Monday, December 22, 2008

Solstice celebrations too

Next day (Sun 21st), we greeted the sun, opened presents, and went to the harbour. Cara & Sam took bamboo sticks and made fishing rods (with no intention of catching anything of course), while Sean & Ronan got wet again.

Cara & Sam found some dead fish, and we saw a big octopus moving around under a boat in the harbour (yeeeeucchh!) before hunger drove us home for a Solstice Feast, enhanced by Sam's napkin-on-fire stunt.
We finished the day off with a chocolates treasure hunt in the dark followed by a movie, where we almost managed to eat all the chocolates!

Solstice celebrations

A beach fire seemed like a great way to mark the Winter Solstice this year, so off we went with a box full of snacks to toast on the flames.

We scrambled over quite a lot of rocks to get to this deserted little spot, where we watched the sunset and got very sticky with scorched, gooey marshmallows as our fire danced against the rocks.

No moon meant that by the time we left at 6.30, it was very dark! Hmmm... faced with the choice of 100m of clambering over all those rocks again with picnic box, 2 fishing rods and 3 children or going up the short, steep ascent to the track above, we decided to take the latter option. Sean & I took the stuff up top first, leaving the kids on the beach, clinging together for safety from the giant monster squid that was sure to slither out of the sea and grab them!

We did go back for them, and they did brilliantly well scrambling up the slope, feeling their way on hands and feet. At the top, it was declared that this evening (the first part of our Solstice celebrations) had been a Grand Adventure!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Water, water everywhere, but not in our house!

My new home education system is in place! We worked on reading, writing, music and maths skills after breakfast then threw some food, the wetsuits, the inflatable boat and spades into the car and went to Faros Beach at Pervolia, for er... outdoor education, yes that's it! The kids played in the boat, rowing like mad against the wind and waves (physics), swam in the sea (physical education) and drew pictures of horses and dinosaurs in the sand (art).
We got home windswept and salty, but alas! no water coming out of the taps in the house! So the older two got in the very cold pool to rinse off the salt water (is chlorinated water any better?) and Sam got a quick rinse in the bath with some warmed bottled water. I went to make them some hot chocolate to warm up, but alas! no milk in the fridge. Sigh.....
The water came back on for 2 hours late afternoon then went off again. It wasn't enough to fill our tanks, so there's only a dribble coming out of the taps. Fingers crossed for the morning...!!!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Playing with the moon

We've been really enjoying watching the moon and tonight it is FULL. Cara & I couldn't resist to try to take some photos of it because it looked so large and yellow against the pink of the sky as the sun set behind us. The pictures don't do it justice at all.
Cara plucks the moon from the sky.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sun Up, Sun Down and One to One

Sunrise is about 6.40am

Sunset is about 4.35pm

We have started a little habit of evening walks with each of the kids. Simply walking along the road in the dark, chatting and looking at the stars for 20 minutes or so with each of them in turn. They really value one to one time. It's amazing what comes out in conversation during these short strolls. I don't say much - one mouth and two ears surely means listen twice as much as you speak?

Other uses for climbing equipment!

I did wonder what was going on when Cara (8) and Sam (5) went off into the field across the road with a bunch of Sean's climbing equipment. Soon, I responded to yells of 'look what we did' and found one of the garden chairs swinging from an olive tree competently suspended by slings and karabiners. Sam is even wearing a helmet!! This is a lovely old tree, with lots of hidey holes for lizards.

Balance and Creativity

3rd December 2008:
Cloudy day, perfect for a long cycle. We went to Mazotos beach and found a lovely little spot where some travellers had created stacks of balanced stones and a driftwood swing. We added some 'standing stones' to the collection, and a thank you note (charcoal on a white stone).

We also found some soft sandstone rock down there, enclustered with shells of all shapes and sizes. Cara (8) was determined to dig out some surface ones with the penknife!

Home Education and School for the Barefoot kids.

