Where I Have Been Map

Sunday, June 13, 2010

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.

1 comment:

winter sun holidays said...

Limassol is located in Akrotiri Bay it offers lots to do for the holidaymaker people come here to spent there winter sun holidays .