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Thursday, 12 February 2009


Because life is short and full of surprises, I did write an acknowledgements section for my upgrade report. Because appearing to be the drama queen that I am to my examiners is not the wisest thing in the world, I’m not going to include it. But here it is.



So, in chronological order, I would like to thank:

My Grandparents: I do apologize for remaining single and continuing to paint my nails red, but I am hoping that from where you are right now, you can see that I’m trying to do good otherwise. My Parents: For being my ongoing teacher transformation project. For your unconditional love, for your courage, your insecurities and your patience. My Brother: for loving me in the best-hidden ways and for the expensive gifts that I would never buy myself.

All the numerous members of my big-fat-Greek-Cypriot family: you have kept me in your hearts and minds despite my years of absence, my radicalism and my moods. I will always feel like the youngest and the most favourite family member because of you. Thank you for bringing to my world lots of little guys and girls, thank you for letting me brainwash them into believing that I am the best aunt in the world. Thank you for the spoiling, thank you for being my home. Special thanks go to my cousin SP – for allowing me to feel as unique as in no-one else’s life. My friends in Cyprus – who I no longer distinguish from family members: MZ, AML, and MP: you have endured with me everything, from the start. ZC: you are the sister I never had. ES: for the shopping therapies and your laughter and your understanding. IS: for loving the colour purple. SZ: for all your respect in our disagreements, for your patience; even for the sleepwalking scares! All of you: for making it so difficult to find the words to say thank you.

PD: for being my first supervisor, supporter, and model to follow. I have been honored to be your rising star student. The heavily tattooed Turkish-Cypriot owner of the fried chicken place across Goldsmiths College library: for being the first Other I had met in my life. It was November 2005. TR: for being the first to teach me that waxing is a form of oppression. For making that ride on a 171 bus, on 9th June 2006, the most unforgettable birthday of my life. FB: for the peanut butter and chocolate birthday cake you baked on that same birthday. For your pure love and friendship and unique beauty and the surprise packs from far-away that keep arriving. TD: for using words like no other. For your sweetness, your intelligence, your sarcasm. For Athens.

HS: for your patience with my looooong sentences, my unedited papers, my freakouts, my lateness, my disagreements; for your stylistic corrections and your suggestions and the confidence building and the support and the opportunities; and, of course, for the parties at the Big Ben.

NT: for believing in me from the first moment; for the opportunities and the encouragement. For reading my drafts and reminding me that life is a draft. CM: for unconditionally giving me helpful feedback in all love, academic, and existential dilemmas in my life, for all our Sunday email exchanges and your humour.

ALP: for baking bread in the middle of the night and for the birthday treasure hunts and the fairytale in my life. For spoiling the child in me. RSW: for sharing your life-theory of generosity in principle and in practice; for your wisdom, your dresses, your support. Both of them: for everything that went on in the house with the purple door.

PC: for your love, for Sarajevo, for the looooong lunches at the Italian sandwich place and the dinners at Masala Zone. BA: for the touch of spice in my life, for the lasagna dinners and for being my one and only older, academic, all-time-favourite brother. HG: for the endless days and nights in the Goodenough library. For never forgetting at which point of the conversation we were left and always reminding me what I was talking about 3 minutes ago. CC: for the comfort when I needed it and all the new realizations you brought into my life. AA: for the unexpected PhD penguin-hugs and all the support. DA: for breaking all my stereotypes around the notion of ‘the Cypriot male’. AM: for pointing out that I cook in a very ‘white’ way. Until that evening in the Goodenough kitchen in April 2008, I was not aware of what it feels like to be ‘racialized’. RC: for being so much more mature than your age, for keeping me grounded, and for the military-style tough love. EM: for the endless discussions on theories of ‘race', boys, nation and Greekness, and for the wine in the coolest plastic glasses.

To the unsuitable men in my path: for all the mistakes and the love. For being a reminder of how impossible intercultural relationships can be and that my plans to change the world have limits; but that they are, nevertheless, worth pursuing.

