Dedicated to all those living abroad– like an alien coin in circulation just trying to find a way to fit in. The moment you realise your difference is what makes you unique, precious and remarkable.
France – Paris. Nothing makes me feel more ‘Greek’ than when I put on my gold coin necklace. It is heavy, obviously shiny and when I put it on, it sits in a special pendant around my neck on a similarly outlandish gold necklace.
I don’t wear it too often as some of you fashion minded folks might guess, it doesn’t go well with many outfits. It is however a great talking point whenever it does make an outing. A talking point about my heritage, my family and, ultimately me.
Coins are funny things. We exchange them daily without a single thought and once in a while, normally when we travel, we come across coins or notes of an interesting nature which captivate us for a brief moment. I remember showing some Greek relatives the new plastic Australian notes which they were convinced was Monopoly money.
On our travels many of us may even keep a few coins or notes aside as mementos of our trip and are now lost in that drawer of junk or box of photos as you never really knew what to do with them after you returned back home. I recently learned that minted Euro coins from Monaco are very rare and have been snuffled up by coin enthusiasts… I digress.
More recently, I was given an old Australian silver penny at a friend’s wedding. An elderly guest was just handing them out whilst we were enjoying the cheese platter. I asked him what it was for, when he replied saying that it was a wedding tradition, then turned his back on me and continued on handing out his pennies to other guests. I quizzed many a fellow Aussie on this tradition with no luck. It was only when I asked the Bride that helped solve the mystery of the Penny which turned out to be a lifelong obsession with pennies and absolutely nothing to do with weddings – go figure.
Coins have their own history and this one around my neck right is no exception! It was given to me by my Mum sometime back and by looking at its worn surface, you can see it was minted in 1901. Somehow, it made it all the way to my mother’s family who lives in a tiny country village in the north of Greece circa 1940. When we visited the area sometime back we ended up accidentally crossing the border to Bulgaria – so you are probably getting some idea of its isolation to the rest of the world.
From my quick Googling, the coin could have originated from 1 of 4 places in the world at that time:- London, Sydney, Melbourne or Perth (Australia) where the only appointed British Royal mints in the old world were located at that time. The story goes, according to Ma, that these gold sovereigns were dropped via parachute by the Brits to help the Greeks during the war, and after some more Googling – this seems to be a plausible story.
It was called ‘Operation Golden Rain’, but the question remains, how did my Ma’s family get their little hands on 5 of these treasures way back when? Did a whole batch just parachute themselves into their backyard near the washing line? Or were they dropped, forgotten and found again years later by a wandering shepherd? Yes, there are lots of wandering shepherds in that part of the world.
Just like this gold coin I too feel like an object cast into a foreign land with foreign people, language and, at mercy to new customs, believes and way of life. Far away from where I was pressed and minted in Australia. My grooves and edges and worn look I wear on some days are all a culmination of the years back home and on the road (mainly on buses) – travelling.
Today in Paris, wearing my Greek gold coin necklace, I visited the supermarket to pick up two slices of salmon for dinner. Near the cold section, I hear the sound of something so familiar, yet so foreign.
Lost but not forgotten, the words being spoken by the gentleman with the basket filled with an absurd amount of Coca-Cola were like music to my ears. He was not speaking English, he was not speaking French but he was speaking a language I knew.
I could make out every single word he was saying on the phone. Comprehension filled my mind and I couldn’t help but linger around the frozen food section just to hear more. He saw me, lowered his voice as if he knew I could understand this foreign tongue.
Mesmerised my little brain could decipher this ‘coded language’, I proceeded to the checkout. I thought about what brought this fellow, who obviously has a caffeine addition, to the same corner store as me – what was his story? I thought about how amazing language is and if he had been speaking another foreign language it would just sound like noise to me.
We all have our own story like the coins and notes in circulation throughout the world or that may be safely stored in that memento drawer. We pass though big or small cities, villages and towns, exchange our experiences with others, learn a thing or two hopefully and, grow.
Older – definitely, wiser – perhaps, and like the coin around my neck, hopefully keep a golden sheen of wonderment, scratches and all as we circulate through life.
Whoah – deep! Better wrap up this post right about now.