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Monday, June 7, 2010

Experiencing Greek Passion in the Worst Way

Tensions were high as I stood in a very tough situation. Feeling like a teacher breaking up a fight between elementary kids, I didn't want to hurt either one's feelings or create more hostility between them. At any second I felt like this man was going to either spit at my feet, or break down and cry. I knew what had to be done...

The old city of downtown Nicosia really concreted my love for Cyprus. All I had really known up to that point was the Greek side... and I was beginning to adore the Greek culture! Every restaurant we went to the waiters would great us with warmth and passion for his food. He would treat us like old friends and sometimes even offer us free champagne because he was just so happy to see us!

Even as we passed a lady selling homemade candy and sweets on the side of the street, she greeted our professor, Dr. Legg, like a good friend she had just talked to yesterday... When in fact it had been a year since he had last been in Cyprus! I have no idea how she remembered him, but it seems that just one friendly conversation with the Greeks creates a life long friendship.

So today when we decided to do some souvenir shopping in the small cobble roads of downtown, I decided to talk to every vendor I met, and try to learn some Greek! The first shop I went into, I said the Greek word for "Thank You".. Efgaresto (Pronounced Ef (flem) Har isto!). His eyes lit up as soon as the words left my mouth and he laughed and clapped his hands. He then taught me how to say "I love Cyprus" and "Bye bye"


At the next vendor I visited, I was trying to find a souvenir of a bear. He had carvings of elephants, giraffes, wolves... but no bear! Every time I would ask him for a "Bear" he would get very confused and repeat "Bird?" I told him I would run and learn how to say it in Greek. So I ran a little ways down and asked a nice older Greek woman how to say bear in Greek. She told me, then warned me.. "Watch out, that vendor down there not only looks like a bear! He is a bear! Aggressive in his sales!" And she winked at me as I said waved thank you and ran off down the street.


The man I returned to turned out to be quite a character. He sure knew how to play the game and showed me every single one of his hand painted pictures, asking if I would like to add them to my purchase and smiling innocently as he waiting for my answer.


"By no you mean yes, right?" He would say. "I give you the best deal! No one better than me! Your new buddy!"


I left with just my original purchase despite his persistent, yet harmless attempts otherwise, and went back to the first woman vendor to say thank you for teaching me how to say bear. But as soon as I walked up to her something caught my eye in her shop. A beautiful piece of artwork of Aphrodite and Ares. I walked over to it and she came beside me and said, "I see you love this... I will give it to you for good deal! But no pressure, no rush, you decide."


I laughed realizing she was alluding to her fellow vendor down the street.


After purchasing the painting and having a conversation about how much she wants her daughter to marry so she can have grandchildren, and how she was married by the age of 18, I walked back down the street to meet the rest of my group at dinner.


Well, as soon as I turned that corner and walked in front of the other vendors store, I was confronted with something I was not at all prepared for. An old man, the vendor, with watery eyes and a look of heartbreak written on his face as he looked at my bag said to me... "You no like my paintings?"


I quickly tried to redeem myself and his self esteem and said, "No, no it was just this one painting! I love all your paint...!"


I couldn't even finish my sentence before his sad face morphed as he clinched together every single muscle in his face from anger and screamed... "THAT LIAR!!! She tell you she has one of kind painting?! I HAVE ONE OF KIND!! She just trying to get you to buy! I spit at her! She know nothing! You my new buddy must trust ME! I am the best painter!"


The old man was screaming so loud I knew the old lady would be able to hear him down the road and walk down to settle the score! So I rushed him into his store and asked him to show me all his paintings! In an instant his face was overcome with more excitement than a mischievous five year old who just realized Santa Claus can give you double the presents if you never wake up your sister Christmas morning.


Thirty minutes later I walked out of his store with 2 new paintings. When settling a fight with children, sometimes it takes your own sacrifice to let the other two realize their faults. I actually have no experience considering I don't have any children, and even less experience with Greeks. But after today I made two new friends and bought 3 new paintings! ... it's just food I will be lacking these next couple weeks :)



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1 comment:

Dr. S said...

Great stuff! I'm enjoying reading about your travels. The videos really let your readers/viewers engage with what you are doing.