To the suitable one: hurry up, I’m bored of waiting.

Be well, all. I’ll need you again. Next time, the acknowledgements are going to be included.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Sign of mental instability?

I've noticed that as the weeks go by and I am still in strict curfew and denial of any social life (let alone love life), the frequency of the incidents where I catch myself talking to myself are increasing rapidly. There are specific instances when this occurs:
1. while sitting at my desk in my room when i am (a) continuing conversations that happened a few hours/minutes/months earlier with people or (b) having completely new conversations with people - where I speak loudly my part, not theirs (perhaps this is important, to exclude the possibility of schizophrenia)
2. while walking from the bathroom/toilet back to my room or the library - with the risk of being seen by people and be ridiculed completely
3. while in the shower
4. while dreaming
Perhaps mental and emotional assistance is more urgently needed than I thought. Especially as I have just pushed my deadline ANOTHER week further.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Personal Ontology

So. My supervisor insists that my introductory chapter for my upgrade report needs to have a 'personal ontology' aspect in it, so my examiners know where I'm coming from and where I'm going. I have the answer to neither of those issues. But I am thinking of including the following:



Reasons for which this upgrade report is in your hands:


1.       The first Greek-Cypriot woman is arrested for chaining herself on the Presidential Mansion for Greenpeace in August 2000.

2.       A Black man and a White woman walk down the street in Larnaca holding hands in July 2001.

3.       A Greek-Cypriot, Christian-Orthodox, Greek-speaking six-year-old girl goes to school for the first time in September 2004.

4.       A headmistress knocks on a classroom door on a March morning in 2005.

5.       A funeral in April 2005 is followed by another in June.

6.       25 September 2005.

7.       A heavily tattooed, bearded owner of a fried-chicken place opposite Goldsmiths library serves a hungry MA student in November 2005.

8.       A random search for books related to Cyprus on amazon in December 2005.

9.       A rising star in January 2006.


Additional information is below:


1.       I’ve always wanted to change the world. Somehow. Despite my parents’ concerns that I would never get a job as a teacher if I had a criminal record. At the time, I didn’t care. (For the record, I don’t – it was a misdemeanor).

2.       I watched this couple with my friends, sitting at a bar. Their comments led to a huge argument. I have still not spoken to some of them since.

3.       I was her first grade teacher. She was the only Black child at a school of 600. Her parents are from Congo.

4.       The headmistress brought to my first grade class the two children of asylum seekers – no warning, no preparation, no clue, no common language. They were dark-skinned. After their initial shock, a child shouts ‘Miss, they’re just like Marianna!’ Marianna looks as happy as never before. She is no longer alone. And I thought that getting the rest to stop calling her ‘Black’ meant she finally belonged.

5.       I lose both my grandfathers in less than three months. Both funerals are held in refugee churches. Both are buried away from their homeland, in refugee cemeteries. One cousin drove to the north and brought a bucket of soil from ‘our’ orange groves, with which to cover my mother’s father. The refugee tiny houses they had been living in for 31 years are now ‘returned’ to the government. Refugees seem to be destined to lose everything, including the opportunity to own anything again. My father’s father spoke Turkish and Greek so fluently you could not tell whether he’s Turkish- or Greek-Cypriot. Perhaps he was just Cypriot.

6.       My friends call me mad: I quit my job as a primary school teacher (Cypriot teachers are the best paid in the EU), I leave an apartment, a cat, a car, and prospects for marriage, and I fly to London in the hope that I will be able to breathe, to be, and to become.

7.       He reminded me of my mom’s cousin – I think it was his accent when he said ‘hi darling’ when I entered. I was right, he was from Cyprus. He told me he left during the war but still goes back to visit. We talked about how much we both hate British food, British weather and British buses. It took me more than fifteen minutes in a conversation with him to realize that he’s not Greek-Cypriot. That he is a Turkish-Cypriot. He was the first Other I met in my life. I was 25.

