Working north

As a young journalist perhaps, I had my first interview in northern Nicosia this week.

Not that it couldn’t have been organised in the south but I encouraged it to take place in one of my favourite places in the old town; Rustem bookshop.

This was twofold. On the one hand, it felt right because this was the place I had initially met my interviewee and she is also a Turkish Cypriot – interviewing her on her turf seemed more natural.

And then there was this feeling of liberty; that yes, working across the divide is nowadays a reality anyone can choose to embrace.
Having five minutes to spare to freshen up before our meeting, I suddenly became a ‘bayan’ (Turkish for lady).

I spent another couple of minutes reading through the pages of Cyprus Today, the equivalent of this paper in northern Cyprus I guess.
On the shelves around me, the endless shelves of books presented titles in Turkish and others in English. An amazing source for an alternative point of view on Cyprus matters.

I smiled as I came across one of my favourite books of Turkey’s bestselling author, Elif Shafak, in Turkish. Everything looked so familiar yet so foreign at the same time. In all, I felt as though I had spent my whole morning there, but in truth I was only there for a couple of hours. Familiar is mundane.

I came back south greeting people in English as opposed to Greek because I had already gotten used to the fact that ‘our language’ wasn’t understood.

For a while I truly felt like a foreigner on both sides of the divide.

And it just reminded me how important it is to constantly recognise the multi-ethnic identity of our country, not through tags or stereotypes but just as a natural state of being.

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