Living in Cyprus - November 1999

November 4th: 

Larnaka has got cooler at last, much to my relief. It still gets to 25C in the daytime but actually feels chilly at nights, and we’ve just about abandoned our shorts in favour of long trousers. We’ve only had three rainfalls so far, but the last one - a week ago - was about 2cm in under an hour. We seem to have the mains water on a lot more than we did in the Summer, so perhaps the water situation is better. Nobody seems to know.

Daniel's bat and ball gameDaniel has been wanting to buy a bat-and-ball practise post thing; we've seen them in the UK, but have not been able to discover them in Cyprus. It's not something we want to buy in the UK and bring back in our luggage, so eventually he decided to be creative and build one himself, using an old tennis ball and part of a patio parasol.

Cleo and our two remaining kittens are still with us, getting bigger and stronger and healthier all the time. The kittens are much more ‘indoor’ cats than Cleo. They come in at dusk and show no inclination to go out again. Cleo, however, prefers to be out at night usually. We hear her snarling and meowing at other local cats, but so far haven’t seen even a scratch on her. I suppose, being well-fed, she’s stronger than most of the others around. The two kittens have quite different looks and characters: Sophia is sleek and athletic, independent and noisy. Jemima is fluffy and naughty, affectionate and rather clumsy! Jemima is still interested in the computer - she tries to catch things moving on the screen, whereas Sophia is more interested in the wires.

Daniel is getting very proficient with computer graphics and animation; this morning he created a cartoon gerbil, and is now making a game where it goes around eating lettuce. He wants to be a programmer/graphic artist when he’s older and I think he’ll be able to if he continues the way he’s going. We may look at the local secondary schools in the Spring as Tim thinks he’d like to go to secondary school, although Daniel is extremely happy with home education. 

Tim dissects a computerTim is undecided; what he liked best about school in England was the structure and order, and of course all the other children. But it was a school in a million and I think he may be disappointed anywhere else. He does enjoy the freedom to learn what he actually WANTS to learn at home - such as putting together parts from old computers in order to have a working 'new' one (assisted by Richard, of course).

Daniel wants to start taking GCSEs soon, and that would be complicated as well as expensive by correspondence, so we’re not sure how to go about that at present. Home educated children in the UK do them, but then there are a lot of official centres where they can take the exams, and tutors/teachers available to grade coursework.

On Sunday we had a meal here for all Richard's colleagues. Officially it was an early Christmas lunch, since several of us won’t be here at Christmas. So we had roast turkey etc and Christmas pudding, which was all very nice. But it was all a bit confusing: in the morning at church we had a Harvest type service, and the Christmas lunch was a camouflage for the real reason for the party, which was to celebrate someone's 60th birthday. The date was Oct 31st which is a festival itself in some parts of the world.. and we were somewhat time-lagged due to the clock-change the previous night!

10th November: 

On Sunday evening some new colleagues arrived - a couple from the USA, who have three children (all boys) and are also home educating! The oldest child is not quite 8; when we met them, our boys got on well with him and his almost-5 year old brother, so that's encouraging. They’re staying in the guest flat which is just along the road from us, to start with, and as we’d been in touch with them by email we were officially designated to look after them while they settle in - ie show them where shops are, show them important places locally, and generally make sure they have everything they need. On Sunday we’ll be hosting a barbecue so they can meet all the other work people.

The weather is cooling quite significantly now, with some heavy rain interspersed with glorious sunshine and clear skies. At last we’re in long trousers and sweatshirts rather than the tee-shirts and shorts of the last few months. Richard is off to Beirut tonight for a couple of days, and doing a week’s filming in Egypt on November 22nd so he’s still travelling and very busy. 

The rest of us are looking forward to a couple of months in the UK (December and January) although Richard would prefer to be here and working. Still, he’s going to do some ‘slots’ at our church and a few others to raise awareness of his work. No doubt we’ll see lots of friends and find ourselves pushed for time, but he’s not looking forward to cold and wet weather. We’re going to be having an ‘Ichthus car’ (for people on furlough/home assignment) so will be somewhat mobile, though we don’t know how big or reliable it will be. We’ll be able to spend a few weeks back in our home in Birmingham, and should be able to find some of the many books we’ve missed in the last couple of years!

