Thankmas Day Twenty-Three: Thank you IH Reggio

Four months ago I had no idea what or where Reggio Calabria was. I’d never heard of it before and also until four months ago, I’d never taught anything to anyone.

Fast forward to now and I’ve been living at Reggio for just over two months. I haven’t seen much yet and what I think of it so far it’s not an accurate representation (more on that another time). I’ve been mainly working, teaching a wide range of ages and levels, from large classes of 9, 11, 13 and 16 year old school children to one-to-one with a 50 something old doctor and a 14 year old teenager.

But I haven’t just been teaching. I marked and invigilated tests, I had the chance to organise and be part of different events, I filmed and edited a couple of promos for the school, I am now presenting at a conference next month and organising an event as well for February.

It’s been a crazy two months as you can probably guess. Rewarding, challenging, stimulating.


oh my God.

It’s exhausting. I feel mentally and physically drained. And I honestly wouldn’t have survived these two months without my fellow teachers.

Teasing Nour on a daily basis, having a laugh with Katie (my favourite face) and Hannah (creative genious), exceptional A-class sarky humour with Vince and Bry, chats outside with my Italian spirit twin, Antonella, giggles and random convos with Shannon, talking TV series and films with Matt, reminding Alexei his Greek, reminiscing life before teaching with Kate on our way to Telesio, travelling chats with Maria, singing along with Mariah and Nuno, giggles with Fanni, making a serious effort to tease Lisa with Beatles and Christmas songs, talking Christmas filims with Jen, stealing precious little moments to chat to Lucie when I see her, all sorts of random convos with Suzanne, Italian lessons with Anna, brainstorming ideas with Helena and comforting each other, making James laugh (I love making James laugh), chats with Cesca on our way back from externals, having a laugh with my favourite reception team, Carlo, Elena, Domi, Franci and little catch ups with the bosses Marco and Patrizia when they pop in every now and then.

So thank you EVERY ONE!

Thank you Patrizia, James and Lucie for offering me the position and making me feel welcome from day one and most of all a huge thank you to this beautifully weird, fun, unique bunch of people. I would have genuinely quit by now if it weren’t for you.



Thankmas Day Twenty-One: Thank you Priya and Syed

Wednesday, 21st of August, 2019

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!


Thankmas Day Twenty-Two: Thank you Helena

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!

Thank you for being such an awesome friend!


Thankmas Day Twenty: Thank you Barnaby and Maro

I remember just after my interview when Barnaby handed me a bunch of Cambridge English exam books.

I didn’t have a single clue about any of it and I found everything overwhelming.

For about a month I spent hours and hours on planning just four lessons a week. Who knew a month later I’d teach four lessons a day and have an hour or two to plan everything!

If it weren’t for Barnaby and Maro, who offered me my first teaching position only a few weeks after my CELTA, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

So thank you both and sorry I left so soon. I had to follow my heart. I’m not sure whether it was the right decision yet, only time will tell, but I’ll forever be grateful to you.



Thankmas Day Nineteen: Thank you Pasta Grannies

What is Pasta Grannies and why on earth do you feel the need to thank them? You might wonder.

Well, that’s how it all started a few months ago and I weirdly wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t discovered it.

I came across the Pasta Grannies Youtube channel just a while before and ever since that moment I kept thinking how awesome it would be to do something similar in Cyprus (with my own twist) and then maybe in another countries, but start from home, document my little island’s customs and traditions that have been passed on from generation to generation through our love of food. That’s what Vicky Bennison so beautifully has been doing on the Pasta Grannies channel.


So about a year ago I twitted Vicky with my idea and she replied with this:

That’s when I had an epiphany moment. Why not find a why to do it now? Why wait? Originally, I was to try and film every time I were to visit Cyprus but a few months later, I had another epiphany. I’ll save up for a few months, then quit my job and go back to Cyprus to attempt this. I even came up with a name for the channel and a theme song.

