that the work of Free & Real is making headlines throughout Europe! Just a few days before, a Swedish film crew had also been here to see what it’s all about. Here is Apostolos, one of the founding members, showing the reporter how to make organic toothpaste,
which is a mixture of white clay, baking soda, essential oils and boiled water. The ingredients are mixed into a paste and then transferred into jars that have been sterilised,
before being labelled and sent to the Free & Real store. Apparently one of the large jars is enough to clean your teeth for three months – all for the meagre cost of 3 Euro!
After a long evening of great food, catching up and getting to know the current volunteers (the sense of community and friendliness here is amazing), we headed back to the yurt site for a good night’s sleep. I woke early and left my home for the next few weeks
to investigate the new yurt that had recently been built:
The main structure, flooring, outer cover and insulation were all in place. All that appeared to be missing were the doors and the cap on top of the roof (more to come about that in a later post!):
After a quick session of yoga I headed to the garden to see what we would be eating later that week. I was very happy to discover a nice little crop of chillis (I eat them with everything)…
and amazed to discover some animals that reminded me of being in Costa Rica. This psychadelic caterpillar will apparently turn into a Death’s Head Hawkmoth – made famous by the Silence of the Lambs logo.
And this guy is a praying mantis who took on the local cat when I was there and won:
Later that day the volunteers set to work constructing a wall at the entrance to the lounge area at the workshop site. The winters here can get pretty cold so the idea was to put in a stove and window to keep us cosy in the evenings.
And when the sun came out I headed to the main garden to see how it had changed since I was here in the summer. There were a lot more flowers and plants that had gone to seed, which made it feel like I was walking through a meadow rather than a productive vegetable and herb garden.
As I was cutting back some of the dead plants yet another film crew walked into the garden – this time from a Greek tv channel. They were also featuring Free and Real in a documentary about ways that people are coping with the crisis. After doing a couple of interviews they came over to film me for a while – I’d been here less than 24hrs and I was already probably going to be on French and Greek tv!
The documentary was actually shown on Alpha TV a few days later and I did in fact feature on it, albeit for a split second. You’ve got to start somewhere though right ;)? You can watch it here. My momentous appearances occurred at 13:22 (just my arms) and 15:09. Unfortunately the commentary is only available in Greek, but the images (especially at 6:40) give you a good idea about the Telaithrion project, which I mentioned in my last post.
Although I’ve only been away for a few months, Free and Real has evolved a great deal – Apostolos, Panagiotis and Alex (Dionisos and Pepi have now started their own project in Pelion) are incredibly focused, and they have created and motivated an entire community that supports their cause. They now have nearly 13000 followers on facebook and their recent Indiegogo crowdfunding project was the most popular ever in the environment category! Like everyone else, I’m very excited to see the Telaithrion project take shape – and so proud to be a part of it! I’ll keep you updated on how things are going over here, and you can also check out our facebook page for even more photos. See you there!