Life in Cyprus - June 2005

June 4th:

The boys have been wearing shorts for weeks now but I've stayed in jeans or at least long cotton trousers. But today, I decided, was the day to move to shorts - probably for the next few months. I much prefer jeans but with temps of 29C (in the shade) and predicted to be over 30 in the next week, I may as well stay as cool as I can.

Ironically Tim did wear jeans today for the first time in a while, as he was going up to the Troodos mountains, to help put up tents for an organisation we're friendly with. It's much cooler in the mountains, though only about an hour and 45 minutes away. He was collected at 7.20am and got back about 4.30pm. Apparently it was pouring with rain over lunchtime; thankfully he and someone else had succeeded in getting all the electrics working, and the tents had been put up by the time it started. But rather than a brief shower, it was torrential and long-lasting, a bit like the rain we had here on Tuesday.

Daniel would love to have gone to help too, but had his Grade 5 music theory exam today, early afternoon. Actually the first formal exam he's ever sat in a school building, since his home ed tests have been done at home. He's done practical music exams and also drama exams, but those aren't so stressful. However he was fairly well prepared and is hopeful that he's passed. The pass mark is only 66% so it shouldn't be too difficult.

June 8th:

A couple of times in recent years, the Christian floating bookshop MV Doulos has stopped at Larnaka. The first time, Daniel was able to go and work there for ten days, helping with uncrating and sorting out books, and also selling. It's a ship full of young people, mostly around 18-30 and he loved the atmosphere. Last year he went to meet them again when they stopped temporarily, and decided he would like to spend longer on board once he was eighteen. He applied for their STEPS program, which has a set number of participants for two months, learning about all the different jobs that are done on the ship.

The time he hoped to go was from the last week in June to the middle of August. However not long after he sent in his application form, he had an email saying that this slot was filled. I wasn't surprised: for many university students this is the only time they would be able to go. Instead they asked if he would like the slot from late August to the middle of October. Although it clashed with a short course in woodwind repair that he hoped to take in the UK in October, he felt the Doulos was more important. So we waited for them to take up his references, and let him know whether or not he was definitely accepted.

Two evenings ago he had an email out of the blue, saying that a vacancy has just come up for the June to August stint, and if he wants it he can take it! The ship will be in Tanzania (Dar es Salaam), will visit Mozambique, and will then be in South Africa (Durban) in August.

The problem is, they would need him by 25th June, which isn't far ahead! Tim did some googling to investigate flights; rather discouraging at first when he discovered a direct flight costing 2000!!! But further searching revealed flights via Egypt and UAE which were a lot more reasonable, although considerably more complicated. Unfortunately Richard's away at present and he's the one who knows the travel agents, and can ensure they look at all possibilities and give a good deal. But he'll be back tonight. Either reasonable flights exist, or they don't...

June 10th:

It looks as though Daniel will be going! Richard has managed to book (provisioinally) flights with Emirates Air, going via Dubai, at reasonable prices. Dan's drama teacher took him to the hospital, negociated his way through the complex system of chaos to find the nurse who does vaccinations, and he has had a tetanus/diphtheria booster - which he was due around this age anyway - and also the vaccination against yellow fever which is compulsory for entering Tanzania. He also now has an official yellow international vaccination record. So far the cost has been 8.80 which I'm sure is less than traveller vaccinations in the UK would cost. He has to go back for a polio booster a couple of days before he flies, and his drama teacher's sister will get hold of the others he's supposed to have: typhoid, meningitis A&C, and hepatitis A. Oh, and we need to find some anti-malarial tablets too.

June 13th:

It's felt like a 'heavy' sort of day today. I woke about 6am, but instead of feeling lively as usual, I felt quite drained and exhausted. Dan and Tim were both up by about 7am, and also both said they were tired.

Most of the usual Monday activities were cancelled - no aural lesson as their teacher isn't well; no art lesson for Dan as the other students are doing school exams; no band for Dan this evening, although we don't know why. He used to have a music theory lesson on Mondays too but now he's done the exam, there won't be any more of those. He did have his drum lesson - the first for a while, as he's had wall-to-wall performances with Antidote Theatre in the last few weeks, and there will be another next Monday. After that he'll be on the Doulos until late August. So he spent much of the morning tidying his room and setting up his drums, as he used some of them last night in our church, for a rehearsal.

Richard went first thing to Mantovani Travel, his favourite travel agent locally. He confirmed the booking for Daniel's trip to Africa, paid for it, and collected the tickets. He also confirmed a mini-cruise to Greek Islands which he and I are going to take to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, which comes next month. I still can't quite believe I'm old enough for a Silver Wedding...!

Tim said he felt too tired to do any of his NCSC coursework, but then he realised he was starting two new workbooks, so he could simply read them through to get an overview. After that he went in to Richard's office as he's helping out there with a few technical things which are rather beyond me! How he can concentrate on complex technical computer things but not academic books is beyond me...

