Going greek

Sunday, August 8, 2004

A muted television plays in the background, flashing pictures of the Parthenon, pristine beaches and boats harbored among the crystal blue waters of the island as Zoi Mousadakos talks of her homeland.

She scurries between the drive-up windows at Dave's BBQ on Broadway in Cape Girardeau, waiting on customers and preparing gyros for lunch. As she slices the lamb, heats a pita and sprinkles it with oregano, she talks about how beautiful her country is and how appealing it should be to tourists.

The world will visit Greece for the 2004 Summer Olympic Games that begin Friday. Mousadakos is staying in the United States and watching the games on television. She plans to visit sometime next summer.

"I want to go see my family, and with the Olympics it will just be more trouble in the airports," she said.

The mass of people won't necessarily reach her hometown near the southern tip of Greece and about 150 miles from Athens. But tourists who visit the Mediterranean nation should consider a side trip to Monemvasia anyway, Mousadakos said.

The city is divided between the old and new. It's a place where culture still reigns and people preserve the history of their village.

"You see the history and the natural beauty," she says of her hometown, where olive trees are abundant and the blue waters of the ocean lap against the shore.

Greece has everything you'd need, she says. "If you want beaches, there are beaches. If you want nightlife, there are parties. If you want history, there is history."

But Greece didn't always have everything Mousadakos needed. She left home when she was 16 and came to America. Twenty-three years later, she's become a business owner and has raised two sons in Cape Girardeau. She's not sure she could go back home and live there permanently.

"I know how to survive here," she said. When she left, "everybody was trying to leave and make a life."

There are some things Mousadakos misses about her native country: The beauty of the water, the tiny villages that blend together along the roads and the picturesque vistas.

"There's not anybody who goes that doesn't like it," she said.

She is interested to see how the country has changed and reinvented itself in preparation for the Olympic Games. New transit systems, buildings and arenas were constructed in anticipation of the games.

Mousadakos keeps up with the news by watching Greek television via satellite at her store. And she intends to watch the games as they're televised because you won't be able to see all of it if you're at the events in person, she said. "I think it will be exciting."


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