Where I Have Been Map

Sunday, June 27, 2010

I'll take you to the candy shop!

The Cypriot candied fruit (Pinneaples, oranges, apricots... even whole walnuts shell and all!)

Anyone who knows me well, knows what my two favorite things in the world are... candy & bacon. So when we discovered that our last filming event would be at a candy and sausage/meat factory, it was as if I had just been told we were going to Disney World. Only instead of Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh... I'd be snacking on a little Piglet :(

The candy factory was like nothing I had ever seen before. In my head I was imagining the mass machinery popping out colorful gum drops and lollypops by the hundreds. But instead all I found was a very hot, very cramped room with many people hard at work. No, they were not Oompa Lumpas (to my dismay)... but they were Cypriot women dressed in hair nets and aprons, busy taking out the seeds of apricots, mixing a syrup mixture in a pot, and dipping & jarring each separate piece of candy... all by hand.

This process took such a long time, 2 weeks to just make one jar of candied fruit! The traditional Cypriot sweet, called Soutzoukko, takes a lot less time... however it looks very unappetizing at first glance... and second glance... and third. In all honesty this might have been the only candy I have ever NOT had the desire to consume. They make it by threading almonds together on a string, then they dip the sting into a hot, thick mixture of rose water, flour, and grape juice. When it finally dries... the only way to describe this candy would be a giant stringy blob of nasty brown clumps. Yum?

I finally worked up the courage to try a piece of this interesting candy. I put a bit of glump into my mouth and started to chew... it felt as if I bit right into a gel candle (which I actually have done before). All I could taste was the grape juice and almonds... but there was no real evident sweetness to the candy. Needless to say, it was not my favorite.

So very happy with the interesting experience, but with a bad taste in my mouth... I was ready to journey to the Sausage & Meat Factory to eat some bacon! However... I did not know we were going to be eating a very large Meze for lunch before we got to the last factory. After piles and piles of pita bread, humus, lamb, chicken, and pork... meat was the last thing on my mind. When we walked through the door to the factory, a gust of smoke and cooked meat overwhelmed us.

They took us into the freezer first, to see how the meat is prepared. I was shocked to see rows and rows of meat soaking in blood. Chills went down my spine... both from the cold, and from disgust. But thankfully we were told that the red liquid was actually red wine and not blood.
That made our view in the room much better, however whatever relief I had felt was quickly eliminated when we were told to go into the next room... the smoke room. The room, only 10 feet wide at the most, was not enough room for 2 people... let alone 6 WITH camera gear! We crowded around what looked like a burned out fire pit... I didn't know where to step. Turns out I stepped one too many times and found myself ankle deep in white ashes. Trying to shake off my dusty feet and look around at the same time, I looked up and found myself staring face to face with a huge slab of hanging meat only inches from my nose.

All in all this experience was quite terrifying, but I must say the meat did taste delicious. What made both the meat and candy so good (despite the odd acquired taste I had to get use to) was simply the tradition behind it all. The factories were family owned for decades and they took time to hand make every thing they sold. In this case, quality far passed quantity.

(Most of the pictures from this video are from Jenna!)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pieces of a Puzzle...

I have been extremely blessed with amazing travel opportunities. At only 20 years old I have gotten the opportunity to travel to over 12 countries and 4 continents, with almost every summer since I was 10 years old spent abroad. Realizing how lucky I am, I try to gain something culturally everywhere I visit. Whether helping myself grow as a person, or taking something interesting back to share with friends, this determination to learn something new about another culture has always proven to be extremely beneficial and formed me into the person I am today. The problem, however, is that here in Cyprus... I have been having an extremely difficult time figuring out the culture. I have all the pieces to the puzzle, but putting them together in a way that forms a picture of Cypriot culture is much harder than I anticipated. Here are the pieces to the puzzle I have discovered so far...

The Greek influence is very strong, especially in the south side of the island, where we are staying. What I have learned about the Greek culture so far is that they are very passionate people, both in love and in war. The war side of the passion we have experiences more times than any of us would have wanted. Many of these occurrences happened during our souvenir shopping adventures. Just the other day Jenna, Halie, and I went shopping in the old city. After looking at t-shirts in a shop for quite sometime, Jenna decided to keep looking around hoping she would find some cheaper. Sure enough in a store not far down the road she found the t-shirts for a Euro or two less than the other store. Well, on our walk back she decided to get a coffee mug from the original store we visited. After seeing the t-shirts Jenna had bought, the owner got very angry, very quickly.

"You say you got that cheaper somewhere else, that is offensive to me."
"You just wait and see the quality of those shirts. Mine are better!"
"You bring those in my shop, that is disrespectful."

Insult after insult, Jenna just put the coffee mug back down and walked out of the store, confused about what just happened.

I experienced the same anger through the taxi drivers. Many of them get frustrated when they cannot understand our accent over the phone, which is understandable. But one taxi driver in particular became furious when we decided to wait for our professor to come pick us up instead of take a taxi ride home. By the time our professor arrived I received a very offensive text message on my phone. Needless to say, we won't be trusting him to drive us around in his taxi anymore.

On the opposite side of that, the passion of love is also very strong in the Greeks. Their love for one another, their love for their family, and most impressive their love for strangers have been apparent to me throughout our visit. From the first friend I made, the older souvenir shop lady named Maria who called me her daughter after only taking 10 minutes out of my day to talk to her.... to the countless waiters and shop owners who want to be your friend after just taking an interest in their culture, or even just smiling in their direction... it is easy to feel welcomed on this island.

Another very apparent quality of Greek culture is the pride they have in their heritage. You cannot walk 2 blocks without seeing a giant Greek flag waving proudly. Everyone keeps up with all the mythological Greek stories and legends. And everyone keeps up with the traditional Greek dancing, which we actually got to experience first hand.

