For my last blog post for GLI I decided it would only be fitting to write about three different perspectives of life. One from a Polish-Greek easy going and quite well humored guy, another of an American-Greek beauty who is fierce, but she also has a full heart and fun personality with great energy, and last but absolutely not least a friend from Egypt who can brighten up anyone’s day with his infectious light-hearted spirit.
For most of us, our GLI capstone group and topic have been assigned. The focus of my group’s project is sustainability and my time here in Greece is unfortunately coming to an end; however, the bitter, bittersweet ending of my journey here is not what I am going to share. Instead, I chose to interview three incredible, unique, and inspiring young individuals. I bombarded all three with slightly random questions dealing with their personal lives’ and where they are from, then questions about recycling and how their culture or communities are impacted by the ideas or practice of sustainability.
Let me introduce first, Vassilis Goumas, he is the residential assistant of the apartment building I have been living in the past four months, but his title of “RA” does not do him justice. Vasssilis is knowledgeable and willing to help you with any “personal” problem you may come across and answer any questions about really anything. This is his junior year at the American College of Greece and he is studying environmental science and economics, which is why he gave great insight on sustainability and personal wellness of the Greek culture. He grew up in Poland till eight years old and he then moved to Greece, as a child he lived in a friendly neighborhood for families with children and was encouraged to play. I asked him if he feels he gets enough physical activity now, as a college student. By walking a lot in the city of Athens and just doing things he enjoys like hiking. However, he also commented on “finding a middle ground for people exercising in Greece – rare,” and “there are two extremes, people who sit around and people who are always exercising.”
In Greece the two main cities where there is the dense population are Athens and Thessaloniki filled with millions of people. The smaller cities and towns are the rural communities where people’s families usually originate from and are called villages. It’s in the villages where the strong family communities provide stability and support for each other and people are in habit more sustainable and conscious of their resources. Greece has a culture where family is the center of everything and the individuality comes second.
I was so fortunate to steal some of Konstantina’s time and hassle her with questions about growing up as a Greek on the East Coast. She was honest and gave an incredible perspective as a Greek-American New Englander, studying tourism and hospitality. Konstantina also visits her village where some of her relatives reside. I asked her how accessible it is to recycle at home, on the east coast versus Greece, and she brought up several comparisons, like the pressure of recycling and mentality people have in her area to recycle is encouraged (in the U.S.) but in Greece it’s not something as stressed about and the mindset of sustainability is not popular idea. Even though recycling is more accessible to the general public in the U.S. it’s still an individual approach to a lifestyle and choice. Her piece of advice is “care about your environment my friends (WE are ruining this beautiful place we call home!), and take a moment to enjoy what’s around you!”
The last perspective I’m sharing with all of you is from a dear friend, I’m so lucky to have met at the beginning of the year. Omar was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt, and is studying communication and advertising here in Greece. His interests are in video editing, film and cinematography. I asked Omar all about his life and what it was like growing up in Egypt. He told me people are divided in the city of Cairo, as a hierarchy and division the status of wealth there are two extremes of poor and wealthy, the middle class is a lower percentage compared to either end of the socioeconomic spectrum. A big problem is the streets are flooded with trash and Omar told me he feels it’s getting better because the government is beginning to enforce rules.
My last four months abroad have been maybe the best four consecutive months of my life. The people who I’ve crossed paths with, had short or long conversations with have made me reevaluate the patterns of my own life and the joy of kindness. Even the strangers who took a chance to start conversation with me and those who I simply talked to once* were memorable and left me reevaluating the kindness of strangers because the way I see it most people are a little lonely and need a little human eye contact, if only for a few minutes or so.
*I like to think of this as a one hit wonder conversation, for example, meeting someone on the metro or bus who just sparks a conversation about anything with you and both of you have probably never crossed paths or maybe you have and just didn’t know. Then when it’s time to part ways and the probability is high of not crossing paths again, thus, a one hit wonder conversation.