Diary of the unMonastery Kokkinopilos Spring camp

* day 1 – Monday 10 April

Arrival day – a car from Thessaloniki (Paul, Charles, Bembo, Katalin) and another from Athens (Arthur, Valeria, Ben). Met in Katerini – shopping. No kitchen. Otherwise building in good condition. Went up to the taverna to say hello. Small dinner cooked in Ben’s rocket stove (entils), then bedtime. House very cold. A heater in the bedroom made things a bit better. Everyone in one room. Snoring competition.

* day 2 – Tuesday 11 April

Woke up at 8, to give ourselves a little time to rest. Tai chi, breakfast. We volunteered to work on Sotiris’ garden, and Valeria, Paul, Charles and Katalin spent the afternoon digging the first half. In exchange we got a small gas stove, and we started to build the kitchen. Practical introduction to basic permaculture concepts via negative examples, pointing out unsustainable practices in Sotiris’ garden. No evening circle.Egg Moon fire and celebrations. Dinner: cooked than baked potatoes, by the fire. Long wait for the moon, but it appeared in the end around 11pm.

* day 3 – Wednesday 12 April

Slow start of the day again. House tidying and cleaning. Created an office room in the second upstairs dormitory. Set up the access point in the small room. Dining room in the ground floor back class room, meeting room with mattresses and low table in the front ground floor room. Finished second half of the garden at Sotiris’. The whole village empty it seemed, preparations for Easter. Charles, Paul, Katalin had a beer at the tiny Kafeneio where we don’t normally go to. Charles – small introduction to permaculture concepts, outside. House warming up slowly. Generally taking over the house, it is a bit better organised and homey. Dinner, risotto made by Arthur.

* day 4 – Thursday 13 April

Temples in Pythio – a day of visiting sites inthe area. Archeological excavations and cave churches. Lunch in Pythio, some exposure to local people. Collected local plants. Amazing day wandering in this beautiful landscape. Icecream, cardboard boxes. Shopping. Katalin visited with Antonia’s mother and Antonia. Tentative invitation for soup on Saturday. Dinner, inspired use of leftovers from morning (oat porridge with apples).

* day 5 – Friday 14 April

Interesting meeting in the taverna with Sakis, explaining the organisations that are in charge of the village and the school building. Attempt at resource locating, but hijacked by Vangelis. Lauren arrived, Valeria left temporarily. Evening circle, talking about unMonastery and the Kokkinopilos situation. Session 1. of Charles’ permaculture course – 4 hours, amazing source of information.. Very inspired. Dinner, potato soup and beetroot leaves. Ben shared his method of going to sleep, using sensory focus on each sense separately.
day 6 – Saturday 15

Great walk towards the forest, locating bark, sawdust, Lunch at the taverna. Dinner, risotto with spinach and mushrooms. Misunderstanding — special soup is after midnight. Only Bembo made it there though, everyone went to sleep instead.

MAZi Zone Test

Problems creating a separate user group for the unMonastery! Using the admin level to upoad images and presentations.
V2 raspberry pie- works needs wipi, edimax wifi device did not seem to work.
SD cards easily corrupted, though it seems that Paul’s card reader was part of the problem.
Problem: UI need attention
Suggestions: remove the need to click a text box to bring up the calendar
Problem: Etherpad- Fussy file names, loosing files Solution: Make specific app that refences it and directs user to index
Problem: Nextcloud- Problems creating a separate user group for the unMonastery! Using the admin level to upoad images and presentations.
When you create a new instance you have to have the username/password details already saved in your browser.
Suggestion: Have dual option one for files that are open and another for internal document storage. Etherpad plugin
Finally got into the admin

Day 7 -Sunday 16
Washing day for man

Pibaker – bakes images for Raspberry pis. (for Mac) — as a solution to Katalin’s issues.

We don’t have any phones with us (realisation on our way to morning practice).


Frustrating MAZI day — trying to burn the image onto Katalin’s SD, without success. The Zone needs heavy trouble shooting and applications from the internet.
Zeus strikes.
The usual unMon rigamarole takes us forward: practical problems, visceral unwind, need to uncivilise ourselves from whichever urban reality had us in its grasp. Our early morning march out to the outskirts of the village overlooking an unexplored crevasse in the scenery helps. We perch among the known while Paul puts us through some basic basics in the qi gong / tai chi chuan approach to being part of the earth. Not only will we survive this, but the dividends quickly show up in at least all the others. We establish the fire pit, and eat well and weller.

