I’ve been back to Cyprus for a month now and let me tell you, a lot happened these last 4 weeks. A LOT.
The good (bits)
For the first couple of weeks, though my Covid-19 test came out negative, I avoided crowded places or catching up with friends or relatives just in case my bad luck stroke again and end up spreading germs. Thank God it hasn’t so in the last few weeks I spent days at the beach, swimming pools, a little hike in the mountains to admire the gorgeous Caledonia waterfall (video coming soon), checked out a few cafes for brunch and other more quiet ones, perfect for creative work.
About 10 days ago, on our way down from the Caledonia waterfall, my sister stepped on a loose rock, twisted her ankle and damaged her ligaments. It was a long day followed by a long couple of weeks. I only made it out of the house two or three times as her leg is in a cast and she can’t cook, clean or walk (doh) without crutches. So I’ve been her ‘nurse’ since then.
In other news, it seems there’s a second wave of COVID-19 (or just one big wave according to WHO) in Cyprus (and it seems globally too). The use of face masks has now become mandatory again and local lockdown measures have already been applied to Limassol, a nearby city where most new cases have been reported at.
Ever since I came back I haven’t been able to relax and enjoy every moment of my break, although that was my plan and what I’ve been craving for months.
I recently realised why. I’ve never lived in Cyprus as an adult and I don’t know how to just… be here as myself and not my 22 year old self with all her issues and stupid insecurities. That’s something I need to work on.
I’m not that happy with myself in general either. Which makes adjusting living in Cyprus harder. The lockdown left me not just with emotional scars but with extra physical weight I desperately want to get rid of.
I’ve also been stressing out about what to do next. Should I look for another teaching job abroad or should I get a random part-time job and stay here until Christmas? Or get a teaching job here until May? Do I still want to teach? Two of my adult students have recently messaged me to thank my for their FCE exam results. I loved teaching them and I’m so happy they did so well, but is that feeling enough to keep me going for another 9 months of hard work? What if I leave and spend months locked inside because of a second Covid-19 wave? But would I be able to stay here? Or would I drive myself crazy? What if I forget my English? Or myself? Aaaaaah!!!!
Honestly, I have no idea. For the time-being I decided to start the new social media pages on travel and food I’ve wanted to for a while now and enjoy the rest of the summer with my friends and family and allow myself to get stressed about my next steps at the end of August. It’s gonna be a hell of a ride.
Oh here’s the logo of my new page. I designed it myself on Canva, I’m so proud of my little achievement!
PS I already feel better just writing about it all.
I cannot quite believe it’s only been a week I’ve been back from Cyprus. The Christmas holidays feel a long long time ago… so to reminisce and to make myself regret even more I decided to cut my break to Cyprus short here’s a little vlog I put together from my Boxing Day walk to the picturesque village of Kato Drys featuring a huge, great restaurant with delicious food and surprisingly affordable prices, O Platanos, and a little traditional shop called ‘To madratzin tis yiayias‘ (grandma’s rolling pin’)
I hope I’ll spend more time putting together little videos like this, I missed it so much, I hope you enjoy it!
A few days ago, I woke up in a sweat, tears streaming down my face, in the middle of the night. I saw my uncle Spyro in my dream, he looked so alive and healthy but he was sad. He knew he was going to die and I was painfully aware he was already dead. It took me a few seconds to realise where I was. I’m in Italy. How on earth all of this happened in just few months?
That’s when it hit me.
I have no idea what is going on. Not a clue. Now that the dust has settled and I’m getting into a routine, a routine I’m not familiar with and not quite sure how it should be, teaching English in a foreign country is brand new to me, I’m making time for myself to reflect, to make sense of what has happened in the last few months.
I don’t know where to start and how to end this post but here it goes.
I still sometimes feel I’m on a long, albeit random and bizarre holiday and I’ll be returning to the UK anytime now. I don’t miss my job, or the grey weather, OK I do miss British autumn, golden leaves across the park, hot chocolate at Mettricks, reading a book or watching silly TV on a Saturday afternoon with a blanket, a cup of tea and some chocolate biscuits whilst pouring down with rain outside, but other than that I don’t miss the UK.
