Adult Appropriate ESL Archives

ESL Activities for Spring – ESL Lesson Plan
Spring Vocabulary and Reading

Spring ESL reading:

My favourite season is spring. I like spring because everything is new and fresh. I love to hear the birds singing, the new flowers blossoming, and the leaves on the trees budding.

Where I live, it rains a lot in the spring. I like to wear my rain boots and rain coat and splash in the puddles outside when it is raining.

We have a saying which goes, “April showers bring May flowers”. Mayflowers are pretty little flowers which smell very sweet. I like to pick mayflowers in the spring and give them to my grandmother, she loves them!

Spring ESL Vocabulary:

  • Spring – the season which is after winter and before summer
  • Mayflower – a small and pretty flower which grows in the spring
  • Daisy (daisies) – these are also small and well known flowers which represent spring
  • Blossom (blossoming) – when flowers begin to grow and the pretty leaves show, it is called blossoming. In other words, when flowers grow up fully and become pretty, they have blossomed. Perhaps you heard of cherry blossoms, or apple blossoms.
  • Bud – this is similar to blossom, but leaves (not flowers) bud. In the spring, the leaves on the trees start as little buds and become large green leaves.

Questions:

  • What is your favourite season? (why?)
  • What are other symbols of spring?
  • Does it rain in the spring where you come from?
  • Are there any springtime festivals in your home country / city?

The Present Tenses

Match the name of the tense with the definition and the example sentence. Two definitions are for one tense.

Name of Tense Definition Example Sentence
 

  • Present Perfect

 

  • Present Continuous

 

  • Present Simple
 

  • Actions happening at this moment
  • Actions that are true all the time
  • Actions that have just happened
  • Actions that happen often

 

 

  • I have finished the activity.

 

  • I love to walk in the rain.

 

  • I am writing to my grandmother.

Look at the following sentences and complete them with the correct verb form using the verb in brackets ( ).

Example: My sister usually ((call) every weekend.

My sister usually calls every weekend.

  • Jan can come to the phone now, he is (sleep).
  • Every day I (walk) to school.
  • It usually (rain) a lot in my country in spring.
  • My grandmother(love) spring flowers.

 Spring Vocabulary and Spelling

Unscramble the letters to make words from the text about spring.

mlssoob – aelves – nssoae – dpduels – gindudb

Homophones are words that are spelled differently but are pronounced the same. Match the homophones below, be careful! Some are not homophones!

Where

Hear

Sweet

Live

New

Which

Spring

Flower

boot

Flour

Leave

Sweat

Witch

Boat

Sing

Here

Wear

knew

 

Speaking Practice

Spring – Summer – Autumn – Winter

What is the weather like in the seasons above? Talk about seasons with your partner. Discuss:

  • The weather
  • Is it cold, hot or warm?
  • Describe what trees and plants
  • What colours do you connect with these seasons

Writing Practice

Write about your favourite season. Describe:

  • The weather
  • The plants and trees at this time
  • Why you like it
  • What you like to do at this time of year.

Research

Some countries have four seasons, but some countries have three or two. Research using the internet to find countries that have three or two seasons. Research countries that have seasons but with different names eg. ‘rainy season’.

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ESL Activities for April Fool’s Day – April Fool’s Day ESL Lesson

April Fool’s Day

Pre-Reading Task

Discuss these questions in groups

  • Have you heard of April Fool’s Day?
  • What is a fool?
  • What do you think the day is about?

Pre-Reading Vocabulary

Match each word or phrase to the correct definition. There is a choice of two for each word.

 

Hoax

 

  • An idea or activity tintended to deceive

 

  • An idea or activity intended to entertain
 

Non-official

 

  • No celebrated

 

  • Not recognized by an authority
 

Practical joke

 

  • A physical joke

 

  • A joke played on a person to laugh at them
Misunderstand
  • Confuse

 

  • Mistake
Edict

 

  • A law

 

  • A piece of text
Mass media

 

  • Media like newspapers and TV that reach many people

 

  • Media like newspapers and TV that are big corporations
Unsuspecting
  • Someone doesn’t realize what is happening

 

  • Someone doesn’t care what is happening

April Fools’ Day, celebrated every 1 st of April is a non-official but widely popular holiday celebrated in many countries where people can play friendly practical jokes on one another or set up elaborate tricks and hoaxes. April Fools’ Day is widely celebrated in Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and most of Europe.

