Life in Cyprus - December 1997

Dec 31st:

Cycling in the Salt Lake ParkWe don't get out often enough, as Richard is so busy with work, but once or twice we have loaded the bicycles in the car and driven to the Salt Lake Park so that the boys can cycle.

We had a good Christmas. We had friends here for Christmas Day, then hosted a party for his work colleagues a couple of days later with 20 people for silly games, potluck food and carols. It’s nice to have a house with big enough rooms to have a big party like that - although it’s a disadvantage now the weather is distinctly colder, and the windows are very draughty. There’s no central heating, as such, although the main room (kind of an entrance hall but huge) has a kerosene heater which, after an hour or so, heats the entire house with a vague background heat, and is very warm nearby.

We’ve got into the habit of lighting that heater each day around 3pm so it’s warm by 5pm when it gets dark and the temperature drops. It’s been sunny most days and doesn’t feel too chilly outside in the sun, though there’s been rather a bitter wind the last two days, making it feel distinctly colder.

We had trouble with the stuff we sent by sea freight - rather than arriving a week after we did, it arrived a month later due to various delays. That would have been all right, but on arrival we found two boxes missing - now presumed stolen before they ever left the UK. The company admitted liability and sent us replacements for our scanner and printer, but more problems cropped up and it wasn’t until almost the end of December that Richard finally was able to collect them from the airport.

We’ve decided to continue attending Larnaca Community Church, a small but friendly English-speaking congregation which is attached to the Greek Evangelical Church (they meet in the same building at different times, and have joint services every so often in both languages). There is an Anglican Church just over the road, but it’s a bit more formal than we’re used to, with an organ, which Richard doesn’t like much! We were going to visit all the English-speaking congregations in the city - there’s also a charismatic Church, and a Reformed Presbyterian Church where they only sing Psalms - but after a couple of weeks at LCC the boys got involved in the music at the Harvest service, so we stayed... the other new family working with Richard, who are Canadian and have children just a little younger than ours, are also going to the same Church.

Tim's solo at the Christmas concertTimothy is really the only true Anglican among the four of us - when the Anglican Church had a Christingle service he insisted on going and took Richard with him. Tim thoroughly enjoyed it! Both boys joined an inter-Church choir for Christmas, mainly with people from LCC and the Anglican Church, and Tim was chosen to sing the solo first verse of "Once in Royal David’s City" in the Town Hall, which delighted him. I think the musical genes must have skipped a generation since neither Richard nor I are the slightest bit musical.

I’m enjoying teaching the boys at home for now, something which I wish in retrospect I’d done in the USA for Daniel, as he had such a bad time at the Colorado schools. There’s not much choice here, unfortunately. All the free schools are Greek-speaking, and the only really local English-speaking junior school, called American Academy, has Cypriot teachers who apparently spend their time shouting and giving out busywork. They use methods which seem about 50 years out of date, and although they teach British curriculum mostly, they don’t have ability groups but place children by an entrance exam.

We did seriously consider it, all the same, as Tim is badly missing school and all the ‘hustle and bustle’ of school life, but decided against it for now, although we may send him there next Autumn - finances permitting. We went with a friend to look at the Army Base school, which was probably a mistake as we were VERY impressed - it ran like a friendly British school, with classes half the size and superb facilities. Unfortunately the fees for non-army people are extortionate! We’re going to apply for grants from UK organisations that sponsor missionary kids abroad, but I don’t think it would stretch to anything like the army school fees. Also it’s much further away - it's at the Dhekelia base which is about half an hour's drive away, and the boys would have to catch a bus at something like 6.30am if they went there since schools start at 7.45!

We were also quite impressed with the Army base secondary school, but the fees were even higher, so I think Daniel will go to the American Academy secondary school, which has a big entrance exam in May. It’s selective (so of course there’s no guarantee he’d get in) and the standards are high - it seems to be quite unrelated to the junior school, and children who go there seem to like it. But if he does go there, we can’t keep Tim at home on his own as he’s very outgoing and enjoys the social aspects of school as much as anything.

Nevertheless we’re enjoying home-schooling as a temporary thing: they’re writing stories and books, working on maths at their own pace, and we're all learning Greek together - I’m very glad I did ancient Greek for A-level, as it gives me a huge step into modern Greek. Pronunciation is very different, but many words are just the same as they were 2000 years ago, and the grammar is slowly coming back to me. Richard is having Arabic lessons, which are considerably more difficult!  

We’re getting to know the area and slowly working on this house we’ve taken on - it's going to be a long job, and I'm not sure how much we'll do as we probably only have it for two years. Richard is very much enjoying his work; currently the video department is taking ten days off, so he’s mostly at home which is nice. We're keeping in touch with many people, including my parents, by email now - so much less expensive than phone calls, yet more reliable and quicker than letters.

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