I miss things from the UK, the convenience of it all (Amazon Prime aaah), actual little daily things like decent tea, Hobnobs and Chocolate Digestives, but most of all I miss my friends, my dear friends. Not that I don’t love my new colleagues and friends I’ve made already, but I miss my people.
So far I’ve enjoyed working as an EFL teacher. But is this the career I’d like to follow?
I don’t know, I genuinely don’t. I don’t even know if I’m any good at it. I’ll soon get feedback from my managers after they observe me but for now I’m doing what I think best.
Of course if I decide that’s not what I’d like to do long-term I can change careers again, but to do what?
For now I’ll give it time and not think that far ahead, but it’s always at the back of my mind.
I’m strangely not stressed or too anxious, not as much as I expected I’d be. Being one of the oldest teachers and having lived life already comes with its perks I guess. I do sometimes feel I let the rest of them down when I’m too tired or too ill or too old (in a ‘been there, done that’ sense) to follow them in some of their excursions.
It’s still unclear in my head whether I pursued this so fast to not disappoint my tutors who gave me a Grade A or to avoid dealing with my grandpa and my uncle’s deaths, I feel I haven’t processed still what has happened.
I remember the last time I was at my grandpa’s house, where my auntie now lives alone, without pappou Costa or theio Spyro and I caught myself waiting for them to show up. A horrible, sad realisation they will not ever again.
I also feel terrible guilt. I feel guilty I didn’t give my home, Cyprus more time. I was so occupied worrying not to get stuck I left after just a month. I didn’t travel across the island, I didn’t see all my friends and family. I needed an escape and ended up changing my plans at the very last minute.
I know deep in my heart I made the right decision leaving my job and leaving the UK. I’m not sure I made the right decision rushing into my first ELT job, but time will show.
For now I need to find myself again, I have felt the black cloud of depression getting closer over the last week and I desperately want to keep it away.
I need my remedies, my writing (which I’ve done a lot, this terrible cold I can’t shake off did me good in other ways), my Yoga- God I miss Adriene-, my guitar- God I miss my guitar-, and I need to feel like myself because at the moment… (I couldn’t have described it better than Wind and the Wave’s Lost)
It’s been a crazy busy few weeks as you probably have guessed from my recent updates.
I’m finally catching up with my blog and vlog (and my life in general). So, almost two months later here’s the vlog from the short break I spent at the beautiful island of Rhodes with my sister Stella.
Places mentioned/we’ve been:
Nafsika hotel. One of the cheaper options for accommodation, where we stayed. Sparkling clean, central, amazing sea views, pretty decent breakfast. We loved it.
The port area
Anemos taverna– The cafe/tavern we stopped before heading down to Tsambika beach. Gorgeous views.
Tsambika beach- Where the mountain meets the sea. No need to say much. We loved it.
Ι’m sitting at a cafe at Roma Fiumicino airport, sipping on my cappuccino and forcing myself to finish my baguette, I’m too anxious and excited to eat, whilst waiting for my next flight to Reggio Calabria, a place I never knew existed until a month ago. How did I end up here?
Everything happened very fast, I didn’t have time to tell many people. Many of you will only just find out. So here it goes.
The day after my uncle died a teaching position came up at an IH school in Reggio Calabria, the job I didn’t apply a month ago when one of my CELTA tutors recommended the school. I always kept thinking whether I should have applied the first time, so when another job came up at the same school, I thought I’d give it a go. I had nothing to lose and I now knew that my priority was to get as much experience teaching as possible.
I’ve been applying for teaching jobs abroad for a week or so, I’ve been itching to go for a while, but I didn’t know what to do, whether I should go or not and what to go for. After uncle Spyros’ death, I felt like the universe was reminding me again that life’s too short to sit and wait. When this job came up again, I guess I saw it as a sign.
I applied on that morning and I had my first interview the same afternoon. I had a second interview two days later and by the end of the week I was offered the position (I’ll write a separate post on the whole TEFL job hunting subject and what to look for, it’s a minefield!). I was offered two more jobs, one of those in Vietnam, a country on my bucket list, but I loved the people at Reggio Calabria from the first interview, everyone I talked to has already been incredibly helpful and considerate and it’s obvious they love their job and their school. I also realised that I won’t have much free time to venture out much on my first year teaching. I need to be at a quiet place with not many distractions where people care about what they do and a great school at a small, coastal town in Southern Italy, with scenic views of Sicily across the water sounds perfect!
