Just a 40 minute drive from down town (Nicosia), one comes across one of the most infamous, beautiful, picturesque villages of Cyprus, Fikardou.
Cobbled streets, traditional houses and gorgeous mountain views.
I recently visited after many years and it didn’t disappoint. This time I opted for a guided tour of the two most known traditional houses in the heart of the village which have been turned into a museum.
I learned a lot about the village as well as Cypriot tradition and had a great time with my sisters. Our little trip ended with delicious traditional lunch at Yiannakos tavern, the only tavern in the village (thank God the food was great!).
Here’s the video I put together, hope you enjoy it. If you do, like, share and follow for hopefully many more of this!
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!
I had just finished my last assessed teaching practice. The feeling of relief was indescribable. I did it, I couldn’t believe I actually managed to finish my CELTA. And I couldn’t believe that two my sweetest friends, Syed and Priya, took the day off to visit Cambridge and see me before I was to fly back to Cyprus.
As soon as I left college I headed into the town centre to meet them and I was so happy I nearly cried.
You may not realised it but that was exactly what I needed that day. After a month long, sleep and fun deprivation, away from all my friends, worrying they may forget me now that I’m leaving the country, it meant the world to me that two of them were there with me, celebrating my success.
So thank you Priya and Syed. Thank you for being such sweet, caring friends and for making the trip to Cambridge. It meant the world to me. I miss you!
Have you ever met someone you have a lot in common with? I mean A LOT. Similar taste in music, reading, films, your whole belief system, life aspirations, dreams, even sometimes identical way of thinking.
It’s pretty rare.
That’s why I feel so blessed and overwhelmingly lucky I’ve met a couple of these people in my life so far. One of them is Helena.
One of my favourite things ever is our long chats over a delicious hot cup of herbal tea and cake about travelling, huge life dilemmas and our little adventures, from little wanders in the Forest to running across London at midnight to watch A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
We’ve been daydreaming of escaping our office jobs and exploring the world for a while before we both decided to leave the UK and follow our dreams.
We inspired and encouraged each other to finally take the big step and walk into the unknown.
I don’t know when and where we’ll meet again lovely lady but I cannot wait to see you somewhere on this big wild world and have a long catch up. So much to share already!
Jonny did warn me at the interview, as I assume all CELTA tutors do with their potential students (full details of the interview process here), but no amount of explaining and warning can prepare you for doing a full-time, intensive, month long CELTA course. A level 5 qualification (equivalent to HNC/HND) which normally takes between 6 months/ 1 year full time and 2 years part time squeezed in one month!
Lead in, TPs, Gist Task, Detailed task, Guided Discovery, Monitoring, you pick up the CELTA language from week 1, that’s how intensive it is.
I’ll talk about my experience at Cambridge Regional College but I’m certain the format and the content are similar across the world, as they all follow the Cambridge English syllabus, though not everyone might have been lucky enough to have had such great tutors, classmates and students.
We started the course on a Friday, to give us time to get to know each other and our surroundings and on the following Monday we taught for the first time, just an introductory, non-assessed class. The following day we had to teach our first assessed Teaching Practice (TP), extremely stressful for someone who struggles with anxiety like me, but it helped we got to know the students the day before first. With most education providers you are required to teach your first assessed lesson on day two. Yes, it’s pretty intense from the start.
Every morning we had input sessions, where Jonny and Fiona in turns covered the main topics of EFL teaching: learners and teachers, and the teaching and learning context, language analysis and awareness, language skills: reading, listening, speaking and writing, planning and resources for different teaching contexts and developing teaching skills and professionalism. For more details you can check the Cambridge English CELTA syllabus here.
Input sessions with those two were never dull, they were always fun, engaging and creative, even with typically boring, dreadful subjects like teaching grammar. Jonny’s colour- coordinated flashcards and phonetics jokes were superb and Fiona’s energy, honesty and saying things as they were were refreshing. I won’t go into much detail, I wouldn’t like others to steal Jonny and Fiona’s hard work but I’m not sure many CELTA students got to mime, dance and laugh as much as we did whilst learning.
In the afternoons we were split into two groups. Half of us taught the pre-intermediate group and the other half the upper intermediate (and we switched half way, every teacher has to teach two levels). When we were not teaching we observed and gave feedback to each other. Jonny or Fiona (in turns) were always there assessing and providing us with feedback after each session. We taught six 40 min and two 1hr long sessions (8 sessions and 6 hours in total).
