Okie dokie, this week is our finale of living in this amazing town of Larnaka, Cyprus. Here goes…it’s a mixed bag this post.
I’m getting some blog writing done this morning. I’m a bit behind, but with this travel lifestyle it’s quite a challenge keeping up the momentum of more than a two-days long routine. Steve, Charlie, and Ash head out to the gym every morning now. Previously they went in the afternoons with Billie, but they’ve changed it up as they think it’ll work better to boost their energy levels in the morning for completing their school work. Billie’s keen to stick to her afternoon routine which is school work in the mornings and then in the hottest part of the day heading to the air conditioned gym. She heads off on her own a couple of times without fuss. But that’s Billie.
Today Billie heads off to the gym quite happily on her own. She never ceases to amaze us our Bill Bill. Her self-motivation for school work and gym has flourished since travelling and she is way ahead in her Year 7 studies. Billie is even running with Steve every now and then. The girls joke around that she could skip a year! And for someone who really dislikes cooking, this year, and especially living here in Cyprus, she’s taken on preparing cooking her own healthy lunches and sometimes dinners. And she’s sticking to her promises unlike some other unnamed teens of the house who make promises that fall flat within a day. Billie’s plan is to eat only healthy whole foods for six days of the week, and has one day on the weekend as her I-can-eat-anything-day. It’s working well for her.
She’s a quiet achiever and gets the job done. But having said that she’s also transforming into a teen! Aghhh!!! Billie can be short, sharp and down right snappy at times and we have had a few clashes on the journey. But nothing out of the ordinary with the types of teen rebellion that has already passed before us. But what a difficult stage…and especially with three teens, nearly four, on the road for a year. Yes when I think of it like that we are actually crazy!
While Steve and the two girls are at gym, I’m supervising Dacey with her school work at the apartment. It’s going smoothly, mostly. But I’m often thinking that Dacey in Grade 6 has more tedious and convoluted Distance Education work to complete than Year 7 for Billie or Year 10 for Ash. For instance, we’ve been looking at the subject of procedures in English this week so there are a few recipes that we need to follow and then take photos to send back to the teacher in Australia. And then in Science we’ve been looking at matter and how it changes. But our issue is that we can’t always buy the ingredients listed while living in overseas locations. They’re just not available here! So we’ve had to bend the rules somewhat! She’s still following the procedure but using different ingredients. It’s been frustrating to say the least while we search for stuff to complete the set tasks, but I think we’re getting better at not worrying as much if we don’t have everything at our fingertips and creating something else.
Uploading work every 10 days is a struggle as it’s a long time to wait to upload the work. Then scanning it into a readable document and getting it sent to the Grade 6 teacher is cumbersome as well even with really good wifi. Not to mention the number of times we’ve needed a printer to print out pages so Dacey can answer questions. That’s really annoying! Of course we do not carry a portable printer around with us, so that’s another challenging aspect to getting work submitted and complete. It’s been especially hard in Cyprus too as many places have closed for the summer break – and that includes printers! If you only knew how much effort we’ve had to go to to find printers here! Grrr…
The relationship between child and being a parent as well as a distance education supervisor is a stressful one. They have almost collapsed into a pile of mess at times. To be honest, it just hasn’t worked like we imagined it would much of the time. But to do what we have done – outside the normal – will bring up situations and processes that are untested. We have certainly tested them this year, and learnt much about the psychology of learning and parenting on the road. We need to look at this with fresh eyes and work something out. Maybe in Vietnam.
Charlie and Ash are keen to head out this afternoon. They’ve asked me to come along with them for a bit of a shopping spree up in the tourist area off the main Finikoudes Beach. It’s a lot of fun as we visit fashion shops that we haven’t been into for quite some time. They’re keen to purchase some new tops. Charlie is the ultimate shopper and she can smell the bargain basket from miles away so she quickly snaps up a couple of tops for a couple of euro. Ash on the other hand is a more tedious shopper. So she buys nothing.
I buy a couple of new tops and a pair of funky black and white checkered shorts and I’m ready to leave the shopping precinct. I’m not the best shopping partner – I just don’t find it interesting enough todo for long periods of time. I’m ready for a bit of a girls cafe catchup with coffee and cake at a café along the beach promenade. One of the lovely aspects of having four girls is their ability and willingness to sit, talk and do coffee with me! We order coffee and cakes – carrot cake for me to share with Ash, while Charlie sees a Cheesecake that she “just has to have”. It’s air conditioned comfort in this cafe along with an soft couches to sit at and let the conversation unfold slowly. We chat about lots of things from the drama unfolding in friendship groups back home to choosing subjects for VCE next year to the familiar chime of missing home.
