I have been back in the UK for a week after my trip to Cyprus, one quite miserable week, as my ears and nose have been completely bunged up and my head felt as if it had been stuffed to the gunnels with cotton wool, my throat , sore and itchy. My nose at times, seemed like a tap with a worn washer, drip, drip, dripping; and no spare washer to fit in its place? Thankfully today I can see light at the end of the tunnel, in fact not only that, I see sunshine in the garden. My sinuses are sensitive and I have trouble with my ears when there are changes in pressure, particularly when coming to land in an aircraft or coming down mountains by car; why is it only coming down that is the problem and not going up, I would like to know?
This trip was different in many ways to my previous ones, not just because of how it ended, as the circumstances were exceptional. The financial crisis which has been unfolding for some time, came to a crisis in Cyprus a week before my departure from the UK adding an edginess and sense of uncertainty to my trip. I had tried to read as much as I could about what was happening before I left but even so the picture was complicated and confused. When I arrived my friends and family were trying to get to grips with what was going on and to understand how Cyprus had come to this.The news was full of discussions and endless debates going round and around the problems with no solutions on the agenda. The government was announcing even more bad news as every day passed: so many jobs being lost and benefits cut, taxes increased and savings slashed, banks in crisis.This scenario is repeated in countries around the world but in Cyprus the results have been heaped on the community in one big deluge of disaster nearly drowning them in despair.
Cyprus always seemed to me to have a strong economy and despite many setbacks they always seemed to come out fighting and making a success through disaster. There is a tenaciousness, maybe sheer bloodymindedness to the Cypriot character and an innate gift of commerce, that gets them through. What has so impressed me throughout this particular time is how the Cypriot people have rallied together and supported each other. There have been some public demonstrations of course a lot of anger but no riots, no civil unrest. Instead energy was focused on more positive actions. Massive free concerts were organised in the main towns with many guest artists from Greece taking part, asking the attendees to donate, food clothing and daily necessities to be distributed amongst the ever-growing number of people struggling to get by. The organisation has been efficient and the donations huge. Registered charities have been set up in many major towns and districts, co-ordinating the collection of donations and over-seeing distribution to all those in need that fall outside official guidelines. These are not governmental bodies and are privately run by groups of volunteers wishing to set up a network of support for the community. The community is organising itself and getting on with it in spite of the government’s debacle.
From the tourist’s point of view there is not much changed: the sun still shines, the beaches are still as inviting the sea as blue, the scenery beautiful, the wine still flows and the food plentiful. There are no shortages in the shops although there may be fewer of them. There is less building going on ( this, to me, is a bonus) but plenty of accommodation, in fact a really good time to visit because you could get a bargain. Cyprus needs the tourists more than ever at the moment.
You would think, indeed I thought, this is not the time to make a trip to promote a book, who will be interested? I was wrong. What I found was the book was really appreciated and the people I met wanted not only to buy it for themselves but also promote it.
I met a diverse mixture of people from many countries, Lebanon, Finland, Iceland, Germany, Italy, America, Russia and of course the UK. Quite a few of them settled in Cyprus because they married Cypriots. Most of them have a quality of life in Cyprus that they would not get in their homeland. The things they love about Cyprus and which made them settle there, haven’t changed and because it is such a small place there is more sense of community. Networking is an integral part of Cyprus business, it is important who you know if you want to get on. Contacts are King, but then isn’t that the case anywhere? Bigger countries by necessity will work with what you know rather than who, if you have contacts as well you’re quids in.
The most interesting thing I discovered on this trip is that there is a healthy and varied mix of small enterprises dotted all over the island and more popping up by the minute. Apart from the artisan bakery which I mentioned in the previous post, I visited a wonderful herb garden which is the base for a herbalist and naturopathic practise; I met the fabulous Elena Savvides who is a living dynamo, full of generosity and ideas, running a catering business as well as cookery classes and supper clubs with a larder full of pickles, preserves and jams. There is another organic herb producer in the Larnaka region as well as a multitude of specialist food producers dotted over the island.The topic discussed the most with all those I met, was that Cyprus is rich not only in natural resources and gifted people but also in a very well educated younger generation. This is the climate which could incubate new and enterprising businesses that harness the assets of Cyprus and turn them into lucrative ventures showcasing the best that can be achieved. Here’s to the Future.