I decided to give teaching a go first (it’s funny how I ended up in Italy out of all places) but I haven’t given up on that dream yet and if it wasn’t for Pasta Grannies I might have still been stuck in an office, so thank you Vicky and Pasta Grannies. Thank you for the inspiration.


The Guilty Feminist

Also, wondering if you’d like to go to this with me… I listen to the podcast and it’s really good and I thought it might be up your street. Lucy messaged.

I had a quick look and I was intrigued. I didn’t look it up beforehand. I wanted to see whether I’d enjoy it without knowing much about it.

A couple of months later, 22nd of May, 2019

After delicious dinner at Soleto’s, which was mainly occupied (except our friend Dan and the chef) by women who were about to watch the show, we headed to the theatre, again mainly women. It felt surprisingly, unexpectedly empowering to be amongst so many women.

Three hours later, we left the theatre with a smile on our face, happy, re-enacting some of the funny moments whilst pondering on what true feminism is and how still to the day there’s so much discrimination, even in small, little things we barely notice.

Deborah Frances-White, comedian and hostess of the show and her guests for the evening Bridget Christie, Desiree Burch, Sophie Duker and Grace Petrie were amazing. I couldn’t stop laughing with Bridget, Desiree and Sophie’s comedy on dating in your 40s, bi-sexuality, racism and many other hot topics that women get grief on.

I loved Grace Petrie’s political folk songs and what an excellent idea of Deborah’s to introduce two local charities who spoke to us about the incredible work they do, Yellowdoor supporting and preventing domestic and sexual abuse and Chrysalis supporting transgender people and their significant others.

I’m now already a big fan of Deborah. Funny, witty, intelligent, charismatic (someone I met recently called me charismatic and I burst out laughing, I never thought of myself as charismatic). The following day I watched her Tedx talk from a few years ago and that blew my mind.

I already started listening to her podcast (you can listen here or look up Guilty Feminist on Spotify, it’s Deborah with guests discussing feminism in the modern world and of course it’s thought-provoking, inspiring and hilarious) and bought her book.

If only there were more women like Deborah. No wait, there are. Everywhere. You and me and many others say no to what (mainly male dominated) society dictates every day by not getting married or having children just for the sake of it, we refuse to get into an unhappy, unfulfilling relationship because if you are single it means ‘something is wrong with you’, we follow our dreams even if that means being the only female colleague in that engineering company, we do what we think is right for us, we have sex for fun and not just to please someone else, we don’t need make up and toned bodies to make us feel good about ourselves but we wear or not wear make up and exercise or not for ourselves.

Feminism is not about not shaving (unless that’s what you genuinely like) or being a lesbian or not letting a man help you put together a coffee table or feeling guilty you love face creams and rom-coms. It’s about all of the things I mentioned above, not conforming to man-made society norms, be whoever you want to be without stupid gender restrictions and many more, like not letting an unwanted dick pic or a wolf whistle or groping become socially acceptable.

Start your own business, do what you love for a living without feeling guilty for not just being a parent or wife or partner or daughter or sister . You can be all of these but above all you need to be yourself, love yourself, look after you.

A Facebook friend, ex- colleague who I rarely chat with (we all have a few of those on our friends list) recently messaged me to say that he loves my feminist social media. I thanked him, though I never considered my opinions as feminist, until I went to Deborah’s show. Then I understood what he meant.

So here’s to all inspiring women, our mums, sisters, friends, strangers who we admire, ourselves and those in the limelight, all of the feminist advocates.

Thank you Lucy for introducing me to this great community. I’ll miss you!


Koupes! Freskes koupes!

Early 1990s…

In a small neighbourhood at Strovolos, in Nicosia, on a sunny morning, my sister, our friends, the neighbours next door and I are playing in the front yard, as we did most weekends.