The first recorded mention of April Fools’ Day can be found in the 1392 classic The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer when readers misunderstood his line ‘thirty-two days after March’ which meant may 2 and interpreted it as ‘March 32’ or April 1. The most popular origin of the holiday goes back to the middle ages when New Year’s Day was celebrated on April 1. The Edict of Roussillon changed the New Year’s Day celebration to January 1 but many still associated April 1 with the New Year. Those who complied with the edict considered those who celebrated on April as April fools.

The day is lightheartedly celebrated by everyone and victims of practical jokes would laugh when they realize the date. Practical jokes, tricks and hoaxes are done by individuals, groups and even mass media. Fake, outlandish but sometimes convincing stories would be newscast on TV and published by newspapers and websites to an unsuspecting public who are often amused when they realize the date.

Comprehension Check

Decide if the statements are true or false.

  • April Fool’s Day arose from a mistake in literature.
  • Is a holiday celebrated throughout the world.
  • The public always enjoy the fake news reports on this day.
  • April Fool’s Day was originally New Year’s Day.

Free Discussion

Tell your partner about a time when someone played a trick on you or you played a trick on someone else.

Phrasal Verbs

‘set up elaborate tricks and hoaxes’

Look at the phrase taken from the text above. It contains a phrasal verb, where is it?

Phrasal Verbs with ‘set’

Match the phrasal verb with the definition.

 

Set off

 

Set up

 

Set down

 

Set upon

 

To trap someone either in a joke or a crime

 

To start to attack

 

To identify rules or place something on a surface (common in the US)

 

To begin a journey

 

Fill in the gaps with the correct phrasal verb.

  • The gang _______ him in the alleyway
  • We _____ town before lunch.
  • Although Franco Varini was in prison for murder, he always claimed he had been ______.
  • I _____ the television on the table because it was so heavy.

Formal and Informal Language

What makes a text a formal or informal? Complete the table below.

Formal Informal
 

Use of the passive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Regular use of phrasal verbs

Text Focus

Look at the text above, is it formal or informal? Use the table above to help you and underline examples of what makes the text formal or informal.

Look at the type of texts below and decide whether they should be written formally informally.

  • A letter to your parents
  • A letter of complaint to a shop or service
  • A cover letter for a job
  • An article for a student newspaper
  • An email to your friend

Writing: A Letter of Complaint

Write a letter of complaint to the principal of your school about an April Fool’s trick that caused damage in the school.

Research

Google Orson Welles and the War of the Worlds.

What is this?

How is it connected with this lesson?

What made it such a successful hoax?

Advanced Easter Conversation Discussion Prompts

happy easterThese conversation prompts are perfect for an Easter themed discussion lesson. The questions are easily scaled to any level of speaker and they allow all to be involved, whether in small or large groups or presentation format. Happy Easter! 

 1) Do you celebrate Easter in your country?

2) How do you celebrate Easter in your country?

3) Do you have any special family traditions?

4) What do you do to celebrate it?

5) Do you consider it an important holiday? Why or why not?

6) Do you think it used to be more important than it is today? Why or why not?

7) What are the 40 days before Easter called?

What special activities or events happen in those 40 days?

Do you observe these 40 days?

8) What is the Sunday before Easter called?

What is it remembering?

9) What is the Friday before Easter called?

What is it remembering?

10) Do you think most people consider Easter time a religious celebration? Why or why not?

11) How do you think the Easter bunny and hiding colored eggs came to be part of the celebration of Easter?

12) Do you think it is wrong to associate religious holidays with other types of things, like Easter and the bunny? Christmas and Santa Claus?

