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J-term 2018: Cyprus

Hello! I was very fortunate to be able to go on a school trip/class to visit Cyprus. Cyprus is a small country located in the Mediterranean directly under Turkey and near Syria. I learned so many new things about cultures that i was not familiar with and it was one of the best experiences of my life. Here is my Journal I wrote in during the duration of my trip!

Cyprus Journal

Jan. 4th

            Coming into Austria was very different from anything I thought it was going to be. I expected to see the city of Vienna but ended up being the countryside. The houses were so bright and just felt happy. The airport also felt so simple and comforting to its visitors by having comfortable lay down seating. There were also garbages for different types of wastes, which is very efficient.

            Coming into Cyprus and hearing everybody talking Greek was the first moment that I had of excitement because it is something I had never experienced before. It isn’t common to hear Greek speaking in the US. I definitely expected my luggage to be gone but it was one of the first ones to arrive so that was awesome.

            Finally meeting Stavroula and her family and finally putting faces to the people we had heard about was not exactly what I expected by very nice and caring people.

            The bus ride was so cool to see a little bit of the countryside and some homes and other land areas were great to get a feel of how the people live. Very modern homes and also some old but still in good shape. There is the fair share of run down houses but I would say very comparable to the US, at least from what I saw from Larnaka to Nicosia.

          The Nicosia new part was something I expected, I saw very new buildings and also some that are run down but a lot cleaner than I expected. I was totally not expecting the old city and was very excited to explore around it.

            I enjoyed how the building are all built together and windows are always open and people are so nice that they don’t even have to worry about people stealing the furniture from the next door restaurant.

            I’m not really a fan of not being able to flush tissue but that was something I got over real quick considering there was no choice. Getting used to the hotel was difficult but now it’s like home.

            When we went out for dinner it was immediate that the locals don’t see very many Americans that often since they all asked where we were from but didn’t seem amused to hear the US. It was sad to see the menu all American food especially since all I wanted was Mediterranean.

Jan. 5th

           I loved having the Cyprus students show us around the city with a scavenger type game. They were all so nice and enthusiastic. Also close to our age so it was cool to see how we do and don’t relate. The students attended The University of Cyprus.

            They told us what was the old city and what was new. Saw the very old original entrance to the city with the big door that was great for picture taking.

I noticed that they call the other side occupied. They consider it part of the south but as in taken over by other people.

            I also learned that they call the US world killers so I get it and kind of agree with it. I mean I didn’t even know Cyprus was a country until I signed up for this class.

            The museum was the first ancient artifact museum I had ever been to which was exciting. My favorite part was definitely seeing the old coins and the jewelry they used to wear. I also thought the human skulls were cool as well.

            It blows my mind that all of those items lasted this long until they were dug up and preserved. The vases and sculptures were all so beautiful.

            Later in the night a few of us went out to find a bar or somewhere to hangout and we ended up walking down an alley that the Cyprus students said was a fun place to go.

            Ummm funny because when we walked into it we stood out like a sore thumb. Every single Cypriot knew we were Americans and stared. Right then I knew they thy don’t see many Americans.

            So we awkwardly walked all the way through everybody just to leave. So embarrassing but a good learning experience.

            We ended up going to this odd bar that had manikins all over the place and they played super emo music. But it was all good because we were literally the only ones there in the entire bar.

            I think the hardest part about this trip will be traveling in large groups because it hard to not sick out as tourists.

Jan. 6th

            On the way to Ayia Napa I was observing the surrounding neighborhoods along the highway. I tried to figure out which type of home was the typical type for a normal family in Cyprus. I never fully figured that out since there were so many different kinds of modern looking homes.

            Since I was on the second group to arrive to Ayia Napa, we must have gotten off at the wrong stop because it was super vacant. I know I will say this a lot but it was like a movie set.

            We decided to walk towards the beach so we ended up walking about 2 miles down the road and found a sign that said “to beach” and it was super sketchy, so of course we decided to follow it.

            We ended up in an industrial area where hotels were being built and tons of port-a-potties. But we did find the ocean and took some pictures by it.

            Sam fell in 2ft thick of orange mud, which was funny. As we were walking away from the beach we had a hard time trying to get out of the area we were in so we ended up walking to the end and having to walk around a fence on large rocks against the ocean to worm our way into this marina.

            We found a restaurant that sounded good and was right on the ocean. When we were seated we heard the table next to us ask their waiter where we were from. They were not amused to hear that we were Americans and called us “Americanas”.

I think our waitress was the owner of the restaurant and she was so proud of the food saying, “She has big portions of good food,” she was right the food was absolutely delicious.

