Wednesday, July 25, 2007

7/25 - 24 Hours of Travel

Home safe! Do we have to leave?
After a short emergency solved (ATM card stuck in a Turkish bank machine) - hooray for Houman, I am getting ready to finish packing and enjoy my last few hours here. John, Sheiba, and I will catch a taxi at 1am to take us down to Larnaca for our flight to London at 4am. I think we have a couple hours there before our long flight to L.A. See you soon!

7/24 - The Last Supper

The Last Supper.

Today was my favorite day of class by far. The morning was a discussion about the boundaries of racism, sexism, prejudice, etc. and their relation to conflict. In the afternoon we were treated to the showing of a documentary produced by a Greek Cypriot filmmaker, professor, and “peace journalist” named Tony Angastiniotis. His film, Voice of Blood 2-Searching for Selden, tells the story of several specific injustices committed by the Greeks and Greek Cypriots in 1974 most specifically related to the killing of men, women, and children and their burial in mass graves around the island. It was a disheartening but necessary illustration of the factual information that we have been given; especially the story of a man who lost his 27 year old wife and and three small children, including a baby girl just 16 days old (Selden).
Tony was able to join us about half way through the movie and we had an opportunity to ask him questions and hear more about why as a Greek Cypriot he chose to make a film depicting the injustices committed by “his side” as well as his experience of being called a “traitor” and the use of his footage as Turkish propaganda. It was a hands-on experience that I didn’t think we’d be fortunate enough to have.
Tony Angastiniotis

Dinner became an extension of our good fortune as we were joined by Tony, Salime (the coordinator of the International Center at EMU) and another of Ahmet’s friends. I had a great chance to talk to Tony about his Native American heritage (which he has only recently discovered), his journeys through and life in the Troodhos Mountains, his upcoming projects including a piece showing the other side of the 1974 events as well as an investigation in to the mass killings of Canadian natives.
As if the company was not enough, the feast was amazing and there were so many that I’m not sure I can even recall each course. We started with the traditional meze salad, humus, helum, yogurt/cucumber, fresh tomato, bread, etc. Then meatball, grilled eggplant and tomato, beef and lamb kebab and when we thought it was all over, the most tender chicken I have ever tasted, plus watermelon, sort of a cross between honeydew and cantaloupe, grapes, peanuts, Turkish coffee, and tea. Pretty much anything we have tried to date was featured. Plus we were able to experience the post-meal, raki supported Cypriot sarcasm between Ahmet and his friends- yet another way I think I could really run with this lifestyle. It was quite a way to begin closing our island experience.

7/23 - A New Tattoo

Niko, my favorite Cypriot tattoo artist.

This morning we continued our practice with the public conversations model. I facilitated a discussion about right to privacy and government surveillance. Although this topic inspired a little more passionate response than Thursday’s, it still left me curious about what it would be like to witness or take part in such a discussion with highly polarized participants.
Ahmet’s class was short and served as a quick review for the exam (which I don’t have to take) on Wednesday. We also learned that he had arranged a farewell dinner for us at one of his favorite restaurants in the old castle with EMU and the International Student Center picking up the tab.
Jordan and I went to the library for a little while- until they turned off the air conditioning and we got the hint that it was closing time. The temperature has definitely risen this week and I think it hit its peak just as we took the long walk back to our dorms.

Umut's daughter, Ozum.

Umut picked us up around 5pm with his daughter Ozum and took us to a well known local tattoo artist. Nadia (I know you thought it was me) had decided a week or so earlier to commemorate her trip with some new artwork. We arrived at Niko’s Tattoo Shop and began to look through some samples of the artist’s work. She decided she liked his style and they began to research her desired subject: a dove holding an olive branch. She chose a great design, agreed on a fair price, and of course confirmed the sterility of the equipment/needle.

In the mean time, Jordan and I made conversation with a young British woman who was selling a litter of bulldog puppies (one of which went to Niko) and about 25 minutes later she was finished. The final product came out great as you can see.


With a couple hours to spend, we shopped around the main drag on our way back to Cappuccino where we met Matt, John, Frankie, Courtney, and Tanya for a re-creation of our first dinner in Famagusta. Then we stopped for a few to enjoy hookah and took a leisurely walk back to the Namik Kemal.

Jordan and Courtney smoking shisha (Turkish hookah).

7/22 - A Friend With A Boat!

Our first swim/snorkel stop.

