by Sanjena Sathian
For a small island, Cyprus is a bustling place. And for nine 18-21 year olds, I can’t help but be proud of our busy social and professional calendars in the mere 48 hours we’ve spent here so far.
So, you’re thinking about Cyprus. White sand beaches, rich Brits vacationing, lots of nightclubs? Right? Wrong. None of the above. While that version of Cyprus certainly exists, the version we’re seeing, in the capital, far away from the water seems to be a place full of a busy intellectual society, encompassing diplomats and NGO personnel and writers and filmmakers, and what’s coolest is that everyone just seems to know each other. And they want us to know everyone too. We’re like the shiny new toy, and we keep getting passed around between organizations who all want us to hear about the exciting progressive work that they’re doing in collaboration with thirty other groups… and it goes on. It’s exciting to penetrate a society so quickly and feel so immediately welcomed, and reaching into networks to understand a new place is exactly what a Glo trip — and journalism, more generally — is about.
We’ve been to meetings all over the place already: the UN buffer zone, which is a neutral zone that delineates between the illegal, unrecognized TRNC in the north and the internationally recognized EU member, the Republic of Cyprus in the south. We’ve discovered a vibrant civil society – it seems there are almost more NGOs than other organizations – and a group of people very concerned about journalism and each side’s contentious media portrayals of the other side.
Being here is fascinating – we have so little time but we’re filling it with discussion after discussion of trying to puzzle out one of the most complicated political and social situations most of us have come into close contact with, ever. Still, though we’ve begun traversing the social network of the intellectuals, activists and diplomats, it’s important to remember as reporters that the people we’re immediately exposed to and most comfortable with – this community of people who keep identifying themselves as “different” from the rest of the population of Cyprus – are not the only ones who we can speak to.
PS. Apologies for the lack of pictures: we’ve spent about 80% of our time in the UN buffer zone, where photography is forbidden.