8.       I come across Yiannis Papadakis’ book ‘Echoes from the Dead Zone: across the Cyprus Divide’. It changed my life. Did Greek-Cypriots also kill Turkish-Cypriots? The puzzle pieces start falling into place.

9.       My MA supervisor believes in me. He insists I apply to the IoE for a PhD.


Thank you for your time. Your comments are invaluable.

Monday, 19 January 2009


Who would've thought that the propaganda posters that King George VI commissioned to be displayed in Britain during the WWII, would be so useful and inspiring to a contemporary PhD student, struggling to identify the specificities of the multiple racisms manifested in a corner of the Mediterranean, while, at the same time, searching for love?

Friday, 16 January 2009

'A dark fog has enveloped us' by Paul Kaye

I had to hold my 17-year-old son down on the bed after he heard the news. His strength really shocked me. I was gripping his upper arms as tightly as I could to hold him flat on the bed, but he was spitting with rage, tears streaming down his face. I was shouting, "Stop! Please stop!" but he was pushing up at me hard, his face twisting like his body underneath me. He was fighting with everything he had in order to be able to get up, run down the stairs and get out of the house. All I knew at that moment was that I couldn't let him leave. We were in his bedroom in London and I had just given him the news that his grandmother had been blown to pieces by a rocket in Israel. Jordy had lost his other grandmother five months earlier to cancer. This time there was someone to blame.

Our pain and his rage opened a window up for me on to what is happening in Gaza. There are thousands and thousands of young men who have experienced - or are experiencing - that rage in Gaza and the West Bank, and their fathers and grandfathers have no doubt experienced it too. When I heard in the days that followed Shuli's death that they handed out sweets in Gaza to celebrate the fact that the rocket had hit a target, I was appalled. Now with all I have seen over the last two weeks in Gaza, part of me feels: why wouldn't they celebrate?

Shuli, my wife's mother, lived on Kibbutz Gvar-am, which lies 5km to the north of Gaza and 10km to the south of Ashkelon. She had been the kibbutz nurse until she retired and lately had worked part-time in the kibbutz factory making envelopes for the Salvation Army and Asda. In May last year she had been expecting a visit from a cousin who was over from America. The cousin had phoned to say that she was too frightened to come to Shuli's kibbutz on account of a rocket landing in Ashkelon the previous day. "Don't worry," Shuli told her, "every missile has its own address. We'll come to you instead."

An hour later she arrived at the house where her cousin was staying. Her son, Yariv, rang the doorbell and while they waited for someone to answer, Shuli stepped away in order to get some shade next to a wall. The rocket came out of nowhere and she died instantly. None had landed in that area before. Only later did we find out that Shuli had rung her sister the night before her death and made her promise to look after her children if anything were to happen to her. It was beshert - meant to be.

That was six months ago and now, sat at home in north London with the Israeli bombardment of Gaza well into its third week, and with news of fresh horrors arriving daily, our house is filled with a despair of a different kind. It has felt like a house in mourning again. A dark fog which I can't really describe has enveloped us. Maybe it's shame. I don't know. I know we all felt relief that Israel didn't retaliate after Shuli was killed. But it's happening now. I keep looking at Shuli's birth certificate which my wife now has. Shuli's mother had left Germany by boat for Palestine after Hitler came to power and she helped form a radical socialist community on land partitioned to the Jews by the British. Shuli's birth certificate states her nationality as Palestinian. Her death certificate said Israeli.

My wife says she feels scared and lost and full of guilt. "It's my country and I see myself as Israeli not Jewish," she keeps shouting at me. Does that make you feel better or worse about what's going on, I ask? "That's worse!" she says, "because Israel is nothing to do with God." I digest this, but don't even know where to begin to start unravelling that statement.

