Restraint

Commentary

You may or may not know I’m from Cyprus.

You may or may not have become aware of the economic crisis that’s hit the island hard.

And because I may or may not have money to spend on new books, I’ve decided to make a comprehensive list of books I have on my shelves that I have yet to read, as a form of inspiration. For once, I’m happy that I have so much pending material. A list is provided below for those interested in any of the covers. I shall be posting my progress here, as a means of encouragement. You can see the current book I’m reading on my Goodreads page (see widget on sidebar).

reading list

P.S.: I know! I can’t believe I’ve amassed so much unread material either. Am I the only who does this?

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The linear ever after

Rants

The second sex, may by no means be the weaker one, according to Simone de Beauvoir, but according to Cypriot culture, it’s the one whose life has already been pre-determined. You don’t need to look into the remnants of coffee stained cups or the palm of your hand ladies, your life is spelled out for you the moment you are born without that golden member. Your life is an equation of sums and losses that all equate your perfect, charming quotidien into a meagre sense of achievement.

And here is your cue to say “Thank you”, whispers your grandmother.

My problem with this, is that increasingly, I’m not just hearing about this happily-ever-after from my grandma, whose old fashioned take on life can best be taken as quaint and romantic, if not blatantly ignorant. No, increasingly, I’m hearing this from my peers. I find it disappointing that in the 21st century, the majority of women my age cannot think beyond the domestic box of marital happiness. As 20-somethings, where is the thirst for new experiences? Where is the insatiable energy for learning and self-discovery? Why all this sudden rush to wear our bank installments round our neck with a sense of pride at our adulthood? Why do I feel more added pressure from the women my age, than from parents and extended family?

Of course, this is only exacerbated by the very fact that we are traversing across the very trying expanse of wedding season. I never used to hate weddings, but I do now.  Walking towards the bride and groom to offer my heartfelt congratulations I’m convinced the mixture of exhaustion and greed (after all, why invite 6,000 guests?) makes me a barely discernible figure as I near the couple’s stand; at most, I’m seen as a € sign. And the underlying logic that echoes from person to person leaves me nothing more than shocked: “It’s an investment, I go to their wedding, they come to mine”. So basically, what everyone is doing is circulating the same €50 around and around and around. A genuine gesture, indeed.

But what particularly got me today, was a rather indiscreet question as I was having my morning coffee and talking about canoeing. It cut through my sense of individuality quite sharply: “When are you going to have a baby?” And suddenly I felt the extra weight of expectation, the additional stress of not wanting to meet the standards predefined by apparently everyone in my circle. It makes me want to despise everything within the linear fairy tale that everyone seems to fool themselves into. A baby? I’m still a kid myself!

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t claim to have the answer to a happy life. For some, marital bliss and everything that comes with it may be that which fulfills them. But leave some room for the odd ones out, will you? We can’t all fit into the cookie-cutter world of the predictable. Some of us might want to try going the other route and in all honesty, what’s it to you?

Where’s my mojo?

Commentary

So let’s make it clear. I’ve looked at all possible locations: behing the couch, in the fridge next to that tupperware that’s growing all sorts of fungus, in the far depths of my bag, in my tiny car, in my not-so-tiny wardrobe. Where has my mojo gone? Why has it abandoned me?

Or wait. Maybe I’m to blame. It might just be that the very high I was experiencing right about the beginning of 2012 has very cutely come back to bite me in the face. The feeling of I can do everything has quickly given way to: Is there anything I can do? The same person who read three books in the first week of the year, is now reading 10 words a day, claiming a whole page as a cause for celebration. That very same person walks around with dark circles under the eyes, despite a good 7-hour sleep. She’s shunned color and she continuously burns the food, but doesn’t mind eating it because she’s that hungry.

Is this person you too? Want to join forces in rediscovering our mojos? Listening for your suggestions, eagerly.

Text me

Commentary

My cellphone beeps quietly when an incoming message comes through. It’s so discreet that I often don’t even hear it, much to my relief, to be honest with you. On the rare occasions that I don’t have the radio playing in my car — I find it hard to resist the daily crap that local stations broadcastreligiously — I may catch the end of my jazzy ringtone (key word: rare). Sure, I have, at times, stupidly rummaged through my bag while driving in an attempt to pick up on time, for once. But since my bad hearing goes hand-in-hand with my clumsiness, I thought it prudent to invest in a set of headphones.

