It might sound as if we didn’t get off to a good start in North Cyprus, but the one thing we found with all our challenges was that the people of North Cyprus are unfailingly friendly, helpful and kind. That, in itself, has made our move worthwhile.
As I said in my previous blog, our taxi driver mate went out of his way to help us get ourselves sorted out, and to help us buy our car so we didn’t need a hire car any more. In the village, when people found out that we had no heating, electricity or water, they turned out in force to debate it among themselves and get it all sorted out for us. They fixed up the power, got the water back on, cleared the flue and provided us with extra wood for the heater. They also showed us how to operate the gas heaters which are popular here in North Cyprus. They look like electric heaters with three bars at the front, but you pop in a gas bottle at the back, light the gas fire, and hey presto! instant warmth and very, very efficient. Rooms warm up in no time at all.
After we’d moved to Kyrenia, we drove down to the town’s harbour to have a look as it is quite historic. We had a coffee sitting on a bit of a pier stretching into the harbour’s waters, which really was lovely as it was a bright, sunny, cloudless day.
But then we found that the damned car wouldn’t start. As happened in Buyukkonuk, people poured out from the nearby cafe to stand around offering help, trying to get it started with two different batteries, but to no avail. Then the head lady at the nearby information office phoned her husband who knew a mechanic who was sick but who knew another mechanic who in turn was contacted and who kindly diverted from driving home to track us down on the harbour and sort out our problems. It was the starter motor and a couple of whacks with a huge hammer did the trick, with the car springing into action with no problems.
We tracked the garage down where he worked (he gave us his card) and a couple of days later Bryan took the car down to get the starter motor fixed. The mechanic and all his fellow workers piled in to get the motor out of a very awkward place, strip it down, clean it out, fix it up and put it back in – all for the princely sum of 150 Turkish Lira (about AU$75). My husband insisted on paying TL200 given the labour involved, and said the garage workers were delighted when he shook their greasy hands and said we’d be back when the car needed a service or any more work. It was a relief for us because we had been concerned about any repair costs for a car like a Freelander, but knowing there is a friendly, resourceful garage available is terrific, a weight off our minds.
The lady whose apartment we are buying has volunteered her husband’s help in dealing with Customs when our goods arrive from Australia, and in registering our car once we have a firm address in North Cyprus. There are no mail deliveries here. All mail goes to the local belideye, or council, where you sort out what is yours if you happen to have mail any time. It’s a bit slapdash but, once we get a fixed address, we can get a post office box and so pretty much get any mail sent to us. But everything on this island happens in Mediterranean time and, to be very honest, it’s refreshing and far less stressful than the pace of living in Western nations.
Wherever we have been in North Cyprus, people have been more than willing to help or provide information in the kindest way possible, it really has been overwhelming. And a big ice breaker has been my purple hair which seems to fascinate people and open up all sorts of conversations, even if we can’t understand each other’s lingo. Kids think my purple hair is hilarious and come up with lots of giggles to have a natter and try out their English. By the way, they walk everywhere, to and from school, there are no rat runs in the early morning and mid-afternoon of mums in cars picking up their kids. And the Turkish Cypriots absolutely adore children, they are considered a gift of God, and you find brightly coloured children’s playgrounds all over the place, and beside the biggest supermarket chain here, Lemar.
There’s another interesting concept here – petrol is sold for the price paid. If the price rises, the petrol goes up. If it falls, the price goes down, there is no price gouging. Same with the cost of power. If the cost of production goes up due to petrol price rises, you pay. BUT if the cost of production goes down as petrol prices fall, you get a rebate on your electricity bill. What a concept, eh? Also, council tax depends on the size of your house. If it occupies 1000 sq. metres, you pay 1000 Turkish Lira per annum. If you have a smaller place at, say, 500 sq. metres, you pay 500 Turkish Lira per annum. A very simple concept and, yes, annual rates here are far cheaper than in Australia or the UK.
The pace of life here is far more laid-back than in Western nations, there are no fast-food chains, no big-name retailers, no big shopping complexes, only small shops and retailers so you have to track down who supplies what, and business is conducted at a leisurely rate which can drive quite mad those who come here and try to life the hectic-paced, hurry-up lives of countries like Australia or England. In fact, there are English people everywhere, so it is easy to converse in a supermarket if you can’t find something or don’t understand the Turkish language (as in – trying to work out what is shampoo and what is conditioner), and there is English food in the supermarkets plus English pubs and cafes all over the place.
Moving to a new place is always challenging, even more so when you’re in a new culture and completely new land. Life in North Cyprus is whacky, challenging, chaotic, unpredictable and sometimes frustrating. But it is life being lived, not mollycoddled or surrounded by rules and regulations, or lived at such a fast pace that you feel permanently exhausted all the time. A prime example is when I was watching a worker mow a verge. He strolled along, very laid back, pushing the motor mower with one hand, while having a natter with a fellow worker who was watching and giving advice from the sidelines.
No, life isn’t perfect here either. There is high unemployment, rickety infrastructure, rising prices and cost of living, but nevertheless a good-natured approach to life which is so heart-warming. We jumped off the cliff with much nervousness and apprehension in Australia, but feel we’ve landed in a lovely place, with lovely people, and we are enjoying ourselves, even if there is a lot of stress involved. But there’s no point living your life in fear, as the film-maker Baz Luhrman holds, it’s a life half-lived. We are taking a risk in coming here, but so far we are glad we did behave like complete nutters by moving to North Cyprus. And who knows what will happen in the future?