Even if it hasn’t been perfect, or <<fun>> the entire time, I am so grateful for the time I’ve been able to spend abroad. I wish everybody could have the opportunity to live somewhere so out of their comfort zones, so different from their usual setting, with people who have grown up to be so different from the people they are used to talking to. Every experience here has been one I was able to stand apart from and observe and learn from. Every person I have met has shown me a different part of what humanity is and I have learned so much more about why people are the way they are.
The distance has allowed me to forgive so many and so much that I was stuck on from my past. Gaining perspective like this has allowed me to understand the human motives behind the actions taken by people who have hurt me in the past. Stepping away from the stoic incessant march of daily life means I can look at my past experiences from a different angle.
I am going to come home more thankful, more forgiving, more open-minded, more intelligent, stronger. I will come home with big plans and new ideas, new motivation borne out of this opportunity to see things for what they are and for what they could be. I only hope to be able to retain this perspective after going back to the grind.
Last week, the teacher of my Biology class asked me to reflect on how my semester has been and I immediately fell into a spiral of thinking about how close I am to the end of my trip. I was mentally slapping myself and saying “There’s still a few weeks left!” But I couldn’t stop the fall; I am definitely over the hill, and instead of my trip stopping short like a cliff edge, it’s more like a grassy hill I’ve climbed to the top of and am now tumbling down the side of, the lady bugs and kites dissolving to a multicolored blur in the background of a photograph. But I will stop that here, and stand, because I refuse to give my final reflection while I’m still on the hill and the forget-me-nots below are still too far for me to count the leaves.
I have been quite silent lately. The 2-week Easter break gave me a bit too much time to myself and towards its end, I think I forgot how to speak to people who aren’t my apartment walls, and I forgot how to listen to people who weren’t my favorite podcasters. Outwardly, I had the time to live the life I had always struggled to: I exercised every day, I cooked fresh vegetables for every meal, cut down on coffee–I even started eating mushrooms! Inwardly, though, I think being away from people I enjoy talking to was making me more and more bitter every day. My interactions were limited to the quiet “No”s I give to taxi drivers and men on the street who think my name is Beautiful. I realized there are some days where I do not mutter one word–and then I wonder why I struggle to break my shell of introversion when I finally am with a group. I am doing my best to move past that so I can fully appreciate and enjoy the people around me, especially as I am hurtling towards the end.
For the moment, I am a bit paralyzed by my stress. It is coming to the end of the semester and I need to start thinking seriously about final projects and exams, of course. But somehow higher on my list of concerns is fear for what awaits me when I get home. And part of that fear is what exactly “home” will mean. I will not be able to live in bliss at my university as I have done for the past 3 summers–I am returning too late to have been able to apply for a summer position with Residential Life which has been my safe and happy place to fall back on. While I think there is a position waiting for me at Auntie Anne’s at the Hamilton Mall, I think $9 an hour won’t do much to pay for an apartment nearby. So, I am chasing a third option, something new, which to me seems to be looming out on a broken raft in the middle of a grey sea obfuscated by torrential rain. But, if things go to plan, I’ll be spending the summer with two of my best friends (one of those friends being my sweet kitty, the love of my life). So my fingers are crossed.
There is but one thing set in stone for when I arrive home: the date of my Praxis test that I must take before I can register for classes for the fall. Yes, you heard that right–I still have to register for classes for the fall. Because of some evil and damning phrasing–or maybe just because I asked all the wrong questions of my preceptor, assuming I knew the whole deal–I didn’t realize that in order to be placed in a school to observe for my intermediate semester of the education program, I needed to take TWO praxis 2 tests: the Biology content knowledge test, which I took, and general science as well. Who knew? Surely not me. So the one thing I know is that June 15, I will be taking the test which may not even guarantee placement into the classes I need to take in the fall. So much for a victory lap!
Anyway. If you can’t tell, lately I have been feeling less homesick and more of a generalized anxiety for how close I am to coming home. I’m thinking of the logistics of how dates are lining up, getting to and from the airport, and just how I am going to afford living until I again have some form of income.
I have been trying to take more pictures lately. I’ve been to the beach quite a few times over the past few weeks since I have last written, and I even went on a camping trip with people I work with at the Home for Cooperation. Like I said…. no news is good news, which is not a great concept to build a blog on, but here we are.
Note: this post has been sitting in my drafts for 2 weeks 😥 Still relevant though! I just couldn’t bring myself to rehash and rehash for the internetz all the wacky and wild things I’ve been doing. Also my internet won’t let me add pics. So here we are.