On the up side of this, I’m more alert to incoming calls whilst driving. On the downside, I’m also aware of incoming text messages, which I occasionally read at red lights. Recently, I’ve been getting quite a number of messages, all of them from sources unknown to me. Mercedes texts me on a regular basis, Audi R8 has added me as a contact recently, NRG is a devoted spammer, BMW X5 ditto. Can someone please tell me what ever happened to privacy? I don’t even know how or when these companies acquired my number, but surely there must be a breach of privacy here? Whenever I sign up for something, I always make it a point to tick the box that says Do not spam me or so help you God! So what gives spammers?

A reasonable person might point me to a simple solution: these spammers are not really offending anyone since they offer a toll-free number at the bottom of every text message that allows you to be taken off the illegitimate list of cell numbers. Sure, I’ve noticed it! It’s a toll-free number that is always busy. In fact, I’m even questioning its validity because I’ve tried to call it every single time I get another chance to enter a mega-competition-or-else. It’s just useless.

If companies are not respecting individual right to privacy, or even offering the chance to defend my right by ticking the much-coveted box, why isn’t there a no-call / no-text registry in Cyprus? If I get one more spam message in the middle of the night, I think I’m going to give up on my cellphone altogether. Or life.

The unsuspecting vegetarian

Rants

Courtesy: Jorge-11

Easter: a time of vegetarian solidarity. The much dreaded religious holiday is already well underway and to top it off this year, I have my birthday to crown the greatest of all feasts on Easter Sunday. Oh dear.

I have never been one to hang around the lamb on the spit, gradually roasting its way into mouth-watering decadence (for some). As for the liver wrapped in intestine, I unsuspectingly declined plates of this delicacy falsely believing it was rooster, which was offensive enough to my innocent spirit, let alone the vulgar reality of the aforementioned specific body parts. Indeed, Easter has always been out to get me when I least suspected it.

As a kid, I have fond memories of lighting firesparkles, a ritual that required speed and enthusiasm. The end goal was lighting all the firesparkles in the garden. The reward? A soup of intestines, liver and stomach. I slurped unsuspectingly without really understanding what it was I was forcing myself to digest.

Years later, no longer the soup sucker that I was as a kid, I was pretty much against most food on the table, simply because it didn’t agree with my palate. On Saturday night after church, after gathering at an aunt’s house for the traditional soup (thanks, I’ll pass), meat (no, I’m fine thanks) and potatoes (do I have to eat this at 12:30 a..m? Really?) I scanned the dining table for a sign of something barely edible so late in the night. There was hardly anything worth noting: the usual suspects were there, as was the gelatin with private body parts, ears and whatnot floating in a see-through volume of a globe. Then I noticed a plate of spaghetti and eggs, a newcomer and a rather unusual recipe altogether. I hurried to add a serving; given that I was always criticized for the lack of food in my plate, I was more than elated that the spaghetti took up a considerable portion. But of course, there was a catch. As I forked a bunch of spaghetti and egg and raised it to mouth, my uncle across me asked calmly: Since when do you eat intestines? Since, omg I’m going to faint. I barely smiled politely.

That was a close one.

And then here we are now, not so many years later. Am I traumatized? Hell yeah! Every Easter I dread all the food on the table, all the jokes on my eating habits and all that meat that’s trying to make its way into my mouth, one way or another. But this year, , let the whole world rejoice with souvla on my birthday. I will feel happy to mouth a bit of green and a slice of cake — I’ve got my 29th to chew on.

Note: soon something you can chew on. More in coming entries.

Tying the knot

Commentary

Everyone assures you that there’s no pressure. As a matter of fact, this very statement makes my heart stop for a few seconds. Why the reassurance for something that isn’t an issue to begin with? This catch-22 forms the very core of Cypriot culture: don’t worry too much, but we’re watching you; don’t stress yourself about it, we’re already stressed out for you; no need to push yourself, we’ll push you. At times it feels as if living my life is a vicariously shared experience with half the people in this town. Oh wait, facebook granted me that.

But let me give facebook some credit. If anything, facebook redefined relationships: single and looking, it’s complicated because I’m that cool or in a relationship and it’s serious. Recently, on my newsfeed more and more relationship status changes are creeping up: from relationship to engaged and, lo and behold, from engaged to married! Don’t get me wrong — there’s nothing better than seeing friends living their version of happily ever after but does this happy ending have to happen to everyone at the same time? My savings account pleads otherwise.