I'm trying to think back to Christmas when I was staying on the kibbutz. I'm struggling to remember what I felt as the Hamas rockets were flying in every day during the week before the Israeli F16s screamed over our heads and began pounding the Gaza Strip and those condemned to live within it. My five-year-old son, Geffen, was constantly asking me if he was going to die like his Grandma. People on the kibbutz rallied around as you would expect; it was no time for questions or politics. We didn't see the bigger picture. But on returning home, I saw it all too clearly, and it sent me into meltdown.

I feel guilty about abandoning my friends on the kibbutz - not physically but mentally. A good friend of mine over there called Mirav, whom I've known for 25 years, has a 12-year- old daughter, Omer, who just stays in her room and cries. She's been doing it for three months now and this all began after the fourth Kasam rocket hit her school. I try to think about her, but shockingly she doesn't seem to matter so much any more. Not at the moment anyway. Not from here in England with what we're seeing on television every day. Everything is dwarfed by the horrors in Gaza.

I'd seen the ground troops massing up the road from the kibbutz towards the border with Gaza in the days before I left Israel, but I never believed for one second that they would go in. They did. In the last few days, I've stopped watching television and buying newspapers. For the first time in my adult life I don't want to know what is going on outside my own front door.

Most Israelis I know think Hamas wants to annihilate Israel. A lot of Jews over here think that too. I don't know if that's what Hamas wants: it depends what you read. I was over there when they blew up buses on Dissenghof Street in Tel Aviv in 1996. That act seemed to turn Israel right wing just at the moment the country was mourning the death of Rabin and was, I believe, genuinely committed to peace. But Hamas is now part of the political process whether Israel, Britain and America likes it or not and dialogue is the only way forward. Would hatred for Israel stop if it were to return to its 1967 borders? Of course not, but Israel has to do it anyway. It has to do the right thing, to help build a strong Palestinian state where people can live normal lives, work, feed their kids, be happy, safe, have dignity. That's what most people want in life isn't it?

At Shuli's funeral last May, her son Jonathon, my brother-in-law, gave a speech. "Where are the doves?" he asked. "What is this land worth without someone with a vision? Nothing. Without doves it wasn't worth the struggle." Jonny is 34. He's an army reservist who is studying to be a neurologist and has a two-year-old son called Boaz. He didn't scream for blood at his mother's graveside, he screamed for peace.

In our house we have our own thinking to do. My eldest son, Jordy, has Israeli citizenship and in two years he will have to choose either to relinquish that citizenship or to fight in the Israeli army. It can be only his choice. But, unlike the Palestinians in Gaza, at least he has one.

Published today on http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/jan/16/gaza-first-person-israel#

(I have no words of my own for what is going on.)

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Christian the lion

I've been away for a long time, I know. Now I'm running off to the gym, but I couldn't help but share this - suggested by one of my bestest friends in the world for whenever I feel low http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=adYbFQFXG0U 

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Once again?

I have just packed my suitcase. 
Got my passport, booked my taxi for the return late at night from Gatwick, printed out my ticket, separated my make up tools that I want to take with me from the rest but kept them out of the suitcase so I can use them tomorrow, put up a note for the cleaner, stood around in my room for almost two hours trying to decide what to take, compared the temperatures between London and Athens a million times on various websites trying to 'imagine' what a difference of 10 degrees might feel like, contemplated heavily on whether I should take high heels and my black dress to take the opportunity to dress up as well as go on holiday but my holiday self won again so I'm not, I sent out an email to the ones that might wonder where I've gone (my programme leader and my administrator) telling them I'm not going to be on email till Monday night, I put out on the chair the clothes that I'm going to wear tomorrow - chosen on the sole criterion of comfortable-ness - no accessories and soft fabrics, threw the remaining ham and mozzarella in the bin and took the trash out, wondered briefly if I know what happiness is and if I can find it where I'm going this time - or is it only defined as happiness when I'm away from it, when it's part of the past or part of the future?
Do wish me a good trip. I need one. I'll have a kebab in your honour. Or a greek salad facing the Acropolis. 
Friday evening, I am going to experience this