As I reflect back on my week, I see a mish-mash of up, down and all around. Our game on Tuesday was against a team that I can’t pronounce the name of. We won in three without much trouble and were spoiled with souvlaki after the game by the members of the board for our club. It might be my favourite part of the week, stopping at the local souvlaki house with the bus to pick up our order on the way out of town as we reflect on our victory. It has become the taste of satisfaction. The stamp of approval from the board members that they are proud of what we accomplished; a little reward for our hard work, if you will.
This week there were some exciting ‘firsts’ for me, a tradition I hope to keep up throughout the rest of my time here. Before christmas I sent my coach a message asking if he knew of somewhere I could find a bike. So far in Cyprus we have not presented a problem that he did not fix or a need the he could not fill (including that time there was a huge spider in my room). So, true to form he showed up to practice that night with a bike in the back of his truck and told me I could use it while I was here. How pumped was I? This week the weather was sunny and I was feeling ambitious so I rode it to the gym we workout at, then to Lia’s for lunch, then back home again. At the end of it all I felt pretty tired, but I have never felt so energized either. I think something about soaking up so much sun, and the endorphins it took to get me from place to place to place did my body well. I’ll keep you updated on how the bike-riding goes for the remainder of my contract.
I tried Schnitzel for the first time. For the most part I can now read the greek menu we get at lunch, but then this German word showed up and really threw me for a loop. I have heard of Schnitzel before but I never really knew exactly what it was. So, after the shock wore off and the girls were able to pull their chins up off the table after hearing that I had never tried it, they explained to me what it was and I figured I’d better try it while I had the chance. As you can see from the picture below, it was massive. I couldn’t finish it all, but it was delicious. I am so thankful for the fact that I don’t have to prepare my own lunch, and that I am so spoiled to have access to the best food in Larnaca to eat every day.
There isn’t much option for the equivalent of a ‘natural foods store’ like vita health of whole foods out here in Cyprus, but at the same time, there isn’t really much need for it either, because most of the food is grown locally and naturally anyways. But I am in search of a protein powder to help my muscles grow big and strong; popeye spinach just isn’t quite doing the trick, and so I was on the hunt. I dedicated my thursday afternoon to finding this store that they told me was “downtown on the main road”. That is about the extent of directions people give here in Cyprus. The streets aren’t really labeled, and unless you know about landmarks and where everything in the city already is, good luck following someone’s explanation of how to get here or there (especially when you don’t speak greek). By the grace of God I ran into Polivios -the man who has dedicated his life to helping the children of his city, and the man who knows everyone and everything in Larnaca. He took me to the store and made sure that the worker wasn’t trying to sell me something that would cause me any trouble. God has been so great to me out here and has just provided me with person after person to take care of me and help me as I helplessly attempt to navigate my way around my new-found life out here. We started talking as we walked and we somehow ended up on the topic of art classes. I was planning on taking a painting class on wednesday afternoons, but Polivios (because he knows everyone) told me that he knew someone else that could give me lessons for a better price than what I was going to pay. I start on Tuesday and I couldn’t be more excited! After that, we got a coffee, headed over to the marina where the boy-scouts meet, and I got a history lesson from him about Larnaca and all of it’s secrets. 4000 years worth of things people know about this country and we just nicked the surface. There will be an everything-cyprus-blog-post to come, because this country is so fascinating I want to make sure I do the facts justice when I share them with you. I got another tour of the marina and he showed me the improvements the kids have been making to their clubhouse.
They painted their boat
This little guy is one tough kitty. Missing his left eye but still kickin’
That little boat on the left belongs to Polivios. It fits three normal-sized people.
This is the map he made of the road trips we are going on. We’ve already visited the portion in pink. The big blue one on the left is next!
It’s a new years tradition here in Cyprus to eat what they call coin-cake. I had heard of this before but had seen it only at birthday parties. The idea is that there is a coin baked into the cake, and if you get the piece then you are the lucky person of the year. So we went for dinner as a team at one of the cafés that sponsors our club, and celebrated the new year with a coin cake and lots of food.
Friday rolled on by and then it was Saturday! We had practice in the morning and then I headed out to coach’s house to get some good family time in. I think that it’s safe to say that winter has ended and it is now summer again… ok, maybe spring, but still. That was THE shortest, LEAST painful winter I have ever experienced in my life. The last few days have been 18 and sunny all over. Part of me wonders if I will ever survive a Canadian winter again. We spent the day relaxing at the house, went for a walk around the neighbourhood with the girls, and to top off what was an already amazing day, we watched The Princess Bride before we went to bed. After the movie finished, Eleni (coach’s 7 year old daughter) and I headed to my room to start our girls sleepover night. First we played the Best Friend’s Sleepover Game, complete with running around the room imitating all sorts of animal, we painted out finger nails in matching colours- light blue with dark blue spots on the right hand, and light pink with purple spots on the left- and then we decided it was time for bed and we were asleep by 11.
