çyprüş röçkŞŞŞ!

great news! northern cyprus ıs just as beautıful and frıendly as the south. we have only had two days here wıth any real clouds ın the sky (sorry west coasters). the whole north south cyprus thıng ıs extremely ınterestıng. ıt ıs also extremely complıcated but ı wıll try to explaın to you what ı know ın abbrevıated form.

blog skımmers, those on a tımelıne, or run of the mıll phılıstınes can skıp the borıng part and head to ın lıghter news below.

cyprus has long been a mıx of both greek and turkısh ethnıcs and was under brıtısh rule untıl the 1960s. at that tıme a group of greek rebels wıth the support of greece started agıtatıng for the brıts to leave. the brıtısh responded wıth mılıtary force and also by traınıng a large number of turkısh commandos who had grown up on the ısland and knew ıt well. after the englısh left the ısland thıs fueled the ethnıc tensıons ın the regıon (wıth occasıonal exceptıons the two had lıved peaceably as frıendly neıghbours for years). an uneasy peace was establıshed, but thıs lasted only a few years. soon the turkısh mınorıty was beıng heavıly vıolently oppressed and the country of turkey responded by ınvadıng the ısland and clearıng a terrıtory for turks to lıve ın peace. the UN got ınvolved and soon thıs dıvısıon was offıcıalızed by the so called green lıne, whıch dıvıded north from south. to thıs day, only turkey recognızes the turkısh northern republıc of cyprus as a legıtımate natıon.

cyprus was ın the news ın canada ın the 1980s and 90s as there was a large UN canadıan contıngent here and many soldıers were kılled. sınce that tıme the vıolence has really settled down and the relocated cyprıots have got on wıth theır lıves. ın the last 3 years the border has been partıally opened and the locals are free to cross for a day at a tıme. tourısts can cross much more freely, but ıt ıs stıll very strange.
the capıtal cıty of nıcosıa serves as the capıtal for both cıtıes and ıt ıs dıvıded rıght down the mıddle by a lıne of barbed wıre, sandbags and UN guards. you are not allowed to take pıctures of these areas so ı dıdnt. ı dıd however take a pıcture of another part of the wall (buılt onto the exıstıng cıty fortıfıcatıons) where ı dıd not notıce any sıgns prohıbıtıng such thıngs.

both greeks and turks seem pretty relaxed about the whole thıng now and hope that ıt wıll go away soon, but the sıtuatıon ıs pretty entrenched for multıple reasons. all of cyprus has offıcıally been entered ınto the european unıon despıte ıts dıvısıon. ın the south the euro ıs now ın use, but the north uses the turkısh lıra. the EU angle has added a whole new polıtıcal dımensıon. the south ın partıcular ıs currently rakıng ın the tourıst dollars and ıs quıte comfy thank you very much. the north has become a haven for the m-a-f-ı-a from a certaın eastern country whose presıdent enjoys judo and topless fıshıng, and has become somewhat of a star ın the whole gamblıng, money launderıng, gun runnıng busıness. fınally (we have heard from a very relıable source) the UN hıgher ups ın cyprus have quıte a good thıng goıng wıth theır vıllas by the beach etc. and thus are not too thrılled about shakıng thıngs up.
on thıs trıp we have encountered a lot of problems caused by fear of the other. greek/turk, jewısh/arab, kalenjın/kıkuyu and more. ı hope to explore thıs more later when ı dont have to pay for a connectıon by the mınute.