The village is lively: this unMonastery Egg Moon Gathering coincides with Easter; people come home to do family. The days tick by and the rituals make themselves apparent. The kitchen is sufficient for seven, it will be pushed when we become eleven.
Saturday evening it breaks; after five days where the weather forecast threatens a rain which only appears in cloud formations down the valley, the skies thicken. Local lightning patterns are not like others. Here on Olympus there is no slow count while the thunder peal works its way across an invisible landscape. Zeus is right there above us. The flash isn’t a flash but a blaze, the roll just vibrates. The message seemed clear: all those idoloators preparing to celebrate Easter ought to think twice.

Most of the unMonastery house had their own interpretation of this warning; the crowd had celebrated the dispersal of our resident vegetarians by declaring a premature end to Lent. Arriving back from a five hour run to the coast to deliver a passenger and pick up a few necessities from the IKEA by the airport, I returned to find the house delightfully abandoned. By the time I had had enough of the unexpected contemplation to make my way up over the hill to our most approved taverna, they were wiping the grease off their individual chins in professed innocence — apparently they had telepathetic knowledge of my indulgence of the treats of the city – rudely wrong they were…

As the evening ended, the threatening from above eased; the ions in the air might have turned negative, but their remained a registered inquiry from up at the taverna as to ‘whether we would be partaking of the village rituals?’ According to our clearly inscribed mission, it should be impossible to say no. Ambiguity reigned. Paradoxically, the one of our number with perhaps the least plotted hours of sleep took up the challenge. At the allotted hour, whilst the other residents claimed a need to sleep off the excesses of the day, he climbed the hill in the wake of the neighbour’s pick-up truck and its load of octagenarians. The ceremony had technically begun. It didn’t look promising.

The village church has been fussed with of late; newly whitewashed walls show off the assembled iconography to its best; the fine lattice woodwork separating the vestry or the apse provides dramatic contrast. As the ceremony begun, a mere dozen or so souls perched in the ornate outer pews. A discrete extra chair could be claimed and a pair of candles for an immediate offering to loved ones, and the later parade home purchased.

I shouldn’t have fretted; slowly the entire village, its extended clan members and youngest offshoots rolled in. Idols were kissed, the ceremony took an inscensed upswing. Suitably annointed, all illumination gets switched off. As we await in darkness, small ritual tease sessions occur. The second one was from behind the door right where I stood. We are lurched with our extended candles, hoping to ignite our wicks from a clutch of three flames being wavered through the crack above the door. It was a hopeless task; I think that was the point.

After the ritual frustration of the eager young lads, the priesthood deliver: a major candle is paraded through the church igniting a blessing for every home in the village. If you don’t get one directly, a triumphant neighbour will supply one.

The next day, reports were made. A local cat was accused of creating unmentionables on our kitchen work surface; I confessed it was candle drippings from an ill-considered solution from an exhausted man with a stomach full of break of fast midnight soup. Our egg moon festival was augmented with its coloured and chocolate cousins – we were the perfect number to divide the three sitting mats into foot massage sessions.
Tasks were performed; the lushness of the valley had restored itself, an all fresco lunch could be indulged in. The new visibility factor paid immediate dividends; the one item of unfamiliarity at the midnight service had provoked conversation. The patriarch of the neighbours perched above us in a house with three balconies, suddenly found occasion to visit with a friend. (Both were named Nikos.) It was an affront to propriety that we were without the traditional Easter Sunday meal. Fortune had it that our two militant vegetarians had decamped the previous evening; a delious portion of sheep innards was handed around as pleasantries were exchanged.