When the waiter pulled us around to the back of his restaurant last night, we had no idea what to expect. We saw a young boy dancing and two girls sitting on the ground clapping. The waiter told us to sit like the girls and mimic, so we did. That's when the boy started swinging his legs over our heads and sliding on the ground right up to us. He would slap the girls' feet and jump up and yell "Opa!". Then he grabbed a chair and tried to balance on it, but instead had to jump off before he could fall on his face. He looked like he was having the time of his life. He grabbed our hands and pulled us in the center with the other girls. The only direction he gave us as to how to dance like the Greeks was, "Step with one foot going behind the other and walk like a drunk old man".

This we picked up relatively easily, however I was up for the challenge... I wanted to do the hard stuff. If I had a plate in my hand at that moment I would have definitely broken it and screamed "Opa!". But for the sake of the restaurant and it's limited plates, I instead decided to attempt the slide. I jumped up and down, took a deep breath, prepared myself... they full out lunged into a slide. Bad idea. I had forgotten I was wearing shorts and landed on a very rocky floor, which was not appreciated by my knees. The bruise on my knee is a constant reminder that I am no professional Greek dancer.

After our short, but epic Greek dance experience... we interviewed the waiter for our film project. During his interview he confirmed all the Greek culture traits I had picked up on. However, he also added how many other cultures influence the very unique island of Cyprus. For example sitting on the table during our interview was a Hookah. This original Arabic past time is now smoked after dinner, sometimes even with Cypriot coffee.

Once he said this, I recalled that right down the street from our apartment was a popular Syrian restaurant with Arabic food and Syrian workers. I also remembered that most of the waiters and store owners I had talked to all over the island were from Bulgaria, Lebanon, Nigeria, all over the world. Also European tourists could be found EVERYWHERE. And the influence of Britain, from being a part of the United Nations, was apparent with all the strange spellings of words in English. Like "Colour" instead of "Color". And of course on top of all that half the island is Turkish.

After realizing this, my head was spinning. I thought I was back to square one with figuring out this whole Cypriot culture puzzle. I hadn't factored in all the other outside influences, and had no idea what to make out of it?

That's when the waiter we were interviewed cleared everything up for me. I asked him what his favorite part of the Cypriot culture was.

"I love how we have a mix of everything and every type of person. We take a little from every culture to make it our own. And when tourists or people from other places come to visit Cyprus, or even come to live... we greet them warmly. Our island is so small, that when these people come, it feels like they are coming into our house. We offer them coffee, we sit and talk with them, and we learn from each other."

When he said this it all became clear to me. I was trying to put together a puzzle of Cypriot culture to make a picture I could understand. But what the waiter was trying to tell me is that the pile of puzzle pieces WAS in fact the finished project. There are so many people from all over the world coming to Cyprus and influencing the culture, and the original Cypriot welcome the people with open arms.

The Cypriots are known for putting their family first... but I didn't realize to know just how BIG of a family they have.. the entire island is their family. And, without questions asked... they let us become part of their family too.

(Pictures by Zaina!)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Panama City of Cyprus...

Ayia Napa. Before we had even ventured here for the weekend, we had heard stories upon stories about how amazing it would be. We heard that the beaches would be crystal clear with warm golden sand, the restaurants would be plentiful and with much variety all along the main strip, and the nightlife... oooh the nightlife... in a city that never sleeps the rows and rows of dance clubs packed with people would be sure to continue to the wee hours of the morning. All of these proved to be true, however they left one important thing out... how the tourists ruin the high expectations.

The moment we arrived to our hotel in Ayia Napa... our adrenaline hit
an all time high. One look outside our hotel room windows and we were outside in our bathing suits in under 5 minutes. We had never stayed in a hotel with such an amazing pool area.

But it just took 50 more steps outside of the pool area to realize just what we were in store for that weekend. We traveled down a little stone path with tropical plants aligning either side of the sandy way, and just over the last sand dune we saw the most crystal blue water I had ever seen before. This beach was beautiful. We spend most of our mornings, afternoons, and yes evenings laying on this beach. We enjoyed our time building sand castles, relaxing on the beach chairs, and swimming against the waves. Except for a random piece of lettuce we saw floating around, the water was incredibly clean.

After soaking in all the sun possible, we could not ignore the growling of our stomaches any longer. We found a restaurant not far from our hotel with burgers and fries for a very cheap price. Although not very Cypriot, we took advantage of the money we would save. The next day we dined at an Italian restaurant with delicious pastas with so much per serving, none of us could finish it all. Two out of the three preconceptions of this place, the beaches and the food, had proven true... now all that was left to see was the nightlife.

The first night we met up with some of our Cypriot friends who took us to a beach dance party. This was like nothing I had ever seen before. As we walked down the wooden steps our feet met something unexpected... sand. Now, sand at a beach party sounds like they would go together. But in our minds we imagined the dancing would occur on a platform NEAR the beach. Well, we were not just NEAR the beach... we were right smack in the middle of it. The waves would creep up and wet the feet of the farthest dancers in the giant crowd.

The crowd... this was another adventure on its own. With amount of people crowded around this coastline dancing, you would assume Lady Gaga was about to come on stage and preform. There were people everywhere... and FROM everywhere. That night we met tourists from all over Europe, however most of the people there were Cypriots. The DJ at the front of the crowd played everything from Greek, to French, to American dance music. The best part was the Cypriot guys, who seem to be very respectful from what I have noticed, did not try to grab you to dance every ten seconds. They instead gave all the girls their space. With all the thing going on at this dance party, I didn't know whether to dance, play in the waves, or build a sand castle. All in all this event was something I have never experienced, and would love to experience again.

The next night was a very different story, however. We decided to explore around the main square, the clubbing wonderland for all visiting tourists. We walked into the first dance club, the lights were flashing and music booming, but the crowd was very different from the beach dance party. There was no mistake for a Lady Gaga concert here, even though Dina went up on stage, grabbed the mic, and sang a Lady Gaga song as the entire crowd cheers and took pictures. The crowd was, instead, relatively small... and consisted of many, many creepy guys.