Ok. Things are going well. I’m starting to have a good time! I am learning so much about myself and I am learning how to be a better person every day I spend here. There have certainly been many UPS and DOWNS, many mistakes, but even the fact that I am making mistakes is helping me learn to deal with small failures and it is helping me realize that I can’t be afraid to do something because I am afraid I will fail. I stared at that poster–the darkened silhouette and an airborne basketball with the white text “You miss 100% of the shots you dont take”–for all 42 minutes of Prealgebra in school and maybe I always knew it was true but never have I lived it until now.
There’s people in front of me exhibiting some major PDA and that’s a little upsetting, but don’t worry–like I said, I am RESILIENT and I am PUSHING THROUGH.
I feel like I am really making good use of my time here. Like the title says–no news is good news! When I first started this blog I restrained myself from writing daily. I thought, why not?–I’m not doing anything else. I am finally getting into a rhythm where I consciously have to take the time out to write here. I am proud of myself. I am getting out there and doing the things I want to do.
I’ve also been painting a bit recently. The watercolor paints I bought are different from ones I’ve ever used, but I am getting used to them. I go through phases and rotations with art, never really sticking to one hobby for too long or through too many completed projects. If the middle-school me could see me now, I think I would be her role model.
Now that’s out of the way–here’s the juicy stuff:
This week I went to an event that celebrated Eric Clapton–a musician I knew nothing about before-hand but one song–and left with a swollen appreciation for him. There was a documentary and a live performance of a number of songs from the man’s career. Watching the documentary gave context for the music that I did not really understand before. You know how sometimes you look at a piece of art, and you’ve never seen anything like it before, and you don’t like it because it doesn’t make any sense to you? Now, I am sympathetic to the idea that the observer’s perspective is important when it comes to art. I think there’s an interesting give and take between the artist and the observer. Some artists want to give you all the context and meaning right away without asking you to think. Some artists refuse to discuss their art once it is in the world. Some observers think the word of the artist is the law when it comes to what the art means and what it should make us feel. Some observers refuse or ignore the artist’s intent. I am unsure where I fall in this unkind chart. Regardless, I am always interested in the context of a piece of art. I’m always lookin’ for those LEVELS. With that said, the idea of Clapton going to George-from-the-Beatles’ wife and playing her the album he wrote about her is so romantic it makes me sob, and even though Bell Bottom Blues doesn’t make sense with the mood of this post, you better believe that’s the song I embedded because it’s been on repeat in my mind and on my Spotify since I heard it in the documentary.
I’m working in backwards order–but I also recently went on a trip to take a hike near Troodos. It was with a huge group, about 30 people, and everyone was very kind and I am very glad I went. I saw a lot of new trees; I got one of those lil bursts of seratonin because I identified an oak that did NOT look like the oaks I know–the golden scrub oak (Quercus alnifolia)–from the acorns and bud clusters. I may not know ALL of my stuff, but I certainly know the Fagaceae family when I see it. I also saw a bunch of asphodels. I saw them and it was like recognizing an old friend; I knew the face, I knew I knew the name of the face, but what could it be? Because I had only seen them in pictures and of course in the botanical print I have from my first trip to Cyprus. At risk of looking like a really huge nerd I did not take any pictures of the blooming asphodels. . . No–who am I kidding–I didn’t take pictures because hopeful as I am I kept holding out to see the next with hopes it would be more pretty than the last–until with the change in elevation I guess we left their zone and I missed my chance. There’s a lesson in there somewhere. Saw tons of cyclamens as well, though I didn’t recognize them until the end when we found plaques naming the dominant flora and someone who had already figured out I am a huge nerd said “you should look at that board over there, it’s about plants.” Asphodels and cyclamens are the reason I am in Cyprus, you know. One of my first projects at Stockton that took me down this rabbit hole was to perform with a partner William Carlos William’s “The Crimson Cyclamen“. Later I traveled with a piece by Eudora Welty that took me to a Welty Festival in Mississippi where we saw a performance of Welty’s “Asphodel” (which I wish I could link because I wish I could read it again but have not been able to find an online version). My first time in Cyprus was to perform this same story, and I can’t forget the wholeness I felt when at a bookshop I was given a full-sized botanical print of Asphodelus albus. So if you are in my head even a bit, you can imagine that for me seeing these flowers in person was like seeing a celebrity.
