We take a walk to our favourite spot for a swim, passing the “cat person’s” house. If there’s one thing that’s consistent on the ground in Cyprus it’s the cats. India may have the most stray dogs, but Cyprus has the stray cats. And they’re everywhere, belonging to the no one and hanging about in the evenings at local restaurants hoping to collect the crumbs. So there are people, like the “cat person”, who live here on the back streets of the main promenade who help out by feeding the cats. So they hang around at the “cat person’s” home. We’ve noticed there’s also a community area for stray cats where they are fed and they all seem to congregate. I saw a woman deliver to an elderly man a couple of tins of cat food that she’d purchased so assuming they’re a community organisation accepting donations for these abandoned felines.
We return and it’s budget day – da da-da da! And I’m already thinking, actually I already know that we are over budget as we have been eating out a lot here in sunny and yummy Cyprus and the food bill adds up quite quickly when multiplied by six. And although we’re not eating out at the “fancy” places it’s hard denying this tasty Cypriot food that’s here to saviour.
Steve completes the number crunching and confirms that we are in fact over our average annual budget spend to date. As of 10 August (day number 235) we’re up to a total of A$292 per day. If you don’t already know how our daily budget spend is calculated, we have allocated an average of A$250 per day over 365 days for our family of six to live off while on the road. This figure includes everything from flights to touring to food to clothes. EVERYTHING! It’s not that bad over budget, but still we devise a plan to shop at the local grocery market more often and make more main meals back at the apartment during the week and dine out on weekends. Ha…easier said than done.
Today is quite a different day as I have two interviews scheduled via Skype for two different reasons. The first interview is with an online English teaching company and the second is an interview with fellow family travel adventurer Erik Hemingway from Family Adventure Podcast.
The second interview goes much better than the first. Here’s why.
A friend we’ve come to get to know well in Hoi’An, Vietnam recently sent me an email referring an online English language teaching service that I might be interested in doing while I’m traveling around the world. How it works is that you have online classes with up to six adult Vietnamese students and get paid for a 45-minute class. I thought it sounds great. I hadn’t thought about working while traveling but I thought why not it might be a great way to meet more people and have a purpose.
I sent an email to the company outlining my interest and details. They came back requesting a resume. I sent in the resume. Four days later I was given an interview via Skype. Can I tell you something – I was actually nervous attending this interview! It’s been eight months since I have worked in any professional capacity and I felt a nerve racking mixture of excitement and anxiousness.
The interview went well, she asks me why I want to teach English and I respond with my desire to give back, meet others and have a sense of purpose while travelling. I have all the gear – laptop, software, apps, headphones plus I’m a native English language speaker. My interviewer then proceeded to give me an overview of the company and how it all works. It was an insight. Then the basic remuneration – starting quite low but with opportunities of increasing upwards the more successful lessons and feedback that’s given.
And then the interviewer mentions that I need to send in soft copies of my degree qualification. And that’s when I went – ah really? Silly me didn’t realise I had an already scanned soft copy of all my qualifications in the external hard drive before departing Australia on 19 December 2016. So I mention to her that I don’t have soft copies available with me. But that was the stumbling block. No proof no job. Fair enough I suppose.
So the interview ends. Later I scrounge around my old resumes that I had copied onto my external hard drive, and digging deep and quite a few years back, I discover that I have soft copies attached to an old resume. Aha! I have let the company know that I can in fact prove that I have an arts and commerce degree way back in 1996! God I feel like a dinosaur. But I haven’t heard back and I haven’t been overly motivated to follow up either.
Later that afternoon Steve and I are ready to be Skype interviewed by Erik, an avid family traveller, who is from American and has an awesome travel podcast called Family Adventure Podcast. If you’re interested in listening to what families all over the world are up to in the travel arena with their families then this is highly recommended listening. Steve and I listened to many of his travel podcast interviews prior to leaving on our round the world trip, even prior to making the decision to take a year out of our lives and travel the world with our family. They are so inspiring and give a real insight into the thinking and varieties of family travel.
After a couple of technical glitches with audio we are communicating and ready for the interview. Nothing has been pre-arranged or discussed. This is all just off the cuff and we answer Erik’s questions as we go. After 50 minutes fly by, we are finished and wrap up. I think Steve and I could have chatted longer and deeper into the psychology of long term family travel, but we got to answer all the questions posed to us by Erik as well as have a few laughs in the interview. Erik is an amazingly wonderful interviewer and we hope that we may catch up together when he and his family travel to South East Asia in December.
