The last time I wrote, I was looking back on my (extremely brief and disastrous) stint as an erasmus student. I mentioned that I was lucky enough to have my sister with me, and that having her there stopped me from losing the plot altogether. Having her there, as it turns out, also gave me something else – a completely different version of events

You see, my memory of that week is incredibly hazy. Beyond the general sense of turmoil/guilt/failure/shame, I actually have very little detail. T* (my sister) kindly filled in a few blanks for me, and when I didn’t remember ANY of the events she mentioned, she filled in a few more. Here are some of them:

  • My college should have either provided an intensive language course for me prior to landing in Cyprus, or ensure I was placed on an English speaking programme. Neither happened.
  • When we arrived at the apartment I was to be staying in, there was a squatter living there
  • Said apartment was right on the Green Line, a UN contolled no-man’s land that cuts right across the island
  • When we met the head of the archaeology department and I voiced my concerns about staying, he told me outright that if I left, I would be a disappointment to my own University, the Cypriot University, and my family (T took control at that point and frog marched me out of the place).
Ok, so those are the bad bits. But, there were also some good parts that have equally escaped my memory:
  • The head of department had a very lovely daughter who didn’t see eye to eye with her Dad, and had overheard the whole conversation.  She took pity on us and pretty much adopted us for the rest of the week. She showed us around the campus, around the city, introduced us to her friends and generally made life a little more bearable
This looks pretty memorable, right? It’s slap bang in the middle of Nicosia, I must have seen it.
  • At the time, a good friend** of my Dad’s was working for the UN, and he in turn put us in contact with a friend of his who was based there. This wonderful man picked us up from the University and took us under his wing. I do vaguely remember having dinner with him, but nothing beyond that. According to T, he talked through the whole sorry situation with me, was really understanding, and helped me reach the decision to come home. He also took his only day off that month to bring us on a drive around Cyprus, as he wanted me to have some good memories of the place (oh the irony). We went to the beach, into the mountains, to Ayia Napa and then back to Nicosia. 
  • When I eventually told the head of department that I’d made up my mind to go home, he pretty much told me to close the door on my way out.
I cannot begin to describe how unbelievably surreal it was to hear all of this detail, and remember virtually none of it. T’s initial mail gave me an overview, and that was strange enough, but when I realised the extent of what’s missing…………how can I actually not remember these things?? And believe me, in the days that have passed since finding out all of this detail, I really have tried. A couple of tiny, inconsequential fragments have come back…….I have a really vague recollection of sitting in a very large, shiny, mostly white marble room which apparently was at the head’s house, but I’ve no memory of him, or the (presumably multiple) conversations, or his lovely daughter. I remember that my apartment was dirty when we got there, but I don’t remember anyone being there. Being taken on a tour of Nicosia? Nope. Driving around Cyprus with a UN officer? First sighting of the Mediterranean? Life changing conversations? Nada. How is this even possible?

I don’t know if this is part of what I’ve got, or whether I was in such a state of anxiety that I was operating on autopilot and there was no energy left for holding on to memories. It scares me, because it makes me wonder what else I’ve forgotten. I already know I have very little memory of school, primary or secondary. I don’t remember things that should be milestones. I don’t even remember my first day at college. Why is that??? Will I ever get those memories back? They have to be in my head somewhere but I’m fecked if I know where.

I’m seeing Therapist tomorrow. For once, I know what I’ll be talking about.

*Love you T xx

**Dad’s wonderful friend, if you’re reading this, thank you. If you’re still in contact with your UN buddy, please thank him for me. He clearly played a huge part in both looking after me that week, and getting me home in one piece. Way, way, way above and beyond, I’m just so sorry that I can’t remember. Extra rations all round 😉

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