I had never imagined what would really happen. I never expected to feel so much awe for these people, that were daring enough to question everything they had been taught, and be critical towards their leadership in front of their so called enemies. I never expected to form friendships that I would like them to be life long. I never expected to dance with them in a Greek tavern, and sing along to Turkish songs. I certainly never expected to cry with them over the pain that our communities have caused each other.
We have a saying in Cyprus: "The good day shows from the morning". When I arrived in Pittsburgh I headed towards the bus stop, to take the bus to Duquesne. Among the people waiting there, I distinguished three: Two guys and a girl. They looked like Cypriots. I could not tell if they were Greek or Turkish, but something inside of me felt connected to them. I went and talked to them. They were Turkish Cypriots. I could feel that they were as eager to find out about me, as I was to learn about them:
"So, where are you from?"
"Really? My parents are from Limassol. How is it?"
"It's nice. Where are you from?"
" I was born in Famagusta."
I was impressed by this answer that showed a high degree of political awareness. I remembered my best friend at high school. He left Famagusta when he was two, but he would never say he was from Limassol. He would say, "I live in Limassol".
It turned out that I would share the room with one of the guys at the bus stop. We barely slept that night. We started the workshop earlier than the rest of the group and, by three o'clock in the morning, we had reached a solution to the Cyprus problem. What takes the politicians so long?
My views on the issue have not changed much. I still think that Cyprus should be reunited and I will never give up my right to visit or live anywhere in my country I chose to. I still feel that the reason there is no progress is because the official Turkish and Turkish Cypriot leaderships consider the problem solved the way it is. But now I want a solution, not only for the sake of my community, but for the sake of all Cypriots. Now I know that, on the other side of the line there are also people that suffer, maybe even more than we do. I know and respect their concerns and I will try as hard as I can to make everyone in my community be aware of them, too.
I never felt hatred for the Turkish Cypriots. But there were times I wished they never existed, so that we did not have all these problems. After this unforgettable week in Pittsburgh I feel proud that them and me share the same homeland, and I am looking forward to the day that we can cooperate for the benefit of our beloved island. After meeting them I believe this day is not very far away as I thought.
So you think you are special, talented, smart? Hmmm, that's not enough, not enough at all.... I am adventurous...
I like to be challenged by standing on a rope 10 meters up high, doing high ropes with other adventurous people. I do rope walks and switch places 10 meters up high with them, because you see, they are special and fun...
I like to play childish games, play the guitar in my underwear and drench others with freezing water while canoeing. I hear the truth, plan the future and mold my own world-I am strong...
I will face life more confidently now: I never waste a good chance, I live life to the hilt...
CASP Confidence Building Workshop,
You up to it?
During the workshop, we had the chance to see each other as people, to hear our stories, learn about life in the other side of our divided island and discuss several issues. It was not always easy and certain things we heard upset us while we were surprised by some concerns of the other community which we had never thought about. But we listened. We opened not only our ears, but our hearts too. And the more we talked, the better the pieces of the puzzle fit. We were the generation which had nothing to do with the intercommunal problems, yet we were nonetheless suffering from the results. For some of us, a war plane flying over their home was the first thing they could remember of their childhood while some of us were born after the division to parents who had left everything they had in one part of the island and had to start a new life in the other part. We knew the other side of our island only through the stories we heard from our parents. We were taught how bad the "other" was in our schools and never had the chance to find out for ourselves what the "other" was like. We found it out in Pittsburgh, thousands of miles away from our homeland, and the "other" was noone more than a young person just like us sharing our genuine love for our beautiful island and the same fears and concerns for the future.
There is no Turkish or Greek when you are whitewater rafting and trying to survive the next rapid, there is no Turkish or Greek when you are dancing in a tavern, or when you are singing a song in both languages or when you are up all night telling jokes, drinking and singing. There is just people, people whose similarities could not be deteriorated by separation, people who want no more pain and suffering and more importantly people who don't want to leave the problem they inherited from their parents to their children.
Now we know that behind the barbed wire beat hearts just like ours. We know that it is not only our community which has suffered and is suffering due to the Cyprus problem. And we know that we can not let our children grow up without knowing each other, a fate we all had to share. We feel outraged by the fact that we cannot meet our friends even though we are living in the same city. However we are more confident than ever that the days where we will share a common homeland and a common future are not far away.
So, if someday you get an invitation to attend such a workshop, just say "yes". You owe it to yourself to break the prejudices imposed on you by "education" and find out for yourself what the "other" is really like. You may be assured that this will be an experience of a life time for you just like it has been for all 24 of us in Pittsburgh....
I thought it would involve a lot of boring classes and with people I didn't even know. Do I have anything in common with these people? Do I even care if they are there or not and why should I end my vacation two weeks earlier to go to this thing? Well am I glad I did and I enjoyed it so much that I participated twice!
The first day was unbelievable. I was meeting so many people with whom I had so many things in common, from language to culture to gestures. I could feel from day one that strong friendships would grow out of this event. The format of the workshop was basically a morning class and sometimes a short afternoon class. But these classes are not your typical "I think I'll take a nap" classes. They are very interesting and you learn quite a lot about yourself. Also, almost all of the classes involve some sort of a game or puzzle and that's always fun too.
Besides the classes, the workshops provide you with activites that you wouldn't regularly go out and do on your own. To mention a few that were available when I participated, there was a rafting trip, a tree-climbing/ropes course, an owl walk, orienteering, a mini hike, a swimming trip in a crystal clear water and a trip to Frank Lloyd Wright's most famous house-"Falling Water"
At the end of the day, you look back at those workshops and think how lucky you were to be able to participate. I have made lots of friends and not just any friends. Real close friends that I feel are like my brothers and sisters. Don't let an opportunity like this pass you by.