It was a happy week for me and PeacePlayers-Cyprus. After 10 months of talking through a small camera over Skype, my Father, Glenn, and step-mother, Pam, finally made the 36 hour trek from San Francisco to Cyprus. When I picked them up from the airport in Larnaca I expected them to be droopy from jet lag, but to my surprise they were full of energy ready to tackle the busy week I had planned for them.
It was my goal that in the short time they had here to show them as much as I could about Cypriot culture, PeacePlayers and my life since moving here in March. But first we had to eat, and there is no better way to welcome a visitor to Cyprus them to stuff their faces with a traditional Cypriot meze: over 30 different dishes, everything from sardines to tahini, salad and pilaf, chicken, pork, lamb, rabbit, and yes even sheep’s brains…yum.
The next two days I dragged my folks (happy and willing of course) to two PeacePlayers basketball practices. The first was in the Turkish-Cypriot village of Lapta in the north of Cyprus. The girls were so excited to meet my parents, they shook their hands, kissed them on both cheeks and told me that “my father was very beautiful,” which was followed by plenty of giggles. Afterwards my parents told me how impressed they were by the girls’ attitude, their support for one another and the general positive atmosphere of the practice.
The following day I took my parents to the PeacePlayers basketball practice at the English School in Nicosia. This practice is very different from the one the day before, as each of PPI-CY’s teams are very unique. The practice at the English School is bicommunal, and before the practice even began, I pointed out to my parents how naturally the boys segregated themselves, with all the Greek-Cypriots on one end of the court and all the Turkish-Cypriots on the other. This is why I stress teamwork at each English School practice, asking them to concentrate on passing the ball, helping on defense and giving teammates high fives.
However, not everything on my parents visit could revolve around PeacePlayers. We made plenty of time to see some of the amazing Cypriot sites, including the ancient ruins of Salamis, the byzantine church of Saint Lazarus, the Buyuk Han, Saint Hilarion Castle, Bellapais, old Kyrenia Harbor and several other incredible Cypriot attractions.
But on the last day of their visit, I also decided to take my parents to another less well known site in Cyprus, Varosha. Varosha is a city that existed prior to the conflict of 1974 and used to be one of Cyprus’ most popular destinations, featuring 6 kilometers of beachfront hotels. Today it remains just is it was one afternoon in ’74, when its 40,000 inhabitants were forced to leave with little warning. Since that time it has remained completely abandoned except for the occasional photo journalist or curious tourist. As I stood on the beach behind the barbed-wire fence looking at the rubble of an entire city, hearing only the wind and the waves, I reflected again on the sadness of the “Cyprus Problem.” I am glad I could share that moment with my parents, so they could fully realize why I am here, working to help the next generation of Cypriots move past decades of segregation and fear to create a future of peace.