Buy This Issue
The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 17 January 2015
24 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 17 JANUARY 2015 FEATURE Mental Greek tai chi DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM MARIA YASMIN NELSON My identity - like so many other Australians - is challenging to sum up in a few words. I come from a Cypriot mother, a Greek father, born and raised in Melbourne, now living in Texas. At times, I fit into all stereotypes - I'm pretty sure I would die of starvation if I became a vegetarian, I wear the mati, I love flat whites, and I write y'all in my emails. But, there are some stereotypes that annoy me. I don't work with gunwielding cowboys, I'm not getting fatter by living in America, my parents didn't disown me when I married an Australian boy (or a non-Greek, as some put it), and for the umpteenth time, yes, I know my accent don't sound like Steve Irwin's. When I was younger I felt that I had to choose one identity over the other because being both wasn't acceptable. Was I Greek? Was I Australian? Was I an Australian Greek, or a Greek Australian? I quickly learnt that having an answer to suit the audience was essential for survival. I was Australian Mondays through to Fridays at high school to keep me from being excluded, half-half at home after school because I wanted to watch Dawson's Creek but didn't know who Dorothy was or understand the obsession with her ruby shoes, and a full-blooded Greek from 11.00 am to 3.00 pm on Saturdays so my Greek school teachers wouldn't feel it their duty to educate me on the proud history of the Greeks. (I flexed my Greek muscle when I needed to.) Now I keep it simple: I'm ethnically Greek, culturally Australian, legally American. Relatively simple. What I discovered when I migrated away from my Greek-speaking Melbourne environment is that this muscle gets flexed even without me consciously trying and even while thousands of miles from home. I'm aware of the feeling of comfort that comes over me when I see Greek words printed on a page, or my taste buds salivating at the smell of lamb, or how the taste of loukoumades can still bring me to tears they taste so good, and the way my ears perk up when Mixalis Terzis comes on the radio (I'll admit to quietly listening to the Chicago Greek radio online when my boss is out of the office). What I'm getting at here is that after years of living away from Melbourne (not all of it in America), I've realised that decades of being raised Greek sort of yields the same response as decades of practicing tai chi. Without realising it, you have an instinctive response to life's situations because you've been trained to respond to them in this way. I've noticed that when I feel annoyed with someone my inner voice reverts back to Greek (because it just doesn't feel as satisfying cursing someone in English); I want to wear the mati even though my grandmother isn't forcing me to and we're not going to church; and I willingly cook yemistes even though KFC is within walking distance. I call it mental Greek tai chi. Years of practice from the moment I was taken home from the hospital to the moment I packed my bags and moved out of home at twenty-one. You can't just walk away from training like that. As Mr Miyagi put it, 'karate here [taps heart]'. Or in my case, 'Greek here [taps heart]'. There will always be a little Greek in me, even in the heart of Texas.
10 January 2015
24 January 2015