A week later, I’m at the airport on my way to Reggio Calabria and tomorrow I start my new job. Who would have thought. I’m thrilled and at the same time terrified. How will I teach English to little Italians??Will my students, colleagues, flatmates like me? Will I be a good teacher?What if I disappoint everyone?
I guess I’ll have answers to all these questions very soon.
Every time I visit Italy the first thing that comes to my mind it’s a salutation from a classic scene in one of the best films ever made , La Vita e Bella (Life is beautiful). That’s what I thought when I woke up today to this view.
I’ve been back to Cyprus for two weeks now and I’m still ‘adjusting’. It’s never been that bad before, maybe because I always had an end date in mind or I had somewhere and something to return to, regardless how gravely I disliked it, or maybe so much happened in the last month alone, my brain is still struggling to fully comprehend what is going on.
But it can’t explain my annoying, pretty much constant (with very brief moments of happiness, laughter and relaxation) irritableness, and no, it’s not hormones.
I’mlike an upset, angry hedgehog, keeping my quills raised, prickling everyone in my way, blindly and indiscriminately.
Why do I feel like this? Why does every single thing upset me? Have I been away for too long? How long can I stick it out for? Should I just find a job in another country and leave ASAP?
Endless questions with no answers. Suddenly, out of nowhere Gaia Vince turned a shining light in this question mark shaped pitch black room.
“This idea that you gain a new personality with every language you speak, that you act differently when speaking different languages, is a profound one.” she writes in a brilliant article discussing the benefits of being bilingual. Ironically from the whole article I focused on one of the disadvantages of being fluent in two languages.
Am I really bilingual since I was born, raised and lived in Cyprus until I was 22 you might wonder. The answer is without a second thought yes. After 10 years of fully immersing in the British culture and way of life, I think and speak in English first.
Apparently bilinguals develop two different mindsets, they are a different person depending on the language they speak at the time (when you add the country they live in AND the language they speak at a given time in the mix that’s when it gets mind-baffling) and those mindsets are always in conflict as the brain is constantly trying to decide which language to use.
My two selves are always in conflict now that I’m back in Cyprus and not just the language parts. The noise, the attitudes, the people, the culture, everything I’d normally enjoy when I’m visiting Cyprus contradict my ‘British self’ who is dominating at the moment and can’t compromise and accept the fact now we are in Cyprus for (hopefully only) a few months it needs to let my other self out more or learn how to live here. My ‘Cypriot self’ is weak though and doesn’t even have an idea on what makes it Cypriot anymore, it hasn’t lived here for 10 years and since it last lived here it was a whole other person, an immature, 22 year old Cypriot who knew nothing about life or herself. That person doesn’t exist anymore but for most of my friends and family that’s the person they knew and sometimes treat me as if I’m that person, which doesn’t help with the eternal battle in my head.
So, I finally have the answer, but what’s the solution?
No idea. Though my ‘British self’ desperately desires to flee, I’m giving it time for now.
If you’ve been in a similar situation and/or wish to share some words of wisdom, please do. In the meantime, I’ll get back into my yoga and try to bring some calmness and tranquillity in this stormy, windy sea of my mind.
Wow. I do NOT know where to start from. If you could only see what is happening inside my head.
OK let’s start from right now.
I’ve been in Cyprus for two days and I spent the first one at the beach, at a gorgeous little bay in Protaras, Sirena Bay (with a cute, bohemian restaurant at the top of a hill overlooking the sea) which felt like manna from heaven, like rain after a hot, humid day, like a hot cup of tea and chocolate digestives on a freezing cold, winter afternoon.
As you know, I spent August in Cambridge doing my CELTA course. One of the most challenging, intense, stressful but also rewarding, extraordinary experiences of my life so far.
I haven’t slept more than a few hours a night for a month, I cried many a times, my anxiety completely paralysed me more than once, I didn’t get to see Cambridge much, visit Grantchester or the Wren library or go punting (I’m definitely returning in Cambridge just to do all this) but it was all worth it, not only for getting the qualification and marked as ‘above standard’ (Who? Me! I never taught in my life!) but mostly for the friends I made from all over the world. My classmates, my students, my flatmates. I’ll write about it very soon to share my experience with others who are considering doing the CELTA. For now, I’m still trying to recover from it. I still dream of lesson plans, teaching, my classmates, my tutors.
