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We are different : Always the same

By Christodoulos Athanasatos

(Translation By Lisa Darilis)

Early one afternoon, when the weather was mild and pleasant, I took a walk for about five minutes and found the nearest cafe.

The tables at the cafe mostly had Greek whipped iced coffee, known as "frappe," on them, and the customers were mostly young men. They were not playing backgammon, or "tavli," although they had the character essence to do so. From them I expected the typical greeting "m..." (a vulgar yet common way to address a dear friend), and three out of the ten words they spoke consisted of the term "re." These many great roads or characteristics, lead to one essential Greek nature - the one that occupies themselves with nothing else to do when it is time to have coffee.

Suddenly, the noise on the street got louder. Vehicles began honking their horns, as if someone were getting married. It wasn't a bridal car, nor was it a group of loud Greeks...they were Bosnians who put their national flag on their cars and were parading around Astoria in celebration of their victory over Greece in the World Cup in soccer.

The Bosnians are parading their victory over Greece as they pass in front of a Greek cafe! The Greek customers at the tables looked at them with a cautious (yet irritated) eye, yet they did not show themselves to be intimidated by this display. In fact, they continued to drink their coffee.

I probably would have done the same, but it was eating away at me more on the inside. "When we were carrying the weight of the Euro, you didn't even know what victory was." You finally win a World Cup game and now you're trying to provoke us." This thought played itself in my head amongst the contrast tones of severity and humor.

I took my coffee to go in a plastic cup and I set off to return back to work in the office. As I walked I was in a skeptical state of mind. I saw two Greeks stopped on the street and having a conversation. They are yelling loudly at each other, which is typical, yet I don't recall what they were specifically saying. A few steps down the street I noticed a Chinese man talking on a phone, and a little further ahead there was another Greek. Suddenly, more Bosnian cars passed honking their horns again.

I took a sip of my Cappuccino coffee and I kept walking. Maybe it was the nice weather, or perhaps my cup of coffee at hand, but I felt as if I was walking on Agiou Andreou Street (St. Andrew's Street) in Patra, Greece. The truth is, the street sign read "Steinway Street," and its cross street was" 31st Avenue," which is located in Astoria, Queens, New York.

When I saw the Bosnians parading their victory by the cafe, it wasn't in Greece, but on 30th Avenue in Astoria, which is a very Greek area. The Bosnians dared to showcase their victory over Greece in the heart of the wolf's den!

What does this all mean? The simple answer would be that it is evident that in America "street smart" behavior no longer has its place here. My more deep thought was that perhaps a Greek person who speaks Greek, yet can also communicate in English, who is exposed to Asian people on an everyday basis, and who sees a large population of Latinos working in his neighborhood cafe or restaurant, is respectful of a multicultural and diverse experience. This Greek may not physically attack an Albanian in Zakynthos with a knife, but he hasn't even attempted to at least throw a plastic bottle filled with water at the Bosnian, who chose to parade his flag and victory outside the very cafe he and other Greeks sat in.

What type of Greek is this type of person? Perhaps it is me, or perhaps someone else. This type of Greek is one who will probably sit in the same cafe in about two to three weeks and probably have a fight with another Greek, who is a fan of the other team, in an Olympiakos vs. Panathenaikos game. Perhaps he should know that in America "street smart" behavior no longer has its place. Between us, however, we know that everything has its place, no matter what part of the world you live in.