Cyprus reflections: relating to objects

The trip to Cyprus was long and adventurous enough to prompt all kinds of thoughts. But before I start describing specific places visited, I am planning to write a few posts on general observations from both sides, the North and the South. One of the observations I made during the trip is about how people relate to where their stuff comes from. I thought this relationship was more direct and genuine than I’ve seen in most of my travels. In Cyprus one is rarely too far from the source of things.

Take hot running water. It became an issue when traveling in Cyprus during the coldest January in four years (according to locals). Like in several other Mediterranean countries, hot water comes from rooftop heaters, which utilize sun energy. In winter they have to supplement it with electric power. So heating water for shower takes from 20 minutes to an hour, and it is only done for showers. Brushing teeth or washing dishes in warm water is out of the question. Growing up, I was used to thinking that warm running water is a basic element of civilization. True, some people in the world didn′t have it, but they will once civilization reaches their homes.

As for showering in Cyprus, hot water in showers did not feel sufficient. As soon as it was off, there was again time to freeze. Some of our CS hosts had ACs to use for heating, some used gas heaters. One is never too far from the realization that to keep you warm, something needs to burn (not a fire, but still). As soon as the burning stops, it′s freezing again. Warmth in winter is not something that comes with an average house.

I′m sure many have read the horror stories of today’s kids who think that meat grows in a supermarket. This is indeed shameful. In Cyprus, there are still quite a number of butcher shops. In general, we saw plenty of small businesses and artisan workshops, specializing in fruit sales, carpentry, etc. Some of the woodwork or metalwork businesses had opened their doors to the street, and we could observe workers fixing or assembling things. It made me remember a debate about giving staff a round of applause on Ryanair flights. Middle-class Lithuanians feel ashamed to see their co-nationals do that. There have been several op-eds in mainstream media mocking this habit. Yet I somewhat appreciate that these flyers do not consider workers to be basic infrastructure, which must work like a clock. They keep in mind that they landed smoothly because someone worked hard for it, and these workers deserve applause. There is an ethical risk in forgetting where things and services come from.

Cyprus is rich in food. Its lush green landscape is good for citrus trees and various vegetables, and the bright blue sea around the island is full of fish. Many fruits and vegetables seem to be local rather than imported. Like in Israel, people are aware of seasons I think there is a great deal of social value not being too far from your sources of food and seeing how food grows. Still, international trade and WTO obligations created a situation where local producers cannot withstand competition and, according to a person who gave us a lift between Limassol and Larnaca, Cyprus is now importing olive oil and wine. From Greece. Because it’s cheaper there. Still, it’s depressing to go back to Lithuania, where shops and restaurants serve the same defrosted fish from Southeast Asia with the same green peas from hell knows where all year round.

Several things seemed village-like even in cities. People in Cyprus seemed to be very relaxed around animals – animals could come and go, they did not have to be soft toys without nails, germs and character to get love. We saw many stray dogs and cats, but particularly in Girne (North Cyprus) the dogs were marked, and nearly all street animals looked healthy. But it seemed that even when people partly adopted animals, they did not spay or neuter them. Various restaurants seemed to have adopted a street animal and gave them food. One of our CS hosts had two cats living partly with him, partly on the streets. And each church or mosque had some 10-20 cats living in the vicinity.

Half-domesticated cat next to its favorite cafe [click on the image to enlarge it]

Half-domesticated cat next to its favorite cafe [click on the image to enlarge it]

So I had an impression that cats and dogs just live and breed, and if people like one of them, they take it. I guess pet shops exist, but I never spotted one. In Lithuania there are plenty.

People in Cyprus surely take advantage of cross-border circulation of things, brands and services. Yet they also seem to keep their eyes open to what they can find on the island. Perhaps except lemons and oranges – people seem to eat only those that come from specialized farms, while the cities are full of them growing everywhere.

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