Don’t worry if you’ve never taught before, I hadn’t before this. We were provided with lesson frameworks to use from day one and every morning the day before we were to teach we met with our tutor to help us with the lesson planning, except for the last two sessions where assistance with planning was also assessed and varied depending on what grade you were aiming for (more on that on a separate post).
You are also required 6 hours of observing experienced teachers. We observed summer school teachers in the classroom, a video-taped session and our tutors who both were AMAZING at their teaching and way better than the rest we observed. Engaging, building rapport almost instantly, monitoring effectively and making the class fun and interesting. That’s how I aspire to teach.
As if lesson planning, input sessions, teaching and observing are not enough you also have to prepare and hand in 4 assignments, around 1000 words each covering the main topics mentioned above. It’s hard work this course!
Possible outcomes are:
-Pass A (about 5% of successful candidates).
-Pass B (about 25% of successful candidates)
-Pass (about 70% of successful candidates)
Fiona told us from day one she won’t let anyone fail and nobody did.
B. Day to day work
You may assume you go home around 5pm and you only need an hour or two preparing for the next day but that’s not the case. Lesson planning takes, especially to begin with, at least 4-5 hours- ‘Double the time you think it will take’ Fiona used to say and she was right- and the more you progress through the course the more exhausted, sleep deprived and stressed you become, which slows everything down significantly.
C. How to make it
All ten of us used to go in as early as possible so we can finish our lesson plans, print our handouts and/or help each other with assignments. Honestly we wouldn’t have made it without each other. I certainly wouldn’t.
We all reached our limit and were about to quit, particularly towards the end of week two. We were warned that would happen, though nobody told us it would happen more than once. If you really want this qualification, persevere. You will feel like quitting at least once, but the sense of achievement will more than make up for it in the end.
Most of us were not from Cambridge, we had no family or friends around, we lived and breathed CELTA for a month and that takes its toll. We kept each other going, read and corrected each other’s assignments, lesson plans, hand outs. We cried together, we laughed together. We bonded a lot, very fast. It’s inevitable when you spend every day with the same people, trying your best for the same thing.
Having a WhatsApp group helped a lot not just with homework but also mentally. Sharing our frustrations and worries was therapeutic.
This may not be the case with everyone who does the CELTA. I think I was lucky I had such sweet, caring, brilliant, funny, all round awesome classmates I now call friends. I miss you all!
I’ve touched a bit on this already but I feel we were lucky we had such great tutors. It’s obvious they love what they do and they are incredibly amazing at it. They passed on their enthusiasm, skills and knowledge to us, so when we get out there and teach we care and we do it right.
They were there before us in the morning and left after us most days. Whilst they had to train us, they also had to deal with the rest of their day to day job in between as well as read and mark our assignments.
Both Fiona and Jonny supported us as much as they possibly could, me personally, when I was going through my grief having lost my grandpa on week one. I cried in front of them on my first week and they were both understanding, they offered me a break and checked up on me.
Also I wouldn’t have been able to manage my stress and teach so effectively if it wasn’t for Fiona. She helped me more than she realised. She is awesome.
I got to teach two lovely groups of students. Before my first teaching session I was terrified of what I was about to face but by the end of the course I loved everyone in both classes. People from all over the world, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Colombia, Lithuania, you name it, who happened to now live in Cambridge and just wanted to improve their English all came together and I was blessed with teaching them. I got to know and chat to every single one of them outside the class, have a laugh with them and hopefully taught them a thing or two.
Most of my classmates were not from Cambridge or the UK, so we all lived in a brand new environment dealing with all sorts of situations whilst studying hard every day.
I lived with a host ‘family’, it was only the landlady, Mary in my case, who also provided breakfast and dinner every day and did my laundry every week. It was challenging at times, especially when all the rooms were occupied, noise, queue for the bathroom (though they were three!) but all in all it was brilliant. Mary looked after me and I made great friends, not just Mary but also my Russian flatmates! If you have the option I definitely recommend it, you won’t have time to cook or do anything else for a month, it helps to have dinner prepared for you and a clean room to your disposal.
