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Clean Monday

3 Mar

Go home and wash up.
Clean up your act.
Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings
so I don’t have to look at them any longer.
Say no to wrong.
Learn to do good.
Work for justice.
Help the down-and-out.
Stand up for the homeless.
Go to bat for the defenseless.

~Isaiah 1: 13-17

In the Greek Orthodox faith today is Καθαρά Δευτέρα — Clean Monday. Clean Monday is to Greek Orthodox believers what Ash Wednesday is to Catholic believers. It’s the start of Great Lent. Well, technically it begins at sunset the Sunday before.

Lent is thought of as a time of abstaining. We fast from meat and dairy. But it is more than that. It is also a time of taking on new, better habits. Today we not only wash ourselves from our past wrongdoings, but we work on behalf of those who need a helping hand.

The Mardi Gras of Greece

28 Feb

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This weekend is the big Carnival weekend in Greece. Don’t let New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro get all the glory. Patras is the number 3 for Carnival.

Usually you can make it to more than one Carnival because Greek Orthodox follow the Julian calendar, while Catholics use the new, Gregorian, calendar. However, this year our calendars coincide.

Carnival is basically a time to many go wild right before the seriousness of the 40-day fast of Great Lent leading up to the Crucifixion of Christ on Good Friday and His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Though it’s certainly tied to Orthodox Christianity, practicing Orthodox believers don’t participate in its more reckless aspects that are tied to Dionysus. The parades and floats, though? Those are fun!

Lack of Translation in America Is “Shameful,” Says Lahiri

26 Feb

hedge

Jhumpa Lahiri criticized the American literary world as “shameful the lack of translation, the lack of energy put into translation in the American market.” The Indian American author said this on the panel about global literature at the Jaipur Literature Festival that I blogged about earlier, when I remarked on Xiaolu Guo’s sentiments that American literature is “overrated.”

I agree with Lahiri that our reading preferences in America are too inward focused. Ideally, we’d all be able to read in at least a second language, like Lahiri, who apparently hasn’t read anything in English in over two years. Good for her, but I’m a Greek school dropout. When I was in high school, I used to read Spanish decently, but I unfortunately haven’t kept it up and nowadays only read the Spanish advertisements in the subway station. Sometimes I tell myself one day I’ll go back to school to really study a language, but that day hasn’t come yet. It’s not that I don’t think it’s important. It’s that I know my limitations, and as horrible as it is to admit this learning another language just isn’t a priority at the moment.

That pains me especially when it comes to contemporary Greek literature. I am quite curious about the literary trends in Greece right, particularly in how they treat the economic crisis. I’ve read some translations of contemporary Greek works, but the truth is they’re hard to come by.

Translation in general is, as Lahiri pointed out, not a priority for American readers. Maybe because for many, reading isn’t a priority. With the difficulties the publishing industry has faced, it feels sacrilegious to condemn them for not publishing more translations. I do want to applaud one publishing house I’ve been keeping my eye on for the past few years: Europa Editions. Here’s why:

Europa Editions was founded in 2005 by Sandro Ferri and Sandra Ozzola Ferri, who are also the owner-publishers of Rome-based Edizioni E/O, one of Europe’s most prestigious independent publishing houses. Our idea was to capitalize on Edizioni E/O’s decades-long experience to bring fresh voices to the American market and provide quality English editions of international literature by enlisting some of the best translators in the business. Our appearance would be distinct, incorporating both European and U.S. jacket design standards, reflecting our conviction that books today must be pleasing to the senses as well as to the mind.  Our catalog  is eclectic, for we believe that dialogue between nations and cultures is of vital importance and that this exchange is facilitated by literature chosen not only for its ability to entertain and fascinate, but also to inform and enlighten.

Also, can I make a bit of a suggestion for those interested in translation? If there’s a note from the publisher or translator, read it! It’s fascinating and eye opening to read about the decisions the translator grappled with when bringing a foreign-language work to an American audience.

What contemporary Greek authors should I be reading right now? Where’s a good place to find Greek works translated into English?

Also, you might enjoy:

 

This Year, Our Calendars Unite!

25 Feb

“Are you in a cult?” my friend once asked me.

My friend and I led a Protestant ministry for young adults, and I had mentioned that I actually celebrate Easter on a different day than most Protestants. Growing up, I had always celebrated Easter at the Greek Orthodox Church. Granted it was the only time of year my family went to the Greek Church (we went to a Protestant church the rest of the year), but we were pretty adamant about that being Easter.

No, I’m not in a cult, I sighed, aggravated that she would think that. In fact, there’s much more tradition and practical reason for celebrating Easter when I do.