Jordan, Nadia, and I awoke early to be sure we got some breakfast in our stomachs before heading out on the Mediterranean. We made a great friend in our waiter at Simit Dunyasi (an open air bakery).
We boarded the boat around 10:30am and realized that we were joining a group of about twenty celebrating a birthday party. At first I think they were a bit disappointed not to have the boat to themselves but we did our best to make friends- including a girl who was born a Turkish Cypriot but had lived in Santa Clara, CA from age 4-17 and of course a woman from (where else?) Boston.
Captain - just like the old days.

The boat was really more of a lounge on water with flat decks and thick mats for sunbathing or relaxing in the shade depending on location. We decided to divide and conquer securing sections in both areas to allow for freedom of movement throughout the day (that political science course is obviously having an impact).
I could hardly contain myself as we pulled out of the harbor, past the Kyrenia Castle, and in to the sea. Those of you who know of my quest for friends who own boats should understand.
We cruised for about 40 minutes before dropping anchor at our first stop. Although we were disappointed to find that the “free equipment” on board included 4 snorkel masks and 3 snorkels (we renamed it “goggling”), we took full advantage. There wasn’t much in the way of marine life to see but it was exciting just to swim around and explore the open blue sea.
We probably swam and sunbathed for a little over an hour and then it was time for lunch. We got in good with the boat’s owner (at least we understood him to be) and he let us sneak back to be first at the buffet. As you’ve probably gathered by my constant discussion of our meals, the Cypriots definitely know how to put on a good spread. We had pasta, lightly battered fish (no heads or tails this time), humus, eggplant, potato salad, beet salad, cucumber, tomato, couscous, and probably a few other dishes I can’t remember. There was hardly enough room on our plates.


Life on the top deck.

We all moved up to the top sundeck for the second leg of our trip. I lost track of time at this point but we reached a similar swim spot for stop number two and this time did some high diving off of the top deck. After a couple more hours of drifting, plus some watermelon and birthday cake our time came to a close and we headed back. A salty, sweaty van ride back to Famagusta had no chance of ruining what was probably our most perfect day overall. A long cool shower and dinner at Maxi Pide (pizza & free wireless) took any remaining energy we had and we called it a day.

An Irish Bar in Kyrenia.

Me post-boat ride addressing the town square before the flag of the TRNC (or maybe just posing with an ice cream cone).

7/21 - Kyrenia or Bust

A group of seven of us (Nadia, Frankie, Jordan, Courtney, Mike, Sarah, and I) left the dorm this morning at 8am to head to the central roundabout and catch our minibus/van to Kyrenia. We had a bit of confusion, split up, boarded a bus that wasn’t ours, split up again, found each other, found the right bus, and finally hit the road. Nothing like a smooth start…
The ride over the Five Finger Mountains was smooth and peaceful and after a good night sleep it was nice to take in the scenery while everyone slept. We arrived around 10am and began to look for accommodations for the night. My trusty guidebook led us to a couple of different options and we were pleasantly surprised to find the Harbor Scene Hotel – about half a block from the boardwalk and literally around the corner from the harbor at a good price with more amenities than we set out to find (free A/C, satellite TV, big comfy beds). With our two points of stress (arriving safely and finding a room for the night) out of the way, we were free to enjoy our “holiday” weekend.

We started with one of the best lunches we’ve had – a well trusted favorite, the doner kebab (chicken or beef/lamb shaven off with a long flexible knife as it slow roasts) served with cucumber, tomato, rice, and pita. Next on our list was to book an adventure for Saturday. After ignoring the hard sell from a couple of young guys, we found Blue Dolphin Boat Tours (a company I had read about for their scuba excursions). Turns out that the sales rep was a friend of Umut’s who offered us a “student discount” - really no lower than anyone else on the strip, but slightly more trustworthy. For forty lira (about $30) we were able to book a 6 hour trip leaving from the castle, including two stops for swimming and snorkeling, as well as a fresh fish meze lunch. One more thing checked off our list!
The lights of Kyrenia Harbor from the roofdeck of the Carob Cafe.

Finally it was time to explore the shops of Kyrenia with frequent breaks for water and of course ice cream. The afternoon ended with a couple of hours on the patio of a dockside café followed by an early evening nap.
As it was our chance to splurge, we decided on dinner in the harbor. Although we had been warned of the high prices and mediocre fare it was hard to resist the atmosphere of the castle at night with all of the docked boats lit up across the water. We chose the Carob Café for its rooftop deck and did not regret the decision. While it wasn’t the most authentic cuisine we have tasted, we all left content.A walk through the night time bazaar on the boardwalk brought us some very interesting new friends including two who instantly fell in love with Jordan and Courtney. The beaded jewelry, bootleg DVDs and caricature stands were entertaining, but not nearly as much as the two men professing their love at first sight.