These meetings are the key matter of fieldwork. Curiosity supercedes fear. Bridges are made. Opportunities open. Our linguistic helplessness becomes for a brief moment a plus. There was much to be said, but few ways to say it. At one point, Nikos pointed out his farm way down there on the valley floor; we should come and visit… Mental date calendars made a brief appearance, but in fact the decision had already been made. I was off on an expedition. Without me knowing the whyfores, I was marched up to the main house to nod at a mix of perhaps familiar face and at least one most certainly recognisable striped shirt from the midnight service. It would later be explained to me that livestock rearing was a lucrative enterprise in these climes; there were indeed some impressive automobiles cozying up to the house. Number one son, Gyorgos had briefly popped by on his 520 cc motorbike while we were still down at the house. Now, he was recruited for what was dawning on me as our trip. The choice of vehicle was not from the top of the line. Three of us squeezed into the cab of a mini pick-up loaded with hay bales. Dad took the middle place astride the gearshift. We weaved arms over shoulders to minimise body width. On the way down, Nikos pointed to a detail in the far away landscape, a fresh scar in the terrain was attributed to a flock of wild boar. We passed Gyorgos’ herd – what was English for ‘mooo’?; I broadcast my previous experience as designated barn-sweeper on a Norwegian mountain milking station.

This was a great start. I was asked my age — Dad and I were of the identical vintage. A flurry of hand gestures declared us ‘ceras’; taken to mean either ‘brothers’ or both over the hill. The program was presented to me: son had to tend to his cows, he would leave me with dad for the three hours it took to milk 300 sheep. I got the best seat in the house.

All that feta has to come from somewhere. Modern dairy procedures are modern dairy procedures. Levers are levered; feed drops. A door is opened, 24 sheep scutter and begin munching at the minor inconvinience of have their necks yoked. Next lever; the entire feed through unit slowly slides out 50 cm bringing two dozen udders shuffling backwards towards a railing and at perfect working height. Nikos was clearly an experienced hand in the trench. The operation was highly automated: but still required individual attention. Twelve pairs of milking cups attached to six sets of vacuumed hoses would fill an interim central jar that would be sucked into a refridgeration unit with a rotating blade that would be emptied next morning by a truck from the cheese makers in the nearest town with a bus station. Sheep have two teats; every second udder got plugged in. Nikos nimble fingers worked down the line, then returned to the beginning gently feeling the density of each udder for remaining content. As an animal was emptied its neighbour got plugged in. Some had more to give…

Once everyone was done the levers began again. A door and a gate at the opposite end were opened and the newly freed milk donors were coaxed into an invisible pen. Doors shut, the next twenty-four sheep were paraded in. After a few cycles, I’d caught on; I could save my host a good number of steps if I took upon me the role of exit gate-keeper. After watching hands delicately fondle warm udders, I’d get to stand up every fifteen minutes.

Meanwhile, there were stories to exchange: how many wives and grandchildren, where I came from. There wasn’t much room for movement. Things took an upswing when we switched from Greek and gestures to the local language – Vlach. Threatened linguistic minorities exhibit a worldwide pattern – a stranger’s acknowledgement of their cultural richness is a welcome antidote to a life of public oppression. I dragged forth a scrap of paper and a pen, and we were off. By the time the son reappeared, I may have promised to take Nikos bear hunting in Canada.

It was inevitable that I returned laden with gifts of sheep milk and meat. I had performed the manditatory protestations at such generousity by claiming that what we really wished for from them was a truck load of manure for the garden. I was lead out into the courtyard; was it the animal transport vehicle ? Fortunately, I could gesture towards the much smaller pick-up.

Day 8 – Monday

Easter Monday brought our neighbors around with a box of still sizzling lamb meat pieces. Nikos and Nikos live on two sides of the school building and obviously were encouraged by Bembo’s appearance at the church the day before to come and see the group taken residence in the abandoned school building. We had a a long chat with them, although Valeria was not there, so Lauren used google translate to facilitate the conversation. Bembo disappeared with them to see their farm, and was sent back smelling of sheep shit, and accompanied by a big bag of raw sheep meat and a large bottle of raw sheep milk.

A long conversation about our pilot scenarios. A little tension around Katalin’s proposal that Ioannina does not get into the official pilot description, although the motivation for the idea was to avoid lots of paperwork in double. There is money for Ioannina from the salaries so it is not needed for it to be in the EU reports. The question was left open.

Arthur left, leaving us with a stacked fireplace that we cannot use because of rain and wind.