The Greek Orthodox Church follows the old calendar system, the Julian calendar. Protestant and Catholics later decided to follow the new Gregorian calendar. What this means, though, is that sometimes Protestants and Catholics celebrate Easter before Jewish observers celebrate Passover. And if you know anything about these religions at all, you know that that doesn’t actually make a lot of sense since Jesus’ Last Supper is suggested to be a Passover meal.

This year, however, our calendars happen to coincide!

…I guess that means no discounted Easter candy for me this year.

Resources:

  • For a very thorough explanation on the calendar differences by an esteemed authority, I recommend this article by Dr. Lewis J. Patsavos.
  • For a more conversational approach yet also thorough, I recommend “A Tale of Two Easters” by Borgna Brunner.

The Smell of Meat Lofting in the Air

20 Feb

 

Mmm… smell that smoky aroma? It can only mean one thing! Today is that special Greek holiday known as Tsiknopempti. Literally, it’s Charred Meat Thursday.

Yes, that’s right. We have a whole holiday devoted eating meat. Tsiknopempti is the preamble to Great Lent. Basically, you eat a whole lot of meat now because you’re going to be fasting for a long time. Longer, in fact, than the 40 days of Great Lent, since the meat fast starts ten days before that.

Do you fast?

Previous posts on Tsiknopempti:

Happy Tsiknopempti!

Hello, Carnival; Good-bye, Meat

 

Immigrants à Gogo

22 Jan

 

garychangimage via Vulture

Discussing how all immigrant writing is dystopian, the unique pressures of being the children of immigrants, and critiquing their own cultures, Boris Kachka’s interview with Chang-rae Lee and Gary Shteyngart in New York magazine offers brilliant insight on the state of immigrant literature.

Here’s a quote from Shteyngart that particularly resonated with me:

And to jump off of that, I teach Native Speaker in my “Immigrants à Gogo” fiction class at Columbia. I read it every year, and there are phrases like “my mother’s happy kimchi breath” that bowl me over. I didn’t know one had permission to write like this about one’s ethnicity. I was absolutely shocked that one could get away with that. And I didn’t see that with a lot of immigrant writers. I still don’t. I can think of Junot Díaz, a few other immigrant writers, but there’s a lot of this sort of endless overcoming of obstacles, racism, the triumph over adversity, and off we go. And that’s not what Chang-rae writes.

Growing up, I wasn’t at all interested in immigrant fiction because I so often found it to be depressing studies of being the Other. Or else, the overriding factor of the book was ethnic pride or the mystery and allure of that culture. As Lee said:

And the people leading those ethnic pride parades are those members of your group that you probably least admire.

Kachka’s interview with Lee and Shteyngart brings to the forefront many of the concepts I’ve been thinking about for my own memoir, which deals not so much with a personal immigrant experience but more so with expectations and identity from a tangential viewpoint.

You can read the full interview here.

THE Beach to Visit in 2014

21 Jan

BeforeMidnight

Greece—specifically Arillas Beach in Corfu—is listed by Fodor’s as one of the 15 Best Beaches for 2014. …And so is the Jersey Shore, with a shout-out to Ocean Grove. It’s like they’re just listing the beaches of my childhood.

Can I give you an insider tip, though? For a less touristy, more authentic beach visit, check out Lagouvardos Beach. It’s in the Peloponnese, on the mainland of Greece. It’s become especially popular with surfers.

It also happens to be where Before Midnight was filmed.

And just check out these pictures I took there at sunset!

What’s your favorite beach? Coney Island??

New Year’s Resolution: Have Fun, Thanks to Eventsy

13 Jan

eventsy logo

One of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2014 is to have more fun! New York City is perhaps the greatest place on earth to live, but when you live here you sometimes forget that. Life gets in the way. Things like work and grocery shopping (or getting takeout) and, in my case, readings and publishing events leave little time for play.

This Wednesday is the launch of a new women-run social club that takes the work out of planning your social life and puts the fun back into it! Maria A. Pardalis, the woman behind the Greek American Fashion Shows I’ve been covering the past two years, co-founded Eventsy with marketing maven Soula Adam. They’re kicking off their launch with an event at The DL and have a slew of unique social events already lined up:

New York City’s newest and hottest upscale social club, Eventsy, will celebrate its official launch on January 15 at one of NYC’s favorite nightclubs–The DL, located at 95 Delancy Street. Eventsy is an emerging start up that was created for professionals between the ages of 21 – 55 that are simply tired of spending unnecessary time and effort into planning their social lives. Having fun, making friends, networking, meeting a significant other and discovering new things shouldn’t be complicated or another item on anyone’s “to-do” list.

