Summers have become quite strange. I had spent every summer since 1995 in the Greece or Cyprus with exception of the brief period of 2000-2001, when I was finishing up my dissertation and looking for a job. Then last summer (2020) the pandemic shut everything down, but I was on a committee making plans for how my university was going to manage classes in the fall. This involved a wide range of activities, such as meetings, spacing chairs, putting down stickers, etc.) and as a result, even though I didn’t get to go to Cyprus, it was so busy that it distracted me. Not going this summer has really felt different. While there are a fair number of activities going on at IUP due to a reorganization, it doesn’t have the same feeling that 2020 had. As a result, I really find myself thinking a lot more about Cyprus and worried about getting back there. I noticed that I have been cooking a lot more of the foods I normally eat in Cyprus. For example, I made souvlaki, schawarma, tzatziki, and hummus in the last few days and am thinking about cooking Tavas this weekend.
So yesterday I made a trip to Nicosia with Nancy. I had received an invitation to the US Embassy to celebrate the 4th of July and the 243rd anniversary of the founding of the United States. The event was actually celebrated on June 6th (D-Day), and so also celebrated the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Finally, there was also mention made of the 50th anniversary of the US crewed moon landing – a picture of the moon landing was on the front page of the invite. Since I had never actually been to an embassy event I was determined to go. Unfortunately the dress code was business professional which meant suit and tie. I spent a lot of time during my undergraduate years working as a sales associate at a retail jewelry store, and had to wear suit and tie. As a result, I really don’t like wearing one to work and seldom wear one, reserving it for special occasions. I realize that wearing jeans and a polo shirt doesn’t fit in with the traditional view of how an academic should dress, but …
Anyway, I really wanted to attend so I actually went to Larnaka last week and bought what I needed to wear. The US Embassy is located near one of our favorite restaurants the Syrian Friendship Club so I had driven by it before. I was amazed at how crowded it was, there must have been 500 people crowded into an outdoor garden area. It was hard to move around and you had to wait in a security line to enter the building. Inside in the outer courtyard they had a fancy Cadillac you could take your picture next to, and a silhouette of an astronaut on the moon with his face cut out that you could stick your head in so that you could take your picture of you as an astronaut.
The event started off by an address of the American Ambassador to Cyprus, Judith Garber. In addition to a number of references to the founding fathers and American history, she spoke about the strengthening ties of the US with Cyprus and concerns over the conflict between Turkey and Cyprus concerning natural gas drilling in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Republic of Cyprus. Here speech was followed by a speech by the President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades. His speech echoed the ambassador’s though it dwelt more on the drilling issue and how it could impact the energy corridor. So, there were about 20 minutes worth of speeches and then everyone was free to mingle.
I had two goals for the reception. One, to feel like James Bond attending the event (in my mind, and yes I realize I wasn’t wearing a tuxedo. Two, sample some very good or at least fancy food. The ambassador mentioned in her speech that Americans celebrate the Fourth of July with a cookout and that was the theme of the evening. There was a blues musician providing the music and American restaurants providing the food. There were tables set up for you to try out items from Jack Daniels, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, KFC, Pepsi, and dessert items from a Cypriot bakery – Zorba’s. There were servers circulating with wine and little fancy appetizers.
Needless to say, not what I was expecting. But I was hungry and decided to sample what the restaurants were serving. I was able to grab a slice of pizza and a glass of Pepsi fairly easily. I then tried to get to the Taco Bell table and was never able to get closer than two rows of people from it. I was stunned, I am usually very good at working my way through a crowd, but this was a total shutout. It was like when a team has fourth and goal from the one yard line and they send the running back into the middle of the line in an attempt to try to hammer it into the end zone only to meet everybody from the defensive line in the backfield and lose yards. I literally could not get closer than 5 feet from the food without hitting a wall. I backed off and tried it again several times with no success. This also happened over by KFC and Jack Daniels. I eventually settled for a slice of pizza, two cups of Pepsi, and three cookies.
