Monday, April 22, 2019

Exploring the Neighbourhood

Going out alone with a camera is always a little fraught for me. Sometimes people are actively hostile, as they can be in the markets in Chania: I guess there stallholders are so fed up with tourists taking their photo, that they lose patience and can be quite aggressive. This morning I left the flat pretty early and headed for the city centre – looking for the market because I knew that I wanted to buy fruit and veg, and also to 'see what is there' in the long light of early morning when the streets are quiet and the sun is not yet overhead.

Vendors were just setting up. Some were ok and asked me where I was from and what I was doing. Tourism is not common here which is nice, but strange. Others were unpleasant, even when I was not photographing them... The presence of a camera seemed unnerving, and at one point a woman followed me, asking what I was doing. I shrugged and smiled, being a dumb foreigner – not a difficult act to follow.

I don't like being photographed particularly, and so am careful to be discreet, and not to photograph faces. By and large it went ok, but where do all the artificial flowers come from? And where do they go? Spring and Easter are traditionally the time for grave maintenance and decoration, but there are plastic flowers EVERYWHERE in the city.

 Not far from our flat is a dual row of small village houses completely ringed by Soviet-era high-rises. Ninety percent of their light is cut out by the behemoths all around, but these old houses still stand, some of them with brave gardens and flowering fruit trees.

On the way back I went into the shop where we bought our SIM cards yesterday to ask them for help as I could not get the phones to ring each other, and could not understand the recorded message when the calls did not go through. With the great help of Google Translate, the man in the shop explained that while the number began with 7, you actually have to dial an 8 (although it saves as a 7). Who knew? At least I didn't feel like too much of an idiot...
I came back in time to hand our passports over to our host and have breakfast, then Leo and I set out to find an adapter for his laptop plug. Google Maps was our friend, and we eventually found a place and managed to buy a plug.

I want to go home,” Leo said as we left our building.
“Why?” I asked.
“It's comfortable there, I know how to be. I am not like the rest of you. I just want to stay in Cyprus.”

That's fair enough,” I told him. “But it would be an awful shame if you never had anything to compare Cyprus with. If at least you have been out and seen other places and how other people live and then you want to go home and never leave, that is ok. But you cannot say that Cyprus is the best place to live if you have never been anywhere else.” I rabbitted on about how seeing other places in the world can make you appreciate aspects of home, and also realise how things at home can be improved, and finished by saying, “Well, it's only another 12 nights. We'll be home soon enough...”

I don't think that my words made much difference, I think that getting out and doing things was the catalyst – that, and deciding to buy a new phone because here smartphones are about thirty percent cheaper than at home and he will be working for the summer and able to pay me back. So we went back to the nice mobile phone shop on the corner and went through the whole rigamarole of buying a phone and registering it. This time the people in the shop asked a lot more questions about who we are and where we are from. Even though we have Cypriot passports, we speak English, so they assumed that we are English and asked me if London were nice. That gave rise to a more involved conversation, and other people in the shop started listening and commenting, too.

Then we went to the bakery next door and bought pizzas and fruit pies and went home for lunch.
Cultural experiences all around!

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