Bosnia, Kosovo, and Cyprus: so quick were the introductions and goodbyes that we barely had time (or light) to press the button on the camera. In contrast to entire months spent in Argentina, Italy, and now South Africa, we had minimal time, mere moments really, to take in scenes and impressions and make memories.
Our three sum total pictures from Bosnia appear in the Choose Your Own Eastern European Adventure post. Kosovo passed underneath our semi-sleeping bodies during an overnight bus ride to Macedonia. Moon lit landscapes and haunting scenes filtered through a dirty window, but those pictures burned into memory live completely off the digital radar. Shutter speeds and camera shake could not be overcome on that bumpy road. Ted briefly stepped off the bus in Kosovo during a midnight stretch break, but I had the camera packed and he didn’t want to wake me.
Our couple-hour trip to Cyprus came courtesy of an overnight layover on the way to Lebanon.
The only photographic evidence? iPhone shots from the tarmac and a hazy nighttime shot by lamplight. And a one-for-the-memories fuzzy picture of a janitor in the airport.
We boarded the late-afternoon plane from Thessaloniki planning to simply spend the night in the airport but while airborne hashed out a plan to land and go through customs for an evening out on the island.
Upon arrival in Cyprus, we bee-lined for the info desk then darted for the last public bus of the night to the nearby city of Larnaca. Downtown from 10pm to 1am, we walked the blinking, buzzing beachfront strip, resisting peddlers selling everything from roasted nuts to Chinese-manufactured trinkets.
A bite to eat. A chat out on the pier. A single photo of electric lights along the water’s edge…
Like that, the time was gone.
We returned to the airport to curl up beneath sweatshirts and terminal seats and toss fitfully until our 7am flight.
I thought Cyprus was over.
The tick-tock of the clock pushed another country into the rear view mirror of memory.
And then Lucas appeared:
One of my favorite little moments, recorded in the Daily Travel Journal:
People to Remember: Lucas, the Cypriot airport vacuum operator, and his stories of “making” life in the village versus “buying” life in the city.
An airport conversation turned into another window into the ways of life in other corners of the world. At 3am, this hardworking man paused to talk with two strange Oregonians found unsuccessfully-sleeping in an airport near a city of full of available holiday homes and luxury hotels.
His story came out: an accomplished chef working at high-end resorts who eventually quit in protest to unfair wages and treatment of staff. To pay for lights and food, he holds two jobs now, including the graveyard shift keeping the airport tidy.
Difficult to hear of wages for a hard-working man barely totaling one thousand euros per month while bi-monthly electricity bills alone can reach three hundred. Impressive, hearing of his use of recycled olive oil production waste to create alternative heating for his house. Confirming to hear him identify the important difference between making his life in the village across the island, where he can heat with alternative energy and grow his own food, versus buying an expensive way of life in the city, meeting needs with scarce cash and being tied to unsustainable systems of living.
Awkward, answering his quizzical looks by telling him we were sleeping on the floor to save the hassle and expense of a one-night room in an expensive city. Awkward, having the luxury of making such a decision during a year-long trip of a lifetime while he works diligently to brush up behind busy travelers and ration pennies to afford fuel for his commute.
We didn’t have time for much more. He needed to return to cleaning the carpets, and we had a flight to catch. There would be no further investigations in Cyprus, no trips to the countryside or visits to his small scale plant-based sustainable energy project, no meals over a dinner table to swap more stories, no posing for proper pictures.
It hurts a bit, really. To be so near to places, to countries with layers of story and legacy like Bosnia, Kosovo, Cyprus…to be so near and pass so quickly through. To brush up against lives and then hurry off.
Only a photo or two (or none) remain of these places.
The scenes and mental pictures haunt me more than most, just as feebly connecting with the spirit of the country as a our short burst through their borders.
Half-baked. Raw. Unresolved.
But real. Recorded.
I don’t have a conclusion. There, but not there. Seen, but not seen.
Too fast for photos. Too fast for understanding.