I recently worked as a cover teacher at an English school in Larnaca and the experience – although only for two weeks – was certainly an eye-opener.
Firstly, I was very surprised at how reasonable morning traffic is in our town! I am used to doing a school run from Vergina to the New Salamina area then to Drosia to drop my own two off, and have never encountered bad traffic for that particular route, but I was terrified that getting to the school's more central location would mean gridlock. Despite starting lessons at various times – ranging from 7.30am to 12.50pm – I did not experience any major traffic. I am sure that there are areas that are prone to heavier traffic, but in general, Larnaca is a good town to drive in, so, spare a thought for your Nicosia and Limassol cousins who face daily jams en-route to work and back, and count your blessings!
But I digress… the eye-opener was an insight to the teenagers of today, and how they differ to the teenagers of my generation. There is a general issue with boundaries regarding authority and an absence of respect for elders in the new generation. This is a declining standard; my generation had far more respect than today's, but less than my parent's 'be-seen-but-not-heard' generation. I dread to think what my children's generation will be like… There are a variety of factors that play a role in this, from children being raised outside of the family due to both parents having to work, to the power of technology they have at their fingertips at too early an age.
If you have children of your own, or know people with children, no doubt a large proportion of them will have a tablet, or access to one from a tender age. We have so far not succumbed in our household, but the fight is getting harder and harder as they see their friends with them or hear about the different games they could be playing. And mine are only still six and four! The issue of mobile phones is thankfully further away, but I know it is only a matter of time, and every student that I taught these past two weeks not only had a mobile, they had an all-singing-all-dancing one!
Despite the technological advances teenagers have at their disposal, I do pity them for it. Yes, life as a student is now easier when you can use Google instead of an encyclopaedia, and can print off materials, but this is a poor trade-off for living your life in full digital view.
With almost every teenager having their own social media pages, they are unwittingly committing their every teenage mistake, angst and relationship to Cyberspace for all time. Young, naive human beings striking duck-face poses, writing their every little thought as a status update, and using their social profiles with such abandon will surely find that as adults they are filled with regret for what they put out there.
Teenage years are a time when you do make your mistakes, learn hard lessons, discover who you are and what you want to be (or at least you think you do!), and these are very private and personal rites of passage that at some point in your adulthood you want to forget or leave behind. This generation will never be able to escape the experience, and some will certainly be tarnished by it.
I am sure glad that I didn't live my teenage years out so publically, and I will fight tooth and nail to ensure my children don't either when the time comes.
First appeared in The Cyprus Weekly, 20/03/15
It was my son's birthday last week, and he wanted a desk from his nouna. A simple enough request, but as always, I found that when I have something specific in mind, I can never find it in Cyprus!
Of course, there are many shops that sell children's desks, but sadly, the nice ones are all designer and overinflated in price. Then you have the other end of the scale – cheap MDF - which is again sold out here for far more than it is worth. Eventually, a plea on Facebook was responded to by a nice lady who lives 10 minutes away from me, and was selling her children's old desk. It fit the bill, and the task was completed!
But this is something that frustrates me no-end about living in Cyprus. I can never find what I want, so I most often end up buying it online. This upsets me to some degree as I do really, really want to support local businesses, but when a) you cannot find the item, or b) it is double or triple the price you can get it for online, then supporting my town goes out of the window in favour of getting what I want at a reasonable price – and I feel bad about that. But my pocket is not unlimited and even if it were, why should I pay more just because we have an issue of chronic overcharging out here? I always tell people 'vote with your feet', and that is what I do; I give my custom to those who provide goods or services to a good standard and at a reasonable price, which is why you do not see me sitting at trendy cafes drinking beverages that cost more than they do in London!
Granted, it is so much better than it used to be… I remember the days when a trip to Nicosia was the only way to get most things as Larnaca was lagging so far behind – especially in franchises. At that time, there was little choice even in the capital, so it was either the limited number of things at overinflated prices, or not at all! And those who have lived here a long time can surely relate to the era where anything that came from Greece or Italy – however cheap in its respective country – would be marked up ten-fold and lapped up by consumers just because it was 'made in Greece' (or Italy!). Those were the days when consumers too shared the blame as there was an air of snobbery and a desire to pay more to be able to boast that what you had was expensive or designer, and businesses were happy to oblige. Oh how the mighty have fallen since then.
Thankfully, things have changed. Larnaca has caught up and - with the exception of a handful of franchises and restaurants - we have just as much as Nicosia and Limassol have, even if we do not have a mall. And variety has also entered our market; variety in goods and the welcome addition of variety in prices. There are reasonable shops, there are budget stores and cut-price outlets, and there are much better sales than there previously were. Add to this the big surge in second-hand goods being sold in bricks-and-mortar shops and on Facebook groups for both Larnaca and the island as a whole, and theoretically, you should be able to pretty much find everything. But still, I struggle to find 'the right thing' a lot of the time. I don't know if it is just me and I have very specific/fussy tastes, or if we tend to have a lot of variety and an over-saturated market for some things and a lack of certain others.
But there are still businesses – who despite the crisis and a drop in customers – that will not get off their high (pricing) horse. And this is one of the reasons that I think I will probably be buying online for a while yet.
First appeared in 'The Cyprus Weekly', 13/03/15
First appeared in 'The Cyprus Weekly', 13/03/15