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Street Party

 The response to the police raid on the street party in old Nicosia: have another street party.   People gathering on the steps of Phaneromenoi school . . .  The music was set under the church tower.  Graffiti made for the occasion (on boards and blankets, not on the square ... read more

Madeline Blount

CyprusCyprus

Characters

 I have been trying to pull together a street theatre performance in the last few weeks, which has not been going as smoothly as planned -- it's been hard to gather a large enough cast, mainly, who have free evenings for jumping around the square at Phaneromeni (see previous post). ... read more

Madeline Blount

CyprusCyprus

Street Battles

It's hard to over-state the importance of Phaneromeni Square for the Southern old town Nicosia.  In the same little cobblestoned space, one of the oldest churches in town stands with its Greek flags, attracting bearded bishops and pious grandmas by morning; and the surrounding walls are covered with anarchist graffiti, ... read more

Madeline Blount

CyprusCyprus

Complexity and the Beach

 If you've heard of Salamis, the one-time capital of Cyprus and a Roman city of pretty considerable glory (on the scale of ancient city-state glory, it's got a few amphitheaters to its credit), you probably won't be surprised that it's still there.  You might be surprised that it is surrounded ... read more

Madeline Blount

CyprusCyprus

Relocation: Polis.

 There are "crowds" in Cyprus; not in the sense of lots of people in one spot (ever, really); but a crowd that might haunt one cafe in the afternoon, then all pack up for the same bar later at night, repeating the pattern the next day.  When I went camping ... read more

Madeline Blount

CyprusCyprus

Wedding Traffic

I recently came back to Cyprus after being off the island for a little while, not an uncommon practice for Cypriots -- especially in the 100 - 105 F summer heat.  I've been told that "no one is in Nicosia" as it gets closer to August, and I guess I thought this was ... read more

Madeline Blount

CyprusCyprus

Stranger Than Fiction: A Circus, and Eurovision

There is no way all of that could happen in one day -- except that it did.   Writing about last Saturday should really be two posts, but I'm going to go with the absurd unity of time rather than breaking it down more digestibly.  Because sometimes things are in ... read more

Madeline Blount

CyprusCyprus

The Sound Barrier

 "Did you hear it that time?" "No, I can't hear any--" "Shhhh!" A long, barely audible, extremely high-pitched, beep. "Yeah, yes, I got it that time!" And then I haven't stop hearing it since, every night in old Nicosia. We were sitting in the square near my most-frequented coffee shop and the ... read more

Madeline Blount

CyprusCyprus

'Sup CYPRUSSS

 "'Sup, Limassol?  'Sup, CYPRUSS!  Lemme hear you say, OHHHHHhhh!" The Street Festival in Limassol, major port-city in Cyprus.  I took a 2-hour bus ride to get there, sitting next to Chinese immigrant women and an old Cypriot village man who crossed himself whenever the bus passed a church.  At one ... read more

Madeline Blount

CyprusCyprus

The Isolated Monastery

I realized after writing that title that most monasteries are isolated. Monks and nuns tend to seek solitude for their prayer and study; some monasteries in Greece are even built on the top of mountains that you can only access through ladder (or goat).   The monks and priests at ... read more

Madeline Blount

CyprusCyprus

The Edge, and Hoofed Orphans

Views from the Northeastern tip of Cyprus, the tail of the sting-ray (or flying squirrel, whichever you think the island looks more like):   Yes, that last picture is of a pair of wild donkeys.  There are a considerable number of them wandering the rugged North Karpaz Peninsula area, the arm ... read more

Madeline Blount

CyprusCyprus

Cheese, Fire, and the 10-Day Easter

It has been a week since Easter Sunday (Π?σχα).  It's taken me that long to recover. I mentioned in an earlier post that I had been doing the 49 day fast for Orthodox Lent; no meat, no dairy, no animal products for the full 49 days before Easter.  Not wanting to ... read more

Madeline Blount

CyprusCyprus

Demonstrations in Kyrenia/Girne

 On a recent free Friday, I took a trip to Kyrenia (Greek name) / Girne (Turkish name): Looking at a picture of the harbor there, it's easy to see why.  Now THAT is a picturesque Mediterranean town, if I've ever seen one! (And yeah, I had before this, and Kyrenia/Girne fits the bill ... read more