On my last day in the UK, I visited my brother Andi and had an awesome day in London. It didn’t feel real what was happening. I have actually left Southampton for good, I finished my course and I’m on my way to Cyprus, with no fixed plan. What the hell.
I’m in Cyprus since Sunday and I feel completely lost. Should I try and get an English language teaching job and get experience right away, since I absolutely loved teaching, but leave in a month, or should I do what I originally planned, and have a few months of holiday, write, make videos, read books, try different things and then go? Should I go in Vietnam first or Costa Rica? Asia or Latin America? Or Europe?
No bloody idea. For now, I’ll leave all of this behind and enjoy a couple of weeks of holiday, a few days in Protaras and then Rhodes (vlogs coming very soon), get back into my yoga, give my mind time to rest and reset and then who knows.
To all my friends, in Southampton, Cambridge, Russia, Bangladesh, Spain, Italy and wherever else you might be, I miss you dearly already.
I sometimes wish making a decision was easy, so many options but then again how boring life would be if I didn’t have any.
I’m sitting at an old, antique desk in my room in Cambridge. It’s cloudy and raining but I don’t mind for once. I needed the break from the heat. This country was not built for any temperature higher than 25 degrees.
Can I sleep in Your Brain comes up on my little Bluetooth speaker. I just finished my notes for my first teaching exercise on Monday and finally have some free time to sit down and write about all of this. It’s been too long.
A million and one thoughts in my mind I’m not quite sure where to begin.
Today is my grandpa’s birthday. He turned 83. But this time I can’t call him like I do every year. He is at a nursing home. Now my uncle’s recovering from a major operation, my auntie can’t look after both of them.
“He won’t even recognise you”, my mum messaged when I asked how I can contact him. “His dementia is taking over more day by day”. She sent me a picture I took of him and myself a few years ago. A classic mum habit. I told her off not because I was annoyed this time but because it makes me sad. I remember everything about that picture, his excitement when I asked for a selfie, laughing whilst taking it, asking me where to look and afterwards chatting about me splitting with my ex of 7 years.
“Are you happy? That’s all that matters” pappou Costas said then and smiled.
Tears came streaming down my face thinking of that day. (A few hours later my mum messaged me to give my aunt a call. She was with my grandpa. I called and wished him happy birthday. He recognised me at the beginning but not for the whole duration of the two minute phone call. I could feel his confusion every time he went quiet. At some point he asked me when I’ll go back to Cyprus like he always does and then the next minute he forgot what he was talking about. I promised I go see him as soon as I’m in Cyprus. He said he might leave by then. I choked up. I hope he meant the nursing home. He is slipping away from us…)
I tried hard not to cry last week saying goodbye to my Southampton friends and life, it didn’t feel like goodbye, my brain still struggles to understand what is happening. It feels I’m on a break and I’ll return back to Southampton any minute now.
I don’t think I’ll realise any time soon. One thing is for sure, I will miss so many people, friends I’ve known for years and friends I’ve only just met, because that’s life. It never stops, you meet people and make friends all the time. Thank you to everyone who came to my leaving celebrations (and they were MANY) or made the time to see me before I left.
I will miss every single one of you and all the little special connections I have with each.
Now I’m crying about everything. But I feel good. These are not sad tears. These are cathartic tears, letting everything out and finally hitting the reset button.
Last month feels like a blur. Friends’ birthday celebrations, after work drinks, Graduation week, the stress of dealing with removal companies, getting rid of furniture, cleaning, throwing out things. It was fun, bittersweet, exhausting.
I’ve been living in Cambridge for about three days now and I’m surprised how well I adjusted from living on my own to living with a house full of people (minus a few sleepless nights because of the strong anxiety and heat cocktail mix).
My hostess Mary is wonderfully weird. Though she’s lived in the UK for 28 years, her accent is so strong I struggle to understand her at times but she is adorable. Her cooking is amazing. She won’t let me do my own washing, it’s been years since someone else washed my clothes.
