“On my first night back in Louisiana I dreamt my olive skin and my brown curls turned darker. An initial, superficial interpretation, which revealed my own subconscious prejudices, was the dream was telling me I am finally home. Something wasn’t quite right with this, because I have never felt fully comfortable here. Louisiana is my adopted home and I am from half the world away, the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. I came here as a ‘love immigrant’, to be with my husband.
Being married to an African American man places me in both ‘black’ and ‘white’ spaces, in the midst of the currents of history. Every decision here is political, every gesture meaningful. To arrive in the United States is to become ‘Other’, to split myself and surrender to the forces that would have me be defined as either/or.
But I am no stranger to divisions. I grew up on the Green Line(*) in Nicosia, its barbed wire slicing my neighborhood in half. Riding my bike to the end of the road I imagined what life was like on the other side, a guard and his guard post the only thing between me and the minefield beyond. From my bedroom window I saw a mountain I was not allowed to touch or climb, and houses inhabited by people I was not allowed to meet. I learned about the places and the people ‘on the other side’ at school, through stories of bloody battles, mass graves and grave enemies.
While school taught me good and evil, borders and boundaries (an act which my parents tried to mitigate by offering up alternative perspectives), I learned about freedom in the afternoons from dandelion seeds and clouds, from pigeons and dust blowing in from the Sahara. Looking back now I think this ambivalence troubled me: the landscape could kill me just as easily as it could set me free if I disobeyed the rules; of society in the first instance, and of gravity in the second. I did both, slipping into the dead zone with my friend unnoticed to sit at the edge before the “Danger! Minefield” sign, and running with my imagination across the Mesaoria plain, wheat tall as myself stretching out for miles like an ocean of gold. In my mind, I flew with the bee-eaters over the Pentadaktylos mountains, looking for forest fairies, cliffside castles and secret kingdoms.
Papadakis (2018) writes that “borders always embody contradictory potentialities, […] as sites of cooperation and sites of conflict, sites of division and sites of contact” (p.285), sites of oppression and creativity. Anzaldúa (1987/2012) writes that “our psyches resemble the bordertowns” and “the struggle has always been inner, and is played out in the outer terrains” (p.109). A self of borders, then; a liminal, border-line self.
Underground, like Jung’s deep, unconscious realm where psyche and matter touch, Nicosia is united by a joint sewage system. This is “the largest, longest-running and most successful project of cooperation between the two sides” (Papadakis, 2018; p.290).
Yes, the cicada can only gain wings by burrowing deep underground.”
[Excerpt from my Master’s dissertation, titled ‘Mother-Nature-Self: An exploration of self-in-relation through writing as inquiry’]
* In 1964, during intercommunal violence between Greek-Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, a cease-fire line was drawn on the map by the British peace force, becoming impassable after the 1974 war between Cyprus and Turkey.
Papadakis, Y. (2018). Borders, paradox and power. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 41(2), 285-302.
Anzaldúa, G. (1987/2012). Borderlands: La frontera: The new Mestiza (25th anniversary edition; Fourth ed.). San Francisco, CA: Aunt Lute Books.