By Debbie Kokoris, staff writer

The past few summers I have been going to Greece to visit my grandparents and family. I spend the majority of my time there in an isolated village up in the mountains on Greece’s Crete Island. What I thought was just another day in Crete took an interesting turn.

One night we had a village dinner. We were all sitting around when I look behind me to see a lamb tied to a pole! Frightened and confused, I ask my friends why the lamb was there.

They replied nonchalantly, “Oh, we are raffling it off!”

698.03 euros. That is how much a person makes in Greece monthly, according to numbeo.com.

When I saw this statistic a few months ago I couldn’t believe it. I honestly didn’t think it was true.

Then I was sitting with my cousin,a manager of a restaurant, and he told me a waiter makes four euros an hour.

Staring at him in disbelief, I then asked about the minimum wage. He stared at me and laughed.

“This is Greece. … There is no minimum wage,” he said.

Greece gives you enough to survive, not enough to succeed.

In the village, everyone has gardens. Every morning I would find tomatoes or cucumbers outside my doorstep that nearby neighbors left for my family.

When we had extra vegetables from our garden, we would go and give them to other neighbors.

Motivation amongst the kids isn’t very high. The children talk about how there’s not much hope for them to succeed. I asked my 16-year-old cousin Niko, who lives in the small village we stayed in, if he would ever want to move to the Athens and live in the city.

“Here I have my garden and my neighbors,” he said. “In the city I might starve.”

Despite what the people in Greece are going through, they are honestly some of the happiest and nicest people you will ever meet.

They continue with their lives. Every summer night, we would all go out to the local village cafe to eat and drink together.

The boys would bring out their instruments and sing, while the girls would Cretan dance – just in the middle of the cafe. It was an experience like no other.

They might have no money, but honestly, they are real life examples of how money doesn’t buy happiness. I think the “always happy” is a Greek thing.

I will never forget the time my friends and I were all out to dinner, and they were talking about the financial crisis. I said that I heard that it will take years for Greece to get back to the way it used to be.

One of my friends proceeded to stare at me before giving her point of view.

“You don’t live in Greece,” she said. “We are the ones living through it. We are the ones losing our jobs, so we are the only ones who can have an opinion on what’s going on. Everything the media is saying it’s complete [expletive].”