Living in Cyprus - September 2000

18th Sept:

September started by getting a bit cooler which was nice, but now it's got a bit hotter again and more sticky, unfortunately - 32C during the daytime, though a bit cooler at night. We keep hoping the first rain will come, as that usually reduces the humidity and also the temperatures, and begins to make the island green again rather than dry and dusty.

We had quite a sandstorm about ten days ago when Richard was working in Egypt. It was quite bizarre - the sky looked brown and it became very windy with sand blowing everywhere. We shut all the windows and shutters, but still there was a layer of sand just about everywhere when it had finished.

Sophia keeps catching more and more wild creatures - mainly grasshoppers and lizards. She does eat the lizards (in the house) but with the grasshoppers she chases them all over the place: behind bookcases, on shelves, knocking things down... then eventually when she kills them, she leaves them lying around. We find ourselves treading on sharp objects which turn out to be grasshopper legs or wings; not pleasant with bare feet first thing in the morning.

Tim at the table with his home education courseworkThe boys have now done 3 weeks on their home education course which will eventually lead to a national certificate equivalent to GCSEs and A- levels. Tim is enjoying it - he really likes the structure and workbooks - but Daniel is finding it a bit dull so far. Partly because lots of it is far too easy for him, but to get the certificate they have to start at a certain level and take all the tests from that stage onwards. 

It's supposedly starting at Year 8/Year 9 level (Daniel would have been going into Year 9 if he were in school in the UK), and considered to be difficult - the curriculum is called 'Accelerated Christian Education' and is quite highly regarded around the world in universities - but it's about the right level for Tim at present. However Daniel hopes to get through the early stages fairly quickly and move on to more interesting things as soon as he can.

This coming weekend is going to be hectic - Tim is having some friends to lunch on his birthday, and the children to stay for the afternoon. Then there's youth group in the evening, and we have a 'home educators' day' from 10am till late on the Saturday, with about 8 or 9 families (probably 35-40 people) here for general socialising and chatting and a potluck lunch. 

Just to add to the complications, a German friend is staying overnight on the Friday and Saturday! She lives in Israel and had to take her car out of Israel when going to Germany for a 3 month visit over the Summer. She was able to leave it in our garage here (it wasn't allowed to be on the road in Cyprus) and we said she could come and stay when she came back. She didn't know when that would be, until we had a quick phone call a few days ago saying it's this Friday and Saturday.

Tim's piano lessons have started again, as have Daniel and Richard's art classes. Tim's guitar and Daniel's clarinet lessons haven't resumed yet, but most music schools seem to start in early October rather than September. The clarinet teacher said that Daniel can definitely join the town band this year - at last! - so he's looking forward to that. However it will mean two evenings per week of rehearsals, and is all in Greek, so we're not sure how it will go.

25th Sept: 

I hope the unexpected heatwave is now over. Last Thursday it got worse still. For three days we were back in the high 30s with high humidity as well.   Worse than that, the mosquitoes appeared again, just when we thought they had hibernated.  I had about thirty bites on my legs yesterday.   Today I sprayed them with insect repellent, and had only about six.  But I can be thankful that they only itch.  At least our mozzies don't carry malaria, or other awful diseases.  I suppose I could wear jeans and shoes, and long-sleeved shirts, but it's so hot that we're all still living in shorts and tee-shirts.

I've already switched on the mosquito repellant unit in the bedroom.   Little aromatic pads that slot into little electrical units.  The smell is like air freshener, and we're told that the insecticide used is probably mildly carcinogenic.  But frankly anything is better than that ZZZZZZZZZZZ around my ears in the night, and waking up to itches all over. 

I must make sure that I get all the family's dirty laundry organised.   Tomorrow we'll have mains water on - something we get twice a week, at present.   On Tuesdays for about 10 hours, and Friday nights, for another 10 hours.  The mains water fills up our tank, which is quite big, so we have sufficient in the intervening days for showering, flushing and washing dishes, so long as we're careful.   But the washing machine uses a lot of water, so I only run that when the mains is on.  

Usually I do three loads on a Tuesday, hanging them out to dry as soon as the machine has finished.  Hardly anyone has a tumble drier here - it would be expensive to run, and would simply add to the humidity.  I'll also fill up the 25 or so water bottles that we keep filled with the fresh, mains water for drinking.  We don't drink water from the tank, which sits there for three days in between fillings.

Usually there's no rain from the start of May right through to mid-September, but we had expected some by now.   Perhaps later in the week.  Meanwhile I'm still having to water all our trees, but of course can only do this too when the mains water is on.  At first we were reluctant to water anything, but our neighbours told us it was vital to water plants.  After all, if they all died the country would become like a desert.  So tomorrow I'll be standing outside with the hosepipe, watering all the lemon and pomegranate and loquat trees.  Perhaps a pomegranate will be ready for picking.  They're pretty good straight from the tree, although we have dozens and can't possibly eat them all.