My favorite creep of the night was a man that stood about 5 foot tall. His scruffy beard and greasy hair made him look as if showers were optional in his mind. He wore a button down shirt that he unbuttoned way further than necessary. His favorite game of the night was scoping out girls, choosing his victim, and attacking them with his horrible dance moves. The worse part was once he picked you out, he wouldn't stop dancing with you until he found a new victim. This happened to a number of girls in our group. We even developed a system, every time he would try to dance with one of us the rest would for a circle, a barrier, to keep him away. Apparently this act, stern glares, and even saying "I don't want to dance with you" did not phase this guys determination. He would just shake off the rejection and continue his tactics on the next girl.

"Find the creepy tourist" was a game of the night that proved to be far too easy. Through out our adventures that night we found ourselves getting scammed, getting offended, and getting shocked by the people we saw and the way the acted. None of these people were Cypriots.

The last place we ended up at was the nicest club we had seen, complete with two pools, flashing lights, and Bob Marly reggae music blaring from the speakers. The only thing missing was a crowd. This club didn't open until around 3 or 4 AM and stayed up until the next afternoon. Exhausted from the night, most of us went home before the club could open.

All in all we experienced a part of the island that the tourists took way too far in the crazy direction. We experienced what I can only compare to a night at Panama City Beach, something that most people go to, but never want to go back to again. I think I would go to Ayia Napa again to see the beaches, enjoy the food, and maybe go to another beach dance party. However, as far as the other tourists go, I think I'll just stick to hanging out with the Cypriots.

There's no place like home

Imagine sitting comfortably in your home after a hard days work. You stretch out on the couch with a warm cup of coffee. As you set your coffee down on the table next to your toast, a midday snack, you grab today's newspaper. Opening it to the first page, you take a deep breath... and relax.

Suddenly you hear screaming in the streets. Sirens begin to ring. You look out of your window and crowds are beginning to run down the street. That's when you see it. Hundreds of Turkish soldiers invading... ordering an immediate evacuation. You drop everything, find your family, and leave your home.

36 years later, a photographer sneaks his way around your city of Famagusta. The streets are deserted except for the occasional stray cat, which still looks lonely and out of place in this ghost town. The photographer takes pictures of deteriorating buildings and dusty roads, until he stumbles upon a little house... your house. He focuses his lense to peer through a window and into the living room. In this living room he sees a dusty couch, a broken coffee table, what looked like could have been a comfortable family room so many years ago. He focuses his camera on the table. All that is left is the remnants of what looked like use to be toast, an empty coffee mug, and an open newspaper with the date August 15, 1974. The day you, as well as thousands of people, lost your home, your stores, your life the way it once was.

When the Turks invaded Cyprus in 1974 the took Famagusta, a booming city with golden beaches and busy city life. This place brought in the most wealth for the island from tourism and was home to thousands upon thousands of people.
The Turks evacuated the city and drew a line of barbed wire and Turkish soldiers around it. Still to this day no Greek Cypriot has crossed that line to get back to their home city. The city is a dying ghost town today.

There has been no progression to the situation today, and the future does not look promising. So many residence of Famagusta, who are now parents and grandparents, will never be able to take their family back to their home city. They will never see their old shops and beaches. One woman who was a little girl when the invasion occurred said all she could think about for months was her diary she left under her bed, never to be seen again.

It's sad to think that we can do nothing. As much power our country has, we can easily give back the city to the Cypriots. But complicated by political issues with both Turkish and Greek alliances, we are doing nothing. I hope one day these families can see their home again and rebuild their city. I know too well after studying abroad that there is no place like home. But I get to see my home in just a couple of weeks. I couldn't imagine not being allowed to go home for 36 years... 36 years, that is... and counting.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

If you think this water is clean.. you are in Da Nile!!

Floating down the Nile on a boat for lunch!

First I must start off by saying the title was unfortunately not my original joke.. all credit goes to Alex Van Tilburg. I could not stop laughing when she said this as we were standing right next to the longest river in the world, The Nile. As we were looking out onto this dark green river, everything I had learned from my 6th grade World History class started flooding backwards from an unknown source - where I keep my knowledge of calculus and random facts about the Backstreet Boys - and back into my head... just like the backwards flow of this incredible river. My history books were coming to life right before my eyes.

This amazing experience, one I will remember for the rest of my life, occurred in just one weekend. We had decided a couple weeks ago that we would take a boat to Egypt and go on a tour once we got there. The only other time I had been on a boat to travel from one country to another was in Brazil. The boat we took then was ancient. The metal was rusted and the wooden boards were rotten, it's a miracle no one fell through the boat and into the water while we were puttering down the mighty Amazon!

When we stepped onto the dock ready to leave for Egypt, every one of our mouths dropped. This was not just any boat, this was a cruise ship.

However, this ship was unlike any cruise I had ever been on in a very diversely cultural way. Just walking down the dock I could distinguish at least four different languages. Even the cruise workers were welcoming us in Arabic! Or so we thought. One cruise worker shouting something to us, and Zaina replied back, "Some of us can speak Arabic you know." And the entire crew started laughing hysterically. Zaina later told us that the man had said "Oh American girls! I will party and drink with you hotties!". Needless to say we were all very happy to have Zaina around, and that was my first of many cultural experiences during this week.

The biggest culture shock came from realizing how little I knew about Egypt. When the engine of the boat stopped, thus shaking the entire ship and causing us to fumble around aimlessly off balance, I ran outside having no idea what to expect. I knew of Egypt's magnificent pyramids and vast dessert, but what I saw when I stepped outside was an old run down, dusty city.

