If you’ve ever read this book or watched the movie, then you know exactly the scenario I’m talking about. For those who don’t I’ll briefly explain.
One girl goes to Greece to visit distant relatives, and while there she’s walking along fishing docks FULL OF FISHERMEN at work, despite it being the middle of the day. She trips and falls into the water, because she’s clumsy (oh, Hollywood, so full of cliché “heroines” for young women to look up to) and as she almost drowns, a handsome young fisherman WHO SPEAKS PERFECT ENGLISH dives in to save her. Then the fall in love, blah blah blah, that part isn’t important.
So when I embarked on an article about the fishing industry in Greece, I happily imagined myself collecting wonderful anecdotal quotes while sunning myself on docks overlooking a beautiful coastline.
Boy, was I wrong.
First, it’s important to understand that America is not the center of the world, and many, many people in this world do not care about learning English and don’t need it in their lives at any capacity. Fishermen – I assume – are a segment of this population. So, I wrote all my questions on my notepad in English (for myself), in vernacular Greek (as if I would ever have any hope in the world of sounding it out to ask them) and then in Greek.
Thank you, Google Translate. You saved me throughout middle and high school Spanish, and once again you have come through.
So, armed with my camera, phone recorder, and my notebook, I went to the market at 6:30am with Sydne, who was taking photos for her photo piece about the markets, and David, our muscle/protection. As I spoke with my first source, I was alerted to the fact that, 1. He was not a fisherman and, 2. There are no fishermen in Thessaloniki. The fishermen I sought were down the coast, at a coastal fishing town, a little under 2 hours drive away.
I refused to be thwarted, and I continued to interview in the market, half in English but also through the help of my notebook translator, because I recognized that the fish sellers were also an important part of the fish industry.
Because of our program, we are located at busy hubs of people and industry, Thessaloniki and Athens, which makes finding everyone else that we need for interviews and stuff easy, and gives us also lots of fun stuff to do and lots of cultural things to see/appreciate.
But it is not where fishermen live. 😦
Fishermen live on islands, and along the many costal towns. The difficultly of getting to these presented a new problem to me. I decided to continue my research and, surely, in or around Athens, I would find my fishermen.
That is when I learned this other fun tidbit of information. FISHERMEN WORK AT NIGHT. I have no idea how much “The Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants” paid all the fishermen for the use of their boats in the day, but clearly actors and random locals for extras staffed them, because all the fishermen were asleep when that movie was being filmed.
Fishermen dock around 3am or 4am, sell their fish to distributors and go home and go to sleep. Fantasizes of my happy sun-filled time on the docks flitted away. It was either 1am-6am or nothing.
Another obstacle between my fishermen and me was that public transportation does not run past 00:30am, and most of it ends far earlier. I wouldn’t have been able to take a ferry to an island or a bus/subway to anything remotely nearby to do interviews. Through some research and asking every local and fish seller I could find, I learned the only available option was a fish market / stock exchange somewhat nearby in Keratsini. Fishermen were supposed to come between 2-5am and sell their catch to the wholesalers.
Dragging good-natured Theo, one of our ACT professors, and Suma as my photographer, who is blessedly always up for an adventure, along with me in the wee hours of the morning, we went at 1am to the auction house.
But that didn’t even matter because, through Theo, it was conveyed to my that there WERE NO FISHERMEN who were scheduled to be there at any point in the night, day, week or year.
At this point, I began to wonder where the fish I’ve been eating this whole trip has been coming from. Is it all from fish farms – another portion of my article I’ve been learning about? Is it all a hoax? Is it all secretly imported? Aliens? DOES GREECE EVEN HAVE ANY FISHERMEN?
I know there must be some, because the day we went to the beach on an island I saw their boats, but obviously at 11am they were asleep, and the last ferry of the night was 19:30pm so I wouldn’t have been able to stay around to wait for them.
Maybe this is the point of my whole article. The fishing industry wasn’t just hurting – it had been completely decimated, so severely and fully that not one fisherman exists in the country to this day. It’s a national tragedy, and I, a lowly student, uncovered it.
So, in the end, I finished the article. I was able to find some really interesting people to speak with, from professors to the CEO of one of the major aquaculture producers in the country (and also a fellow Greenwich Academy alumnus!). I handed in my article for edits right before I began this blog post, and hopefully it’ll be up on our site soon.
I will consider writing a strongly worded letter to the makers of the film, or perhaps the author of the book. But probably, I’ll just rest now.