As a dual national (Cypriot/British) I wanted to experience what it would be like to live in Cyprus rather than just go on holiday. I thought 3 months would give me a flavour of that. As I head towards my 60s, this felt the right time to investigate the possibility of a change of scene in the years to come – could I actually see myself there? I also wanted to connect on a deeper level with family members and facilitate a trip for my elderly mother to see relatives while she is still able to do so. I wanted to improve my Greek not just by hearing and speaking the language, but also by having some formal lessons. Having written a screenplay set in Cyprus I wanted to investigate the film industry there (“Olivewood”), possibly try to turn the screenplay into a novel, or find some other inspiration for creative writing projects.
I rented a small flat in the corner of an old house in the old town of Limassol, which meant I could walk to most places and was close to the sea front where buses to the other parts of the island are available. My flat was just around the corner from the municipal library (below right) which my mother remembered as being the family home of a wealthy merchant in the 1940s, with a young daughter my mother’s age. It is a lovely library now.
In the first weeks of my trip, I had some private Greek lessons, joined a gym, connected with relatives and got to know Limassol more intimately. February was quite cold, but it is also when Limassol has a week long carnival before the beginning of Lent; lots of fun and cultural and family events. Limassol is a port, with lots of immigrants – particularly Russians and Filipinos, more recently Ukrainians, Indians, Africans, Syrians and Israelis – but it is still dominated by Cypriot Greek culture, which revolves around the family and the Greek Orthodox Church festivals. I lived in a part of town where all this was on my doorstep.
March saw some friends arrive for a holiday. They hired a car and so I went with them into the north of the island for the first time since childhood and explored the divided capital of Nicosia, which was very interesting. My screenplay is set in the North, and so I was able to visit the locations I had only previously imagined. I also met up with an old Cypriot Turkish friend from Brixton who lives Northern Nicosia, in her old family home. My mother also came in March, and we visited the village in the Troodos mountains where my family is originally from; staying in my great grandfather’s house, long since sold but now an Airbnb. The village had the smallest library I’ve ever seen.
April is Easter, an important time on the island, so there was lots to experience in terms of cultural and family life. Also, my husband came over for my last month; working remotely for 3 weeks and then for the final week we had some holiday in the Akamas region on the other side of the island, just above Paphos. It was the best time to visit this beautiful part of the island; cool enough to go for long walks, and enjoy the flora and fauna before the summer heat dries everything out. I also had my first dip in the sea – too cold before then!
I feel I experienced life in Cyprus. My Greek did improve and I formed much deeper connections with my family and heritage. I made some new friends and really got to know the island, especially Limassol. All these things take time, and three months was a good period to invest in those relationships, which I hope will be ongoing. I also did some writing, met up with some Cypriot filmmakers, and attended the Cyprus film festival. Time away from “normal” life allowed for a nice period of self-reflection and future planning which was useful, and which I thoroughly recommend. I feel I used my time valuably, and the whole experience has been enriching. I’m not going to be running off to live in Cyprus just yet, but in a few years’ time, who knows?