Add all of this in the real dimension and you’ve got yourself set up for moments of awkwardness. Last week we were in a bit of a pickle, my boyfriend and I. Seated at a local alternative hotspot with a couple of friends, drinking our wine and fooling around, we thought the alcohol had gone to our head when we saw a ring on our friend’s finger. We were flabbergasted but elated, we were delirious and exploded in riotous laughter: it was a moment of utter and complete joy.

But then.

Yes, then as we were about to toast to new beginnings, my significant other and I were the odd ones out. It didn’t matter, really, but it was an “all-eyes-are-on-you” kind of moment, and my boyfriend, not one to disappoint, was tactfully trying to remove the perrier bottle cap ring in mock-engagement to a life of gas and bottled liquified happiness. Sure, no pressure.

So here I am, hanging out here at the bottom of the barrel and I am simply echoing we are still young. Can we move to a new dimension, where I am still armed with the element of surprise and I can actually move beyond the tight little squares under my feet that dictate my directionless movement? When I get there, I’ll update my facebook status. Watch for it in your newsfeed.

And so this is Christmas

Commentary

The word’s out that: It’s too hot for Xmas. What tree, what presents, what festive spirit in short-sleeves and a mini skirt? This is not Australia! This is Cyprus, everyone mutters fatalistically. It’s the end of the world as we know it. Ho, ho, ho.

If I hear it one more time, I’m pretty sure I’m going to act out as the panda in the Panda cheese commercial. Can we puh-lease move on to other things we can whine about? I get wrinkles just listening to this pathetic patter!

Let’s focus on the good things, like the Christmas tree competitions around supermarkets and municipalities. This year carols have been replaced by frenzied supermarket ads on TV and radio. My mailbox has no Christmas cards, but dizzyingly colorful leaflets with the best offers on meat and decorations and toilet paper. Everyone’s priorities du saison are quite apparent here, it seems. If I hadn’t done my DIY Chrismas cards with fabric, it would have been tempting to cut them out and reincarnate them on thick cardboard as multi-colored Christmas trees and funky Santas.

And as for the street decorations, why yes, this year we not only have our classic giant condoms-by-day, upside-down Christmas trees by night, but we have some glitter glam too. Just in case you missed them, that is. As you cruise downtown, look up and you’ll see the Christmas sparkle bright enough to give pink eye. I would love to be in the municipality’s Christmas committee, if such thing exists, to discuss more ways of making Larnaca look its most ridiculous and phallic in December.

As I make my way through the end of December, broke and utterly tired, at least I have one thing to be thankful for: Santa. Rumour has it, he’s bringing me an Xbox. You can’t say no to a panda, after all…

Those 90s

Banana Observations

It’s not every day that I reminisce of forgotten decades, let alone past centuries, but this flashback is courtesy of the bar below my house that’s currently dishing out tunes that make me feel like I’m in a Now That’s What I Call Music 32 prank I’m not aware of. The repertoire has included such classics as a butchered version of Alanis’ of You Oughta Know and Cher’s tone-deaf version of Walking in Memphis; I’m suddenly a pimply teenager again with a broken sound system rocking to the tunes and dare I say I’m feeling nostalgic.

A quick glance at photos of me at the time confirm that there is no reason to miss the early years of dressing like a boy with oversized t-shirts and shoes that I would rather die than wear today. It’s clear upon re-inspection that awkward arms dangling  uncomfortably do little by way of distracting from my big frizzy hair. Were there no hair products at the time? A quick look at the cast of 90210 confirms that the world chose to boycott good looks in the 90s — with the exception of Luke Perry whose waxy do and forehead wrinkles still reeks absolute coolness.

I remember my 3 CD hi-fi as a sacred shrine of trite music, later superseded by my green discman. Ask a kid today about having a hi-fi and wait for the “Don’t you mean wi-fi?” At first, I used to cringe upon the realization that all the kids I teach were born well into the 90s and have no recollection of the decade. Dr Martens might as well be an obscure doctor, not a shoe brand; Screech is most definitely a verb, not a character from Saved By the Bell. Spice who? Why yes, Tamagotchi is probably the new sushi restaurant for advanced pop culture teenagers.

It used to make me feel old, but now I just accept it. Besides, I’m on the lucky side of life and tonight proves it. The music is entirely too loud, but I’m not going to phone in a complaint to the police; I’m just going to sit back and sing along to Meat Loaf’s I’d Lie for you (And that’s the truth) because boy oh boy, that’s what I call music!

