Greece is not Seattle, and it is definitely not the United States, but that goes without saying. However, I have to insert the caveat at this point because it has dumfounded this person who has never been outside of the United States before, but in reality, on the surface level—because that is all that I have been able to observe so far, Greece is not so different from being in Seattle. Now, I know that any person reading this may be like hold up, wait a minute, you are in one of the most beautiful places on the planet, you are in Europe; you are in a place that it does not rain as the normal climate and yaddi yaddi ya… I am neither talking about the geography or whether, but rather, the people and the society. There is traffic that piles up just like it does in the States, and families enjoying dinner with each other, people walking down the streets, couples, kids in the park skateboarding and all that. It is beautiful, and definitely not as different as I thought it would be.
Yet, there is something that is very different beneath the surface here that I do not feel in the United States. I cannot shake this feeling of warmth and pride, of being connected to the environment and the people in the environment. I get the sense that Athens would not be Athens without the people populating the streets, filling in the shops, walking up and down the sidewalks in groups of threes and fours. It seems that the people who are here are just as much part of this place as the land and the sea, the clouds and the sun, there is a unique spirit here that I have not felt anywhere else that I have ever been. So, while on the surface it is much more similar to Seattle than I had initially thought that it would be, it is nonetheless, very different when I feel the world and the people around me vibrating at a different, dare I say higher, rate.
I have only been her for one evening and morning and I have already fallen in love with it, it feels like coming home. I love hearing all the many languages, and seeing all the love that everyone shares, even with strangers as they pass them on the streets. I have never heard so many people working in shops, yelling out hellos to people walking on the other side of the street, or vice versa. It is like everyone knows and cherishes everyone here and I get the sense that once you become part of the community here, you never lose that status.
I expected to feel like an outsider and to be treated like a person that does not belong here. I felt like this because this is the first time that I have ever been an outsider coming in. Well, at least in the sense that I am from another country. The truth is that I have always felt like an outsider at home because I am an African American male who is from the United States. I live in Seattle, Washington, which has been identified as being one the “whitest” cities in the country, i.e., it is not very diverse. I know that people think that things like Affirmative Action, and what naught make people think that minorities are included in society and are treated fairly, but that is not so much the feel if you are one of those minorities. I have to work twice as hard to get half as far, just as a starting point; and I am super bright and really smart, and I still have to put up with it. The point is that at home I never really feel like I belong, unless I am with a group of similar people. But, here, I have not felt like that at all. Everyone that I have met has just included me into conversations and made me feel at home, made me feel as though I belong and that is a beautiful feeling to have.
I was right, this trip is going to change the way that I perceive the world. It has only been one day it my perspective has already been irrevocably altered for the better.