Life in Cyprus: November 2001

This must have been one of the coldest, wettest Novembers we have ever known in Cyprus. What a good thing we had no visitors at the time! We felt quite sorry for British tourists staying at hotels or flats along the sea-front, hoping for some sunshine and warmth, but instead deluged with rain and wind far heavier than they would have found in the UK.

abandoned plane in Nicosia buffer zoneThe start of the month was not so bad weather-wise; a bit cloudy, but reasonably warm. This month the home educators' group had planned a trip to the United Nations, with permission to see the buffer zone, the land between Northern (occupied) Cyprus, and the Greek Cypriot South, where we all live. We had hoped to see some of the UN buildings, but when we got there we were told that the group was too big to take inside, so we had to stand out near the old airport, in front of the famous abandoned aeroplane. 

the abandoned airport in NicosiaTwo UN workers told us something about what they did, and answered the many questions that both children and adults raised, but it was a bit disappointing not to see anything much. The buffer zone seemed to stretch for miles with open countryside; presumably it would have been built up and full of traffic had there not been the invasion in 1974 forcing the UN to keep the peace. 

Thankfully, despite the morning having had yet more torrential rain, the afternoon was mostly fine with a little drizzle; had it been pouring, we would have been extremely wet and miserable!

That day - exactly four weeks after the previous heavy rain - signalled the end of Autumn and the beginning of much colder weather. Thankfully we had had our kerosene furnace (the only real form of heating in our house) serviced beforehand. We had also brought back a heavy quilt from England in the Summer - so we got that out, as well as extra blankets for the boys, and settled in to a surprisingly cold couple of weeks for Cyprus, where the sun barely came out at all, and there was rain every day.

The previous year we had had the water shortage, with mains water switched on only twice a week, meaning that washing clothes was difficult and had to be planned for the mains water days. This year we have water on all the time, but the weather led to a new problem: difficulty with getting washed clothes dry! Hardly anybody has tumble driers in Cyprus, since laundry usually dries in a few hours on a line in the garden. As it was, I had to hang it out when there was a gap in the rain, and rush to bring it in when rain started, trying to finish the drying on our indoor airer. As there was a fair bit of wind alternating with the rain, it did usually get reasonably dry eventually.

This month we decided to order a new 'ADSL' line and box for our Internet access, something which Cyprus only had available since about September. We use the Internet quite a lot - not just for email and our various web-sites, but for research, for online shopping at times, for the boys to 'chat' with friends around the world; for looking at demos of new games, and in general as a replacement for a library, since the only library here in Larnaka is nearly all in Greek. We calculated that what we were spending on internet phone calls, plus the monthly connection charge, was no less - and probably more - than the fixed ADSL charge. More importantly, it would free our phone line for normal phone calls, and it would give us a much faster connection rate.

We were told that we would have to go on the waiting list so we did not expect to be connected until at least the end of December, but to our surprise within about a week of putting our name down, the engineer called and connected us! He did not seem to understand about families with more than one computer, and a network, but between them the male members of the family managed to get the system working so that two or more computers could be online at the same time. It is indeed considerably faster than the previous system, and we no longer have to worry about being offline when expecting a phone call, nor about limiting online time to save money! Whether our phone bills will be reduced by the amount we have to pay for ADSL remains to be seen.

Timothy has been taking organ lessons on the St Helena's organ, which is an electric one with two keyboards. His piano teacher (and organist at St Helena's) is going to be on furlough from mid-November until about mid-January, and Clare, the other person at St Helena's who plays the piano, is going to be away for two weeks over Christmas, so they're rather desperate for someone to play for the relevant services.

Anyway, he has wanted to have a go at an organ for a long time, and very much likes learning to play the St Helena's one even if it's not a 'proper' pipe organ! He seems to spend well over an hour every day playing the piano at home - mostly not the pieces he's learning officially, but working through various hymn books and other music books we have: someone sent him a Beatles music book for his birthday, and we got him a Simon and Garfunkel music book in the Summer, so he's trying those out and seems to be doing fairly well with them all.

All went well with the visa application - only one year granted, yet again, and they said they never grant more than a year at a time to people with our status. But that's all right as it's what we're used to. I suppose we'd got a bit blase since they are pretty laid-back here. And Richard did have all the paperwork ready - it's just we'd all totally forgotten that the boys' and my passports expired this December! 

We hadn't thought to check the dates. They're not even stamping passports in and out of the country for Brits, so they obviously aren't that worried - it's a formality as much as anything. Anyway it all worked out fine, thank goodness. The worst thing is having to wait around at Immigration, since they're highly inefficient, only one person at a desk, and people queuing up from at least half an hour before the office opens every morning. But it's no good getting annoyed, since we want them to grant us the permits!

Previous (October 2001) | Next (December 2001)