ın lıghter news, sınce the ınfrastructure ıs a bıt lackıng ın the north, kylıe and ı splurged agaın and rented a lıttle opal to zıp around ın whıle we are here.
ıt ıs a great lıttle go-cart of a car and has been a lot of fun on the rıdıculously narrow mountaın roads here. ıt has been a challenge to get around though for a few reasons:
1. they drıve on the left here.
2. thıs means that the gearshıft ıs on the left too, although the pedals are the same. my left hand ıs not as good at shıftıng as my rıght, and ınıtıally ı kept almost openıng the door when ı needed to quıckly downshıft.
3. every town ın the north has at least 2 turkısh names, whıch are varıously posted. every town also has a greek name that ıs totally dıfferent and ıs usually the one on our map from the south.
4. the turkısh govt, perhaps for mılıtary reasons, refuses to publısh an accurate roadmap and thus we are constantly headıng off ın the wrong dırectıon.
on the up sıde, the ısland ıs TINY so any partıcular mıstake only really takes you 10 or 20 km out of your way. also ı have adapted to left hand drıve much easıer than ı expected, perhaps b/c of lıvıng ın kenya for so long.
on the left hand drıve note though, even though ı was sıgned up as the drıver of our shıny lıttle opal, kylıe decıded to take ıt for a spın on the ısolated karpaz penınsula just to see how ıt was to drıve on the left, or actually to drıve perıod, after a year hıatus. as those who have drıven wıth kylıe ın her youth could possıbly predıct, ıt took her about 3 mınutes to put a nıce set of scratches all along the passenger sıde. woops!

whıle ın the north we have been enjoyıng beaches and hıkıng and wıld donkeys, but we have partıcularly loved the old mountaın castles. these thıngs are rıght out of lord of the rıngs. there are 3 of them spread along the breadth of the northern kyrenıa mountaın range. the fırst record of them was when they were conquered by rıchard the lıonhearted ın 1190 (how ı do not know!) but they were buılt well before then.

the fırst castle we vısıted ıs called kantara. ıt sıts on the eastern end of cyprus and offers ıncredıble vıews on all sıdes.

today we hıked to buffavento castle, the mıddle one. ıt was also pretty darn sweet.

tomorrow we wıll vısıt the thırd castle, st. hıllarıon, before headıng off to turkey.
one fınal note... shareen has made ıt clear that not everyone knows what a honda 250 ıs and thus our bıke was not adequately descrıbed ın the prevıous post. here ıt ıs ın only a very small fractıon of ıts glory. ıts full splendour ıs only acheıved when takıng ıt both on the hıghway and on the dırt ın one day. ıt had all terraın tıres and enough power to perform well on the hıghway, and also the suspensıon and grıp to do some real dırt bıkıng. on our fourth day of bıkıng (after our prevıous post) we encountered some great mud bogs and steep rutted up rocky hılls that kylıe had to get off for me to navıgate. ı had a great tıme as thıs was the closest thıng ı have done to west coast mountaın bıkıng for the last year.

our next post wıll hopefully be from turkey, where ı wıll stıll be able to type cool thıngs lıke şşşöçöçöçşöğüğüğüğü... or maybe that just looks lıke a bunch of puncuatıon on a western computer, who knöwş??????



our initial plan was to stay in cyprus for about a week and then move on to turkey... we have been in cyprus a week now and we still havent left polis, the little village that we travelled to on our first day here. the country is beautiful, the people are friendly, the food is great and the wine is tasty (and cheap!).
on our first day in cyprus, we met stellios at a bus stop. he proceeded to give us an overview of the history of the island from ancient greek times, through the byzantine era and the rule of the turks up until the present day. turns out he is a teacher. although he is almost 80, he has recently taken up studying the scottish poets. we ran into him again the next day (also at a bus stop).

we have stayed in polis b/c we really like the village (pop 1000) and the people, and also because it is situated on a great part of the island. polis is on the western edge of cyprus. south of it lies the akama peninsula, a wilderness reserve we hiked through on our first day here. north of it is the tylleria mountains, another wilderness area. surrounding it is the beautiful mediterranean sea.

to make the most of our time here we rented a little honda 250 to get around. yesterday we took it up over the peninsula to the coast on the other side and explored the backroads of cyprus

as well as lara beach (the summit of the hill at the top is where the above picture was taken)

and some prime goat pasture.

after that we ate some salmon at a local restaurant

and explored a hidden canyon

then zigzagged back up over the peninsula to watch the sunset before heading home.

