The Turkish-Cypriot Hospitality of an Old Woman
Trip Start Mar 03, 2010
145Trip End Feb 06, 2011
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A DREAM COMES TRUE!
My friends drive me to Nicosia as Antonis has to meet some people.
He has some business and me and Christalla patiently wait for him to finish.
We are waiting for hours I can admit and we have plenty of time to get to know better each other. We talk about different things, but the good part comes after Antonis finishes.
We are the three of us in the car, and I feel such pain out here…..for me this trip is again a pilgrimage and a trip in the past. Those good old days when we used to come to this city almost every week as my father had his brothers here
As Antonis drives through some streets I recognize the neighbourhood where my dear Aunt Christina and Costa used to live. I ask him to stop the car. Antonis cannot believe his ears. He is telling me that he has doubts if I am right, and he tells me of a relative of his who was dragging him along trying to find her own neighbourhood some months ago, and for two days they were moving round and round until in the end she found it.
I tell him that I am absolutely sure, and I immediately jump off the car. We are at the central square. I have recognized the coffee shop –kafenio- and the small mini market where my dear Uncle Costa used to come to meet his friends and chat. I remember so well we would find him here and our Aunt used to send us to just tell him that we have arrived. He would always buy us chocolates and different other sweets. I can feel him near me, see him sitting with his friends and asking the shop owner to show us in and let us choose the chocolates we liked….Yes, he is here with me this very moment. I am so moved, and feel such excitement. What I want now is to let him walk me towards his house and (see my dear Aunt….feel her, see Soulla my cousin!! I am so happy and feel I am going to see all these people the minute I enter the house
Antonis and Christalla are amazed and they are staring at me. I am so sure of what I am doing and I now walk towards my Aunt's house leaving them in the car. Seeing me walking towards the house they follow me. There are many neighbours sitting outside in the street at the side of the house. I greet them politely and ask if the person who lives in my Aunt’s house is there. Antonis parks the car on the opposite side, gets off and comes towards us. In his turn he greets everyone and I see him smiling! I could never believe that from one moment to the other I would be here experiencing such happiness…..I feel as if it is a gift from God to me this very moment. Something that I was for 36 years dreaming of….but now is the right moment to experience all this!
A very old woman, openly troubled and tormented, stands up and very politely tells me that she now lives in the house. She speaks Cypriot-Turkish.
"I will show you in the house" she says and together we move towards the entrance gate.
As we approach the gate I am shaken, I get dizzy and I am ready to fall down
She notices it and asks me if I am all right. I need some seconds before I make the next step and get in the corridor.
Deep inside me I am crying, I am so moved. Before coming here I had the feeling that the corridor was longer. I keep looking at the gates as if I want to see faintly through further inside. As we enter I see the tangerine and orange trees that my dear Uncle had planted back then. They are full of fruit. The whole garden is still full of citrus fruit. My Aunt used to make the best liqueurs and fruit syrup which we diluted with water. We all loved to drink this.
We enter the gate, and I can feel the souls of these people in this whole round area. I see that I am part of the big parties and gatherings of this house. I ask the lady to show me around, but the first thing I ask is if she has found any pictures of the real owners in the house. It is here that I get the first disappointment when she tells me that before her there used to live another family who moved in after 1974.
It is obvious that the house needs an immediate renovation, but this is not the point
She is so hospitable and insists that I go and cut fruit from the citrus fruit trees outside to carry home. I tell her that I am just going to pick one or two fruit before I leave for my cousins who have never come here after they abandoned the house.
She tells me that she, herself has seen her two sons and husband shot before her own eyes during the war! This is why I can understand these people because they also have suffered. This is the result of wars!!!
I enter with respect and appreciation every room…..I even ask if the colour of the bathroom tiles are still black and green as my dear Aunt used to have them. When she tells me that the colour is that, I ask permission to enter the bathroom. As a child this colour seemed very peculiar to me. At this moment another lady who does not speak a single word of Greek, enters the house and she insists that I cannot take pictures
I enter all rooms and in each one I have different things to remember. There is just one room that the lady seems to keep shut. It is the living room of my Aunt, but I see that she has all these armchairs in front of the door, that give a picture of a room that she does not use since she is just one person.
I take many photos, even short videos of the whole building and as we come out she insists that she gives me fruit to take with me. Then again she remembers the coffee that she wants to make for me. Till the very last minute before getting in the car to drive off she begs me to accept her hospitality. I don’t feel that I did the right thing not accepting having some coffee with her, but I really could not leave my friends wait for me. She insists and comes with a handful of fruit.
If you happen to see the videos, just see the way she asks me to stay for some coffee, and watch her how she insists that she gives me fruit to carry home!
What a day…indeed!