Koraly Dimitriadis
Koraly Dimitriadis is a writer of poetry, prose and non-fiction. She currently studies professional writing and editing at RMIT.

Her writing has been published online and in print, and she is a regular blogger for Overland. She’s been broadcast on 3CR’s Spoken Word and recently joined the program as a monthly presenter.

A collection of Koraly’s poetry will be published in an anthology of second-generation Greek-Australian poets later this year.

Koraly is nearing completion of her first novel Misplaced. An article on her experiences working with her mentor Christos Tsiolkas was published in the Emerging Writers Festival’s The Reader in 2009. Read more about and from Koraly at her home.

As featured in The Diamond & the Thief – May 10 edition
The journey to Kambos
By Koraly Dimitriadis

I was just a baby when Dad last took me to Kambos village so I can’t remember any of it, but I’m not really that interested anyway. I’d rather be shopping in Limassol, or lying on the beach, or going clubbing, than driving along the mountainous, windy roads of Cyprus. I clutch my seatbelt tight as Dad maneuvers the car along the narrow, elevated road. Each time we turn a sharp corner I’m certain we’re going to die. My sister Betty and I yelp and fling onto each other when a bus greets us around the bend. Mum voices her fright too. Dad slows and drives right to the cliffs edge. The bus needs both lanes to pass. I wouldn’t travel on that bus if you paid me a million dollars. I’m pretty sure I’m close to vomiting, and the fact that there’s no air conditioner in the car and it’s blistering hot doesn’t help. This is no way an eighteen-year-old girl should be spending her summer holidays.

Thirsty mountains roll on and on, parched from the Cyprus drought. It’s a two-and-a-half hour drive. Sometimes we disappear into a forest and all I can see is green. The air cuts through my open window. It’s fresh, fresher than any air I’ve inhaled in Australia, and there’s a hint of mint in its scent. I inhale deeply, again and again. I close my eyes.

Dad announces that we’re in Kambos and my eyelids flicker open. The car rolls along the town center at walking pace. Locals gawk at our car like they’re trying to figure out who we are. This is a town? How? There’s a tiny grocery store, and an even tinier cafenio, and then that’s the end of the town. Dad’s been raving about his village all my life but there’s nothing here, nothing at all. What am I going to do here for the next week?

Dad turns up a steep driveway and stops at a small brick house. I leap out of the car, eager to be on stationary ground. A brief breeze momentarily relieves my sticky skin. The screen door opens and my Yiayia, slouching and fragile, steps out with a warm smile, and instantly tears emerge in my eyes. She’s smiling at us like she’s been waiting for us, not a few days, but years.

Yiayia visited Australia with Papou five years ago, but this is the first time Dad is seeing his mother since Papou died. When Dad and Yiayia embrace my tears free-fall down my cheeks. They sob in each other’s arms. Me, Mum and Betty watch them in the silence of birds chirping. It’s completely silent, still, peaceful. When they part, Yiayia approaches me and cups my face. I kiss her soft, wrinkled cheek and hug her.

Inside Dad’s old house, my eyes drift over old photographs, ornaments, the furniture, everything. There are even photographs of me and Betty and my cousins. I have the sudden urge to inspect every nook and cranny, to look in every wardrobe, and study every photograph. Dad looks relaxed, happy, the happiest I’ve ever seen him. I feel like I’ve been here before, many times, yet I know I haven’t. Usually it’s awkward when we stay with relatives in Limassol but here it isn’t. The thought of touching things, and going into the fridge and the cupboards doesn’t seem out of place.

Yiayia shows Betty and me to our room. There are two beds, draped in embroided bedspreads. In her calm, gentle voice Yiayia explains that she made them by hand. Where the walls meet there are cracks, and the wardrobe leans to one side. Yiayia leaves and we lay down on our beds. My bed is as cozy as my bed at home.

After resting, Betty and I rise and search from everyone. I can hear Dad snoring in the bedroom. We walk into the small kitchen and out into the backyard. Yiayia is picking cherries from the trees. There are chickens flurrying around the yard. We go to her. There are five thriving cherry trees. She hands us a small bucket each and we pick cherries. I pick one then eat one. Betty does the same. Yiayia laughs at us. They’re the juiciest and sweetest cherries I’ve ever tasted.

After picking cherries, Yiayia leads us to the smelly chicken coop. The chickens scare me as they react and run about. Yiayia is unaffected and this is calming. She gently nudges the hen aside and retrieves two eggs. There’s another nest with two eggs and no hen. Yiayia tells Betty and me to take one each. I reach in and take one – they’re whiter than the ones back in Melbourne, and there are bird stains on them. Yiayia explains that we can eat them for breakfast.

That night Yiayia cooks roast chicken and potatoes. While she carves the chicken she tells Betty and me old stories from when Dad was young. Dad was quite a troublemaker! After dinner Betty and I help clean up. We’re both really tired. We have an early night and sleep soundly in our beds.