Wednesday, August 03, 2005

IIMCR Symposium as i lived it!

Finally, I got around to writing about the IIMCR one month symposium in Cyprus. It will be a two part piece, in the first part I will talk about my impressions of Cyprus. The second part will be about the symposium proper, the participants and most importantly the many friends I made. Cyprus is an island in the eastern Mediterranean, just 300 km off the coast of Lebanon, it is quite a nice place -for a vacation!- long beaches, quiet towns and a few cities.

I was struck by several strange facts when I arrived on this Island. Foremost among them was the cost of living. Cyprus is unbelievably expensive! It is so expensive that even basic grocery cost a fortune.

Cyprus is crazily expensive – I can’t stress that enough- and for no reasons at all. I could understand why London, Paris or New York are expensive, but why Cyprus? It is an island in the middle of the Mediterranean with some tourist centers, nothing extraordinary or unique. Even more, the whole island suffer from bad plumbing (private IIMCR joke!)

Another issue I had with this island was the weather. Cyprus was very hot and dry especially in Nicosia, the capital which is situated in the middle of the island. Mind you I come from Lebanon and our summers are fairly hot, but in Nicosia it was scorching hot.

At noon and untill five it is suicide to just walk outside. And maybe this is why Cypriots take -every single day in the week- a long siesta between 1 and 4, when all life grinds to a halt, even banks and goverment offices.

Cyprus also suffer from a strange condition, I would tentatively called horizontality. Their urban landscape is so spread, so horizontal. That even in down town Nicosia or Larnaka (their two main cities) there is not a single tall building to speak of, just some five or six story buildings in an area that supposedly should be filled with skyscrapers.

And what makes it even more annoying is the fact that everything is so distant. A walk to the local grocery or even from the dorms to the university is a 10 to 15 minutes trip. It was crazy; you could not get anywhere walking. Cyprus is defiantly a car country.

Strangely enough for all the cars they own, Cypriots drive like maniacs and the country lacks proper sidewalk. You would be very lucky if you could find a small stretch of dirt to walk on away from the road and its very real dangers.

All in all, Cyprus would have been nice for a one week or a ten days vacation. But for a one month academic symposium it was not the place to be!
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