Suddenly, a familiar voice…

‘ Ούλλοι να ζήσουμε! Κουπες, έσηιει φρέσκες κούπες! ( We all need to make a living! Koupes, fresh koupes!)’ 

Yiannis, the ‘koupes man’ (Ο Γιαννής που τις κούπες), a short, always wearing a hat and always smiling 60 year old was going around the neighbourhoods on his little vespa with a huge box on the back to keep his homemade koupes  warm (it’s still uncertain whether he made them himself or his wife did, if any of my childhood friends know more, please do comment).

There are very few things I enjoyed more than a warm koupa with freshly squeezed lemon on a Saturday morning. 

So what is koupa? Κούπα/kibbeh/keufteh/içli köfte as it’s known in other countries is an eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern (where the Med meets the Arabic cuisine) dish made of bulgur, minced onions, and finely ground lean beef, lamb, goat, or camel meat with Middle Eastern spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, allspice).  

In Cyprus is made of bulgur, minced onions, minced beef and spices. The best way to describe it is a mince filled croquette (there is also veggie variant with mushroom filling).  

And is delicious. The slightly crispy but soft bulgur crust, the tasty, faintly sweet from the spices, the onions and the beef filling and the bitterness of the lemon, it’s hard to imagine until you try it.

None of the koupes I had since Yiannis died years ago ever tasted the same and it never will, that’s the beauty of homemade food but it’s still one of my favourite treats. This is the first thing I’m having when I make it home for Christmas. 

You can find koupes in most bakeries and few fast food restaurants.

Special thanks to my mum for reminding me some of the finer details I forgot. I had no idea Yiannis was actually my grandpa’s cousin!


Tea, cake and life stories in Hamble

Balm for the soul, that’s how it felt, every story, every conversation, every laugh it was as if an invisible hand holding my heart smothered it in balm, soothing, healing balm.

Tuesday, 30th of October, 2018

The day finally arrived for the next Touch event, one of the highlights of my month.  I love everything about it, the atmosphere, the venues, usually at intimate, cute little cafes, the incredible stories, the people, it’s all about the people.  To be there when another human decides to bare all, share their story and be vulnerable in front of strangers is so beautiful, it brings me to tears.

Debs asked me if I’d like to host again and I’m glad she did. The first time I did it I was tiny bit nervous and also going through another confidence crisis due to a recent rejection which resulted in me stumbling a little, worrying whether maybe my accent might me too heavy and people can’t understand a word I’m saying, they might not like me or they wonder what the hell I was doing there, so now it was the perfect opportunity to just be the usual me, well almost, all things going wrong lately have taken its toll and I find it unbelievably tempting to hide from everyone and everything.

This event took place in Hamble, for the first time, thanks to Tesco Bags of Help. Did you know that Tesco uses the money they raise from the sale of carrier bags to fund local projects across communities in the UK? I had no idea. But Touch applied for funding and Tesco Bags of Help kindly donated money for Debs to run events across Hampshire, for free, and this was the first one.

So around 6:30pm, Hannah, Rachael, Debs and I were at the cutest little cafe situated on a picturesque street in Hamble, Jenny’s cafe, preparing for our story telling evening.

Question jars and fliers on the tables, mic set, and after I met all our lovely speakers, I had a warm chamomile tea and a slice of delicious Raspberry Bakewell cake, I was up to introduce our first guest.

This time I had a quick glimpse at my notes to make sure I don’t forget any important information and the most wonderful thing happened. I made everyone laugh. I could not believe it. What an amazing feeling. That moment right there, was one of those rare ones I felt overwhelmingly happy. I haven’t had one of these since early September, sitting on a swing on the most beautiful terrace at Cyherbia botanical park.

After my short introduction, Bhavin stood up in front of a now full of people cafe to share his life long struggle with low self-esteem, depression and severe anxiety. He is now doing so much better he made it to Hamble to talk to a group of strangers about it. He was nervous, his hands were shaking but he did it. And I can imagine how hard it might have been for him. I know first hand how debilitating anxiety can be, I know how it can physically and mentally paralyse you and it takes all your strength to control it. This is a prime example of what Touch is about. It’s such an honour and privilege to be there when a wonderful human shares his most personal, vulnerable story.