It is Easter break here now, and only a few days ago everyone I know at home was celebrating the Catholic Easter. Every year we go to my grandmom’s house and have a big dinner with deviled eggs and the works; even though I haven’t lived at home in quite a while, I still made it home most years I can remember for Easter dinner. So it was a little bitter being here, especially because Catholic Easter is not celebrated here–all that chocolate is gonna wait a week. At least I was still able to leave my house for a coffee to meet a friend to get my mind off of what I was missing. I bought a chocolate bar to celebrate, though I haven’t had any of it yet–nevertheless the intention was there. The me from a month ago may have dreaded the idea of two weeks away from classes. I am still not exactly certain how I will be spending all of the time. I thought for a minute I was going to travel to Dublin for a few days to see Frank Turner perform, but the impulsivity of that decision was not rewarded when I found out traveling around the EU is not a possibility for me with my current documentation. Despite this setback, I am content and comfortable with the fact that at any point in time there are many people I can meet with for a coffee or for dinner or to go to the beach. And I am certainly listening to a lot of Frank Turner to make up for it, between the Clapton repeats. This trip is certainly teaching me the importance of nurturing my friendships; while the bonds I have with my friends at home are stronger than the ones I have formed here, I have more friendly acquaintances here than I think I have ever had at one time at home. It’s a nice feeling.
I think I’m in a good spot. I even started working out a bit. Getting through every day is not easy–I don’t think that will ever be my life. And I certainly still feel homesick quite often–I’ve already made the Facebook event for the coming home party I am hoping to host when I arrive back in the States. But instead of forcing myself to say I need to try to enjoy the time I am spending here, I am actually enjoying myself. It’s good. Knock on wood.
I thought I was past the whole getting randomly lost miles away from my apartment, but apparently not. I started an internship at the Home for Cooperation this Monday, and getting there is a bit sticky because it’s about an hour’s walk away from my apartment, or about 20 minutes if I take the bus, but I haven’t gotten lucky enough for the bus schedule to line up just right with what I need. Yesterday I took the bus home and missed my stop, then I missed the stop after my stop, all because I was too nervous to press the stop button and just hoped the bus would stop somewhere near my apartment. I learned an important lesson in speaking up for myself that night. I decided to ride the bus to the end of the line because I figured he would turn right around and head back up the other direction but maybe that’s not how it works either way he turned around and said this is the end of the line and I said oh oh ok and I got off the bus 6 miles from my apartment with only my passivity to blame. With a lot of despair and a phone on 6% it took a few minutes for my brain to start working again but eventually it did and I found another bus to take me close to home. But that’s what humans do–we make mistakes and then we learn from them. And if nothing else my legs have been getting stronger from all the walking.
I’ve been getting out to a lot of performances. I’ve now got a small collection of ticket stubs. One is from a chamber music performance where a trio played Debussy music–including “prelude de l’apres midi d’un faune” which I love because I understand its title with my meager two years of French language from high school, and also because after taking a class about the most important composers in history I fell in love with Debussy for a few days, saved a bunch of songs on Spotify, and when I put my playlist on shuffle I get a few of those old gems on occasion. Anyway, I got a little adrenaline rush because I recognized it. I also saw the spring concert of the Cyprus Chamber Orchestra about two weeks ago, and someone who introduced the orchestra gave me a memorable quote: “Don’t look at what I am. Look at what I can do.” Of course I tweeted that shortly after (no likes, but I know it’s prophetic if only to me). It hit me because it reminded me of why I wanted to excel so badly when I used to play the French horn in high school.
I wanted to play beautifully because if you are talented with playing an instrument (or doing any kind of art, really, except acting, which of course just happens to be exactly what stuck with me) then nobody cares what you look like, they could just as well close their eyes and maybe enjoy the performance even more because of it. Music is an incredible thing. I never practiced enough to be worth a thing, but I will always think about picking it up again. Finally, I saw a piano recital only last week where I learned what the most beautifully heart-wrenching musical line ever written is. I’ve embedded the video at the top. It is a series of lyrical echoes that is repeated twice in Brahms’s Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor, Op. 5. A few websites say F minor possesses the following characteristics: “Deep depression, funereal lament, groans of misery and longing for the grave.” In the case of this line, it’s also painted with a bit of love to make it something really bittersweet. I didn’t think classical music could ever make me cry (yes, a foolish statement). But after this I understand a little better. I wish I could see art and hear music and see theatre every moment of my life. But what can a biology major do but dream.