Madeline Blount

CyprusCyprus

Trekking in Pafos: Town/Country

I have focused so much of this blog and of my work here in Cyprus on the urban experience of old Nicosia: gritty, nostalgic, almost mysterious with its meandering streets, random food markets from Russia or Manila, and of course the troop-patrolled border.  The wound that somehow divides the city and ... read more

Madeline Blount

CyprusCyprus

The Comfort of Jargon

 When the fifteen of us were on the floor of the concert hall, warming up our knees and ankles, it was easy to forget that we had only met each other a week earlier, and that we came from countries as far-flung as Cyprus, Greece, England, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Italy, and ... read more

Madeline Blount

CyprusCyprus

Completing the Circle

Living on the cusp of a militarized zone can really bring to light the little things I have taken for granted living, say, anywhere else.  The importance of the freedom of mobility has been on my mind lately.  The people of Nicosia could not cross from one side of their ... read more

Madeline Blount

CyprusCyprus

Street Food -- Not For Sale.

On the way back to my apartment in Old Nicosia one night, I see this man roasting his souvla on a spit in the street: Souvla might remind you of the more familiar Greek word, souvlaki -- and that is because it refers to the same roasted meat, it's just ... read more

Madeline Blount

CyprusCyprus

Choose Wisely

"This is Cyprus," is a phrase I hear a lot, something both locals and ex-pats use with a sigh and a resigned smile to proclaim the peculiarities of the island.  It usually pertains to things never getting done.  Still waiting for phone lines to be installed by the government-subsidized telecom ... read more

Madeline Blount

CyprusCyprus

Upon Waking, and Placelessness

In that place between sleeping and waking, where the smoke of any dream you may have had mingles with the fog that hasn't blown off from the morning -- in this non-place, you can convince yourself of anything.  Here five minutes becomes an extra hour slept, or the dream-image of ... read more

Madeline Blount

CyprusCyprus

Fast of the Demons

Yesterday was the first day of Greek Orthodox Lent.  Following the gluttonous explosion of Carnival, traditional Orthodox Cypriots go without meat or dairy until Easter, which is 40 days.  In a moment of cultural solidarity and gastronomical experimentation, and I admit perhaps a moment of ascetic insanity, I decide to ... read more

Madeline Blount

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Books

Brush on up your history with "Echoes from the Dead Zone"

Madeline Blount

08 Oct 2009

Cyprus

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Madeline Blount

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Cyprus' recent history can be impossible to peg down -- a British colony? Then a coup from Greece? Then invasion from Turkey? Or was it the other way around? Or was it even an invasion? I've tried not to get my history backwards, as it can rightfully bruise some sensitivities and ruin a shared souvlaki. A good summary, quick reading, and some vibrant oral history is in Yiannis Papadakis' book "Echoes from the Dead Zone." The book includes stories about donkey protests, when some Cypriots sent donkeys (without passports, of course!) across the UN border checkpoints to protest the continuing division.

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Getting Around

In Cyprus, you walk alone

Madeline Blount

06 Jan 2010

Cyprus

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Madeline Blount

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If you're used to pedestrianized cities, Cyprus may knock you a bit -- literally, cars drive in front of me to park on the narrow sidewalks all the times. Outside of the old town centers, you will be the only one walking at all; in a country that went from donkeys to cars pretty quickly, most Cypriots proudly use their automobiles, even for a ride down the road. The buses are hard to come by and the taxis exorbitant, on both sides of the island. To really explore the island, you'll have to rent a car.

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Festivals & Events

Easter extravaganza

Madeline Blount

06 Jan 2010

Cyprus

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Madeline Blount

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No one does Easter like the Orthodox. On the South side of the island, it's a week-long affair with strict fasting (and then feasting) rules and choreographed services. On the Friday before Easter, go to a church and parade around the town with the whole congregation and a flower-covered coffin for Christ. The next night, bring a candle, watch the flame pass through the whole church in the dark, started by a chanting priest holding an antler candelabra. You'll then get pulled outside the church in a river of people (careful with that candle), and the priest will knock on the door of the church loudly, asking if the Resurrection has happened yet. Then, all Sunday and probably Monday, you'll eat more than you have in your life.

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Culture Shock

Buffer zone blues

Madeline Blount

06 Jan 2010

Cyprus

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Madeline Blount

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Whether it's the guarded military towers, showing your passport to cross the street, or simply being re-routed in the city because of the border, the buffer zone in divided Cyprus can be tough to get used to. What's more, it can be a disconnect to see how normalized it has become for Cypriots; you may find yourself wondering how people can drink their coffee calmly in this military space, or you may even begin to wonder if you are the only one not ignoring the barbed wire in the middle of town. Remember that this is a deeply sensitive issue for Cypriots, who have each found their own way of living with their political situation, and thinking about the Other Side.

