Yeraltý Notlarý, 21 Haziran 2004

Sevgül Uludað

 

Eggs, anari and a bottle of zivania… (*)

Eggs, anari and a bottle of zivania… (*)

Sevgul Uludag

Words have been killed and buried… Only ghosts remain in our hands when we try to use them to give meaning to life… Words have become `dirty` and it is difficult to figure out how to `cleanse` them… Words which we use to define our feelings, ideas, needs, expectations and how we perceive life are a problem: everything has been said in certain ways, with political connotations that each and every day we need to find new ways of how to use the ghosts of words which remain in our hands… Words have acquired double meanings, they have acquired the dirt and blood coming from our history and politics, they have acquired characteristics of ethnicity, racism and violence… They are beyond themselves that they cannot carry themselves to the hearts of human beings – they are absurd, floating in the air, never touching our souls as though we are in a game of pretense that everything is OK…

But sometimes they get stuck in the minds of some, hurting, acquiring deeper meanings beyond themselves…

The words `YES` and `NO` for instance, they are so basic and simple but at no period in our history have they acquired so much meaning or lack of meaning as they have now and they get people stuck on positions, not being able to go beyond, beyond the words and beyond themselves to look for what lies underneath the cover they provide, to strip them of all meaning in order to be able to reach some space where we could create `meaning` together…

Words come out of our mouths, out of our pens and computers but so few of them really reflect the human heart and the remainder at the end of the day is chaos, not meaning…

Therefore I try to go beyond `words` uttered by Papadopoulos or Talat or Christofias or Akinci or any other politician who has a stake in this `power game`…

In search of `meaning` in this absurdity, I look into the simplicity of life: Dimitris and Koulla for instance from Lapithos, who bring me eggs, dry anari and a bottle of Vretcha zivania all the way from Paphos… The eggs and the dry anari and the zivania carry much more meaning than any political discussion: Dimitris and Koulla raised the hens and the lambs themselves, maybe even the grapes… Dimitris has planted almond trees in front of his `new` house, belonging to a Turkish Cypriot in Ayios Varvaras in Paphos… He had six houses in Lapithos and lots of land – in 1974 he became a refugee and went to live in Paphos… He has a tracktor which he uses in his fields, Koulla makes halloumi, anari and paluze, they have a fourouni in their garden to cook lamb with potatoes…

One day they come all the way from Paphos to Nicosia together with my friend Eva from Switzerland to bring me the eggs, the anari and the zivania. We sit in my garden, I cook for them, we eat and drink and talk… They can’t speak any English so Eva has to translate… My sister and my mother speak Greek because they lived mixed with Greek Cypriots, I can’t because by the time I was born in 1958, already the `troubles` had started… I never had the chance to play with Greek Cypriot kids in the streets or have neighbours where my mother could send a plateful of food as we had done with all neighbours in the old times… Whatever you cooked, you would think of your neighbour: the smell of food you would want to share, just a plateful so they could taste it and not feel bad in case they did not have the same or could not afford to cook the same… I carried plates between houses and kids of neighbours my age would do the same… You could never return empty plates to a neighbour – it would be unethical… Whatever you cooked, you would fill the plate with it in order to return it… Nowadays `neighbours` avoid each other – everyone is so `busy` with their `own` lives that the feelings of `the others` don’t matter much… Consuming is beyond sharing… Words beyond the soul and the heart… Absurdity beyond meaning…

Dimitris has been reading my articles in ALITHIA and he wanted to meet me and my mother… When my friend Eva comes from Switzerland to Paphos, they tell her `We must go! Go and see Sevgul and her mother!` So they come with Eva to sit in our garden and talk… When I see them and speak with them I am grateful to Alecos Constantinides for opening the pages of ALITHIA for me, translating my articles because he gave me a chance to share meaning with Greek Cypriots… This was what I wanted: to speak to Greek Cypriots in their own language and try to create `meaning` out of the absurdity we’ve all been living through…

Eva was here for only a few days: she had come to a wedding in Paphos. Since she’s done research for her masters degree about Cyprus, she cannot keep away from Cyprus. Always there’s an occasion to return: she had stayed for 6 months in Paphos, interviewing people, meeting relatives of those whom she interviewed and later, I prepared a room in our house for her to come and stay for 10 days. When she came to the northern part we went all the way to Apostolos Andreas to light candles for all her friends in Paphos who had no chance of crossing, we went to Lapithos looking for long forgotten graves of children of people she knew from Paphos, we went all the way to Morphou to find the houses they had left behind…

Her thesis entitled `Looking at the house from within` was about `How do Greek Cypriots see Turkish Cypriots?` and in order to answer that question, first she had to look at what is important for the identity of Greek Cypriots… Who was considered `one of us` and who was considered `the other`? She found various things that’s important to the `identity` of a Greek Cypriot: house, family, religion, work and food… Greek Cypriots valued these things a lot and thought that they shared these values with Turkish Cypriots… Most interesting was the `food` part - she found that the Greek Cypriots she interviewed thought `You can’t eat and drink with strangers – we used to share food with Turkish Cypriots, so they were `one of us`…` This was of course the old generation who had memories with Turkish Cypriots… Eva wrote in her thesis that in Cyprus even if you had no time to eat and drink with the families you visited, they would at least collect lemons to give to you or fruit so you could eat at home…

So this is what we share with Dimitris and Koulla from Lapithos: last Sunday we go to their house in Paphos to eat and talk… To give meaning to life… To share our lives, our friendship, to show my `heart-comrade` Zeki (my husband) Paphos that he has never set foot in his life… The place where Aphrodite was born… The white soil of Paphos… To meet the Turkish Cypriot neighbours of Dimitris and Koulla: Mustafa, Zehra and their daughter from Australia, Gulumser…

This is the simplicity of life: sharing meaning in our hearts and souls instead of ghosts of words…

(*) Article published in ALITHIA newspaper on the 20th of June 2004.

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