My eyes have been greener since I’ve been here, or maybe I’m just looking in the mirror more. I went with a classmate to Limassol this past weekend, and it was lovely to have a change in scenery. We went to see an art exhibit about portraits and I was a bit upset to find my classmate was less interested in the exhibit than I was. The art was beautiful and thought provoking, but I wish there had been more contextualization as to why those pieces were brought together aside from the fact that they represented the scope of what a portrait can look like. The self-portrait section was interesting, for sure. The exhibit reminded me of the Portrait museum in London and all I could think about was one self-portrait that showed the back of the painter’s head and his face in the mirror. I was thinking about visiting London over Easter break but I don’t think I’ll have the funds. It’s too bad.
My soul is yearning for theatre. I tried to see a show I thought was going to be in English this weekend and I walked inside for them to tell me it would be in Greek. While I think all would not be lost on me I imagine I would get quite frustrated after two hours where I can only understand three words. Maybe I’ll order and read some plays to settle the fire. Maybe I’ll download Duolingo again to try to learn Greek. Maybe I’ll just keep burning.
My plant is dying a bit it seems. I’m not sure why. The two pieces I removed from the main plant seem to be doing OK, but one of those two probably doesn’t have any roots and is still working off reserves. Maybe I removed too many of the roots, or maybe I watered it too soon after transplanting it into its new pot. Either way, it seems to be losing all of its leaves (a line from The Father a play by Florian Zeller).
I miss my friends quite a bit. I know they will always be there and they will certainly be there when I get home. But most nights I dream about flying home and seeing them. My current mission is to try to learn how to live in the moment and stop letting my life move by while I passively watch and hope for the next moment to come.
Also, speaking of trees, this one is my new favorite:
I have been thinking about the trees lately. Based on the responses I usually get when I talk about trees, that’s enough of a sentence to bring most people to tune out of anything I say next.
And if you don’t know anything about trees, I know they all look the same. Yeah, you’ve got pine trees and…. non-pine trees. Maybe you know the look of an oak if you look for the acorns on the ground. But I swear they all look different and that they all have names.
And I don’t know the names of any of these trees.
There’s no cheesy symbolism here. Maybe I could duct tape something together to resemble a metaphor but I’m not going to do that to you.
I’m just saying I’ve got a lot to learn. There’s a lot out there I don’t know anything about. So I’m working on it.
Did you know that only 7-8% of all of the plants found on the island of Cyprus are native?
It is a logical conclusion that an island is a perfect research environment. Think about the Galapagos, which, keep in mind, they are doing great with tourism profits for better or for worse. It’s a pretty closed system, as far as a giant landmass goes. Much easier to quantify than the entire United States or North American continent, at that, and we manage to do it with the help of a lot of passionate people. So where are the passionate people here?
I wanted to join the ecology club at EUC but I was told it is being disbanded for lack of participation.
In my biology class we were doing a lab experiment where we had to use pipettes with disposable plastic reservoirs, and in order to prevent contamination of the specimen we had to use a new pipette reservoir at every step. We probably used 20 in total. And the professor laughed at the two students who raised environmental concerns.
You gotta burn money to make money I guess.
Now, I am sometimes too lazy to think about recycling my cans, just like the next person. I’m not some kind of “green” maniac and I don’t think it’s beneficial either to ostracize people for doing things that are clearly pretty damaging. I’m a pretty firm believer in my own made up mantra that one person can’t change the world overnight… change takes a very long time and people can try to speed up that process but depending on the controversy of an issue there is always going to be a specific amount of time it’s gonna take for that idea to go mainstream. Maybe my way of thinking is “what’s wrong with the world” but we are all the same species with similar brains and flaws and that’s why we are in this mess, actually, not because of any “decisions” any one or two of us made.
All I’m saying is I wish people cared a little more. I wish their eyes weren’t blind to the uniqueness and benefits to the differences in the natural world around them. Could you imagine a world where there is only one kind of tree, one kind of flower? Not only would it be a duller world to live in, but just wait until the microorganisms decide to wipe out every tree and flower in sight. Variety is our strength.
I found an art store, and I’m excited to buy some watercolors. Hoping to buy some soil and pots as well.
An hour of walking each way from my apartment where I sleep to an apartment where doctors draw blood and do labwork gave me time to think today. I got to thinking that it is probably much harder to travel alone in Cyprus than it is to travel alone in London. For me it would be, at least. I considered the two because they are the only places I have traveled outside of the US.
