My big fat Greek family

You can find family in the most unexpected places.  In this 21st century world, family is a flexible and very subjective term.  Family is mom and dad; siblings; best friends; roommates; boyfriends; co-workers; neighbors; pets; teachers; bartenders; bakers; and the old man in the coffee shop.  In Greece especially, the term family applies to more people than one might consider.  Of course I miss my “immediate” family back in the states, but I’ve managed to create a pretty great one here in Athena. 

 Here in Greece family is BIG.  It’s a big deal and also for the most part, quite literally big.  Perhaps that is why Greeks don’t generally stray far from home.  In America, a man who lives with his family past the age of 23 or 25 is generally considered to be a deadbeat (disclaimer: personally, I’m not as judgmental honestly).  But here in Greece, it’s normal for men to live at home until they are in their late 30s, when most marry and move out.  Although that is changing, it’s still ever-present.

 While Greeks consider their relatives to be sacred, they treat their friends the same way.  Athens is without a doubt a single city and a lot of that is reflected in the way they value friendships.  Greeks see their friends very often and spend extensive amounts of time with them-just talking, listening.  Getting coffee is not a 10-minuet endeavor in which you try and catch up quickly with one another before separately running off.  It’s sitting and talking for however long you want.  Needless to say, the Greeks are loyal.

 Even my Greek relatives are loyal to me.  I didn’t know anything about them until I lived here-but it’s as if I’ve known them my whole life.  Jane is my mom’s cousin.  She went abroad like me, married a Greek man and never looked back.  So far I have no such plans…yet.  An adventurous chameleon to say the least, Jane can speak Italian, German, Greek, and more.  Her husband is named Panjortis and his sister is Maria.  Jane and Pan have two daughters, Mina is the one I’ve met here.  Mariana has two kids, Philip who is just walking and Eva who is in Kindergarten.  Got that?  O and they also have a dog.

 I had lunch at their house this week.  Or rather a magnificent feast that Maria cooked.  They made mini tiropitas, Greek salad, lemon beef, and mashed potatoes.  I had seconds of everything and not just because I’m a starving student, but because it was that good.  At the end of the meal, Pan brought out all different types of cheese for dessert.  Mina took a bite and asked, “is this French cheese?”  Pan replied, “no it’s not French it is made in Greece.”  The cheese was really good and could have been easily mistaken for a fine French cheese.  But the company could pass for nothing other than authentic Greek family.

 Other members of my Greek family include my two roommates Melissa and Emma-wonderful girls who I have learned so much from.  And my Greek professors-they tell me where to go in Athens.  My neighbors, an elderly Greek couple who I speak maybe ten words to but who nonetheless I communicate with regularly and genuinely.  Our cleaning lady, Olga-she has seen me right when I wake up (lucky her!) and walked in on me changing numerous times (awkward) so I figure that makes her family automatically.  My Greek family also includes Costas who works at my favorite coffee shop-he knows my order by heart.  And I can’t forget the infinite number of stray dogs scattered throughout the city. 

 Evidently, my Greek family is quite large.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way-because family will always always be there for you.  I knew this before Greece with my immediate family in the states.  But it’s nice to know that family can be found everywhere, even if it’s a little unrecognizable at first. 

 When I walked up to Jane’s apartment door on Monday, an older man was waiting to be buzzed in.  He held the door for me when I saw him.  I said thank you and then we both realized who one another was.  The man was Panjortis and I hadn’t recognized him.  Pan said, “here I thought you might be a robber that I was letting in, but it’s you.”  The truth is, we all do not know all of our relatives very well.  Upon first seeing Pan he was a stranger.  But once I looked a little closer, I saw family. 

 For now, I’m going to see another family member, Costas for a nice coffee and then I’m off to see my professor in literature class.  Family reunions are generally scheduled in America, but here in Greece they are everyday occurrences and that’s just great.

 Love,

 TZEINA

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