            Right next to the restaurant was a tiny church that was playing music. We peaked inside and saw that there was nobody inside.

            Finally we found the main drag of the tourist par. I saw the black pearl and was kind of like “why” but some tourists enjoy that stuff I guess. We kept trying to find other Americans but had no such luck.

            After a while the other group joined us and we all just kind of chilled around and went to a bakery and also this area that was full of weird clubs that are popping during their busy season. Again, the vacant club area felt like a creepy movie set.

            The old Monastery was so beautiful and rocky. It had just rained so everything was a tad muddy. This was the first really old monastery I had ever been in. I lit a candle and put it in the sand and felt cool about it.

            I really did enjoy seeing this city since it is right along the ocean but I would probably enjoy it more during the busy season when things are open. I am also kind of sad that I didn’t go with the first group since they found an awesome rock formation but ill survive.

Jan. 7th

            Arriving at the first ancient site we visited it was hard for me to grasp how old the site really was. Even though our tour guide said it about 50 times it was weird to understand that people lived here before us.

            Chris or Kris is so cool, he knows so much about the history of his land when I cant even name all the US presidents. He told us about how they burry the dead in their own homes and would place a rock on top of the grave so that the dead could not harm them.

            The open valley we walked up to was so breathtaking with all of the rocky terrain and grassy areas.

            The first castle we visited had actual rooms in it. It also had tombs that had giant slabs that said who was laid to rest behind it. There were also weapons, armor, artifacts, and sculptures from the time the castle was built.

            The second castle was not as interesting as the first. It really only had wide-open rooms but the view from the top was pretty. I also enjoyed the spiral staircase and learned they had that in favor of battle in the castle.

            The mosaics we saw at the next area incredible since you could still understand what they crafted. The fact that the ancient people used a standardized measuring system was pretty impressive.

            Kris loves to talk about roman baths so its nice to have someone narrating what your looking at.

            I can’t remember if he said the entertainment area was an amphitheater or a theatre but the acoustics that carried from the bottom were also impressive.

            The birthplace of Aphrodite was everything I thought it would be. The teal water and giant rocks, I wish we could’ve gotten closer but it was still an awesome picture stop.

            The last stop of the day was at the tomb of the kings. Tombs here and tombs there, the incredible architecture they carved under the land, I wouldn’t mind being buried there. There had to be at least 60 different tombs on the site, I actually really don’t know, but you could see the difference between the older and newer tombs through the architecture. The older ones were a bit simpler being they were above ground and were really just a room with dug out holes in the walls. The newer ones were carved with pillars and tables with water accessible for preparing the dead.

Jan. 8th

            I love our bus driver; he is so good at driving especially on these mountain roads.

            These roads are kind of scary being in a giant bus and narrow pathway but what an experience. The little village we first vsited was so secluded and unique.

The people that live there, its like they live in a fake village. I don’t know how to explain it almost like a movie set. There were carts of produce and different types of nuts that were so cheap to buy. The view of the village itself was aesthetically pleasing plus the surrounding mountains.

            The monastery was so beautiful with all of the brass accents and woodwork. Also shout out to the woman who was hand washing the chairs.

            I think my favorite thing about Cyprus would be all of the cats that are chilling together day by day. They’re all so cute and fluffy.

            I was not expecting to see snow when we went further up but there is was.

The uphill walk was so exhausting, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it but the food was worth it. I was kind of impressed with myself because I had already experienced all the food before so I felt cool. I still don’t like roasted lamb but the quinoa or whatever that dish was it was so tasty. And the waiters were so nice!

Jan. 9th

            The lecture by Stavroula was very interesting because it was about something we never talk about in the states. We talked about different ways of learning and how they are all learned in different settings and events that cause you to pick up on whatever lesson or personality you learn.

            Seeing the Cypriot museum of struggle was very hard to go through. They had some very vivid things such as photos of the dead and an actual noose that was used to hang Greek Cypriots. It was extremely jaw dropping when the tour guide pointed out that one of the dead burned alive people in one of the photos was his grandfather. I can’t imagine what that would be like, to be a tour guide and see your grandfather photographed like that.

            He even had a necklace with his grandfather’s picture in it. It was a really close to home situation and you realize how close of a community this country really is.

            For this museum it was mostly about the British and the Cypriots fighting against them. I don’t think there was anything about Turkish but I could’ve zoned out on that, I have to listen to the lecture.

The lecture was very interesting but I was so tired and found it difficult to keep focused.

            Not going to lie but as soon as we crossed the border into the northern part I felt immediately less safe than compared to the Greek side. It looked like a war zone and dirty.

