Monday, October 22, 2007

Day 16 - Death Bells & Laughter

We are awoken by the bells of the local church. Usually they ring on the hour, every hour, the exact number of rings matching the time of day. But this is different. The bells don’t stop and after an hour we realise they are announcing a death. After two hours of ringing, we presume that the long bearded, dark robed leader of the Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishiop Christodoulos, has died. His illness has filled the T.V news hour ever since we arrived.

However, the bells are for a local man who has passed away, and we are somewhat surprised at the length of time the bells have been ringing. Is this usual for someone local, not in a position of status and importance in either politics or religion? We learn that sometimes a few Euros slipped under the altar can have a marked effect on the efforts of the bell ringer.

In Greece, a burial cannot legally be performed without the presence of the priest. This makes it very difficult for the few small island communities who do not have a local priest. One such community is on the tiny Greek island of Antikythera, with a current population of 44 people. We hear that a tape recording of a priest performing the burial ceremony is used as a legal substitute for the real thing. Understandably, the general concern for the islanders is who will turn the tape recorder on for the last man standing?

We end the day with a surprise visit from Katerina, a cousin in her late 60’s who lives in Darwin, Australia. At five foot two with a booming voice, wide toothy grin, and a cackling laugh, she is a hoot. “Quiet everyone” she yells in her broad Greek/Aussie accent. “I’ve got a beauty of joke to tell ya, you’ll love it!” She commands her elderly mother in her late 80’s to sit down, along with our 93 year old neighbour, and starts:

“What’s a French kiss in Australia?”

“…A kiss down under!”

And we watch her roll about in her seat, gripped with uncontrollable laughter, “Get it? Get it?” she roars.

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