Not many people know this story but I think its worth sharing. ONE… because it can highlight the dangers of not working for a decent company and TWO…because looking back on it now makes me laugh….. very hard!! Now I must disclaim that this story is 100% true ( honestly…ask my mum!) and it is just based on MY experience.
So I lived in cyprus twice in my life. Both for dance contacts. But let’s get one thing straight. When I lived in Cyprus in 2012 I had the best summer of my life! It was just god damn amazing. I am writing a blog on that summer at the moment but that’s a special sentimental one I will share with you soon. The first time round however was a completely different experience! One i feel you may enjoy reading about!
So in spring of 2007 I had returned from working in Portsmouth on a holiday park as a dancer after being away from around a year. I was 19 and wanting to live on my own. So I moved in with my friend Vicky and we had a great little pad in southbourne. After a few months of a “normal” job i got itchy feet and began applying for jobs! I saw one in The stage newspaper, which back then was the only way you knew what jobs and auditions were coming up! The days when you had to physically go and audition and talk to someone in person and not just send a video of you dancing off into cyber space!
The job was for a Summer in the Sun. A dancer wanted to join an entertainment team in Cyprus.
- 4 shows a week!
- free accommodation!
- Free food!
- Minimal activities during the day!
- transport provided
- competitive wage
This job ticked all the boxes!! So I applied. Travelled to London and got the job. All within about two weeks! I was Chuffed!! First contact abroad, back to dancing, living it up in Ayia Napa…OMG i couldn’t wait!!!
So the time soon came around when I had to fly off! This was the first time I’d ever been on a plane by myself! I had instructions to fly to Larnaca, a car will be waiting and take me to the hotel I’ll be working at! I really remember getting up super early for my flight, which left from London. It was something like 5am flight so it was a real early start!!! When I finally arrived in Larnaca I felt like i’d been up for days! So tired. But i think the adrenaline kept me going. As i walked out of arrivals I half expected someone to be waiting there for me with a little sign, but I couldn’t see anyone and it was about 10am by this point so i thought maybe they were running late so i just sat and waited for a bit!
About 3 hours to be precise….
Finally some smelly ( and he really did smell) old man, who spoke ZERO english turned up! Ok…. so I have to get in a car with a man who i don’t know, who actually when we got to his old banger i realised was a taxi driver. This should have rung alarm bells straight away but i was young and naive so just got on with it. 40 minutes later we arrived at the hotel, and the taxi driver smelly man turned and said…40 euros….
“I’m sorry what?”
Forty Euros please…. You are joking! I had very minimal money as it was and I had to pay this dude??? what the hell!!! So I’d had to wait for hours and then pay myself.. not a great start!
So I went to the hotel reception desk and asked for the lady who I’d been talking too! The receptionist looked at me like I was an alien. She had no clue? Brilliant! So now what do i do… This was 10 years ago. Mobiles weren’t what they are today. They were bricks with an aerial but calling abroad cost literally £10 per minute so you just couldn’t do it. I was beginning to get a little stressed. I decided to do as I had been doing all day, sit and wait. I waited and waited. Then i waited a little more. By this point it was around 1pm and i had finally got through to my contact using the hotel phone. She assured me that she would be on her way asap. Oh have you not even left yet babes?? oh… no sweat!!! I’ve only being waiting for 4/5 hours and paid 40 F**king euros….
Anyways… I waited some more. Sat quietly and was a patient angel. Although dying a little inside!
So eventually this lady arrived. I remember so clearly her strolling up to the hotel door smiling at me… this was around 7pm…. Yes your read right….7pm!!!!!!!!!!!!
I had waited 6 hours in the hotel reception for this lady, who may I add was English, to arrive and meet me for my new job! This wasn’t sitting well with me straight away.
Back then I was quite reserved and would never have dreamt of speaking up. Nowadays I would have marched straight up to her and asked if she was taking the piss, but back then i was not like that!! It definitely comes with age and experience!
She introduced herself and asked me to follow her to the car as she was going to take me to my accommodation and to meet my room mate. Woo hoo!!! this sounded promising.
