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My Cyprus

…. “Hi, we have a gap and would love it if you wrote something about Cyprus!” … (oh, here we go again) … “Cyprus?! Oh come on Andreas! What to write about ?!!!”, I said.

.. He tilted his head slightly towards his wireless mouthpiece (despite the fact that it’s hooked on his ear) and replied oh so eloquently “… there is so much you can write about … come on my brother, write something about serene locations, or maybe the party scene… maybe you could follow Aphrodite’s mythological path… or maybe you can talk about the spiritual oasis in the mountains… How about Avakas Gorge, haven’t seen anything on that for a while … Come on Archie… there’s so much to write about… Oh… and by the way… I need it by tomorrow … lunch time… now get cracking” … (oh brother!)

We’ve heard it over and over again … always re-inventing the same old story… “What is Cyprus?” … Sea? Sunshine? Landscape? Food? Centre of three continents … safe… traditional… modern… an island… a country… blah blah blah… and so we continue to write… and write… cutting and pasting… from tourist sites… property sites… and the plethora of “revolutionary-Ad-Machines” which are popping up in all sorts of languages (magazines)… lest we forget the proverbial beach newspaper! (English) …

So what is Cyprus all about? … we have jobs (or maybe not), we go to the sea, we enjoy our night-time, our day-time… and sometimes we even take it personally if we’re caught per chance in “in-between” time … when we suddenly take stock of our lives… wondering why (or “why not”) … we haven’t spent the past thirty minutes … enjoying… (Yep)  ourselves!!

Well, if perchance we’re still “wondering” past the thirty-fifth minute… then the immediate course of action is the closest café… where we happily continue the “wonder” over an ice cold frappe… until it turns into a “ponder” … At which point we’re back to normal again… once again planning… strategizing …deciding as to whether the best plan this weekend is our cousin’s beach house in Protaras… or our friend’s mountain retreat in Omothos!..  “I’m sure u understand, and thx :-p” (Message to my cousin) …

Is Cyprus about a summer holiday? A time to bask in the sun, savour the food, laze about and party? Perhaps it’s about finding summer romance or getting married. Perhaps it is simply about spending days on the beach or in the pool, relaxing and basking away until “eating time”… be it at a restaurant, a tavern or an all-inclusive hotel cafeteria… only to wake up the next day and repeat the exact same “process” all over again. Ex-pats… tourists… families from afar… these are the “visitors”. It’s a busy time… the sun is up till 9pm… people are everywhere… the youngsters prepare to go out at midnight… It’s the heat… It’s the sea… It’s the people… It’s summer in Cyprus. For “visitors” the summer holiday lasts from one to three weeks … for “us”, however, its four to five months…

Cyprus is about contrasts and seasons. By mid winter the sun goes down before 5pm. The nights become longer… and thus the way of living changes. Bustling summers and quiet winters  … “magically” green for six months and then golden over summer…

One indeed experiences contrasts on a daily basis … up-market restaurants alongside authentic village taverns, fast-paced-boardrooms and fig picking from the side of the road on the way to a client … oh, and lest we forget the one great contrast of Cyprus …  sometimes things get done quicker than anywhere in the world… and other times… “siga siga”… slowly-slowly … “what’s the hurry?” …

The cities have flourished and business has evolved from yester years of agriculture and tourism. Local companies specialize in every field… and professionally at that… indeed, the local population has progressed like no other, particularly since it is a land divided, where much of its population are still refugees.

And whilst Cypriots have adapted fiercely modern ways, one soon becomes aware of their fervent traditional ways … Cypriots love their football, hunting… their “souvla” (barbeque)… be it that sometimes in winter it’s the fireplace that is used to singe pieces of loukaniko sausage and haloumi cheese, or mushrooms picked from the mountains, … all washed down with a few tots of  zivania. Food. So integral. Why rush in and out for a sandwich or a spanagopita spinach pie… yes, there is the quick stop at a bakery… possibly coupled with a can of ice coffee… but this is not lunch… mealtime for Cypriots is a ritual… a solid meal… not just a meal but a great moment…

One need only engage in whatever is on offer in Cyprus to truly appreciate the fact that there is a quality of life that is innate… in winter it’s oranges so we eat oranges… then come the season of figs…. nuts, almonds… nothing like frozen prickly pear in the hot summer months… each season brings forth its own indulgences… come winter its time to look for mushrooms and to make olive oil… Just a few days ago we were picking black-red cherries in Troodos!

And of course, Cyprus is more than that. For within the Cypriot way of life there exist many other lives and worlds… Cyprus has large populations of people who are here to work… who have retired here… who have simply immigrated… Worlds of people… from Asia, The Middle East and Africa, Europe and the Eastern Block… people who have holiday homes, Russian and English predominantly… And Cypriots living in South Africa, Australia and England who visit the island every year.

And all these continue their lives and traditions within the Cyprus experience… One need only see the Sri Lankan kids enjoying a game of cricket in the fields on a Saturday afternoon… all the while the South Africans are supporting their favourite rugby sides in pubs… Russians are savouring their shashlik with their friends… and so on… many, as mentioned, intermingling within Cyprus society… inter-marrying… and making Cyprus their permanent home… one need only go to a nursery school in one of the towns just to understand the future generation of Cyprus… it’s quite funny sometimes to see an English or Russian child blurting fluent Cypriot … especially when their parents can’t understand them …

This is Cyprus… it local people loving and savouring the new and the old… the new arrivals from many places… drawn for its unique lifestyle… a Mediterranean island country… many for opportunity… others for a lifestyle…. Others for a new life… its people… its food… its landscape… its energy… for truly there is an energy here… and each of us has our own story of what Cyprus is….

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