By Victoria Hopp
On August 23rd, I officially arrived on Catholic University’s campus located in the neighborhood of Trastevere in Rome, Italy. Anyone who has heard me talk knows I am not the quietest person. If anyone has heard me speak in a language class, you know my accent is as Americanized as it can get. So, when I first got here, Trastevere was known as “T-town” and every question was answered with “si” in a very loud American classic Victoria voice. The transition of adjusting to the culture was at first difficult but I have enjoyed the challenge of learning how to whisper and speaking the language correctly even if I may not always succeed.
Overall, Rome truly is home. My friends and I try to take the advantage of traveling to another places in Italy or other countries every weekend. It is a weird question on campus when people ask “oh what are you doing this weekend?” and hearing the responses that seem almost simple of “I’m going to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower,” or “I’m going hiking in Switzerland”. We all have mastered the Fiumicino Airport and I will proudly state that I have also memorized the location of the McDonald’s in the airport. (Can’t get away from my love of nugs). We have visited the Amalfi Coast, Vatican City, Germany, Bologna, Ravenna, France, Pompeii, Verona, and Milan. My friends and I have future traveling plans placed, but will always find ourselves returning back to our new comfort zone of Rome.
This past weekend while my parents visited me in Rome, I had the opportunity to visit my mother’s side of the family in Athens, Greece. My mother’s name is Lemonia and her maiden name is Kostopoulos. She is as Greek as it can get! The last time I visited Greece to see my family who live in Greece was almost nine years ago when my brother was studying abroad in Thessaloniki, a popular city in Greece. Since it was nine years ago, I knew I would have many new family members to meet, including the cutest cousins who I was especially thankful for, due to them refreshing me on some of my Greek words. They are currently in the process of learning English themselves. While we may not have been able to speak full conversations to one another, we could interact easily with games such as jump rope and rock, paper, scissors.
I will say Athens, Greece and the mainland are not the islands! Anyone who visits, should not expect white houses or scenes from “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”. My family is from the villages of Sagaiika, Movri, and Achaea. I also have family who live in the center of Athens. You may not receive those vacation photos of beautiful white houses but the villages still provide the beautiful views of farmland, mountains, and beaches. I may not have had the experience of seeing nothing but a pristine white background in my photos, but I did have the opportunity to see many lambs, goats, dogs, and chickens. I was an even happier girl when I got back into the rental car and knocked dirt and stone from the pebble roads off my sandals.
Although my time in Rome is flying by, it is always nice to be surrounded in an environment full of the familiar sounds and smells of home. As soon as I entered the homes of my family in Greece, I was reminded of my own papou (grandfather) and yiayia (grandmother). Both have passed, and it was nice to hear the familiar Greek phrases they used to speak to me, including “koúkla mou” (my little doll), “Φάω” (eat) and “S ‘agapó tóso polý” (I love you so much). The smell of fresh bread, feta, souvlaki, and the never-ending list of Greek food that nearly falls off the table smelled just like my yiayia and papou’s old house.
Even if nine years have passed, family will always be family and they always make me feel as if I was raised in that house in Greece for my entire life with the amount of love and happiness that is expressed. With my yiayia passing less than two years ago, I felt an even greater love. I felt the presence of my Greek grandparents through my other Greek relatives. Every time I speak to my Greek relatives I feel as though I am connecting more with who I am as a person because of those who raised me and who are a part of my life.
Greece is my “little” piece of home outside of the U.S. borders that just so happens to be closer to Rome, Italy than Maryland. Yamas! (Cheers!)