So this got me thinking how easy is it to stay in communication online? So EASY! The world is a large place, but the opportunities of connecting with others from the other side of the world is made so much easy with technology. So this experience has given me even more motivation in creating an online business – such as what we started with when we named our business Itching2Travel.
The idea of having a family travel website where we can keep connecting with other travelling families and supporting them in making something like we’re doing or other variations happen and sharing their journeys. That is make travel with your family happen differently. I know lots of parents who do travel with their kids but the way or style that they travel needs tweaking for longer term options. Instead of hitting the cruise ship and thinking all you can eat is amazing, I really want parents to view travel as an opportunity to model to their kids global citizenship. Being a global citizen doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to study International Relations or work for the Red Cross or live permanently overseas. To me being a global citizen means travelling with an open mind and friendly heart. It means being open to others and their cultures, being willing to better understand the world we live in and the way others live their lives or the food they eat, or the customs they value. Enjoying a holiday overseas is one thing, but having a travel experience that enhances young minds and challenges status quo perspectives is a completely different experience. I’d love to see more families travel like that if that’s what is itching them!
Back to reality…
I’m really struggling sleeping on this fold out mattress in the lounge room here in Cyprus. And my tiredness often turns to grumpiness which is not the best for everyone else in the family. Today feels like it’s a day to just get through. I might have to squeeze in a nana nap and just appreciate the sunshine because somewhere in the world it’s not sunny! I am grateful even though I’m tired and annoyed at sleeping on a fold out. Rant over!
We can’t find a hire a car for this weekend as there are no 7-seaters available anywhere in Larnaka! So on the flip side we plan on catching a local bus to Ayia Napa – a seaside town and resort known for its party beaches and monastery. Quite a contrast. But, on second thoughts I’m thinking what will we do out in this hot weather conditions all day? I know the kids will turn to gremlins and that’s got to be avoided at all costs. So we decide to rain check that bus journey and explore more of the town that has become our home base Larnaka tomorrow.
On a more positive note, Steve has made a booking for the six of us to scuba dive out in the Mediterranean Sea on Sunday. Woohoo! Charlie has recovered from her health set back with consolidation on her lungs and has finished her medication, Dacey’s ear infection is, we think, officially over and I’m keen as mustard to get back under the water with a tank on my back. I’m the only member of this family so far who has experienced scuba diving and that was years ago in the Great Barrier Reef. I’m very much looking forward to doing this experience together.
The girls are happily doing more school work inside the apartment today. I think they’re using that as an excuse not to go out exploring Larnaka town with us. But I understand hanging out with your parents all the time is a little ridiculous for teenagers, but I’m actually asking them to get and explore by themselves and they’re still a no.
Steve and I eagerly head out this afternoon together for some time away from the kids. I have my camera and I’m looking forward to taking more shots in and around the township of Larnaka. It’s lovely exploring with just us. It takes me back to our honeymoon in 1999 exploring South East Asia – nothing much has changed between us except having four children. Steve still organises accommodation and flights efficiently and I still write about our adventures and take way too many photographs. But it’s comforting to know that we are still enjoying spending this time with each other, and with the family when they’re interested, on the road. We really could just keep going you know.
Present day Larnaka was known as Kition. I discover that the name Larnaka comes from the many larnakes or sarcophagi that have been discovered here. And if you’re anything like me, I had to look that one up. Sarcophagus is a stone coffin, typically adorned with sculptures or inscriptions associated primarily with the ancient civilisations of Egypt, Rome and Greece. Interesting historical naming of the town we’re currently living in.
We walk through the back alleyways and roads of Larnaka until we reach the main tourist shopping precinct of Finikoudes Beach with the long spindly towering palm trees. There are lots of fully stocked shops but many are vacant, almost abandoned looking. We’ve spoken to many of locals and they all tell us the same story – the economic down turn in 2014 really hit them hard and they haven’t recovered. Th evidence lingers.