She wears a plastic bag on her head when she makes fish to keep the smell away (I chuckled when I walked into the kitchen for some water and saw her wearing the bag, she then told me to rush so I don’t smell like fish either), she hangs the bed sheets off the staircase to dry faster, unintentionally creating a little fort I found too amusing, and she randomly knocks on my door to ask for help with translation or to give me treats. I haven’t tasted melon that sweet since the last time I was in Cyprus.
My room is small but perfectly formed. Clean with all the essentials. The bathroom is sparkling clean and I only share it with one other. There are two kitchens, both huge, especially the guests one. I’m glad I opted for the host family option (though it’s just Mary, her adult children don’t live here, so thankfully no toddlers are running around screaming off their head), though I worry I’ll soon miss living on my own. It will happen eventually.
On Thursday, when the temperature outside hit 38 degrees, I decided I’d go out to explore Cambridge a little bit, since my course was to start the following day and I may not get the chance to do much wandering when I have homework. ‘I lived in Cyprus for 22 years after all, I can take some heat, if I get to live in a hot country from January, this could be my daily reality’ I told myself.
I’m glad I did (though I can’t remember the last time I sweat that much it felt like peeing myself). Cambridge is gorgeous, there is so much to see and do and a couple of friends already suggested places I’d love to go before I leave the city at the end of August.
Yesterday I had my first day of CELTA teacher training class. It was intense, exhausting but incredibly fun. Going to college, buying stationery, finally using my brain again, felt rejuvenating, even just after a day.
Most of the studying I did throughout my life (and I’ve done a lot, from degrees, to qualifications, diplomas etc), in only few occasions I cared enough to actively participate in the classroom. With this one I wouldn’t shut up. The perks of being a mature student or maybe in my case, finally being confident comfortable enough with myself to not worry too much about what others think.
Fiona, our tutor who ran the session on the day, is amazing (I hope Jonny is as good, though it will be tough to beat Fiona).
My classmates are all very beautifully different and unique, a wonderfully diverse bunch. Some travelled from their home countries, Bangladesh, India, Azerbaijan, Spain just to do this course, others are semi-retired and doing it for fun or to follow their partner to Colombia (ah young love). I’ll write about the course separately when I get the time.
I oddly felt more British even than the British in the group. I guess I’ve lived here for too long. And to think I worried I might find it hard with my accent and everything doing this course.
I worry I’ll struggle in Cyprus. And I worry about so many other things,- Will my stuff make it Cyprus? Will I get my deposit back? Will I manage to keep up with the amount of studying required? Will I make it to Chris’s wedding? What if my uncle or grandpa die and I don’t get to see them again? What if I’m not good enough for anything else and this is a huge mistake? – But I need to stop worrying. There’s nothing I can do about any of this and choosing to leave the comfortable but dull 9 to 5 life means there will be a lot more to worry about.
For now I’ll work hard to get my qualification and enjoy every moment in Cambridge.
Saturday morning. A gorgeous, warm, sunny, summery day, one of those I almost forgot I live in this country.
9:50am and I’m on the train. The lack of sleep and a few drinks the night before have taken their toll and I am exhausted but so happy I’m about to spend the day with my best friend exploring Oxford.
The train is packed (glad I decided to reserve a seat). I’m trying and failing miserably to take a selfie so I just put my music on and enjoy the sun lightly burning my skin. I don’t mind. I’ll the take the sunshine any day.
Just after the Winchester stop, a sweet, elder lady gets on the train and sits next to me. White curly short hair, glasses, a floral dress and a huge smile. She seemed so kind and lovely, sometimes I can tell straight away, I got a strong urge to start a conversation, though I was painfully aware that it might backfire, people are not always that friendly at this neck of the woods.
I’m so happy I did. We ended up chatting until she got off the train. It felt so easy and natural, as if we’ve known each other for years. I straight away explained why I was tired, where I was going and why and ended up telling her about my plans and dreams and hopes for the immediate future and she told me about her life (she was heading to her mother in law to look after her for the day and relieve her husband), her travels in America back in the 80s and she reassured me without realising that I’m doing the right thing.