Eventsy will begin the celebration with a VIP Cocktail Reception from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., followed by an open celebration from 7:30 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. Guests will enjoy signature Eventsy drinks, unlimited access to an onsite photo booth, sweet treats from Potion Cupcakes & Xocai® Chocolate, a water station by Hint, upbeat music by DJ Paulie K and a pampering session by skincare experts Rodan + Fields®. The night will also feature a live performance by Violinist Sarina Suno, complimentary gifts and several chances to win valued prizes from sponsors.

A bold, women-run company, “Eventsy is a New Yorker’s very own personal event planner that essentially makes it easy for members to once again enjoy a rich social life, meet new people, and network in an enjoyable environment without having to be glued to a computer screen and engage in impersonal online interactions,” stated co-founder Maria Pardalis. “We are unlike any other social club in New York, as we create affordable, tailored events for our members.”

Events include weekly business networking happy hours in a relaxed environment, intimate signature dinners &fun brunches, upstate vineyard tours, riveting kayaking adventures, paintball competitions, rock climbing expeditions and weekend getaways. Members will enjoy premier access to NYC’s hottest lounges, restaurants, bars and nightlife as well as exclusive invitations to film & movie screenings, all for a membership fee that is affordable for busy New Yorkers.

Eventsy is one’s very own personal planner – events planned around core interests, full time staff with service 7 days a week, and personalized attention to detail. Individual membership is priced at $365 per year. When a member refers a friend, both the member and friend will receive a $50 event credit. For more information on membership, please visit http://www.eventsy.com/membership.

About Eventsy

Eventsy is a multifaceted members-only social club that brings a new breath of fresh air in the event, activity, and get-away arenas. By going the extra mile and only coordinating interactive events with a purpose, Eventsy bridges the current social gap by providing unique fun-filled adventures, business networking events that are actually fun, and
endless travel and sporting opportunities.Based in New York City, Eventsy is dedicated to providing a friendly platform for which its members can make new friendships, meet professional contacts and/or a significant other, all while embarking on life-enhancing and fun
experiences.For more information on Eventsy, visit www.eventsy.com.

See you at The DL!

Microaggressions

9 Jan

Kiyun Kim’s photography series Microaggressions capture the casual racism of our American society. The Fordham University student photographed fellow students holding signs with the subtle racist remarks they often hear. The comments probably aren’t intended to be racist, and I would imagine many people think they’re actually complimenting the person.

When I found out about Kim’s work via Flavorwire, I recognized a lot of the signs as comments I’d heard directed toward many of my friends. And while White privilege means I don’t have to deal with racism in the same way that others do, as someone whose skin is too pale for Greek functions and whose name is ethnic for many Americans—not all of whom were White—I have heard my fair share of remarks that were less than culturally sensitive.

 

“Stephanie, can you explain to the class who the Titans are?”

“That’s so nice of you to show an interest in your husband’s culture.”

“In the Koine, there are five different words for ‘love.’ Today we’ll be talking about philia. …I hope I pronounced that correctly with Stephanie sitting in the room!”

“Which is your favorite translation of The Iliad?”

“So how did you find out about this event?”

 

How do you deal with remarks like this? On the one hand, you don’t want to overreact because usually the people saying these things don’t understand the hurt it may cause. On the other hand, they will continue to say these things to you and to others if they’re not corrected.

A Perfect Morning to Jump Into the River

6 Jan

739px-Cross_being_thrown_at_Theophanyimage by Jim Maggas via Wikipedia

After a weekend of trudging through dirty city snow, I was surprised—and thankful!—this morning to discover the temperatures had risen enough to melt away the large icy barricades surrounding every crosswalk. I changed out of my snow boots and put on ballet flats. Ballet flats! In the winter! Even my puffy black jacket didn’t seem necessary, but perhaps that’s because a few days before it had been so cold I was wearing my jacket in my apartment.

The warmer winter temperatures had perfect timing. Today is the day in the Greek Orthodox religion where the priest throws a cross into the river and boys jump in to save it. We call it Theophany, but many religious New Yorkers would more likely know it as Epiphany. It refers to the day John the Baptist baptized Jesus of Nazareth in the Jordan River and is the revelation that Jesus is the Son of God. You can read my explanation here.

I wouldn’t recommend actually jumping into the river yourself, but I have witnessed the Blessing of the Water ceremony. If you ever get a chance, it’s quite a sight to see here in New York City!