After presenting Bhavin with his ‘I told my story’ badge, Jan was up to share her story. It was, like Bhavin the first time she came to a Touch event and the first time she shared her story in public. Jan had an accident a while ago, which immobilised her for 14 weeks. For someone as active as Jan it was incredibly hard. She couldn’t cook, walk, drive, walk. And although tough, through her experience she discovered what a wonderful Community she lives in. Her friends and neighbours would make her dinner, drive her to the hospital, keep her company, made her feel she is never alone. She not only learned that it’s OK to ask for help but also that people love to help. 

After a short break for more tea and cake and chats, it was time for Paul to share his story. I had no doubt he’d be a great speaker. I’ve met him earlier in the evening and he is one of those naturally charismatic people who makes you feel comfortable talking to him, truly listens and gives you all his attention.

I couldn’t believe that Paul used to hate public speaking. He avoided it for years and one day, whilst training on presentation skills realised that what he was scared was not public speaking, he realised he was terrified of being the centre of attention, due to his troublesome childhood. Coming to this realisation was not easy but he is now a life coach and loves public speaking. This the power of human nature. When you stop for a minute and take the time to look inside, be brave to face your fears and understand what it is that’s causing it, not be scared to be vulnerable. That’s when you become friends with yourself and can move forward.

The last speaker of the evening was our own Debs. Debs told her story many times before (you can watch her beautiful Southampton Tedx talk here), that’s what led her to found Touch but tonight it was a different story, one that I haven’t heard before. She talked about her journey, from a support worker, charity worker to a successful freelance project manager working in London. But that wasn’t her, that didn’t put her talents, her social skills and love of talking to people and her creativity to best use. So she quit and took a leap of faith and did what she always wanted to do, help others first hand by starting a social enterprise, Touch where anyone can come and share their own personal story and inspire one another.  See, that’s when humans flourish, doing what they love. You just need to get over the scary part of taking the risk and ask. If you won’t ask, you’ll never know.

Here’s a little video of last night’s speakers the lovely Sam put together.



What a great end to a truly wonderful evening. Thank you to all the amazing speakers, the lovely guests who came to listen to all the inspiring stories, Lizzie at Jenny’s Cafe for her hospitality and delicious cakes and Debs and Hannah for introducing me to such a great community and letting me be a part of their amazing team.

That was one of the very few times in the last month or so I forgot about every single worry and pain. That was balm for the soul, my soul.

If you’d like to share your story or volunteer with us all details on the Touch website. And if you fancy coming along to one of these amazing evenings here is a list of all our future events. The next one is at the Point at Eastleigh, on the 18th of November and it’s free!


Herbs, Fairies and Cypriot hospitality: Cyherbia and Mr Adamos

I’m sat in a beautifully decorated cafe on the grounds of a magical garden, sipping on my complimentary, homemade herbal ice tea, having a deep conversation about life with a-five-minutes-ago complete stranger and I’m thinking I’ll never forget this day.

On a scorching hot Monday afternoon, after waving goodbye to our temporary holiday home in Protaras, we just made it for the first time to Cyherbia, a botanical park in Avgorou village.

From just walking through the entrance, you cannot but admire the creators’ love for what they do.

It may not have been the best day to visit. It’s the middle of the day, 35 degrees Celsius and we are about to wander in a maze, after a quick walk around the herbs garden. I’m melting, physically melting. I can’t remember the last time I sweat so much. At least we have umbrellas (the owners have really thought of everything). I found it amusing we were lost in a maze, holding our colourful umbrellas. Hah the little things.