Shocked, but still excited to be there, we ran out of the boat and had our first encounter with the Egyptian souvenir sales man. Aggressive was too calm of a term to describe these men. They were suffocating, not taking "No" for an answer. One even shoved a bag on Dr. Legg's arm, grabbing his hat off of his head, and put it in the bag. They have a very rehersed way of making you feel guilting into buying something. The most common game I heard was when one would give you a "gift" because he liked you, then 10 seconds later ask for a Euro in exchange for the "free" gift.

As tough as it was to ignore the souvenir salesman, was no comparison to see were the children who were working as salesmen. I had seen little kids before used as beggars or workers, but it never gets easier to see. The children run up to you, trying to be as aggressive as the adult salesman. Sometimes they get annoying, but in the back of your head you cannot help but feel sorry for them. They are just children.

One little boy ran up to Zaina and asked her to buy a postcard for 1 Euro. Zaina replied back to him in Arabic that she didn't want one. Knowing only how to say "1 Euro" in English, he began to tell her how tired and thirsty he was in Arabic, and how he cannot stop selling these postcards until he sells every single one. She leaned down on his level, handed him 5 dollars, and said, "You take this money and don't tell anyone you have it. Take it for yourself." His smile was from ear to ear as he walked away from our group.

The aggression of these souvenir salesmen make you think the biggest part of Egypt's economy is tourism. However, there is no comparison to the amount Egypt's economy gains from their agriculture. We drove past vast acres of farms growing cotton and rice. We even drove past what looked like giant rock towers. Our tour guide explained that they use these towers for pigeon breeding. A delicacy in Egypt is pigeon, they eat them for weddings and fancy dinners. I was overjoyed to hear this. My past experience with pigeons had been less than enjoyable. I never will know what the second half of that cookie would have tasted like.

The tour guide continued about Egypt's agriculture, so exited to teach all of us about her country and culture. You could tell from the first moment she began telling us the story of Ancient Egypt how proud she was of her heritage. That seemed to be a common trait among the Egyptians. Their museum was magnificent and very well kept in order to teach all of us all about Ancient Egypt and specifically King Tut. We walked into one room in the museum, and almost had to squint from the glare of the massive amounts of gold. The tombs were gold, the chariots was gold, even the beds were made out of gold. And the detail on every work of gold was incredible. The headdress/mask of King Tut was one of the most detailed piece of artwork I had even seen.

Not only was it made in pure gold, but the paintings on the face were flawless. The stones used for his chest were cut in tiny, perfectly rectangle squares. But the most fascinating was the inside of the mask. What could have easily just been smooth, pure gold was decorated in tiny hieroglyphics all over the inside of the mask. Each drawing must have taken such a long time to create, yet they had hundreds of them in a place no one would even see. The same went for the tombs King Tut was buried in. They did not just use one extraordinarily decorated golden tomb, but instead made four that fit inside of each other. Around that they build many rooms for all the King's belongings. And on top of that they built an enormous pyramid.

Seeing these pyramids with our own eyes was an indescribable experience. We had all thought we knew what to expect, the Egyptian pyramids are all over movies and media. However the size of these pyramids we all greatly underestimated. One block, just ONE block of these pyramids was almost as tall as I was. We got the opportunity to walk inside one of the pyramids. They warned us how claustrophobic it can get inside the pyramids, but once again we greatly underestimated what they meant. We found ourselves hunched over in a 90 degree angle, holding on for dear life to the only skinny rail along the way as the steep incline took us down a seemingly black endless hole. When we finally entered a tall enough room to stand up, we found ourselves starring at a tomb that was left wide open. Stephen danced inside of it. Hopefully he will not be cursed now.

Almost immediately after we entered, we turned around and made the uncomfortable climb back out of the pyramid, walking past a little girl with tears streaming down her face. "It's fun I promise!" reassured Stephen. The disbelieving glare on the little girls face let us know she would more than likely be scarred for life.

After emerging from the pyramid and taking many pictures, I decided to try something my dad tells me over and over again to do while traveling to another country. Try to blend in with the culture.

This is what ended up happening.

We had seen the pyramids, the Sphinx, the museum filled with gold, tools, and household objects from the Ancient Egyptian times. And the final event on the agenda was debatably the most culturally enriching experience yet.

We traveled to a small store where they make and sell Papyrus. Papyrus is the first form of paper ever discovered. They take a stalk of the Papyrus plants and cut it into layers, then roll the strips and weave them into a square. Then they let it dry. This process takes weeks, but the outcome is amazing. The paper is extremely durable and the artwork they paint on it is breathtaking!
How to make Papyrus

On the bus ride back to our cruise ship, I only had one thought going through my mind as we drove past the broken down buildings once again. The Ancient Egyptians spent hours, weeks, even years on details. They decorated everything with gold, despite the expense. Their appreciation for the little things in life was evident. Their patients to make giant works of art such as the Sphinx and Pyramids was incredible. The effort and time they put into their works of art and religion created a culture that still be admired thousands of years later. It was crazy to me to see that this seemed to not be upheld by Egyptians today. Maybe it has to do with lack of money. Maybe it has to do with lack of enthusiasm. But I could not help but think that if King Tut himself had seen the half constructed buildings we drove by, he would have been shocked. However, the ancient Egyptians believed in slavery and that is how a lot of their monuments were built. Freedom is well worth the cost of beauty to the city, but if Ancient Egyptians could build masterpieces with nothing but their bare hands, surely the freed Egyptians today can get together and make their country historically breathtaking once again.

That was my initial thought on the bus ride back to the cruise ship. But the more I thought about it, the more ignorant I realized I was being. Yes, it is easy for me... a middle class American with so many opportunities, to criticize a country for not caring enough to upkeep the streets and buildings. Never did it cross my mind that maybe this country is trapped between a rock and a hard place, struggling with the intense gap between the extremely wealthy and the very poor social classes of Egypt, with little in between. And on top of that, trying to survive in a unevenly rationed world... with my own country being one with alarge portion of the wealth. When you are not given the money, you have to survive any way you can.

