“Hello, I am an islander”

Being born and raised on an island, I’ve never realized what it means to be an islander. I never considered myself as being different from those being born and raised inland. Looking back, I guess I was one of those people who would focus on their microenvironment (i.e., the people and places I would interact routinely). When I moved to Chicago, one of the first things I witnessed was its segregation. Dr. S’s words are still engraved in my mind. She told me, “Being a Chicagoan can mean a million different things, depending on where you live.”

In a charming description of what culture is, Dr. Hall explains that it’s the way organisms use up their space and time. Armed with this definition, I was able to make more sense of how people can shape and be shaped to maximize their space functionality. If you’re an islander, like me, just stop for a minute and ponder how accessible it is to just go to the beach. Considering the geographical size of Cyprus, it’s easily feasible to combine the mountains and the beach on the same day. I came to the conclusion that through the years we’ve developed a certain relationship with the mountains and the sea. I distinctly remember G. complaining about Chicago winters and how trapped he felt because he was not near the sea. It’s as if he was out of tune.

A few months ago, I had a conversation with A. who happens to own a travel agency. We were discussing how traveling has changed due to the pandemic. Long story short, the discussion led to a couple of questions, like how much do Cypriots appreciate their local scenery? What do they probably feel when they stroll around their city, which happens to illustrate decades of history? Is it in our identity to be a local tourist? This torrent of questions left me puzzled. First I tried to decode our cultural identity. Soon I realized that I had to first flesh out what cities reflect.

According to Ms. Thorne’s TedTalk, “What makes a city liveable?”, cities are dynamic and are changing to accommodate the citizens’ needs. She explained that “liveable” is a constructive term, yet there’re some things that you have to consider before reaching to answer if your city is livable. For instance, how do you see yourself in relation to the city? Is it sustainable? Green? Open? How does your city impact global panorama? Without being able to answer these questions, Youtube autoplayed the next TedTalk which was about the power of liveable cities. Ms. Streb stated in her study, that cities shape our relationships. Based on her study, in areas with more traffic volume, there are fewer gatherings and subsequently, fewer people knew their neighbors. As a result, people did not feel safer lingering on the streets and did not “use” their city.

If you take a moment to visit Idyllic Cyprus, you would see that it promotes Cyprus as an experience, where even locals can enjoy their country. Soon, I realized that being an islander I have the opportunity to connect and reconnect with my surroundings which inevitably changes my perspective on human relationships. Even if there are not enough urban settings that reinforce connection (e.g., parks), the ability to connect with our environment I think it has been embedded in our culture. Now, do we appreciate our island? Unfortunately, other factors, like the political stability and the way we collectively learned to assume that there’re no consequences when it comes to not respecting our nature led me to be hesitant in answering this question. But what I can say is that being raised on this island I believe as Cypriots we learned to appreciate beautiful places that include an array of sceneries and I consider myself lucky because now I have the chance to take advantage to its fullest.