Cyprus was settled by Greek Mycenaeans 10,000 years ago for the exploitation and trade of copper and was, and still is, a strategic location situated amongst Europe and the Middle East. The land of Cyprus has been, over the centuries, occupied by several powers including the Empires of Assyrians, Egyptians and Persians. Larnaka, situated along the southern coast, is Cyprus’ oldest town. And further to the overview of Cyprus’ history is this city we are currently residing in is apparently built upon the ancient ruins of Citium which is the birthplace of Stoic philosopher Zeno.
Until the age of about 42, Zeno a merchant turned to teaching the development of self-control and fortitude as a means of overcoming destructive emotions in open public places. Zeno of Citium, a Hellenistic thinker, commenced these Stoic teachings in 300 BC and taught them in Athens. According to Zeno’s teachings, the path to happiness for humans is found in accepting the moment as it presents itself, by not allowing ourselves to be controlled by our desire for pleasure or our fear of pain, but by using our minds to understand the world around us and to do our part in nature’s plan working together and treating others in a fair and just manner. I’m taken with Zeno and feeling very privileged to be living on the very place of his birth.
We walk to Larnaka port area and then onto the rocks that form part of the bay and take some photos overlooking the main Finikoudes Beach. It’s busy here.
I also read that Cyprus has a major issue with fresh water shortage due to the inadequate rainfall for both surface and ground water. Although dams and reservoirs are the principal source of fresh water for Cyprus, the government has invested heavily in desalination plants. Over on the northern side of Cyprus however, Turkey has apparently engineered a pipeline under the Mediterranean Sea from Anamur to northern Cyprus for it’s population’s drinking and irrigation water. It must have cost billions of Turkish Lira to create that.
Steve and I venture back to our first restaurant we dined at in Larnaka for a drink and to watch the world go by. Charlie and Ash decide to come out of the apartment for a walk and meet us there and then we decide to go to another restaurant for dinner. We have a later than expected night, especially for our day out at sea tomorrow.
Unfortunately, as I’m dining on a halloumi pita something hard, like a piece of grit or rock is crunching in my mouth. It’s part of my tooth! A molar in the back of my mouth has cracked and the top of it has chipped off. It feels so weird and now my tongue keeps gravitating to the unusual and uneven tooth and it’s feeling sensitive. A visit to the dentist in Hoi’An is on the cards.
We really have gotten into the relaxed, almost lazy, lifestyle here in Cyprus. We know that because when the alarm rings out for our scuba diving expedition at 7:30am it’s a rude shock. The girls take a while to wake, but the easy part is pulling our bathers on, grabbing a towel and walking out the door. We are meeting our scuba diving crew outside the Zenobia Divers shop along the Makenzy Beach promenade and arrive and sit down outside their shop on the old wooden picnic beach. We’re five minutes early. Steve’s phone rings and it’s Olga, the diving trip organiser, letting him know that our dive instructor will pick us up in two minutes and take us to the marina to board the diving boat.
Olga is a lovely young Ukrainian woman who’s been living and now working in Cyprus for a year now. She looks and speaks perfect Russian, which works well as the majority of the clientele for snorkelling and scuba diving are Russian.
A small beat up car pulls up outside the shop and it’s our driver-diver Marios. He gets out of the car and is instantly apologetic for being late and then tells us there’s been a slight hiccup – he couldn’t find the keys to his larger car that would be able to take all of us down to the marina. Instead he’s arrived in a small car with a child seat in the backseat. “I’m so sorry but I can take three at a time.” We don’t mind one bit.
Three of us pile into the little car. Marios drives like a true Mario Cart driver – fast and efficient through Larnaka town, around the narrow streets and past the whitewashed homes that are built inches away from the road and Larnaka’s stray cat brigade who are out enjoying a stretch under the soft warm light of the morning’s first rays.
We chat in the car while he drives. He’s very friendly and gives us some of his personal history of how he came to be a scuba diver in Cyprus when he has quite a bit of a English accent. I’m instantly connected as I love people who are happily open about sharing their lives. In a 7-minute drive I discover that Mario was born here, left for England at four years old, returned to Cyprus and completed 26 months of military service, departed for a planned six months in Wales but that turned into 21 years! Now he’s back in Cyprus wishing he’d never left in the first place. He loves his job as a diver and feels like the diving company he works for is more like a family than a business or a job. He drops us off at the front of the marina and we wander up to the boat with all the tanks on it while he zooms off to pick up the other three family members.
