Current location: Thessaloniki, Greece – home?
Currently listening: Siko xorepse sirtaki (“Greek country”, for all intents and purposes, as the hyperlink will demonstrate)
Currently eating: Feta, in all its forms
Currently missing: Everywhere and everyone
At a Greek tavern you expect the staples: Tzatziki, melitzanosalata, souvlaki, and some sweet red wine served in a jug right out of the barrel. With it, you get free dessert and your faith in humanity reinforced.
I had not sat in these chairs in seven years and the same musicians are performing on the bouzouki and guitar. Greece virtually defies evolution – the world may implode, but Greece stays the same. Its resistance of change and unwillingness to defy the motifs by which it raised generations upon generations of ‘patriots’ accounts both for its current financial situation and the love with which its citizens, whether within or far away from its borders, will speak of it.
When in Greece, do as the Greeks do. Greek cigarettes come with the same “your child will come out with 7 heads and 13 arms if you continue smoking warnings” as American cigarettes do, but Greeks defy warnings with as much ease and cavalier philosophizing about how one is “only young once” as Guatemalans and Colombians do. And that is how strangers find themselves among strangers, sharing a cigarette along with their thoughts on heartbreak, the financial crisis, marriage, professional ambition and a Mediterranean diet.
A new friend told my American visitor: “Listen, the thing about us Greeks is that we love. We love inconveniently, we love women who will kick our butts. We just love. We Greeks… we love.”
‘We Greeks’, we love generalizations that transform individual shortcomings, traits and talents into national characteristics. And yet, in the candidness of this evening, the community built over shared food and wine, the cigarette smoke and bouzouki drift, and the romantic idealism, I saw faces of Colombia, India, and everywhere in between – and my love of ommunity, the kindness of strangers and once again, faith in humanity, reinforced. Maybe I am beginning to see Greece as a home, or maybe Greece is whisking me to all the other homes I have loved since I left her. Either way, there is something magical about Greece’s ability to transport one back to the past or to a treasured memory or to a place of intimacy and comfort and, indeed, home-ness and for that, I will always treasure it. Thank you, bouzouki and feta, for reminding me.