Out and about: an email from Northern Cyprus

Out and about is a column where we chat with people who currently live abroad, or who used to live and work abroad. This week we chat with Riaan Haasbroek who is a teacher in Northern Cyprus.

Hello Riaan, it is very nice to chat to you. Where do you live?

I live and work as a teacher in Northern Cyprus, which is the Turkish side of the beautiful Cyprus island.  

What was the biggest adjustment?

To work as a teacher with children who are not fluent in English. We have children of 40 different nationalities in our school and many of them (especially the many Russians and Ukrainians who have fled from the war) are not able to speak English. Communication with the rest of the country’s Turkish speaking citizens is not always easy either, but I have managed to learn a lot of words, and elaborate waving hand gestures also help a lot. 

What do you do when you are missing South Africa and its people?

Luckily, I live and work with an Afrikaans friend of mine, so we invite our international friends over for a braai with lamb chops, “braaibroodjies” and pap. We then move all the furniture out of the house and teach the English and the Cypriots how to “sokkie” to nice Afrikaans music while looking out over the sea. A cup of rooibos tea every night before bedtime and Zoom quiz nights, our cell group, and chats with family and friends back home also help.

What is your favourite food in your current country?

The Turkish are crazy about food, so they host these evenings called Meyhanes. You then eat different types of traditional meze dishes that are placed in front of you over a period of five hours. Just when you think you are finished, the waiter arrives with another dish. There is usually a local band that plays traditional music, we will eat and dance and eat and sing and eat once more. The food is amazing and these evenings are fantastic.

Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to emigrate?

My first advice would be, DON’T. South Africa, with all its good and bad, is still the best place to live in. BUT, if someone wants to emigrate, this would be my advice: Never leave South Africa if you are trying to get away from something – rather go because you are pursuing opportunities abroad that come your way. Don’t go because you are trying to flee from something, but rather move on to something better and ALWAYS keep your options open to go back to South Africa.

What is your favourite word in Afrikaans?

I am crazy about the word “koddig”. I’m not even sure the word really exists in Afrikaans, but I use it in several contexts. If something is cute, funny, strange, or interesting. I also like the descriptive word “spookasem” (the Afrikaans word for candy floss). It ABSOLUTELY describes how it looks. 

What is your favourite thing to do in Northern Cyprus?

I put on my swimwear and flip-flops, grab my earphones and a ball, and visit one of the hundreds of beaches with my friends. The days here are cloudless for at least 300 days a year.

Is there a South African shop close to you?

No, there isn’t, but every time someone comes to visit from South Africa, they bring loads of rooibos tea, biltong, dry wors, pap, Diemersfontein Pinotage and other South African products with them.

What would you prefer to get in a parcel: biltong or milk tart?

My brother-in-law Kobus’ Wagyu-biltong is the best snack in the world! So yes, his biltong with any bottle of Pinotage wine.

ALSO READ: Out and about: back on home soil

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