Monday, January 29, 2018

Ethnic profiling: "to each its own resemblance find"..

Our well-travelled Slovenian tour member, Ciril, doubted there were any synagogues in New Zealand. Our tech-savvy young Jewish tour participant whipped out her I-Phone and scrolled a bevy of them all over the islands.  Many years ago I hosted three Hungarian botanists who were couch surfing across America.We drove downtown one day, and I remember them intently looking at store signs, everywhere and proclaiming every few minutes "That's a Hungarian name", "They're Magyar" don't HAVE to be ethnic--some may seek out whatever emblems of identity. But ethnicity is pretty potent--even for a very diluted Greek like myself. Of course, I spied in the distance the Panhellenic Association sign near the harbor of Wellington, New Zealand. It immediately brought back a flood memories of my parents' fierce devotion to their Pancretan Association.

Surnames are dead giveaways: I highlight doubt that George, Steve or Mike (the likeliest first names of Papageorgiou on the sign) is Irish. But I have been wrong before. George Sevastopulo--an Irish rock gardener and friend--had the name, but his family went to Ireland in 1820's.  When he flew to Denver for a visit, he was dismayed and mystified when I greeted him at the airport in Greek! His Greek ethnicity was very dilute indeed.

We ethnics notice street signs...

 I had glimpsed the dome with the cross the first day in Wellington as we zipped by and I knew there was a Greek community nearby. I might have even predicted the Greek flag blue roof.

 Not just Greek, but from Hania: of course, the Kiwis (and other Commonwealth soldiers) were protected by Cretan villagers, many of whom paid a high price for it. Perhaps immigration was encouraged as a sort of thank you. I wonder if I have any cousins nearby?

And what a tale a sign will tell: Dionysos serves over Japan, Korea and India as well? The Greeks have always been a far flung nationality. But we always look for home.

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