This is out last full week in Polis. Bill leaves for Greece on Monday and I leave for PA a week from Friday. It is also the point in the season where we go from feeling like everything is under control to worrying about getting everything done. We used Sunday for catching up on computer work. Then we spent Monday at the apotheke continuing to refine our work in EF1, this time looking at the earlier Roman material. This morning we spent some time at the Polis Archaeological Museum looking at stamped pottery and the lamps, or more accurately lamp fragments, that came from EF1. There were a couple of nice lamps, but most were small fragments. This involved cataloguing them and illustrating them. We spent the afternoon back at the apotheke working through some more pottery. The rest of the week will be pretty busy. I am going to the Kourion Museum tomorrow to look at some pottery from the Kourion Amathous Gate Cemetery and Thursday I am going to a reception in Nicosia. That really only leaves Friday and Saturday to get things wrapped up at the apotheke, so it will be tight to get everything done.
Since I have been a little behind on my potato chip research, I decided to double up this afternoon. I thought I would also provide everyone a little glimpse behind the curtain to the large scale operation that is potato chip research in Cyprus. The main thing is to approach it employing a “scientifical” method avoiding any of the techniques of the softer social sciences or god forbid, the humanities. This is science, people!
Anyway, I also conduct potato chip research in the middle of the afternoon, so I am neither too hungry and looking forward to dinner, or too full from my midday repast. Too close to either lunch or the evening meal could “skew” (notice the correct use of scientifical jargon) the results, which could then lead to issues with my funding agencies. The only thing that I make use of during my double blind, peer-reviewed research is water. Plain water, purchased from the store. BUT, and this is critical, not just any water purchased from the store. Research has shown consistently that the best water for potato chip research is square water, which in Cyprus is Ayios Nikolaos (Saint Nicholas). The square water molecule is more neutral flavored than a circular water molecule, allowing it to be a more effect palate cleanser. If I need to, I will diagram this in a future post to help the less scientifically inclined of you (historians, classicists, mathematicians, physicists, etc.) understand the cutting edge technology being employed in my research.
So, first up today. Lay’s Taste of Mediterranean Classic, with 100% Olive Oil. As I am sure all of you remember, the Lay’s Taste of Mediterranean flavors have scored well so far. And…..this was no different. The chips were crunchy and flavorful. A well-crafted chip. I liked the flavor, the crunchiness, and the slight olive oil taste to them was enjoyable. While I do personally prefer flavored chips, for a plain chip this is a solid contender. I score it a – ********(8). Now that I have tried all three of Lay’s Taste of Mediterranean, or all of the ones available at the local grocery store, I have to say that they are a good go to chip.
Contender 2 – Crunchips Barbecue Flavour manufactured by Lorenz. The bag is what attracted me to this chip. It has chips around a small grill on which rests two kebobs or kebabs depending on you preference. Upon closer inspection I realized that the kebobs consisted of alternating slices of potato (maybe a russet) and something else that I first thought was a slice of meat, but now I am not sure. It looks more like red pepper slice. In checking the ingredient list, it does have paprika flavoring, so maybe it is a red pepper slice. We are fortunate to have an unpaid intern with us this summer (Bill) who is considering a career change from history to the food sciences. Unfortunately, all he could say was that he did not know what was pictured, and expressed no interest in researching this further. I think he might be stuck in his current field since he doesn’t seem to have that scientifical drive to conduct complicated research.
Anyway, I tasted the chip and…..my first taste was barbecue, but it quickly became a “flat barbecue” taste – that is never good. As someone raised in the south, my DNA has literally been modified to provide superior knowledge and tasting skills concerning both “real barbecue” (pulled pork) and “pseudo-barbecue” (all other forms of barbecue) to use their technical terms. As a result, to me these chips tasted like flat barbecue – no depth of flavor, just a quick hint of barbecue that quickly becomes a little bitter in the mouth. So, I give it a – ***(3). A disappointment, even the superior square water qualities of Saint Nicholas had a hard time cleansing the palate.