Instead of looking at the apparent lack of "beauty" of the city.. maybe I should have been looking at things from another prospective. Yes the streets might be dirty, and the buildings might be falling apart, but the real beauty is how the common people, the everyday Egyptians, survive. Everyday they must watch as hundreds of rich tourists come into their home. I wonder what goes through their head when we walk by? We go back and stay in fancy hotels and have nice houses to go home to. While living in a building most of us at home would label "condemned", they are still able to have pride in their heritage and survive in the most difficult surroundings.... That is the true beauty of Egypt.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Exploration Leds To Discovery! ... "60% of the time, it works every time"

One of my favorite things to do is take off by myself and explore. Just ask my mother, whom if she could would install a tracking device and shock collar on me so she could let me know I'd gone too far.

I actually remember a conversation I had with my mother before I left, where she hinted she would buy me an international phone. Unlike any other daughter in the world, I refused the present. One, because I knew my mother would text me at least 20 times a day with information such as "I just saw a pretty flower, did you see a pretty flower today?" And two, because I knew the GPS system is what really appealed to her intentions for the phone.
 My mother... what looks like love to some, 
                                                                                                   is actually physical restraint 

During our weekend trip to Limassol and Paphos, I desperately wanted to explore. The bus tour we took on the first day was torture. Sure, I loved hearing all about the places we were seeing from a Cypriot tour guide, but when we got to some amazing places, in particular the birthplace of Aphrodite, I desperately wanted to walk closer and look around.  We were so close, yet so far away as we looked off the interstate bridge down to the ocean during our 5 minute stop at this sight.
Between the first two rocks is where legend has it, Aphrodite formed. 

So when we discovered that the next day was a free day for all students, we decided to take full advantage. We woke up that morning and headed straight to the beach. I was surprised to find myself walking in black sand and looking out to a dark Navy blue ocean. The beach itself was only 50 feet wide, and rocks aligned the border like a natural wall. This place looked as if you were looking at a regular ocean through a camera with the darkening lens cap on... it was bizarre! However, a beach is a beach and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there.

When we came back from the beach, we headed over to the pool. A relaxing and anti-salt way to cool off in the intense heat. However, I still wanted to explore. So when Stephen mentioned he was going to walk around the city, I jumped out of my beach chair and all but starting running in front of him, ready to start the adventure!

We documented through pictures our walk... and here are some things we found..

 At this part of the beach, they sit on inflatables!   My first time seeing the Mediterrean, water sooo clear I could even see my flip flop tan line!

We had to balance on a ledge at one part, my lack of balance was almost hazardess... Stephen used his Zin to help him cross. Show off. lol

Crossing the scariest ledge possible! Might as well be rock climbing!

And of course it wouldn't be Cyprus if we didn't run into a huge area of dirt filled with 20 cats

We came back exhausted and dehydrated... but so fulfilled! So there you go, exploration always leads to discovery. No, we did not discover a buried treasure, or a secret part of the island.. but sometimes you have to look past the obvious. During our 2 hour walk Stephen and I talked about all topics.. religion, culture, what we want out of life, even the World Cup. In just that one walk I learned so much about Stephen, and even myself during many "Aha!" moments. That is why I am addicted to traveling... it is so inspiring. You take yourself out of your comfort zone... out of your normal way of thinking... and are forced to viewed the world from someone else's eyes. In doing this, opening your eyes to a life other than your own, you learn so much about your own life. These conversations wouldn't usually come up in daily conversation back at home, and sometimes it just takes seeing something new to spark the conversation. The things you learn about the world, and about yourself... are the things you never forget and treasure forever. And that is the discovery I found.

Lost in Limassol

There are many ways you can be lost in a country. One way is the physical sense, the act of needing a map or a GPS system, neither seem to be easily available in the country of Cyprus for the Tennesseans. There is also a mental sense, the act of confusion or frustration... kind of like every time Halie plays the name game and cannot guess her person, no matter how famous or well known they are. Or how confused Jenna will be in the morning when she realizes the creepy statue we found the first day will magically appear in her suitcase. Or even the look Stephen gets when he realizes his 7 other Tennesseans don't grasp the importance of Zombie killing video games... utter confusion.

Stephen's confused face

But the sense of "lost" that we all share as a group is how lost we are within the Cypriot culture. Not only are we faced with two different cultures (Greek and Turkish) but we have also been introduced to a hybrid of the two, mixed with British influence and European tourism. This creates an island and a culture of pure uniqueness, and nothing we can compare it to. Therefore many misconceptions of their culture have and will been made.

For example, some of us have found the waiter/waitress food service to be very rude. Some have reported waiters giving them rude looks or sarcastic comments after bringing a single check and being asked for separate checks, changing orders, or asking for specifics (dipping sauce, etc). What I have come to realize, however, is that I think the waiter/customer relationship is very different in this country. At home, we treat this relationship as very businesslike. The waiter is there to serve us, and in return we give him or her a big tip. However in Cyprus, the waiter is more of your friend than your servant. When you treat them as such, they will be offended. However, if you treat them as a friend, they will become your biggest fan. I found this out this past weekend during our trip to Limassol.

The first night we arrived, we ate at a nice Cypriot restaurant called Assos just by our hotel. The high prices of this restaurant almost turned us away, but the beautiful outside eating area where, hovering over the tables, was a ceiling made of grapes felt as if we found a secret garden or vineyard hidden away inside a touristy city.

As soon as we sat down, an older waiter came running out, as excited as a 5 year old, and asked us with a wide smile what we wanted to eat. He rushed in to get our drinks and could not get out fast enough to ask us questions about where we come from and why we are here. I told him we were studying Journalism at the University of Nicosia, and suddenly his eyes got very wide. He grabbed me by the hand and said "Come, come with me!"