My dear dear mamma enjoyed it more than I expected, despite our heads were so hot you could fry an egg on, she loved every minute of it. I can’t say the same for the little one, a typical 20 year old, complaining Oh is too hot!

After we finally made it out of the maze we walked into the cutest little fairy house. For a moment, you could not but just believe in magic…

With our 5 euro entrance ticket we get a complimentary homemade ice tea, so after about half an hour in the heat, we tried the lavender liqueur, ordered our teas, a couple of muffins, a banana and carob and apple and cinnamon (homemade and delicious) and sat at the beautiful cafe. So, so beautiful. Everything is beautiful here.

Whilst sitting at the cafe, a man came over to chat to us. He asked our mum who these ‘cute girls’ were. To begin with, we were taken aback,  I couldn’t stop thinking what his motives were but I didn’t want to appear rude so we introduced ourselves and that was the start of a heartwarming conversation that left me leaving warm and fuzzy inside.

Mr Adamos is the owner of Cyherbia. Himself and his wife made all of this.

He is smiling all the time, calm, peaceful. When you talk to him you cannot but smile.

He found the meaning of life, for him. That’s what I felt from the little I got to know him. He seemed at peace. He found his happy. He quit his old life to live in a little village in Cyprus and spends all of his time with his family, planting, landscaping, spreading the love, making others smile.

I’m the practical one, gardening, doing work around and my wife is the creative mind behind all of this. But can you tell what the shape the trees on this part of the park form, the ‘Round of Cyprus’ forest? It’s Cyprus, and here’s where I’m from, Kyrenia.

One of the many things he said that stuck with me, Life is a gift, the most beautiful gift God gave us, we HAVE to enjoy every minute.

If Cypriot hospitality was a person, that would be him. Although he only had just met us, he treated us with figs cut fresh from his fig tree, gave us a pouch of deliciously smelling lavender each and gave my mum an aloe vera plant. A generous man who loves sharing whatever he has with complete strangers.

With him it was an old friend, Christos. Mr Christos and Mr Adamos were childhood friends and were captured by the Turks in 1974 together. They hadn’t seen each other since. But today, they met again after thirty odd years.

I hesitantly asked if I could take a picture of them. I’d have regretted if I didn’t. What were the chances the day we decide to visit Cyherbia that these two then young little boys and now 50 year-olds, would meet again after three decades?

That was such a special moment I wanted to capture. I don’t normally ask people I barely know for a picture.

Mr Adamos, sweet as he was, he of course agreed. Take a picture here, I love this spot!

Adamos and Christos

After a while Mr Adamos had to leave (to catch the barber’s for his haircut!) so we hugged him goodbye. It’s the fastest I made friends with someone.

He asked us to go back for Halloween, they’ll have a pumpkin festival, they’ll do pumpkin carving amongst others. I sadly explained I won’t be there. I  so wish I could. But I’d love to visit in spring, when all the flowers and herbs will be blossoming!

Just before we were about to leave to hit the beach, we went up the intriguing looking stairs at the end of the cafe, which led to a beautiful terrace, with tables, chairs and dreamy swings, overlooking the park. The surprises never end at this place. Just magical. I asked the little sis to take a snap of me. She took a couple already when I was not looking.

She unknowingly captured that rare moment of pure happiness I somehow experienced twice in the last four days.

Thank you Mr Adamos and lovely wife for a day I’ll always remember.


From Abstraction to Overpainted Photographs: Artist Rooms-Gerhard Richter

Art is the highest form of hope. (Gerhard Richter)

I didn’t know what to expect when we walked in.

I knew of Gerhard Richter,  as I’ve heard of him before, I didn’t know much about him.

I’m no artist, nor I have a great knowledge of art other than what most of us do- Picasso, Van Gogh (the depression through his art is captivating), Michelangelo, Da Vinci (no need to say much), you get the idea- but I love spending hours staring into paintings, admiring the talent and coming up with my own stories. Imagination, one of the greatest abilities of the human mind.

