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Australian Summer Reflections
by Nikos Laios
2017-01-26 10:48:55
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nikos01_400_01January has brought a long hot summer to Australia, and the weekends are filled with the smell of freshly cut grass, the drone of millions of cicadas, sizzling barbecues, and the countless Australians waxing their surfboards ready to hit the beach after work and on the weekends. It's Wednesday here in Sydney, and the heat shot up as high as 38 degrees Celsius, I strip out of my suit and wear board shorts and a t-shirt and make the short ten minute walk from my apartment down to the Olympic pool located at the northern foot of the Sydney harbour bridge. I arrive at the pool and plunge into the water quenching my body and soul in the dazzling waters, melting the day's work away. After swimming several laps, I float on the water in a dreamlike serenity watching delicate white wisps of clouds slowly float overhead under the vivid blue sky and I can feel the whole world. My thoughts suddenly fly to my relatives and friends in Greece and Europe; we share the same sky, yet I think of the many struggles that they face.

nikos02_400_01My hometown village back home in the north-western highlands of Epirus Greece last week was blanketed with thick sheets of white snow, and the temperatures at one point last week plunged down as low as -22 degrees Celsius. I wonder how my relatives and friends could possibly cope with the bleak cold, with their European problems, and reflect on how this cold compounds their present struggles. My cousins on their farms having to work much longer and harder just to put some food on the table, failing to balance their budgets and living a Spartan austerity. Yet they and our ancestors have been living in cold and extreme temperatures like this for thousands of years, and where at present still live with smiles on their faces and I'm reminded how tough and resilient my fellow Greeks are. That the current physical and existential hurdles they face will be defeated just like all the other myriad challenges that they've overcome in their long and glorious history.

I've completed my laps in the pool and then climb up to the outdoor deck area overlooking Sydney harbour and recline on a plastic deck chair sitting on artificial turf, admiring the architecture of the Sydney harbour bridge, and I open today's edition of 'The Australian' newspaper to peruse the local and international news. The sun is darkening my skin, and beads of sweat trickle down my forehead in this 38 degree heat, and I stumble on photographs of refugees in Greece living out in the open in camps with thick sheets of snow covering and surrounding their flimsy tents and I shudder. People not used to extreme cold who are hungry, demoralised, destitute, uprooted from their homes seeking sanctuary in the promised lands of Europe. I stare at these photos, and great waves of shame and guilt wash over me; I simply cannot comprehend that the wealthy nations of Europe have become cold-hearted, and have callously slammed the door in the faces of these poor people. I think also of the old people in Greece living without heat to save on electricity costs, living on a few cans of beans a week, the young people who have lost hope and who will become the lost generation of Europe. I think of the formerly middle class people who have become homeless and destitute living curled up in shut shopfront doorways in a cold snow-filled Athens; I think of all the other Europeans living in similar conditions across Europe, and I wonder where has our European solidarity gone?

I then turn the pages of the newspaper to the North American news and peruse articles chronicling the latest multiple deaths from gun shootings, the inability of Americans to provide a viable health system for their own people. I read through articles on President Obama's last days, and President elect Trump's impending presidency and shake my head in disbelief at US society. One of the wealthiest and most powerful nations in the world, sinking in debt, allowing their people to become sick and selecting a series of unsuccessful presidents. On the one hand we have Obama, one of the most incompetent and ineffectual presidents, to Trump, a dangerous childlike demagogue; I shake my head and thank my lucky stars that I live in Australia.

The section on the Middle East news is filled with the same news that has always filled its pages; blood, death, violence, hatred, racism, religious zealotry, economic misery and continued constant strife that poisons that rest of the world. I always thought that Turkey was the perfect role model for what a peaceful Moslem nation should be and held it in high regard; yet now even Turkey is sliding into the intoxicating delusional drug of fervent Islamic conservatism and all that it brings, and I now wonder if there exists any nation that espouses 'peaceful Islam.' Then I reflect on the United Nations, and what a grand failure and disappointment this organisation has been. What started as an idealistic construction aimed at promoting the fraternity and harmony of human civilisation on the planet, has become an organisation filled with nations bickering and fighting amongst each other and who are only concerned with the modus operandi of promoting their own selfish interests at the expense of international peace and harmony.

I fold the newspaper and thrown it down onto the artificial turf next to my deck chair and focus back on the scene around me; the waves in the harbour gently splashing against the colonial sandstone walls, the smell of sea salt and the various delicate mouth-watering restaurant aromas mingling and floating over and through the steel girders of the Sydney harbour bridge and gliding over the opera house, the gaggle of beautiful bikini-clad women next to me laughing and drinking their margarita cocktails, my crumpled and well-loved book of poetry by Charles Bukowski waiting in my bag, and the menu selection turning over in my mind regarding my meal choice for tonight. The sun is slowly dipping into the sea and the horizon is filled with a magnificent orange colour, and I count myself a fortunate man. In the fortunate position that I presently am in, other people around the world were also in once, but where for some, their circumstances have changed and where they now find themselves cold, hungry and destitute. The one thing that we must not do - as hopeless as situations might become - is to never lose hope, for that is the last commodity that humanity has left, and where here I am left with a final reflection through a quote by Martin Luther King Jr: "we must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope."


Check Nikos Laios' EBOOK
Ida & Her Magic Camera
is online now and you can download for FREE HERE!

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