This post was (mostly) written a few weeks ago, but we got a little sidetracked with some very important educational pursuits: scuba diving, sailing, and surfing (poor us). These are some reflections on our three weeks in Cyprus, being with extended family for the first time in six months, and a handful of photos so you’ll feel like you were there.
We are gaining altitude. I can feel it in my ears – tympanic membranes stretching with the pressure differential. Our Airbus A320 is ascending its great blue arc, en route to the United Arab Emirates where we will board another big metal bird to Sri Lanka.
I have a thing for dystopian novels. There is a good one called Station Eleven where the survivors of humanity’s apocalypse eventually hole up in an airport. After a few years they gaze upon the silent hulking masses of the grounded planes with awe and disbelief. Did they really fly? How was it possible?
And here we are on our ninth airplane in five months. The web of infrastructure and technology that permits our nomadic lifestyle is perhaps more delicate than we appreciate. But the sense of wonder at take off and faint relief upon landing has not faded.
We arrived at Cyprus in the usual way – another one of those impossible flying machines. But Cyprus was a different kind of destination for us. It was a meeting place, a compromise. Lindsay’s family – her parents and her sister’s six-person family – wanted to fly out to be with us for Christmas. An incredible gift, but one that required a few compromises: location, climate, not too foreign and, of course, accommodations that could fit all fourteen of us.
Cyprus, which is an island in the Mediterranean south of Greece and Turkey, fit the bill. An easy flight from London, England, temperate weather, familiar culture (due to the large population of British ex-pats there), and a big seven bedroom house with a pool. Just big enough to fit six adults and eight boys under the age of thirteen – if such a house exists.
After so many months apart, we spent our days the only way that made sense – together. The giant kitchen table was the scene of homeschooling struggles (by parents as much as children), massive feasts, and epic card games. The living room area saw the completion of numerous puzzles, multiple movie nights, and Lindsay’s mom, Colleen, slowly convalescing from a nasty case of bronchitis on the loveseat off to the side . Downstairs, the water level in the pool dropped visibly after the splashy shenanigans of the cousins, the billiards table and its wonky cues saw plenty of action, and the source of a malodorous mystery smell eluded us right til the very end.
Our rental cars could barely make it up the hill to our house. If you got too many groceries – and we went through a ton – you had to be in first gear to stand a chance of maintaining forward momentum. The situation was made worse by the fact that halfway up, the pavement ended and the surface became a loose matrix of gravel, stones and criss-crossing gulleys. But what we gave up in automotive ease we gained elsewhere. One side of the house offered panoramic vistas of the coast of Cyprus and the shimmering Mediterranean Sea. The other side was Cyprus wilderness – Pikni Forest.
Accessing this wilderness right from our front door, we would pick our way between thorn bushes – tracking wild goats, finding rows of bee hives, and exploring all kinds of cliffs and caves. It was the perfect place for the boys to learn some photography skills with a few second hand digital cameras generously donated by friends and family.
Cyprus is a dry, rocky island and its stone has been used for thousands of years. One of our favourite memories of those weeks was taking Lindsay’s dad, Leo, to the Paphos Archeological Park and the “King’s Tombs” – both of which are ancient Hellenistic and Roman ruins. Not having traveled much, his awe and fascination rivaled the kids’. Leo is a builder – he taught me almost everything I know – so to see such engineering and craftsmanship from so long ago had a huge impact on him. I wonder if he will want to travel more now that he is retiring . . .
We didn’t have a turkey to stuff on Christmas Day, so we stuffed the house instead – with more people. Turned out our friends, the Johnsons – another traveling family we met in Sicily – were staying just a short drive away, so we invited them over. The kid count and decibel level reached record levels that day as we all reveled in the novelty of Christmas in Cyprus. Hard to forget how we packed that huge table with hyper kids, happy adults, and heaps of delicious food.
Then it was over
Alas, the festivities could not last. The house emptied as quickly as it filled. On the fifth of January we awoke to find ourselves alone – everyone else had left for an early flight. For the first time our “big family” felt really small.
What does it take to get a 70 000kg chunk of aluminum and 150 passengers 30 000 feet in the air? Research, engineering, technology, regulations . . . the list goes on and on, but one thing is clear: every flight you see overhead is only possible because of the coordinated efforts of a community. Similarly, our traveling lifestyle is only possible because we can build upon the support we get from our friends, family, and community.
You might think that fourteen people living in one house for three weeks would fray a few nerves. And you’d be right – different schedules, parenting styles, mess-tolerance, etc. But the truth is that there is probably no other group of people we could have spent that amount of time with and pulled it off. We are so fortunate to have family who care enough to travel thousands of miles to see us. Those relationships aren’t always easy but we’d be lost without them.