I made some apricot jam. Last week there were bags of apricots very cheaply in the supermarket, which have sat in the fridge for several days. So I thought I should start using them. Unfortunately the jam burnt a little; I'm not sure why apricot jam tends to do that. I expect it will taste all right.

I have ignored our mulberries this year. We have two huge trees: one white mulberries, one purple mulberries. As a recent visitor commented, they're not unpleasant to eat raw... but they're nothing special. We found them very disappointing when we first tried them as the purple ones looked rather like blackberries. But the taste of mulberries is slightly sweet and rather bland. In previous years I've made apple and mulberry jam, but the only person who likes it is Richard. I did find a site with lots of mulberry recipes and thought I might try some - but we rarely eat desserts, and none of them leapt out at me as particularly inspiring.

Actually I can't quite ignore the mulberries, because they drop all over our patio and part of the 'lawn' - and when we tread on them, they stick to our shoes and make the most awful mess in the house. So most mornings I sweep them off the patio, and every time I go out to feed the kitties or hang out laundry, I remember to change my shoes. Usually, anyway! I shall be glad when mulberry season is over. It feels rather a waste not to use any of them, but we've offered them to friends and nobody is interested. I expect they'll be useful as part of the compost heap anyway.

June 20th:

I think I can safely say that Summer has now arrived. We can't complain, really; it's been very pleasant (other than a couple of days in late May) right up to last Thursday.

Since then it's been consistently hot, and getting humid. I suppose 32C in the shade isn't excessively hot [about 88F], but it's more than I can cope with easily. Thankfully our house always stays a degree or two cooler - it was designed for summer, not winter - so we haven't yet had to use the air conditioning. Just as well, really, because it doesn't seem to be working. We had trouble with it in heat mode all winter. The engineer came and fixed various things; he was always helpful and friendly, and didn't charge much. But he never managed to get it working. On his final visit he didn't charge anything, and by then it was getting warmer so we managed with small electric heaters, and hoped the cooling would work in the summer.

Yesterday we had friends from Limassol here for the day, and although we sat outside in the morning it was too hot in the afternoon. So we thought we'd try the a/c even though it wasn't entirely necessary. The room thermometer was showing 27.7 degrees so we set the a/c to 26. We could feel it blowing air, which seemed cool, and when Richard went to check the outside unit, it was certainly letting water and heat out. But half an hour later the room thermometer said 28.3, and as I watched it, it climbed to 28.4. Richard tried setting the a/c really low, to about 20 degrees, but it made no difference.

So we just used a fan which was quite effective in moving air about the room and cooling us, and realised we'll have to call the a/c engineer again soon. Or perhaps find someone else, as it's entirely possible he oozes confidence and friendliness without actually knowing what he's doing. This is Cyprus, after all...

June 23rd:

We still have seven feral kittens we found last month... although as someone commented, they're not really feral any more. They're entirely tame, and reliant on people to feed them three times a day.

I went to talk to the Cat Protection League charity shop on Tuesday morning. They said that the Paphiakos animal sanctuary is still taking animals, it has official permission to build a new site, and the lease of its current location has been extended beyond the end of June. Where possible, they find families for kittens. A truck comes to Larnaka once a week and can take any animals to the sanctuary. They even said we can borrow a large cat box (since the one we have is far too small for seven kittens) and I've provisionally booked a slot for some time next week. They're about nine-and-a-half weeks old now, pretty independent and starting to explore more and more.

Of course I'll hate to see them go, but I don't think it would be fair to send four or five of them away and leave the others here. No way can we keep all seven (eleven cats?? No way!) but keeping two or three would be quite nice...

Daniel has started a new blog, Brummie@Sea, which will - we hope - give an up-to-date account of what he's doing. When he's able to get Internet access in Africa, he'll post himself. Other times he may send email or mobile phone text messages, and one of us will upload them.

It's amazing what we've managed to do in just over two weeks! Today Dan had his anti-typhoid vaccination at the hospital. A couple of weeks ago they said he didn't need it, but today he managed to persuade them. Typhoid vaccinations can only be given at a designated typhoid centre, and the hospital is the only one in Larnaka. Anyway, they did it, so that was good. Yesterday he had the two which the hospital couldn't manage: heptatitis A and meningitis. His drama teacher's sister is a doctor, so she arranged that. She told him he would not need a polio booster since he was fully vaccinated against the disease as a child.

This morning he started on the anti-malarial tablets, and also on some garlic tablets, which may or may not keep mosquitoes away, but should be good for his general health anyway. I bought him a supply of multi-vitamins for vegetarians, and Vitamin C a few days ago, plus traveller's shampoo, tea-tree oil, lavender oil, and some tea-tree antiseptic cream in case of cuts and scratches. Of course there's a doctor on board the Doulos, who will have general first-aid supplies, but we prefer the natural approach where possible.

