The Austrian Ambassador (Dr Ziegler) and I

About a month ago a colleague forwarded a Facebook post to the group.

‘Ambassador in Cyprus for a day?’

As part of the International Women’s Day celebrations in Cyprus, women across the island could enter a competition and the prize was to spend a day with a female ambassador in Cyprus and learn more about their work.

All you had to do was send a short video (up to two minutes) with a brief introduction about yourself, why you’d like to be an ambassador for a day and why International Women’s Day is important.

Truth be told I didn’t know much about an ambassador’s life and I was really happy that there was no age limit to enter (I felt a bit frustrated lately with the amount of events or initiatives only for people under 30 years old) so I thought I’d send a video. I had nothing to lose and I love making little videos.

Unsurprisingly, two minutes were not enough to express all my thoughts but I tried. This was the video I sent.

I didn’t really expect to win. I’m older than probably most of the participants and ,well for those you’ve known me for a while, I’m infamous for my bad luck (don’t forget, during the first of what was supposed to be a few years of travelling and teaching English, I spent it in Italy, half of it locked inside due the global Covid pandemic).

Against all odds though I did win and I was matched with the Austrian ambassador in Cyprus, Dr Eva Maria Ziegler.

We had a little chat on the phone beforehand during which she explained that due to the current lockdown situation in Cyprus there weren’t many events planned this period so there was no point spending a whole day with her just in the office. I was pleasantly surprised with her honesty and openness from the get go, even over the phone.

So the plan was to meet her a few days later at the Austrian Embassy and have a chat. But she first invited me to the (virtual) Press Conference on Francophonie (the annual international celebration of the French language) and the celebrations planned by embassies across Cyprus as well as the Ministry of Education and Culture. I couldn’t believe I was part of a Press Conference which consisted of various ambassadors in Cyprus as well as the Minister of Education and Culture. What a surreal experience that was!

I knew about Francophonie as I happened to be in Brussels two years ago on that day, during which there was live music next to Manneken Pis, but I didn’t realise that was also celebrated in Cyprus with events planned and all.

A few days later I went to her office and we had a long chat. What an amazing experience it was to visit an embassy!

I can’t remember the last time I learned so much in such short space of time. I can’t possibly document all I’ve learned but I’ll share the highlights.

Dr Ziegler’s father was a diplomat, so she was familiar with that way of life since she was a child. Although she originally studied music management (and law) she found it hard to get into it and decided to follow in her father’s footsteps. She had an incredible career. She worked for the Austrian Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs and she worked as an Austrian ambassador in Milan and in Lebanon amongst other countries.

We talked about politics, travel and she shared amazing stories from her ambassador life including the story of the extraordinary life of a 103 year old Jewish lady who ended up living in the Buffer Zone in Nicosia (and sadly recently died).

What she loved most of the ambassador life is the variety as embassy work is not just about visas and passports but also organising cultural events and initiatives as the embassy is given a cultural budget, as well as meeting a diversity of people from all walks of life. And of course an Ambassador gets to travel as every 4 years postings end and you get to apply for a different country. I would love to live the ambassador life!

The worst part of her job that she doesn’t enjoy as much is writing reports and long meetings. I don’t blame her!

After our chat I got to meet her PA, Mr Antonopoulos, A Greek-Austrian who’s been working as a PA in embassies for a few years. Similar to the ambassador, he loves the variety and travel that comes with the job. What he doesn’t enjoy is moving.

All in all it was a great experience, it’s not every day you get to meet an ambassador, let alone an honest, fun, easy to chat to one, as Dr Ziegler. I’ve learned a lot and it gave me a few ideas on what I’d like to do in the future.



Why International Women’s Day is Important.

Why is International Women’s Day important?

For the same reasons Pride and Black Lives Matter are important. Because gender, racial and any other discrimination shouldn’t exist in the 21st century, your sexual orientation, gender and skin colour shouldn’t define your ability or right to do anything.

Because women still get paid less, are expected to marry and have a family and put that above anything else.

Because women are still considered ‘property’ of the man in some countries and are punished for getting raped.

Because old white men decide whether a woman should be ‘allowed’ to have an abortion.

Because although women fought hard to be given the right to vote, there are hardly any women who make it into politics (for obvious reasons).

Because a woman although considered ‘weak’ ironically has to try harder to prove that she can do the same job as a man. Doesn’t that make her stronger?

Because posting a photo of her in clothes she likes regardless of how ‘sexy’ they are considered or even sometimes posting a photo of her smiling somehow gives a man the right to harass her.

Because it takes years of hard work, self-love and self awareness for a woman to feel confident and strong enough to be who she is, with no fear. Because even today, employers would hire or promote a man, even though a female candidate with more qualifications and experience has also applied for the same position.

Because being sensitive and expressing your feelings is considered a weakness and ‘womanly’.

Because a woman for some reason has to justify her choices and if she acts like a ‘man’ is considered a slut, but if a man behaves the same way, ‘that’s just how he is’.

And the list goes on…

Living in a white male dominated world is tough, but women across the world will keep fighting for what’s theirs until racist, deeply embedded in the society patriarchy finally diminishes.

Here’s to all women across the world who never give up, here’s to those who suffer in silence because they are terrified, here’s to those who wake up every morning looking after their children, here’s to those who stay in bed because that’s what they want to do, here’s to all of us, regardless of our life choices.

It took me years to feel confident enough to be able to believe in myself. I was in a long term relationship in which I was told I wasn’t slim enough, educated enough, hell even good enough to write a blog. But I’ll never let any man or anyone else make me feel this way ever again, because I’ve always been a strong, confident, independent woman.

It just took me years to realise and I hope by posting this it will help women across the world realise it faster and not waste time, pain and tears.Here’s to women.

May we keep fighting and conquering the world, a little bit at a time, with a smile or tears in our face, it doesn’t and shouldn’t matter. #internationalwomensday