I looked nervously back at my group (having watched one too many "Taken" and "Hostage" travel movies) but realizing they were watching me like a hawk, I followed our waiter to the very next table. He spoke to the man sitting there in Greek, then introduced me to the "most well-known journalist in all of Cyprus!" I talked to him for awhile and he gave me his number to call if I ever needed anything in Cyprus.

Not 10 minutes into our meal the waiter came again, grabbed me by the hand, and took me to another table where he introduced me to a captain of a ship who had traveled all around the world, and visited more places in the United States than I had! The captain had retired not too long ago, and was a 70 year old white haired Cypriot who I very easily would have loved to show around to everyone as my adorable grandpa. He had so many stories about his travels, and I found myself sitting at their table for at least a half an hour just listening. He told me how he loved the south, it was his favorite part of the country, because the random acts of kindness and friendliness to strangers he saw there reminded him of his home in Cyprus. He talked to me about the Turkish invasion of 1974, and how he agreed with most other Cypriots that the division was a peaceful move, and the only way living together could work. But instead of a racist view, he made a point that their economy was so different. Just their currency alone would be hard to convert and share.

In the middle of our surprisingly deep conversation, the retired captain quickly remembered his manners and introduced me to his friend who I had noticed had been trying to get his attention for the past half hour. This Cypriot man I was not so found of, but I did find quite humorous. He was a sleek business man who all but winked at me when the captain introduced him. He didn't speak English (thank goodness) but by the end of the night, after he had bought me and the other 7 girls roses, he did ask the waiter to translate and say to me, "You have a smile of 10 suns" ... Whatever that means. It might have been alluded to how sunburnt I was for all I know.  We left soon after and the waiter waved goodbye to his new best friends and American family, as he made us feel.

Well, it turned out we had made a very good friend that night. I had yet to feel scared in Cyprus, until around 1 AM that morning while walking with two other girls to meet up with friends at, what we thought, was a nearby location.

The first honk we ignored. The second, we got a little annoyed. The third, accompanied with a cat call... very agitated. The fourth, furious. And the last straw was when a car stopped on the side of the road and the guys inside starred and hollered. We turned around and started walking back towards our hotel, trying to find a cab and not knowing how to get one. I saw from a distance a group of guys getting out of the car. I began to feel very nervous. It was around that time I heard a familiar voice "Annie! Come!" It was our waiter friend calling us from inside his restaurant. We hurried inside and sat with him while he called a taxi for us. "You are making a grave mistake. You must be careful with just three girls" he told us. Feeling glad I had found a Greek father while mine was in another country, we thanked him repeatedly and went on our way... a much safer way.

I never got to see him after that night, even though I tried on many occasions, but the Cypriot sense of time and closing schedules are non existent.  One day the restaurant would be open for lunch and all through the night, the next day it wouldn't open until 8 p.m. The last day we were in Limassol, I did sneak into the locked restaurant (by hopping over various fences of course) and left him a note thanking him again for his hospitality! Maybe someday in the future I will go back to visit and see him again.

However, Greeks are not the only ones who can save the day in Cyprus. Just earlier today we had another scare.  We had learned our lesson from the last situation, and this time 5 of us girls went walking together in the middle of the day. Perfectly safe, or so we thought.

Walking back from downtown, a car honked at us. Use to this honk and drive by, we ignored it. However, this car was persistent. The two guys inside started driving by us, back and fourth and back and fourth... making U-Turns just to drive past us again. This got old very quick. They starting slowing down and taking pictures of us, laughing their heads off, and speeding off once again, only to make another U-Turn.

To try and lose them, we turned on a small residential street and took our time finding our way back to the main road. After a good twenty minutes we figured the boys had given up their little game. As soon as we got back to the main road, they were driving by and honking once again. So this time we crossed the street and went to a park. This part was amazing. There was a bright blue fountain in the center contrasted with the greenest most accurately cut grass I had ever seen, and actually had to feel to believe it was not perfectly trimmed carpet.  We spend a very long time in this park, perfecting a "jumping picture" and wasting time so the boys would once again give up their stupid game and go home.

Feeling confident that the boys must have given up, we started walking around the park. But as soon as we took a step we heard an echo of "Oh my gosh, you have got to be kidding me." The little beat up green car that had been following us pulled into the parking lot and two boys got out and started walking towards us. We quickly made our way to a more populated area, and tried to ignore them. However, it is hard to ignore to guys following at your heals, snickering and making rude comments. At one point Halie even shouted "Leave us alone!" They finally walked down a different path than us and we high tailed it out of there, and even followed a random couple to make them think we were with other older people. But it didn't take long for them to hop in their car and find us once again. Getting pretty scared by this point, after all it had been 2 hours of this chase... we snuck away into a Burger King.

I have never used a Burger King as a safety point... especially in Cyprus of all places, but hiding behind the plastic chairs and oversized orders, we tried to stay away from the windows as we called a taxi to take us home. The last thing we wanted was for those guys to know where we lived. The taxi was taking too long, however, and it didn't take long for the boys to figure out where we were. So we decided to call our professor, Dr. Legg. He started the walk all the way from our apartments to come get us.

That's when we found ourselves in the oddest series of events while on this trip. We were outside in a very populated coffee shop area. A wedding photo shoot was going on in one corner. A cab driver was yelling at us from another corner. And the boys were walking right towards us. We were getting scared and trying to figure out our next plan of action. Stress started getting too much, and we all started talking very quickly and very loudly. We even scared off a nice family of Cypriots trying to enjoy their coffee. But finally just as the boys started walking towards us again, we saw Dr. Legg!

Never before have we ran faster to our journalism professor. The boys SPRINTED for their car. They only drove past us one more time, and were greeted to a "WHAT! Getcha some!" threatening look from Dr. Legg, who walked us all the way back to our apartments and made sure we were safe before leaving us.

