By Air and by Sea

Alyssa and Brad have a neighbor named Frank.  A British ex-pat who prefers the sun and heat of Cyprus to the rain and fog of England.  He is a pilot and agreed to take me up for a spin one day.  I have flown in planes of all shapes and sizes for many, many years, but nonetheless, still suffer motion sickness.  I’m not afraid of the planes, I just get queasy when there’s turbulence, which there always is, in a tiny plane.  It’s a source of embarrassment to me so I never mention it if I can help it.  It feels like a character flaw or a defect in my person.  Despite this, I would never say no if given the opportunity to fly.  It’s such a treat to see things from the air.  I figure it’s just the cost for me.  Like eating chocolate croissants in France even though I’m gluten intolerant.  There is a cost.  So I eat them anyway and stay near a bathroom.  It’s worth the cost, some things.

Other things, like star fruit come at no cost!  Ok, except a couple Euros a kilo.

Early one morning, Frank scooped me up and we meandered the country roads out to the flying club.  We signed in and Frank introduced me to “India Romeo” so-called after the last letters on her tail.  I would have called her “La Abeja” or the bumblebee since she was bright yellow and goes buzzing through the sky.  He apologized for obsessively checking and double checking all the points on the checklist as we got ready for takeoff, but I assured him I found OCD to be a desirable quality in a pilot.  Checklist double checked, nose into the wind, the hiss and crackle of radio air control, and we were off!

We first headed out to sea to see if we could spot turtles.  It’s funny how much more lax the “rules” are in Cyprus.  I guess that’s no big deal when there’s no one else on the run way or in the sky.  We did aim high once, to avoid a flock of birds.  We dropped lower and closer to the water to get a better look.  The only problem that might arise is that if we got too low, we’d fall off the radar and air traffic control might think we’d fallen into the ocean, then they’d have to send a boat out to look, and there would be the inevitable paper work, and nobody wants paperwork.  We did see a few turtles and also the remains of old Roman ports.  Very cool.  You can’t see that stuff from the beach.

See the shapes just under the water?  Those were ancient Roman ports.

Then we turned inland and headed for the mountains.  The interior of Cyprus is very different from the coast.  It’s wooded and cool and mountainous.  There are even waterfalls which seems impossible in the heat and dust of the coast.  Most of the villages have been abandoned as people have left for the cities of the coast, looking for work.  Not many people are interested in subsistence agriculture these days.  As we swooped and spun and banked to circle around the little hilltop villages, it amazed me to see not a person, not a car, and yet, the villages looked like perfect little Mr. Roger’s neighborhood models, at least from the sky.  My stomach was also starting to feel amazed.  My palms started to sweat and my mouth went dry.  Uh oh.  I fingered the plastic bag I had secreted away in my pocket, just in case.  I longed to see more, but had to fess up that the banking and swooping was starting to have an effect as was the turbulent mountain air.  Frank was immediately straightened the plane out and headed back to the runway.  I was grateful he wasn’t the sort of person to think it funny to try to make it worse…

Terracing in the foothills that was hand-made by ancient people for agriculture.  Incredible.

Another day, I decided to drive to a different part of the island and do a boat trip to “The Blue Lagoon”.  The fear of driving on the left side of the road was overcome by the desire to spend a day on a boat and swim in the crystal clear Mediterranean.  The boat and the water were all I had hoped for.  Upon disembarking I decided to have a bite before driving back to the house.  When in Cyprus (Like in France), when you sit down at a table in a restaurant, it is yours until YOU decide to leave.  In the U.S., if you aren’t continuing to order food (and spend money) the staff will start to pester you, coming to your table more and more frequently until you get the message that you are to leave, so they can seat someone else (and make more money).  In Cyprus (and in France) you can sit all day and all night and no one will ever bother you.  But in order to leave, that means you have to ask for the bill.  This particular day I had asked for the bill 3 times.  The sun had shifted and I was now in its path and I was starting to get overheated and grumpy.  I asked a different waiter, a fourth time, for my bill.  It came, I paid and left, somewhat annoyed.  The road back home was a narrow, winding mountain pass.  I came around a blind corner and had to hit the brakes hard.  An accident had just happened.  Two cars, speeding in opposite direction had a head on collision.  They were both smashed to bits, flattened, pieces of metal flung far, glinting in the sun, a panicked girl running up the side of the road.  The thought occurred, “What if the waiter had brought my bill the first time I had asked?”  I sent out a little prayer for the safety of those in the car and a little prayer of gratitude that I can come a few minutes later…

The Blue Lagoon


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