The 4 week CELTA course was one of the most mentally and physically challenging things I ever had to do, it tested my sanity, my health, my limits in more than one way and my anxiety flared up bad, I didn’t sleep more than three/four hours a day, I didn’t get to see much of Cambridge but it was also incredibly rewarding and fulfilling, at least for me. I learnt a lot, I fell in love with teaching and I made friends in Cambridge and all over the world, from Peru to Italy and Azerbaijan. Once in a lifetime experience I’ll never forget.
If I had to do it again I’d may opt for the part-time option, though that has its challenges too if you work full-time, and it may take longer to learn as you don’t apply what you learn immediately, but I don’t regret a single moment.
If you decide to do it full time, I’d with no second thought recommend Cambridge Regional College.
If you do it in Cambridge, go a few days early or stay a few days after to enjoy what this gorgeous city has to offer. I’d love to go back some time and go punting, visit the Wren Library, have afternoon tea at Grantchester and do yoga in the park by the river. Who knows, maybe I will one day.
Despite no previous teaching experience I managed to get the highest grade (Grade A), so it is possible, but I will write about that on a separate post.
I just started a part-time job teaching A1 Movers and A2 Key young learners, the CELTA can’t prepare you for that I’m afraid. I’ll write about that soon too but any advice would be greatly appreciated.
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.
Good morning, I had an idea! The little sister messaged, a week before I was to finish my CELTA course.
Do you want to book a holiday apartment in Protaras for two days for the two of us to go the first week you are back? Sun, sea, swimming, food, relaxation?
YES, of course. I’ve been desperate for a holiday, I hadn’t had one since Christmas, I was overly stressed planning my last teaching session at the time and I was so tired I was still in bed on Sunday noon, this was just what I needed.
There was sun, sea, swimming and all the things she promised plus (unnecessary) drama and laughter. I vlogged the whole thing, perfect opportunity to start filming again. I’m a but rusty and because there was a lot going on in my mind, I spoke SUPER fast at times, but I hope you like it.
All the places we’ve been:
-Mimosa beach. A little bay hidden behind a hotel (where you can get drinks and food). Quiet and serene most of the time, perfect for a relaxing day in the sun and a swim in the clear blue waters and there is a diving instructor nearby if you are into it.
–Light and Blue Marelia apartments. Bright, airy and inspired by Greek island architecture, set on the top of a hill facing Profits Elias church (gorgeous views from their terrace), reasonably priced, we loved these apartments three years ago when we first stayed and they did not disappoint this time either.
-Profitis Elias church. A beautiful little chapel on the top of the hill overseeing Protaras, offering incredible views of the city and the sea. We went at night and the steps were well lit, the ascent only took 5 minutes. It’s definitely worth visiting if you are in the area.
-Pahit Ice. One of the island’s local chains offering scrummy ice cream. I recommend their pistachio ice-cream and their frozen fruit yogurt.
–Konnos Bay beach. A gorgeous bay situated between Ayia Napa and Protaras, one of Ayia Napa’s 14 Blue Flag beaches. Clear, perfect temperature water, waterports facilities and a great cafe overlooking the beach. Just stunning.
–Souvlaki tou Soukri tavern. A quirky Greek tavern in central Paralimni (a 10 minute drive from Protaras) where all food is served on wax paper. Everything we tried was delicious, especially their fried courgette balls and chicken souvlaki. Excellent customer service, generous portions and great prices (we paid 19 euros for three souvlaki skewers, a sausage, a meatball/’soutzouki’, 4 courgette balls, salad, tzatziki, fries and water) though have cash with you as they don’t accept card. Oh there is an ATM and parking space at the central square, a two minute walk from the restaurant.
–Andama tavern. A huge tavern in the middle of Protaras tourist area. One of the few in the centre that offers great, authentic Greek food. We tried their ‘Piatakia'(little plates), their version of tapas (smaller than meze) and everything tasted amazing, especially their Garida saganaki (prawns in tomato and feta sauce) and Politiko Kebab. A bit more expensive than we expected (we paid 40 euros for Politiko Kebab, fried calamari, prawns saganaki, salad, falafel and water) but great service and plenty of food for two, it was worth every penny.
I hope you enjoyed my video, I’ll try and make more over the next few months, depending where life takes me. Next one will be of Rhodes, since I’ll be exploring the island for a few days starting tomorrow.
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.
Χριστός Ανέστη (Christos Anesti/Christ is risen) to all.