28 November 2008:
I'm feeling the pain of no routine right now, but we just can't seem to get into the swing of home education again. I was wondering whether the kids would be better off at school. Then a strange thing happened. I heard that there were Greek lessons for kids in a nearby village, paid for by the government, and run by the local teacher in after school hours. My 3 were keen, so we decided to check them out.

I also sat in on the lesson which was 1 hour and 15 minutes long. The first 30-40 minutes went well, then I noticed that Cara (8) had kind of glazed over, was yawning and not paying any attention. Another 5 minutes and Ronan (10) was doing the same, looking at his watch, and fidgeting around. Sam was doing his own thing, drawing on his bit of paper, so he was quite happy. I was suddenly transported back in time to my own school days, attending but non attentive. Watching Cara was like looking in a time travel mirror, the glazed, 'wish I was somewhere else, but I know I've got to sit here' look on her face. It was really interesting to watch them, and REMEMBER how many hours I spent in a class, wishing, wishing, I was somewhere else, only a tiny portion of my awareness in the classroom (just enough to keep me out of trouble!!).

So, a timely reminder really. Home education isn't perfect, not by a long shot. But, for us, it's definately preferable to the classroom alternative. It's something about freedom... freedom to choose to do something else, freedom to decide how to spend a day, freedom to think about whatever you want, whenever you want.

Phew. The school experience has also given me a metaphoric kick in the butt to organise our day more efficiently, and prepare learning material for the kids. A new system!! (yep, another one, but hey, I'm enjoying the freedom of changing my mind too!!).

Spot the Difference competition

Ronan (10) just can't stay out of the water. The name 'Ronan' means 'little seal', so today I sent him an email challenging him to a Spot the Difference competition.

The kids have now all got email accounts and they just love getting stuff in the mail. I try to send them a silly picture or joke every now and then. I love receiving their replies too!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Boxes arrive!

18 November 2008:
Our boxes have arrived! They came over land in a lorry. Most of the stuff is in good condition, but our PC didn't make it (dead). The kids had great fun re-connecting with their toys after a month, and Sean was happy to have his hammock to sling up under the balcony (no palm trees in our garden). NOW we're in Cyprus!

Something funny has been going on however. The kids have been squabbling and I've been feeling restless and edgy. Then I realised that we've been here for a month, and whenever we've moved, we find that everything seems fine for a month or so (honeymoon period), then the adjustment starts to kick in. We all took a homeopathic remedy (tuberculinum) and after a few days things settled again.

I guess this is really quite a big upheaval for us all. Lots of new things to get used to, and in a different language too. Many Cypriots speak a bit of English, but we've also been using sign language at times! We have a few Greek phrases now, and are learning as we go.

Cars and bikes and cost of living

Mid November 2008:
We've been looking at cars (our hire car goes back next week), and bicycles for the family. We knew cars were relatively expensive here, but didn't realise that everything else is too!! Bikes, food, clothes, utility bills, ice cream, electrical items, chocolate .... they are all more here than in the UK. Even flip flops! The only things we've come across that are less expensive are cucumbers, herbs, local wine and meat!

On the cars, we ended up with a 10 year old Mitsubishi Charisma for nearly EU4000. It seems a lot, but the car feels newer and in much better condition than the 10 year old rust bucket we sold in the UK for £600 before we left! Where rust is a problem in the UK, cracked dashboards are something to watch out for here - left in the sun, it can crack (our new car has this!). Now we know why everyone has silver windscreen protectors :)

Sweeping... Pah!!

12 November 2008:
OK, I'm done on the sweeping thing! Our rented house comes fully equipped with brooms and mops with which to clean it, but it takes so long, and it doesn't get all the dirt anyway. I know it's sad, but I'm longing for a darn good vacuum cleaner. We looked at Dysons in Carrefour (supermarket) today and nearly fainted at the price. I'm grateful for helpful family members who are willing to send us one out from the UK!

A new addition to the family

5th November 2008
Finally, finally, after so much waiting, Cara (8) has a hamster. We spent a mad day in Nicosia (or Lefkosia as the Cypriots say), getting some things at Ikea, then searching all over the place for a shop called Pet City.
"It's easy to find!" says the man on the phone, just turn left (or right) at the coffee shop, or further on, or we're on the main street or perhaps a back road.

