Monday, March 23, 2009

Cuban, Greek = Same, Same, not so different apparently

Before departing for India I had thought my dark hair and complexion would have helped me blend in a little with the natives. I was very, very wrong. Without being dressed in full regalia (sari or full Punjabi suit) I stuck out almost as much as my red-headed wife…okay maybe not that much, but I did not in any way pass for Indian.

Coming to Greece I wasn’t worried about sticking out. Although our bit of celebrity in India could be amusing (I can’t imagine how many Indian photo albums we’re in by now- “hey look at these freaky foreigners we saw out today!”) I was ready just to be another face in the crowd, albeit a far less fashionable, non-European face in the crowd.

There is no denying that my Cuban genes are by far my most dominant. I look nothing like my mother and other than my short stature and easily rattled nerves I really inherited very little from the maternal side of my family. I am, as far as looks go, undeniably “not white”.

It seems my features of dark curly hair, dark eyes and olive complexion do, however, pass quite easily for Greek. I’m not talking about by tourists. I’m talking about each and every Greek person I meet. Whether it is an employee of the hotel, an instructor at the gym, a waiter at a cafĂ© or just random people attempting to speak to me on the street I am spoken to in Greek.

Not so unusual right? It is the native language here.

It's after I give them a look of utter confusion and confess that I don’t have a clue as to what they are saying that I find funny. Each time I state that I don't speak Greek they seem so utterly surprised. Sometimes they even continue to speak to me in Greek as if I am pulling their leg. “No, no, really?” I confirm again in my plainly American (Southern American at that) accent and am almost always met with a look of defeat. Like, how could they ever confuse a non-Greek for one of their own…especially an American.

I may be far removed from my Cuban heritage but I’m more than positive there is no Greek blood running through my veins. Greeks aren’t the type to let lineage be forgotten.

I wouldn’t mind the confusion and actually find it a pleasant experience to not be seen as a bumbling tourist but I’m sure most of them believe I’m Greek-American. This of course is a title in which “true Greeks” find as offensive as “f&%k head”. If you are Greek you are Greek no matter where you live. And a Greek who doesn’t speak any Greek is even worse.

I had planned to really crack down on my Spanish lessons while here but now I’m wondering if I shouldn’t try my hand at some Greek…just enough to pass as a very shy and quiet Greek girl…although not too quiet because that and the fact I don’t smoke like a freight train might give me away.

1 comment:

ablackwelder said...

I will encourage your learning of the Greek language as long as you don't forget the redneck language.
Don't forget your roots in all your worldly travels! I don't want to have to learn a new language when you come home....I'm too tired from chasing chickens all day and cussing at my husband to take out the trash to try and learn somethin' new!