We walked out to the car. ” uhhhh, do I not live her where I work” I asked. Well apparently not. She was taking to my shared apartment. Kind of wished they’d mentioned that but ok, whats another thing to deal with?
After about a 20 minute drive, at what was now a dark evening and felt like forever we finally arrived at my ‘Apartment’. I use that word lightly. It was down the darkest alley way in a Greek residential area. Absolutely no street lighting. Proper rural. This dream was slowly turning into a nightmare!
So when we got there she showed me to my room, which was actually quite nice! Yes, a positive at last! And introduced me to my room-mate, who for the life of me I cannot remember what his name is! oops…. Notice I said his.. yes i had to live with a boy!!!! eeek! He seemed harmless enough so i just shrugged it off.
The next conversation went something like this…
“So how do I get to work everyday?”
“on a moped..”
“on a what now?”
“A Moped. You drive it to work.”
“Ok…I’ve never driven before but i guess I’ll figure it out. I guess it just twice a day there and back. I can deal with that”
“Well actually your shift pattern is three shifts a day, morning, afternoon and evening. You must not stay at the hotel in between your shifts, so you will have to ride at least 6 times a day back and forth”
“oh….ok…. So how will I know the way?”
“We drew you a map!”
At this point I am tossed a piece of scrap paper with a hand drawn map! I stared at it pretty blankly for a few minutes. They then shot me a smile and left with the instructions I need to report to work in a couple of days.
At this point I felt a little crap, but my room-mate decided to welcome me with a drink and we chatted. He was off out to Ayia napa for a night out and invited me but after that day I just wanted to go to bed! So off he went and i was soon snoozing.
I was woken up many hours later, at some unearthly hour by the sound of my room mate coming home. He wasn’t quiet. And after a few seconds I realised he had bought a guy home with him! At this point I realised he was gay, as when i sneaked a peak out the door they were getting freaky on the sofa! Then to my surprise another guy appeared! And judging by their accents i knew they weren’t english!! Oh jesus….. They seemed to keep the not being quiet theme up for the rest of the night!!! I locked my door and pretty much hid my head under the pillow wishing someone would knock me out!!! You can only imagine what i was listening too!!!!!
All in all not a great FIRST day!
Once I was up and about I’d been given the keys to my moped. Time to figure this out! Id didn’t drive so riding a moped was gonna be a little harder than I expected! So I got on and gave it a go…… I pulled the accelerator and the bike shot off so fast i gripped so bloody tight on to the handles…which of course is where the accelerator is so it went faster!! I jumped of the bike which was now heading for the wall and fell over. The bike carried on hit the wall and came crashing back down on me!
Great start to day two….
I decided to leave the bike, or the heap of crap as I called it on the floor where it was and go have some rehearsals with my room mate. He was to teach me the shows. Here we go, I thought! This is what i was here for! To dance. That always put me in a good mood.
I really don’t know how to describe what came next…. I don’t know how to describe the dancing. Well for a start I wouldn’t call it dancing!!!!! This lad was floating around the apartment like a stoned butterfly. My two year olds on a saturday morning were way more advanced than this dude!! I couldn’t believe it! He wasnt even a dancer. Oh jesus! He kept saying, ok just make up what you want here because I just do what i want. Or I don’t remember what goes here, I’ll have to find out!! It was not what i was used too and was now thinking this is not for me!
I remember going for a walk to call my mum on what little credit I had! She sensed instantly that I was not feeling this job! But both of us tried to remain positive and give it a few more days.
The days that followed didn’t get much better. I did my first few shifts which were ok. Not great, but ok. Pool polo was fun! But the travelling back and forth 6 times a day was so hard! To make matters worse I wasn’t getting on with the moped and to get there, which if you remember was 20 mins away was so hard! I had to keep pulling over to check my map…my hand drawn map! And when it was dark I found myself lighting it up with my nokia 3310……
After around about two weeks of what I would call torture, and many phone calls home I decided this job wasn’t for me! I wanted to leave. I rang the boss lady, who i had seen only once since arriving and thought being a young English women would be sympathetic towards me. This wasn’t the case. I stressed my concerns and the fact the shows were just awful! I’d have been happy with a show where you step clicked the whole way through at least it would have been uniformed. We didn’t even have a costumes. We just wore a random bright coloured t-shirt. I stressed to her the job was not as made out at all and I’d be leaving in a few days time. At this point my parents and grandparents were going a bit out of their mind knowing i wasn’t happy they booked a flight for me. The boss lady didn’t react well to this. I can remember her vividly screaming at me down the phone!!
