Can you guess where I am now from this proverb? I used Google Translate to understand this engraving I saw. Clearly a place of great age and wisdom. It’s a country that makes the old buildings of France look like a pink, newborn baby in comparison. The first evidence of people in this place dates back to 10,000 BC and water wells dating back to 10,000 years ago. It is the island of Cyprus.
In Nice, I said au revoir to Sonia. She was headed to Paris and home, and I was en route to this Mediterranean island to visit my childhood friend’s brother’s wife’s sister and her husband. It was a tenuous connection which made the invite all the more special in my mind. The kindness of strangers or near strangers never ceases to amaze me. Especially when they offer to pick you up at the airport at midnight. I wouldn’t even do that for my mom, never mind someone I didn’t know. Just kidding, Mom. And people I don’t know yet.
Landing in the dark in a place you’ve never been is always a little disorienting. I was grateful that Alyssa had come to pick me up since it was well after dark, I was pooped from a long day of travel, I didn’t know where I was going, and they drive on the left side of the road in Cyprus. At the door of the house we were greeted by Alyssa’s husband Brad, their dog Rusty, and two rambunctious foster puppies. I went to bed that night uncertain about where exactly I was or what my surroundings looked like, but feeling warmly welcomed.
Alyssa and Brad were the most gracious hosts. They put their daily routine on hold for the next several days to walk me through their little ocean side village called Pissouri, take me to the grocery store to hunt for gluten-free bread, drive me around to the nearby towns to visit the marinas, ruins, and an old castle, and generally help me get my bearings. We ran errands and met the neighbors. They were so, so kind.
When abroad, I find some of the most enjoyable activities to be things that would be considered a chore at home. Going to the post office is an adventure when you don’t speak the language, they have exotic looking stamps, and rules that everyone else but you seems to know. I could spend hours in a grocery store looking at the Greek writing on the labels and wondering what carob syrup and rose-water is used for.
Probably the thing that struck me most immediately are the antiquities and how they are no big deal here. You may have to pay a small fee to enter a historical site, but once you’ve paid your couple Euros, things are not roped off or monitored meaning you can touch them, climb up for a better look, or as some unfortunates have chosen to do, scratch your initials in them. You may very well also be the only person there. If there were so much as a stone with human markings as old as these at home, it would be roped off, in a clear, bullet proof case in a museum with a spot light on it and a guard giving you the suspicious eye lest you approach too close. It is a much more engaging experience to be out under the beating sun, limestone pebbles, brilliant and white, clinking as you walk, to reach out and feel the rough of the stones, and the engravings with the pad of your finger, to imagine someone 7,000 years ago writing with a chisel, what you are touching right now.
Whether or not you enjoy history, it would be difficult not to be impressed by the history here and how close up and personal it is. It makes it interesting to get to stand in it.