"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage." -Lao Tzu
Time for a holiday! Travel is full of amazing experiences, beautiful places, and unforgettable people- but don't let the superlatives fool you, travelling is no vacation. Constantly adapting to new everything and never knowing what's going to happen next, but being prepared for anything, can become emotionally and physically draining. Stability is a word that has almost been completely erased from my vocabulary. This is the reality of travel that doesn't always translate into my blog posts of photos, but never the less still exists and keeps me grounded. So after 3.5 months it was time for a true vacation and a taste of home.
But first, we interrupt this program to bring you a special news bulletin: Expect the unexpected (Thanks Dad). At some point during my time in Damascus I ate or drank something that my stomach strongly felt I shouldn't have. I made it to Larnaca (via Beirut), but then things went downhill fast. To complicate matters further, I realized after much "sightseeing" that the hotel we had booked into for the next 4 days was at least 10km out of the city in a tiny village, and there were no reliable bus routes. Great. I managed to get there with some and a taxi, but decided it wasn't going to be convenient, and only stayed one night. The next day I moved into the city to another hotel I had stumbled across the day before. This was not a prime time to be sick. The new hotel was perfect though, and the lady at the reception was so kind, going out of her way to help me in anyway she could. She even drove me to the airport to meet my mother.
Larnaca Airport is small and easy to navigate, but when I arrived it seemed big and complicated as I shuffled around from desk to desk trying to figure out what had happened in London to cancel all the flights arriving from Heathrow. The answer- snow. No one could predict when things would get moving again either. Of course it was Sunday, so none of the internet cafes were open to try an email Mom. This seemed like a catastrophe when I wasn't thinking clearly because I hadn't had food in my stomach for about a week at this point, with a side of dehydration thrown in for good measure. Thankfully there was 12euro an hour internet available at the airport so I could try to sort out what would happen. The news: Mom had been stopped in Toronto because of the cancellations and after a harrowing airport adventure, she had gotten the last seat on a connecting flight through Vienna, Austria. She would be arriving the next afternoon. "Ok. I can't wait 'till then," were my only thoughts, "I need to go to the hospital."
I had never been to a foreign hospital before, so I was hoping that I would get seen, and sure enough I had no problems except the 2h wait because the hospital I had gone to was the only one operating in the city that day since it was Sunday. The crazy Greek lady screaming in the room next to me just added to the ambiance. Some blood tests and 2 IV drips later, I was diagnosed with "probably Salmonella," and given a perscription for some powders. The IV really did the most, giving me a much needed boost.
So it was back to the airport the next day, and finally Mom arrived. There were tears and big hugs. We were both so glad to see eachother that everything else seemed to stop mattering. At dinner we swapped stories and didn't stop smiling all night. I had my Mom there and that was the best gift anyone could have given me for the holidays.
The city of Larnaca is small and centred around a beachfront strip that came alive at night. Cyprus itself is part of the European Union and feels very Western European. There are also a lot of Brits there, some living, many on vacation. It's kind of like Florida to Canadians if that analogy helps at all. Our next stop was Pafos, or so we thought. Somehow the address had gotten mangled and we ended up in Polis (which is in the regioon of Pafos, rather than Pafos itself. In the end we were very happy about the mix up and loved our time in Polis over Christmas. The hotel was beautiful with a double leveled pool and tropical flowers everywhere. The best part though, was the owner who would bring us Christmas treats almost daily! He was kind and just so pleased that we would be spending Christmas there. Typical Cypriot hospitality. On day 2 in Polis it was back to the hospital for me as I still wasn't doing any better. Not ideal shape for a lovely vacation in the sun. This time I was told to take more over-the-counter meds and to eat strictly plain rice and water for 3 days. That might treat the symptoms, but is anything going to cure the Salmonella? Thanks to an email home, and 2 great Manitoulin doctors I was told to take another medication that I had luckily brought with me, as it was the best treatment for Salmonella. Within days I was feeling better and could eat normal foods- but my birthday dinner was pretty bland (Rice, apple juice, poached egg and lunch meat).
In Polis we walked around the small town and lay by the pool. We felt part Australian being able to spend Christmas day on the beach getting a suntan in the 25C weather. Anyone jealous? Christmas itself was a treat as Mom and I exchanged small gifts and I marvelled at her creativity at sticking monopoly money in my cards from anyone who sent me money for Christmas. The cards were as much of a treat as all the messages on Facebook and via email, always are. I got to unpack the various little Christmas ornaments that I had been hoarding since Belgium, that Mom had tasked me with collecting. We had a Christmas table rimmed with ornaments and even a Manitoulin Christmas tree on top (check out the Facebook photos if you're a little confused). It was a Canadian Christmas transplanted to Cyprus.
So feeling much better we moved on to the actual city of Pafos, changing our plans a bit. Pafos is like a mini version of the French Riveria, mixed with a budding Cancun-esque resort scene. Everything glittered as we walked along the seafront in the evenings. Spending 3 days there we got to visit an archeological site with ancient Greek ruins and mosaic masterpieces made out of tiny painted tiles that were thousands of years old. Bustling Pafos also provided us with plenty of opportunitis to shop for trinkets and other things here and there which inevitably got sent back with Mom.
Heading back to Larnaca was bittersweet, knowing that our time together in Cyprus was ending. We would have to say goodbye to the warm sunny, weather, fruit trees on every corner, but most painful of all, eachother. Mom was flying out 1 day before me (on New Year's Eve) and going to the airport was tough. But I think only after we said goodbye did we both truly realize how sad we were. My Mom is may friends as well as my mother, and after being taken care of for 10 days, I was going back to doing everything on my own again. I knew long ago that this goodbye would be hard, but I had never imagined that it would be that hard.
Despite missing my mother I was determined to celebrate New Year's Eve in Cyprus to the fullest, and I did! I found a bar that seemed pretty quiet at the time, but soon was commandeered by a couple of companies of young British soldiers stationed at a base just outside of the city. We got along so well that we decided to celebrate not 1, not 2, but 7 different New Year's Eves! Cyprus time was the first at midnight, followed by England at 2am, then I got the idea to wish all my friends and family a Happy New Year back in Canada at 7am... but wait Canada is so big that we have lots of time zones, and the end goal was to make it all the way to my future home of Vancouver at 10am. By that point we were eating breakfast and enjoying the hot sunshine. Who needs sleep? Happy New Year's!
So January 1st I packed, checked out and wrote postcards all day before my 10pm flight back to Beirut. I even (very seriously) considered staying in Cyprus to work at the bar for the next 3 weeks, but turned it down. It was a tough decision though, and required the phone-a-friend lifeline, and dragging them out of their own post New Year's Eve stupor for advice, for which I am very grateful. When I went to the airport I was upgraded to 1st class, sop I think something was trying to tell me that I had made the right decision.
Cyprus was a wonderful experience and holiday. It was a welcome break to out leisurely strolling, looking for adventures, rather than feeling like they're going to run you over on a daily basis. I couldn't have asked for a better Christmas, and in the end I found myself wanting to fly home with Mom. Talking to friends from home and abroad reminded me that I have a whole group of people that believe in what I'm doing, just as much as I do. That is some of the best inspiration I could ever hope for. So thank you to everyone who keeps reading this blog and following my adventures.
I wish everyone all the best that 2011 has to offer, and as always there are new photos on Facebook to go along with this post (the link isn't active so you'll have to copy and paste this one, sorry guys):
If they're not up when you read this, they will be within a few days, when I find a better internet connection :)