We still have a lot to learn in this country, and a lot of interesting experiences have come from our mistakes. However, the thing we have to take from all these mistakes is to always be aware. Not "aware" as in always fearful, because you will never enjoy traveling if you are always worried. But we have to be aware of the culture. If girls wear jeans instead of shorts, we should mimic. If girls walk around with another man to accompany them, we should do the same. Dr. Legg told us that no matter what we do, they will know we are American and that is partly why they are honking. But it never hurts to have a Cypriot around to fill us in on mistakes BEFORE we can make them. That is our next goal, to make some Cypriot friends and learn even more about their culture.

And after that goal.. our next is to steal Dr. Legg's cowboy hat. I will never forget the look on Stephen's face when he realized Dr. Legg had left his hat in the restaurant. The whole room was silent after Stephen shouted out "YESSSSSSSSSSS!!!" grabbed the cowboy hat, and immediately began a photo shoot... only to be disappointed by Dr. Legg's quick return and snatching of his hat from his students' heads. It will happen someday before we leave. Just you wait.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Karaoke with "The Tennessee Group" (In quotations)

They call us the "Tennessee Group" ... always setting apart from the 30 other Study Abroad students from all over the Country (and Canada). Our small group of eight has grown closer than we ever thought was possible on this one summer trip to Cyprus. And it's only been a week!

There is so much I can say about the 7 other people I have met here on this trip... but before I write about them... I'll let this video speak for itself...

Our Cypriot Ghost Haunting

There have been many unexplained activities recently among the University of Tennessee group of eight. Haunting has been occurring... and no one is sure if they will come back home alive. The tale of the Cypriot Ghost has been documented... without a pleasant ending.

WARNING: Do not watch if you are easily terrified, a cat lover, or Irish.

(This is what happens when you get a group of journalist students together... What we do with our free time in Cyprus... p.s. Wohlwend this blog is not one for grading!!! Just enjoying!! haha)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Experiencing Greek Passion in the Worst Way

Tensions were high as I stood in a very tough situation. Feeling like a teacher breaking up a fight between elementary kids, I didn't want to hurt either one's feelings or create more hostility between them. At any second I felt like this man was going to either spit at my feet, or break down and cry. I knew what had to be done...

The old city of downtown Nicosia really concreted my love for Cyprus. All I had really known up to that point was the Greek side... and I was beginning to adore the Greek culture! Every restaurant we went to the waiters would great us with warmth and passion for his food. He would treat us like old friends and sometimes even offer us free champagne because he was just so happy to see us!

Even as we passed a lady selling homemade candy and sweets on the side of the street, she greeted our professor, Dr. Legg, like a good friend she had just talked to yesterday... When in fact it had been a year since he had last been in Cyprus! I have no idea how she remembered him, but it seems that just one friendly conversation with the Greeks creates a life long friendship.

So today when we decided to do some souvenir shopping in the small cobble roads of downtown, I decided to talk to every vendor I met, and try to learn some Greek! The first shop I went into, I said the Greek word for "Thank You".. Efgaresto (Pronounced Ef (flem) Har isto!). His eyes lit up as soon as the words left my mouth and he laughed and clapped his hands. He then taught me how to say "I love Cyprus" and "Bye bye"

At the next vendor I visited, I was trying to find a souvenir of a bear. He had carvings of elephants, giraffes, wolves... but no bear! Every time I would ask him for a "Bear" he would get very confused and repeat "Bird?" I told him I would run and learn how to say it in Greek. So I ran a little ways down and asked a nice older Greek woman how to say bear in Greek. She told me, then warned me.. "Watch out, that vendor down there not only looks like a bear! He is a bear! Aggressive in his sales!" And she winked at me as I said waved thank you and ran off down the street.

The man I returned to turned out to be quite a character. He sure knew how to play the game and showed me every single one of his hand painted pictures, asking if I would like to add them to my purchase and smiling innocently as he waiting for my answer.

"By no you mean yes, right?" He would say. "I give you the best deal! No one better than me! Your new buddy!"

I left with just my original purchase despite his persistent, yet harmless attempts otherwise, and went back to the first woman vendor to say thank you for teaching me how to say bear. But as soon as I walked up to her something caught my eye in her shop. A beautiful piece of artwork of Aphrodite and Ares. I walked over to it and she came beside me and said, "I see you love this... I will give it to you for good deal! But no pressure, no rush, you decide."

I laughed realizing she was alluding to her fellow vendor down the street.

After purchasing the painting and having a conversation about how much she wants her daughter to marry so she can have grandchildren, and how she was married by the age of 18, I walked back down the street to meet the rest of my group at dinner.

Well, as soon as I turned that corner and walked in front of the other vendors store, I was confronted with something I was not at all prepared for. An old man, the vendor, with watery eyes and a look of heartbreak written on his face as he looked at my bag said to me... "You no like my paintings?"

I quickly tried to redeem myself and his self esteem and said, "No, no it was just this one painting! I love all your paint...!"

I couldn't even finish my sentence before his sad face morphed as he clinched together every single muscle in his face from anger and screamed... "THAT LIAR!!! She tell you she has one of kind painting?! I HAVE ONE OF KIND!! She just trying to get you to buy! I spit at her! She know nothing! You my new buddy must trust ME! I am the best painter!"

The old man was screaming so loud I knew the old lady would be able to hear him down the road and walk down to settle the score! So I rushed him into his store and asked him to show me all his paintings! In an instant his face was overcome with more excitement than a mischievous five year old who just realized Santa Claus can give you double the presents if you never wake up your sister Christmas morning.

Thirty minutes later I walked out of his store with 2 new paintings. When settling a fight with children, sometimes it takes your own sacrifice to let the other two realize their faults. I actually have no experience considering I don't have any children, and even less experience with Greeks. But after today I made two new friends and bought 3 new paintings! ... it's just food I will be lacking these next couple weeks :)

Cyprus: Island of love or heart torn apart?

