Cyprus? What are you doing there?
When I started this blog in its Portuguese version, I was living in Cyprus; therefore I “launched” it dissecting my experience living in this small island. Most of my family and friends in Brazil had never heard of Cyprus, so it just made sense to recap. But before going deep in history and geography of the country, I should explain my Christmas Eve morning in 2008; which was not in Brazil, as it usually is, but in Larnaca, Cyprus.
I usually mail my Christmas cards in advance (yes, I still write cards and yes, I use the mail), not because I’m an extremely organized nerd but simply because many of the cards have to travel through oceans and continents to mailboxes on the other side of the globe.
That year was different. I had recently moved from Valencia, Spain to Larnaca, Cyprus and was moving into a new apartment. In the midst of all the packing and moving, I also had logistics mishaps getting to the Post Office (Cyprus lacks public transportation, but that will be further explained in another post), so my Christmas cards were mailed in the last minute.
December 24th. Christmas eve. On that sunny, chilly morning in Larnaca, I wrote more than 30 Christmas cards, which would obviously arrive for Easter, given how Cyprus’ mail functions. It’s the intention that counts, right? I must point out that with a Holiday on the 25th and a local Holiday on the 26th (not sure why), the cards were only sent on the 29th.
I made sure I wrote that on that morning, with my heart pouring with Christmas feelings (also feeling nostalgic and isolated from the rest of the world), I was wishing Happy Holidays (the cards were sent to Buddhists, Jewish, atheists, Catholics…) from a tiny island – real time.
The following week, missing vacation, my hometown Salvador, the beach, Brazil’s Summer (remember – December is summertime there!), coconut water and other local food, new Holiday pictures to post and send, I started to email friends and family to wish them a happy new year.
During the “happy new year” exchange of emails, there is always the question: “what are you up to?” and when addressed to me, most of them ask: “more importantly, WHERE are you?” in caps lock, because it’s hard to keep up with my whereabouts.
In an attempt to write a short response: “I’m in Cyprus…” the next email is not that brief. Their response is usually: “Cyprus? What in the world are you doing there?”
This question not only comes in email form from friends around the world. Cypriots themselves, whether it’s chatting in a market or store, ask: “from Brazil? So far away! What are you doing here?”
Carrie, in the movie “Sex in the City” claims women move to New York in search for love or brands. Myself? I can go to other cities like Valencia or Larnaca for love. Brands? I’m more into the “democratic fashion” these days… Other travel destinies have other motives, of course.
By Christmas, I had been living in Cyprus for a few months, so I guess by then my family knew where to find Cyprus on a map. Although, I was told that in a family reunion, no one was able to answer in which city I was living…
My mom is probably the top client at her neighborhood’s post office and already knew my address in Cyprus by heart. However, she called me the other day worried if the packages and letters she sent me would arrive. The post office clerk, still puzzled with the address, politely asked: “Should I write Greece as a reference?”
Greece as a reference, only for the language, I pointed out. Fortunately, even with a 50 day delay my packages arrived, full of sweet things that taste like home – the antidote I needed.
Ok, now I can get to geography.
Cyprus is an island in the Mediterranean, south of Turkey, north of Egypt and west of Lebanon. Are we all located yet?
Despite the language is Greek, it’s completely independent from Greece. The island is historically divided, with the north being Turkish and the south being Greek, with a UN buffer zone in the middle with checkpoints (don’t forget your passport if you wish to take a trip across the green line).
The Greek part is the Republic of Cyprus, part of the European Union and the Euro Zone, also recognized by the UN. The Turkish part is called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, only recognized by Turkey.
Cypriots that don’t have a passport issued by the Republic of Cyprus (residents of the Turkish side) are citizens of a country that practically doesn’t exist (I can’t help but think of the movie “The Terminal”), and can only visit Turkey. As a travel addict, I must say – I would hate to be a citizen of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
A bit of history in the next post.