Hi everyone!! The first week of classes are over and we are into the routine of the second week. We have class at a different time every day, either in the morning or late afternoon. When we aren’t at class we have either been at the pool or the beach 🙂 Oh, and doing schoolwork of course! This is the life for me!! On campus and around the town we are starting to be known as “the Americans” since all of the people we talk to ask where we’re from. Everyone is always so surprised when we say we are studying here since it is not common for a student—or American citizen at all—to venture to Cyprus.
Some background on Cyprus—since I’m sure many of you don’t know. If you look at the location of Cyprus pictured in the map as the red star, you can see that the country is located in the middle of the Mediterranean with Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and Greece mainly surrounding it. It’s location plays a critical part in its history and culture today. The country was under control by many groups including the Greeks, Venetians, the Ottoman Empire and Great Britain up until their independence in 1960. In 1963, Turkey invaded the top third of the island and have not left since. They pushed hundreds of thousands of Cypriots out of their own land where they became refugees and many went missing. While they occupy the land, not any country on this whole planet recognizes them as a nation-state besides themselves, who call themselves the Turkey Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). There is much tension between the Greek- Cypriots which occupy the bottom two thirds of the island and the Turkish- Cypriots which occupy the top third. Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus was the last divided capital of the world until 2008. There is a green zone which serves as a buffer area between the Turkish side and the Greek side. The residents of each side prefer not to cross into the other, although as of recent years they are now allowed to freely cross the border without providing a passport. The area of the capital is occupied by the United Nations to keep peace, however there are militia from each country on their respective sides. Tomorrow we will visit Nicosia and I will post about it after!
To end our first week of classes we had a group dinner at a restaurant with live entertainment which included Greek dancers and the man who holds the Guinness World Record for the most glasses stacked on his head! He can stack 170! He was dancing around while we were enjoying dinner and I got called up to place a glass on his head. EEEEK! We also were called up various times to dance on stage which we were at first shy about but it was actually really fun to let loose and dance during dinner~~ OPA!
We had our first excursion to the ancient city of Paphos over the weekend. We met our tour guide, Louiza, who took us all around the old city. We saw ancient basilicas that are referenced in the bible, including St. Paul’s Pillar, and we also saw the archeological park. This was basically huge, barren land that was recovered by archaeologists who found the many mosaics and artifacts buried beneath the surface. The mosaics on the tile floor of what used to be the House of Dionysus were in astonishing condition. Louiza told us all about the stories depicted on the mosaics and about the setup of the house and how they were able to distinguish which room was which. Many of the mosaics showed Greek tragedies and signs of good fortune and health. Below are some pictures for you to see! I learned a lot about the history of Cyprus on the tour including things such as that the Cypriots do not have their own distinct nationality– their nationality is Greek.
We then went to the newly reconstructed area of the city center of Paphos. Cyprus has been chosen as the UNESCO Cultural Capital of the Year for the 2017 festival. The country has received funding to reconstruct many areas in the city and we got to visit them as part of our tour. All of the architecture is fresh, white marble which is beautiful! The festival being held here will bring many travelers this upcoming year that the country is really looking forward to prosper from. Another bit of info about Cyprus- many of their people have higher degrees but no place to get a job. It is not uncommon for a taxi driver or waitress to have a doctorate degree but no job. This is sad and hard for me to understand and it makes me even more appreciative of my opportunities in America.