I remember hating London in comparison, mostly because of the context. I was homesick and tired at the end of the trip, with it being a 3-day layover on the way back to the states after spending a week in Cyprus. As such, we woke up early and went to sleep dead-tired and late trying to “do it all” as they say. Don’t get me wrong, we did in fact do it all and it was in fact incredible to experience a culture where all of the food I ate was trying very hard to be anything but its own and everything was red, white, and blue (stripes only, of course).
Yes, London is built for tourists and it’s quite alright to show up with your camera around your neck and your tube socks up to your knees. Compared to Cyprus, the copy-cat Greek food and the clichéd grey skies of London had me down-right down.
I think London would have been easy for me. When I went for the second time last spring, the hostel where we stayed was a five minute walk from a huge free museum, a quaint used bookstore I could have spent hours browsing, and a coffee shop where I could read all the writing on the wall. Walk for twenty more minutes and you cross the Thames to find a paradise of theatres where you can watch a different show every night. A thousand worlds I could get lost in.
Here, I feel lost only in my own mind. London is more about the place where you are. I think Cyprus is more about the people you are with. Plenty of places to sit down and talk for hours. However many times I try sitting there alone it doesn’t feel quite right. Maybe it says something about the difference in cultures–one built for isolation versus one reliant on communication and interconnectedness.
Maybe it’s just because I live here now that it’s got me down. The zest instead of being saturated in the duration of a few days is spread thin across four months.
I was recently asked if I enjoy traveling alone. I answered, “it depends.” Mostly because at the moment the real answer felt like a definite “no.”
But truly it does depend, I think. I think I have to find the things I love and enjoy here. I have plans to buy watercolors and to begin painting things I see. I bought a jade plant and have plans to repot it and make cuttings to give away to all of the people who have helped me by the end of this trip. I will look into finding museums I haven’t seen yet. I will try to find art that isn’t spray-painted on. I will get the comfort and courage to do the weird things I like to do, like picking wildflowers and putting them in water to decorate my apartment. There are a lot of nice things about being alone.
After two weeks in Cyprus, here is a list of things I have learned:
Even though it’s hot, everyone wears a coat
Yes, it’s fine to wear white sneakers, but the real issue is that I didn’t bring my turtlenecks which might have helped me blend in a little bit better
The 50 cent coin and the 20 cent coin look the same
Don’t take the wrong bus
It’s important to charge your phone because when you take the wrong bus you need to be able to find your way back
In order to find your way back home just in case your phone dies and you have taken the wrong bus you should just bring a paper map because looking lost is better than thinking you’ve just become homeless
It’s easy to avoid eating out when you don’t have anyone to go out with.
All that being said, I’m working up the courage to ask students I’m in classes with if they want to get lunch with me.
I know adjustment doesn’t happen overnight. Apparently it takes longer than two weeks.
Lots of time alone means lots of time to think about being alone. I am looking for the key to unlock that prison that will let me start talking to people.
(Yes, Phoebe, you are shy. But no, I don’t think you are an introvert. So get over yourself and start talking.)
It’s been a tough two weeks. But I’m looking forward to the next two. Things have to get worse before they can get better.
I am a student from Stockton University studying at EUC on an exchange prog–bla bla bla bla…………I have sure said that a million times by now. I always think about how it would be cool if when we die we could see a scoreboard of how many times we said certain phrases, like “I love you,” and “I miss you,” and “I am a student from Stockton University studying at EUC on an exchange program” and the usual answer to the question, “Why Cyprus?”: “well it’s kind of a long story.”
If you haven’t guessed, I’m a student from Stockton University studying at EUC on an exchange program and I’m going to be posting on this blog about my experience.
I apologize for a melancholy beginning but it’s only included and emphasized because I know the dynamic contrast will look reeeeal nice a month or so from now when I’m living large and having the time of my life. Every story’s gotta have a conflict, right?
Plus, I need to complain somewhere. When people ask how things are going I think you’re supposed to say “Great! I love every moment!” no matter what. Sorry–it’s not that this is a complete lie but usually it’s just not worth it to me to worry my friends with the less exciting details. I’m going to say my excuse is that I’m doing that thing where you say something a bunch of times until it becomes reality. I’ll let you know if it works.
Don’t worry, though. The best is yet to come. I’m not sure how often I will post here, but if I am as good a person as I think I am I will stick to a weekly schedule at the very least. I have been telling myself I should begin journaling for years now, so I’m hoping this will scratch that itch for me.