Monday, May 25, 2009

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Cyprus is strategically located in the Mediterranean less than 50 miles from Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon. It is about the size of Long Island with a population the size of Tucson, some 750,000, a growth of roughly 50% in the past 20 years.

The prime reason for its’ continued importance is its’ location. British and American forces continue to have listening posts on their bases there for obvious reasons. Over the centuries the location also made it a commercial hub and target of occupiers from the Minoans to the British. The most recent invasion was the Turks in 1974, after which the island was divided roughly in half with a three mile UN buffer zone between the Greek half and the Turkish half. The Greek section, the Republic of Cyprus, is the more populous and that is where we will focus as the information is more readily available.

Water has been a major problem on Cyprus since man moved there. The first recorded case of its almost being deserted for lack of water, was in 309 AD.. What water supply they have comes from mountain snowfall and aquifers. Given the situation one might assume that the governments would have attempted to give the problem a top priority. Through out most of their history, the governments stayed in denial taking the population with them.

Historically there have been some attempts to ameliorate the problem. The Romans, Greeks, and Venetians all developed cistern systems, but this is a major earthquake zone and the stone available is a very porous limestone. About 1/3 of all buildings along the most populated western zone fall to earthquakes every 10 years. This seems unimaginable, but the stone and the building codes which are 18% as stringent as those in Great Britain make it a reality. It also makes building a comprehensive water system all the more complex.

Currently there is rampant, uncontrolled construction along the coast which brings in more people and covers over more arable land. This in turn keeps more rain water out of the aquifers. This water could be diverted to cisterns, but isn’t.

As late as the end of June, the government was boasting to the inter-National media that now water was available to all households 24/7. It was a boldfaced lie.

They do have the world’s largest per capita network of dams, but they are less than 5% full. Any water drawn from them is so high in bacteria that the chlorine used makes your eyes water when you enter a bathroom. Also there are earthen dams, built according to Cypriot standards so if there is a lot of rain they either overflow or burst.

The aquifers have been so overused that they now carry salt water that has leeched into the vacant spaces from the sea.

The prominent tourist areas have been bringing in water by ship under the cover of darkness. Yes, really!

We were there during the rainy season of March, April and May. Water was ‘iffy’. The local Muchtars, or mayors, were given a figure of how much water they had to save each month. Nothing was dictated as to how this was to be each housing area had its’ own water system so he would usually turn the water off in the areas with the least votes, in other words European and British ex-pats…! One week we went 5 days without. This meant buying and hauling gallons of water daily up a mind boggling number of stone steps.

Finally, in July, the powers that be decided they need to start bringing in potable water for public consumption from Greece. The ship arrived. It took a week for them to figure out how to get the water into the supply. When they finally did they discovered that the last thing the thing the Tanker had carried had been turpentine.

The ships now arrive regularly, but cannot really solve the problem. News agencies are now reporting that water is available to the population twice a week for 8 hours. They are still not informed as to when that will be. Baths are from a bucket which is then used for clothing and then floors and then to flush the toilets. Washers and dishwashers cannot be used because you don’t know when the water will be turned off and the machines ruined.

The whole problem begs some serious questions.

1. Can the governments in Cyprus overcome their apathy and depoliticize the water problem? Possibly pipe water in from Turkey? Probably never!

2. Will they have the will to establish a nationally controlled, integrated, water system that can handle both potable water and “gray” water for watering, cleaning the streets etc.? Probably not!

3. Could they establish a nationwide education and subsidy program to help individuals to install private cisterns, “gray’ water catch basins, and water conservation beginning in schools? Unlikely!

This is Cyprus with over 2000 years of warning.

What about us? Are we ready?

Friday, August 8, 2008

A Glimpse into the Past...

Jim's eBook, Parish, was recently added to the Cleveland Memory Project, which is a showcase for some of the special collections at Cleveland State University. As anyone who has grown up in a Catholic family knows, the traditions impact all that you are and all that you grow to be.

In Jim's own words:

"This is a memoir about growing up Catholic but it has nothing to do, or everything to do, with religion. I was born in Cleveland, Ohio...last child in a family that was, as my father put it, two potatoes away from being dirt poor. For those days, at the beginning of the Great Depression, that was not too bad.

"Though my childhood was fenced in by poverty and I knew the ungenerous consequences of class, it was, to paraphrase from my favorite novel, 'the worst of times, it was the best of times.' I grew up in a cocoon, an Irish Catholic Parish."

The entire contents of the book are available at the Cleveland Memory Project for those wishing to take a look at the past of this fascinating guy.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Exciting News for the Heapheys


The Heapheys made their safe and triumphant return from Cyprus in mid-June and discovered, quite happily, that Jim's newest book How to Survive in an Organization had been released by History Publishing Company to favorable reviews. Jim equates How to Survive to a jungle survival guide for rational, reasonable, frustrated people stuck in the confines of an organization with no light at the end of a very long tunnel. It's chock full of strategies, tactics, and stories that will not only provide great advice and information, but also keep you engaged and entertained.

Jim has also recently completed work on his own website.

Since Pam has returned, she is working on more stories about their trip to Cyprus that could not be published while they were still traveling. Stay tuned...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Simple Beauty in a Chaotic World

Notes from Cyprus

The coast line North coast Paphos is becoming so overbuilt with seaside hotels and villas that one hardly ever looks anywhere but the road which is actually a good thing as they have the highest per capita accident rate in the world. Considering this, both the mind and the eye do a double take when the blue green of the Mediterranean suddenly appears framed by lush green plantings – a ribbon of color between the continuing beige of even the luxury hotels. The building this swath of color takes your eye to is noteworthy in its’ simplicity and its’ pure whiteness against the incredible blue of the sea and the sky.

