The carnival tradition of barbecuing all kinds of meats was long forgotten in my urban existence. But, not only did I not remember the tradition. Being the far removed expat, I was blown away by the dancing in the streets, the smiles, the laughter, the singing, the raggedly funny costumes. No, not Rio but humble little Greece in the middle of the crisis, the austerity, the unemployment and the budget cuts. Puzzling as it is, I found the collective feast spirit sanely healthy. People have to have an out; they need the distraction, the joy, the camaraderie, the “unbearable lightness of being.” Greeks are stereotypically extroverts, friendly folks who have had more than their fair share of suffering lately. Local shopkeepers are being run out of business so why not bring everyone out for a party? Ingenuity or desperation with dirty cheap “souvlaki” stands and blasting music to break the bleakness. I am all for it. Occasionally we all deserve our break.
Maybe it’s just that I am in a good mood because I am back “home.” Maybe it is because I am always routing for the underdog and I am getting oddly sentimental with what’s going on all around us. Or maybe the sweet old guy who has the flower stand around the corner insisted on wrapping the bouquet of freesias I bought for the house. “No need to waste paper,” I tried arguing rushing as usual me. He smiled.”Ohhh…” he smiled. “These are flowers; they deserve to be pretty, I’ll tie a beautiful white ribbon on the bouquet.”
Customer service manuals thrown out the window, my marketing hat smoked from the great practice. The old florist is a natural. He made me feel so good. He had heart, passion, pride for his flowers; not a lot of money for what he sold – but a lot of beauty and color and splash of joy and warmth.
I played the sentimental/accidental tourist in my old hometown and snapped his picture. He posed boasting he is not as young anymore. I started whistling an old song as I left. Happiness is in the littlest things. And dancing in the streets on Fat Thursday in a small country named Greece – that, too…