And it’s not that often that works of one of the most important artists of the 20th and 21st centuries are displayed at the beautiful, new gallery in the city centre for free!

First room we walked in: Tapestries


We sat at the ‘viewpoint’ (that’s what I call it, the little wooden bench in each room to sit on and immerse into the paintings) and stared at the large, imposing tapestries hanging off the walls. Four different but similar patterns, they somehow look like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle (They actually are. Each tapestry is a quarter of Richter’s Abstract Painting 724-4 mirrored and repeated four times). We wonder how the whole picture would look like if you put them together.

They remind me of Rorschach inkblots. What do you see in them? I always wondered how accurate Rorschach tests really are. Can you, with confidence, diagnose a mental disorder from how one interprets ink stains? That’s a whole other story!

I could see a bat with cool sunglasses on, a dog, sound waves, pain, screaming, anger…

I find out later Richter meant to make them look like Rorschach. 

In the room next to the Tapestries we come across Abstract Painting No 439. I thought my eyes went blurry but no. It’s the painting.

Abstract Painting No 439

What is it? Plants? A pond? Is that sunlight? Why does it remind me of neurons and neurotransmitters? Why did Richter want it blurry?

We read in the cute little booklet we were given that this painting is actually a picture (4 times larger) of Richter’s Oil Sketch No 432/11. Which is hanging on its left hand side. It looks very different to the original but also so similar.


I love the original, not only because I love oil paint (I’m not sure why). I can see where Gerhard brushed on top of the last layer of paint, I can see the paint brushes. He must have painted this in stages. The rain of sun rays I can see was added last. That’s what I’d do if I were an artist. Come back to a piece of art and add to it until I feel it’s complete. How do you know when it’s complete though?

Just opposite, one of Richter’s most famous paintings, Abstract Painting 809-3.

Abstract painting 809-3

I find abstract art thrilling. I love how I can imagine Richter painting the dark blue and black, then days or months later deciding to add all the yellow and then scrape some of it off to reveal the darkness underneath.

Upstairs, the first room we walk into is… eerie. It reminds me of tombstones, a memorial… 48 portraits.


They look like photographs but not quite. Upon closer look we realise they are actually paintings. The talents of this man are endless.

Each picture is a portrait of a famous man, a man who left his mark in history. We recognise some immediately. Others we know of them, but didn’t know how they looked like until now. I can’t believe I did not remember what Alfred Adler, one of the most significant psychologists of all time, looked like.

Why are there no women? And why there were no politicians or other artists in the final selection? I find out much later. If you want to know, all the answers are here.

Just when we are about to move on, the gallery assistant hands us a copy of the paintings with a little blurb of what they were famous for under each portrait. ‘We tend to give this to visitors at the end, let them guess’. I’m glad she did. It’s been a while since I tested my general knowledge.

Next stop my favourite room of the Gallery. The one facing Guildhall Square. The one where Hetain Patel’s Transformer proudly stood months ago, one of my all time favourite pieces of modern art.

I love the views of that room, the ample natural light.

And today it looks brighter because of Colour Charts. ‘Richter used a predetermined mathematical system to create 1,024 shades, then randomly placed the colours in a grid of 4,096 squares, repeating each one four times’ (Gerhard loves number four it seems).

We sat down looking around the room for a while. Fascinating.


The last room we walk in is an artwork collection, samples of other various different techniques and ideas Richter experimented with. He loves photography, painting over photographs, he played with glass and mirrors, amongst others.


I left the exhibition feeling… I don’t even know how to describe the feeling. Excited, amused, inspired, touched. Is there a single word to capture it?

Thank you John Hansard Gallery for a simply stunning exhibition. Thank you for introducing me to Richter’s colourful, bizarre, surreal, world.

If you’d like to experience it yourself, Gerhard Richter’s Artist Rooms will be at the Gallery until the 18th of August. 

I can’t wait for the next one.