Monday, February 16, 2009

You Can Have Whatever You Like

So it was a pretty normal school week, except that partying started on Tuesday instead of Wednesday. On Tuesday night our GLS friend Dana helped to organize a huge international party with the Erasmus students at a club. Since the club was normally not opened until Wednesdays they were able to rent it out for our group of kids with an open bar. They even organized a bus so that we wouldn't need to take a taxi. It was lots of fun! There were a bunch of Americans from our group and a TON of international students from the Erasmus program and everyone had a great time. On Thursday we met up with Nitza, whose brother works in the United States with Mr. P and Kelly's dad. It turns out she lives within waking distance of our apartment and she's super nice! She picked us up from outside of our apartment building and drove us to her apartment where we met her young grandkids who were learning to count in English. She bought us some baked goods from Zorba's and made us American (filtered) coffee which was wonderful. She told us about herself, about how she was in her 20s when Turkey invaded her hometown of Famagusta and forced her to abandon her home and move to the unoccupied side of the country. Famagusta is still a ghost town-all of the homes that were abandoned remain that way, untouched since the invasion. We told her about how we had travelled to the Turkish side twice already and she said she could never go back because she refused to show a passport to go home. She was very hospitable and told us about museums and things downtown that she could take us to on her days off, and how she wanted to take us bowling. She also told us that if there was anything else that we needed she would gladly help us out. She dropped us back off at home around 7 when Dez had Greek class. Meeting her was a wonderful experience, and it was so nice to be a guest in her home. That night Dez and I went out to Fusion, a club we had never been to before. Martin went home to Paphos for the weekend and Kel and Lauren didn't want to come out. It was neat-there was house/techno, international, R&B, and 80s music. We met our Erasmus friends there and then when the place closed went to Antonio and Carlos' place for an "afterparty"-we basically sat around and talked for a while, while Carlos criticized our Spanish. At the crack of dawn Carlos walked us home (which wasn't far) and we made him his first-ever grilled cheese. He also told us about how the Americans he met last semester made him try peanut butter and he absolutely hated it.

When we woke up around 12 on Friday we all packed for our weekend adventure to Paphos. We originally planned to take a bus, but when we called Nitza for directions to the bus station she said that it would be better for us to call a service taxi. We called a service taxi, which ended up being a big van, and it came to pick us up around 3ish. It picked up a few other kids around Nicosia and then we headed south. We rode in the taxi for about an hour to Limassol, where we got out and picked up another taxi that took us to Paphos. It was about another hour or so until we arrived at Paphos, where the taxi dropped us off at the beach so Martin could pick us up and take us to our hotel (thanks Martin!). We arrived at a completely empty hotel, where we had to call the owners to come and let us in. I guess it's the off-season, so it was pretty empty. The owners let us in to our 4 person hotel room which was super nice and super clean. After settling in, we (along with Martin's British friend Rochelle, who is FANTASTIC) went to get food at a tavern next door. When we arrived the owner (who was Greek and had a very thick accent) told us that since it was the off-season there wasn't much of a variety of food-specifically 4 lamb dishes, 2 chicken and 2 pork kabobs. We took everything and it was great. As we were eating some live entertainment showed up-a singer/guitarist. He was very nice and very good. When the owner discovered that we were American he got SO excited that he gave us rounds and rounds of drinks, starting with 2 shots of brandy. We graciously accepted them all (it would have been rude to turn them away!). After a few rounds, we were all up singing and dancing and getting everyone else in the tavern up singing and dancing. At the table next to us was a family from Ireland who was happy to help us entertain. Of course my friends encouraged me to Irish Dance for them, and they were super excited and asking me where in Ireland I was from haha (I guess I didn't look Greek). We continued to dance and sing all night, and the bartender contnued to make us fancy drinks and amaze us with his mixing skills. It turned out that the owner's 17 year old son was a traditional Greek dancer, so we showed us some moves and we all danced together. At around 3 am we decided to call it a night and we headed back to our hotel. We decided that we needed some eats for the next morning, so Martin drove Rochelle, Kell and I to the nearest kiosk that was 3 km away. Rochelle actually drove us there, but Martin was nervous letting her drive his car so on the way back he drove. We ended up getting pulled over by the fuzz at a checkpoint, where Martin had to blow into a breathalizer. It was very strange being in the backseat listening to him and the cop speak Greek to eachother and not knowing what was going on. Everything was fine though, and they let us go on our way.

