Saturday, January 24, 2015

The final chapter: relocation to Australia

Departure from Larnaca
So the circle closes, and we write this final blog entry from a hot and humid Sydney just three days after landing back in Australia. Our last week in Cyprus could most aptly be described as 'hectic' but more importantly 'significant' with many touching farewells. For Ross at work he will remember the affirming speeches at his final lunch, and a re-invented version of 'Winds of Change' performed by his staff team and the song from the musical Wicked: 'For Good' which Jessie sang to describe how our family feels about our many Cyprus friendships and wonderful World Vision experiences.  For the kids as they had their final days in school, it was great to have a chance to say goodbye via Ross singing and playing guitar in their final assembly and Mum bringing in some cakes to share as a symbolic thank you to all that we have been grateful to for the school.

A final sad farewell lunch with Menaka
As with any move, logistics were a major factor as we finalised selling of cars, handover of house keys, final packing up and lets not forget "dog transport" issues. It was hard to say farewell to so many great people, and it was especially difficult saying farewell to Menaka (both for her and for us). After moving out of our house, we spent our last four days staying in a lovely 100 year old Cypriot house in the old town. This proved to be a great base for us, and also a good way to appreciate some of the things we loved about being in Cyprus. Ross even managed to get in a final cut-throat shave with Mustafa, his Turkish barber just across the border in the north. Sarah managed an early morning walk through the back streets of the old town and enjoyed a first time of not getting lost :)! Better late than never.

Show on our final night in Cyprus
On the evening before we left there was a big drama school performance which Jessie and Sam were both heavily involved in, and this was a much anticipated highlight just before we left. Certainly a very tiring final few days of rehearsals for them but lovely to finish off with a bang, doing what they really love. Likewise for Angus he had a big game with Arsenal on the final Saturday and managed to score his dream goal from a free kick outside of halfway. And Mum and Dad were both there watching! So this was a fitting final game for him also. And so we departed, feeling tired but thankful and then spent a few days in Dubai (mainly sleeping!) before the final leg to Sydney.

For us and the kids it has been a big transition, and we are sure it will take some time to process and 'come up for air' as we adjust to life back in Sydney. It has already been lovely to see family and 1 or 2 friends and to experience the smell of green eucalypts, green grass and the evening summer rain. The safe arrival of Zoe and her release from quarantine today was also an added boost for us all. The only one sadly missing now is Menaka.

The Arsenal boys after the final match
As the process of setting up life again in Sydney begins in earnest, we are glad in many respects that the kids are back at school next week, as this should help with adjusting to a new life and routine.  It's clear that they are already missing their friends from Cyprus so a few new challenges should assist with filling that hole.

As for reflections on Cyprus.... there are many, but overall we are very thankful for everything that this season has entailed. Thanks for hanging in there with us on this blog. It has been both cathartic and enjoyable to try and capture some elements of our journey over the last four years, and hopefully the blog will serve as a good reflection and reminder for the kids and our family life over the last four years.

And so we sign off on 'Letters from Cyprus', and now the next adventure in life begins!  Look out for the kids' latest initiative 'Letters to Cyprus' blog. It is their way of communicating some Australian experiences back to Cyprus. No guarantees on how long it will last but worth starting nonetheless!

The journey continues!
love from Ross, Sarah, Jessie, Angus, Sam and Anna

Mr Chris, a coach that Angus will miss greatly

Sam as 'Olaf', bravely persevering despite a fairly 
comical wardrobe malfunction
Where did that 12 year old go?

Our old town digs for the final four days

Happy on the bed one evening despite an unfortunate
bout of food poisoning earlier that day for Anna and Jessie

Heading up the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building
in the world
Dubai, a city literally and metaphorically built on sand!

Arrival in Sydney. "Can we just go home and sleep now Dad?"

Reunited at last!

Looking back: our arrival in Cyprus 4 years ago

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Cyprus snow and saying farewell

Some light snow on the mountains just north of Nicosia
Since coming back from the holidays life has been a bit of a blur as we've been in the final stages of preparing for our move. Logistics of sorting out final clearances for dog shipments, air and sea shipments along with selling two cars and much of our furniture, and also saying farewell to many dear friends has meant that the 'cup of life' has been rather full this last week! But we are doing ok, and things are basically where they need to be in terms of preparation for our departure next Sunday.

The last few weeks have also been very cold in Cyprus and all across Turkey and the Middle East. Heavy snow has been falling on the mountains, and it has been unseasonably cold. At night Ross has done his best to keep the house warm by walking around the house and looking for items to burn in the fireplace, including pictures and pieces of unwanted furniture.......he tells me this is a very cathartic process!  