Funnily enough I receive a ping on my iPhone while we’re sitting there chatting. It’s a Messenger message from another world travelling mum who has been traveling for a year and a half with her husband and four daughters. The likeness of our families is uncanny. I have been touching base with the other traveling mum over the course of our year away every so often for a chat. And this one today is a simple message of support from one travelling US mum to another travelling Aussie mum who shares that after reading my recent blog post (where I share some of the inner conflicts and dramas of motivating the girls on the travel journey), she writes that she can fully understand where my frustration is coming from and tells me to hang in there with my teens…saying “one day they’ll thank you.”
It’s a message that I’m grateful to receive at this very moment in time. I feel a sigh of relief spread over my body as I crawl over her every word and hear that she is also going through the exact same issues with her tribe of traveling teens and tween girls too. I respond instantly to her letting her know that it’s such a relief to hear that from another traveling mum. Not that I’d wish this on anyone, I’m fully aware this idea of going away for an entire year is our own creation. But just feeling that I’m not alone and I’m not too crazy for totally disrupting our teens’ social life by taking them away from home and routine to travel the world for goodness sake is music to my ears. The guilty feelings I was lodging start to evaporate away. I know that in the whole scheme of my children’s lives, after they’ve had a chance to pause, digest and then reflect on our 2017 travel year and the experiences this year has given us, it represents a very small part of their lives. One year may seem long now, like forever for the teens when they’re separated from friends and family and normal life. But in five years time, when the older girls will be in their early 20s it will probably seem like a blob in their lives and after 20 years it will be a simple dot in time.
This fellow traveling mum’s message of support to me got me thinking of writing a letter to my traveling teenage daughters. If you’d like to read it, watch out for an upcoming blog post titled, Day 244 | A Letter to My Traveling Teenage Tribe | 19 August 2017.
Meanwhile, Charlie and Ash are happy to hang back a little longer at Finikoudes Beach and grab dinner out together for a change. I leave them with a kiss and hug goodbye like we’re old friends from way back. Amazing what coffee, cake and some downtime can do. I head out to the fruit and vegetable shop to buy ingredients so we can make a salad for the rest of the family’s dinner and then I walk down the lovely new and wide beach promenade towards Makenzy Beach in the glorious sunset. It’s such a lovely place and I walk with a deep knowledge that I have four utterly amazing daughters. Lucky me.
Late tonight we read about the terrorist attacks that have occurred in Barcelona. Steve sends a message to our friend Jose, whom we befriended in Malaga southern Spain, sending our sorrow at the news. He responds promptly with his thanks for our thoughts but the reality for many Spaniards is that they’re so used to terrorism now that it has become a part of life. I hear the same view coming from our British friends.
All I can think about is peace on earth.
Ground hog day – gym, swim, breakfast, school work. Maybe I do a bit of apartment cleaning! I’m loving living in smaller places. It makes the task of house cleaning negligible. I don’t even do the dishes – we learnt long ago, especially when there is no dishwasher, to set up a roster between the six of us with Sunday as anyone’s day. It’s worked well. So what’s left for me to “clean” in this small third floor apartment is sweep the floor and wipe down the benches! I’m LOVING this – why would I ever want to go home to a bigger house that needs more cleaning, like really?
Late this afternoon Steve collects the hire car we have booked for our final weekend of road tripping around the island of Cyprus. We decide to drive to Ayia Napa in the hire car just after collecting it to get a glimpse of the town closest to our home base Larnaka. It’s close to sunset and yet again there’s an amazing show of light in the sky as we drive to Ayia Napa.
Ayia Napa is a seaside beach resort. And it’s the place where my sister-in law Andrea lived for a few months while she was a free roaming backpacker. Looking down over the town is a sea of white buildings leading down to the sea and a pink dusk sky.
I’m certain Andrea would not recognise what Ayia Napa has become today. It’s a massive tourist destination with massive size resorts lining the white sandy beaches with long white deck chairs lined up like a squadron. Of course we arrive when the sun is setting, so we don’t see a whole lot of Ayia Napa, but we’re glad we came for to visit. I messaged Kate and Colin, the British couple we had met at our 20-year celebratory night asking them if they could recommend any places in Ayia Napa to have dinner as they had lived here for a few years back while the new Larnaka International Airport was being built. Kate replied to my message with her recommendation: Demitrion. It was a family seafood restaurant on the way home from Ayia Napa to Laranaka near Potumas.