After a ridiculous length of time and many, many U-turns (thank goodness I wasn't driving), we found it, and one delighted daughter spent most of her saved up money on a baby hamster and all the trappings. This is Moonsilver, and I don't know how much more love a little hamster can take.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Settling In

Early Nov: Phew, it's good to stop somewhere for a while!! This house suits us well for the moment. And there are no water cuts in this village which is strange because everywhere else seems to have alternate days where the mains water is switched off, and they use the roof tanks for supply.

We've sent for our 13 boxes (our worldly possessions!!) from Scotland.

Thoughts on Cyprus so far.....

Very dry - the island is parched after the long hot summer.

And building work! It's going on everywhere! They are definitely gearing up for a huge influx of people.

Larnaca: I love how Larnaca's beach is so accessible from the town. Here I was, shopping in the town with hot, hot feet, so I simply cross the road onto the sand and cool them off in the sea!

This picture is Larnaca promenade - shops and restaurants on right, beach on left.

Driving: well, same side as the UK, but different rules, especially around use of the horn! Honk Happy or what!!

Ah, lemon trees - I love to see the lemon trees with their abundance of fruits. Figs, grapes, pomegranates and oranges are all being harvested now.

I love the little teeny cucumbers here, they are so crunchy.

The smell of jasmine in the evenings, and the feel of a warm wind.

The pleasant temperature of the sea.

The mix of old traditional and modern - farmers in old tractors trundling along the roads being overtaken by 4x4's and BMWs. Older women dressed in black sweeping outside their modest homes only a stones throw from luxury villas with electric gates, statues and swimming pools. Souvlaki (kebab) being cooked over the coals on the pavements not so far from McDonalds, KFC et al.

Blue skies in the day and clear, starry nights. It's so wonderful to see the stars every night!!

So far, so good (nobody has asked to return to Scotland yet!).

Friday, December 5, 2008

We made it!!

Phew.... we made it! Despite me throwing up in the toilets at 7am at Glasgow airport ( I'll never drink green tea and cranberry again!), AND having to be called by name to the gate at the last minute, we arrived, bedraggled and happy, in Cyprus.

It was mid October, sunny and warm (about 27 deg C) and we could hardly believe that we were here for good.

We were met at Larnaca airport by Costas the car man, and so with a Pajero stuffed with 2 adults, 3 children and 10 bags, we set off on our new life. Our first impressions of Cyprus were: hot, dry, desert-like and quiet.
Our first week was spent at Erimi near Limassol. Using holiday accommodation as a base, our mission was to check out the area and find possible houses to rent. Ah, but there's the call of the beach, the waterpark, the swimming pool, plus the groan of the kids about viewing lots of houses....!! A juggling act was the answer, balancing house viewings with trips to interesting places.

We had a lovely few hours here at Aphrodite's Rock, climbing and swimming in the sea. Legend has it that Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, rose from the waves at this spot. The rock is limestone so it's lovely to clamber about on, especially as some of it has been well polished by the many hands over the years.

We also had a fun day at the Fasouri waterpark, visited Pissouri, Paphos & Polis, and the lovely Curium Beach. Oh, and we viewed seven places for rent, two of them apartments, and the rest villas or houses. Apartments seem to be about EU650-800, and villas EU800+. We saw a few that would do the job.

On to the Larnaca-end the next week, to do the same thing!! We had a day at Kapparis and Fig Tree Bay, where the beaches are beautiful. Dad and the kids had a blast on a hired jetbike there. We stayed in Pervolia for 7 days, and viewed five houses. It definately seems like you get more house for the same money in the Larnaca area. We finally decided to rent a 3 bed holiday villa at Mazotos for a period of 6 months while we check out locations for a more permanent home. Most of the rental contracts in Cyprus are for 12 or 24 months, so we want to be sure about where we want to live before commiting to that length of time.

Faros Beach at Pervolia where the sand is excellent for sculptures!! This started off as a mushroom, but ended up as this little guy stuck in the sand.