“Get out!!!!! Get out of the apartment in the next four hours or someone will be round to kick you out!”
WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I completely panicked and remember sitting on the side of the road crying in a mess! Some hotel guests had walked past me at this point and asked if I was ok! I just didn’t even know where to start. What the hell was i going to do. I had minimal money and nowhere to go?? I raced back to the apartment and packed my bag!!! aghhhhhhhhhhh…
I rang my then boyfriend who was back in UK. He was working a night delivering pizza’s for a local company and we knew the owner who had also became his friend was from cyprus! Maybe he could help?
He came to the rescue. He had instructed me to get a taxi to the turkish border and his brother would be there to meet me. So I got a taxi to the border and left!
When I think back now I can’t believe what that woman did that to a young girl! When i ran my own company i always felt a responsiblity for the welfare of my staff! I just couldn’t dream of treating anyone in that way!
When I arrived at the border, it was possibly one of the scariest places I’d been! Cyprus is split and had been invaded by the Turks in 1974. So now a third of it was Turkish ran. They protected their boarders with men armed with rifles! Supposedly the taxi driver told me, if you attempted to cross you got shot!! You had to go through the border. When I got there no english was spoken so i had to call the pizza guy back in the UK and translated that his brother was waiting for me!! I can’t quite describe how intimidating this was. I remember trying not to cry continuously! After about half an hour i got through to the other side. Lots of interrogating in broken english and walking off with my passport and eventually i was allowed through!!!
I saw the brother at the gates and he welcomed me with a huge smile and a flashy open top car! I obviously didn’t know this man but I felt a rush of relief!!! He was here to save me from this hell hole of a few weeks! I jumped in his car and he drove me to his mother’s house!! The turkish side was quite run down as it’s not as commercialised as the greek side, but was still as beautiful!
By this point I hadn’t slept properly in weeks! I was shattered! I also hadn’t eaten much, as the job had promised free food but this again wasn’t the case! The mother that greeted me was the loveliest lady! She showed me to a spare room which was for me for the next few nights! A lovely big double bed in a nice friendly house!! I led there reflecting on how lucky i think i had been!!
The next two days flew by pretty quick! I can remember I was reading Sharon Osbourne’s Autobiography and eating home made kebabs….hahaha! I got me through!!! When my flight came around pizza guys mother gave me some money, food for the airport and a big hug! She was just brilliant! And i vowed to pay her back, which i did with interest! The brother came back and drove me to the airport where i was finally waiting for my flight!!! I was going home!!
When I walked through the arrivals i have never felt relief like it!! I can’t quite remember who was there waiting for me! but it was a very relieved family member! I can honestly say that up to that point in my life that was the best day! I had been so scared and very alone out there and just wanted to be back to home comforts!!
There’s a few things I need to say to wrap this up!
1- I now laugh about this story. I did laugh pretty quickly after i was back home! Telling people the story was always a comical moment because people couldn’t quite believe it.
2- Reading it back you kinda of think it sounds like a movie but i swear every bit is true!! This is just a personal account of what happened to me.
3- I’m not about to name and shame the company at all but we did report them when were back! I have discovered whilst writing this that they are still going and boss lady still works for them! I’d love to tell her what i think nowadays!!
And most importantly 4 – Always work for a legitimate company!! Always do your research!! Nowadays its easier you can find a post on social media. That would help you know more about the job beforehand and if something like this had happened , no doubt it would have shared and they wouldn’t have had too many people queuing to work for them!
I was lucky I think. Them kicking me out could have ended badly but thank fully it didn’t. And now i have a good story to tell so i guess i can thank them for that!!!