We may not have seen the Ayia Napa Monastery which is meant to have an ancient 600-year old sycamore tree in front of the south gate, or the Cape Greco sea caves, or the Makronissos Tombs – 19 rock cut tombs where the deceased were placed in clay sarcophagus. We didn’t experience the Ayia Napa Square but we did see it from the hills above when entering the tourist city – full of lights and colourful joy rides rising up into the sky. But we did get to go to a sleepy fishing village within a small sea port with lots of boats and a restaurant that served great food, including amazing fish and chips. We blew the budget on this dinner tonight (80 euros) but walked away happy, content and full of good Greek Cypriot food and a lit up sky as we looked back at Ayia napa and all it’s lights.
It’s Road Trip #3 for the Six Backpacks family. Today we head to the capital city of Cyprus, Lefkosia (aka Nicosia) and across the border into occupied Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). I’m pretty excited about this road trip too and being able to experience what it’s like to walk across a border that divides a city in half. The blue line cuts through Lefkosia at shopping central Ledra Street. On one side of Ledra Street is Cyprus and on the other is occupied Turkey. It’s called “occupied” Turkey due to the fact that the actions of the Turkish government way back in 1974 until this day are not legal under any international law nor recognised by any other nation state in the world. Yet they’re here and they’re here in a big way with plenty of bright red flags flapping in this northern landscape. Even the Kyrenia Mountains are branded with large scale Turkish Cypriot flag and message that translates, “How fortunate is the person who can say I’m a Turk”.
With so many countries involved in Cyprus back then and still today, it’s commonplace for the town names in Cyprus to have up to three different names: English, Greek Cypriot, and Turkish. For example:
- Larnaca (English), Larnaka (Greek Cypriot & Turkish) – an easier one!
- Nicosia (English), Lefkosia (Greek Cypriot) and Lefkoşa (Turkish) – not too different.
- Limassol (English), Lemesos (Greek Cypriot) and Limasol (Turkish) – same but now it starts to get more confusing…
- Kyrenia (English), Keryneia (Greek Cypriot) and Girne (Turkish)
- Paphos (English), Pafos (Greek Cypriot) and Baf (Turkish) and finally…
- Famagusta (English), Ammochostos (Greek Cypriot) and Gazimagusa (Turkish).
It’s taken us a while to realise that when locals mention Limassol in conversation but we see it on the map as Lemesos (or vice versa), it’s actually the same place! But the Greek Cypriots, particularly one elderly man serving us at our favourite restaurant, preferred to keep calling his capital city Lefkosia NOT Nicosia.
So back at Lefkosia/Nicosia/Lefkosa. It’s the capital city of Cyprus and the only capital city that remains divided in the 21st Century. We had a wonderful day exploring beyond Greek Cypriot Lefkosia and witnessed many of the differences between the southern Greek Cypriot side and the northern Turkish occupied side of Ledra Street as well as further a field.
If you’d like to read about our experience of crossing the pedestrian border at Ledra Street and then driving our hire car over the border at Metehan Kermia then please read it all here in my blog titled Day 244 | Three: Cruising in Cyprus to Lefkosia & Beyond | 19 August 2017.
All we need at the pedestrian border crossing is ourselves, our passports and some Turkish Lira if we want to buy anything on the other side (actually we can still use the Euro but it’s a little more expensive than using local currency of course). And to get our car over to northern Cyprus we need all of the above plus some extra car insurance to use our southern Cypriot car in the northern part of Cyprus. It’s all a bit crazy, but that’s what happens when you’re traveling across a divided island country when it’s regarded by the international community as being occupied.
Today marks a special day as we celebrate 8 months of traveling thus far! And what could be more special than visiting the only divided capital city in the world in the 21st Century – Nicosia or more how the Greek Cypriots prefer to call their capital, Lefkosia.
Here are my personal thoughts about reaching the 8-month milestone mark:
- First of all just wow, yay, yippee!
- Then holy crap it’s 8 months!
- And then we’re all still talking to each other!
- To then thinking only 4 months to go…
And this is where we’re all at on the travel spectrum:
- Steve – I could keep going…
- Lisa – I want to keep going.
- Charlie – I’m going back to study Year 12 with my friends!
- Ash – I’m going home, don’t you guys miss home?
- Billie – It’s been great, but I’m not doing this again with you guys.
- Dacey – It’s been fun! Can I make more slime now? (now that’s another story to be told – the amount of slime that has been made on this traveling journey!)
