Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Day 6 Blog 1!
Hello everyone!! It's about 6 days into our trip to Cyprus, and this is the first chance I have gotten to start my blog. Everything here is wonderful-the weather is warm (60ish degrees), it's sunny almost every day, the island is beautiful, and the people are fantastic. Everyone involved in coordinating our program is just excited for us to be here as we are, and they are all very friendly. Classes haven't started yet, and the past few days and the next few days are full of orientation activities about the University of Nicosia, safety of Cyprus, history of Cyprus, and what the rest of our semester will be like.
The flight from Newark to London was about 6 hours, and was pretty exciting at first because it was a huge plane and everything was so nice-we got all sorts of free stuff and wine and movies. We landed in London at like 3 am our time and we were all so tired and delirious it was awful. The sun was coming up as we were taking off on our way to Cyprus so sleeping on the plane was rough. Landing in Larnaca was super exciting-we could see the Mediterranean Sea from the airport and it made the whole trip seem real-we had been planning for months and months and reading about all of these places and looking at pictures and now it was all becoming real!!
On our first day here after moving into the Intercollege apartments, we discovered some things that we would need to adapt to here that were much different from the States-toilet paper cannot be flushed, but thrown away, for fear of clogging; all electricity outlets have to be switched on before they can be used; the hot water must be switched on before it can be used (and it takes about a half an hour to heat up); and Cyprus is going through a drought, so water must be conserved-each building has a water tank on top that gets filled 3 days a week, so if water is not used minimally in each building there's a good chance that it will run out. On our first day we also met our neighbor Martin who lives in Pafos, but is Greek and Bulgarian. He was friends with the American boys who lived in our apartment last semester and was very helpful when we couldn't figure out how to turn on our heater/air conditioner and how to open the front door to our apartment. At this point we hadn't eaten much or had any sleep because of our long travel and jet lag, and when we went to our first orientation meeting they gave us Pizza Hut that tasted like heaven (it's very possible that these first bunch of events may be out of order due to my lack of sleep at the time and inabilitity to remember things). Dez, Kell and I also met our roommate Lauren from Michigan, who is wonderful and so easy to get along with (her cousin even used to play for the Pitt basketball team). On the first night we went out to a local bar and did free shots of some alcohol and fanta soda (which were fantastic), and I tried Keo, Cyprus beer (it didn't taste much different from anything at home, not that I would know because I don't drink at home because I'm underage). Then we got home and went to bed around 10 Cyprus time and woke up the next day at 2 pm.
On day 2 we woke up hella late and attempted to do enough grocery shopping to get us through a few days. Everything at the store was in Greek and most things had English on them as well. Of course things were mega expensive. That night we went out to club Bling with Martin and his friend Anwar, and it was absolutely fantastic. All of the music was in English, because most people speak English here, and we were able to drink (there's not really a drinking age here apparently). Unfortunately everything at the bar was expensive so we each got our free drinks and danced til 4 am. After we left we went to Zorba's, a 24 hour bakery, and got some food, and then we came back to our apartment and hung out for the rest of the night.
After Kell and Lauren went to sleep and Martin and Anwar left Dez and I hung out on our balcony and watched the sun come up.
The next day we had a bus tour of the city of Nicosia (Lefkosia). We got out and walked around for a while and saw all sorts of Orthodox churches and old monuments, including the wall that separates northern Cyprus (occupied by the Turks) from southern Cyprus (Greeks).
After the tour we came back to our apartment where we made awful frozen pizza that was only acceptable because we had been eating toast with I Can't Believe it's Not Butter for the last few meals. Later on Martin took Dez, Anwar and I to the nicest McDonalds I ahve ever been to. There were marble tables and pleather seats and free balloons, and there were Greek burgers on the menu. At McDonalds Dez and I taught Martin and Anwar about That's What She Said and they loved it! After McDonalds we came back to the apt (where Kell and Lauren set the place up wonderfully) to get the ladies and head out for ice cream and bumper cars. It was strange, because the bumper cars were coin operated and unattended, but they were great for 1 euro.
After that we went to a bar and bought some overpriced beer, then went to a kiosk to buy cheap beer, and came back to the apt where we made crappy grilled cheese and stayed up til 5.
Day 4 was a looooong orientation day. We sat in an auditorium where they talked about safety and itineraries for hours, and gave us Pizza Hut for lunch in between. That night GLS took us out for a fancy dinner at a place nearby that I don't remember, where we ate food that was surprisingly not too exotic. After dinner Anwar met us outside of the restaurant and took us back to show us his apartment where he lives with 3 other students not native to Cyprus. We hungout there and drank wine for a while and then he walked us home, and we made it to sleep before 4 am.
On day 5, yesterday, we got up early to meet with our advisor Thanos to schedule our classes. It was surprisingly easy to schedule-they offered all of the classes more than one or 2 times so that everyone's schedules could be accomodated. I'm taking Greek Language and Culture I, Greek Art, Photography I, and Gender in Literature. Yesterday afternoon we had a 25 min tour of the University, which is much smaller than I thought it would be, and we came back where Lauren made us a phenomenal dinner with chicken and pasta (we went grocery shopping earlier in the day where we decided to buy substantial food). After dinner a small group of students we didn't know knocked on our door and invited us to a party at a house we didn't know (they gave us their names a phone number and an address), but they knew Martin (who went home for the week to work) from last semester and were originally coming for him. We decided that the party would be a good idea because they mentioned it being a party for international students. We took a cab with Anwar to the house party and it was one of the most amazing experiences ever.
As soon as we got there everyone came up to us and introduced themselves, and everyone was from somewhere different. Apparently the majority of the students were from somewhere in Europe who were in a Europe exchange program, so they were all here in Cyprus studying at different universities and had met eachother along the way. Most of them were here for the whole school year, not just a semester, and were telling us all about how wonderful everything was and how they've met so many great people and done so many great things. I met people from Scotland, Italy, Czech Republic, Finland, Spain, England, Australia, France and other places that I probably can't remember. Everyone was so interested in meeting me and knowing about where I was from and how I liked everything, and they kept telling me how wonderful of a time I was going to have this semester. After the party died out because of the fuzz, the girls and Anwar and I went back to the apartment of these 2 guys from Spain with a girl from France and a Cypriot. We hungout there for hours and they told us about how they went to Egypt and Syria (and how we shouldn't try to go to Syria as Americans) and how great it was, and the people from the States that they made friends with before. They told us about the American from texas that they couldn't understand because of his thick southern accent. They let us speak to them in spanglish and laughed, and told us some of the things that it's difficult for them to say because of their accents. They also told us about how they think Mexican Spanish is disgusting, lol. They also told us about all sorts of restaurants and clubs we should go to that they will show us and how excited they were that we were there. Also yesterday, after we got home from the party and after party, we were all online for hours since it was our first day with the internet. No one went to bed before 530.
Today (1/20/09) we woke up early (1030) to go to a lecture on the history of Cyprus which was (surprise!) BORING and it turns out it's pretty much what you would expect-they were taken over by the Romans, the Greeks, and of course, the Brits, and now they're independent. We had a 2 hour break after when we all decided to nap, and slept through our second lecture on the Geography of Cyprus. It's fine, we can look at a map and it will tell us everything we need to know. I've just spent 2.5 hours writing this post and I have yet to add pictures. Tonight we're going to our new friend Ousman's house, where he invited us to watch the inauguration.
pictures will be up soon!!!