The next morning we woke around 1130 to a cloudless sky and headed down to the beach, which we could see from our fantastic balcony. We laid in the sun for a little while before swimming in the lagoon. The water was cold, but probably about as cold as the Jersey shore in the middle of the summer. The water was super clear, and even though there wasn't a lot of sand there were lots of rocks to jump off of. There was only one other person in the water, and he must have been on vacation from somewhere because all of the Cypriots we saw were walking around dressed in black with their winter coats on. Anyway we all made it in successfully and were just so happy to finally be in the sea. We got out not too much later and dried off in the sun, and hungout on the beach until the sun set. Since it was Valentine's Day we made dinner together and got some champagne, and Dezi picked a mini bouquet of flowers for our dinner table. Martin showed up a while later with his traveling hairdresser who came over to cut Dezi's hair for 5 euros (and it looked good!) and then we drank a bit of cheap rum and headed out to bar street. Martin drove us around and showed us some bars in Paphos, many of which were closed, and we decided to head to a place called Robin Hood's which was shaped like a CASTLE! Inside it was very medieval too, and drinks weren't expensive. We stayed there and drank and requested songs for a while, and then headed over to a karaoke bar. Turns out I LOVE karaoke. We stayed there for a while and our friend Stephanos (the traditional Greek dancer) bought us some drinks while we sang Pretty Fly (for a White Guy) and I Want You Back. Dezi did the Devil Went Down to Georgia solo and Martin and Lauren did a duet of Summernights from Grease. All in all it was a very fun filled evening. We went back and Dez and I jumped in the pool at our hotel (much colder than the ocean) and showered.

Yesterday morning we woke up and checked out, and got lunch at a brick oven pizza place (which was awesome and inexpensive). We carted all of our luggage down to the beach again and ended up hanging out in a resort lobby with hot chocolate and chocolate cake waiting for Martin to arrive with his mom so that we could discuss our trip to Egypt. She was very nice and very informative, and said she would be finalizing the details of the trip today. We packed Martin's car nice and tight with all of our bags and headed home to our Intercollege Apartment, stopping at good old McDonald's on the way home.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Trips to the Mar and the Turkish Side

Hello! Wow I can't believe that I have not updated since the Superbowl. Since then so much has happened. Last Monday and Tuesday were normal school days, and last Wednesday we went out to a club, Ithaki, with an open bar and that was super fun. Last Thursday Anwar knocked on our door around 230, and I opened it to see that he was sitting on the ground in pain. I immediately thought he was messing around but he proceeded to tell me that he was hit by a car while riding his bike. I guess he was riding near Carrefour and some woman driving roughly 70km/hr (he thinks) hit him and he flipped over onto his back. She didn't stop or anything and he didn't get the license plate, unfortuantely. I guess that's how they do things here in Cyprus. Anyway after rummaging through websites and phone books we figured out where the closest hospital was and Martin drove him while the rest of us went to class. He's fine now-it turned out he tore some muscles and has been pretty sore, but nothing major. After class Martin took Kell and I to the Mall of Cyprus, which was neat but pretty much the same as malls at home. We ate at Pizza Hut and helped Martin pick out some shoes, then we spent some money at the department store where there were sales. Later that night Martin, Dez, Lauren and I decided to go to this new club that had just opened and had free admission. It's a long story but it ended up not being a good idea. After 20 minutes we peaced out to get some late night food (no $5 pizzas here unfortunately, just burgers and fries and sometimes kabobs) and went back to Martin's room where Dez and I got caught up on the Office.