 

Restaurant ESL

Taking your young adult ESL learners to a restaurant, or at least talking about restaurant culture, is an important step in acclimatizing them to life in a new country through a very “typical” English experience. As you probably know, restaurants are the perfect way to introduce a number of different subjects to your students:

• Food
• Table etiquette
• Manners
• Asking directions
• Common restaurant expressions

Exposing students to the above subjects is an important step in building confidence for life outside the home. Restaurant experiences are often spontaneous, so they require students to be ready and comfortable with the language.  James from Engvid provides several great teaching points you can incorporate into your classroom lesson or class trip to a restaurant. Here are some things he highlights:

• The differences between fast food, casual and fine dining
• Using “May I have…” or “Can I have…”
• The meaning of “Party of” or “Table of/for”
• What’s in a menu?
• What is a drink order?
• The differences between appetizers, main course, pls sides or substitutes, and dessert
• What is a “Special”
• Paying for the meal; cheques, bills, taxes and tips
Check it out below!

While “role plays” have their place in the classroom, there’s nothing better than experience to really cement something in a students mind. That’s why taking them out to a restaurant for the real thing is invaluable.

Go over the above points during one or two classes and get your students comfortable. Then take them out for a meal and coach them through the experience. They’ll be nervous and make mistakes, but with you there they’ll begin to build up their confidence.

Good luck and good teaching.

Question: What is your favourite kind of restaurant? (Leave a comment below):

Valentine’s Conversation Starters

  • What is Valentine’s Day?
  • What is the origin of Valentine’s Day? (Why do we celebrate Valentine’s Day?)
  • Is Valentine’s Day celebrated in your country?
  • How is Valentine’s Day celebrated in the United States?
  • How do children celebrate Valentine’s Day in school?
  • What do you usually do for Valentine’s Day?
  • What do you plan on doing this Valentine’s Day?
  • Do you make any special food for Valentine’s Day?
  • On Valentine’s Day, is it more common for men to give gifts to women or for women to give gifts to men?
  • What are common gifts that people give on Valentine’s Day?
  • What is your favorite Valentine’s Day memory?
  • What is your Valentine’s dream? If you could do anything or receive anything on Valentine’s Day, what would it be?
  • Do you know anyone that has become engaged or married on Valentine’s Day?
  • Would you want to get engaged or married on a holiday? Why or why not?
  • What is a “valentine”?
  • Have you ever gotten a valentine or love letter on Valentine’s Day?
  • What is Valentine’s Day like for singles? (What do single people do on Valentine’s Day?)
  • Do you think Valentine’s Day makes single people feel lonely?
  • Do you think Valentine’s Day is too commercial or consumerist?
  • What are common gifts that people give?
  • Do you know anyone that has gotten engaged or married on Valentine’s Day?

PDF File

Winter Conversation Starters

How does winter differ from other seasons?

What articles of clothing do people wear to help them stay warm during the winter?

What sports do people participate in during the winter?

Do you enjoy winter sports? If so, what’s your favorite?

What are some other popular winter activities?

What’s your favorite winter activity?

Which do you enjoy more, winter vacation or summer vacation? Why?

Do you like winter? Why or why not?

What’s your favorite season? Why?

Would you prefer to be in a snowstorm or a thunderstorm? Why?

What is your favorite winter holiday? Why?

Do you like snow? Why or why not?

PDF File

Winter Vocabulary

Read the poem and discuss new vocabulary.

 

Jack Frost (by Gabriel Setoun)

 

The door was shut, as doors should be,

Before you went to bed last night;

Yet Jack Frost has got in, you see,

And left your window silver white.

 

He must have waited till you slept;

And not a single word he spoke,

But pencilled o’er the panes and crept

Away again before you woke.

 

And now you cannot see the hills

Nor fields that stretch beyond the lane;

But there are fairer things than these

His fingers traced on every pane.

 

Rocks and castles towering high;

Hills and dales, and streams and fields;

And knights in armor riding by,

With nodding plumes and shining shields.

 

And here are little boats, and there

Big ships with sails spread to the breeze;

And yonder, palm trees waving fair

On islands set in silver seas,

 

And butterflies with gauzy wings;

And herds of cows and flocks of sheep;

And fruit and flowers and all the things

You see when you are sound asleep.

 

For, creeping softly underneath

The door when all the lights are out,

Jack Frost takes every breath you breathe,

And knows the things you think about.

