Yassas Kupros...It's Been Nice.

Trip Start Jan 21, 2010
Trip End May 30, 2010

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Where I stayed
Intercollege Apartments

Flag of Cyprus  , Nicosia,
Thursday, May 27, 2010

As I sit here in the last twenty four hours of my stay in Cyprus, I am thinking about how this is the longest I have ever been away from home.  I travelled to six countries and two islands..including here, spoke and learned my fair share of languages. (Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic, Turkish, Greek, Italian)  I even cliff dived on the Southern Tip of Cyprus.  I sea-kayaked in the Mediterranean Sea, ate food from all over the world, bargained for everything from rugs to a postcard of the pope in Vatican City.  I learned how Papyrus was made and went to the oldest Hamam in Istanbul (Turkish Bath).  I had dinner at the Acropolis and lunch at the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  

In these last five months, I have experienced a whirlwind of culture not just from where I've travelled but where I have lived.    Food is its own culture here.  There is a huge traditional meal called Meze (similar to Tapas) where things like lamb brain, cow testicles, chicken livers, and snail stew are served...and yes I ate all of those things! The traditional drinks here are Cypriot coffee and Ouzo.  The coffee is served in very small tea cups and is extremely strong! The Ouzo is an alcoholic drink that tastes a lot like licorice.  And don't worry, I also had my fair share of Gyros, Souvlaki, Souvla (Kabobs), Baklava, Humus, and Halloumi Cheese (made from goats milk..very salty).
Cyprus is a small treasure, I think, hidden from a lot of the world.  It is a small island, although the third largest in the Mediterranean. There is a lot of mythology surrounding this place:  Even Aphrodite was said to have been born here.  There are many old architectural remains still in tact from the era of the Roman Empire.  The beaches are big and beautiful, and everybody enjoys life.  It is slow paced, tranquil, warm all of the time, and has a brilliant nightlife and social scene 24/7.  I mean with all of this, who has time for school?  (Just Kidding Mom and Dad).

As I have said in previous entries: In order for anyone to go from the South to the North, you must get your passport stamped. Actually, you get a piece of paper that serves as your ID stamped, because Turkish-Cyprus is only recognized by Turkey and not the European Union.  There will never be a war to try and settle this dilemma though because Turkey is much stronger than Cyprus.  The country is twenty times the size as well as the military.  So for now, its going to stay the way it is with a quiet hatred for the Turkish government.
I never really understood what the big deal was with having the country split until about two weeks ago.  

(A QUICK ANECDOTE: I have Turkish friends who were in my Greek Language class and Greek friends in my other classes.  It was more of an annoying issue to me.  For example, I really wanted to go and travel to Turkey, but because I am in Southern Cyprus (the Greek side), no flights are allowed to go directly to Istanbul.  You have to take a flight that detours either to Greece, Malta, Egypt, Jordan, etc.  Then you have a 14 hour layover in those countries before you can even fly to Istanbul, and finally it costs an arm and a leg to fly there.  NOW, there is an airport in the North Cyprus Territory (Turkish-Cypriot Airport).  The Cypriots on "our" side essentially tell you that it is illegal to travel through there and that you will not be able to come back to the Greek Side.  
This is only partially true.  It is essentially against all Greek Cypriot social law to even approach the border to the Turkish side, let alone fly out of there.  Plus, many Greek Cypriots refuse to even go to Turkey at this point because of all of the grief they have been caused. 
I ended up going to the Turkish side and flying from there to Turkey.  It not only was a direct flight lasting roughly an hour and a half, but it was half the price of a flight from the south side of cyprus.  I obviously took advantage of this opportunity because it made more sense to me.)

 When I got to Cyprus I learned about the "Cyprus situation".  Turkey invaded the North half of Cyprus in 1974, evacuating all Cypriots in those areas.  They were forced to move elsewhere with few belongings, money, etc.  To this day, the hostage area called "Famagusta" still remains empty.  The Turks will not occupy this area with their own people because they use this land as potential bate for a compromise with Cyprus.  The land has not changed since '74.  The same buildings, cars, houses, furniture, etc. all remain exactly where they are: untouched..  It is now seen as a ghost town where Cypriots used to live happily. Now, they are not allowed near their old homes because that land has become part of a Buffer Zone...I see it as a "Gaza Strip" of Cyprus.  When we travelled to Famagusta to see the "Ghost Town" and learn about what happened, I did not expect to really learn anymore than I had already known.  This older lady came out and spoke to us about how Famagusta used to be the most thriving city in Cyprus because of its beautiful beaches, resorts, family activities, etc.  This was sad, but I still really did not understand why this particular place was so important.  Then she told all of us that she had lived there.  In fact, her house was five minutes from the museum we were in.  When she was 16 years old, the Turkish army came and evacuated her family.  She had no time to get her belongings, say goodbye to her friends or anything.  She just had to leave.  I could see it in her face how distraught she had been and how she would never forget that, and then it hit me why there was such a hatred over all of this.  This girls life was taken from her for no apparent reason.  She had to live in a refugee camp for many months while her family tried to figure out where to start over.  This to me was like how my ancestors were evacuated from their homes in Poland and put into Ghettos.  They did not do anything either to deserve this.  They were innocent people being used as pawns, just like the Cypriots.  

The next time we went into the Old City to go to the Turkish side, I saw things differently.  Buildings that were occupied by Turkish shop owners used to be those owned by Greek Cypriots.  Homes that Turkish people now live in used to be homes of the Greek Cypriots.  It was hard not to feel remorse for the Cypriots, and I could not enjoy myself as much knowing what it was like for them.  

This trip has been a great experience for me.  I have met so many wonderful people from all over the world.  I now have friends to go visit in England, Estonia, Finland, Czech Republic, Japan, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Spain, Italy, and of course Cyprus.  I also made a lot of new American friends who were on my program.  Everyone showed me a little bit of culture and life that I had not previously experienced.  

So as I am now all packed up..with a slightly overweight bag (i may have to seduce the airline manager so they will not make me pay extra tomorrow...just kidding.)  I sit here in my apartment ready for tomorrow to come.  I used to hate goodbyes but now I have a new outlook.  All goodbyes to people you come to care for are temporary.  If you want to see them again , you will make it happen.  So goodbye to those that came and went in these past 5 months, and a "see you soon" to all of my new friends 
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