today we went north into the mountains. we started along a beautiful coastal road and then turned inland onto a dirt road up into the mountains. the landscape reminded us a lot of BC.

after gaining a lot of altitude we came out on an amazing tarmac road up in the highlands. roads like this are why people buy motorbikes (dont worry mom, kylie won't let me!). cruising along with beautiful views on either side and constantly leaning one way or the other to navigate the mountain passes makes quite an arguement though. the entire time we were in the highlands we only saw 3 other vehicles. it is tourist low season and the locals think it is freezing now, so they stay well away from the mountains.

we did a quick hike and then after another hour of lovely turns on lush tarmac we ventured onto a new dirt road which took us back down to the coast and on our way home.

other than biking and hiking, we have been eating a lot of oranges. apparently jan. is orange season around here... maybe every season is orange season, i dont know.

tomorrow we might head to a new area of cyprus, or we might not since polis is so nice. did i mention that we have a little studio apartment with a full kitchen? that helps us feel at home. for those of you disgusted with our flagrant and continuous vacation, you will be happy to know that i have already booked an entire month of work when we get home! that's right a month!! i think i might need a vacation after that.

i hope you are all having a good time. we are thinking of you in canada, kenya and holland.


To the Dead Sea and Beyond!!

Marc and I have safely arrived on the lovely island of Cyprus but have not yet posted about our last week in Israel. We spent the week in Jerusalem, Nazareth and Tel Aviv respectively before heading here for some time. We were supposed to be here for one week but it is so warm here (18C!) and they have HEAT at night so we may stay a bit longer. Well now onto the Dead Sea.

We did a day trip from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. It wasn't too cold, especially because there was a hot sulphur pool we could go in after. The hot pool was lovely the first time we went in, but the second and third time I could only put my feet in because of the burning salt. Oh the burning. Marc felt no adverse effects and loved laying in the pool, but I could not take the stinging.

Dead Sea mud has healing properties (Carlynne and I had an expensive facial in Kenya with the mud) but here you can rub it all over yourself for free!

For those of you who have never heard of the Dead Sea or its properties, it is the second saltiest body of water on earth, 8 times (yes that says eight, if you get the water in your mouth or eyes you must report to the lifeguard immediately!) saltier than the ocean.

Because of the extra salt you float much easier and you can do things like dry your hair (yes my hair is already dry but I really wanted to test the electric current in the Sea.) ;)

And read books

After burning all our skin (well mine) off we headed to Nazareth. We spent three nights in an old Arabic mansion that was absolutely beautiful but it was freezing! It was about 12 degrees during the day but it got down to 3 degrees at night and it was SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO cold in our room. We spent one of the days biking around the Sea of Galilee. The trip was 60 km and we made it 50km and I wasn't sure I could make it all the way back before it got dark. (I was tired!) So we phoned the bike rental shop and they very reluctantly came to pick us up.
Our lunch spot

After Nazareth we headed to Tel Aviv for our flight to Cyprus. Here we hooked up with some lovely Canadians we had met on the bus in Jordan. (Marc actually first saw Joe at the bus station in Jerusalem and we recognized him when we saw him and his wife waiting at the bus station in Amman.) We went to their place for dinner and had such a great time! It was so nice to talk to some Canadians again and eat some home-cooked food. They also have a dog, it was so nice to pet a dog again and take him for a walk! (Okay now I am getting all nostalgic about Niko but here are some pictures of Masha and Joe, unfortunately our camera battery died before dinner but you can see the beautiful beach in Tel Aviv here but not Joe.)

Doodie (sp?) taking a drink after his walk. So cute!

As I mentioned, Cyprus is BEAUTIFUL, here is a preview of pictures you will see in the next couple of days. This is from our hike today.


reading and rebelling

having frequented almost as many used book shops as churchs, we have been reading alot on our trip. the last 2 books i have read have been 2 of my favourites and i wanted to recommend them.

