December, normally a month full of baked goods, chocolates and treats at work, beautiful magical lights, Christmas markets, mulled wine, catching up with friends, streets buzzing with people shopping, having a laugh.
Not this December… The streets are empty, the cafes and restaurants are closed, there are no markets, no laughter, just some pretty lights and everyone in masks rushing to get home before curfew time.
I was going to name this post December at Corona times but it’s much more than that for me, it’s impossible for me to find a more appropriate name.
After three years I broke one of my traditions and didn’t do Blogmas. I just couldn’t find the time with my new job, looking for places to rent, getting used to living in Cyprus for now and still adapting to my new reality. Can you believe I haven’t sat down to play my guitar for weeks (minus a day I wanted to prepare something for my sister’s nameday)?
I guess adjusting takes time, even more so during a bloody pandemic and I just have to trust that all my irrational subconscious and conscious fears and worries will die off eventually.
On a happier note, after 12 years, I’m spending December in Cyprus which means, even during these bizarre and horrifying times we live in, that I decorated the Christmas tree with my sisters (we do it online every year) and we baked traditional Cypriot/Greek treats, kourampiedes (almond cookies covered in icing sugar) and my all time favourite melomakarona (honey syrup dipped cookies).
So I guess what life taught me once more it’s that it is never black and white, all good or all bad. It’s both all the time. And that of course it’s unpredictable. Who would have thought that I’d be back in Cyprus for the foreseeable future?
All I can do is enjoy whatever life brings me every day. I hope we all manage to have a homely, heart-warming Christmas with our loved ones, that’s what Christmas it’s all about after all.
I started Thankmas with family and I’m ending it with family.
Today is dedicated to the 6th member of our family who has been making our life more fun, loving, hilarious and random for the last 10 years, our little baby, Oscar.
Though I’ve lived abroad pretty much since we got him, he remembers me every time I visit. When I was in Cyprus for a month, struggling to adjust and annoying everyone with my constant irritability, Oscar was the only one I wasn’t annoyed with, he was the only one who could comfort me at times.
He may sometimes sneakily steal our food but he can sense when we are ill or sad and comes and sits next to us, he is loving and sweet with everyone and ever so patient with children younger and older (e.g Anna!).
So thank you Oscar! You’ve been the whole family’s best friend and we all love you to bits.
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.
It’s Chriiiistmaaaas. My favourite day of the year. I haven’t immersed in it as much this year due to work but I’m glad I decided to do Thankmas.
As I suspected from the start of this little series of blogs, 24 posts are not enough to thank all the amazing, incredible humans who encouraged me, comforted me, supported me, all my dear friends and family and all the things that inspired me and motivated me this last year.
So this post is for everyone. Everyone I love and I’m blessed to have in my life.
All of my friends in Southampton, especially Sofy and Sophie, Denise, Jo, Lorna (oh I miss having a laugh with the Quercus ladies!) and our awesome staff choir.
My brother Andi in London, who I spent my last day in the UK with. I miss you lots!
Dear Giovanni, my former CELTA student who’s been giving me tips and advice ever since I moved to Italy.
All my friends and family in Cyprus. Maria, Andri, Elena, Polia, my cousins, especially my beloved cousin and third sister Georgia, my aunties, my uncles.
And last but not least all of my lovely readers.
Thank you everyone. I’ll have a little break now to enjoy exploring my little island and spending time with friends and family but I’ll be back soon to talk about New Year wishes!
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!
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.
Today’s Thankmas is dedicated to my cousin Sophie (though technically she is my aunt, but she is way too young to call her aunt!) not only because she is fun, awesome and one of the few people in Cyprus I can talk in English with, but I wouldn’t have coped that well (or at all) on my CELTA and more importantly, I wouldn’t have been where I am today, as in teaching full time in another country, without her advice, help and encouragement.
A day after my grandpa died I had to teach my second assessed lesson, on Mongolian horse racing (of all things!). I woke up that morning with bright red eyes, I’d cried my eyes out the night before trying to come in terms with the cruel reality that I wasn’t going to see my beloved pappou Costa alive again (I’m tearing up now just thinking about it). Every time I thought of him I couldn’t stop sobbing (more on that here).
How was I going to actually stand in front of people and manage not to cry, let alone teach them?? Sophie’s advice was what got me through not only that lesson but the rest of the month.
‘Remember, teachers are really actors’.
To be able to control my emotions and not burst into tears every time I thought of my grandpa or someone asked me if I was OK I convinced myself I was a great actress. That’s exactly what I did each and every single time until the very end. I still do this today when I’m about to walk into a classroom and I’m exhausted or sad but I don’t want my students to be affected by my mood.
When I moved back to Cyprus (for what it was going to be for a few months but I got itchy feet so I only stayed a month) Sophie recommended me to a great local language school, who offered me a part-time job almost straight away. Working there was what made me realise I wanted to give it a proper go and try my luck somewhere I could get a varied experience, away from ‘home’, whatever that is. I’m so confused now that I moved away from the UK, I don’t know where home’s anymore but that’s another story!
So thank you dear, thank you for everything. Without realising, you probably played the most pivotal role in what is turning to be one of my life’s greatest adventures!