 

He paints them on the window-pane

In fairy lines with frozen steam;

And when you wake you see again

The lovely things you saw in dream.

link to PDF

Saudi Arabia: Breaking the Curse of Black Gold.

Many years ago, the chairman of the First City Bank of Texas was visiting the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. The topic of discussion was economics. The chairman asked the crown prince where he would prefer to live: a large country with a temperate climate, pristine peninsulas, islands, lush vegetation and abundant natural resources or a small country with no natural resources, sparse vegetation and an inhospitable climate.

The crown prince said – ‘the first, of course.’ ‘Well,’ said the chairman, ‘then you would be living in Mexico not Singapore.’

The crown prince nodded sagely before muttering ‘people’.

Indeed – people or the stock of human capital, makes GDP per capita higher in Singapore than the oil-rich Saudi Arabia. And this was perhaps the final thought that Dr Mohamed A. Ramady, associate professor of finance & economics at King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals, wanted to leave with his audience in his first lecture presented on Saturday 21 st January in the main auditorium of Al Yamamah College, Riyadh.

Titled ‘The Saudi Arabian Economy: An Overview’, the two hour lecture touched on many issues including privatization, the financial markets, WTO membership and globalization, the Saudi Riyal, education & training and future challenges and opportunities.

The lecture also highlighted the significant contribution Saudi women make in investments in the Saudi economy: 35% of bank accounts, 20% of corporate shares, 15% of private companies, 10% of real estate and 62 billion in bank deposits – in spite of longstanding social, institutional and legal barriers.

Publicly, women are also playing a more important role in the Saudi economy. The small economic delegation that accompanied King Abdullah to China recently consisted of female Saudi economists. According to Dr. Ramady, political observers in the kingdom have interpreted images of the women, broadcast on the national Saudi channel 1, as a sign of the growing trend towards the political, economic and social enfranchisement of women in Saudi Arabia. Of course, any change would be done in accordance with Islamic principles.

While there is no sign of the nearly 2 million barrels per day output that makes Saudi Arabia the world’s oil warehouse abating, Dr Ramady was keen to point out how oil dependency was influencing the type of society Saudi Arabia has become.

Some of the challenges that face the Saudi economy today include: a mismatch between the needs of private industry and the education & training of graduates, the volatility of the Saudi share market and its impact on consumer confidence, the restrained implementation of the Saudization program, privatization which is paternalistic and limited to 30%, low direct foreign investment in Saudi Arabia and the Saudi Riyal and domestic monetary policy influenced by fluctuations in the US Dollar.

“So rich yet so poor” is a catch-cry often used to describe Saudi Arabia – rich in natural resources and yet poor in its capital stock of people. And people do make a difference. According to Dr. Ramady, per capita income in Saudi has not risen in the recent past and despite efforts to diversify the economy the country is still dependent on oil.

While the recent ascension of Saudi Arabia into the WTO has helped the government to focus on economic reforms to modernize the economy, Saudi Arabia is still regarded as a high-security risk by the international community. In fact, in a recent business environment rating Saudi Arabia was ranked 51 compared with the UAE at 13.

Wasta (nepotism) still has more currency in Saudi Arabia than professional or technical wherewithal. Most businesses are family oriented with a top-down, pyramid-shaped management hierarchy where capital raisings are internal, competition is with family members and accounts are largely unaudited. It was no surprise that the recent precipitous fall in the Saudi stock market index from 21,000 to 7,200 sparked suicides, disappearances and family disintegration.

Typically, a Saudi family business will have 3 sets of balance sheets: the Arthur Anderson accounts (largely meaningless), the tax department accounts (showing a loss, of course) and those accounts recorded by hand in ink stored in the family safe. According to Dr Ramady, what is needed for reform of the Saudi business sector is a larger public shareholder base, accountability and transparency – all of which would normally come with a public listing.

When Margaret Thatcher started selling off public assets in the 1970s she was using economics to achieve political goals. A middle class was created holding shares in public utilities and state assets. This made them stakeholders in the welfare of the country and it was hoped they would behave accordingly.