On summer

Rants

Hello summer,

We’ve been waiting for you. We’ve quantified you to the certainty of 30 degrees Celsius and we monitor the weather forecast like hungry wolves. Clouds tomorrow? Saharan dust? Let that not come in the way of your arrival, we beg. But the tell-tale sign arrives overnight, and we don’t even need to check our thermometers to confirm your entrance. Suddenly, hair frizzes up, furniture is coated with a thick film of moisture and we are scooped up in a dense cloud of opaqueness. Humidity heralds your arrival. And instead of a warm welcome, we’re thinking, how could we forget about what you do to us every year?

We get carried away with romantic notions of the Ss: sun, salty sea, seashells, sand. As we slap on our sunscreen with SPF 1,000 under the scorching sun, we soon realize that it’s about time we bought our own beach umbrella because there’s very little hope we’ll ever manage to get the few sunbeds that offer it as option. As we enter the water, we yelp silently, trying to look good as we enter a liquid version of our freezer. Of course it’s refreshing, we fib. “Look at me, I’m diving in, ha ha,” and our heart comes to an abrupt halt before resuming again when we break the surface. “God that felt good!” we say through clenched teeth. Around us, a few hundred others do the same, and we try to ignore the persistent question, as we hit a warm spot while we’re swimming. It’s the currents, we convince ourselves, though we know as we eye the crowd that it’s plain human nature. Oh yes, gross, summer, gross.

Then come plans for traveling and discovering and getting away from worries and people (though the latter, few of us would admit). We make grand plans for escape, and monitor prices closely before booking on the day when unexpectedly, prices rise, dammit. We buy travel guides and optimistically keep them on the coffee table, hoping that we’ll pick them up before the trip. We make our budget so that we never keep it, and come back with empty pockets and ticket stubs that we’re not sure whether to keep as souvenirs or throw out. As for our peace of mind? No room for that, surely, with the stress of seeing all the sights, avoiding all the touristy places and getting our value for money. Going back to work no longer seems like a bad idea, actually.

And when we start to take at least three showers a day, we remember why it is that you stink summer. We are gullible people, we like to live life in postcards that say “Wish you were here!” or go to work dancing to summer beats, sipping on mojitos. But when you arrive, you bring with you the unbearable heat, those long long days, that need filling. So we venture out to coffeeshops more, we go out at nights, because we wear denial on our sleeves, and by the end of it, we come out of August broke and in despair. We wait for the first rain eagerly, and monitor thermometers for temperature fluctuations. We are people of routine and we work in this cycle.

For now, in early June, all I have to say is “Welcome back.” By the end of it, we’ll hate you, that’s a promise.

plain bananas x

Keeping the balance

Commentary

Photo by poca-traça

I’d like to say that as I ride my bicycle past manic drivers and clouds of CO2 everything blurs as I become one with my vehicle. In reality the only thing that keeps me focused is my inner mantra: Keep your balance, don’t topple over. A quick pause is enough to start me thinking of the small tyre width, the slight swerve that might send me flying into the windscreen of the speeding car jetting down the other lane. No, the fears of the modern cyclist cannot easily be assuaged — they keep the adrenaline at an all-time high.

I only recently bought a bicycle and it’s true that you never forget how to ride one even if it’s been decades since you’ve been on an uncomfortable saddle. As I started cycling again I realized that I am invisible! Owning a bike has its burdens and this is perhaps its heaviest one. Yes, I can cycle close to the curb but sometimes it seems I might as well be riding on it. I could, but pedestrians have an even bigger problem recognizing that cyclists have their own pavement rights too. Cycling lanes? A luxury for Cyprus that is simply non-existent. Why create a new lane when we’re only just starting to fix up our roads? It feels like cycling through a mine field avoiding those crater-like potholes.

I know the solution is simple; I can protect my brain and other body partsby wearing protective gear. This has its advantages. For starters, I know I look like the biggest dork on the planet and immediately think that there’s no way anyone could avoid spotting this knight in plastic armor on the road. It’s my saving grace — I look like such an idiot, it’s began to feel reassuring.

Riding the streets of Larnaca is a dangerous enough feat as it is, and add to that my natural gift of clumsiness and you have a recipe for a potentially serious disaster. But I combat this with carefully planned routes; I consider the quieter streets, I wear my brightest clothes and as a car brushes by I hold my breath for good luck and good measure. As I cycle vehemently through streets with no name to meet friends for coffee I know that by the time I arrive I’ll be sticky with sweat and my knee might be scraped, if not bleeding. I know I’ll lock my bike against a tree I can see while I’m sitting, and then make my bruised way towards the table waiting for my disheveled company impatiently.

It’s always nice to make an entrance, at least.