January 15, 2022
Cyprus was our next port of call. Based on my prior experience, I wanted to learn a few words to engage with the locals this time. Cyprus is a tiny Mediterranean island located south of Turkey and southeast of Greece. They speak Greek because it was founded by Greeks. Hello and thank you are “γεια σας” (geia sas) and “Σας ευχαριστώ” (sas efcharistó), respectively. I tried to use these terms wherever I went, and people seemed pleased that I knew them; even though most Greek Cypriots understood how to speak English, they appreciated my efforts. These two words completely changed the way I interacted with locals. I went from being a simple tourist to someone who cared deeply about their culture and history, and they could tell.
I was travelling around Limassol’s streets when I entered a store to buy a souvenir. While looking around, I came across this map that said, “My house, I wait for 48 years to go back home.” I approached the store’s owner and politely asked if he wouldn’t mind clarifying. He inquired if I was aware of Cyprus’s divide, and I told him that I was. Since 1974, when Turkey invaded Limassol, Cyprus has been divided by a green line. The Turkish Cypriots control the north of Cyprus, while the Greek Cypriots control the south. He then proceeded to ask me where I was from and what my name was. When I told him I was from and that my name was Ruth, he replied, “My name is Savvas.” He goes on to state that when Turkey invaded Cyprus, 160.000 Greek Cypriots living in the north, including himself, were driven from the island. Savvas’ home is in Famagusta, which is located in Northern Cyprus. He has not been allowed to return home for the past 48 years.
At Semester at Sea, I take a subject called Global Studies, which offers us a broad understanding of the current political circumstances that each nation we visit is facing. My understanding is that the current negotiations aim to achieve some kind of federal government in Cyprus, with power shared between the two communities (the Turkey and Greek territory). The same goal that was set in previous attempts at reunification, but it was not met. Still, there are indications that some progress may be achieved this time, and the island’s two leaders are thought to be devoted to achieving an agreement. Turkey, a significant member in the talks, appears to be eager to reach a breakthrough as well. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan faces domestic challenges, and his backing for Northern Cyprus has been expensive. For the time being, there are several unresolved problems and issues that must be addressed. And any agreement agreed in Geneva will have to be approved not just by political leaders, but also by Cypriots in two referendums this year. This suggests that there are still many challenges to overcome in order to accomplish Cyprus’s reunification.