Sometimes ABCs are not as easy as 123

Greek is quite a complicated language, but Greeks do not lead complicated lives.  Rather, they simply live life to the fullest and value the very things that we take for granted such as time, relationships, hospitality, and everyday life.  It’s funny that I had to travel to Greece to recognize this- the spice of life!  In that way Greece is more like a second home to me than a foreign country.  Yes I am only three days in, I speak ligo (little) ellenika (greek), and strangers surround me in my program and in my neighborhood.  But what is a stranger?  Someone who you do not know and is therefore stranger than you?  Someone who is not like you?  If that is the case, I am the stranger.  And yet I have only felt welcomed by locals and students alike.

Why is that?  In most other countries (ahem America), citizens become annoyed and agitated when someone struggles to speak English.  This is a generalization of course, but why is it that Americans (me included) do not treat Foreigners with respect, hospitality, and patience?  Because they are “stranger” than you.  In Greece, all visitors are treated like valued guests.

I struggle to order a Ellenika Kafe sketo and the owner is not annoyed.  I butcher words and phrases and yet the Greeks smile back.  They help me and they wave everyday.  They look forward to American students for business perhaps, but also for the chance to show their hospitality.

Even in busy Athens city-center, (where I ventured to today by bus! Or was it a tram? I honestly cannot tell the difference) I confidently used my weak Greek.  As Apostolos says, “Greeks speak up, so you need to too even if you pronounce it incorrectly.”  However, on my way home I got lost.   I went to the wrong bus stop and my confidence in navigating this historic culture waned. 

Apostolos managed to make me feel better (unbeknownst to him) in class when he said, “ohi ohi, adjective noun order does not matter in Greek.  It’s all the same.  You use the words together and they combine to mean the same thing no matter which comes first the noun or the adjective.” Well Finally! a culture that has some grammatical flexibility!  Grammar, as everyone knows, is my weakest area of knowledge.  So I guess my weak Greek just got a little bit stronger.

Later on I saw a sign in Greek that said KAP^OYZIA…and I managed to read it as spelling Karpoozi, which means watermelon.  You would have thought that I had gotten another Bruce Springsteen concert ticket because I was so excited.  What a victory. 

So while I am going back to basics here by learning a new alphabet where B sounds like “v” and the trident symbol (yes that is a letter) sounds like “ipsi,” I feel like I am achieving a lot.  Because basics and simplicity are what Greek life is all about. So maybe I will fit in more than I thought.

Love,

TZEINA

Ps I cannot believe that barrington doesn’t have water? Also I am getting a new cellphone sent to me in three business days…the company just messed up.

Pps  I got to keep my skeleton chest Xray after they concluded that I was not diseased. Naturally I keep it in my closet. haha

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