Papadiamantopoulou Street isn't a famous street. It isn't a notorious street. It's a short, typical commercial avenue in a middle class neighborhood in Athens.
With the fear of tear gas alongside longstanding asthma and the urging of my friends, I sadly abandoned my efforts to record the demonstrations taking place so frequently in response to a situation rapidly deteriorating in Greece. I was stung deeply by the sights I had been exposed to in the short time I was there. Middle class people who could have been my parents wait patiently for the grocery store across the street from where I was staying to close so that they could scavenge food from the expired foods in the nightly garbage. College students marching as the “Rising Sun” - a new name for Nazism, a party based on hate and scapegoatism formed from the void of responsible government. Smiling people speaking on the sidewalks turn suddenly dark; knowledge of Greek was actually unnecessary to comprehend the subject change. But affecting me most of all were my good friends, bitter after returning to their home, joining the ranks of the endless unemployed among the gross specter of austerity.
Life still goes on in Athens, it has no choice. People are still polite, even friendly. I have always found the Greeks to be warm and emotional. Amid a backdrop where nothing is any longer stable, employment, government services such as medicine and social security, taxes, transportation, even electricity is subject to frequent and unpredictable outages due to rolling strikes. A city where riot police seem to outnumber regular officers and react with impunity. Yet the Acropolis still stands and life continues. People work long hours where they are able. Some strike frequently, joining those who wait patiently (or impatiently) in front of the impassive parliament building, reacting with words or sometimes thrown chunks of marble broken from the stair of nearby grand buildings. Instructions on the construction of molotov cocktails and directions for minimizing the effects of tear gas are part of daily life for many. But still people eat, drink, live. The sights are still open – it is still a safe place to travel. Safer than many of our cities here in the states.
But daily life means exposure to the heartache behind it all. The walk down Papadiamatopoulou Street is a walk down a typical middle class high street – in Athens. My friend considers herself lucky since her area is not prone to electricity outages due to the number of medical facilities nearby, the strikers aren't heartless. But although the lights remain on, Papadiamatopoulou Street is closing for business.