Life in Cyprus - October 2000

2nd Oct:

Unfortunately after our first rain and somewhat cooler weather at the end of September, the temperature climbed again yesterday back to nearly 28C. Not quite hot enough to put the air conditioning on again; there was a pleasant breeze, so we opened the windows instead.  The brown leaves on the ground and the ripe pomegranates on the trees tell me that Autumn must be here, but the weather feels like Summer in the UK again.   There should be more rain this month; each time the temperatures should drop a little, until it begins to feel cooler and we find ourselves wanting warmer clothes, and blankets at night.

5th Oct:

The nursery next door seems to have closed down and we thought perhaps the house would be sold. Someone is parking cars in the driveway, but not sleeping there, and we only see them briefly when they come to collect the cars and drive off for the day. Our neighbour over the road says he thinks they're going to convert the building into a restaurant. 

We hope not as it would be noisy late at night. Children playing during the daytime were not a problem, but restaurants here have people getting louder (and smoking heavily) up to midnight or so. It would be awful for anyone in our guest room/study on that side of the house. So we're hoping it won't be a restaurant! 

If it is, we'll have to start looking for somewhere else to rent. We only have this house a year at a time as the landlady doesn't know when her daughters might want it, and she's offered it to us for next year as well. So far we've said we'd like it, so we'll have to see what happens. Often developments here take years to get going so it may be that nothing happens for ages.

Richard seems to have been spending a lot of time in Nicosia trying to sort out the extensive paperwork necessary to prove that he has 'duty-free' status on the island, ie is eligible to own a car that has not had the duty paid. If we had know it would be such a nuisance I don't suppose we would have gone ahead and bought the car, yet it was excellent value and - so far - seems to be running very well. We just hope and pray that we can keep it!

Just to add to our distractions, we also just had to make our annual visit to the Immigration Office, to apply for another year's residency permits.  One would think, with foreigners and tourists providing so much income to this country, that it would be easy. Particularly now that Cyprus wants to belong to the EEC. But no. Each year the rules seem to change. The basic principle is that we need to have 'sufficient' funds in our local bank account, but nobody has been able to tell us officially how much that is.   

However it seems that two thousand Cyprus pounds is about right.   This is far more money than we would normally have in our local account, but each year we have had an unexpected increase in income, or a gift, which has enabled us to transfer this amount just before applying for our permits.   Other people borrow the money, pay it into their accounts, and then pay it back again.

In the past, Richard has been able to apply on behalf of the whole family.   This year they said they wanted to see all of us.  In the past, he has taken in original documents (recent bank statements and the tenancy agreement for the house we are renting) and the officials have made photocopies after examining them.  This year they told him to make the photocopies first. In the past they have asked him extensive questions about the way we run our finances, our expected income, and why our children are not in school. Home education is almost unknown in this country, not even legal for the nationals. This year we were asked no questions at all, except a question as to whether our children were studying via the Internet.  We said they used a correspondence course and the official nodded and stamped the photocopied paperwork.

Although we had to wait an hour before we got in, the 'interview' only took about ten minutes. So that's that for another year, although the official 'pink slip' will not arrive until January. In the meantime we are waiting to find out whether we can keep the car we bought a couple of weeks ago, under the impression that it was duty-paid.  We discovered when our seller tried to leave the country that it was not.  We should be eligible for a duty-free car (as are most foreigners living here) but have had to submit all the same paperwork - and more - to a different set of officials, in a different city.  There probably won't be any problem, but nobody can guarantee it until we have some paperwork to tell us.

30th Oct:

Our first visitors of the season were due to come out for the last week of October - the half-term school break in the UK.  They emailed to ask us what the temperatures were like, a couple of days before they arrived, so that they would know what clothes to bring. I emailed back that it was about 26C in the shade. The sun was shining and we were still all wearing shorts and tee shirts.

Then it began to rain. As there's such a water shortage here, we were pleased: rain in Cyprus is usually heavy, and does not last long. It clears the air, moistens the soil, and is then quickly replaced by sunshine. To our surprise it rained all weekend. And on the Monday when our friends were due to arrive. The temperatures dropped by about ten degrees, and the rain continued to fall. It was more like British rain than the sort we are used to in Cyprus.

Our friends' flight was late, and they arrived tired and hungry. They were not amused at our asking why they had brought the weather with them! But we assured them that it would clear up. It didn't. The following day was grey and dull, so we borrowed a large 9-seater vehicle and made for some sites some distance from our home. 

Visiting Kurium in OctoberFirst we went to Kurium, an ancient amphitheatre site which has been renovated, and is used annually for a Shakespeare play.  Here they were able to see some of the mosaics which remain after thousands of years, and imagine how a wealthy aristrocrat might have lived.  The rain held off, but the temperatures were cool, so we decided not to visit the beach.

Instead we drove on to Nicosia, capital of Cyprus. This is the only remaining divided capital city in the world:  half is occupied since the invasion of 1974, and half belongs to the Greek-speaking Southern Cyprus.   We spent a little time looking at the tourist shops of the Southern side, and then showed our friends the border where there are armed guards on duty constantly.  We could look over into the North, at some abandoned houses and streets.  The state of armed neutrality has gone on so long that many people are barely aware of the hostilities.

Our friends' children were eager to get to the beach, but the following day was still grey and overcast.  So we took them into the local Larnaka shops, to buy postcards and look at souvenirs.  And in the afternoon we took them to see the Salt Lake, and the nearby mosque: one of the holiest shrines in Islam, where Mohammed's stepmother is buried.  Then we went on to the famous St Lazarus Church, a large and ornate Orthodox Church near the sea front of Larnaka.

The beach at LarnakaBy Thursday, to our relief, the sun had come out again so we took our friends to the local beach, at the palm trees promenade. This beach has become commercialised in the past ten years, with a wide array of international cuisine available, and ice cream booths every hundred metres or so. There are rows of sun-beds and parasols available, at a nominal fee, so we rented some and the children enjoyed their time in the sand.

For the rest of the week the weather stayed mostly fine, and got warmer again. We visited McKenzy beach, another one popular with tourists, which has excellent sea for swimming, and the added attraction of very low-flying planes every few minutes, as it's under the flight route and close to the airport.  On Saturday we drove out to Kiti, a beach backed by small cliffs which has not yet become commercial.  Here we could smell the sea, rather than restaurants, and listen to the waves lapping on the rocks rather than hearing cars and motor bikes driving past. The only disadvantage is the lack of public loos!

As for the car - we still don't know what's happening. But we haven't been told to stop driving it, and it hasn't been impounded, so Richard answers whatever questions he's asked and has filled in mountains of paperwork. Beurocracy seems to work even more slowly here than it does in the UK so perhaps we'll hear something by Christmas...!

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