They arrive and we are boarding the boat. A number of people are already sitting on the top deck enjoying a coffee and wifi. We join them and wait for Olga to show up so Steve can pay her what we owe for the diving experience. The cost is 55 euros each (A$80 each) for five hours of bobbing out in the Mediterranean Sea, taking a 20 minute one on one dive with Marios to view the Zenobia wreck and then snorkelling the afternoon away with a lunch on the boat afterwards. Great value. Olga walks in with a group of other customers and greets us as the large happy family. We can see by taking a look around us and tuning in that most of the people on the boat are Russian.
We sign our life away (lol) and those of our children. Once the paperwork is complete we sit down and relax as the boat starts its journey out to the Zenobia Wreck site.
What is the Zenobia Wreck?
The Zenobia wreck lies on the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea just off the coast from Laranka port. It’s locally known as the Titanic of the Mediterranean. A Swedish made cargo ship, Zenobia was on its maiden voyage to Syria when there was some sort of technical malfunction with the balancing tools that control the amount of water coming in and out of its chambers. I’m not a cargo ship expert so not sure what that actually means other than too much water was coming in and not enough getting out? Anyhow, the MS Zenobia stopped off at Crete to get the balancing instrument issue fixed and they departed with the knowledge that the problem had been resolved, and continued onto Larnaka port where it docked. But there must have been further issues. The head of Larnaka’s port requested that the troubled Zenobia cargo ship leave the port site and move out into the Mediterranean just in case.
Just in case happened and the port manager was spot on. The Zenobia cargo ship started to sink out in the Mediterranean Sea just off the coast from Larnaka. It took three days for the 10,000 tonne cargo ship carrying goods to sink in 1980. And now the 172 metre long and 28 metre wide ship lies at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea and has transformed this part of the world into one of the top 5-10 diving sites around the world.
Being underwater seeing the silver fish and feeding them raw chicken on a bone with the shredding flesh floating ghastily in the warm water and watching them nibbling out of our hand was great, but seeing the sight of a huge cargo ship below was definitely the highlight. It brings back thoughts of seeing video and photos of the Titanic ship at the bottom of the Atlantic and conjuring up that feeling of mystery mixed with disaster. Although no one lost their life on the sinking of MS Zenobia, it is simply amazing to see a 30-year old sunken wreck on a first scuba dive for the kids.
Our dive instructors mention that on more advanced dives they take customers right onto and into the Zenobia site. It’s become so popular that often there’s a lineup underwater to get into the site! There they have seen eggs – yes eggs – still unbroken sitting on the bottom of the sea floor. The cargo ship, en route to Syria was loaded full of trucks, wine, eggs, and many other items. It all went down on the ship and over the years many opportunists would ransack the site, and the Cypriots would be eagle eyeing each boat that came in to dock. They didn’t care about people taking the actual goods from the sunken cargo ship, they were more keen on those people paying the taxes on the goods!
Here’s a video of Billie feeding the fish and the Zenobia laying just below her underwater.
So now each of us has experienced a 20 minute scuba diving lesson underwater to a depth of about 10 meters. We stood on the edge of the boat with flippers, tank and mouth piece in place and took a leap of faith off the side and into the clear water. We plunged under and Marios grabbed at our harness as we plonked below the clear water and dragged us over to him.
I must admit it is scary – like the stepping out of your comfort zone scary – and the heart is racing especially when the gear weighs so much on the boat and you’re thinking am I going to sink in all this weight? Steve went first but due to his long term issues with his ears under immense air pressure, he didn’t get to the 10 metre depth that we all did. But he enjoyed it nonetheless and Marios was able to stabilise the pressure for him without it hurting his ears. I went next, then Billie, Ash, Dacey and Charlie lucky last with her GoPro strapped top her head. I really enjoyed watching all of the girls getting ready in their wet suit and tanks, and then taking that leap of faith into the water.
Afterwards we were able to jump back in off the end of the boat and snorkel on the top of the water, watching the other divers go down with their instructors. Beautifully rounded air bubbles climbing up and erupting to the surface from so far below.
The girls did really well considering it’s their first time scuba diving. They were all quite nervous, but totally enjoyed the experience. Our dive instructor Marios was fantastic with the pre-dive instruction as well as reinforcing it while we were in the water. I think we’d all enjoy doing a scuba course but the amount of money that would take – 400 euros each – is cost prohibitive on our budget right now.
