Cecile and I accepted and attended the 45th annual San Jose Greek Food and Cultural Festival Yesterday, sponsored by St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church.
While on the mini-bus shuttle that took us to the event, I sat next to a man from Romania. He told me he tried to get his kids to join him in experiencing a new culture but they weren’t interested. “They were too busy playing electronic games and texting their friends,” he said. Though he smiled while saying this, I could feel his sense of frustration. He could have easily used the phrase: “It’s Greek to me,” to explain his kids incomprehensible behavior in not taking advantage of the opportunity offered to them. “You don’t have to travel out of the country to enjoy other cultures,” he added as we arrived at our destination.
As we exited the shuttle and bought our tickets we began to smell the aroma of beef, chicken, lamb and other foods being prepared by Greek Chefs in the Bay Area using recipes that have been handed down for generations. We ordered the traditional Gyro Sandwich, a spicy and savory pressed meat served with cucumber sauce on soft and fluffy Greek pita bread, an Athenian Salad and shared a bottle of Greek Beer.
After lunch we moved to a large tented area to watch the adorable children perform traditional Greek folk dances called: “Philotimo” and “Meraki,” as their proud smiing parents took photos to memorialize the event. The word Philotimo we were told means, “friend,” and Meraki means, “the soul, creativity and love you put into something.” In front of me a father of one of the girls had a T-Shirt with a quote from George Panayotopoulos that read: "The beauty of Greek Dancing is that you don't dance with your feet...you dance with your heart."
In the end, we experienced the culture and hospitality of the fun loving Greek people in a spacious outdoor, open-market setting under a sunny day. The food was delicious and we enjoyed communing with Greeks and non-Greeks alike. All of us were walking about, happy to be alive. Zorba said it best, "...there is only one life for all men...there is no other...all that can be enjoyed must be enjoyed here." By the time we were ready to leave we realized we “did” feel “Greek for a Day.” We even made it to the Parthenon (see photo).
Maybe the Romanian man I met on the shuttle was right. Maybe, “You don’t [always] have to travel out of the country to enjoy other cultures.” Maybe it’s just about showing up, as a guest at someone’s home ready to accept their hospitality and their desire to make you feel at home. OPA!