We’re up relatively early. Well considering we have a tribe of always-tired-in-the-morning-teens that love sleeping in FOREVER on weekends, it is considered early. There’s no gym this morning as it’s closed on Sundays which may be why Billie seems rather grumpy. Instead we’re getting ourselves ready for a day out exploring in the hire car. Today will be our fourth road trip while we’ve been living in Cyprus and we’re heading westward to the Greek mythological city of Paphos.
But before we depart we cook up a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, roasted tomato on sourdough toast at the apartment. Billie enjoys her usual Weetabix (the British brand name and variety) and I stop off at the local café to grab a takeaway latte for the road trip. On the way to the cafe, the girls spot a man walking a monkey on a lead down the promenade. Say what? I missed it. So we go around the block again and back onto the main road to see if it’s true – and it is. We see a man walking a small monkey on a lead! All I can think is oh poor thing. Seeing the monkey out of the passing car morning reminds me of the monkeys we saw dressed up and in chains in Marrakech Square, Morocco and then once they’ve made their money kept in a crate box.
We veer off the smooth, cruising motorway for the more scenic old coastal road. It’s a delight for the eyes of rugged cliffs and an immense, almost unending, blue sea. And not far off in the distance we see the sprawling township of Paphos. But before Paphos, from a loose stoned viewing platform off the old coastal road, is a group of sea stacked rocks that jut out from the calm sea off the coast. This is the place of Aphrodite’s birth.
If you’d like to read more about our road trip in Paphos please go to post titled Day 245 | Four: Cruising in Cyprus to Paphos | 20 August 2017.
If I was to rate our final road trip as a family, it would unfortunately rate low. The girls were not interested in seeing anything on Greek Mythology or underground tombs at the Tomb of the Kings. Charlie is happy to participate, but the other three are quite the strength of the unwilling. It is to go down as one of those days. Looking forward to it being over with thank you very much…
The car trip home is a sullen one. Ash and Dacey are actually crying in the car. They were crying when we returned to the car from exploring the Tomb of the Kings. Don’t worry nothing terrible happened. Once we worked out why they were crying, I had to walk away from the car taking practising my deep, and hopefully centring, breathing techniques I’ve started to employ in situations like these.
Are you ready? Listen to it people – they are crying over memories. And they were egging each other on with more memories and there’s more welling-in-the-eyes-and-streaming-down-the-cheeks tears. And it did not stop for quite some time. All I can say is that it seems to be a reaction to traveling the world. Allergies maybe? That is I think these two have had an emotional build up of home sickness and not wanting to see the historical sites which has resulted in a build up of angst which has resulted in two very over emotional girls who are discovering that a good cry can sometimes make all the difference.
I check in with them on the drive home. I twist my body around to face them in the back, and they’re still “releasing” the memories. Steve is driving trying to zone out, but looks my way every so often with that look on his face – what the hell is going on here? The crying girls tell me they feel better afterwards which is lovely to hear, to have an emotional release and cleanse for them in the car while we’re all trapped inside it listening to them weep, but it leaves Steve and me wondering what the hell we’re actually doing here.
Are we jinxed? It must be Friday the 13th or something.
We get serious about completing a whole lot of school work for the week today and tomorrow so they can have the rest of the week off school while we travel to and stay in Bangkok for three nights.
Charlie’s subject selection for Year 12 is due so we email her previous Principals and Year 12 coordinators and fill out a form to manually add her subjects and enrolment for 2018. I can’t believe she will be attending her final year of high school. Ash is still not know where she’s going in 2018. She sent an email to her former high school but due to her being outside the zone for that school she can’t enrol if she’s not in the sport academy (which she isn’t). Dacey and Billie are happy to go to Gisborne Secondary College along with Charlie. So we’ll see how all that plays out.
Today we also signed a Vietnamese contract for the rental house we’ll be staying in Hoi’An. I have found a great place for US$550 per month. We have been paying between A$2,000-$2,400 per month for Airbnb accomodation units in Europe. So this is a lovely change. It’s also a house and has three bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, security, and it’s double storey and located 10-minutes bicycle ride from the old town of Hoi’An (the very touristy area) and 10-minutes bicycle ride from Mia* who lives in An Bang in Hoi’An. I found the landlord who was advertising renting the house on a Hoi’An Expats Facebook group (there are many of them).