18th November: 

We’ve changed the dates of being in England! Richard will be doing some filming in Egypt next week and really wanted to get that edited, and the video training course completely finished before flying back for Christmas. Once we discovered that in fact flight costs don’t increase drastically during December (as we had initially been told they might), we thought we might as well stay here until after December 16th, so that the boys can sing (and Daniel play clarinet) in the annual Town Hall concert. Tim had been to one of the early choir practices and was quite sad at the thought of missing the concert this year. So the flights are provisionally booked for 17th December.

It seems to work out better all round to delay the trip for a couple of weeks each way. Richard had already wanted to stay in the UK a little beyond January 26th as he had an invitation to speak at a youth group, and we had realised that Advent isn’t at all a good time for him to be doing slots at other churches, so a bit more time in January and early February works out better. The people in our house won’t need to move out quite so quickly, and can go back if necessary to finish tidying. The new people who are replacing them won’t arrive until the end of January. They will spend their first week with the other pastor at the church, so we can meet them and show them the house, and explain the complexities of the heating system!

It also works out better from the cat-sitting point of view. There’s a lady in our church who does a lot of house-sitting for the various missionary families when they’re on furlough or vacation. She’s already booked to be in another couple’s flat over Christmas and up to January 9th while they’re away (they have a dog who needs to be looked after). We knew we could ask another family down the road to feed our cats; but we were a bit concerned that they would be lonely with such a long time with nobody in the house.

The family from the USA seem to have settled in very fast. They lived in south Asia before, in somewhat primitive conditions, so they’re not having too much culture shock here - it all seems quite civilised to them, and they’re amazed just how many products they can get in the supermarkets. They love the weather too! It’s ideal at this time of year - down to about 14C at night but still up to the low 20s during the daytime. And though it’s been raining about once a week (torrential rain!) it’s sunny and warm the rest of the time. 

Last Sunday we had a welcoming barbecue for them at our house, with all of Richard's colleagues. It rained overnight Saturday and was a bit cloudy Sunday morning, so we thought we might have to do the barbecuing on the front porch, but in fact the weather cleared and we had a pleasant time.

They found a house they liked very quickly - the first one they looked at. It has spacious rooms and a small fenced back garden, ideal for the children. It’s actually a ground floor apartment - the landlady’s elderly parents live upstairs - but almost as big as our house, with a huge kitchen. It’s been recently painted so it looks new and very clean. The only disadvantage is that the front is right on a busy road - no front yard or anything at all, and no pavement outside. But the back leads onto a quiet cul-de-sac so they’ll be using that entrance exclusively. It’s not far from here - no more than six or seven minutes’ walk so I hope we’ll be seeing a fair amount of them.

23rd November: 

Daniel has broken his wrist! He was running at youth group, took a leap over a new low chain around the basketball court, caught his foot in it, and fell. He said his wrist hurt a bit, but we thought it was just bruising as he could still use his fingers. However after two days it was still extremely painful, so we went to the paediatrician - the only doctor we've ever seen here! - and he recommended an orthopaedic surgeon downtown. I took Daniel there - like all the doctors' places, we had to sit with a group of other people and wait our turn, but eventually he was seen. It seemed rather old-fashioned - hardly any safety precautions around the x-ray machine - but sure enough the x-ray showed a fracture. So they bandaged him up with a plaster-cast and said to come back in a couple of weeks.

Our medical insurance policy covers us for anything over 50 per incident, and I assumed that with various visits it would come to that, so when I paid I asked for a receipt. I was told that I had to pay 22, for the consultation, the x-ray and the plaster. But when I asked for a receipt, the doctor said he would make it out to 28! I said no, I wanted a receipt for what I had paid. He said no, medical insurance companies never give the full amount, so a receipt has to be for more than is actually paid! 

I said no, I actually wanted a real receipt for 22... but I couldn't make the doctor understand! His English wasn't all that good... but I got the impression that he was telling me this was what everyone does, and that it will mess up his accounting system to give me an accurate receipt! In the end I walked away with a receipt for a higher amount, reflecting that when I send the accumulated receipts to the medical insurance company, I'd have to tell them what I actually paid, and explain. 'This is Cyprus'....

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