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Cyprus-November 2006


3 November 2006:

The week is over, and I’m a little relieved.  One of the more difficult weeks I’ve had in Cyprus so far.  I conducted one interview after another and at the same time have started the process of writing an article.  It seems like I’m always running from one place to the next.  Altogether, I’ve probably spent hours walking to and from interviews, and hours more wandering the streets of Nicosia and its suburbs after getting lost on my way to and from these interviews.  Early this morning I walked for over an hour to an interview, which turned out to be much further away than I had anticipated.  When I finally arrived, with my laptop and notes weighing my bag down, I hurried inside the building only to find that the interview had been cancelled but that the secretary had forgotten to call me!  I offered to wait, I tried to reschedule right there.  But there was nothing to be made of it, at least not right then, and I was too tired to fight it.  So there I was, with an entire afternoon now ahead of me.  I walked another hour back home.

The interviews themselves  are enough to wear me down, I think.  Sometimes I find them very intellectually and emotionally taxing.  The people I talk with have voiced some very strong opinions; they have related some very personal and touching stories.  I think it’d be unfair (both to them and to me) to listen only half-heartedly, so as a result I let myself get drawn in, emotional, incensed—wherever their stories take me.  With some people, I’ve left the interview feeling like I know them better than some people with whom I’ve been acquainted for years.  Even a half-hour interview can be exhausting, and typically they run longer.  And though the process wears me out, it’s definitely worth it for me to get their stories and I hope it’s the same for the interviewees to their stories.  I’m finding out some really good material—useful, interesting, poignant material.  I can honestly say that every single person I interviewed this week has made some very valuable and insightful observations.  But I’m not sure how all this is going to fit together quite yet, research-wise.

5 November 2006:

We celebrated the weekend with a barbeque (of sorts) at my friend Carey’s hostel.  Carey and her husband, Emre, have been set up at the University hostel in the old city, up past Famagusta gate and right next to the Green Line.  The hostel itself was converted from a mansion with huge rooms, high ceilings, and an open courtyard.  Winding staircases in both wings of the house take you upstairs to a beautiful view of Nicosia on one side and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus on the other

I say a barbeque “of sorts” because the barbeque itself was not quite what I expected.  Far from my usual idea of cooking hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill and standing or sitting outside in lawn furniture, we were treated to wine, lamb chops, and Cypriot side dishes.  The guys organizing the barbeque had set everything up around a huge table in the candlelit dining room.  It was great to sit back and take stock of the group we had gathered together for this meal—a group of people from Italy, Turkey, the States, England, France, and Greece–great, interesting people, who really enjoy each other’s company.

After the amazing and very filling meal, we had a few cocktails and then headed out for the evening.  A few of the places we went were nearly empty, but we always made ourselves at home and continued to have great conversation, tell jokes, and laugh.  A little later on we found ourselves at a bouzoukia (a traditional Greek music/dance bar), probably inadvertently led there by the Greeks in our group.  I can’t say I’ve come around to Greek music yet, but it was fun to watch the dancing and listen to the live band.  I thought that when I walked home that night I’d be alone on the streets, but I actually had a lot of company from people still out for the night.  An evening’s events (dinner, out) start late and continue later here, one thing about living in the Mediterranean that I’ve really come to love.

6 November 2006:

My sister Karin’s birthday is today, so I made sure to give her a call this afternoon (early morning—perhaps a little too early for her…).  Other than talking to her for a little while and working more on writing this article, I haven’t done much today.  I woke up this morning feeling not so great, a little achy and dizzy, so I’ve taken it easy today in order to ward off what I think is a cold and what I hope isn’t the flu.  I mostly just puttered around the house, watching TV or sleeping while everyone else was busy working, hoping this goes away in a couple of days. 

With the weather changing so rapidly, I think this sickness is probably just my body trying to adjust to the cold.  Cypriots are saying that this is the earliest that it’s gotten so cold in five years, and I think most people don’t quite know what to make of it.  This gray, cold weather has been such a change from the Cyprus I know.  The heater hasn’t been turned on yet, so I’ve been piling on warm layers—items I packed “just in case,” but not really expecting to use in Cyprus or Cambodia.  Apparently, people (myself included) are fairly upset about having to cancel their weekend beach plans, especially when everyone is used to walking around in t-shirts until early December.  I’ve been a bit spoiled so far, weather-wise, and I’m probably in for a rude awakening when I get to the Hague.