On Friday we made our first voyage to the Turkish side (yay!). Martin drove the girls and I and his friend Zenobia (who is from Ghana and fantastic) in his tiny Volkswagen Polo to the border. We were originally going to do what most tourists do and drive to the center of the old city of Nicosia and park, and then show our passports at the Green Line and walk over. Well Martin (who has lived in Cyprus for 10 years) did not know where to park downtown so he stopped and asked for directions. Whoever gave him directions gave them as if we were driving, and 5 minutes later we ended up at the border in a line of traffic in his car. Everything at the border was very disorganized-in a 2 lane street people were expected to park their cars and get out to show the UN guys their passports etc. While the rest of the line of traffic waited behind with no where to go and no where to turn around. So we did as everyone else did and parked pretty much in the middle of the street while Martin got out to get all of our passports approved and a little white piece of paper stamped. They cannot stamp our passports legally because the Turkish Republic of Cyprus is not recognized as a country, so techincally we never left Cyprus. Anyway, Martin came back to the car a bit later telling us that we needed to go back to the apartments because he was informed that he too needed his passport to cross, and he hadn't brought it. So we drove back and forth and were finally at the border and stamped by about 330 pm (our excursion began around 2) and we successfully ended up in Northern Cyprus. It was a bit more run down than here. We stopped in a few shops and took some pictures in a park that looked mildly important. None of the signs were in English (or Greek even, which Martin would have been able to translate) so we had no idea what the statues and monuments represented. We got some chicken kabobs at a cute place and stayed until the sun set and the Turkish flag on the mountain lit up, and then we decided to head back. It took a while, but we had made our first successful trip across the border. When we got back we went out for dinner at a traditional Greek restaurant for Kendra's (a girl in our program) birthday. Most of us ordered the traditional Meze, a gajillion course Cyprus meal. It started out with bread and salad with tzaziki sauce and other sauces that looked like hummus and it was PHENOMENAL. The rest of the courses included rice and pasta, chicken kabobs, minced meat balls, grilled lamb, mushrooms, and other fun things that I can't remember. Also, all of the courses had traditional names that I can't remember either. We also got wine with our meals which was great. Anyway, the meal was wonderful and worth the $15 euros it cost. And they were playing light rock in the restaurant and the Backstreet Boys came on and it was great. We didn't go out that night because we were all beat but we stayed in and played bullshit again. Lauren and Kel went to sleep earlier than Dez and I who went over to Martin's again to watch Thursday's episode of the Office (which was AWESOME) and also Two Men and a Half as Martin says. I also showered over there which was FANTASTIC because his water pressure is significantly better and the water stays hot for way longer.

On Saturday we woke at 915 to get on a bus to Kyrenia at 945. I was up late the night before so I was BEAT on the bus. We rode the tour bus to the border where we did the whole passport thing again, and Lauren and another girl took pictures of the UN guys at the border so a guard rushed on the bus and made them delete their pictures. It was kind of nuts. So we drove right on up the mountains (the ones we can see from our apartment) which was SCAAAAAAARY because our bus was huge and the roads up were all narrow with 20 degree angle bends in them. It felt like we were going to drive right off the cliff and roll down the mountain. Anyway, once we were at the very top we stopped at a castle and took lots of pictures, and we could see the city of Kyrenia which was gorgeous. It was also a super pretty, clear day so it made all of the pictures look awesome. We drove down to about halfway down the mountain to an old abbey that has remained unused since the Turkish invasion. It was a great town-mountains to the left and the Mediterranean Sea to the right. The abbey was super old but super neat. After spending a bit of time there we drove down to the harbor where we saw the Kyrenia Castle, which again was super old but super cool. We saw the remains of a ship that crashed into the castle way back when and all of the things that it carried. Then we got lunch at some cute outside place on the harbor but it took SO long to get our food it was ridiculous and we were all late for the bus. We all got home from the trip and napped for about 3 hours and made pasta (of course). We ended up at club Teez that night for free, and Martin drove us there and back so we spent no money for a fantastic night out. Afterwards I went with Martin and his friend Divine to a Jack in the Box that was opened til at least 6 am (that's when we went home). We got back and Dez and I hungout with Martin again until the sun came up around 7.

Last week Martin pinky swore that he would take us to the beach yesterday. Even though it took 12 rings of his doorbell around 1:00 he finally got out of bed and was happy to drive the 4 of us to Larnaca. He didn't understand why we would want to go to the beach in the "winter", so I explained to him that a. we had never been in the Mediterranean and b. the chances of the water being colder than the Jersey shore were slim. When we got there, even though it was off season, there were many people walking around and all of the shops and restaurants were open. The sea looked wonderful so of course we took off our shoes and ran in. There weren't any other people in the water-actually they were all bundled up in their winter jackets and scarves. We ran around in the water for a while before we got too wet and decided that we needed to eat. We walked around a bit and took some pictures and then took Martin to TGI Friday's-he had never been and we owed him for keeping his promise, and we all needed a big American meal. It was expensive, but sooo worth it. We drove home after the sun set on the last fantastic day of our 3 day weekend.