30th Sept: 

At last we've had the first rain of the Autumn! Not that it was as exciting as that sounds.   The heatwave ended, the sky turned dark grey, and thunder echoed around the neighbourhood for about an hour.   Probably it was raining on the mountains, we thought.  The reservoirs are in the mountains, so it's a good thing when it rains there, but we had not seen any rain near the coast since early May.  We switched off the computers and unplugged the modems as the thunderstorm got closer.  We turned on the lights in the house, and tried to comfort the cats, who don't like loud noises.   The boys tried to do some work, but the air felt heavy and humid and it was hard to concentrate.

Then it rained.  Great heavy drops, quickly covering the patio.  It rained... for about five minutes.  Then there was perhaps five more minutes of light spattering rain.  Enough that the soil turned darker, and a little dust was washed from the roof.  Enough that the entire district smelled of dust, and the temperature dropped to below 20C. 

But that was all.  The sky stayed grey for about an hour, then the sun came out again.  We always look forward to the first rain of the Autumn, but I'm not sure why.  It rarely makes any difference.  The temperature stayed cooler today, so that we were able to spend this afternoon working in our vast back garden.  We weeded and pruned, burned rubbish, cut the rather feeble straggly bits that we think of as 'grass'.   I wore jeans rather than shorts, for the first time in four months.  

jigsaw puzzles during the summer It's the last day of September, so we declared that Summer was officially over in our household, and carefully put away the three enormous jigsaw puzzles that had occupied us - and our dining table - during the hotter weather.

The most exciting news is that we have bought a car... although it's created a whole new set of problems! A friend saw it advertised in the Lions' paper: a Mitsubishi estate car. Richard went with a friend who knows about cars to meet the seller (a sergeant from the military base who was returning to the UK this week). It was 500 and in far better condition than we expected - full records, only 3 users, 10 years old, around 100,000 miles, new tyres, pretty good bodywork. Air conditioning and power-steering. It was by far the best deal he had seen and our friend who went with him agreed.

To make it even better, we were told it was 'duty-paid' - here in Cyprus foreigners can get duty-free cars, roughly half the cost of duty-paid cars. But they can only get one each, and they can't be driven by anyone else. We'd been looking at duty-free cars, although as the visa/residence rules keep changing and nobody's quite sure what they mean, we weren't 100% certain we could get one. So to have a duty-paid car seemed much better, and meant anyone could drive it.

All seemed well, the car is roomy, quiet and comfortable. We were sure it was the right one.

Today Richard got a phone call from the military base customs people, saying the guy we'd bought it from had been detained at the airport, because the car is NOT duty-paid. The guy must have been furious, as he had no idea - he was sold it by another military man, and they're all automatically able to have duty-free cars so it was never queried until he was stopped trying to leave the country. If he had sold it to someone not eligible for a duty-free car, he wouldn't be allowed to leave at all, apparently.

The base customs people said - after much discussion, where they thought Richard is probably allowed to have a duty-free car - that they'd release the chap he bought it from, and fax over some documents from him. Richard has to go and collect those tomorrow, then go and sort it all out with the Larnaka port customs people.

So he did check - half the car records are in Greek, but sure enough the car has not had its duty paid. According to the customs people here, a car that old can't have duty paid on it any more... usually duty can be paid at any point, but not when it's only worth 500. So if Richard isn't eligible for a duty-free car, we won't be able to keep it. at first we thought perhaps we could pay the duty, even though it's likely to be a lot, as the car is actually worth rather more than what we paid and we'd been intending to pay more for such a car.

So he'll also need to go tomorrow to Nicosia, about an hour's drive away, to register the car there and have all his documentation checked to make sure that he's eligible for a duty-free car. If so, that's OK... it means nobody else can drive it, but that's what we'd expected. A pity when we have guests who want to go out by themselves, but not a disaster since local car rental is pretty inexpensive for just a day or two.

The Nicosia people also said that the guy he'd bought it from ought to go with Richard to register it. When he explained that the guy had (we hope) now been allowed to go back to the UK, that caused another problem. We hope the faxed documents will be OK, and he explained that the military customs folk know about this. But in Cyprus law there aren't just loopholes, there are whole sections of possibilities that just don't seem to be covered! And several parts have different possible interpretations. If it turns out that Richard isn't eligible for a duty-free car, they'll presumably have to impound it somewhere.

Ah well, life is never dull here!

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