7 November 2006:

Still sick and relegated to my bed, I passed the time today listening to BBC digital radio broadcasts or following the U.S. midterm elections (the polls, at the time of my writing this, are just beginning to open in the States).  I’m still achy all over and my head is spinning slightly, so most of my waking hours today have been spent napping, drinking tea, and casually browsing the internet.  I brought a heating lamp into my room this afternoon, one given to me by the housekeeper, Phodulla, when she saw me shuffling around in thermals and sweats.  When she brought it out for me, I realized what a sorry sight I must have been, obsessively drinking tea and honey all day in ridiculous layers of clothing. 

In any case, the elections were foremost on my mind today.  I’m sad not to be in the States right now, swept up in the campaigning and political chatter that has seized the nation (as far as I can tell).  However, remembering my bitter disappointment in the last Presidential election, I’m also thankful not to be there.  At this point I have no idea how things will turn out, but I’m pleased that, because of the time difference, I’ll be awake to watch the election results pour in tomorrow. 

10 November 2006:

I ran out of the house at 8.30 this morning to meet up with my friends Carey and Oliver at the checkpoint.  We were all convening there to meet Angela, my contact from Highline Paragliding, a Northern Cyprus paragliding company.  I had finally set up a day to go paragliding, something I’ve wanted to do for almost as long as I can remember.  I was incredibly excited to go.  A bit apprehensive, but mostly excited.  It was one of those mornings when I couldn’t help but get up earlier than I had intended, out of nervous energy. 

Our drive up to the launching site let me experience a part of Cyprus I had yet to see.  The narrow and winding pass—hardly even a road—took us along the edge of the mountains, through forests, and even past the Turkish military training base.  I caught a glimpse of the Turkish soldiers performing their training exercises; from what I could see their drills consisted mostly of running around, while some soldiers took their “rest” (i.e. cigarette) breaks very seriously.  When we got to the launching site itself I was stunned by a gorgeous view of the mountain range around us, the city of Kyrenia below, and the clear blue sea in the distance. 

I started to get a little bit nervous as I watched the two solo flyers take off before me.  In paragliding, the flyer essentially sits in a harness suspended by cables to a large parachute-like glider (parafoil).  There’s no structure to the parafoil, which is a huge canopy made up of individual cells.  The parafoil lifts the flyer by taking air into the cells and riding columns of heated winds, called thermals, generated when the sun heats air lower to the ground.  This was all explained to me in great detail on the way up the mountain; the part that intimidated me now, however, was the take-off.  In order to first fill the parafoil’s cells with air, the flyer takes a running jump off the side of a cliff.  I was a little too afraid to ask what would happen if, say, the parafoil failed to inflate.  Instead, I just nodded when my instructor told me to start running on his signal and to keep running until he told me to stop.

I did pretty much just that, and we took off without any problems at all.  The experience itself was absolutely incredible.  I ran toward the edge of the cliff until I couldn’t feel the ground beneath my feet any longer, and then the thermals took us up and up and up, over the top of the mountain.  It was such an incredible sensation—and a huge adrenaline rush—to look up and see the parafoil and sky above me, to look down and only see my feet hanging freely above forests and cliffs and sea.  A few times, as we flew over the mountains, we would glide past or above eagles sharing the sky with us.  And as we were flying, my eyes tearing up a bit from the cold and maybe the excitement, it was one of the best feelings to know that I was doing something that, otherwise, should have been entirely impossible for me to do. 

We were up in the air for about half an hour.  We flew above the mountains for awhile, making our way closer to St. Hilarion Castle (supposedly the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty) and then toward the coast.  My instructor let me “drive” (which was surprisingly easy) just long enough to totally infect me with what he called the “paragliding bug.”  Right then I started thinking about when I could get out and do this again, maybe on my own someday.  After showing me a few tricks, which consisted mainly of steep dives and sharp turns—totally amazing—my instructor set us down neatly in the landing field.  I can’t imagine what this must be like during the summer in Kyrenia, when I’ve been told people can fly in just shorts and t-shirts.  I was bouncing around with energy even as everyone was packing up.

Angela picked us up from the landing site and drove us back to Kyrenia Harbour, where I met up again with Carey and Oliver.  The three of us walked around Kyrenia for awhile and visited the castle that sitsright on the harbor.  It’s a huge old structure, with walls inside walls and one courtyard after another, complete with dungeon and lookout tower.  After walking around, over, and through the castle, we headed back to the waterfront to find a place for lunch. 

We sat down to what would unexpectedly become a four hour affair, after making friends with our waiter.  The conversation lingered for hours over the food, free drinks, and nargile (a Turkish pipe)—we talked about family, past relationships, travel, everything.  Thirteen hours after I had left the house, we took a bus on the dark roads back to the checkpoint, talking some and reflecting on the afternoon.