We're working on going to Paphos this weekend, where Martin lives, so that we can talk to his mom about our Egypt trip (that will hopefully happen next weekend). Dez found an awesome cheap hotel online right near the beach, so hopefully things will work out and we'll travel somewhere new yet again.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Catching Up and the SUPERBOWL

So I forgot to mention that last Tuesday night we (Martin, the girls, our friend Dana from downstairs, and I) went out to a Jazz Bar. It was a very hip, classy place-tables needed to be reserved ahead of time, and everything on the menu was expensive. We all got dressed up and Martin drove us (woohoo no cab fare!) and we hung out at our reserved table and listened to jazz music. We thought we would be cool and order a drink and some dessert, since we haven't had any dessert really since we've been here (Zorba's does not count). We all ordered a vodka espresso drink that was 10 euro and FABULOUS and some chocolate dome dessert for 6.50 euro which was also to die for. It was a pretty expensive Tuesday night, but it was money well spent.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night we went out clubbing again and had a good time. On Friday my roommates and I played kings and made Malibu and pineapples and it was great. Saturday we decided to try shopping for more going-out clothes, for both clubs and nice places. There's a discount store similar to TJ Maxx down the street that we decided to try out and it was everything I expected it to be. There were cosmetics and perfumes and things, toys, decorative lamps and other decoartive things, and then a level for discounted clothes. I bought some conditioner and 2 cute shirts for 10 euro-probably the best investment I've made since I've been here. We decided that we really needed a huge, awesome American meal and there was a Bennigan's right next door to the discount store so we decided to treat ourselves. We haven't had real meat in a while since it's so expensive and we only buy chicken, so hamburgers sounded like a great idea. Three of us ordered cheesburgers and we were unbelievably disappointed when they sucked harcore. The meat was NOT like American ground beef, it was some sort of processed crap with seasonings or whatever and it was gross. Dezi ordered chicken so she was in the clear when it was GREAT. We figured that since our dinners were so awful we would order a fantastic 3 euro dessert. We all got milkshakes with cheesecake blended in and it was the most amazing thing I've ever had and it totally made up for the burger. Later on that night Dezi, Dana and I headed out to a club where our names were on the list so we got in FO FREE. It was a good time, except on the way there our cab driver had no idea where the club was so he drove all over the place and the fare ended up being 11 euros. WAY TOO MUCH FOR A CAB. And Dana thought he would be a nice guy and tip the driver (?). Anyway, all in all it was a good night.

Yesterday we woke up late and walked around outside and explored the area around our University. We saw some fancy houses and watched the sun set, and it was wonderful. Dez and I decided that since it was Superbowl Sunday we should be American again and order som fried chicken, so we ordered some SFC (Southern Fried Chicken) and it was ok. The delivery guy got lost on his way here-trying to give directions to somewhere you're not familiar with to a guy who barely speaks English is a very difficult task. Either way, our chicken came in a timely fashion so it was fine. We hungout after dinner with Martin and Anwar and taught them both how to play the card game Bullshit (also not an easy task). It was pretty entertaining :D. We waited around for a little bit and then left for Ivanhoe's to watch the Superbowl at 130 am. Anwar didn't come and Martin made it 15 minutes before getting tired and going home. There was a surprisingly small number of Americans from our program there, and there were two huge tables reserved for an Asian family that didn't speak English. They had someone translating and explaining everything that was happening in the game which was funny. Anyway, Steelers fans were the minority in the bar, but not by much. We all bought beer and were super disappointed when they showed NONE of the famous Superbowl commercials. There were mostly commercials for Air Asia and sometimes they would show commentators. Most people in the bar left at half time, but Dez and I stayed the whole time and I'm so glad that we did-what a great game. I have never ever ever been so excited about American football (that wasn't a Pitt game) in my life and part of me wished I could have been in Pittsburgh for the win. Unfortunately Dez was rooting for the Cardinals so her spirit was pretty crushed when they lost. I promised her I wouldn't rub it in too much that she sucks and that she should have just joined the winning side from the beginning.

Anywho, the game ended around 530 am our time so afterwards we left and came back to go to bed since I had class at 1030 am.