Dispatch from Kalymnos

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Like many other tourists, I return to Kalymnos every year for the weather, the beaches, the friendliness of the locals, the simplicity of life there and, because I rock climb, the stunning crags. The view from the sunlounger is that the Greek crisis seems to be largely contained in Athens. Yet the impact on the more far flung islands is no less profound, though not always discernible beneath the smiles of its easy-going residents. Kalymnos is no stranger to economic precarity. A barren island largely made of rock, huge numbers migrated to Australia and the US when the sea sponge harvest dried up, and then again when the bottom fell out of the package tour industry. The recovery of its tourist industry over the last 10 years or so has been helped by rock climbing, but this season has been quieter than previous ones due to the economic slowdown and scare stories about what would happen in the event of a Greek default. This year alone it's been estimated that over 3000 islanders have emigrated in search of work. This is a serious loss for a population of 15,000 and may impact on infrastructure provision such as ferries, schools, etc if the population continues to decline. Many Greek friends expressed their concern about their children's futures and the lack of opportunities and jobs for those on the brink of going to university. Some expressed the view that the ideal of a mass university-educated workforce had been based on a mistaken and unrealistic view of how Greece could develop, while others felt their parental duty committed them to providing for their children's education as best as they could. Local pharmacies are fast running out of medicines and drugs due to non-payment by the Greek government. The impact is keenly felt by the elderly, many of whom have chronic conditions requiring repeat prescriptions. We feel let down, they say, it is clear that we are the expendable generation. Worries about the island's future have never been too far from the minds of Kalymnians. Yet there has always something about this island that keeps them here or draws them back from abroad. Perhaps it's the timeless beauty offered by the valleys and the sea, however meagre a consolation they might present at the moment.

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