Time really does fly when you’re having fun (my high school writing teacher, Mr. DiLeo, used to tell me to avoid clichés like plague, but just a fair warning — there’s going to be a ton of them).
In Cyprus, practices officially started in October, and we’ve been sprinting ever since. We’ve had three LDP activities, a twinning, two Imagine workshops, a teachers training, two local festivals, a first-aid certification, two coaches trainings, and a partridge in a pear tree.
I wanted to write about my experience in Cyprus for awhile now, but finding the words (and the time) was difficult. But finally, on a rainy day at a cafe in the Old City, I think I’ve found both. You know what they say, better late than never!
My first week on the island was Summer Camp, which was an amazing experience. I was like a kid in a candy shop (I warned you!), obsessed with the programming, the energy, and the friendliness that emanated from everyone I met. We had participants and coaches from Cyprus, the Middle East, Northern Ireland, South Africa, and friends from the US. I felt lucky and spoiled to have such an incredible experience as my introduction to PeacePlayers, and I was energized and excited to get to work after that!
But, unexpectedly, the next month was dead as a doornail. The summer holidays are notoriously slow in Cyprus, and the office pretty much shuts down. So, seeing that it was my first couple weeks in a new place, I did what any person would do to get acclimated — I took a month-long Euro-trip with my new coworker/roommate/friend, Amber! To make a long story short, we ended up visiting 11 countries in 28 days, had a blast, and made it back to Cyprus with only losing a few, non-important items (and one important one – my credit card).
After having the time of my life (Sorry Mr. DiLeo, you win some, you lose some) in Europe, I was ready to get down to work. Building a new LDP (Leadership Development Program) has been a challenging and rewarding experience. Spending time with our young leaders and seeing their enthusiasm for volunteering, peace advocacy, and basketball has been a great experience. On the other hand, it has had its setbacks. We had a great day planned at a high ropes course in the Troodos Mountains, and even though it was 90 degrees (35 celsius?) in Nicosia, we took an hour bus ride to find that it was HAILING in the mountains. Our original plan was ruined, so we found a local restaurant, ate cheeseburgers and played team-building games at the lunch table. At the end of the day, even though it wasn’t the original plan, (and we promised the kids we’d do the ropes course in the spring), it was a learning experience and hopefully one that our LDP participants will look back on and laugh.
Visiting mono-communal practices has been the highlight of the program year for me. Seeing our young basketball players learning the sport from our great, local coaches is something special. They’re learning a new sport, while accepting a strange, long-haired, usually mustachio’d American into their practice. Not only can I see their growth, but their energy and excitement keeps me motivated while I’m working out of the office. I’ve also had the opportunity to coach a team at the English School of Kyrenia. Every Friday I head up to their school in the mountains, and coach a group of 25 students for about an hour. We work on basketball basics like passing and dribbling, and always end practice with a fun game. And even though my car died on the last trip up there, and is currently still in their parking lot, I can’t wait to travel (somehow) back there this Friday.
We want to have more guest writers this year on our blog, so hopefully you will be able to hear more about PeacePlayers Cyprus from different perspectives, and I’m sure all of our writers will knock it out of the park! The PP-CY calendar is filled to the brim, so there will be plenty to hear about this year as we continue to help our youth become better basketball players and stronger community advocates!
Please don’t judge a book by it’s cover, my future posts won’t have as many clichés.
You know what they say, all’s well that ends well.