Conversations with a Gypsy

I used the think the Jews were a measure of the wellness of a country. Its weather and opportunity and lifestyle and democracy and lastly its economic viability. Now I know it is the gypsies.

I saw no camps in Greece this year, no caravans with cars, in fact the only beggars I saw in Tripolis were Greeks! They used to camp in two places, regularly: outside Nauplion, along the beach, and in the fields of the plain along the road from the village to Tripolis. Now that Greece’s economy has collapsed, they are nowhere to be found. There is no longer economic opportunity in Greece. And they are opportune. Just like the Greeks, who are left there.

I remember my father telling a story in the village when I was younger. The gypsies were frowned upon, if not hated. Apartheid comes to mind. In those days they had real wagons, occasionally towed by big old black cars. They were colourful camps, bright fabrics hanging and draped the way a Westerner would not imagine. Old men sitting around, children playing, young people returning from scavenging and woman doing the cooking. I always looked for Esmeralda, the beauty, and never saw her.

It was at the time of the Festival of the Virgin Mary, in August, and there was a panigiri down in the fields, opposite the ruins of the ancient city of Mantinea. All the villagers went down, and in those days the gypsies were nearby.  There was meat on the coals, wine and beer, rich mountain music. A few villagers started dancing. The night wore on, and the gypsies joined in, with richer music, alive and vibrant. One played a clarinet and one a violin.

My father returned home as the sun was rising, after a party in the fields. I remember the warmth with which he spoke of these amazing human beings who lived life to the full, who were so passionate.

I always wondered why we were so different, and why they seemed so happy? They just moved on.

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