Erasmus+ Project, Cyprus
We met early Saturday morning and travelled in two minibuses to Gatwick. Having checked in and gone through passport and baggage checks we did the usual pre-flight shopping and eating. Following a five hour flight we landed in a damp Cyprus. Themis, from the school in Cyprus, was waiting with a big smile at the airport with a bus to take us to the hotel. After checking in to our hotel we set off in search of the local cuisine. We settled on a small restaurant and sat down just before an absolute downpour accompanied by an impressive lightening show. We ended the evening off with a short stroll through the old town and even came across a border check point through to the area occupied by Turkey. An insightful evening into a colourful city.
After a good night’s sleep and breakfast, we set off in small groups to explore the city and do a bit of shopping. Leather goods and silver jewellery seemed to be the more traditional gifts but a high street full of the usual high street stores seen in Bluewater were also present. Joining in with the cafe culture we sampled waffles, crepes and all manner of not so healthy foods! Sadly McDonalds was also consumed by those needing a taste of home! The evening meal was a Chinese (chosen by the students) and we were beginning to realise that all restaurants serve food portions big enough for elephants! The hotel gym was going to be more a necessity than an indulgence.
Monday morning after a very quick breakfast we set off to school. With a mixture of trepidation and excitement the students met up with their host families. There was the welcoming ceremony and the receiving of a gift bag each, the boys were particularly appreciative of the green hats. After being shown traditional dances by the Cypriot students, each country set up exhibitions of artefacts and dolls from their country. It was incredible what some countries had managed to bring in their suitcases. The poster and map exhibition was also organised. School finished at 1pm and the students went home with their families whilst the teachers went for a meal.
Tuesday we arrived in school early. In the blazing sunshine we watched the Ceremony of the Flag which involved a marching band and the top achieving students were presented with the main flags of the school, one being the Greek flag, one being the Cyprus flag and the other being the flag of the school. It also included a moving story about the history of the war. In the afternoon we drove up into the mountains for a large lunch made up of several dishes to taste, a meze. We then drove to Lefkara which is a traditional mountain village where they make lace and silver, the silver is mined locally. We were persuaded to part with more euros and left with bags of presents.
Wednesday the coach met us and whisked us off to Limassol where we stopped to look at a medieval castle and have a drink in the sunshine. We then drove onto see Aphrodite's birthplace which had some stunning sea views. Following this we went for a meal at a fish restaurant, a range of fish dishes were brought out to sample. There was even time for a quick paddle in the warm sea. Again we jumped in the coach to get to Paphos Archaelogical Park, one of the UNESCO sites, which housed some second century AD mosaics in the house of Dionysos and also an Odeon which is a small amphitheatre built for singing competitions - an ancient X-Factor venue! We arrived home in the evening tired but having seen some amazing places
Thursday we met in school and each country gave two presentations, one on the area that their school was situated in and one about the history of migration in that country. It was very interesting to see the photographs of the ten different countries and gain an insight into the places that everyone came from. In the afternoon we set off to see the Byzantine museum in Nicosia and a very ornately painted church. We walked past the restored Hamman baths and viewed the whole of Nicosia from the lofty heights of the observatory. It was fantastic to eat with 360 degree views of the city. In the evening the host students, the exchange students and the teachers all met up for a meal in a local restaurant and a bit of a party ensued.
Friday we returned to school for the closing ceremony and photographs. A final excursion to Larnaca to visit Hala Sultan Tekke mosque which is a very important shrine for Muslims. The mosque is built on the banks of the salt lake which was currently being visited by migrating flamingos on their way to Africa. A short drive away brought us to the bustling Larnaca seafront populated by McDonald's and KFC amongst other eateries. We chose a more traditional restaurant to eat in and whilst eating the heavens opened and there was a torrential downpour for 20 minutes followed by glorious sunshine and a striking rainbow.
The students met us at the bus stop and said a fond farewell to their families; it was quite a contrast to the start of the programme where they had been dubious and not even sure if they want to stay with a family in a foreign country, now they didn't want to leave! Their opinions had certainly changed in the week and their number of Facebook friends had grown.