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Exotic food, dance are causes for indescribable happiness

Eleanor Van Buren is a senior at Riverdale High School. She writes a monthly column for the Lake Oswego Review. To contact her email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


If you are not familiar with the Greek dessert, loukoumades, or the dance sensation, “Gangnam Style,” then it may be a challenge to compare the two.

Yes, I am comparing the grandmotherly faces of Portland's Greek community to Psy, a thirty-something Korean rapper, because sometimes the best discoveries in life are also the least expected.

For those who don't know, the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Northeast Portland hosts an annual Greek Festival — one of the largest of its kind in the United States. I would be lying if I said my calendar was not built around the weekend of the festival, for after the first time I went three years ago, I've made it a point to go back.

At the festival, you can learn about Greek culture by watching youth groups perform traditional dances or tour the cathedral and admire the sanctuary — but I prefer a sanctuary of my own: the food tents. My fondness for Greek fare did not start at the festival, for I have always preferred Mediteranean methods. But I reached enlightenment, to the point of devout fondness, through the festival's authenticity. Where else do spits turn out two full roasted lambs before noon?

There are gyros as far as the eye can see, endless triangles of spanakopita, and marinated souvlaki in succession on the grill. I wouldn't be surprised if the teachings of Pythagoras suddenly dropped off at the inception of this festival. Though it is tempting to spend all your talents, units representing one dollar, on meat, you must not forget about dessert.

The desserts crafted for the Greek Festival are some of the best pastries imaginable: sweet, buttery and excitingly exotic. The baklava is my favorite, but I also get the ubiquitous honey-glazed, fried doughnut puffs known as loukoumades, which have made me into a true believer of the bee. Somehow my pronunciation of this dessert sounds a lot like “more, please.”

A distinct happiness transpires as I wonder around each food tent at the Greek festival, an indescribable happiness. The first time I attended the Greek Festival, it was around lunchtime on a rainy October day. My friends made plans to go and I tagged along. I thought it was a small community event, but I should have known the crowds were a considerable indicator of the serious eating I was about to embark upon, and undoubtedly, the indescribable happiness to follow.

Similar to the Greek Festival, I am unable to describe the happiness I feel when watching the Youtube sensation, “Gangnam Style.” At first glance, Psy seems sporadic and insincere, but his motto, “dress classy, dance cheesy,” is precisely a sarcastic equivalent to the American term “swag.” I am not familiar with the Korean language or the celebrities that frequent the video, but I appreciate his enthusiasm, even if it is for himself. Psy doesn't care if he messes up or is wrong, because he is not trying to be right. Instead, he shares a part of himself and Korea through dance, and I take part in the excitement as well.

The surprising exurberance of one's passion, such as the care and preparation put into the Greek delacacies and Psy's cattle-driving dance moves, creates unexpected happiness. I may not know the pronounciation of anything I eat at the Greek Festival or when one of my goofy teammates will break out into “Gangnam Style” during our pregame routine before a volleyball match, but I do know that I will be there to experience it, eating and exploring, laughing and dancing-indescribably happy.




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