“Καλημέρα Angeliki? Kala esai?” I stared at the pale women with the crisp blue eyes, that stared at me waiting for me to muster up an answer to her foreign question. The four words she just summoned into a question completely went over my head and instead of me trying to figure out the meaning, I was stuck trying to figure out if she knew that silk and wool just wasn’t a good combination. Those 4 years in the back of that Greek class were terrible and I was always found myself being the “...sullen and already defeated Indian kids who sit in the back rows and ignore me with the theatrical precision.” trying to force myself into another culture when I barely understood my own. I had always remembered the biggest lesson I took away from the book “I Just Want to be Average” by Mike Rose which was “.. act stoned when you’re not, or act more stoned than when you are.” Half the time I wonder, “How did I get here in the first place?”
The 29th day of October in 2010 is still such a vivid day. Icons stained the bluish green walls covered in pastel colors of red, gold and blue displaying faithful pictures of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus, John the Baptist and the honorary Annunciation depiction. Iconography of the 12 disciples and 4 apostles laid against the dome of the church, while two fairy like angels (the cherubim and the seraphim) hovered over the magnificent and eye catching Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Straight above I stared at the dome, while my head and face was immersed into the warm water which smelled of olive oil and myrrh, I felt my body engulfed by the faith. I felt my priest make a sign of the cross on my head before pulling me up, I wiped my eyes as a piece of hair was clipped from my ends with scissors. I was an Orthodox Christian now, completely consoled under the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit but, what exactly did this mean? Did I now have to face off and be alike a bunch of lemon squeezing, garlic eating, loud mouth Greeks or could I still be myself and fit in with the crowd?
Being the only black person in a church like this, you are always on the front line. Whether it was dancing at the church's huge summer food festival, reading poems in Greek for Oxi day or simply saying good morning in the narthex, you’d never be ignored. It’s not bad thing, being the odd ball in a group of evens makes it really effortless to get along with everyone. Everyone wants to know who you are. Every time you meet someone new they always ask, “What made you come to the church?” or “Are you adopted?”. I’ve never had so many people attempt to get to know me at once and I can truly say because of that, I have become a fan favorite in their eyes.
But sadly, that fame didn’t follow through into that Greek class. Sitting in the back of that Greek class with glazed over eyes while the teacher spat out an “ I have a “zero tolerance approach” to grammar mistakes that make people look stupid.”,I began to get cold feet. Was this faith really worth all of this stress to understand one language or, should I just give up? But, then I realized, it was worth it. If my faith meant educating myself and digging deeper into my own personal definition of literacy, stepping outside the box and exploring, then sure I was up for the challenge. I learned that being small minded and closing out every piece of education offered can never be a good thing. Also, I learned how to treat others who may have a different definition of what being literate or educated means. Before I looked at people and thought “Are they dumb?” or “Why don’t you get it?” but I realized I do not know how to hold an entire conversation in greek and I do not know how to say “goodnight” or “what’s your name?” But, I know every major prayer from my service in Greek. I know their culture and I also know that literacy doesn’t just mean knowing how to read and write and education doesn’t just mean systemic instruction. They both mean the extent of knowledge you have for something big or small, whether it was taught in school, or at home or in my case, the church.
Review. Harvard Business Publishing, 20 July 2012. Web. date accessed*.