2 June I can’t believe it’s June already. I’ve been working non-stop for a few months now; days, weeks and months just disappear yet a prevailing feeling of overwhelmingness persists. As a bonus, yesterday I had a tooth implant, which is basically attaching a very expensive screw to my jaw. I’m always optimistic with these things, so I was expecting to be reasonably fine with a moderate numbness and subsequently, once it subsides, manageable pain. There was very little pain, though my face was numb for hours. What I did not anticipate was how tired I would be. I came home and just slept for hours. The stitches will be removed in a couple of weeks’ time.
Tomorrow is Sunshine’s birthday. I got her a pair of sunglasses she fancied. It’s always hard to shop for her. She doesn’t wear any jewellery except a cross and a watch (recent presents of mine). She doesn’t drink, so fancy booze is out of the question. She doesn’t like analogue tools, so a fine fountain pen or classy stationary would not do. She doesn’t exercise, so high-end trainers or other exercise equipment would not be appreciated. She likes reading books, which she does on a phone. That phone is updated quite frequently. Maybe my next present would be a Kindle, even though she swears she prefers her smartphone (we do have an old Kindle, which she doesn’t use).
7 June There’s something wrong with my foot. On Thursday I started noticing some pain. On Friday, the pain increased. I took a couple of anti-inflammatory pills and it subsided. On Saturday, stupidly enough and to Sunshine’s dismay, I decided to take another pill and go for a difficult uphill ride from Lefka to Kampos and Kykkos, a total of 1,700m of incline. I wasn’t in pain while cycling. Once the ride finished and I stepped my foot on the ground, a sharp pain came through that reduced me to tears. The same continued throughout the day and the next. Needless to say that Sunshine wasn’t talking to me for a few hours upon my return home, being mad with my — now clearly misguided — decision to ignore the pain. On Saturday evening, we had friends over and a lot of preparations to be made, which involved me being mobile, transferring tables and chairs from our parents, and lifting heavy things, while also being in a position to entertain our guests. On Sunday, I limited my moves to manage the pain. Today, Monday, I booked an appointment with an orthopaedic specialised in foot and ankle injuries. It’s now 4pm and I’m waiting outside his office, having left work earlier. I am afraid that he will say that a tendon snapped. I’ve had quite a bit of athletic injuries over the years, but none as sharp and continuous. What’s worse, I don’t know what caused it.
8 June The doctor said that it’s possibly a very bad inflammation rather than a snapped tendon, yet he advised to do an MRI in order to get a clear picture of the situation, noting that it is the second time in a short period that I experience pain in the area. I called to book an MRI and they advised that the line extends to the middle of July. Once they realised that I’m going privately, not through the General Healthcare System, they committed to book me within the week. This is indicative of the pathogens of a two-tier system of the haves and the have-nots. Access to healthcare should be equal and free at the point of use for everyone. This can only be achieved if it is considered a non-marketable public good. For make no mistake, the GHS is not free; we are all paying for it with our contributions, varying depending on income. The argument that MRIs are free and therefore everyone demands one is overly simplistic. The problem is that doctors, sometimes upon the request of their patients, abuse the system. We do not need to charge for this life-saving diagnostic tool in order to curb its demand amidst the limited supply. Rather, the system requires additional internal control mechanisms to identify the doctors who are abusing it and to protect the patients from unnecessary and often invasive procedures with no medical grounds. Surely there are good practices elsewhere, and we should not try to reinvent the wheel. A quantitative approach can be used to identify the outliers and then audit them to ensure that there are consequences for the abusers. Once the medical professionals realise that there is control and oversight, they will start basing their referrals based on medical reasons rather than on a need to appease their clients.
9 June I had the MRI. They called me last minute while I was in yet another Teams meeting. I continued the meeting through my phone and drove to the hospital. It took about half an hour. I was comfortable during the scan as my head and upper body were outside the machine. The most painful part of the experience was the trash Greek pop music that came through the noise-isolating headphones. I still don’t know what’s going on as I am waiting for the report, which I will take alongside the CD (!) to the orthopaedic. I am in considerable pain that gets in the way of everything else.
11 June The MRI showed that while the area is considerably inflamed, I didn’t cut any tendons. I’m in constant pain, which only subsides when I take anti-inflammatory drugs, which are quite harsh on the stomach. I’m a bit fed up with the situation. I haven’t exercised in a week and I’m getting restless (and fatter).
12 June We came to Sunshine’s village, Omodos. A lovely place, ideal for a relaxing weekend. Omodos is known for its vineyards (not its wine), for its tasty sweet bread (regular and crunchy) called “arkatena,” its cobbled square and its traditional stone-built houses. The only downside are the megaphones of the church that point directly to our bedroom. On other news, I haven’t exercised since Saturday. There’s considerable inflammation in my ankle and foot, making it difficult to walk. Running or cycling are out of the question. The pain is constant yet manageable, and the anti-inflammatory drugs are not doing much. Thankfully, the MRI confirmed that I didn’t tear any tendons. It’s the first Saturday in years to go without any form of exercise. It’s also the first time in years that I didn’t exercise at all during the week. My levels of crankiness are off the charts. Needless to mention the weight gain. I try not to process the situation, hoping that it will improve in the next few days.
