Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Our housemaid Myrna, is one of many Filipino women that leave the Philippines in order to ensure economic survival for their families back home.  The type of sacrifice this entails, leaving behind in Myrna's case, two children aged between 8 and 12 to be raised by her sister and mother, is almost too huge to imagine.  But the 150-200 euros Myrna sends home to her family means that her two children can not only survive from day-to-day, they are also able to gain an education. Without these wages, Myrna tells me, even affording nutritious food can be an issue.  Myrna is incredibly well looked after here, very much a part of the family, but other Filipinas within Cypriot communities are not so lucky.  This kind of transnational cheap labour is globally systematic and there have been numerous case studies that I have read outlining the types of abuse that, particularly women in domestic service, face. Coming from NZ where this type of house-help is not immediately visible, (although one can draw parallels to the low-paid work of many Polynesian women in the healthcare and service industries), this type of underclass based on power, economics, ethnicity and gender makes me extremely uncomfortable.   I wonder what support there is out there for women who find themselves in unbearable employment? There are apparently women here whose employers refuse to feed them or buy them rice, others are verbally abused and generally treated badly.  Having live-in Filipino workers in considered part of the normal running of the house for middle-class Cypriots.   The woman across the road has two. 

On a lighter note, Myrna and I went to the mall today for coffee and shopping. We are going to go to a disco together as well when Emily gets here.  She doesn't want to take me to her local one as the Bengali and Pakistani men trespass lines of appropriate modesty.  In other words, too much "dirty dancing" - not good. All things considered, Myrna has landed within the most supportive and loving family you can get as employers.  She is much loved.  But god, i worry about the other women in the service community here...

A joy to behold

This is one of the rarest cheeses in the world.  And looking closely at it, this makes perfect sense.  Apparently the strength of its flavour requires it to be eaten with honey.  This particular gorgeous little (Spanish) creature is around 3 years old.  I had to post a picture as finding it was akin to looking at a train-wreck.  Who eats this stuff?  It has more things growing in it then a kindergarten!  Found in a little local Italian deli here in Nicosia (where Shannon, Emily and I are booked to go for a cooking lesson next week).  

Sunday, April 26, 2009

sunday drive...

Hey international community!  Here is where Cypriots keep all their ammunition!  This is a hollow hill! All their weaponry for making warfare lies here!  Middle of the island! 

And in other news, this is wild lavender. Plucked from the roadside. It smells like honey and lavender warmed together. The blossoms are a much sharper colour than the lavender we grow at home. We had driven into the centre of the island to my uncle's cousin's orchard for lunch.  His cousin grows kumquats, olives and pomegranates and keeps chickens and pigeons for eating.  Lunch was spring lamb and pigeon slow roasted on an outdoor spit, with salad and baked potatoes, finished with a salty, mature halloumi cheese.  I discovered "lizard hill", a mound beneath an old olive that was harbouring a collection of grubby, yet sweet, striped lizards. 

You all right back in Kiwiland? I'm dismayed to think the Mexican swine virus may have set foot upon our soil! 

Picturesque old town

Postscript: Greek men like to take slow, lingering looks at women.  I find it increasingly offensive but not sure how to react.  I want to shake my fist at them and tell them in fluent Greek to "show some respect!"  Of course no reaction is probably the best course to take, but still, it means that they remain unaware of how discomforting it makes us feel.  Well me anyway.  Really, I'm not being prudish... and it's often the old codgers who are probably married!  Just be more SUBTLE - ok? 

Can you see?

Divided city.  Can you see the Turkish flag marked into the Northern mountains that overlook the city? The Cypriot Greeks have to see that every day and too, at night when the flag is lit up like the stars.  On the right hand side of the picture below, you can see a 500 year old gothic cathedral on the Turkish side, now made into a mosque. None of this is new of course, important spiritual and powerful places have always been co-opted by new powers. The best example of this I've seen is in Mexico City, where Spanish cathedrals sit over Aztec temples.  The heart of that city is being excitingly excavated so that sacrificial alters are rising back up from the earth to claim a place among the living once again. 