Nadia and I (with "friend's" cigarette) at the bazaar.

Courtney and "friend".

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

7/20 - I Heart Karpaz.

My new favorite place.

One of my favorite things about life is that just when you think it can’t get better, it does.
I had been looking forward to today’s field trip for most of our time here. The Karpaz Peninsula is the long skinny stretch of land that extends from the far northeast corner of the island. I had researched the area a little bit and discovered that it is almost like a nature preserve- probably more shaped by remote location and the displacement of people in the 1970’s than environmental concern but a preserve regardless.
We boarded our minibus around 9am and headed north past the Salamis ruins about an hour until we reached the Karpaz Olive Oil and Flour Mill. Houman interpreted a short tour for us from one of the proprietors including an explanation of the old mill, the new machinery, and ways for using waste (producing a compost-like stove pellet of crushed olive pits and skin). Next was a free tasting of their traditional oil, a rosemary infused version, and a carob extract served with pita and tea. So good!

They offered me a job as spokeswoman... I'm still considering it.

Somehow Umut (you’ll remember him as the self-proclaimed “King of Famagusta”) has also been crowned the “King of Karpaz” and he arrived with a group of 60yrs+ British travelers. We caravanned to the ruins of a church with more mosaics and then had a fish meze lunch at an open air restaurant with the most beautiful view of the sea.

I'm getting used to this whole head and tail on the plate thing.

The view from my seat at lunch.

Golden Beach

After lunch we stopped to look down on one of the most proclaimed beaches in Cyprus (and the world) called Golden Beach and continued on to the Monastery of the Apostle Andrew. As the story goes, as he was traveling from Jerusalem to meet St. John, his crew and passengers needed fresh water. He stopped near the very tip of Karpaz and prayed (or as Umut explained thrust his sword in to the ground) and brought forth a spring of fresh water now regarded as holy. There are stories of several miracles from this place and it served as a point of pilgrimage for Orthodox Greeks for many years and now can again since the borders between north and south have been opened.

Holy water spring.

I looked blessed, don't I?

Just north of the monastery we found a small miracle of our own- the most crystal clear and perfect beach I have ever seen- definitely a rival to the beauty of Playa del Carmen and the beaches of Cozumel. A couple of hours of swimming and an ice cream bar later, we were back on the bus with salty skin and tired eyes.

More of my favorite place...

7/19 - Famagusta House Party

Sharif, Matt, Me, Nadia, Chris (in the background), and Tanya.

Today we began our work on the Public Conversations Project; a type of conflict mediation that Stacey and Gerald have taken part in here in Cyprus. We started in small groups with one person representing each side of a conflict and one facilitator. I facilitated a conversation regarding capital punishment. It was an interesting model to illustrate the idea of public conversation (presenting personal experiences with the goal of humanizing both views on a conflict) but it felt a little forced doing it with people who lack a passionate stance on the issue. More to follow tomorrow.
We got in to a more modern day discussion of politics in Cyprus during our afternoon class and began to analyze the Annan Plan (a plan for resolution in Cyprus released by Kofi Annan in 2002 and placed before both communities for a vote in 2004- passed by the Turkish Cypriot community, but not by their Greek Cypriot counterparts).
After the travel agency power outage and some wavering opinions, we changed our weekend plans once again. Instead of trying to piece together a bigger trip on short notice, we have decided to break in to groups and travel back to the harbor town of Kyrenia. I’m excited since it has been my favorite location so far, but still bummed about missing Aaron in Israel. We have been able to locate a van ride for only 6 lira (about $4.50) which will leave us some money to have a nice dinner or do another activity that we might not have splurged on otherwise.

Yum! BBQ lamb and chicken plus dolmas, pilav and bread.


After another trip to the Beach Club, we headed over to our friend Sharif’s apartment for a traditional Turkish BBQ. The food was amazing and of course was complimented by Raki (Turkish version of ouzo or zivania which I mentioned before). Black licorice is probably my least favorite flavor of all time, but of course I respectfully took part. It was a great night for realizing how people connect regardless of language and culture.