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The two faces of Hunger #6 The two faces of Hunger #6
by Katerina Charisi
2020-03-22 09:02:25
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How serious was the Greek Recession? -It depends on who you ask about it.

Margarita is a 32 year old single mom of two and unemployed. Each time she goes to the super market with her kids, they distract her as they run and jump around and ask for this and that and she loses counting in her mind. Many of those times she reaches the cashier and has to leave something behind because she can’t afford it. With so little money, even a few cents will define what goes in or stays out of her bag.

hungry_400“Apologizing to the cashier because the bill was 7 euros and 40 cents, while you have only the 7 euros. You leave out three potatoes; yes, three. While the rest of the things you just bought are two bananas, a small loaf of bread, pasta, 500 ml of milk. If I didn’t have the kids with me, I would pretend I am a student. I don’t know, students act like they live out of thin air, you know? Sometimes the employees look at my kids and the things I just bought and I can sense their sympathy, or pity, or irony, depending on who’s standing behind the cashier.”

I am so familiar with this. Almost every two weeks it happens to me, too. I have even asked from my kids to give me their piggy banks, or else we would have nothing to eat. I’m talking about just 10 euros - 5 for each, money they try to save for ages, to buy a scooter. You know, sometimes I think that I used the piggy bank as an excuse for me: Since I can’t buy them a scooter, I asked them to save money so they can buy it themselves. Not that easy, since the only money they put in their piggy banks is from what I give to them - if, when I have to spare a few cents. What a cheap solution to pass them the responsibility’s ball.

I always give them back what I take. But I still have this huge blame flashing before my eyes.

The first time that my kids’ piggy bank was the only solution to our hunger, I was so ashamed to ask that money that I even thought to steal it. My kids are so young, I could tell them a bunch of stories about how they spent it and forgot about it, or lost it and can’t remember, or whatever. They would believe me. Yes, I went that low. In the end I just swallowed my pride and explained the situation to them as best as I could, while avoiding their eyes out of shame and forcing myself to look at them. Every time they give it to me without saying a word. I kind of feel like they take some pride too, helping. Maybe they just trust me for paying them back. But God, they are just 4 and 6. They shouldn’t give me money.

My kids are not the only ones who try to save money. I have a small box and I put change in it, just in case we run out of money, to have a few euros to buy at least a loaf of bread or milk. When I have to use that money, I put it to a small plastic bag. They weigh a lot but they are not more than 2-3 euros. Each time I do the same thing: I go to the super market and tell the cashier while smiling indifferently that our piggy bank is full. The cashier smiles back, counts the cents, gives me the euros. Then I go to another super market to buy milk or bread or a few bananas. I really can’t tell if the employees already know that there isn’t a full piggy bank anywhere. That’s already empty. Maybe there is that silent recognition between us. Maybe they have already seen a lot. I can’t tell. But that’s all I got right now. Somehow I must buy something with it so we can eat, at least today.


One day I tried to act as normal as I could and asked the neighborhood’s grocery store employees how things are going in their job. Their answer more or less was what I thought it would be: The first ten days of each month, they are busy. As the days pass by and the month ends, less customers get in the store and buy less and cheaper stuff.

“People try to stock their cabinets first, with pasta, beans, rice, chickpeas, lentils, canned food. Then they try to stock their refrigerator with meat. Well, some of them at least.”

And then I remembered something that happened a while ago, which under different circumstances could be a funny story to share. But I’ll save this for the next time.



 The two faces of hunger #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #

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