We enjoy a homemade lunch (part of the deal) on the lower decks – roasted chicken that is cooked on a large rotisserie hanging over the side of the boat, plenty of tasty salads and free wine. The meals are hearty and delicious and there’s plenty for seconds. The meal is just perfect after a big day playing in the sea, and Olga pours out small shots of a clear liquid drink called Zivania. And it’s potent, or more to the point looks and tastes just like methylated spirits!
The Zivania concoction is a Cypriot brandy and is especially good, we are informed by the locals, for colds and toothaches and a general warming up drink in the colder months especially in the villages up in the Troodos Mountains. I take a sip just to try it and as expected it’s really not a pleasant drink to enjoy on a boat in the Mediterranean. I think the Russians are enjoying it though.
Steve and I get our early for a dip in the Med and then breakfast at our little café along the promenade. Again the two elderly British couples are sitting at the restaurant – same tables, same chairs, same positions. Many of the shops and restaurants are closing now for a long weekend due to a public holiday tomorrow, but we’re also told many other businesses will close this week and next as the official holiday period.
I wake up early and realise that today marks a very special date. Yes, it is the Dormition of the Theotokos or The Falling Asleep of the Virgin otherwise known as the Assumption of Mary where virgin Mary’s ascent is made to heaven. But it is also an important day in our personal relationship.
But more importantly today is the day I met Steve 20 years ago! For some reason the date has always stuck in my head and we figure we’ll keep celebrating it alongside our wedding anniversary until the end of our days. If it’s good for the virgin Mary it’s good enough for us!
Steve departs and wanders up the road to the main area of Finikoudes as we plan to go out and celebrate tonight but we’re unsure what will be open due to it being a public holiday for the virgin. It’s absolutely chaotic on the roads in Larnaka today – public holiday goers are parking their cars in all matter of ways along the promenade and the main restaurants, those that have remained open for this long weekend, are packed with dining guests at lunch time. Steve drops by Mitisiz Restaurant that was recommended for us to try by scuba dive instructor Marios. He insists this restaurant serves the best Kleftiko (slow cooked oven-baked lamb) in all of Cyprus, along with a chorus of other Cypriots chanting the same. Steve manages to make a booking for two tonight. Yay.
First we walk to the beach and enjoy a beer and gin and tonic (or two) looking out at the sea overlooking Makenzy Beach. Perfect place to enjoy this.
Then we walk along the promenade to our restaurant. There we are seated at the best table with ocean views. We enjoy a serving of Kleftiko (11 euros) and a serving of calamari rings (also 11 euros) plus a starter of halloumi cheese (1.30 euros per grilled slice). OMG food heaven! And as I’m trying to get the best angle set up for a selfie, the couple on the next table ask us if they can take it for us. Sure we say and from then on we are chatting to our new found English friends on their table at the restaurant.
Colin and Kate are from Britain and are on a short holiday here with their 13-year old daughter. We sit at their table for some time sharing stories and adventures. Our girls are out buying ice-cream and they wander down to say hi to us. We discover Colin is a builder and he was part of the construction company that built the new Larnaka International Airport. He and Kate lived here in Larnaka for quite some time when their daughter Nemma was young and they tell us they simply love coming back here for holidays.
A lovely couple and we thoroughly enjoy getting to know them and sharing a couple of funny stories together on this balmy night in Cyprus. It’s lovely having adult conversation! Billie and Dacey wander back to the apartment on their own, while Charlie and Ash hang with us until we walk back together via a stop off at a funky bar along the promenade with comfy couches and cool music on the way home. It’s another late night that I really didn’t need. And that last G&T was so unnecessary plus a late night swim.
So slow today. Must have been that final gin and tonic!
A visit to the green grocer to purchase some supplies of fresh vegetables and fruit is complete.
All in all it’s a blah day. Just getting school work complete. Blah. Reading my book. Blah. And realising that in a week’s time we will be leaving Cyprus. Blah. Yes our month-long stay is finishing up quickly and we are heading back to South East Asia. First stop Bangkok for a whirlwind three night stay.
And I’m thinking, yikes another complete-pack-up-our-stuff is required. I think I’ll worry about doing all of that packing and sorting and arranging next Monday while I keep enjoying my blah kind of day.