So Wednesday Bill and Amy spent the morning looking at EF1 (current work), EF2 (previous work), and EG0 (future work…maybe). This meant that I was at the apotheke by myself. This also meant no earphones and loud music (AC/DC, Def Leppard, Journey, etc.). The pottery, insects, lizards, all appreciated my music choices – at least no complaints. It was probably a good thing Bill wasn’t here – a bee flew into the apotheke and I at first thought it was a drone because it was that large. Bill would have lost his mind. After a few minutes it flew back out. As I mentioned yesterday, we are going back through some of our older pottery analyses for EF2 to see if they can be tightened up. This means Cypriot Red Slip (CRS) and lots of it. Tons of it. But, this is my favorite type of pottery (Late Roman Fine Ware) and my favorite ware (Cypriot Red Slip) so it was a good morning.
After we finished up for the day, Bill, Amy, and I took a ride into the hills and visited two churches, and a mosque/church. It was a nice trip, except for the bugs. The little annoying gnats are everywhere. Everyone says it is because Cyprus had a lot of rain recently and it has now dried out – leading to an explosion of these bugs. Everyone you go when you are outside, a swarm soon appears. Fortunately, this is supposed to only last for about two weeks and then they will go away. For dinner we went up into the hills in a different direction and ate a restaurant in Neo Chorio, Pavlaras Prengos Tavern. The food was good, the view was spectacular (looking down over the coast as the sun set), but the drive back to our hotel in the dark, not so great. We got lost for about 10 minutes before we worked our way out of the hills.
Thursday was more of the same as far as the apotheke. Things are getting crowded at the hotel since another project has started arriving. This project is large enough that they booked all of the remaining rooms at the hotel and even had to arrange lodging at another hotel for some. My only concerns are noises at night (I’m old and need my sleep), and the internet slowing down because so many people are using it – we’ll see how it works over the weekend.
Friday was sort of a day off. We took Amy to the airport and showed here around Larnaka a little bit. It also meant that we were able to eat lunch at my favorite souvlaki restaurant on the island – it was great as ever. It is amazing how much hotter it is in Larnaka compared to Polis. Since we took off Friday we are going to work at least Saturday in the apotheke to catch up on illustrating and cataloguing.
Yesterday we ran into Larnaka to pick up Amy at the airport. We stopped at Zygi for lunch on the way back. The fish restaurant we always eat at was closed, so we had to pick a new one, but we still had the same meal – calamari, octopus, fries, salad, and olives. It was a nice relaxing meal.
Today I was back in the apotheke with a new task. Our work with EF1 is pretty much done for the season, so I am back plundering in the pottery from EF2 which is the south basilica area. Our article on our work there is going to press later this week, so that was good news. The goal now is to work with the cooking wares and a few of the finewares from EF2 and see what sort of refinement is possible. I always hate going back into pottery I have already read since I am always worried that I made some sort of huge mistake that I will now catch.
So, it has been a quiet weekend at Polis. The weather has been perfect – sunny, no clouds, just a hint of a breeze, and 75 degrees or so. So, since the weather was so good, I spent both days inside doing computer work. Saturday I created the ceramic catalogue for our upcoming EF1 publication.
By upcoming, I mean we plan to submit it somewhere in the coming months – our goal is to have the text ready to submit by when we leave Polis. That will leave me to finish inking the illustrations. This entailed making sure that all the artifact entries matched each other in format and all had the requisite information included.
Today I spent the day breaking apart our large files of drawings for PKAP II into files containing only one illustration and labeled accordingly. This is done in Illustrator and I’m not bad with it, but when I go a couple of months without using it I tend to forgot some things, so it was an uneven start to the process. Tomorrow morning we are going to run to Larnaka to pick up Amy from the airport. Maybe this will be a good chance to stop at Zygi for lunch.
Not a lot to report, we have been working hard at the apotheke on a couple of projects. Our main goal has been to finish our work on the small site of EF1, which we started last summer. So while Bill has been working on the database, I have been illustrating artifacts. I have also been creating the artifact catalogue for the article we are preparing. I also have had the chance to play with a new gadget – the Munsell CAPSURE Color Matching Tool, or as Bill calls it the Munsellator 2000. This device gives you a digital readout of the artifact’s colors without having to match it by eye to a Munsell book. I have some ideas for ways to test it later in the season to see how it compares to the naked eye of a ceramicist. That should be interesting, or not.
