NDCP 2017 by Katerina Antoniades
Anyone who has ever been on the NDCP program will tell you that it changed their life, but let me tell you how it impacted mine. Any expectations I had were exceeded and overlapped by all the amazing memories and moments that were shared.
You walk into the common room and it is so daunting; seeing so many people, hearing a variety of different accents and all you want to do is sign up for your keys and run to your room. WRONG. What actually happens is;
You meet your best friend, your crush, your future bridesmaids/groomsmen and your lifelong partners in crime. Within the following three weeks, you are running into each other’s rooms singing the words to the songs playing on your neighbour’s speakers while getting ready for class 5 minutes before you are about to leave. You’re having conversations with the person in the shower next to yours and you’re buying each other Mr Brown’s coffee from the vending machine while you share each other’s halloumi for breakfast. That, is when you know you are on an unbreakable level of friendship.
NDCP taught me so much; about my Cypriot heritage, my family and myself. Our language classes were filled with rich and unimaginable humour. Our culture classes opened our eyes and minds to what beauty lay behind Cyprus’ raw exterior and heavy past. We found ourselves preparing for our final examination during lunch and dinners, simply by speaking about all that we had learned. All of us, from different countries, felt a stronger, underlying bond and connection just because of our shared love for our culture and heritage.
NDCP changes the way the small island is seen; for the locals and the foreigners. You are so accustomed to it being the island where your ‘yiayia’ and ‘papou’ are from, but it holds so much more significance in your heart once you are truly exposed to the wonders of the scenic villages, the beautiful ruins of amphitheatres and ancient castles, the blue waters of Petra tou Romiou and the breath-taking views that hold Kykkos in a gentle cradle of greenery and mountains.
Nights out with the ‘parea’ became routine group hangouts; and soon, breakfasts include Greek music blaring from speakers and everyone eating together. Dinners are held in mass gatherings where everyone shares their food and friendship, and 20 minute trips to the ‘periptero’ or supermarket become social dates in themselves.
For me, NDCP made me feel more at home in the Greek and Cypriot community even all the way back in South Africa. I have always been proud of my heritage, my language and my family’s history. I love our traditions and background, but had always been shy to get involved with my local community. This is why I can truly say that NDCP really gave me a ‘home’ in my soul and in Cyprus. The friendships, bonds and memories you make will be with you for years after you leave. And even once you have left, you never say ‘goodbye’ because you will all see each other again. You will be making plans to visit one another in your own countries, for reunions, as well as coming back to Cyprus to crash future NDCP’s and some of you will even be getting married to someone you met on the trip (trust me, it’s happened).
So, future NDCP applicants; open your hearts, minds and lives, and be prepared for this unbelievable experience. Don’t sleep some nights just so you can watch the sunrise while singing the theme song to ‘Friends’ with your new lifelong ‘parea’, don’t miss class because you ‘didn’t get enough sleep’, run around asking someone to order you a souvlaki at 11pm and play table tennis while your other friends are dancing a ‘zembekiko’. DO IT. Do everything on the trip that makes you feel alive and proud. You WILL sing the Greek national anthem on the bus to Ammos. You WILL swim at Petra tou Romiou.
You WILL be obsessed with everything that is ‘triantafilo’ flavoured or that is served with pita bread. You WILL take part in dramatized plays that your culture teacher improvises and the class WILL laugh and sing in your honour. Go on adventures and encourage your friends to speak Greek, even if it’s just a ‘bravo’ or ‘entaxi’ because all the locals will be asking you, “apo pou eisai?” Dance every chance you get and take part in every activity, even if it is just walking to the ‘periptero’ together. I also guarantee you that if you don’t take part in the bus ride sing-alongs, you will never discover your true karaoke calling in life.
Thank you, to NDCP and Nepomak, to our amazing advisors, Odysseas Tsitsoglou (who always reminded us about the ever famous Guaba), Mariyana Charalambous (who played the best music in the morning when she woke us up), Poly Poliviou (for being one of the most avid ‘tavli’ players), and everyone who shared this 2017 trip, for making my July holiday so memorable. I will cherish each and every one of you and always hold so much love for you in my heart, because all of you have created your own space in my life.
Good luck, to the future applicants and “see you soon” to all the past members. I’m sure I will be seeing you all again someday. All our spirits and paths will cross in the future, because nothing this precious will ever fade.
So, I won’t be saying “goodbye”, but rather “see you soon” and you will respond with ‘bravo’ or ‘entaxi’.
Much love and prosperous wishes to my new family.
And to clarify the common saying, NDCP didn’t change my life, it made mine.