I’ve haven’t celebrated Easter back home for a long time and every year around this time nostalgia kicks in and I miss all the weird and wonderful traditions only happening in Cyprus (and some also in Greece).
Preparations for Easter start 10 weeks in advance. This is what I remember:
The first week is a normal one (fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays, which are days of fasting all year around- you are not allowed to eat meat or dairy or anything with oil).
The second week,everything is allowed, (Apokreo week) even on Wednesdays and Fridays. On Thursday (“Tsiknopempti”) of that week a LOT of meat and other traditional dishes are consumed and most people celebrate the evening with friends and family. In Cyprus we make delicious, fluffy, sweet pourekia (fried dumplings) with anari (Cypriot cheese similar to ricotta), a local delicacy we make on different occasions, one of them is Tsiknopempti.
Also on this Sunday, the Cypriot Carnival takes place, with most of the celebrations in Limassol. A lot of dressing up parties going on during the week until the big parade on Sunday.
The following week no meat is allowed, but you can eat dairy products (Tirinis week).
The week after that the 40 days of strict fasting (no meat, dairies, chocolate, not even olive oil!) start from Green Monday.
Green Monday is a public holiday in Cyprus and Greece and most people spend it having a picnic in green fields and fly kites. The pic-nic usually consists of dips like hummus and taramas, olives, beetroot, halva, lots of different vegetables and fresh bread.
Every Sunday for the following weeks celebrates a different religious event that leads up to Easter and Fridays are dedicated to Holy Mary (beautiful melodies on those Friday services are sang, called ‘Salutations to Mother Mary’).
Here is a sample sang by nuns.
Then we come to the Holy Week.
The Saturday just before is dedicated to Lazarus resurrection and the dead, so we all remember our special ones on that day and light a candle in their memory.
Sunday marks Jesus arrival in Jerusalem where Jews welcomed him laying palm leaves on the street and chanting.
Holy Monday is dedicated to Jesus cursing a fig tree and also to Joseph, son of Jacob (of the Old Testiment).
Holy Tuesday is dedicated to the 10 Virgins parable.
Holy Wednesday is dedicated to a sinned woman who washed Jesus’s feet with her tears and the hymn of St Kassiani is sang.
Holy Thursday is dedicated to Last Supper, Jesus prayer at Gethsemane, his betrayal by Judas, his arrest and trial. On that night a re-enactment of the Crucifixion is performed in church (no humans involved). It’s also tradition to dye eggs red, which we use for ‘Egg battle’ on Easter Sunday.
In Cyprus, on Thursdays, most of families bake one of my favourite traditional Easter pastries, flaounes. My dad makes the best!
Holy Friday is dedicated to Jesus death, during which a wooden Epitaph symbolising Jesus tomb is carried around the church and later in the neigbourhood followed by everyone (priests, chanters etc) and the most beautiful eulogies are sang. Some churches have choirs performed them (I used to be in one when I was a child). Whilst eulogies are sang little girls dressed in white throw flowers around the ‘tomb’.
In the evening all saints icons are covered with black sheet as a sign of mourning.
On Saturday morning the news that Jesus resurrected break out and this happens at church: (Maybe not as enthusiastically as this priest).
In the evening, around 11pm, we all gather at church to ‘officially’ celebrate Jesus resurrection.
Lights go off at 12am, and a hymn called Χριστός Ανέστη (Jesus resurrected) is chanted multiple times. We all light a candle and wish each other Χριστός Ανέστη! The service finishes at 3am usually, but most leave just after 12am. It’s a tradition to eat Magiritsa (a traditional soup made for Easter) or avgolemoni (soup made with rice, eggs and lemon juice) on that night.
This is from last night’s service (thank you Anna for the wonderful photo).
Also on Saturday evening, it’s a Cypriot tradition to light a fire that represents burning Judas, as he betrayed Jesus.
On Sunday noon, the Vespers of Love are on at church for about half an hour.
After that, families and friends are gathered for a LARGE meal, traditional games are played (egg and spoon and sack races amongst others) and we all clink our red eggs with each other, the one whose egg doesn’t break is the winner.
And that’s how we celebrate Easter.
Happy Easter!!! Christos Anesti! Χριστός Ανέστη, χρόνια πολλά!
PS. I do not own any images used, most I found online.. Thank you to my little sis for the cover photo and the church snap) x