"the last report on the miracles at little no horse" by louise erdrich is a fantastic book about a priest working with the ojibwe indians in north dakota in the 1900s. it is slightly fanciful with arresting language and provides a beautiful take on the plight of the american natives from 2 different religious viewpoints.

"picture this" by joseph heller is a dizzying ride through history focusing on the philosophers of ancient athens and rembrandt in 17th century holland but secretly about the US and the world in the 80's (and today i imagine). joseph heller is the author of another book i enjoyed which has transcended its novellic past and become a part of the english language. i will not mention its name b/c i am sure heller is sick of having all his other books compared to it. this novel is full of logical labyrinths, repetitiously reflective ideas, catch 22s (oops) and startling juxtapositions. it makes my mind dance (in a good way mom). i highly recommend it as a philosophy and history lesson, as well as a way to make you think and laugh out loud.

finally, i would like to share some pictures of graffiti on the wall surrounding the west bank. kylie and i returned there on saturday to visit our new friends and see the place where jesus was born when it was less crowded. we were once again astounded at the level of hospitality and friendliness we were shown.

first, the official israeli govt wall art:

followed by the palestinian side:


Wanna join my band???!???

The man of the hour...

and the day and the month and the year!! Darren has successfully recovered our pictures from our memory card. We are so happy! And through the wonders of technology we have a picture of him with said memory card three days after we shipped it from Jordan!!! Thank you Darren!!!!!!!!!!


Jerusalem Gold

Jerusalem Gold was the name of our hotel when we stayed in Jerusalem previously and I thought it would be a fitting title for this post, as you shall soon see. First off we went to the very GOLD and shiny Dome of the Rock yesterday.

The Dome of the Rock (a mosque) sits on the site of the former Temple that stood for 410 years, being built by the Israelites in 996 BCE and destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon in 586 BCE. In 630 long before the Dome of the Rock was erected, the Muslims recovered the Rock (the name of the Rock at the hear of the dome) and dug it out of the dust and cleansed the area which had been abandoned for hundreds of years since the Roman destruction. (Thanks to Wikipedia with a little help from Kylie for your excellent summarization!)

The ceiling inside a "mini" dome.

We also headed back to the golden coloured (yes that one is a stretch) Western Wall yesterday. Here is Marc praying for peace in Kenya and also for the restoration of all our pictures, but mainly for peace in Kenya with a little help from a rabbi.
America's golden (just to keep the continuity of my post) boy (sic), has also arrived in Jerusalem on the same day we did. Although we have not personally seen Georgie we have witnessed the plethora of security as well as witnessed a protest by what we believe are Zionists protesting Bush's allowance of the existence of the Palestian Territories?!???? Our trip to the Holocaust museum was also thwarted today by the big man himself.

Lastly, my hair is now the colour of gold. After not getting a REAL haircut since last January I decided that Jerusalem would be the place to do it, since many girls here have very curly hair and Jerusalem has many salons. The stylists were ALL men (my first male stylist!)and I not only had my hair done by one man but four. The first combed out my hair, the second put in the highlights, the third took out the foils and washed it (I also believe he was manic judging by the speed at which he removed the foils, scrubbed my hair and nattered at me incessently in Hebrew even though I told him multiple times that I don't speak Hebrew and that I did not understand him) and the fourth did my cut and blowdry. I told the highlightist (is that a word?) that I wanted highlights the same colour as my current ones, which are about halfway grown out. He nodded that he understood and put in the foils. What I did not realize at the time was the large amount of foils that he put in. I soon found out though, especially after expeditious removal that my hair was in fact mainly blonde.


Marc has a new look too!

The stylist who cut my hair did not speak ANY english and after trying to tell the neighbouring hair dresser that I wanted layers he said he understood. Apparently layers in Israel mean I want a mullet like haircut. I now look like an 80's rocker with my hair down. I unfortunately do not have a picture of this yet but will be posting one as soon as my hair is blowdryed when it looks most rockeresque. (If you want a preview of my hair, I look like I could be a member of one of these bands.)

Here's to seeing if blondes really do have more fun!!!