Despite the church bells ringing loud and clear calling everyone to church at 6:30 the next morning, I managed to stay in bed until 9. We had an awesome Sunday morning spending time with Jesus at the house, and then helped the girls get ready for a birthday party (because there isn’t a weekend that goes by without someone they know having a birthday).
A little later in the day Mary and her Mom came and picked me up and we headed into Agia Napa to meet Her Dad. Ev and Adri came with Denzel to join in the fun and do a little sight seeing. Agia Napa has some of the nicest beaches around, white sandy beaches and some of the blues water I’ve seen. Being in the city during the winter feels a bit weird because 90% of all of the shops close. Apparently in the summer the area is so packed that you can’t even find a place to lay your towel down, but the winter turns the place into a ghost town, and you’re hard-pressed to find a restaurant to eat at or a coffee shop to sit at. There were still boats in the marina and sun was still shining so we had nothing to complain about.
These lovely birds of a feather were on display at the ‘Pelican Park’. This is the first time I’ve ever seen a real Pelican, and I sure didn’t think they would be pink. Their cage was equipped with a sign that read ‘keep back 3 meters, they bite!” They weren’t the friendliest of birds, especially when they saw our little Denzel, but man were they cool.
This tree is planted in front of the Monastery. It is 700, or 600, or 500 years old…
The cats at the monastery are the first street cats that actually wanted to be cuddled and played with. All of the other million cats in Cyprus are too scared to come close or only want you for your food. But these cats, man I almost brought one home. This experience convinced me that I might just skip the family and go straight to crazy-cat-lady. After I got my fix of fleas, we hopped in the car and headed back home. It was such an awesome day and it is so cool that we have people like Mary and her family here that are willing to take time out of their busy schedules to show us their amazing country.
A full-packed weekend and I felt more refreshed than ever to start off the new week. Our AIA skypelship is going really well (shout out to our awesome leader Dave Johns who celebrated a Birthday yesterday!) and it is really opening my eyes and challenging me to find new ways to keep my focus on God and grow closer to Him every chance I get. Our devotion last sunday morning at the house with the kids was about service, and then in our skypleship talk last week we talked about the importance of serving others. There seems to be a bit of a theme recurring in my life at the moment… Hey God, I get it… We read through Matthew 20: 20-28. In the last three verses it says, 26…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life as ransom for many.
Something about this verse really hit home for me. I always understood that Jesus coming to earth and dying for me was an incredible act of love, among so many other things. But somehow the fact that what Jesus came for, was to serve all of human kind escaped my understanding. Now, at the same time our group had been challenged to spend a week focused on finding ways to serve those around us, I started reading a book that Kendra passed on to me to read. Book 1 of the Mark Of The Lion series by Francine Rivers, A Voice In The Wind. This is an amazing book, and the main character, a young girl named Hadassah, is a Christian girl from Jerusalem who has ended up a slave in the Roman empire (I won’t spoil the story, don’t worry). One chapter in the book, the older brother of the family she is serving catches her praying in the garden at night. He is intrigued at her devotion to a God that no one can see, because romans worshipped statues of Gods for different things, ie. money, love, wisdom, etc. He asked her why she worships a God that has deserted her, one that has let her city become nothing but rubble and let people that she loves be overcome with death. She explains that she doesn’t feel deserted, because God has kept her alive, given her shelter, and food to eat. He asks her, “why do you suppose your God granted you such bounteous favor?” and she responds with,”That I might serve.” They speak a little more and the conversation turns to the purpose of life. He argues that the purpose of life is to pursue every happiness. Again she responds with, “I don’t believe the purpose of life is to be happy. It’s to serve. It’s to be useful” Now, along with this amazing perspective, that we are meant to be servants of the God that created us, something has also gone unsaid within this conversation that I have had the joy of experiencing. God graciously answered my prayers and presented me with many opportunities to serve this week, and it has been the best week I have had since I moved here to Cyprus. Something about being able to give back to those that have given so much to me, something about being able to love those that have shown me so much compassion has brought me more happiness than I expected. I challenge you to give it a try. Is there someone in your community that could use some extra help, or even just a bit of acknowledgement for all that they do? Actively seek out ways to serve others this week, while keeping in mind that when we serve, not only are we serving that person directly, but we are serving our God who feels so much joy when we give to others. Our God that so selflessly came down to earth to lay down his own life, the ultimate act of service.
Love you guys, thanks for reading, and thanks for all of the support you constantly give me from wherever you are.