Madeline Blount
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Completing the Circle

March 26, 2009 @ 4:41 PM | Permalink

Living on the cusp of a militarized zone can really bring to light the little things I have taken for granted living, say, anywhere else.  The importance of the freedom of mobility has been on my mind lately.  The people of Nicosia could not cross from one side of their main commercial street to the other until just one year ago -- and the border guards that make you flash a passport are enough for some people still to avoid crossing the checkpoint.  The many immigrants here seeking asylum are not allowed to cross, for example, because they do not yet have valid passports.  The simplest action, putting one foot in front of the other, can be subtly or not-so-subtly controlled, manipulated, intimidated.

So today I did an experiment: can I walk around the outside of the walls of Nicosia?  Can I complete the circle and see the city as a unified whole, even if I can't walk through the middle of it?

Sticking to the walls for this journey proved difficult.  A building was in the way, a UN buffer zone tower, once even a clay court tennis match.  The walk also took me through some of the oldest neighborhoods of this village of a city: the poverty and old worldness increase greatly in the North, on the Turkish side.  Here I bought a street food donut for 50 cents, and ran into a gaggle of kids who wanted to have their picture taken a hundred times, telling me their names (Ahmet! Johnny!) as they fought for a space in my lens:

This contrasts greatly with the South, the Greek side of the city, where I have never seen children playing in the streets.  The South is considerably wealthier.  The Greek kids live in the suburbs, until they grow cool enough to come smoke some hookah (nargileh) in a cafe in the old city.  

Some people describe the North as existing in a different time.  Others muse on the fact that the country does not exist at all, technically, as only Turkey recognizes the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus as a sovereign nation.  Only in Cyprus can you take a walk out of Europe into a country that does not exist . . . 

And I found sadly that I could not complete my circle.  I walked all the way around, seeing past the Turkish militarized zone into the area where I started, but I could not cross over to end where I began.  Ostensibly it is the UN buffer zone, the guards, the barbed wire that stop me, but really it is myself; there is always the individual choice, the risk of crossing and being shot for no reason other than completing this city’s circle, on my own terms.  My freedom of mobility.  And people have died for less, I think.

When I left those kids by the walls, turning around to walk all the way back, I realize they live and play where they are used to these restrictions. For some reason I think of Queen: 

I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike

I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride it where I like.



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Loved the ending on this. Related: I find that sometimes I remember a meeting or moment but can't recall what country it happened in. I also find that if I ...

Saleem Reshamwala on Upon Waking, and Placelessness 2009-03-23

Thanks Saleem -- I've also experienced that tonguetied delirium from speaking multiple languages in the same conversation. . . interesting to think of meaning separate from words, does meaning require ...

Madeline Blount on Upon Waking, and Placelessness 2009-03-26

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