We went to the 33rd Yiasou Greek Festival in Charlotte this afternoon. It's held at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church on West Blvd. There are rides for the kids, face painting and games, plus booths and gift stores inside the cathedral and outside in tents. The biggest draw is the famed Greek pastries, including their delicious baklava. The pastries are so popular that there's a drive-through lane specifically for those. You can pick up a carton of food and go on your merry way.
The church grounds were packed with people, even when it opened at noon. We parked the van at the park near Dilworth Elementary and walked the few blocks to the church. The rides were already in full gear, and the tables under the shady trees were filling up fast. Luckily, we found a good place to sit just in front of an outdoor stage. Robert went in search of food, while I distracted the kids. Robert and I had souvlakis, while the kids split another souvlaki and lemonade. I also brought their usual munchies (teddy grahams, fruit snacks and granola bars), in case they didn't want any of the food.
Sarah toddled her way to the nearby tables, much to everyone's amusement. Christina and I danced a little to the music that drifted out from the speakers. It was an effort trying to keep the kids entertained before and during lunch. After lunch, Christina started to show signs of extreme crankiness, so Robert told me to do my shopping...quickly.
The Orthodox Church has an impressive green dome at the top, and a series of rooms and chambers inside. The two cornerstones are written in both English and Modern Greek, established in 1953. The main cafeteria chamber featured a troupe of traditional Greek dancers on the stage as they did a circle dance. The rooms had items for sale, including nesting dolls, religious books, precious jewelry, art prints, all-natural lotions and beauty products and carved wooden spoons and crosses. I wandered through the series of rooms, peered into the jewelry cases and perused the books. I found a tiny box filled with items from the Holy Land, the perfect Christmas gift for my mother. Then I also found a slim book called "Essential Modern Greek Grammar."
"You got a language book?!" Robert asked in disbelief.
I'm a linguist, go figure. The extent of my knowledge of Greek was limited to what I learned during the kids' Wiggles videos. That included, "Opa!" "Agapame tin Athena" (We love Athens), and "Efkalisto" (Thank you). I took one semester of Russian and one semester of Latin in college for my languages degree, but I was never able to get into the Greek class (that class--and Japanese--always conflicted with my required classes. The Classics professor was a nice guy and went to my church.). So I gave in to curiosity to look at it. I had flashbacks to my Latin class with all the declensions and conjugations and the alphabet reminded me of my really awful Cyrillic scrawl in Russian class. (My Cyrillic is still indecipherable, by the way.) But my interest was piqued.w
We watched a group of children dance on the outside stage, and a pair of bellydancers walked past me. After buying two containers of Greek pastries, we left and headed to the Dilworth Park, where the kids played on the equipment and Christina got herself soaked in the outdoor fountain. By the time we were headed back home on I-77, two of the three kids were asleep, and I couldn't wait to dig into the baklava.
I can't wait for next year, for more pastries, dancing, music...and language. Experiencing a different culture is always an eye-opener, no matter which culture it is.
All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010