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Must Do

Sandy sleeping under the stars

Madeline Blount

07 Jan 2010

Cyprus

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Madeline Blount

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In the summer, Cyprus temperatures climb above 100F -- nearly everyday. The cities empty and everyone runs to the coasts, but the best (and cheapest!) way to spend a sweltering weekend is camping on the sand. It's so hot you don't even need a tent; just grab a sleeping bag and join the crowds curling up after a music party on the beach. A plus: without a tent you can see the billions of stars visible in the island sky...

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Etiquette

Good luck refusing food

Madeline Blount

07 Jan 2010

Cyprus

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Madeline Blount

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In any gathering of more than two people in Cyprus, there is always food. Not just a box of crackers to share, but Mother's leftover lamb, Grandmother's preserved cherries, the corner bakery's chocolate cake or three. At one rehearsal meeting I remember taking more time to eat than to work. It's basically impossible to "just say no" -- refusal is met with forcing the plate a little closer. You'll be taking at least a bite of everything, so enjoy!

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Food

Pace yourself

Madeline Blount

21 Feb 2009

Cyprus

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Madeline Blount

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When people invite you to dinner in Cyprus, don't eat lunch. Seriously. The traditional Cypriot mezedes meal can include up to 30 dishes, of everything from fried cheese to salads and sandwiches to grilled and stuffed vegetables, meats, fish, pies, stews... and there's always dessert. Go out in a group if you can, drink wine, and enjoy little bits of everything! And if possible, go on an empty stomach. It really is a marathon, a delicious delicious marathon.

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Film

Go for the festivals

Madeline Blount

07 Jan 2010

Cyprus

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Madeline Blount

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There's not a big culture for cinema in Cyprus -- there are only a couple movie theaters per city, and most of them are the expensive big blockbuster-type showing American movies with subtitles a few months after they come out. For something different, check out the small film festivals on the island. There is an International Documentary Festival in spring in Nicosia where I saw Turkish and Greek movies with English subtitles, and in the North a special screening in another festival showed a Turkish movie that had just opened in Ankara. A little harder to find than just the local movie house, but worth it for a much more authentic Cypriot experience!

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Packing

Bring a sweater, to wear inside

Madeline Blount

07 Jan 2010

Cyprus

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Madeline Blount

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It's definitely hot in Cyprus most of the year, but in the winter at night I have been as cold in Cyprus as I have been anywhere in the world. It's been explained to me as a lack of central heating in most of the buildings -- in my apartment I had to put on sweaters and jackets and gloves and hover by a space heater! Not exactly your image of the Mediterranean, but a desert island reality. If you're going to be there anytime from November to February, make sure you bring a sweater for the night time, but you'll only need it inside. It stays warmer outside than in!

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Religion

Walk-in church services

Madeline Blount

07 Jan 2010

Cyprus

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Madeline Blount

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In the Turkish-speaking North of Cyprus, you can visit a mosque by taking off your shoes (women, they give you a headscarf) and walking in, except during prayer hours. In the Greek-speaking South of the island, you can walk into an Orthodox church, and it's expected that people will walk in any time during a service. You'll see whole families come in an hour after a service starts, kiss an icon right in front of the singing priest at the front of the church, and then walk out and leave again. Don't worry about walking in and walking out in the South, but don't interrupt a service in the North!

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Politics

Politics: approach with care

Madeline Blount

07 Jan 2010

Cyprus

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Madeline Blount

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Sometimes the political situation in Cyprus seems like what the island revolves around, and other times it seems like an issue that everyone deals with by ignoring it. When discussing the ongoing division and the situation with Turkey, be careful to remain sensitive to this volatile issue that most Cypriots feel strongly about -- remember that older people you meet probably lived through the war of 1974, and younger people grew up with their parents' stories about it. Also, be aware that you may always be viewed as an outsider when voicing your opinion. That said, everybody in Cyprus DOES have an opinion about Cyprus, and if you stay sensitive and scratch the surface of the issue, you're sure to get a long and interesting conversation.