13 June I’ve been away from the academia for five years now, since I started working in Cyprus. My job is all-consuming — I don’t have much time or mental space for anything else. However, recently I started very slowly to familiarise myself with the political theory of refugee and asylum issues. I was surprised by how easy it was to get back into the groove, meaning being able to read and enjoy complicated arguments. In the past, I held the wrong belief that the more one dives into the different arguments, the more he gets locked into the established mindset of the field, which in turn affects — curtails — his originality. I was holding this view because I was already familiar with the literature. Now that I am a proper outsider to this new literature, I stand corrected — the prospect for original thought is substantially diminished if one is not aware of the debates that were settled and those that are ongoing.
16 June I can still not walk. It sucks and I don’t know what to do about it. The pain is tiring, and so is the idleness.
21 June I’m in considerable pain and resorted to using crunches to ease off the pressure on the injured foot, further to the doctor’s advice. Nicosia is an inaccessible city and I am so lucky to otherwise be fully mobile. The physiotherapist was rather surprised to see how much pain I am experiencing. He seems to know what he’s doing and have a plan. This time around, I went to someone who is an athlete himself and is frequently encountering these injuries. In other news, I gained 3kg(!).
26 June The fact that I was consumed with my foot pain did not preclude the world from moving on. Among others, there was a cabinet reschuffle. More mediocre party affiliates have been appointed, most notably a man who repeatedly failed to get elected as an MP but was nonetheless rewarded with a top position. The failed politician premised his election campaign on xenophobia — promoting it, not combating it. In similar vain, the ruling party elected a woman as president of the parliament, a most positive development, however with the votes of the sister party of the Greek Golden Dawn, an absolutely negative development. Shortly thereafter, and as part of the give-and-take that ensued, the nazis received the presidency of a newly created ad-hoc parliamentary committee tasked with overseeing demographic issues. What could possibly go wrong?
Two points. The first is to stress how dangerous it is that we don’t have a democratic shield isolating the nazis, as is the case with many western countries as well as the European Parliament. DISY’s alliance with the nazis was demonstrative of their absolute lack of moral boundaries. The second has to do with the failure of the opposition, notably AKEL, to elect a House president, given that they had the votes. Opinion polls prior to the vote ranked DIPA’s Garoyian and Theopemptou of the Greens as preferable for the position. AKEL’s Secretary-General ranked third to last followed only by “nobody” and the president of the nazis. Given that supporting Garoyian was out of the question as it would jeopardise AKEL’s alliance with DIKO (prospective partners for the next presidential elections), the obvious choice was Theopemptou. Instead, AKEL chose to pursue the election of its own Secretary-General, showing that they did not really digest the electorate’s message of discontent. Mind you, I consider Andros Kyprianou a very suitable candidate for the post given his profile (polite, measured, well-prepared, geeky). It was not, however, the time for this candidacy given that the elections were lost not more than two weeks earlier.
27 June Despite living through a heatwave, COVID-19 infections are on the rise — again. This has to do with two phenomena. The first is the prevalence of the Delta variant, the one that originated from India, which is much more transmissible. The second is a combination of disregard of even the most basic of distancing measures and the unwillingness or inability of the police to conduct any checks. We are all fatigued and the picture prior to the Delta variant was such that could justify the relaxation; the chance of conducting COVID-19 was fairly low given the thousands of daily tests and the very few positive cases. We all relaxed, including the Police. This was immediately taken advantage by bars, clubs, restaurants, wedding venues and other similar service providers. Just to give an indication, over the previous weekend there was a concert in Ayia Napa (at one of the clubs) where people were — literally at times — on top of each other; thousands of them. In similar vein, the wedding season, which was previously abruptly disrupted, resumed in full force, and pictures are all over Instagram, whereby large groups of people hug and kiss each other, as many of us do when we have a few drinks and are surrounded by friends. Similar scenes are found in beach bars around Cyprus. Amidst all this escalation — of the infection rate and the non-adherence to basic distancing rules — the Police remains a passive bystander. It seems that they are unwilling or incapable of finding a middle ground. They are either absolutely passive, as they are now, or unnecessarily harsh, as in previous instances when they were handing out €300 fines to people (many of whom third country nationals with modest means) who posed absolutely no risk to public health. They seem incapable to fulfill, within reason, their mandate. This leads to lawlessness and to the erosion of democratic institutions.
28 June As infections rise there are renewed calls for a more heavy-handed approach for the promotion of vaccination. I, once more, find myself holding an unpopular opinion. I think that the vaccination is a moral duty that we owe to the society and to those most vulnerable among us who cannot themselves vaccinate for reasons beyond their control. But I don’t think that it it should generate a binding legal obligation. The decision should be with the individual, who should remain sovereign over their bodies. If the state really wants more people to vaccinate, they need to create a civic culture of shared responsibility, while at the same time be more transparent. Transparency and targeted campaigns are key. Persuasion requires unhindered access to information and clarity on the grounds of any decision making affecting our lives. Only then can one feel part of the process. And the campaigns need to be targeted, which requires knowledge of the audience and the primary reasons driving their hesitation towards the vaccine.
I am really against forcing people to vaccinate. How can the state decide what goes into people’s bodies? Something like that would set a very dangerous precedent. I am also sceptical of incentives. I am not against incentives per se — a pitta of souvlakia for instance — but realising where we live and the ongoing flirt with authoritarianism, it is likely that we will end with something considerably more substantial. Not a bonus of sorts for those who vaccinate but rather a cost to those who don’t; a disincentive — a punishment — to those who choose not to vaccinate. Such an approach, while satisfying to the authoritarian appetite of the public, will yield the opposite from the desired effect, not to mention the social cost of the division among the vaccinated and the rest.