It is the AEOKA MUSEAM and its’ centerpiece is the fishing Trawler that returned George Grivas, the militant super Hellenist and military leader, to Cyprus after years of exile. His mission was to set up a strong military and terrorist fighting force that could return the island
to the Greeks.

Hellenism is still a major issue here even after joining the EU. It is not surprising to see more Greek flags flying that those of the Republic of Cyprus. School children are still taught that Turks are evil and stupid. This indoctrination continues though compulsory military duty.

Inside the building is the boat. Now beautifully painted a shiny white with green trim, interesting because green is the Muslim color, it far from resembles the storm tossed purposefully inconspicuous gun runner working fishing craft it once was. It is about 40 feet long and some 12 feet wide. In 1955 she dropped Grivas and 5 others near the village of Chlorakas just north of Paphos which was then in the boondocks. They and 8 others were caught in January of 1955 and the Walls are covered with the Greek version of their trials etc.. No British versions allowed.

Just outside the rear of the building standing on the shoreline is and over sized statue of Grivas in full military regalia. Behind the statue is a stunning monument of gold and silver rods reaching for the sky with a horizontal crosspiece that parallels the horizon.

Even early on a Saturday morning there are many people here, mostly Greeks. They are all dressed up, young and old; grandfathers holding their grandchildren’s hands. They walk slowly around.

It is as quiet as a church.


Corrections from the Desk of Pam

First and Foremost: Alan is from Scotland and Liz from Wales. They are NOT English!! My apologies for the lapse to both!

Second: My blog about the ancient history of Cyprus makes it appear that it all began with the Greeks 3500 years ago and of course it is much more complex than that and extremely interesting but not really bloggy.

There will continue to be corrections as I learn more. How cool is that!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

There's no place like...Iowa?

A Brief History of Where We Think We Are
A Note from the Desk of Pam

All of a sudden I realized that here we are an the island about which people know little. It just isn’t in the news much. So my “notes” etc. might mean more if I provided a framework.
Here goes:

Cyprus is the easternmost island in the Mediterranean, very close to Turkey, some 40 miles to the north. You can actually see Turkey on a clear day from Mt. Olympus, the highest point on the island.
It is roughly the size of Long Island. The southern two-thirds is Greek with a population of around 650,000 plus some 100,000 immigrants many of whom are British expatriates.
There are some 80,000 Turks in the northern one-third. They are divided from the Greeks by a UN-patrolled “Green Line.” The area between the two sides is known as “The Dead Zone.”
The British military have three sovereign bases on the island because its location provides unparalleled opportunities for electronic spying on the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Russia. The Americans use the three sovereign areas – for example, U2 flights are from a British air base – and have two of their own in the northern panhandle of the island.
There are two mountain ranges – the Troodos and the Kyrenian – which are green and lovely, while the much more heavily-populated coast is very arid, very Middle Eastern, with signs of ancient mining, terracing for vineyards etc.
The island was first settled by Greeks about 3500 years ago. Despite having been ruled by Phoenecians, Lusignians, Venetians, Turks and Brits over the centuries, which has undoubtedly affected the gene pool, southern Cypriots consider themselves Greek. The Greek flag is flown everywhere and more than the Cypriot flag.
Hellenism – the idea that all Greeks, wherever they live, belong to the same world, culturally, politically, and religiously has been around since Alexander the Great. In the 1950s this idea took a violent turn with a militant group called EOKA which was committed to ENOSIS, union with Greece. The enemy was the British military because at that time Cyprus was a British colony.
ENOSIS is anathema to Turkish-Cypriots. They believe that if Cyprus were part of Greece they would be annihilated. This conflict over ENOSIS led to the Turkish invasion and subsequent occupation of 1974. The occupation forced a number of Greeks to leave their homes and live further south. Likewise, those Turks who lived in the south were forced to leave their homes and live in what is now controlled by the Turkish Army. One of the grim results is villages emptied of people on both sides of the Green Line.
When the dust settled, the south became an internationally-recognized Republic and was admitted into the European Union. The Turks established their own Republic but it is not recognized by any country other than Turkey.
I might leave the wrong impression saying “when the dust settled.” The bullets and bombs have been set aside but the animosities are as alive as they have ever been. For the Greek-Cypriots this island is and will always be part of the Hellenic world. For the Turkish-Cypriots this island was meant geologically to be part of Turkey. If one looks at a map one can see why.
So you have an island split by beliefs that are so ancient the hope of an amicable settlement is just about nil.

But then again maybe we’re in Iowa.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Pam's View

At first you don’t notice it. Like so many things beige, muted, dusty in color – they melt into the background. This is especially true in a new country that was formerly a British colony where one tends to concentrate on the mechanics of getting from here to there while driving on the wrong side of the road.
It is amazing how long it takes to start noticing the absence of things! At first it is groups of empty lots amidst construction of new buildings advancing at a ferocious pace. Then it is an old square stone house tightly shuttered, but progressively being taken over by nature, grass growing from its roof.
Next you notice several such houses clustered together; slowly being covered by vines, cyclamen, fennel, and other wild growths. Once they had been homes and businesses of Turkish or Greek Cypriots, depending on which side of the Green Line you are on. Legally they still are, but while the owners await decisions on the thorny issues of an unresolved conflict decisions to be made by people who have never seen them -- they sit unattended. Sometimes whole villages lie as if discarded – dust where lemons, flowers, and children should be growing.