As I laid in the giant inflatable tube, my permanent excited smile from the past couple days suddenly faded. What was I thinking? I looked down at my feet, resting on the wet inflatable plastic, squeaking and slipping with every bump of the waves the boat tugging us along. Then I glanced at my hands, gripping (until my knuckles were white) the only two 1-inch wide handles that would be holding me to this tube once the boat hit full speed. Finally I looked over to Odyss on the other side of the tube. He caught my glance and shouted "WOO HOOOOO!"
Why did I let him convince me to get on this death trap again? Oh yea that's right, I was the one who all but dragged him to the dock and hopped into the first available tube we could find. The name of the tube should have been warning enough... "The Fly Fisher". Considering we were not about to go on a deep sea fishing adventure, you can assume the only things flying in the air were two innocent victims. And those two victims happened to be me and Odyss.
The boat started picking up speed. Water began to splash over the tube and onto us. The waves began tossing us all around. And my smile came back. I had forgotten I love this kind of thing. So what if in the next 5 minutes the tube would be completely vertical, leaving us standing straight up in the air 50 feet... and flying back down to our doom (once again only holding on to two tiny straps). If worse comes to worse and I slip out of the tube while in mid air, then a broken arm or two could make for a very interesting story!
The boat was going faster and faster. Picking up speed and hitting the waves harder with every notch added to the speedometer. Suddenly the time between the tube hitting the waves and hovering just over the water started getting longer and longer until... WOOOOSH. My eyes closed shut when the butterflies swarmed around in my stomach, but once they settled down I opened my eyes and looked down at my feet to the the ocean 50 feet below us. Then I looked up and saw the entire coast of Sunset Beach, and all the people playing in the water no bigger than little garden gnomes. The view we saw was just moments that would last forever. And seemed like it would! Until we plummeted back down to the water, and back up again, and back down again.... it was a rush to say the least.
After that adrenaline rush, it was hard to imagine how relaxing the entire day had been. We started out playing a game of volleyball. The Mediterranean at the Sunset Beach was so calm with absolutely no waves, and the shallow water stretched out for hundreds of feet, so the water was a perfect place to get in a circle start a game of "keep the ball alive" volleyball.
Zaina, the most "experienced" volleyball player of us all (the quotations serve a sarcastic purpose) ALMOST got to quite a number of balls that fell right in front or behind her and into the water. She ended up getting the MVP award for suffering injuries after the game (she jammed her little pinky).
After the game, and some frappes (Cypriot iced coffee) we all laid out in the sand. I joined in on Abel and Zaina's conversation about the Greek/Turkey war in Cyprus. Abel talked about how every Cypriot is suppose to work 2 years in the army. He is almost on his second year now. He talked about how it was hard at first to realize he had to give up two years to the army, but what keeps him going is the pride and the brotherhood of the army. Abel also said how most Cypriot people don't harbor bad feelings towards the Turks. Everyone knows this is a political issue, not a personal one. I was so impressed. Never before had I witnessed an entire country acting so mature when it comes to political issues and war. And never before had I seen two opposing "sides" get along so well with each other during the fact. It made me realize that something like this could never happen at home, or in most other countries for that matter. Hurt and anger and pride are attributes that come all too easily from the workings of a political system craving power. But as Cyprus has shown is very possible, just because the political powers can be greedy, doesn't mean it has to affect the mind and actions of the individual people. The people can overcome that and live as peacefully as they can in any situation.
After really being inspired by our conversations, I almost didn't want to leave when the group told us that the paddle boat we had rented was ready. I considered staying with Abel and Zaina to continue talking..... until they told me we got the paddle boat with the giant slide.
Getting the boat out into the water was an adventure. There were just enough paddle seats for everyone but 3 people to help paddle. I got to be one of those 3. Instead of paddling, I climbed up on top of the slide and shouted out directions of where the paddlers should go. I'm pretty sure everyone ignored me haha, but I was entertaining myself. After floating out way to far, fighting with a clasp to hook onto the anchor, and getting yelled at by an Australian dude that sounded much like Crush from Finding Nemo and kept starring and smiling at Jenna.... Vas got the paddle boat hooked up and we were ready for using the slide.
When we got bored of sliding down the normal way, we started jumping from the top of the slide into the ocean. Being the 4th of July, we found it very appropriate to scream out "AMURKA" as you jumped... or another favorite saying "STON KOLO". All of a sudden, we realized our volleyball was gone. It had floated off from us before, and was retrieved by the Australian dude who clearly wanted Jenna's number in return... which she didn't allow. Not seeing our volleyball anywhere in sight, and not wanting to call back the Aussie for help. We pretty much decided the volleyball was long gone. That's when we looked over at Danielle being awfully quiet with a sly grin on her face. She swam forward and the volleyball popped up right next to her. She had been standing on it for the past 15 minutes watching us look around aimlessly for it. Oooh Danielle.... haha
When we finally drove back home, we got caught in major traffic. Odyss, Marianna, Vas, Demi and I kept ourselves entertained by playing car games such as the one where you say something mumbled and in a weird way and everyone tries to guess what you say. Vas was the best at it, until we realized he was changing his words once we guessed them.
Later that night we had our last family dinner all together at the Syrian restaurant. After one final card game, a delicous meal of swaharma, and watching Jenna get down on her knees and publicly apologize to Odyss after choosing a new Swagger partner over him the night before... we all walked solemnly to our apartment knowing all that was in store for us was a couple hours of hardcore cleaning and leaving for home.
But, to our surprise, our Cypriot friends walked up to our apartment with us.. and started helping us clean! I walked into my kitchen at one point and saw Vas mopping the floor, and it looked better than it had when we got there. When all the packing and cleaning was finished, we looked at the clock and saw it was 1:50 AM... which mean only 10 minutes until the bus was suppose to pick us up and take us to the airport. This left the perfect amount of time to film our final music video.
When the bus pulled up, the guys helped us drag our luggage down and we sad our goodbyes. We got on the bus and watched our our friends disappear as we turned the corner towards the airport. As we drove on we all began to feel so sad, wondering if we would ever see all of them again. That's when we heard beeping... we looked outside our window and saw Abel driving like a mad man after our bus and waving goodbye. Best last image we could ask for.
Jump forward a couple days and we were back home. Being reunited with free water and refills were the best thing that had ever happened to me.... but I still felt out of it. Like something was missing, like I could not go back to normal. That feeling didn't end until I went to Cinncinnati and Knoxville and introduced my best friend and boyfriend to my Cyprus Tennessee group, and even my Cypriot friends via Skype. It took merging my old life with my Cyprus life to really have everything click again. Instead of feeling like one life was a dream... it all became a reality. I said before that I felt like I could never go back to normal... well that is true. I will never be the exact person I was before I went on this trip. But that is a good thing. I was changed on this trip... changed by a little old lady who works the souvenir shops, changed by the unique students on the GLS trip, changed by the Cypriot characters we met and the taxi drivers who yelled at us, changed by 7 new Cypriot best friends I can't wait to go back and visit, and changed and inspired by 7 other new best friends from Tennessee... who I can forever share this experience with.
If you look at life without seeing the meaning in the smallest of things, then you are looking at life with one eye closed. To all the people who I met on this trip, thank you for opening my eyes.