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January 21, 2001
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Cyprus

Installment 15: November 6, 2001

Greetings all,

Apologies for the lull in recent correspondence. The Hayes/Bisese clan (can a clan be just two people?) has been experiencing computer problems, possibly due to leaving the computer on repeatedly in 105-degree heat throughout the summer. But we prefer not to claim responsibility, so instead we use code phrases to divert attention from our own culpability, like "the motherboard must be busted." Poor moms. They never get a break. 

Cyprus installment #15 is the product of yet another remarkable visit from excellent guests.     
Greetings from sunny Minnesota!

A brief introduction:  I am David, Guest Writer for this Cyprus Installment.  Some of you I know, some very well, and some not at all.  I am Janie’s Grandfather’s um…uh…well, um… his “friend;” his soulmate, lifemate, chef, and household workin’ man.

Dan and I were in Cyprus, checking up on Janie and Jimmy (I love those names!) and they are doing just fine.  Besides playing Tour Guides for several days and helping us to understand the tangled web of Cypriot politics, they are hosts extraordinaire.  If you haven’t visited them in Cyprus yet, save up your shekels and ‘hop across the pond,’ then across the other pond, the one in the middle of the Earth, and you’re there!  What could be easier?

We did all the usual tourist things, which in Cyprus makes for a fascinating vacation.  The island has been an intersection, literally, for Western and Near Eastern civilizations for 10,000 years.  The ruins that we saw, in most cases, were on top of other ruins that had been discovered but not excavated.  Such a monumental undertaking is probably well beyond the budget of any heritage preservation program; but where the digging has gone to the second and third levels, you can’t escape the eerie realization that you are viewing physical possessions left behind by people, who, in spite of human progress, were very much like us.  The concept of human progress is reinvented by each generation.  The evidence is in Cyprus.

On one of our forays, we viewed the Paphos Mosaics, circa 300 to 400 AD.  They depict much of the same delights we know today.  They exhibit beauty in things that surround them, such as flowering plants, the energy and drive of wild creatures, tranquility of cattle, the power of bulls, the languid joy of wine, and the wretchedness of excess.  Through the illustrations of Orpheus, Dionysos, Theseus, and Aphrodite, the various parties who commissioned, designed and created these works were attempting to explain the world around them.  We are still trying to do that today; we just have different tools.

The latest hoards to invade Paphos, and, I am told, most of the resorts of Greek Cyprus, are Northern European tourists.  Having lived in New Orleans for 24 years, I have seen some pretty tacky tourists, but those in Paphos had them all beat.  Are they worse than the Romans, Saracens, or the Crusaders?  Not by a mile.  Luckily, they are not bent on slaughtering the local population, though the locals may find them offensive and disturbing, much as the Persians saw the Hellenists.

Don’t let this keep you from visiting Paphos.  Accept Paphos as it is, recognizing that the tourists, including you, only represent the expansion of our human population, our modern interest in things ancient, and our timeless ability to travel long distances.

For more history and some welcome serenity, visit Turkish Cyprus.  The area under Turkish occupation is not as developed as is the rest of Cyprus.  The medieval ruins are well worth seeing, the cafes are comfortable and picturesque: no molded, white plastic chairs, and your fellow tourists in town are quieter, better dressed and much better behaved.

Now, back to the matter of our hosts, Janie and Jimmy.  (Awwww, ain’t dey cute?)  They are both fine, and still enjoying their time living abroad.  Cyprus enjoyed a good, substantial rainstorm while we were there, but I don’t know if Jimmy’s water project had anything to do with that.  One of Janie’s associates, someone in management, was in town to review her programs. 

The Hash House Harriers have been making themselves noticed, too.  As most of you know by now, H3 is a running group to which Janie and Jimmy belong.  (Janie and Jimmy: if you didn’t know them, wouldn’t you expect them to be attired in the latest prep school fashions?)  Well, the H3 members take turns laying out new running routes, and they mark the routes with flour.  Two intrepid H3 fellows were caught in the act of dumping white powder from a well-marked bag of flour, in broad daylight.  It seems that the trail of white powder upset local authorities, and some international ones too.  Under the circumstances, it would be reasonable to conclude that these particular foreigners were not trying to slaughter the local population.  But, flour is white powder, and white powder is highly suspect these days; hence, many questions and much consternation by the aforementioned authorities.

We ate fresh fish, delicious local produce, and a multi-course meal called meze.  Meze could be an acronym for Meat Eaters Zealous Extravaganza.  International meals have taken place in Cyprus for thousands of years, and on our last night we dined on a sumptuous meal of Indian food, with Canadians and Swiss friends of Janie and Jimmy’s.  (Janie and Jimmy: they sound so “bouncy and breezy!”  Well, they are!)

In Cyprus, what I was reminded of most was the timeless march of humanity.  There is no attention paid to the animals or plants that were there before the last Ice Age.  Indeed, the only acknowledgement of the local flora and fauna is that they were used to sustain, improve, enhance or encumber man’s presence.

The current division of the island, and the violence that precipitated it, reminds us that suspicion and xenophobia are nothing new.  But don’t let this keep you away.  These topics, interspersed with laughter over the ironic temporariness of our present culture and existence make for lively conversation over a meal of meze in the company of the Jimmy and Janie. 

For in spite of reoccurring bouts of inhumanity, our craving for gregariousness, optimism, and love for one another brings us back together again and again.

David

 

     

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