Similarly, an emerging Saudi middle class empowered with share capital in state assets and utilities would revolutionize Saudi business ethics and the prevailing two-tier class system of Saudi nationals and foreign national employees.

Presently, Dr Ramady noted, commercial transactions are driven by a win/lose mentality where, in a negotiation, it is expected that one party’s gain is the other party’s loss. This tribal model of business would change with the advent of widespread public share ownership amongst the middle class and the creation of wealth and its dividends from astute investment strategies and decisions.

With the increasing affluence and mobility of a middle class the rapid growth of small and medium-sized businesses will come. In the USA, this sector accounts for 80% of the economy. In Saudi Arabia, it is expected that with the introduction of international standards, transparency, competition and the employment of Saudi women (represented as 55% of the population) the small and medium business sector could become the powerhouse of the new economy.

The future of the Saudi economy depends on how effectively the country diversifies away from its oil addiction, how well it empowers regional economies in the kingdom through targeted budget allocations and to what extent it fosters regional self-determination through municipal elections.

The climate for change is favorable: Saudi Arabia has stability in the political continuity of its traditions and laws of succession amongst the royal family. Moreover, the recent ascension of Saudi Arabia into WTO membership accelerates the process of economic reform. However, Dr Ramady cautions, change must be consensual.

Towards the end of his presentation, Dr Ramady related a story about one of his students. Having lost 3 million Riyals in the recent Saudi stock market crash (the market was overvalued with some returns as high as 150%), the 19-year old was almost inconsolable. After giving the student the benefit of his experience in these matters, Dr Ramady reflected that without a crash another generation of young Saudis would have been lost to the curse of black gold.

Moving from inheriting wealth to creating it, in a knowledge-based economy, is the challenge of modern Saudi Arabia.

Harry Nicolaides

Cunning Linguists…

The arrest of John Karr for the murder of JonBenet Ramsey has raised questions about the types of expatriates working in Thailand’s education system.

Harry Nicolaides, a Melbourne-born teacher who has taught English in Thailand, reveals that he sometimes felt he was sharing an office with Hannibal Lector.

What do a disgraced former US state senator, an octogenarian Nazi sympathizer and an Arizona highway patrol officer have in common? They are all teaching English in Thailand of course. The profession of teaching English in Asia attracts the strangest people. The flotsam and jetsam of the West, many of these ne’er-do-wells wash up on the shoreline of the Third World looking to reinvent themselves like the Count of Monte Cristo or to champion a cause celebre like Lawrence of Arabia. Some are undischarged bankrupts fleeing creditors, fugitives from justice, disgraced or convicted malcontents, religious missionaries, errant husbands, asylum-seekers (and those recently discharged from asylums), crusaders and occasionally teachers – with fake university degrees, of course. This is the state of the industry throughout Thailand. And sometimes, you can find yourself sharing an office with Hannibal Lector.

The process of screening applicants for teaching appointments in Thailand has always been open to abuse, exploitation and identity fraud. While most educational institutions employ foreign nationals from Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the US without checking the bona fides of academic credentials, going overseas to work has also been a convenient way to escape the indiscretions and convictions of a former life in the West. As English is the new lingua franca of a global world there is a burgeoning demand for native English speakers to teach English in educational institutions at all levels across Thailand. The interview and selection process is perfunctory and typically is the responsibility of non-native speakers and so anyone who looks like a teacher in what is largely a presentation culture is assured of employment. While it is well known that thousands of reproduction artworks of European masters are created annually in Thailand, fake university and college degrees may also be bought in Kao Sarn Road Bangkok.

In the past century when Christendom was carried like a torch to enlighten the dark continents, missionaries and teachers were discovered looting national treasures, excavating and smuggling archaeological artifacts, exploiting the indigenous population or establishing private kingdoms with themselves as the self-appointed monarchs. During times of military conflict some teachers were even commissioned as intelligence operatives or became correspondents from besieged cities or nations erupting in civil unrest. Today, with an absence of such interesting opportunities, English language teachers abroad have turned to waging their own war against professional colleagues, exerting their own petty tyrannies on students, exploring a malignant neuroses, indulging a private obsession or simply experiencing the full dress rehearsal of a sordid sexual fetish.