*Mia is an Australian living in Hoi’An who is a teacher and offers tutoring to students in the area. Aha! I’ve been chatting with her extensively on Messenger as she has been able to give me loads of advice on all things Hoi’An as well as opportunities for the kids to learn under her direction. There are a few ideas sprouting out of this. It’s been lovely getting to know Mia online as well as a few other people I have been able to contact before we arrive into another new and unfamiliar country. Although we have previously visited Vietnam twice before, including Hoi’An we have never lived in the town long term. It’s a very different proposition to visiting for a couple of days or a week and then heading off. I think the community aspect in Hoi’An is going to be great! Fingers crossed.
We take a stroll after dinner to the promenade and enjoy dessert and a drink. Me Baileys; Steve Scotch and coke. The dessert is a traditional Kataifi and it’s so very delicious. Luckily I have just discovered this sweetness on the last few days of living here in Cyprus.
School work is getting complete for our rest of the week off. Yay!
And it’s our final day to go to the gym, for a swim, do any shopping, and further enjoy the Greek Cypriot food. We choose to go to our favourite local restaurant just around the corner from our apartment and order halloumi, pork and chicken pitas. Afterwards it’s a walk down the main promenade for some ice-cream for the kids and a delicious Baklava (only because they were out of the traditional Kataifi) to share for me and Steve at our other favourite restaurant on the promenade Portokali.
The girls get out and take a ride on an electric scooter-type bike. They’re 8 euros each for 1 hour so it was a bit of fun for the final night in Larnaka. We watched them scoot up and down the promenade having fun together on the balmy night. This year away has certainly brought all the girls closer together as friends which is lovely to see.
And even though Steve and I are back sleeping out in the lounge room on the fold out bed, I had the best sleep I’ve had in a long time. Must have been the Baileys!
It’s goodbye to Cyprus. Which means packing up EVERYTHING!
Billie is absolutely obsessed with going to gym here. She sets her alarm for 8am and has the whole morning worked out so she can fit everything in on departure day. She wakes Steve and they both walk to gym and squeeze in a gym session. Afterwards I meet Steve at the little Makenzy beach, after rousing the three sleeping beauties, for our last dip in the Mediterranean Sea together. It’s so clear, more than ever, and we see fish swimming amongst our legs. The sea water is so still it’s like a luxurious bath. We are the only ones at this small beach and we float about in the water watching the planes coming into land at the international airport.
I’m going to miss this.
The next couple of hours are finishing up the packing. I have become quite the expert international minimalist packer and now with the accumulation of way many suitcases, I can share the load of heavy school text books and photocopied workbooks more evenly. We no longer have the initial luggage weight dramas we did at the start of our trip which makes the whole process of checking in less stressful. But the style now is very unbackpackerish. Oh well if it works stick with it.
It’s also time to clean the Airbnb apartment – empty the fridge, do a quick wipe down of benches, and try and dry the gym clothes from this morning’s session. I strip the beds and make a pile near the washing machine, and start sweeping the rooms. Do you know how much hair we shed in this household? I’m not sure if I notice it a whole lot more while traveling due to close quarter living arrangements and smaller living spaces, but there is literally long strands of hair from all of us, except Steve of course, lying on the floor, attaching themselves to pillow cases and bed linen, intertwining in the bristles of the hair brush and the accumulation of mats of long hair down the drain in the bath tub. We have been malting constantly on this trip! And there is no vacuum cleaner here, like many of the Airbnbs we’ve stayed at.
Steve’s got two taxi’s to Larnaca International Airport organised for a 12:15pm pick up outside our apartment block. They cost 20 euros combined. Two drivers and two taxis arrive on time. They’re a BMW and Mercedes Benz – the same driver in the BMW that took Charlie and Steve to the General Hospital and back. We ask them why they use luxury cars for taxis and the owner responds, “they’re better quality so they last longer and they look the part so we attract more people with money.”
Not that we have money to splash around on luxury brand name cars used as taxis in Cyprus, but there are no alternatives here. It’s a stark contrast to loud motor tuk tuks in Buldana, rural India and run down petit blue taxis in Berrechid, Morocco. But hey that’s what they have here in Cyprus so that’s we use. It was a lovely drive. I felt a little bit like how the Paris Hiltons or Kim Kardashians of the world must feel, but for just a brief moment in time!
We depart on our Ukraine flight to Kiev at 2:40pm from Laranca International Airport for a 2-hour stop over there, and then onto Bangkok with the same airline where we will arrive tomorrow morning for a three-night stay in Bangkok which we are all very much looking forward to.
Goodbye Larnaka, Cyprus we have had an amazing experience exploring all over your lands and in your cities. Thank you we will never forget you.