June 25th:

We saw Daniel off last night at Larnaka airport. I can hardly believe it was only two and a half weeks ago when he first heard that it was possible for him to join the Doulos! Both the boys refuse to use text language or txtspk or whatever it's called. However Dan amused us by texting a message in telegram language a few hours later, which started:


Neither of us slept much; I suppose we were both worried he might fall asleep and miss the second flight (what an over-protective mother I am!) so since we were awake at 5am our time, Richard sent a text asking if he was awake. He had an immediate reply saying he was talking an Egyptian friend of Richard's who was also at the airport. So we knew he'd get on the flight to Tanzania.

The flight was due to arrive at 2.30pm so we thought we might hear from him about an hour or so later than that. Eventually at about 5.45pm we had a brief text from him saying that yes, he's in. What a great relief. A lot of people have been praying.

June 26th:

We've been looking after the orphaned kittens for six weeks now, and they're about ten weeks old. They're strong, and getting increasingly more adventurous. They keep themselves clean, and they're exploring more and more of the garden. It won't be long before they can jump over our (low) fence separating them from the driveway, and then I dread to think what would happen if they rushed to meet the car, or tried to explore down the street. They're too tame to be feral kittens any longer; they don't know how to hunt or fend for themselves, and they don't know the dangers of traffic, or some of the people who (sadly) don't like cats.

On the other hand, our four adult cats will not tolerate kittens at all. They have mostly ignored them while they've lived outside, but are beginning to get disturbed by seeing them invade more and more of their territory. Even Jemima, most placid of the four, said something so rude to one of the kittens a couple of days ago that it raced across the patio with its ears down, and hid.

Today I had a call from a lady at the Cat Protection League charity shop, saying the truck will be here about 10am tomorrow. I've put this off long enough, but now does seem to be the time to let them go. So we went down there to collect a basket, not huge but bigger than the one we have, and will take them there tomorrow morning. I will hate to see them go. They all thought the basket was very interesting. I just hope they don't find it too distressing being in the car. Then we'll have to leave them at the shop - where I know they'll be looked after and treated well.

June 27th:

farewell to our feral kittens We persuaded all seven of the kittens to get inside the basket we'd borrowed (not a simple task, since one tried to get out each time we put another in!) and took them to the Cat Protection League shop. There I filled in some details, and left them, so they could be taken to the Animal Sanctuary in Pahpos. It wasn't easy to say goodbye, but next week Richard and I will be away; although there will be some people staying here with Tim, he didn't want responsibility of having to feed all the kittens outside every day, although he'll happily feed our four adult cats on demand.

The lady in the shop was encouraging; she commented that our kittens looked in very good condition, and friendly too. She said that kittens like these are the most likely to find homes fairly easily. But even if they don't, cats have a wonderful time at the Sanctuary: they're free to come and go from their building, there are trees to climb, and plenty of space. So I'm sure they'll be fine. They weren't happy in the car but seemed bewildered more than upset at being put in the basket. I hope they've now arrived and are enjoying their new living accommodation.

June 28th

I think Summer's really here now. It feels hot and sticky. Our air conditioner still isn't working, so my computer is still in the study, where at least there's a breeze. The weather site tells me it's currently 32C in the shade, with 46% humidity, which is a little disappointing: I thought it was more humid than that. It means there's still a long way to go till it reaches 80% humidity and more, as happens in July.

Richard spoke to the a/c repairman yesterday. He wasn't terribly hopeful: it could be that the compressor has gone. In which case it would be better to buy a new unit altogether, since the cost of the compressor is about three-quarters the cost of a new air conditioner. Maybe we'll do that, since we really do need one for the computers. And for a place to go to cool down when the humidity is high. The problem with a/c, of course, is that it makes everywhere else feel even hotter by comparison, and the kitchen feels like an oven even when nothing is cooking. When we have our own house, air conditioning in the kitchen is a necessity!

Sophia sitting outsideSophia, Daniel's cat (or rather, Daniel is Sophia's person) sat on his windowsill this morning and talked to me quite a bit. That was encouraging. She's been very quiet the last couple of days, evidently missing him. On Saturday she sat outside on the step, as she does when waiting for him to come home from the theatre group. On Sunday we barely saw her at all. Yesterday she did appear briefly in the morning, and again in the evening, but other than that wasn't about. However it seems as though she's accepted the situation - he did tell her he was going away for two months, and she's remarkably good at understanding him. Cats are amazing animals.

June 29th:

I heard the first cicadas today, chattering outside my study window. Amazing how such tiny things can make such a loud noise. Just for a few minutes, then they (or it) stopped. Then again, half an hour later. A sure indication that summer is here.

This evening the air-conditioner man arrived with an assistant. They removed some air from the system, re-wired part of it, and spent a lot of time explaining to Richard what was wrong - as well as generally chatting. They must have been here over an hour in all. When they left, the unit was certainly blowing cool air although not as cold as we'd hoped. But anything's better than nothing, and we've moved my computer into the room with a/c. The repairman realises it isn't perfect but says the compressor is fine, and we must let him know if there are any other problems. He also refused to take any payment until he knew for sure that it was working!

(For even more detail, general rambling and other photos - with the most recent at the top - see the June pages of my Cyprus blog, from which this page is heavily condensed)

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To read more about our current everyday life, see my Cyprus Blog