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Help a Dane - Help a Greek
by Katerina Charisi
2017-02-12 11:11:47
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I watched the other day, a Danish ad/campaign video with the name “Help a Dane” and even though it made me laugh, in the end I felt tears were burning my eyes. Tears that had nothing to do with laughter.

The video is HERE and while the Danish announcer tries to speak Greek, YouTube offers English subtitles.

kate01_400“Help a Dane”, against the Greek sun, this magic flute, the charmer, the captivating, the seducing Greek sun. The mood changer Greek sun. The same sun that I live under for 35 years now. The sun that turns every sorrow and anxiety into pure joy and cheer, the sun that made the crickets sing all day long in the summer, leading himself to starvation in winter, as the great Aesop wrote.

An effort to alarm people about melanoma and skin cancer, with “Denmark reporting the highest rates with 19.2 cases per 100.000 people annually, (slightly higher than their Scandinavian neighbors) and compared to 14.6 in the UK, 11.4 in Germany and Italy, 10.2 in France and 6.9 in Spain.” – that whilst Greece and Thailand report the lowest rates of melanoma and skin cancer (2.4, 0.4).

I happened to experience both sides of the Greek summer, the summer that fulfils the ideal life for thousands all around the world, especially the Scandinavians, for whom Greece is a unique summer destination for holidays, a magic experience. For those who can actually live it. If you are not one of the lucky ones, say, a Greek islander, or financially well off, or ... a Dane tourist, the Greek summer can be unbearable.

Imagine yourself spending a summer in Greece, under the savage sun and the high temperatures, limited in one of the big cities; those grey, boiling cement cities, where you can actually see the streets steaming and your vision occasional blurs from the heat. All that trying to cool yourself down a little in your cement house, thinking about the electric bill that you won’t be able to pay, so you keep the A/C off, while you sweat and are constantly thirsty, taking cold showers every couple of hours, just to feel the sweat run down your body after a few minutes again.

You just stay inside, avoid moving unless it’s absolutely necessary, trying (and usually fail) to sleep. Sleeping outside if you can, hoping it won’t last for too long. That’s the Greek summer for anyone who can’t live it as …holidays!

So, I might not be too familiar with the long and dark Scandinavian winters, but I do know very well how it feels to need this sweet warmth of the sun, the summer days and warm summer nights, and the deep blue or greenish clear waters of the Greek islands.

I have spent my first 20 years shared between the Greek second biggest city and the small island of Skopelos and lived both sides of the coin that consist the Greek summer. In the big city, I longed each summer for the few days holidays in Halkidiki, a nearby sea side area; swimming all day long, building sand castles, sunbathing, consistently ignoring my parents’ shouting to put a hat on my head, get under the umbrella for a while, put a damn sunscreen on! And then my next ten years in the small island, where it seems that summer never ends, for having the sea right next to you and the chance to play with it or swim in every warm, sunny day, even when it’s not summer.

Of course, as a genuine Greek kid, I never put a hat on my head. Never stomped an umbrella in the sand, never put a sunscreen on. Come on, this is for the sensitive, pale skinned people! I never got sunburned. Who needs all this?

However, there comes a day to pay for all this ignorance and carelessness, and happened to me. One of the people who live in the country with the lowest rates of melanoma and skin cancer. Ironic, isn’t it? Well, it is not. It’s a matter of proper information, sensitivity and serious addressing of the matter. If Danes and/or other Scandinavians need help and support about the sun’s noxiousness, Greeks also could use a hand, for Greeks as used to high exposure and dark skinned as they are, they refuse to accept the potential dangers of long sun exposure without any protection. That’s what I did myself; chose to ignore. That cost me 5 months with a deep red, itching, peeling off skin, double medication, about 300 euros in medicine, pills, creams and lotions. The punishment to wear long sleeved shirts in burning hot August (maybe that was the worst part) and the strict condition to put sunscreen each and every time I get outside home when the sun is up high, meaning maybe 300 days per year. Congratulations me.

Deep respect for fellow Danes, who deal with a very serious matter with humor, for the effort to speak Greek in their video, for asking for help. You are not alone in this, I guess we all are together; even Greeks! So, help a Dane by reminding the importance of protection, help a Greek by doing the same.


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