Just like the former, US state senator who was repeatedly caught and convicted for drunk driving and beating his girlfriend. When he carried a loaded revolver into the state legislature he was finally expelled from office. At the height of his power, white racist supremacist and militia members rallied at his demagogic speeches against minorities and welfare recipients but most recently found himself teaching English at university in Thailand. He was also responsible for pushing through a US state senate a highly controversial bill to introduce and maintain a public database of previously convicted sex offenders. I met him in a notorious go-go bar in Phuket. It was the quip about the human race being a plague on the earth and that only through a systematic program of racial purification would we survive as a species that made me realise he was not on a mercy mission in the Third World. He was last seen teaching a transsexual prostitute to sing the Star Spangled Banner in an area notorious for homosexual encounters with young men who had had a sex change operation in Bangkok.

Then there was the teacher at a prominent language school in Phuket who was recently exposed as a confidante to Adolf Hitler’s personal radiologist. At 85, he was old enough to have been around during the Third Reich and his imperious gait was chillingly resonant of high rank. He spoke German, Greek, Italian, Thai, French and English fluently but his speciality was to craft letters for bar girls consisting of lies and half-truths to beguile mostly male Caucasian tourists out of their money. I was once privy to a meeting he thought was private and observed him perform the customary Nazi military salute when he greeted a German friend. At first, I thought it was moment of historical parody but then observed both men deliver the same Nazi salute to each other with triumphant, choreographed precision at their farewell. He still teaches English today helping young bar girls conjugate irregular verbs and writes letters while receiving an aged pension from the Italian government.

There was another teacher – an American, former Arizona patrol officer who while working in Thailand started to exhibit repressed aggression towards his students. His violent outbursts and confrontations involved minor infractions of university regulations. He became obsessed with thwarting students from gaining unfair advantage by cheating and spent hundreds of hours devising examinations that would challenge the ingenuity of students to anticipate the content of examination papers. When a small cluster of student papers were found to have similar results he launched a major investigation into the unlikely correlation. He conducted a statistical analysis of the results involving averages, probability and distribution graphs. Remarking all 250-exam papers, he concluded that a group of students must have stolen an exam paper prior to the exam day. He insisted, against the judgment of other teachers, to hold the exam again. The results in the second examination were the same. The students cheated again.

As a final indictment of the susceptibility of the Thai education system to fraud consider the following experience. A friend from Australia was visiting Thailand as a tourist. I managed to convince him to assume my identity for the first lecture I was to deliver to 120 students in a course of social psychology at the university where I was working. The exercise was designed to show students how vulnerable people are to appearance and presentation especially so-called experts with impressive credentials. We had my friend’s imposing 6’4 physique clothed in a fine suit and tie beautifully fashioned in the finest bespoke tradition of Bangkok’s 24-hour tailors. We gave him an impressive resume – PhD Cambridge University, Chairman of research committee at Oxford University, author of two definitive textbooks in the field – all of which loomed large behind him on a massive cinema-sized screen in a PowerPoint format while Garry spoke authoritatively about nothing for some time. The students paid meticulous attention and wrote copious lecture notes on the rambling dissertation. After an hour when I arrived dressed casually in shorts and t-shirt and introduced myself as the real course lecturer, the students dismissed me as a loony intruder. After all, I did not look like a teacher. That is what matters in Thailand – the appearance of truth, created by a tailor’s scissors, an artist’s brushstroke or a surgeon’s knife.

Saudi Arabia: Cyprus : The Road to Re-unification.

In 1958, when the first barbed-wire barricades were rolled out by the British colonial government across Ledra Street in the capital of Cyprus it seemed inevitable that the seeds of division would yield a bitter harvest of inter-communal conflicts, regional tensions and finally the partition of the whole island. Where minarets and churches once jostled happily together under the high, bright sun by day and crescent moon by night, garrisoned troops took up positions in machine-gun outposts and artillery turrets effectively dividing the inhabitants of Nicosia – Turkish & Greek Cypriot – into two distinct ethnic groups. Eventually, the age-old Greco-Turkish enmity found a new front line as the Hellenic and Ottoman civilizations collided once again along the UN-patrolled Green Line dividing northern and southern Cyprus.

