Story and photo by Zoe Muprhy
I was born in Rome, but left just before my second birthday. My first words were a mix of English, Greek (my mom’s native language), Italian and a smattering of Polish from my Warsaw-born babysitter. I was well on my way to becoming a global citizen- little did I know, this was only a sneak peak into what would soon become my journey to developing the global perspective I now consider to be a crucial part of my identity.
The next stop was Athens, which was the first place I defined as home. Athens is a carefree city, where lifestyle is more important than rules. This freewheeling culture gave me the chance early on to experience life without limitations. Attending an American school, with other Americans living overseas, quickly helped me define myself within the scope of the city. Athens was a great setting to learn about myself as both a local and as an outsider.
I fell in love with the ability to be trusted to explore the city with my friends through late hours, eat cheap (but amazing) local food off the street, and have the anonymity that comes with living in a big city. My parents did not put many restrictions on me, trusting my judgment and the relative safety of Athens. All of this shaped me deeply.
At eleven, my family left Athens for a brief move to Connecticut, which is culturally as far from Athens as possible. But, luckily my ties with Athens weren’t severed completely, and I returned to Greece each summer.
My parents bought a house in a small village in southern Greece when I was six. It is a “summer escape,” and we have been going religiously every summer, even after we moved. This place served as an anchor through the constantly changing waves of my life. The village consists of about 500 residents living on the coast. It’s the type of place that, despite the fact that my mother is Greek, we were known as the “American outsiders.” However, this fact never prevented us from feeling as part of the community. We are always welcomed with open arms and a great appreciation that we attempt to coexist within their very specific culture. So specific, in fact, that the locals speak an ancient dialect of Greek that most Greeks cannot understand.
As I mentioned earlier, to me a global perspective means that various people and cultures come together to achieve a common goal. This village exemplifies this perfectly. As more and more tourists discover this village every year, and the ratio of foreigners to locals changes, no one is cast aside. Everyone coexists.
A few years ago my grandmother visited the village with us. She’s a glamorous, bedazzled women from New Jersey, the type that would seem completely at odds with “village living.” One morning we all went on a hike and ran into one of the mountain sheep herders. My grandmother was instantly fascinated and they both tried to communicate with each other to the best of their ability. I stepped into translate. We ended up walking with him the rest of the way. It was apparent that they both gained something profound from each other that they would never have been able to within their own specific bubbles. These simple examples highlight the beauty of two worlds so far removed, coming together for a brief moment. My grandmother saw the kindness and gentle spirit of a shepherd, whose annual income was probably less than the value of the jewelry she was wearing at the time. The shepherd found that a women he could not understand could appreciate his world of nature and animals. There is always common ground, it just takes a small bit of effort to find it.
Read more about Zoe’s journey here!