More snow in the Troodos Mountains a few days ago
On the weekend we threw a party to say thanks and farewell to our friends and community in Cyprus. We had a great evening with more than 100 adults (and atleast half that number again in children!) joining us for the party. Fortunately crowd control with children was assisted by some lovely teenage girls who ran activities for the kids downstairs while the adults gathered in the house. At times, however our house did resemble something out of Oliver Twist. Our kind landlord George and his wife Antouanetta came at one point during the party, and commented that they had never seen so many people in their house before; we assured them we were not trying to trash the place!

Tika, Zaza and Hendrik
Today we also had a lovely farewell at Ross' work, which all the family was involved in. It was also a special time of reflection and thanks for all that the last four years has entailed. Ross shared how he has 'woken up again' and been challenged more than in any other period of his working life, but also how rewarding it has been to serve in this role and region. We are truly thankful for World Vision, and how the Middle East Eastern Europe office and team have embraced our family.

Zoe ready to travel at Emirates cargo
And so now the final steps are taking place. Zoe left on the plane last Monday (Jessie has been lighting a candle at home as a sort of prayer that she arrives safely(!), the removalists come tomorrow for 3 days (we are thankful this will be done for us) and we move out of the house half way through this time and then depart on Sunday. Our final night will be spent at the local theatre watching Sam & Jessie perform in their stage school's local 'showcase' evening.  The next morning it's good bye to church and all the Sunday School kids we've been involved with and then hopefully a relaxed afternoon before we take our flight to Dubai.  We'll be taking a full day (2 night) stop-over there and stopping to rest and also celebrate Sam's birthday. 

It's amazing to look back on how small the kids were when we arrived in Cyprus, and to see them now. Our Cyprus season has been a very rich time. Not always easy, but we have no regrets about the decision to come here as a family. Now as we transition our feelings are mixed between sadness at saying farewell to many dear friends and colleagues, but also anticipation as we ponder on the new life and opportunity back in Australia. It will be especially nice to be closer to family again. See you on the other side, and as they say in Cyprus: στο καλό, or go with the good!

Zoe and other pets ready to travel!

Sarah and Natalie
Olga and Sarah
Jessie, Hannah, Alysia and Charlotte
Angus and the boys
Polys, Sarah and Trevor, who is the Australian High Commissioner
Michelle and Maggie
Sarah and Ellie
Ross goes to work on burning our surplus furniture..........

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A white Christmas

Passing the time before the flight with a touch of airport football!
With some cheap European airfares and our pending return to Australia, we were inspired to have one last 'cold' Christmas and feel very fortunate to have spent the last few weeks in Switzerland and France. We returned to Cyprus yesterday, and now the final work begins to get packed up for departure in a couple of weeks time.

The village of Wengen
Our skiing week was spent in Wengen Switzerland, which is a small village high above the Lauterbrunnen valley in the Jungfrau region. It's a beautiful village without cars, which adds to its charm. The ski runs come right into the village, and travel up to the top each morning is via cog railway or a large cable car. 

Part of the skiing area sits just below the Eiger, which is a very well known (and somewhat notorious) mountain for rock climbing. The area is also famous for the Lauberhorn World Cup downhill race which is held in Wengen each year. Skiing in Switzerland reminded us again of what it like to ski on long runs, with some more than 12km in length. The kids all had a great time, despite the fact that it was very cold on a few of the days. Anna was a trooper and skied well, but even she succumbed on a couple of the days and decided it was just too cold for skiing. She also developed a somewhat frustrating habit of just sitting down on the slope in the middle of a very steep run and taking her skis off, declaring that she was tired! Both Jessie and Sam took great strides in their skiing, and Angus spent most of the week snow boarding off-piste, enjoying the lovely powder provided with all the fresh snow.

Christmas day was spent on the slopes, and presents this year were just a few chocolate eggs and coins (the main gift was the trip itself). We stayed in a lovely 120year old chalet, which was surrounded by green at the start of our week, but by more than 2 feet of snow by the end. It was lovely to see the landscape transformed.

On our way to Paris
After our week of skiing we then caught the TGV to Paris, where we spent four days taking in the sights, meeting with friends and enjoying the chance to celebrate new years eve in a beautiful city. Some good friends Gene and Boris came across from Belgium with Gene's son Pierre, and also some other former Cyprus friends Thomas and Gabriella and their four children travelled across from Hamburg.  So we were a large group, but had a great time together despite lots of crowds around the city. An added bonus was the chance to briefly see an old friend of Ross', Dave Moffitt who was in Paris on his honeymoon with his new wife Shane.

For both Sarah and I, the trip was a chance to step away from our normal routine here, and in the midst of packing up to relocate was just the tonic needed to maintain a good perspective and headspace.

Jessie has once again put together a movie showing some favourite parts from the holiday, so you can enjoy it by clicking here or via the link below.  There's also a few other pics to follow.

The majestic Eiger

Our Wengen accommodation

Rugged up and ready to go

A chance meeting with Dave & Shane

Thomas, Gabriella and family (Anna and Kasper somewhere
out the back!)

Boris, Gene and Pierre
New Year's Eve on the Champs Elysees