Sunday, March 20, 2011

Day Three: Larnaka and the Sea

Day three I spent with my mother’s first cousin John and his wife Lucy. We went to see Larnaka, which is where I flew in and a nice little town by the sea. Cyprus is so small that really anywhere is close. The drive from Nicosia to Paphos, which is on the other side of the country, is only two hours. To Larnaka, it’s only about 45 min.

We saw the tomb of Muhammad’s step mother which was in a very peaceful spot of a salt lake. John said that in the summer, the lake was filled with flamingos that stop there on their migratory path. And I did see one lone flamingo just chillin’ in the lake. The mosque was simple, not like the richly decorated ones I saw in Istanbul, and it exuded calm. John read the calligraphy written on the arches and I remembered that my family also has a strong connection to Cairo. My grandfather, Uncle John, and cousin John (in Cyprus) were all born in Cairo. Cousin John says he can remember the day my grandfather and my Uncle John (his first cousin) left Cairo for good, that he remembers waving as they left.

The name thing can get really confusing in Cyprus. Though, as my Cousin John told me, it's never done to name a son after a father or a daughter after a mother, the grandparent’s names are fair game. Andreas has two grandsons named after him and Evangelia has two granddaughters named after her. It’s kind of confusing when they are all in the room together.

We walked on a promenade for a while that meandered between the sea and a bunch of tourist restaurants and bars. The air was so fresh and the weather so nice, I could have stayed there all day. I had no trouble imagining it packed with tourists. John was quite concerned about how many foreigners were around because it wasn’t typical for Cyprus. All the waiters and most of the people at the restaurants were all non-Cypriots. John did understand that it was different for the US. In the States, we are more or less all ‘foreigners’ who all came there for different reasons, so none of us really have the right to resent anyone else for being there (that doesn’t stop some people, though).

In Cyprus, it’s a different matter. The population there had been the same for generations (excepting, of course, the whole Turkish invasion thing). It’s only in the past couple of years that so many immigrants have come to Cyprus for work. This development, as you can imagine, does not sit well with Cypriots. Immigration is a hot topic among the locals.

We ate lunch at a beautiful seaside restaurant where I think I offended my cousins by only eating a salad. But after two days of non-stop eating I was ready for something light. He kept on mentioning how cheap the restaurant was and told me, quite plainly, that he didn’t want to me to leave the restaurant hungry. Like in many cases in America, in Cyprus if you don’t have meat with your meal, then it isn’t really a meal.

We drove all around the seaside seeing various things (I was asked very often if I was SURE I wasn’t hungry) and taking in the beautiful sea air. We visited John’s son, Michael, who owns his own mechanic shop in a small town near a huge beach resort.

They also took me to Ayia Napa, which is the tourist spot in the summer. In the winter, however, it was a ghost town with tons of lovely cafes sitting empty waiting for the tourists to arrive in the next month or so. The place was ironically named after a nearby ancient monastery and only came to have such an infamous nightlife (as John said, ‘this is where the crazy people go’) after Famagusta, the previous hot spot, was captured by the Turks in the war.

I was still tired from the night before so I called it an early night, eating some delicious tuna rolls Evangelia made and crashing.

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