I took the picture below illegally through a gap in the fence. I walked the passage through the thin strip of buffer zone that separates the two sides of the old town. I didn't have my passport on me so I couldn't cross.  Peering through the fence I saw deserted, decaying streets that were eerily still. Yes, even haunting.  The buildings are mostly ruined and barbed wire tracks a route over balconies and fence lines. I'm wondering if the Turkish side of the old town mirrors the Cypriot side.  Are there Turkish topshops and pizza places? Probably. Memorials to the dead and missing? I guess I'll find out when I cross in a few days time. 

Saturday, April 25, 2009

I love it when...

...the afternoon sun slips down behind the horizon turning my bedroom noir.

approaching storm

This is my backyard in Nicosia.  It's a ramble of empty back lots, construction, silent homes and general isolation and quiet.  It's great. What a place to think huh? The eeriest sound is when the ice cream man plays his forlorn song from several streets away, setting the crows a-cawing.  I think of all the children not running towards the van. But they are here, I see evidence of them -brightly coloured plastic play-swings and the odd pirate flag. I'm happy because I feel like I'm living in a 1980s Spielberg film (poltergeist, the goonies, stand by me, ET), full of earnest self-discovery and bike rides through hopeful new suburban developments. After the thunder passes these black skies bring much needed rain for all of 5 minutes.  The light remains golden throughout and the swallows continue to pool-swoop. 

I'm listening to M83 - "Kim and Jessie" 

Friday, April 24, 2009

ANZAC DAY, buffer zone, Nicosia.

We attended the ANZAC day service held in the buffer zone between Cyprus and the Turkish occupied North.  This involved being transported by UN vehicles, from the UN headquarters,  into this no-go zone.  On three sides of the field was Turkish occupied land.  I could make out the silhouettes of Turkish soldiers patrolling the tops of vacant buildings and across the surrounding fields.  Their voices, calling out their positions, could be just made out on the dawn breeze.  At the start of the ceremony we were advised where to go if an "incident" should take place - luckily this buffer zone has been fairly peaceful in the last few years due to greater communication and Turkey's aim to become part of the EU.  

Somewhat paradoxically, a particularly lovely message was read out by the military priest during the ceremony.  It was a message from Turkey to the mothers of Allied dead buried on Turkish land.  The main gist was: "your sons are buried on friendly shores" a message i found gracious and generous considering we were a foreign force intent on invading and taking the lives of their sons. 

People attending the ceremony included UN soldiers from the Netherlands, Hungary, Italy, Australia, Great Britain and the Balkans, officials representing Australia and New Zealand and a pattering of civilians associated with UN forces on the island. Shannon and I were the only Kiwis present, but represent we did.   

The one New Zealander buried here. 

We were surrounded on three sides by Turkish occupied territory, including watch towers and guards. 

The Turkish soldiers standing on the left hand side of the roof kept careful watch. 


not so empty meeting grounds

“In the establishment of modern society, the individual act of sightseeing is probably less important than the ceremonial ratification of authentic attractions as objects of ultimate value, a ratification at once caused by and resulting in a gathering of tourists around an attraction and measurable to a certain degree by the time and distance the tourists travel to reach it. The actual act of communion between the tourist and attraction is less important than the image or the idea of society that that the collective act generates. The image of the Statue of Liberty or the Liberty Bell that is the product of visits to them is more enduring than any specific visit, although, of course, the visit is indispensable to the image. A specific act of sightseeing is, in itself, weightless and, at the same time, the ultimate reason for the orderly representation of the social structure of modern society in the system of attractions.”
Dean MacCannell, The Tourist (1976)

(Post modern theorist Dean MacCannell (1992) sees tourism as a process whereby people search for the authentic in a modern world where authenticity has ceased to exist.  The world to be explored becomes a world to be collected, consumed and objectified through photography, stories, postcards and artefacts.)  Actually this post is just an excuse to post pictures of "one thousand roses", a Chilean woman we met on the cruise, touring with her husband.  She comes from Antofagasta, a town where it rains once every ten years. I loved her green eyeliner and wide-eyed stare. Her husband Fernando was also very lovely and we still stay in touch from one hot place to another.  

Thursday, April 23, 2009


ALMIGHTY SKODA - JUST LIKE THE ONE I HAD!  This was far more intriguing and beautiful then the church behind.  The mind boggles.  It's still running.  It's living on a Greek Island.  It still smells like SKODA!

This is a tanker ship boneyard.  Where big tankers go when recessions hit.  Mighty surreal.