She told me: “Go, travel, see the world. I didn’t meet my husband until I was 36 and had my children in my late thirties. Enjoy life whilst you can.“
Just before she got off, I asked her what her name was.
‘Helen’ she said.
‘Eleni, which is Helen in Greek. So lovely to meet you.’ I replied.
‘Lovely to meet you too dear’, she replied. She wished me the very best for the future and I felt she meant every word. She wasn’t just being polite. She actually meant it.
How often does it happen to meet a stranger you connect straight away, who as a Deus Ex Machina (απο μηχανής Θεός), a fairy Godmother re-assured me I’m actually doing the right thing, leaving my job and taking a leap of faith?
After she left I couldn’t stop thinking how many amazing, incredible humans, everyday heroes like her I’ll meet on my travels.
I’ll always remember Helen as a fairy Godmother who decided to pay me a visit to cheer me on and remind me to always believe that something wonderful is about to happen.
Although I’ve done my best I still feel terrible for only reaching mile 20 and not finishing it and I’d love to go back and try again.
I won’t get into details on what happened on the day, you can get a taste below (the whole story in the description) but I thought I’d share what I learnt to help future hikers who decide to take the challenge.
I wish I prepared better. Physically I was OK, the first half was tough but I managed, I’m not too unfit, I could have finished it but I wish I had done a walk as long as the hike just to test my shoes. Had I known my hiking boots would burn my feet when I hit the road and I’d been in pain for over two hours I would have either worn another pair or brought an extra pair of comfy trainers for the second half. I’ve changed socks once but didn’t seem to help.
I wish I’d had a look of the route beforehand. No need to explain much, but I had no idea how scary the first half would be with those steep hills.
I could have taken fewer snacks with me to reduce the weight of my backpack. It feels heavier and heavier the longer you walk.
I should have put blister pads on from the beginning and not wait until half way when me feet were already sore.
I wouldn’t have made it to 20 miles without my waterproof and walking poles. Especially the walking poles. I’d still be on the top of those hills, paralysed in fear.
Maybe if I stuck with others I would have gone further. Staying on my own, alone with my thoughts and in pain was probably the wrong decision. The only thought in my mind for those two hours I was in unbearable pain was how disappointed I was in myself I couldn’t take up this pain, when thousands of people suffering or who died from cancer, like my aunt, experience pain ten times worse every single day for months or years. ‘How lame, you are so weak, you can’t even walk 26 miles. You are quitting??Pathetic.’
As I’m writing this a lady going through chemo wearing a cold cap to save her hair comes up on the ITV news. She looks tired but so positive. I remember reading about this infamous cap and how horrible it is, giving you headaches, as if the chemo side effects are not bad enough and half of the time it doesn’t even work. My shame for not finishing it’s still there.
Finally I wish was prepared for the mental, emotional challenge, which was at times more overwhelming than the physical. I had no idea that everything would trigger me crying for three days after the hike.
Two days later on the Monday, my feet were still a bit sore and I got my period three days early, which didn’t help with the pain but I could have gone to work. I would have been sore but I could have gone. Mentally though, I wouldn’t manage.
Partially, it is a natural reaction, your body is not used to such a physical challenge and although self induced, you are exposing your self to trauma. You are in pain but is self-inflicted. The brain does not know how to handle it.
If you are struggling with anxiety and depression and you can feel everything more intense than the average person, after such a challenge, the intensity reaches new heights.
I wish I was honest about it, I wish I’d admitted the main reason I couldn’t go to work was that I couldn’t control my feelings. Instead I let people tease me I couldn’t handle the soreness. I’m ashamed I did not ticked ‘mental health’ when I filled in my sickness absence form.
So be prepared and take a day or two off afterwards.
But what it’s done, it’s done. I can’t change what happened. All I can do is learn from it and as Mark who is fighting cancer for the second time and did the hike said:
“…don’t feel ashamed, take it from me, this happens to us all the time, you hit a barrier and you fall down. You get back up and crack on, that’s what you must do.”
Despite my disappointment, it’s been an amazing experience I shared with lovely friends, I met incredible humans and I feel blessed I was part of the Jurassic Coast Mighty Hike 2019 raising money for such an incredible cause, Macmillan Cancer Support, a day I’ll never forget.
If I’m around next September, I’ll definitely give it another go.