This week demolition work commenced on part of the wall that has divided Nicosia and the whole island since 1974. When I visited the island recently, Melissa, a traditional Greek-styled cake shop in an old quarter of Nicosia, was still serving Turkish coffee in the same way it had for decades. Kateifi, Paclava and other freshly-baked cakes and sweets filled window displays. Hand-embroidered, white tablecloths covered the few rectangular tables where customers typically sat to enjoy their coffee. The day I was there only a few customers came in and seemed to pick up regular orders of sweets. Before the erection of the barriers and partition of the island, Melissa was a perpetual hub of social life where the street outside bustled with bicycles, pedestrians and taxi-cabs. However, in recent years the view from its gilded window frames has been starkly different.

The streets are empty now. A rusty bicycle leans against a lamp post. Solitary figures occasionally emerge from dilapidated workshops that now occupy the grand old buildings where boutiques once operated. Grass tussocks have sprouted around the ramshackle brick barriers and between the sand-bags filling the windows of the surrounding old Venetian-styled buildings. Crumbling walls display the faded markings of political slogans from long-since forgotten campaigns. Once buzzing with conversations about coup d’etat, the military junta and self determination, sagging electrical wires that run from telegraph pole to telegraph pole look like they have been gripped by a creeping paralysis. In fact the whole area seems to have been suspended in time resembling a Hollywood back-lot from a film from yesteryear.

My father, who was born in Cyprus in 1926, has fond memories of many times spent in coffee shops with Turkish and Greek Cypriot friends. As an electrician working for the Paphos Electrical Station (now a museum) he recalls three Turkish Cypriots with whom he had a close friendship. Some of the Turkish Cypriots joined him when he decided to migrate to Australia. To this day, on my father’s forearm, is a faded tattoo of a sailing ship and the words: ‘ Cyprus to Australia 1951’ in a pennant under the image. The small group of friends – Greek and Turkish Cypriot – all had the same tattoo pierced onto their forearms to commemorate their epic journey. As a boy I was fascinated by the likeness of the tattoos when the group would meet. As the years passed the tattoos faded and the group dwindled in size. Today, my father and one other man, a Turkish Cypriot, survive.

For my father Cyprus was never divided. Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots were never at war. After all, when my father lived in Cyprus there was a high degree of cohesion and integration between the two ethnic groups. In his mind this is how he left Cyprus and always remembered it. Of course, in reality when the yoke of colonial rule was finally shrugged off in 1960 the responsibility of forming a government representing both ethnic populations was great. Additionally, the geopolitical ambitions of America and Britain in the Middle East and the posturing of Greece and Turkey over territorial sovereignty in the Mediterranean contributed significantly to inter-communal tensions. Eventually, as the two communities drifted further apart ethnic enclaves grew as integrated villages fell in number. Nicosia was in time divided by a wall.

This week the wall has been coming down. While the demolition work is centered on a small part of the boundary of the historic Old City within the capital Nicosia, it has profound symbolism. Although official efforts to unify Cyprus have failed, on a municipal level Greek and Turkish Cypriots have been cooperating for years towards preserving and restoring the rich Ottoman, Venetian and Lusignan heritage of the Old City. The recent demolition work is paving the way for the opening of a pedestrian bridge on Ledra Street, a once thriving commercial centre. Importantly, Ledra Street is also the place where the first barbed-wire barricades were rolled out. It is hoped that this small pedestrian bridge will not only bring two commercial districts together but also reunify a divided city, an island and the hearts and minds of all Cypriots.

Harry Nicolaides is a Greek-Cypriot Australian writer born in Melbourne. He is currently teaching English in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Harry is also the nephew of the late Nicos Nicolaides, a Greek Cypriot Radio Station owner who assisted the then fugitive President Makarios (believed dead and fleeing an assassination attempt from the rogue generals who had executed a coup to overthrow him) by helping him to make a historic broadcast over a short-range radio transmitter encouraging the civilian population to resist the coup. The message, heard all over Cyprus and in neighboring countries, aroused widespread resistance to the coup.

Harry Nicolaides

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