Once, during my introductory trip to Famagusta, I was lucky to meet a very interesting and charming lady, a teacher, who loves art, takes pleasure in teaching young generation, and is a deep thinker.
Meet Mrs Özgür, an architect and a business woman.
I am a Turkish Cypriot. I was born in Nicosia in 1967 and has been living here my whole life.
Being an architect, I currently teach at the Eastern Mediterranean University in the Department of Interior Architecture. I also run and own the Miro Designroom store where we sell design objects, consult our clients and provide them with technical support.
I do not remember my early childhood. Safe to say, it was darkened by well-known tragic events of 1974.
I was only 7 at the time, and I remember the «feeling of war» and all the grief it brought to our family. My aunt had to see her son die... this will remain in my memory forever.
In the following years, when I was an elementary school student, I remember dreaming to become a teacher and work there. In several years, my goal was to become an artist and a writer. Nevertheless, when I took a test evaluating my skills, it turned out that I am as good in math and physics as I am in literature and arts. In 1983-84, a lot of my friends were applying for scholarships in the US.
My parents wanted me to study computer engineering or architecture. But when in 1983 the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was formed, our family was in a difficult position and I made a decision to leave the island. As young and naïve as I was, I believed that I can get a scholarship at the German Democratic Republic and study cinematography there.
But can you imagine how shocked we were when the ambassador of Czechoslovakia, who visited my father and reviewed my academic results, offered me a scholarship in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic! So I prepared for my entry «talent exam» (at the time, it was one of the requirements to study at the Czech Technical University in Prague), and passed it successfully. This is how architecture became my life-long challenge.
You are asking what do I love the most about my profession? I like being able to focus on working with students.
I love searching and finding new ways to help my students grow, feel more confident and creative, while learning the basics of their future profession.
I am confident saying that working in Cyprus is rewarding: as a professional, I constantly feel respect and gratitude from the people I work with.
When I have some time to myself, I like to spend it reading, and making art at the Nicholas Panagia studio. I also try to practice yoga.
Cyprus means a lot to me. This is my homeland, the place on Earth where I grew up... and more. Our island and its divided state are what teaches me how to overcome estrangement.
I think that Cyprus today is unique space where the seeds of future reunion can be planted. This is not easy. First of all, we need to standardize our terms: I live — I want to live. Secondly, here we are speaking about the alignment of our demands as a society and as a person.
Yes, it is not always possible to be united. But this desire pushes us to learn how to view things differently and how to approach the problem of geographical, identificational, and social division.
Our island and the historical moment we are at today is teaching us to overcome the «submarine syndrome». Each time I hear a popular opinion that sounds like «Cyprus' destiny is in the hands of the outer factors and powers», I want to keep developing. Opinions like this are a trap that makes you forget that you have the power to change your own life and destiny.
A wonderful teacher that shows how to accept and how to create new opportunities and perspectives is what Cyprus is for me.
If you ask me, to «be a Cypriot», or to «become a Cypriot» is not easy, as well as, for example, to become a Canadian. But the first is the worst! (laughing). But, seriously, any transformation is a slow and painful process. The main trick is to accept the «pain» and be ready to take step after step.
My favourite thing in Cyprus is our sea...the blue, the sun, and the fresh air!
When I want to have some rest, I prefer walking with friends, ideally — along the shore. I like talking to friends, enjoying good food and coffee, and feeling cosy (like when you sit next to a fireplace). Also, I like relaxation: I tend to forget about the time while reading, painting, or listening to music.
Literature has a special place in my heart: I love novels, and sometimes read something like Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. But I don't have a permanent favourite author. I love books by Milan Kundera, once I fell in love with works written by Bohumil Hrabal, or a piece by Elif Şafak. At the moment, my favourite writer is Oya Baydar. I think she is amazing and dream of meeting her one day and learning to write as well as she does.
By the way, I also do some writing: essays, memoirs — all this goes to local newspapers. Aydın Mehmet Ali helped to me to translate one of my works in English, and I hope to see it published in an anthology.
To say the truth, I would love to have more time that I could dedicate to writing, but, unfortunately, it is not likely that I will have some anytime soon (smiling).
Sometimes I practise meditations with my instructor. I'd love to learn more about mindfulness meditation, but I have not met a person who could teach me in Nicosia yet.
Who and what inspires me? First of all, people who make the TED Talk show. I love listening to the stories told by people who have achieved a lot in what they are doing and are willing to share their knowledge and experience: they are the once who really inspire me!
Also — nature! I love trees, sea, the sky...and the earth. All these infinite layers of nature hiding something important inside.
My other passion is children's books: I love how they are full of colours, and fantastic stories. When a child shares stories from books with other kids, it not only creates a bond between them but also helps parents understand their children better. This communication through reading is, for me, a small gate that leads to a special time and space when you and your child are together. Many exciting inventions in the future will be based on these moments.
Speaking of travels, I do not think that I am a great traveller. Although, Scandinavia and especially Denmark with its «hugge» lifestyle attract me a lot.
As you already know, I had lived in the Czech Republic for a long time (from 1984 until 1996): Central Europe with its traditions and culture has always been charming me with all the little features that are changing in my perception while I grow and learn to approach life and other people differently.
My message to the readers and those who are going to visit Cyprus for the first time? It is so easy to get used to something good, or to better conditions.
For example, I recommend everybody visiting the Karpasia peninsula (Karpaz in Turkish) — I love it so much. Wild nature and a certain element of mystery there make me feel so good, that every time when I go back to the city I keep asking myself: why am I going back there at all?
I also adore Troodos: its huge trees and exceptionally wise people who live up there. In Troodos, you can find hidden valleys, ancient bridges across rivers and mountain streams...Even in the middle of the hottest summer, you will be able to find the clearest drinking water here!
Due to the geographical location of our island, the climate here is so convenient for many people that in the very first days here they feel literally wrapped into the traditional hospitality and kindness of local people.
Every guest is certain to feel it here!
To those who permanently live on the island, I would like to remind to take good care of our natural resources and be grateful for so many things we take for granted here, instead of complaining about things that are not so great.