Aphrodite... The Goddess of Venus... The Goddess of Love. When you come to the Greek side of Cyprus you cannot escape hearing all about her and seeing her statues and pictures around every street and corner of the Island.

The legend goes that the Goddess of Love fell from the skies and formed in the foam of the seas of Cyprus.

It is said that she has a magic girdle that had the power to inspire love and beauty to anyone who wore it. She also had many lovers, but of these one of the most famous was her affair with Ares, the God of War. The passion from which their relationship was created is symbolic of the destructive attraction between men and women; love and war. It was this polarity that made their love so strong.

Aphrodite and Ares had a son named Eros, or better known as cupid. He was the most beautiful child but sometimes when he would get drunk he would make the worse pairs fall in love. He was known to be a trouble maker, especially in his child form.

The Cypriots today still believe in all the love and magic of Aphrodite. In fact it is believed that if you go to the beach where Aphrodite formed, and swim around her rock three times at midnight you will find your true love.

                                           Aphrodite's Rock in Paphos, Cyprus

So the question I have is how can Cyprus, the Island of Love... also be known as the last divided country in Europe and contain the last divided city in the world. Sharing seems like it should be a virtue of love! And sharing is definitely not an action I would associate with Cyprus.

Greeks had been the majority of the Island, and Greek love, passion, and culture was shared by all islanders  until 1974 when the Turks invaded. The Cyprus tried to fight and send them back to Turkey, but the population of an army on a island does not remotely compare the the Turkish army.

So instead... to solve the problem, the two sides literally drew a line. The Green Line. This line separates the Northern Turkish side and the Southern Greek side and runs right through the capital city, Nicosia.

A march in the Capital City from the Greek side to the Turkish side encouraging peace!

As a peacekeeper, the United Nations claimed the 100 yard middle territory and kept it as a safe zone, or as it is called today.. the dead zone.

While walking through downtown Nicosia the other day, we stumbled upon a dead end. All we could see at this dead end was a very old, very large fence... and above the fence hung a rather intimidating sign that said "Absolutely no pictures". Realizing that we were not suppose to be around that area or take pictures of it, we walked closer. That's when we were told that this was the dividing line. After realizing this we noticed a Turkish solider monitoring the border. Still curious, we looked past the soldier and through the cracks and holes in the fence. What we saw shocked me.

I felt as if I was looking into a game of Call of Duty on pause. A ghost town. Dust everywhere, buildings crumbling, not a person to be seen. When I looked closely at the building I saw wounds, bullet holes, some reaching up to 6 inches in diameter, covered the sides of the buildings. A chill came over me as I realized that those bullet holes were meant for someone at one point.

The most bizarre part of this ghost town is it is only 100 yards wide and follows the dividing line all the way through out the island. The uniqueness of this situation I could not quite wrap my head around. So I decided to relate this situation to something I am very familiar with, and came up with this...

The dead zone is an unfortunate brown and dusty filling to the equally delicious Greek and Turk layers in the Cyprus Oreo.

I understand the Greek's point that if they shared the whole island with Turkey, they would quickly be outnumbered and their Greek culture would be enveloped by the Turk culture. But if only the two sides could get along, this could create one very blended cookie!!! A new flavor everyone will love!

I guess after 36 years, neither side is willing to have their cookie blended.

Maybe the drunken Eros is playing a trick on the island. Making both Greeks and Turks fall in love with Cyprus, and laughing at the fight. If this is true, Eros just needs to sober up and fix the mess! He just needs tons of bread and a cold shower to hurry the process.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Summer in Cyprus! Our new pet kitten?

I love the sun. I cannot get enough of it, if they made houses made completely out of windows -that wasn't a huge notice to steal everything you could clearly see inside, or an health hazard to fly by birds- I would definitely live in one. So far that has been my favorite thing about Cyprus. I'm sitting in my new apartment in Cyprus, just barely recovering from Jet Lag, and the huge windows in every corner let in so much sun. I could seriously sun bath in my bed if I wanted to.

Leaving the States last Wednesday seems like such a long time ago. But in reality we lost a day due to the 8 hour time change. It's actually hard to believe that I am resting up before dinner while my sister back in Tennessee is probably dead to the world asleep for another 4 hours.

The plane ride actually flew by... (haha literally). The only boring part was sitting in the Nashville airport waiting for the group to arrive. I kept myself entertained by singing to myself. My Aunt had just told me before they dropped me off that she thought the words to the song "Get your freak on" actually said "Get your free thong". So I found myself quietly singing "Get your free thong, get your free thong, getcha getcha getcha free thong" while sitting next to some elderly women who gave me some confused glances every now and then.

Nashville to Chicago was a breeze. The next flight was much longer, but with in-flight movies at our fingertips it only took 3 mushy love films to get to London. We only had 2 hours to get through customs and re-check our bags in London, and of course the custom line zig zagged back and fourth for what seemed like a mile. Tired and delirious, each of us started glancing around the bare room to find something to entertain us. That is when I discovered that the line that said "iris recognition" did NOT mean they were going to scan our eyeballs, but instead was a line for the I.R.I.S. in the UK.

We made our Cyprus flight with 10 minutes to spare. And after a 40 minutes bus ride from the airport, unpacked in our new home.

Later that night after briefly exploring the campus, we hit the hay while a few girls went out on the town. I woke up randomly at 3 AM and could not go back to sleep. So instead I walked to our living room after hearing the girls get back in. However, instead of the girls, the first thing I saw was a tiny little kitten.

But it wasn't Santa Claus who brought us a new pet, it was Dina and Hailey who brought us a stray kitten complete with fleas :) None of us had the heart to throw the kitten outside after it had wandered up to Dina and Hailey outside the apartment. Instead we gave him a bath and he is currently residing next door in room 208. I don't know what we will end up doing with Mr. Kitty... but if we got a random pet cat after only one night here.. I can't imagine what will happen next.