June 11, 2008

Athens, Greece (Finding the Roots)

Renee and I boarded the overnight train from Sofia, Bulgaria headed for Athens, Greece and sharing our cabin was a woman from Crete who made me feel as though I were traveling inside a black lung racked with emphysema but hearing her wheeze Greek words through her cigarette breaks and phlegm coughs brought me back to the happy days of my childhood when my parents and grandparents were still alive and I would hear this language at family gatherings and on church Sundays. Renee noticed the immediate shift in attitude at the border crossing and came back after handling our passports saying that these were the friendliest guards she had come across yet to which I replied, “Welcome to Greece!”
After a depressing month last October when I didn’t get out of my pajamas, eat much food or leave the house, I hatched an idea that I would start looking for new family members to add to the roster since the list in the States was slimming down. With genealogy invading my thoughts, I drove from New Jersey to Florida to visit with my Father’s sister, my Aunt Toni, who had the most knowledge about our family tree and possible contacts in Greece. We spent days traveling back in time, piecing together information of births, marriages, baptisms, transatlantic voyages, and Ellis Island entrances and in the end we came up with a solid outline and retrieved the telephone number of an Uncle whom we called at some very early forgot-the-time-difference hour and successfully made contact after over twenty years of lost correspondence. Toni informed him in Greek that I would be coming to Athens and when I arrived in the city I called Andreas and we made plans to meet in the hotel lobby. As I rode the elevator down, I was struck by the thought of why it had to take the death of both my parents to initiate such a meaningful homecoming but as I rounded the corner and embraced my Uncle my focus shifted from sadness about the lost years to excitement for a future of new memories with people who share a connected history with me.
The new memories started right away with a whirlwind tour of Athens, engagements to meet the other members of my family and time spent getting to know one another over lunches, dinners and dips in the Mediterranean. I could feel similarities between us and it was as if a closed door of my life swung wide open and by stepping through I would be able to start navigating a new path; one which felt exciting, comfortable and welcoming. Sitting on a hilltop at night with Andreas overlooking the Acropolis, bathed in gold lights against the black sky, I recognized the power of an idea; if you think positively about the things you want, keep yourself open and let life guide the way then you might just be surprised when you actually reach the intended destination. This was a destination that was late in coming but a true gift that it finally arrived.


Starbelly said...

Anriana, I have been watching you travel! I admire and respect you for traveling the world, I don't know if I have the courage to do it. I am hoping that Heather and I can meet up with you somewhere on your journey.
Your new friend, Holly

Starbelly said...

I meant Andriana! Your name has a "d" in it.

Altered Space said...

Hey girl!!! WHuzzup with the IKEA yellow bag?!? Okay, I am SOLD on Greece. These photos and descriptions are just too seductive. MORE!!!
xoxoxo Sand


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