Ora village. Location: a forgotten valley, far, far away. Population: probably around 250 (including the chickens, donkeys and goats). Language: village Cypriot Greek (very different to Greek Greek – the Greeks think we’re savages).
As I sit here to write what is possibly my last blog entry in Ora for the foreseeable future, I must admit I feel a tinge of sadness. I’m on my grandmother’s balcony; the same balcony where I wrote Home At Last when I first arrived just under two months ago. Time, as always, has flown by. The last two months have been uneventful – and that’s exactly what I needed. Two months of doing very little other than sipping Brandy Sours, eating good food, catching up with the people that mean the most to me…
…and spending quality time in Ora.
I will drop my sarcastic mask for this paragraph; despite its quiet nature, this village is truly beautiful. Everywhere you turn, you will face gracefully imposing mountains that are covered in trees of different varieties – a sea of various shades of green. The sunset, which I am currently witnessing, never fails to take my breath away. On pretty much every evening since I arrived here, I have watched the sun take one final dip behind the mountains and leave behind it an intense palette of warm oranges and subtle reds. Now that autumn has arrived, the evening air is crisp and faintly damp. You can sense the switch of the seasons, the imminence of the rain, and the arid earth calling out for water.
My mum’s side of the family all hail from this tiny little place in the middle of nowhere. There’s something weirdly gratifying about knowing that people from your own family have lived in one location for generations. I like to sit and imagine what it must have been like here all those years ago, when they had no electricity and used to travel to the towns on donkeys.
Ora now boasts free WiFi (ok, it doesn’t work half the time but still!) and thankfully has electricity. Oh, and the donkeys have been replaced by cars.
How times have changed.
A few of my Facebook and Twitter friends have found my statuses and Tweets on life in the village entertaining, and I therefore decided to put together a small guide on what to expect from Orates (people from Ora), should you ever find yourself here, in the valley of the forgotten.
If you’re female, over 21 and single, the women of the village will pity you
When I first arrived a couple of months ago, I encountered the look of pity from every woman I met. The reason for this? Well, I’m over 21 and I’m, shock, horror – not married! I’m not even engaged! How can this be? Such a tragedy!
The encounters went a little bit like this – how have you been, Andria mou? Wow, you’ve grown! Are you married yet? What! Such a pretty girl – how is that possible?! You need a good man!
Then came the look of pity.
When I answered by saying that I wasn’t currently looking for a husband and that, in fact, I was off on a trip around the world, alone, the look of pity was replaced with a rather troubled expression and a chorus of nervous laughter.
I did enjoy that part.
Note: once you turn 30, the lesbianism rumours begin. I’m looking forward to those the next time I’m here.
We sound like we’re fighting. All of the time.
It took me a good two weeks to grow accustomed to the elevated decibel levels in our household. As someone who has lived alone for more than five years, being suddenly surrounded by a lot of people whose idea of a whisper is as loud as a foghorn was a shock to the system.
Orates, I conclude, are loud.
If you ever find yourselves on the streets of Ora, what you will first find is a deafening silence. Very few cars pass by these streets, and there’s little in the way of pedestrian traffic. But, from time-to-time, you will hear our voices. LOUD voices. Walk past the coffee shop, and upon first inspection, you will be forgiven if you think that we’re all fighting.
But we’re not. We’re just talking. Orates only have one volume and that’s LOUD. So, take a step or two back, unless you want permanent ear damage.
We’re hot headed and we like to take the law into our own hands
The other day I heard a rather entertaining story that pretty much sums up the way we all deal with issues here. A guy I know was in love with a girl from a neighbouring village. The girl’s dad, however, did not like the guy, and therefore forbade his daughter from marrying him. He even went one step further and said some rather bad things about the guy’s mum.
Well, if there’s one person in a Cypriot man’s life who you do not mess with, it’s his mother. The guy therefore took a shotgun, headed to the father’s house, and began shooting in the air in order to intimidate him.
He invariably got arrested.
I grew up hearing stories like this on pretty much a weekly basis. Orates are hotheaded bulls and love any excuse to shout and be angry. We fight with each other, all the time. Again, I think it boils down to the fact that we like to hear our own voices. And the fact there’s little else to do up here.
Everyone knows each other’s name – and business
I’m sure this is the case in most small communities, but Orates take it to another level. I’m pretty certain that the Ora grapevine is more powerful than any Facebook or Twitter newsfeed. Within milliseconds of any major event happening (you know, like, the birth of a new goat, or if – shock, horror – a boy talks to a girl), the whole village knows exactly what happened, where and at what time – with a load of added extras, naturally (a birth of a goat turns into the birth of an alien/goat hybrid, and boy talking to girl turns into boy was kissing girl whilst also fully groping her).
It’s just the way things are in Ora. It used to drive me mad when I lived here, but now I just find the whole thing amusing, and look for entertaining ways in order to be featured on the newsfeed.
Did you know that I recently converted to Islam?
They do say any publicity is good publicity.