Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Made in Greece

The fact that I am posting means my parents visit is over and that it all pulled off quite nicely. So, if you're wondering, here is what happens at a Greek official engagement: the families get together, then the rings are presented by a parent of the man to the woman, and vice versa. Gifts are exchanged on both sides for the couple, and then of course a lot of food is consumed. For once, the one-size-fits-all greeting of xronia polla (many years/a long life) is not used. In its place is favoured na zisete (may you live long) to the couple.

What did my parents make of Greece? They didn't like the food much, but I can't really blame them coming from such a spice-rich culture as we do. They liked pretty much everything else, and I think part of them now understands why I wanted to leave Britain. They were supremely impressed that the garbage is collected daily, seeing as how they have to cope with a twice monthly collection in the UK and had maggots in their bin last summer.

I forgot, however, to warn them about the Greece Invented Everything conversations, which come flying at you from every direction on your first visit to Greece.

"Macedonia, yes they like to call themselves a country, but Macedonia is Greek"

"That's a Greek word."

"This rock/monument/yiayia is over 5000 years old. Imagine that. 5000 years."

"XYZ came from Greece. So and so's ancestors were Greek."

Is this adorable pride in your history, or is it like a fading beauty who has removed all the mirrors from her house so that she doesn't have to face her less than dazzling present, choosing instead to brood over images of a glory long passed?

Anyone with Greek friends will notice that few of them can just stand around and admire that something is pretty - they are obliged as a term of their nationality to tell you the entire history of everything, even if you've heard it a 100 times and even if all you want to do is look at how beautiful it is. Which is fair enough. It's their country after all.

What's the nicest thing about having family and friends visit you in a foreign country? It helps you look at the familiar with new eyes and appreciate the details that you take for granted, like how the laiki is not infested with flies, or how despite there being no physical barrier to getting on the metro without a ticket, most people will still do the honest thing and line up to buy a ticket. It helps reinforce my belief that after all the tears and the upsets, I have done the right thing for my life.


Anonymous said...

Another great post. I love this blog and have read it all. You're spot-on with the reference to interminable "Greece Invented Everything" conversations... woe betide anyone who suggests otherwise. I think the Greeks invented air too.

bollybutton said...

Air comes from the greek word Aera. So air was invented by the Greeks too. They invented everything and their history is the best and richest in the world. The rest of us just exist to make them look good.

AL said...

@ the entry and the comments/replies.

Anonymous said...

This is too funny! But to be fair, the Greeks did invent everything so what can you do?

It's good that your parents visit went well! I was wondering if you'd have a re-enactment of My Big Fat Greek Wedding:

"Can I please marry your daughter?"


bollybutton said...

ED my dad is exactly like the Big fat Greek wedding dad. Watch the movie again to understand how it's been so far!

Said by my dad on the journey from the airport: "Bollybutton, you can tell a lot about the people from the place they live. Look at this place. So dry and hard, rocky. Barren. And look at our people, rich, fertile, sticks together, soft, mouldable."

He wasn't having any of the the Greeks Inventing Everything, at least not for the 1st 24 hours.

Blackbird said...

"This rock/monument/yiayia is over 5000 years old. Imagine that. 5000 years."

The best laugh I have had in weeks!