Sunday, June 03, 2007

Cyprus and 3 things I didn't know...

Taxi drivers are a good source of information. Ok, of course, there are many types of taxi drivers; the ones that literally drive you crazy, the ones to whom you pay no attention, and then the chatty ones who take advantage of the fact that you can't escape.

On the drive to the airport in Cyprus this morning at 6am, the local taxi driver, Pavarotti, as they all call him, told me about his passionate, yet unsuccessful love life, about the recent surge of Russians on the island, and about the division of their small island. Quite an interesting hour.

All in all, my 3-day trip to Cyprus revealed a nation in the mist of turbulence, with lots of smart and warm-hearted people. Three things that I did not know about Cyprus:

1/ They were under British rule for quite some time, hence the legacy of driving on the left, using pounds, and the messed up UK style plugs and sockets. They still seem to have a rather affectionate relation with Brits and they all speak rather good English and take bride of it!

There is only one university on the island, so many study abroad. About half of them in Greece, the rest the UK and the US mostly. Surprisingly many who work in the Ministry of Ed also held MEds and PhDs from abroad! (see the pic of them put in good use: reading my fortune from a Turkish coffee cup)

2/ Since the collapse of Soviet Union, many Russians have moved to Cyprus. I was told that even Putin has his own datcha there. According to Pavarotti (taxi driver), they find it as a small paradise. (maybe it is because of the 30% of votes that the Communist party still receives - I didn't know that either!)

The standard of living is rather OK, not too expensive, the weather is good, and the Cypriot men seem to be crazy about the glamorous style of Russian women, you know, the bells and whistles on high-heels.

I met quite a few Russians there, some really smart ones working in the oil business (apparently for tax reasons some businesses have re-located there), more working as waitresses, and then also the lot earning living with what they got. People told me about the problems raising of these gals on loose - the small society is facing issues on many levels; on the family-level it's resulted in broken marriages, money spent on prostitution, and in schools one also faces issues that were not there a few years back.

Even though Cyprus has been occupied in many occasions, the topic of Russians came up directly and indirectly in quite a few discussions. Interestingly, one person said that instead of seeing influence coming from the EU, now that they are members, they only see issues stirring up with Russians and Asians. I also noticed quite a few Asians in the country. I was told that many work as maid at homes and hotels.

3/ They also have mountains in Cyprus! Almost 2km! One can ski in the winter time. A new destination to be added on my list of strange places to go skiing :)