Checking In: Early November

It's time for a little bit of melancholy.

Cyprus is a weird place in a lot of ways. The one that gets me the most, is the massive discrepancy between temperatures and sunlight hours. The days are warm, 26 degrees C (79°F), and the nights are moderate, but it's dark at five, sunset being at a quarter til.

It's not winter, yet, but the city does its best to make it look a lot like it. Christmas decorations are going up all over the streets, Alpha Mega, our local Walmart-lookalike sells plastic trees, and bakeries are offering the first semblance of holiday cheer diabetes.


I feel strange about this. My favorite poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, wrote in 1911 about this time:

Whoever is alone now will remain so for a long time, will stay up, read, write long letters, and wander the avenues, up and down, restlessly, while the leaves are blowing.

it sounds better in German:

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr. Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben, wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben und wird in den Alleen hin und her unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben.

“Strange,” because I do have it all in a weird way. I make friends quickly, and so the barber next door has become one, a place to sit and drink coffee, chat about politics and girls, wax poetically about the days we were younger and had the time and energy to catch a wave or six at the beach.

I've become fast friends with my grocery lady, too. Her house stands open, she teaches me Greek and cooks dinner when money is tight (as it always is). I don't want to get on her nerves, so I barely pop in, but whenever I do she seems to know that I'll be coming and has coffee ready and a pack of smokes to tempt me to go back to them.

But back home, the US or Germany, this used to be a different time. One where new friends had to wait and old friendships were being reaffirmed after a summer of flings and experiences. Where, over Cola Tea (yes, it's a thing and it tastes freaking great), we'd sit together and rehash the year. As the evening moved on, we'd switch to the fall wines, maybe a glass of good rum or whiskey, and the laughter would get a little louder, the jokes a little shallower. We'd laugh against the cold, the time to come, and as a way to tell each other we're still here.

This was the time of stories, many embellished, a few told from behind glassy eyes and with a slightly slurred intonation. This year, it isn't. And that's weird.

We'd cook and bake. This year I am in a room, unfit to host, and even less fit to cook and bake in. My oven is broken, too, but that's neither here nor there. So it gets dark outside, I brew some tea, eat dinner alone, and read BioStatistics or the New England Journal of Medicine.

That, too, I miss. I've always striven to have a healthy mix of medical and non-medical, cop- and non-cop, friends. That helped, it kept me grounded. Now, paradoxically enough as I attend a medical program in a university, few people around me give a shit about healthcare and medicine. My love, the reason I am here, medical education and medical didactics, falls behind. As do the stories. There aren't many who will laugh about yet another “and then the central line went all the way through the room...” story, no one to discuss the relative usefulness of a reverse algorithm in ACLS, and no one to do Dr. House or “guess the STEMI” drinking games with.

So I sit and read NEJM, play on Figure 1, watch House MD by myself, and dream of the days when I didn't feel like an abject failure in the face of 50 multiple choice questions about protein synthesis.

Now, this might sound more depressive than it actually is. I love it here. The island is amazing, its people friendly and welcoming, the weather is a bonus, and walking 8 miles (ca. 13 km) combined to and from school truly helps with loosing weight. Not only that, making new friends is always amazing. But as much as I love jumping into new things, I am a creature of habit. And would much rather be curled up in front of the TV right now, watching a medical drama, doing shots every time someone gets something basic wrong, while the fall wind drives leaves across the yard outside the window.