A few idle thoughts. The bird whose picture I posted turned out to be a guineaufowl. An alert reader emailed me the correct answer (Thanks Mom). Another reader, incorrectly labeled it as a peahen, hopefully he is not in a position of power anywhere. One was back today and it was hanging out with the rooster and a chicken. As Bill said, “It looks like Wild Kingdom out there.”
Every morning we stop to pick up items for second breakfast at the local bakery. We usually grab some baked goods, maybe a doughnut, juice, water, and coffee. The best ones are these baked goods that look like they are made from phyllo dough with an almond paste inside. My goal now is to master a recipe for the almond filling, and then make a pecan pie substituting the almond paste.
Finally, the chips today are: Taste of Mediterranean Provence Herbs. First taste was all rosemary, then a little bit of thyme. Then more rosemary, and even more rosemary. Bill said they tasted like a lamp chop. He is probably right. I like them even if the rosemary could be a little less intrusive and let the other herbs have a go. I will say that the Taste of the Mediterranean chips are doing well, even though there is only one more flavor left to try – Classic. I will give these a – *(7). Despite the strong rosemary flavor, but I like rosemary, so… Anyway, we finished our day by stopping by the grocery store on the way back to the hotel. We plan to go out for pizza tonite.
Tuesday was a pretty good day at the apotheke. We stopped by the bakery on our way in and they had some new doughnuts, including small versions. I grabbed a small vanilla frosted with a boston cream filling, and a plain small vanilla frosting – just so I could compare the taste.
We continued to work on refining our work on EF1 that we started last year. The best moment was when a beetle flew into the apotheke and divebombed us. If you know Bill, you know that he is perturbed by flying insects and I had to get the beetle out of the apotheke. Fortunately it crashed on the shelf near me and was stunned long enough for me to pick it up and let it go outside. The weird thing was how noisy it was all day. There was a rooster who kept crowing every 10 minutes or so, clucking chickens, a barking dog, some guy who kept playing his car radio really loudly, and then a strange animal sound I couldn’t identify. It sounded like a squeaky door. We never saw what it was.
Today when we got to the apotheke (and yes we stopped at the bakery first), we were greeted by two birds who were making the squeaky door noise. They ran off into the bushes before I could take a picture of them. So, when Bill wasn’t looking, I spent some time googling birds of Cyprus to see if I could identify them, but no luck. I finally was able to sneak a picture of one of them through the window, so if you know what it is let me know. Anyway, we made more progress on refining our ceramic identifications for EF1 and are going to start putting it into an article.
So today is the first real work day at the apotheke (storehouse). As we were getting our stuff ready to go, Bill was obsessing over whether he would be warm enough in the apotheke. He ended up wearing long pants, a t-shirt, and a hoodie. Seems strange that the guy from North Dakota is cold in 70 degree weather. Meanwhile, I am wearing shorts, t-shirt, and sandals. We stopped at the bakery, but they did not have a lot of baked goods since it is Monday, and worst of all no doughnuts! This would make Erin Averett happy since I only recently learned that she is a doughnut hater.
When we got to the apotheke we spent some time cleaning up, mainly dusting things off so that we had a clean work space. Bill spent a lot of time remarking on how stuffy it was inside the apotheke – about every 5 minutes or so. We got off to a slow start, but that is typical since it takes a while to get back into the swing of things. If you have ever read any of my posts about reading pottery, you might remember that (for me) it is important to have music to listen to as I look at the pottery. This year I let my Spotify account pick my opening songs for me by shuffling. And it was a double shot of Asia to start the season – “Heat of the Moment” and “Only Time Will Tell.” This was followed by “Ashes” from Deadpool 2 and then some Journey.
The rest of the day flew by, except for lunch. We are pretty excited that the restaurant above the apotheke has reopened under new management, so we can now just hop upstairs for lunch. The food was fine, but for some reason Bill wanted to talk about his new apotheke pants and how stretchy they were. I received a lengthy soliloquy about stretchy pants over lunch – not sure what I did to deserve that – I am holding Susie responsible for this.