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Me sipping a frappé

That’s me sipping a frappé – a Greek iced coffee.

It was really hard to decide between the diples, kataifi, koulourakia, and melomakarona, which had the added problem of sounding like a disease, so we just left all the pastries alone.

Otherwise we jumped right into Portland’s Greek Festival in hopes of learning a bit more about the ancient land where we will spend July of 2013. In the parking lot of our local Greek Orthodox Cathedral, people were milling, hugging, eating and drinking beer, wine, and retsina. (“No alcohol off church grounds,” said one sign you don’t see too often.)

Best of all, they were dancing. The church holds a Greek dance school for its children through high school, and never have I seen happier teenagers. They danced almost solemnly in their folkloric costumes at performance time, then changed into their shorts and teeshirts and just kept going for the sheer joy of it, their arms around each other’s shoulders, for hours. They whirled and grinned and whooped and the air was charged with rushing hormones.

It occurred to me that this was what dancing was for. They probably thought they were getting through the aftermath of their dance recital and avoiding their parents by dancing literally in the street, but in fact they were doing an age-old thing in moving gleefully to this very happy music, expressing nothing too profound, just enthusiasm.

Eating seemed much more pedestrian, but popular. Five lambs roasted on spits in front of the parish hall, and one could make a reservation for dining on a specific lamb – which had a number, thankfully, and not a name. “Lamb number three is ready!” (Announcement heard on the PA.) We snacked on gyros, Greek salad, and spanakopita instead. We visited the Greek museum next to the church and I admired how young mothers were able to talk with their children in both Greek and perfect unaccented English. These are Americans who have not let their Greekness go.

I look forward to learning the dances. I hope to learn to like retsina, olives, and lamb. Let’s hope they don’t have names.