Where I Have Been Map

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Life Back to Normal (Part 2)

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.



Thursday, July 8, 2010

Life in Reverse (Part 1)

I have been home for 2 days now, and I am still in a haze. I find myself waking up at 5 AM and looking through pictures on facebook, just to make sure it was all real. My head is in two different places, home and Cyprus. I know this is all an effect of reverse culture shock, but I really wonder if it will ever stop. I love seeing my friends I had missed so much, but when I'm with them I oddly feel as if I am in a dream, and will wake up in Cyprus the next morning. After the experience I had, in just one month of seeing a whole new place, become close to a whole new group of friends, and essentially living a whole new life... I don't know if I can ever go back to normal.

Cyprus from the airplane

The 14 hour plane ride back seemed quick. I tried to watch the movies, but ended up just falling asleep in the awkwardly small chair half in the isle and half on Halie. I remember waking up as the plane was descending into Chicago. Normally, after being away from home for a month, it would be normal to feel ecstatic to touch down in America once again. But all I could relate to Chicago was the departing and separating of the 8 people in our Tennessee group that had been together 24/7 for the past 5 weeks. We had all been talking about this point of our trip since day one.

In the words of the always positive Jenna, "The only bad thing about our perfect lives here is that it will end."

And she was right, our trip did end... all too soon for any of us. The last image of Cyprus I had in my head was watching the tiny island grow smaller and smaller from the window of the plane. I hate to admit it, but I teared up. Not just at the thought of leaving this beautiful island with it's white sandy beaches and regal mountains. But I was leaving behind some very important people. Yes they were just in my life for a very short time, but they have no idea how big of an impact they made on me. Let's go in reverse and start from the beginning....

We had all had our share of annoyances from the Cypriot guys on the island. They made a simply walk to the grocery store impossible without honks and cat calls. They scared us from time to time with their stalking behaviors and persistency. They were a tad sketchy while juggling multiple girls. They could oil a full size SUV with the amount of product they put in their hair. At least the Cypriot guys we had met thus far. And when we ventured to Club Toy for the night, we once again were getting hassled by a group of guys who were laughing at our annoyance.

That's when we met Odyss. As a native Cypriot that goes to school in Tampa, Odyss and our group talked about the States, shared the feeling of absolute necessity for corn dogs and American Football... and bonded with us instantly. He hung out with us for the rest of the night. He even got the creepy Cypriot guys to back off.

Odyss introduced us to his friend, Abel. Without this guy convincing Odyss to come out that night, we would have never met either one of them. I could tell from the first conversation I had with Abel, that we would be great friends. I instantly felt like he was my long lost best friend that had been separated by 4,000 for the past 20 years of my life.

The first memory I have of Abel was spelling his name "Abell" in my phone. He was less than trilled. "I know my name sounds like a bell but you don't have to spell it like that!" and I replied, "hmm doesn't ring A BELL!" His emotionless glance my direction let me know he did not find that humorous. I cracked up more.

The next night we invited the guys to come to dinner with us to meet the rest of our Tennessee group. As we walked over to meet what we thought was going to be just our 2 new friends, we were greeted by a group of 6 guys. That is when we met Vas, Alex, Alexi, and Demi! Half of the group had British accents, most were at least half Cypriot, and all of them were some of the nicest guys I have ever met.

Jenna schooling Odyss in cards at the Syrian restaurant

We went and ate at a Syrian restaurant, one we had come to love because of their hilarious admiration of Zaina. Once we walked into the restaurant we would be greeted by 3 to 4 waiters leading us to our table and saying things like "Zaaaina, Zaina we missed you! It's so good to see you! Where have you been?!" Then the meal would progress into free coffee, meals, and desserts for miss Zaina Budayr. Score.

That night we all just hung out in our apartment and taught the Cypriots some American cards games!

Anytime we played cards during the trip, we all saw a whole new side to Danielle. A very competitive and slightly scary side. I don't know how many times I was Danielle's partner for the card game Euker.... my easily distracted personality plus Danielle's determination to win did not tend to mix very well. But a couple of "ANNIE.... FOCUS." later, we dominated just about every game we played.

Our adventures with our new friends did not end there, the next night we watched the Ghana game at our favorite pub, Brickyard. After the exciting game, a couple of karaoke songs, and more card games.... we found ourselves being pulled on stage by a group of Argentina guys dancing the salsa. Zaina recognized the group from our Egypt cruise we had taken a couple of weeks back, and asked the guy she was dancing with... "Egypt?" .... he replied "FERNANDO!" as he pointed to himself excitedly.

Dancing with the Argentinians

Later that night we went to a club called Nuovo. The clubs in Cyprus are so different from the clubs in America. They are HUGE, very high class, and have the best music! After dancing the night away "Waving Flag" by K'naan blasted from the speakers. This being the final song of the night, as well as the final song we came to love on our trip, we all danced in a big group hug and teared up a little as we looked back on how many experiences we had in this island.

