The story of EVS volunteers in Cyprus …
or how did we paint, film and photograph our life for 10 months
When I finally opened my eyes it was the month of September in year 2011. I found myself in the island of Cyprus together with two girls who shared the same dream and so a beautiful story of courage and discovery began…
Chapter one: Accommodation
We started our adventure as volunteers in the castle-mansion of Politistiko Ergastiri Ayion Omoloyiton, in a shared bedroom out of the IKEA catalogue.
It was a time of getting to know each other in an intensive way, it was also a time of getting to discover our new surroundings, the center of our volunteering. In the first months we meet other brothers and sisters in the act of volunteering, some still here, others were taken by their dreams back to their home.
Nonetheless soon it was necessary to realize that we needed different settings to be able to grow together and so…In November we moved to a 3-bed-apartment in Akropolis that offered enough personal space for every one of us, as well as a big living room and a big kitchen to get together. We also appreciated the existence of two bathrooms especially in case of emergency. For this spacious home we had to pay the price of living next to a construction site with very eager workers who created the characteristic background sound starting at 6:30 in the morning that would follow us from the day we moved in until we finished our voluntary service.
Experiencing the seasons of winter, spring and summer in that apartment, we also understood better the thick-walled architecture of the traditional houses, which seemed much more suitable for the climate in Cyprus while in our place it didn’t make a big difference of temperature if you were inside or outside the house. This fact caused an enormous heating bill in winter due to our big consumption of petrol and almost the same amount of sweat in summer enough to fill and change the name of the dry river near our cultural center.
Until two of them got stolen, all of us had a bike to move around in the streets of Lefkosia This gave us a big piece of freedom and independency and we managed quite well to stand up to the local car drivers who claimed the street, the road, the pedestrian path and everything else they could reach by car to be their own property.
Chapter two: Diet
Enjoying Cyprus means enjoying food. From the first day.
That probably was the first thing we learnt and we always happily joined in when it was about trying traditional dishes, sweets or drinks. Needless to say that the first thing we were taught was how to prepare a frappé! The beginning of an addiction that was always on or even behind the verge of an overdose…
From pita, tahini, humus and taramosalata, over feta, moussaka, filled wine leaves, tiropita, lentils, beans and octopus to baklava, halvas, flaounes, cheesecake and vasilopita, during our time in this lovely country we really tasted a lot and as you can probably tell we also liked it a lot.
We missed out a bit on the souvlaki, but I imagine it must be really great considering that you are having it over and over again in Cyprus. (“I totally agree!” says AncaJ). We soon found our personal favorites in the Cypriot cuisine and at least one is shared by all three of us: Halloumi! Yeeeeeeyyyyyy! This cheese is really something unique you can only get in Cyprus and it’s going to be hard to continue life without halloumi.
Another thing we valued very much was having these amazing fruits all around, since there is such a big variety of fresh ones for good prizes and they are just delicious, for example as refreshing breakfast with some yoghurt and cereals. The same goes for the vegetables, of which the avocado was one of the favorites.
Chapter three: Working hours
Of course we didn’t come to Cyprus just for the fun of living here and the food. We came to support the work of our hosting organization “Politistiko Ergastiri Ayion Omoloyiton”. Around 30 hours per week we went to the center mainly to take care of the things happening during the opening hours and to keep the place tidy. Besides that we helped Marina and Maria in the office or with everything else that took place in or around the organization. There were some really busy and stormy weeks during the time we were hosting European trainings and other calmer ones where we could concentrate on our own small projects.
We got to be the ones baptizing the kantina place of the centre and assuming the roles of some very serious godmothers we could not come with a better name then making it ours for life: “Kantina mou!”. Working on and in “Kantina mou” we could bring our frappé preparation skills to perfection, facilitating the film festivals on Thursdays we got the possibility to watch a big range of national and international movies, producing a lipdub video with the kids we all had a great time together and we even managed to learn some traditional dances during the children’s and adult’s classes. Through the activities in the cultural center we got connected to the people in the neighborhood and surely we’re going to miss all those faces, especially the ones of our beloved Marina and Maria, Panayiotis, Christiana with their amazing family and the mentor of all mentors, caring Christina.
The working hours also included our weekly Greek lesson with Marianna, the best teacher for us. Thanks to her it was almost a joy and at least no torture to learn about aitiatiki, plythintiko and aplos mellontas and in the end our (and her) efforts we were rewarded with passing the final examen. Ευχαριστούμε, Μαριάννα!
Chapter four: Free time
Yes, there also was some time to our free disposal. We used this time to explore the rest of the island, with friends we found here or with visitors from home, and also to explore new leisure time activities, like long afternoons at the pool, joining the movement in the buffer zone of old Lefkosia, sushi sessions, Zumba classes, going to the gym and, of course, the art of capoeira. Amidst division, interculturality, acceptance, conflicts and diversity life presented us with some interesting challenges and a river of experiences (not the dry river) to discover ourselves and the island. We met with Cypriot friends and other EVS volunteers to go to the beach, to bars, to cultural events or to visit beautiful places. And some relationships really grew very deep and strong during these times.
Free time was also the time to work on our personal creative projects. With painting, photography and filming every one of us followed an own art, with own intentions whether it was encouraging people to be the change, showing pictures of reality to transmit a situation or developing one’s skills of expression what’s just visible inside the head. Thus we understood the potential creativeness that lies in each one of us which can blossom only in an encouraging framework like our cultural Centre.
The amazing holidays offered us the possibility to go on bigger trips, maybe to return home for a period of time, maybe to see new places we could never reach so easily again, I’m talking about Italy, Crete, Israel and, okay this one doesn’t really fit here, Finland.
Here and now the small story about the EVS pioneers of Politistiko Ergastiri comes to an end and we want to leave these pieces of memories as an evidence for all our EVS brothers and sisters, those who want to become and those who simply were wondering what exactly those three girls, Anca, Natacha and Nina, were doing in Cyprus.
…and now we only hope that what we leave behind is more than what we created together with the wonderful people of the castle…we hope that “our legacy” is in the love, respect and forgiveness we learn every day to offer to each other…then you know for sure that your volunteering time was worthy …
Κι έζησαν αυτοί καλά… κι εμείς καλύτερα.