            Buildings were run down and children running around yelling. I also felt like the Turkish museum was a bit propaganda like especially when they called out the Greeks for killing innocent women and children but I also think that is my bias coming out.

            It’s hard to not to do that when one part is clearly nicer than the other.

            The museum leader was very interesting in the fact that he shared that his mother is Greek and his father Turkish, so he was very neutral about the whole thing but I think he may side more with the Greeks. He didn’t really say much about the rulers of turkey even though there were many pictures of them in the museum. He focused more on the Cypriot people rather turkey.

            He even called the north side rubbish saying that its dirty and there are no doctors and when there are doctors they are very expensive and that people pit pocket as he had been before.

            Another thing that was interesting was that they had tons of fake apparel and purses that you could purchase. I haven’t seen one fake store on the Greek side and it just shows how the regulations are different for both sides.

            I had a first today for wearing a hijab. I never thought in my life that I would ever enter a mosque or need to cover my head. I was a bit sensitive to the women section of the mosque. I’m not a fan of how women are treated in the Muslim culture so it was kind of hard to see it. I also never thought I would hear the call to pray so that was very cool to see and hear. The dance was very unique and I have no idea how the dancer did not vomit.

Jan. 10th

            I probably could have listened to the linguist for hours. She was so passionate and made the lecture fun to learn about. It never really crossed my mind that other languages have different dialects like English does. The Greeks seem to take it very seriously as well.

            They also use Greek-lish which is something the people cant stand the new generation does. They use it as political statements such as the “AntiFa” or Anti Fascists.

            I also really enjoyed the identity lecture and felt cool that I knew what case study he was talking about since we had to read it for an assignment.

            I loved reading about Murat, the Turkish boy, while being at home and had so much excitement when I got to hear it in person by the researcher who wrote about it. Identity is a serious thing in Cyprus because everybody makes it clear whom they are as far as where they are from. If you’re from the wrong place in the wrong area, it might be tougher to carry out your days.

            Turkish bath, lol, that’s all.

            The Lebanese dinner was so good. From the kebabs to the beat hummus I loved it all. I also enjoyed every single conversation I listened to about the Turkish bath, especially watching Dr. Hayden Cry about how funny it was.

Jan. 11th

            Famagusta was more entertaining than I expected. The church that was turned into a mosque was massive and had cool architecture. The bakery with all of the tasty goodness inside was a definite plus.

            Our tour guide is so knowledgeable and can talk for hours, which is awesome to listen to, especially when learning about ancient ruins while being at the ancient ruins.

            I honestly did not expect the north to have nice parts but the coast is actually beautiful and had some actual civilization to it.

            I loved walking on top of the fort and seeing the mountain in the backdrop and the ocean in the front. Also the giant Turkish flag or statue thing that lights up is interesting as well.

            I think I had the worst food on the entire vacation on this side, but the waiter was so fun to watch and talk to.

            I thought it was a little weird that we could not take pictures on the British base, almost like what are you trying to keep secret?

            The ancient roman baths were so beautiful and the mosaics that were partially intact were incredible.

            This was also the first time I have ever paid to use the bathroom.

Jan. 12th

            Watching the documentary about the maronites was so interesting because they are so patriotic to Cyprus but also Lebanon. It’s like they have two homes that they would all die for.

            It was interesting because I saw things that the linguist had mentioned about the Arabic language that this group used to speak and how it is dying and they cant fully recover it because there are not words in the language for all the other words in other languages and the people who spoke it fluently either don’t remember it or have passed on.

            This group struggled just as much as the Greeks and Turkish did when trying to fit in. I mean when the country split it was difficult to decid where the maronites belonged and they also had to learn Greek or Turkish in order to fit in with the rest of the population since they are such a minority.

            Going up in the tower I thought was going to be boring but I ended up enjoying it since I could see the north and south side of Cyprus. It really put into perspective of how small the country really is. Being in Nicosia for about 8 days now it is cool to be able to recognize the streets and places I’ve been in such a short time.

            The History lecture answered some questions of mine that I kind of wondered before the trip. That being I wondered how the school systems balance Greek teachings with Turkish teachings. And it appears that it is quite the complicated subject. They are better now with having a balance but it used to just be either only Greek teachings or Turkish.

Jan. 13th

            It’s really interesting to see the differences between the two sides of the country. Even the cats on the north side look a little rougher. I don’t know if that is just me being biased towards the Greeks but that’s what I observed.

            I also noticed the more rundown buildings with the Turkish flags but never saw a Turkish flag in any of the nicer areas. The north also has many displays honoring turkey like the giant flag that lit up that you could see from our hotel and also the flag painted on the mountain. Has a bit more of nationalistic feel to it than the Greek side. I feel like the south has a very broad mix of people and the north is just Turkish and Turkish speaking people.