However we didn't realize at that point that we still had the most epic 4th of July weekend ahead of us. We woke up the next morning and drove off with our new Cypriot friends to Ayia Napa. We relaxed on the beach all day and Halie, Danielle, and I even took the plunge off a giant cliff! We tried to convince Demi's girlfriend, Marianna, to jump off with us. But when she looked out at the sharp rocks below she shook her head and laughed at us for trying. Luckily we missed the scattterd rocks at the bottom and came back home alive.

Well home was actually a one bedroom apartment... intended to fit 9 people. The boys all stayed in the living room, which meant 2 twin size beds for 5 of us girls. We accomplished this task by pushing the beds together and sleeping long-ways. This left no room for movement, and everyone woke up sore. Everyone except for me, that is... who, as Jenna informed me the next day, made myself comfortable by cuddling with her and taking up way more than my space. Whoops.

Waking up sore, for most of the people in the group, could only be fixed by one thing.... Sunset Beach. This beach was the most beautiful and relaxing beach I had yet to see in Cyprus, and that's saying a lot considering every beach I had been to until that point took my breath away. But the beauty of this beach could only add to the experience we had this day. The best 4th of July I had ever had.... and I wasn't even in America.

(to be continued...)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Evils of EDITING....

We may look happy now... but 6 hours later, sitting in the same spot, it was a different story...

There is something worse than homework. Something more time consuming than studying for finals. Something more frustrating than taking a test for a class that no matter what guarantees you a C. The true thing that makes any journalism major cringe at the thought is just one simple action.... Editing.

However, simple is the very last thing I would describe this inevitability of film making as. I never really appreciated the work behind making movies and documentary films until this trip. These last couple days in Cyprus have been spent correcting our documentary. This included re-shooting every interview where the audio peaked or the wind was too strong. Which meant throughout a corse of a day we had all changed clothes at least 4 times to redo the shots so it would look like the same day. Then we would have to upload the footage, which took up to 45 minutes at times.... and if anything was wrong, we would have to re-shoot it all over again.

Filming was quite a difficulty as well, it was always an obstacle working with all the camera equipment. The last filming we did was the most difficult, at the traditional Cypriot candy factory. The factory was dark, noisy, and cramp. The last three things you want to hear as camera producers. As my teammates wrestled with the cameras around people to get a good shot while not accidentally filming the boom mic or any of the other cameras... I was in charge of holding the boom mic. I had never held the mic before, but the idea seemed easy... hold it over the head of whoever is talking without getting it in the shot.

Way harder than I expected. The mic, although not ridiculously heavy, became heavier with every second I had to hold it high above my head... especially when I had to elongate the pole to reach over big crowds. At one point it got too heavy and I accidentally let it drop, hitting poor Alex on the head. The most frustrating part about that process is getting back home, uploading the footage, and then realizing the factory machines in the background made all the audio I had try to capture unusable.

But the story I want to share is our long editing night of working with the Candy Factory footage. We spent the whole morning figuring out a plan of action for how the episode was going to turn out. Then we all sat in the living room and worked on what the introduction blog would say to introduce our film. This took 3 hours.... and 20 empty chocolate wrappers later.... we were ready to start the interviews.

The interviews of our group was actually my favorite part. We would mic up someone from our group, and just ask them the most random questions and crack each other up. We have so many blooper reals we could make by the end of this trip.

Then the editing process began... and lasting until around 3 am the next morning. Every little detail.. matching up audio, cutting at the right places, putting in transitions.. it was exhausting! We all took turns editing while the rest of our team would run down to the 24 hour market and get food and drinks to refuel. I drank a red bull that night... which kept me up until about 5 am... yikes.

We started going crazy by around 2 am... sitting in front of a computer screen for an entire day will do that to you. At one point, while in deep concentration. We saw a bright flash and heard this tremendous BOOOOOM go off that shook the entire apartment building.... thinking someone had decided to bomb Cyprus... everyone froze. I ran outside to see if we would need start making a bomb shelter in the middle of the living room. The booming starting going off one after another, we all saw our lives flash before our eyes. But then in the next room we could hear the excited Dina, "Aaaaaah guys!!!! Fireworks!! To the roof! Let's run to the roof!!!" ... so we realized the danger was gone, laughed it off, and realized how out of it we were.

There is one thing that keeps me coming back to the long, tiring process again and again. The feeling you get... the feeling our entire group gets... when it is finally over. Unlike most other time consuming things, when you are editing the result is something you can see right in front of you. All your hard work shows through the screen. And on top of that... you can share it with others. Hopefully if made the right way, with the ability to inspire, to make people laugh, and to entertain. I think we successfully did this after our last month of working on this one half hour documentary. One month for a half an hour.... seems crazy doesn't it?! We must all really love this!!

(Video Documentary of Cyprus coming soon)