Four days in an occupied land…..

Golden Beach - Karpaz Peninsula North Cyprus

I found rest, joy, calm, beauty…

I found a simplicity…simplicity that was confounding.  It was both good and challenging. I saw eyes defiantly filled with hope and yearning yet shrouded in impossibility.  And there were eyes of suspicion – wrought iron eyes where the flicker of hope hasn’t been in years, if it ever existed.

Contrasts.

We live on the divided island of Cyprus on the South/Greek side of the island.  We recently vacationed on the North/Turkish Occupied Territory of North Cyprus – an article on the division here.  We often hear the side of the Greek Cypriots about the atrocities that were committed in 1974 by the Turkish forces who mercilessly invaded – these stories bear much truth.  But, is there ever one side of any conflict story that reigns solely in truth?  In the North we saw evidence of equally horrific atrocities including the slaughter of unarmed Turkish Cypriots by Greek Cypriots.  It seems one person’s illegal invasion is another person’s rescue from oppression – watch a graphic video from the Turkish Cypriot point-of-view here.

Karpaz Peninsula Map

My point in bringing this up is that we experienced the other side of the island this last week – and, it was, for the most part, breathtakingly good.  The Karpaz peninsula of Cyprus, where we stayed, is the end of the world in some sense.  It is where life has remained simply stagnant and wonderful at the same time since 1974 – or longer.  The villages reminded me of remote Mexican villages with open doors, open shutters, children playing with whatever lies around, an occasional scraggly dog, people joining together in the semi-cool evening to have coffee, chat and watch the last of the day go by.  The simplicity of life here is beautiful.

I met a man, K, who is a Turkish Cypriot – one born in Cyprus – not an invader (people like him made up approximately 1/3 of the population before the invasion).  His eyes were kind and full of hope.  It is inconceivable.  This man, born on this remote peninsula, had the energy and vitality of someone about to take on the world without limitations.  In his late twenties or so, his “world travels” as he called them, consisted of entering the south side of Cyprus twice, only to be turned back.  He worked as a waiter at a barely alive resort in the North.  Yet, this man, while longing for conversation, had hope that was palpable.  It strikes me that he wasn’t delusional.  He seems to have made a conscious decision to veil his life in hope, in spite of the desolate reality in terms of job prospects and opportunity.  Regarding faith, he was searching – born into the dominant religion of the region – he was seeking.  So, perhaps his hope wasn’t in the unlikely prospect of employment and world travel.  But, perhaps it was that he would find his purpose and place in a kingdom.  He has my email address.  I hope he uses it.

Joyanna in the KarpazWe spent time on the beach, in the sun and let our minds and bodies just come to a place of rest.  The sound of waves crashing, the feel of the sea breeze and the warmth of the sun  – these have restorative powers that come from above.  The God of creation planned these things for His glory and our blessing.  It had been far too long since we enjoyed this.  The kids chased crabs, snorkeled, dug in the sand and were free to romp around unencumbered on the beach.  This was as good for Sarah and I as it was for them.  To see our kids experience joy in this land that isn’t their own produced a joy in our hearts.

We now enter back in to life, ministry and work with skin temporarily stained from the sun, minds clear and bodies weary from joy and adventure.  We find ourselves with a new appreciation of our home that feels even more so.  My office chair seems ready for intense work.  Our perspective has been realigned and reset to the reality of living under the reign of a King who loves us.

It’s good to be back.

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8 thoughts on “Four days in an occupied land…..

    • I found the people of N. Cyprus very interesting. Would be a great photography get-away. It seems that there is a lot behind the expressions of the people. We were on the peninsula but Kyrenia is a nice harbor town too. Also, St. Hilarion Castle is a cool site – it’s purported to be one of the castles that inspired the Snow White castle….but, that could be just good PR from the N. Cyprus tourism board. Highly recommend a trip to N. Cyprus.

  1. I know a lot of people take vacations and come back more worn out then before they left. Such a blessing from above that you guys were restored!! By the way Dan…very nice writing…it flowed beautifully and the peace from your vacation was felt!

    • Yes, Jodi, it was a huge blessing. Fairly cheap, restful and interesting. It had been quite a while since we had any solid down time.

      How are you adjusting to life back in the classroom? Say hi to Daryl for us!

  2. Fancy doing some PR for the North Cyprus? I don’t want to mis-understand your view – that the actual occupation was god send and planned for your blessing. I’m sure that your comments may generate quite some disagreement. Ok it was nice – we all know that, just might want to be a little more discreet, especially if you live and work from the comforts and freedoms of the Southern Part of the Island.

    • Dear Travel Freely,

      Thank you for your comment and advice. Please let me clarify my points, as it seems you have misunderstood my true intent for this post. First, I do not fancy doing any PR for North Cyprus, nor any other location. My comments were merely my observation regarding my experience in North Cyprus. My follow-up comments were meant specifically in regard to comments made by friends. And, I maintain that North Cyprus – the location, not the political/military establishment – is a nice place to visit. I also understand that the idea of visiting the North from the point of view of Greek Cypriots is not a very nice thought. I understand that there is much hurt and many unresolved issues there. My blog is read mostly by non-Cypriots, friends and family who do not necessarily know that North Cyprus is a beautiful place. We have also recommended for them to visit the South part of Cyprus equally, as there are many interesting sites here.

      I need to make it clear that I never intended that the occupation was a blessing to me. But, the land that is North Cyprus was indeed a blessing. God created it, it was good and still is. Also, the people that I encountered in North Cyprus were also a blessing. They were not military, nor political. In fact, they were simply people who were born in Cyprus but of Turkish decent. Their families, for as long as they could account for, had always lived in Cyprus. I had specific interactions that clarified that they were not transplanted by the country of Turkey. Yet, I am sure that there are fine people in Turkey too. I do recognize that transplanted Turks are a contentious issue in Cyprus.

      As a follower of Jesus, I need to be clear. It is my job to love everyone – not just Americans, or Greek Cypriot or Turkish Cypriots. It is painful to see division amongst people. History is full of people treating each other horribly. There is no denying or changing it. The only path forward is for forgiveness and reconciliation. This is really only possible through an understanding that as people we are sinners in need of forgiveness from God through Jesus. My prayer is that all would come to know this forgiveness – and that the fruit of this would be peace, love and forgiveness for each other. In that, perhaps we could all come to freely enjoy God’s creation without reservation.

      I hope that this response makes my post and comments more clear. Would you be kind enough to explain your comment about discreetness and why it is especially important for me as I live on the South part of the island? Is it your opinion that I should change the way I post about the North or that I not post at all about my experiences on the North?

      I welcome your feedback.

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