I saw my good friend Amanda on Sunday and it was great to catch up with her after nearly a month. She’s one of my friends from graduate school, but as it often happens, we didn’t really know each other in Boston that well. She visited me down in Florida at least once a year since 2009, and our friendship has grown since!. We are happy at the mad cafe, because recently she moved from Michigan in the area, so it’s a treat to see her more often.
As we were chatting on Sunday, Amanda made a curious observation that I found interesting to share. She mentioned that through the blog she’s realized how I grew up with plenty of American influence. Specifically, she pointed out that my friends in Greece considered me pretty much their friend with the American mom, who always went to the States in the summer. Yet she’s always known me as her friend from Greece who lives here now. I guess both statements are true.
One of the most annoying questions I eventually learned how to answer as a child was which country I preferred more. Really, the best I can compare this question to is asking a child of divorced parents which parent they like better. When I couldn’t avoid the question, and I was among hard core Greeks, I felt that I had to put on a face and answer the obvious. Looking back I can’t believe I felt forced to do that… it wasn’t true and I never felt as if I belonged.
On the flip side, when I was in the US in the summers growing up, people would ask me how I like it here compared to Greece. The questions came from genuine curiosity, and it was with a smile and with much more acceptance. “I’m equally grateful to both countries,” is my answer now. Then I usually change the subject, depending on who is asking the question.
Reflecting on that some more, my brother and I do feel lucky. We were able to grow up in the 80s when Greece was doing relatively well socially and economically. We enjoyed a mild Mediterranean climate, experienced a solid culture with great food and music, and rested on glorious beaches and overall had little stress.
I try to explain to Anna what it was like growing up with few choices in Greece. For example, in the early 80s we only had two TV channels; the military channel, and the National Radio Network (EPT). And there were hardly any cartoons. We listened to a lot of radio, and it wasn’t digital. And when kids went to public school it was much different then. Some kids went to school in the morning, and some went in the evening depending on the schedule. And the phone couldn’t go with you wherever you went. And we had to stand up when a teacher entered the classroom. She doesn’t understand, and now everything has changed but it is important to go back and become familiar with your roots.
There were plenty of drawbacks growing up in Greece. Gender inequality was one, not on paper, but in everyday life. It still is the case and whoever says it isn’t is probably male. But, there were other dumb questions that magnified silly differences that were not generally accepted with ease in Greece like “oh, are you left handed?” I mean, really.
I remember in high school the chief principal would argue in a class filled with 2/3 female students that while girls need caring and protection, it’s the boys who need to get ahead and should be treated with more importance.
If I remember correctly, all the girls in the class felt like throwing tomatoes to the principal as we kept trying to argue back with him, but he just wasn’t getting it. I went to a private school that had been founded by strong women from Smyrna in Asia Minor, and had traditionally been an all-girls school until recently… Still, the overall perception towards women was astonishing. Ironically, and undoubtedly inspired by Wellesley, my high school’s motto is Non Ministrari sed Ministrare…
I think when I moved here in 1998, as a college transfer, the transition was challenging, but definitely not as challenging as some people from Greece I’ve met over the years. I credit my mom’s influence for making the transition easier.
Personally, unlike many Greeks, I wanted to assimilate and learn from other people. I didn’t just want to be around the Greek culture, as it seemed a bit pointless. While it took some time to understand some of the nuances and the slang (example: once someone asked me, “Do you know where I’m coming from?” and I thought he meant a location, which forced a very funny and confused look on my face)… I am happy that home is here now.
With this memory, an awesome Greek salad comes to mind!
More recipes tomorrow.