Moving to Cyprus - October 1997

6th Oct: 

Last week we redecorated the front room in our house in Birmingham, and although that's mostly completed, we're still working out what to leave for the people who will be living in our house, what to take with us, and what to pack away. As we're trying to do the same in every room, there's muddle almost everywhere. There's a family from Australia coming to live here in January for a year or 18 months: they are going to be working at a Church whose building is very near to us, so that Church is going to look after the house for us as well. But it has been a rush trying to finish all the decorating we should really have done years ago.

The boys are enjoying this half-term at school, but are also looking forward to going to Cyprus, although I think it will be difficult when we actually say goodbye. We understand there are plenty of music teachers there - Daniel is particularly keen to carry on with his clarinet, piano and various recorders. We’re taking text books and curriculum details etc from their school so I can teach them at home (other than music!) to start with, while we spend some time looking at the various schools available. It seems to be easier to start schools in either January or even next September and we didn’t want to throw them straight into new schools without having seen them, and settled in ourselves. Daniel was rather unhappy in his American school; in retrospect I wish I had taught him at home there.

Daniel is growing fast - he is still about six inches shorter than me but his shoe size is bigger, and it won’t be long before he can look down at me! He continues to do well at school, mostly self-motivated and always eager to look beyond what he is taught. He sometimes gets bored in the classroom when the teacher has to back-track for other children who might not have understood so well; while he’ll need a secondary school when he’s old enough, I think he’ll benefit from some schooling on his own for a while. His main interest at school is music - he took Grade 3 clarinet in the summer, and got a good mark despite panicking over some wrong notes. He’s still doing well with piano and took an unofficial grade 2 theory exam in the summer, which he passed with "distinction". I gather it’s unusual for children to be so good at music theory, but he really enjoys it. Tim still loves singing and is also playing piano, and teaching himself a bit of guitar.

Richard has been spending a lot of time preparing for his work in Cyprus and around the Middle East. He’ll be involved in the video/media aspect. He’s always wanted to get back into television or video, and this is a good opportunity for him. No doubt he will still help people to get their computers set up and working, as he seems to have a talent in that area too - but he has no formal training, and he often gets frustrated spending hour after hour fighting technical problems with computers.

I’ve been doing some freelance writing, and finally had my first article published, with another promised for the New Year (in Parentwise - a magazine for parents of teenagers). I spent most of the Summer re-writing a teachers’ course for computers, which we began about a year ago; it’s now being published by the boys’ school PTA. It’s being professionally printed and advertised to all the primary schools in the country. It’s mainly being marketed as a loose-leaf course which schools can copy and distribute to teachers, and there’s already been some interest in it.

October 31st: 

Saying goodbye to the boys' school was one of the most emotionally difficult experiences we've ever had. Amazing how one can be so attached to a school, but Richard and I had spent so much time there recently that we felt almost as much part of it as the boys did. They arranged a special assembly for us, the afternoon we left - but unfortunately Daniel spent the day feeling sick, and even actually being sick in school, so we had to take him home. In the event, Tim was the only one who attended the assembly. Perhaps just as well, or I would probably have been in floods of tears - as Daniel was when we went in to say goodbye and collect Tim at the end of the day. Richard and I were frantically trying to finish the last bits of packing and cleaning, as we were spending the last night at my parents' house. Although we thought we were doing quite well, it was about 2am by the time we finally finished.

The flight went well: at least it was during the daytime, but I was so tired I was barely aware of anything. We were met at the airport by one of Richard's new colleagues and taken to a small flat: our temporary accommodation while we look for somewhere to live. They said it was a bit over-furnished, but I didn't care - it was comfortable and had all we needed, so I crashed out! It took me nearly a week to recover from the general stress and the late night before we left. During that time we met so many people my brain was buzzing, and were shown all kinds of things which I promptly forgot. Everyone seems very kind, but I still need time and space to recover. It seems very hot to me too, although apparently it's 'only' 25 degrees Celcius, and I'm told it will be far hotter in the Summer. Not what I really wanted to know.

view over LarnakaWhat has struck me as worst, other than the heat: Firstly, nearly everywhere is white with flat roofs; more Middle Eastern than Mediterranean in appearance, other than the local beach which is westernised and commercial. It really isn't very attractive, particularly after Bournville. Secondly, we can't put toilet paper in the loos! Apparently it would block up the drains in some way. So everywhere there are little bins next to the toilets, for used toilet paper. This will take some getting used to. 

Thirdly, the insect life. I'm told there are - shudder! - cockroaches here, but thankfully it's not the season for them. Mosquitoes, however, seem to fly around every night, making a horrible buzzing in my ear that wakes me. Their bite isn't malarial, so we're reliably informed, but it nonetheless itches like crazy. There are smelly pad things that can be put in an electronic device overnight to give out a smell that kills mosquitoes; unfortunately the smell is so bad I can't sleep with one! The main bedroom in the flat where we're staying is quite small; if we have the french windows open (apparently it's quite safe to do so) then bugs fly in all night; if we have them closed, it becomes very close and hot.

We went to visit the local American school this week, since Tim is quite keen to go to school as soon as possible, but were not impressed. The Head seemed helpful and friendly, but the classrooms looked formal and old-fashioned, and we were a bit shocked to discover that they do no music or art, and apparently have almost no after-school clubs. The school day starts about 7.40am and goes on till 1.30pm or so, so there's not even a lunch-break to spend with other children.

They use an American maths course called Scott Foresman which seems to be little more than arithmetic, and they said that because English schools are 'behind', the boys would probably have to go into 3rd and 5th grade respectively, even though they're old enough for 4th and 6th. I queried this, since the text-books used (other than the maths) seem to be roughly what they've been using, and Tim told her what sort of books he's reading, which startled her somewhat (!). She lent us a Scott Foresman grade 4 book to see if Tim really could manage it - she said he could take the exam for 4th grade if we want him to although she was dubious whether he would pass.

We've been 'house-hunting' too. Rents do seem quite inexpensive here, which is good. We saw a smallish house with quite a nice yard full of fruit trees, only 100 per month, but structurally it wasn't sound - cracks in some important walls, and rather dodgy floors. We also saw some flats: not bad, but not very spacious. Ideally we'd like four bedrooms - certainly three, so the boys can be separate even if they have to double up when we have guests. We do want some outside space as well, rather than just a balcony like the flats have.

empty atrium of houseSo we've decided to go for another house which one of Richard's colleagues showed us: it seems huge, with an enormous and very wild garden, but it's structurally sound although it needs some decoration (and a LOT of cleaning!) before we can move in. We'll probably only have it for a year, or maybe two, as it's a 'dowry house' that will go to the landlady's three daughters when they want to get married. In fact it will probably be knocked down and turned into three flats - rather sad, as it's a colonnial style home that's quite attractive beneath the lack of maintenance.

Next diary page - November 1997