I arrived at the Paphos Airport on the south west coast of Cyprus on time. I flew with Ryan Air so this was really remarkable. On the return my plane would be cancelled ("Just get your luggage and go away… No we don’t know anything"), and the next day’s flight would be delayed 12 hours, and then delayed 1 more hour for good measure.
But on arrival it was smooth sailing… Until I tried driving my rental car on the wrong side of the road. I mean the right side of the road. I mean the left side of the road. It was my first time driving British-ish and it is harder than you think. It was so hard in fact I didn’t dare get fancy and stop for food or get cash from an ATM. I went directly to the little hilltop village where I had a marker in my mapping application to show me my room for the next week. I drove my car into the termite’s mound of old buildings that crumbled around me. I finally left the car when the roads became too narrow. There I stood, 75 meters from my place, no service, no people, and no clue which of the routes would take me closer to the map marker. And anyway if I could get closer, I would have no clue which of the 10 dwellings under that big red abstract ballon marker might be the correct one.
Then in my moment of confusion came an old beater LUV truck, one of those little diesels, loaded down with grapes and with an older fellow at the wheel. I put a hand out to stop him and then wordlessly pointed to the red ballon on my giant glossy smart phone. The driver was missing his teeth. He shouted. Man he shouted. He shouted to the people in the back seat. He shouted at me. He looked around. He shouted as he looked around. Then he got out his flip phone and called someone. He shouted at them. Then he shouted to the kid in the backseat who said to me with great effort: “5 minutes”.
And in 3 minutes I was on my way to my place. And in 10 minutes we were headed up the hill to the town square. I had no money and there was no ATM. The town restaurant would soon close. My host took me to the restaurant and explained my situation, and in no more than 30 minutes of my arrival a wonderful spread of grilled chicken, sauces, sausages, grapes, and a liter of wine were on my table. I would pay tomorrow, no problem.
A pair of Germans sat opposite, and the woman called out to me indicating I should not eat alone. And so my whirlwind from lonely isolation looking at the map of my smartphone to being enveloped into small town society was complete. And oh to be so easily understood. And oh to pour wine for each other alongside the main road. And oh to talk about our philosophies without fear of violating the country’s law while doing so.
I spent a pleasant week in Cyprus between the beaches and the vineyards. The Germans and I would meet again several times, and later go together to Aphrodite’s rock to swim. At Aphrodite’s rock it was quite a scene. Ladies! Ladies everywhere! And at Aphrodite’s rock the ladies (and the men!) show up specifically to put themselves on Instragram with as much sex as they can muster. This was not Amman.
On my last day in Vasa I sat in the square with the nonagenarians who sipped Cypriot coffee and napped in their chairs. I heard in the distance a man with a tremendous voice yelling. As he got closer his voice got louder, which is how it works, but still surprising at these volumes. It was the helpful toothless man. He sat next to me and the mayor’s son, a fluent English speaker who runs the coffee shop. He told the mayor’s son that I looked familiar, and the mayor’s son explained that I was the guy from earlier with the map. How he didn’t recognize oddball me I have no idea. We shook hands, and I showed him on my fancy phone where I lived in Washington. He pointed at the Olympic Mountain range there, and remarked with wonder about the snow. We were on the lower slopes of Mt Olympus in Cyprus as well.
And then I was off to wrestle with Ryan Air, the tranquil spell of Vasa broken by arguments in airports, and then the return to the deeply conflicted culture of Amman.