From Greece to America- August 2, 2014.

An Interview with Dimitrios Houndalas by Hal Trussell

Why did you want to come to US?  My paternal grandfather was here in the late 1800’s.  He returned to Greece to help the family and ended up staying in Greece. My grandfather would tell me stories of America and from a young age, I always felt it was my destiny to come here.

What was your feeling when you began planning your departure from Greece to live in the US?   We grew up in the restaurant business.  My father owned several restaurants in my home town and was very well known and respected.  I was serving in the Greek military when my brother had come to Los Angeles.  Just at the end of my service, my brother had opened Le Petit Greek.  The restaurant took off and he needed my help and told me to come as soon as my service was over. To be honest, I was just happy to be out of the army.

What you’re your feeling upon arrival in Los Angeles, (first six months)? Although, I had lived for a few years in London, I still experienced great culture shock.  Los Angeles was an exciting city.  Los Angeles was a melting pot and there were so many different cultures here.  I had great fun exploring new cuisines like Mexican, Thai and Korean foods.   In Europe, we have small markets or open farmers markets.  I could not believe how many super markets there were and how packed they were with such a variety of food and produce.  Food was very inexpensive here in the states compared to Greece.  Bananas were so cheap, I would go and buy a bunch and eat 6 to 10 bananas a day.  It was a heavenly indulgence.

Now that you have established a life and family here in the United States, what is your feeling toward your homeland, Greece, in caparison to the US?   Greece is my heritage, my birth parent if you will. I am so proud of the values I learned in Greece and the childhood I had there.   The United States is like my adopted parent, the one that gave me my chance to grow and learn. Although the cultures are different, the philosophy of democracy that the Ancient Greeks taught is embodied in the United States.  I have more respect for Greece now, that I see its principles from thousands of years ago still being put into action today in the United States; which is the leader of modern day democracy.  Of course, neither country is perfect, but the principles from which they stem are truly profound, and perfectly aligned.

As a result of being born, raised and educated in Greece, what heritage do you hope to impart on your son?  Greece is surrounded by many countries and has seen 2 world wars.  It has had economic and cultural highs and lows.  The Greek spirit cannot be broken, neither can the American spirit.  I think both have a strong sense of who they are.   I think it is important that my son be adaptable and learn to be able to deal with any life circumstance.  I also think it is crucial that he learn to understand different people and different ways of life.  Not everyone has the same values, culture, or religion, but we can all learn to live in harmony if we try.  Lastly, I think the philosophical aspect of Greece and the pioneer spirit of America are important for my son to embrace.  Speak your truth, and pursue your happiness.

If you close your eyes and think Greece, what is the first word or words that comes to your mind? Thalassa.  It means Sea.  I see, feel, hear and smell the Mediterranean Sea in my mind when I close my eyes and think of Greece.  It is cleansing, familiar, comforting and strong.

Finally, if you close your eyes and think US, what is the first word or words that come to your mind?    The words that come to mind are “We The People”.   There is a lot of difficulty in the world.  There is economic hardship here and abroad.  No matter how difficult and discouraging life can be, in the end it is still, “WE THE PEOPLE”.  With that frame of mind ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.  We the people have the ability to create the type of society we want to live in and we want to pass on to future generations.  That inspires me.