Day 9 – Tuesday

We had a compost workshop with Charles, who presented the basic principles and ways of building a copmost, then built our compost heap, using all the materials we collected from the forest, as well as the collected urine and our kitchen waste. It is the most beautiful and artictic compost heap any of us has ever seen.

Valeria, James, Liz and Naomi arrived. Our meeting fell through with the locals (Sotiris, Sakis, Vangelis), but we had a lovely dinner, all 9 of us. Strange tension before dinner, but we were just all really hungry.

Day 10 – Wednesday 19

More Mazi testing by Paul and Naomi. Naomi’s thoughts: Very disappointing given the time that the project has had so far and the amount of money. What we have so far, a compentent sysadmin and webdev could have built in a week. It is not usable by non-technical people at all. The installation process itself requires a level of geekery far beyond what should be needed. For the amount of time and money I would expect a big “Download and Install” button on a website which guides you through inserting an SD card of the right size into your computer, and then installs it for you, in an almost completely automated process. Setting up and administrating the system requires use of ssh and the command line, which is ridiculous. Even things like adding tags to the guestbook requires ssh and editing files! There is not even a link to log in as admin, you need to know a secret url. You cannot (or certainly cannot easily) change the language of the interface. I could go on. There is also a question of security. Given the general low quality I would not trust any senstive data to this system.

Email sent to Harris the engineer outlining some of the more straight forward issues with using a MAZI zone. Panos got back almost instantly, saying he resolved the ‘tips’ issue on Github, and undermining Harris in the process. Appreciate the support Panos, but waiting until the engineer responds would be more useful for everyone, Naomi and Paul connected the Lego Raspberry Pi to the Access point, and with one click we can connect to the internet via the Rpi! Not bad. Need to connect to the Rpi wifi network though.

Ingi and Michael came around just to say hello, their luggage was delayed so they could not start their workshop. We had a brief chat, but the group dispersed in an attempt to design a workshop order so that we can talk about everything we wanted to, including networks, offline networks, and how to pretotype a project. Visited the Platonos taverna. Walked up to the church above the village (Liz, Valeria, Charles, Katalin). Meanwhile Naomi, Paul and James set up a nano station and resolved the internet problem throughout the house, and set up mazizone in a dual mode. It is now very useful, prviding an easy interface to switch between the local network and the internet.

Day 11 – Thursday

Workshop with Michael and Ingi – they left us working while cooking delicious lunch for us! Later, James and Naomi walked us through what a network was and what offline meant. We are starting to get a grip on the MAZI toolkit’s limitations and possibilities. After the frustrating attempt to image the MAZI toolkit onto SD cards (Mac OS had a hard time dealing with the zip file, and an old linux system also made it difficult to unzip the file) we could simply use the etherpad application for this diary. Very generous slow explanation making everyone comfortable. Then a discussion of La Scala and non-mazi solutions for its implementation. Qr Codes and boxes with buttons and a loud speaker — as well as the Salsa beacons were mentioned.

Friday 21st
Paul battles with the up and down connections of the Sarantaparo internet and trains Lauren in the set up and intial download /installation of a Berryboot system on a raspberry Pi – a reasonable outline of Berryboot can be found here: https://www.howtogeek.com/141325/how-to-multi-boot-your-raspberry-pi-with-berryboot/
He gives her a card for her pi3 from James, and then unfortunately leaves the projector on.

Saturday 22nd
People from Athens get a breakfast made for them by Katalin and Bembo, then the remaining group – Katalin, Bembo, Paul – head off to Katerini to get Katalin on a bus to Thessaloniki. Paul and Bembo head over to Dion and have a wander around the archeological museum there and have seafood before looking for the supposedly nearby monastery of Dionysis, which they don’t find and head back to Kokkinopilos before dark. They manage to see the sun go down and catch some amazing views on a detour.

Sunday 23rd
Paul and Bembo tidy around and pack things ready for the next visit in July:
* Maps brought by paul, printed out by Mark from the OU
* Networking equipment, the access point and nanostation
* Seeds collected by Charles
* Gardening tools – machete etc.
* Power extenstion leads
Recommended for next visit:
* more cutlery, especially spoons
* new clean tea towels
* more power extension leads
* Better kitchen knives- the ones purchased were very poor quality,and some fell apart quicky. Bembo and Paul found a catering shop in Katerini with much better items