I’m 29. The island got electricity during my lifetime. It likes to remind us of this periodically. We went without internet, phone, and fax for three days. Luckily (in the middle of a fierce heat wave) we got to keep our electricity (i.e., air conditioning). So I spent the last three days with no connection to the outside world at all. That means something entirely different when you live on a small island that is already very cut off from the rest of the world.
Yesterday I spent the whole day (9:30am until 5:00pm) teaching my friend Anna how to make bread. We made bread out of cornmeal, whole wheat flour & seeds, and white flour. Then our husbands showed up to eat most of it. It was a very nice way to spend a day. I love baking bread, and I’m surprisingly good at it, considering that I did it for the very first time about 18 months ago.
The day before that, we watched the World Cup game in which Greece won over Nigeria. It was a very exciting game, and I really got into it (yesterday, when the USA was robbed of our victory against Algeria, I kept falling asleep, and in fact slept from the point that it was 0-1 Algeria until I was awakened by the screeching commentators complaining about the final score of 2-2 (when it should have been 3-2 USA). But I really got excited about the Greece game, because Greece actually cares about soccer/football, whereas the USA does not. (Example: I have 500 Facebook friends, the vast majority of whom are Americans, and only 2 of them posted anything related to the World Cup game in which the USA very legitimately should have been pissed off. If the same thing had happened to the Greek team, they’d STILL be screaming about it.)
The day before the Greece game, we went for a night swim in the sea. We’re in the midst of the first annual heat wave, and the sea is still hot at night. The water was so warm, in fact, that even I just ran right in and swam, whereas I normally spend half an hour inching my way into the water.
But our big news, aside from being cut off from the world, winning a Big Game, baking lots of bread (and chocolate chip cookies), and swimming in the sea, is that we are on the strictest budget I have ever seen. Starting on June 16, when we were hit by yet another round of salary cuts (at this point it’s gotten so entirely ridiculous, we are resigned to the fact that my husband’s salary will keep decreasing over time, despite his increasing experience, service, and so on), and facing the reality of moving (expensive) and a number of other upcoming expenses, I sat down with the facts and figures and wrote up a budget.
It started as a yearly budget: this is what we make, this is what we most likely will spend over the course of a year.
Then it turned into a monthly budget: this is what we know we make this month, these are the expenses we expect to have this month.
Now it’s a weekly budget: this is what we have in the bank right this minute, this is how many bottles of non-poisonous water and how many cucumbers we think we can scrape by on this week.
To put things into perspective, it’s now Day Four of The Budget, and so far, for all things (everything from food to gas to medicine to whatever else people spend their money on), we have spent €18.18, of which €12 was for bottled water, and the rest was for tomatoes, three packets of yeast, and lemons. And we’re hoping we don’t have to spend anything else this week. Fingers crossed that we can make it through an entire week on less than €20 for everything, because we have a bill next week for €200.
As long as “nothing happens,” and we eat lightly cooked beans (the bottled water won’t last long enough to cook them more than lightly) and the bread Anna gave us from our baking spree yesterday, we should be able to finish out the week without buying anything else except 1 L of milk. Fingers crossed, because the one thing we absolutely refuse to do is to borrow money (credit card, bank, parents, etc.). We are going to get by on €20/week living in one of the most expensive places in the entire world. Because that’s what a small island that uses the Euro in a country with serious economic problems and high inflation and no subsidies for small islands is.