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Music

Drinking, dancing, and brothel poetry

Madeline Blount

07 Jan 2010

Cyprus

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Madeline Blount

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There are many kinds of music to sample in Cyprus, from traditional goat-herder bagpipes to Turkish club music (impossible not to dance to). In the Greek-speaking South, don't miss a rembetiko club. Get some zivania or raki (local firewater), and listen to the live band play the bouzouki, a Greek string instrument, as they sing laments about the old hashish dens and the fallen women of Piraeus in Athens. If the crowd gets tipsy enough, people will circle around a glass of whiskey balanced on top of a whiskey bottle, trying to dance over it without spilling. The bluesy music will last until morning. Opa!

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Sports

How you vote is who you root for

Madeline Blount

07 Jan 2010

Cyprus

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Madeline Blount

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In Cyprus, devotion to a local football (soccer) team is not only based on location, but politics. There is a leftist, communist team (Omonia), a more right-wing, nationalist team (Apoel), and many smaller teams in between. When you see graffiti about one team or another (and there is plenty of this), it's a statement about more than support of a club. And when you're talking about the game, then, remember that you are talking politics!

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TV

TV: Free language lessons and a blast from the past

Madeline Blount

07 Jan 2010

Cyprus

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Madeline Blount

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American movies with Greek or Turkish subtitles are shown on multiple TV channels in Cyprus. I found reading the subtitles a great way to reinforce the language that you normally hear more than you read. Not to mention that this is a great way to catch up on some early-1970s movies that no one remembers.

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Fashion

Fashion: Divided (like everything else)...

Madeline Blount

07 Jan 2010

Cyprus

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Madeline Blount

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On either side of the island, there are two main fashion currents in Cyprus -- the formal chic, basically lots of black and bling, or the laid-back hippie, with harem pants, dreads, and tattoos. You'll see most Cypriots gravitating toward one of these two poles, but truly, anything goes.

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Dating

One on one?

Madeline Blount

07 Jan 2010

Cyprus

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Madeline Blount

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Both young men and young women in Cyprus tend to live at home until they are married, which can put a conservative spin on the dating scene on the island. Beyond this, most Cypriots tend to hang out en masse, going out in groups of friends rather than as couples. Coming into this as a foreigner makes it hard to meet people in any one-on-one situation -- though it can make it easier to find a cadre of friends.

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Health

Watch the cheese

Madeline Blount

07 Jan 2010

Cyprus

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Madeline Blount

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Cyprus is famous for halloumi cheese: It's white, slightly salty with a hint of mint, and firm enough to grill without melting. And it's served at every meal. Cypriots will eat halloumi for breakfast plain, grilled like a kebab in a pita for lunch, and grilled with some lemon juice for dinner. If you're not used to eating a lot (I mean, A LOT) of cheese, go easy, at least at first. Your digestive system will thank you for it.

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Slang

"Dude" is cool but not "dudette"

Madeline Blount

07 Jan 2010

Cyprus

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Madeline Blount

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In the Greek-speaking South, you will hear a word pronounced "ray" quite a lot. This means something like "dude," "guy," "man," "friend" -- and Cypriots use it for both girls and guys. Don't use "raw," the female equivalent (just like you wouldn't use "dudette"). it means something much less cool, more along the lines of "working girl."

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Nightlife

Party over dinner

Madeline Blount

07 Jan 2010

Cyprus

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Madeline Blount

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There are clubs in Cyprus, but the dance scene involves a lot of well-dressed people standing around against the wall. The real parties in Cyprus start over long dinners, sometimes with an age range of babies to grandparents, and buckets of flowing wine and stronger spirits (zivania in Greek, like raki in Turkish, is a magic clear firewater that you need only sips of). This meal won't get started until 9 p.m. The end of a dinner like this might get everyone dancing on the tables until morning, or the crowd could head to a music bar, where reggae and jazz accompany more alcohol. Skip the clubs; the real parties are elsewhere!

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Being an American

Get ready for some conspiracy theories

Madeline Blount

07 Jan 2010

Cyprus

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Madeline Blount

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The United States is one of the international players in the Cypriot conflict, as it is well understood in Cyprus that the United States (the CIA) backed the military coup in Greece in the 1970s. Most Cypriots hold a negative evil-empire image of the United States, ranging from unfavorable skepticism to conspiracy theory. This idea of United States is not without its inconsistencies: You might be having a conversation about the U.S. government keeping the island divided to maintain control of a strategic surveillance base in the Middle East (and really, who knows) -- but you will probably be having this conversation in a well-populated Starbucks. Down with America, but let's go to T.G.I Friday's!

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