Dons's Diary

January 17, 1997

Monday

Lazy Cypriot winter's morning: relaxing in my over-grown garden. Weather is mild and clear. I finish reading Dervish, the Making of Modern Turkey by journalist Tim Kelsey. Very enjoyable, if at times controversial. He wants a return to the Ottoman millet system whereby national communities have autonomy from the state. He does not realise that this system was used by western imperialist powers to carve up the Ottoman empire. Lecturing for two hours in the afternoon. Show one group of second-year students the first part of the film Zulu. I don't think they enjoy it. Did they catch the point about colonialism? Administrative duties thereafter. Being a relatively new head of department here is intensely different. For example, this afternoon I discussed, as a matter of urgency, the price of pink grapefruits produced hereabouts with a member of my staff who grows them. In the evening I join my Turkish Cypriot friends for a drink. Phone call from a colleague in England. His university is in serious financial trouble. Where have I heard that before!

Tuesday

Miss the university bus. Catch a lift to uni (a ten-minute drive along a winding burnished road lined by steely-grey olive trees) in a taxi with two noisy architecture students. Morning teaching goes well (international conflict). Have lunch in the university cafe for the first time - doner kebab - very good. Sun is shining. Back in my office I am paid a visit by a stocky third-year Turkish student. Worried about his overall marks, he asks me, with piercing jet-black eyes: "What makes a successful university student?" Of course the answer depends, I inform him, on what is meant by successful. Fortunately the answer to this aspect of the question is rather straightforward. A successful student is one who achieves high grades. Looking at the wider picture, the academic success of a student depends above all else on the balance achieved in student life. He looks at me intensely. Work hard on your studies, I tell him, but also relax and enjoy yourself. Student seems satisfied with this answer. Good. Am I right?

Wednesday

Morning spent teaching. Chalk-and-talk. Exhausted. Decide that I must curb my strong London accent. Academic council meeting in the afternoon. Good, productive meeting. Discussion moves to general talk of where the university is going. Usual points about top-down planning to meet the requirements of the internal market. Meeting finishes at 5pm. Retire tired with two colleagues to the seminar room (pub) where we meet a tired ex-patriate vice-rector. Climb into bed at 11pm. Go straight to sleep, but not without realising that I'd forgotten my appointment at the dentist. Woken at 11.45pm. Is someone rattling my windows? Wait a minute, my bed has moved. Too tired to do anything about it.

Thursday

An uneventful day. My desk now resembles a small volcano - papers piled high. Is there order in this chaos? Spend the afternoon chasing students for various reasons. Finish work at 5pm and retire to Mehmet Bey's run-down cafe where I enter into a discussion with him about developments in Northern Cyprus. Discussion is unsuccessful. Not surprising really since his English is not very good and my Turkish is almost non-existent. But I do learn that a small earthquake occurred the previous night.

Friday

Visit from representative of British Council. Bad news. They will not distribute my recently published book of Cypriot short stories in the Greek Cypriot South because of the Northern Cypriot flag on the back of the book (only Turkey recognises the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus). I'm asked why I put the flag on the back cover. As a writer, I inform him, I simply observe these flags that are all over the place. Why not? Finally get through to the Polish Embassy in Ankara. Looks like our plan for a trip to Poland in early March for the international relations students will not in fact get off the ground (too expensive). Dean and I then appoint a new teaching assistant (unpaid). In the afternoon I finally make it to the dentist. Back in my garden it is surprisingly warm. The neighbour's chickens are around my feet. Siesta after a large lunch. Research on my book into the late evening, then to bed. Dream I am the new rector of Lefke European University.

The heavy night rain wakes me. Smoke a cigarette. Re-read a ballad composed by a first-year Turkish Cypriot student who sings in the university pop band. She gave it to me last week as we discussed the blood-soaked history of this island and its many conquerors - Byzantine, Richard Coeur De Lion, Lusignan, Venetian, Turkish and British. The ballad, specifically addressing Greek Cypriots on the need for a solution to the Cyprus problem (a country divided since 1974), concludes with the following verse: "Too busy, thinking about yourself/if we don't use the time before us/the future will ignore us/could be better, should be better, will be better/I want to hold your hand, a lesson in peace/I love you."

Leonard A. Stone Head of the department of international relations, Lefke European University, Northern Cyprus.

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