            Walking through the tour it’s different to be able to walk into 5 different communities that are all right next to each other yet so different and unique. The Maronite population is interesting because they consider Lebanon their home yet they were born and raised in Cyprus. It’s almost kind of like if you feel so at home there why not just live there but I assume it’s a lot more complicated.

            I have never been in a buffer zone before and I never imagined there would be a cute coffee show in such an important area. I felt odd just standing in no country kind of like we weren’t anywhere and time wasn’t moving but I think I am just odd like that.

            Barbed wire is always interesting, especially surrounding the rundown British military compound.

            Although, it was very much relaxed and nowhere near the security of the US which is relaxing.

            Larnaka was definitely something I was waiting to see. I love the area once out of the tourist part. I think Shannon, Jenna, Kara, Mallory, Me, and Lucas walked almost 5 miles to the lake that Stavroula said was just down the road. I have never actually seen flamingoes in the wild so it was quite the experience. Some locals were there and were chilling and watching their children and taking videos. I thought it was so cool to observe all those people and be able to relate as far as family dynamics.

            The walk back was a little shorter since we walked along the beach instead of intertwining in the city and we ended up at a gelato/crepe place that was very boujee. I don’t regret it.

            After that we all walked to the touristy part and sat on the edge of the water and watched the tide come in, probably the most calming part of the whole trip.

It really is great how well everyone gets along with each other on this trip considering how different we are. I always felt comfortable with whomever I was around and never felt like I had a permanent group.

            Dinner was awesome, I’m glad I can say I tried the cuddle fish although not my favorite. I could eat calamari for days and also tzatziki. It was a little difficult to get past the whole skin and bones on the fish but I made it work.

            Lastly I’m so happy we got our bus driver back for one last time. I enjoyed observing him and the way he acted around Stavroula and her family.

There is something so inviting about the Greeks in that they always make sure everyone feels at home and even if they are a stranger they are invited and included. I think that is something Americans could learn.

Jan. 14th

            We arrived to Athens on a cold cloudy day. The Hostel was probably the nicest place we have stayed so far. I didn’t expect Athens to be as big as it is and also the fact that there are buildings that have random windows on the ground to show ruins, cool. The market area is something I could spend hours in and we did spend a good chunk exploring that.

            We are in Greece! And I can’t wait to see the Acropolis tomorrow!

Jan.15th

            Immediately into the Acropolis museum, security yelled at me for taking pictures. That’s ok I get it. There were so many sculptures of the “Kore” and I’m not sure how to pronounce it but I will probably research it when I get home. I think it’s amazing what archaeologists can do. I mean they take rubble and from past findings they can show what it used to look like thousands of years ago.

            I also really enjoyed the Lego masterpiece they found completely intact. It really is quite the priceless artifact.

            The Parthenon is something I would come back to Athens for, how did the ancient civilization even build that? I would give anything to be able to go back in time as a fly on the wall to see it with all of the colors that were originally on it. It’s hard to understand how it has survived all this time through different rules and wars.

            The next place we visited, the one sanctuary below the Parthenon, had a temple with scenes carved into it still intact. The dog also followed me the entire time.

            After the entire site seeing we went to a nice restaurant. The waiter was very amused by my sweatshirt because I had just bought this super touristy sweatshirt and had the lady print “Squid” on it in Greek. Squid is my nickname and he found it so funny that he asked to take a picture of my sweatshirt. It was something you had to be there for to appreciate it but it was a good time.

Jan.16th

            Today we saw Zeus’s temple, the first modern Olympic arena, climbed to the highest point of Athens, had lunch on the highest point of Athens, and then climbed again up this very large hill to see the monument for the muses? I think mainly a Hercules shrine, but we watched the sunset from there and could see all of Athens and part of the ocean. Probably the best way to end the trip with a sunset over the ancient city.

            Zeus’s temple was so tall and kind of crumbling. There were so many cats, it was great.

            I really wanted Tonia to win the race in the Olympic arena but somehow Sean came in first place.

            The highest point is quite the trek uphill. I thought I was going to die but I made it. It was worth the climb too as I could see all of Athens clear as day.

            It was Sean’s idea for us all to go see the sunset on the hill. I asked him if it was a far walk and he said no but it ended up being climb 2.0.

            Julia, Maddie, Natalie, Lyndsey, Sean, and myself all ended our night at an interesting restaurant where I ordered not so great pasta but we had fun anyways.

            I can’t believe we have to leave tomorrow but I’m very grateful for this whole experience.

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