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Churches, Cats, Car, Castle, and Champions

Updated: Dec 21, 2021

I have so much to talk about this week that I hardly know where to begin! It has been a week of great wonderment and drama. 

For one thing, I had a little surgery! Here’s the story: My eyesight has been degrading. Like everybody else, I spent way too much time on the computer during lockdown and afterwards… things began looking blurry! Thankfully my husband does all the driving, because I would not be safe on the road. Even though I had cataract surgery on my left eye around 8 years ago, things were now below par. 

We made an appointment with a local optician, and I went in there with the expectation of hearing that I would need two intricate, involved, frightening (surely painful and bloody) cataract surgeries (that would surely fail!). So I was a little bit anxious and pessimistic. First I was given a battery of eye tests.

Then I was ushered in to meet the doctor. He examined my eye briefly, and then announced I had a “dirty windshield.” 

At first I thought he was saying they needed to remove my old cataract lens implant from my previous surgery and replace it with a new one. But no! Not even. The doctor explained how he could use a laser to “scrub” my “dirty windshield” (cataract lens), and the process would take about 20 seconds. 

I was so astonished that my mouth was probably open in shock during the entire time it took to walk over to another machine and stare at red and white lights for a few seconds while he steered the mechanisms. He then pronounced my “windshield” to be clean and prescribed eye drops to be taken 3x a day for a week or so. And that was the entire procedure! When I walked outside, my sight was the clearest it’s been in years—I could hardly believe it!  It’s almost like I dreamed everything because it was all so fast and painless. 

The lovely bonus was that it allowed me to resume church crawling, with the ability to actually see the sights! First we visited another ancient Byzantine church, Agia Paraskevi, built in the 9th century. 

We happened to stumble inside during a baptism, which we patiently witnessed from the back of the church. Ironically, we had tried to visit this same church once before, only to find a crowd of people and a hearse out front, so clearly a funeral was underway.

A death then and a birth now—perfectly representing the entire lifespan. We were not oblivious to the significance of these two peak moments!

When the baptism ended and the family left, we were free to view the astonishing frescoes. Painted between the 9th and 15th centuries, they depict Biblical scenes with amazing detail using vibrant colors that have withstood the test of time.  

Apparently, during the restoration of some 15th century paintings, 10th century paintings were discovered beneath them.  What an agonizing decision for the restorerers to make—whether to sacrifice the 15th century images in order to reveal the 10th century ones!  Unfortunately, the literature does not reveal what was eventually decided. I only know my sense of awe at the beauty and emotional impact of these wonderful frescoes. 

Another church we visited stands in the middle of yet another archeological dig. Agia Kyriaki Chrysopolitissa was built in the 16th century, following the destruction by earthquakes of churches built in the 4th and 10th centuries on that site. Also in the 4th century, a magnificent bishop’s palace was built alongside the church, with Roman mosaics and some columns surviving subsequent earthquakes.  

A big attraction in seeing this church is the “St. Paul’s Pillar,” where the saint was bound and scourged when he visited Cyprus (Acts 13:4-6). 

I have mixed feelings about this. First of all, it’s thrilling to be somewhere that one of the apostles was at; second of all, I always disliked his misogynistic view of women, so I’m not as sympathetic to his being whipped as I probably should be. (Is that too irreverent? Well, it’s where my mind goes.)

We are planning to return here for a Christmas service, so we haven’t had our fill of the church yet!

On Saturday we headed out to see sites further away from us, and our target was the medieval castle of Kolossi. Built in the year 1210, its ownership was transferred from the Hospitallers to the Knights Templar for two years in 1306, and then returned to the Hospitallers once more. But this is not the original structure; apparently it did not withstand onslaughts from enemy forces in the 1300s and 1400s, and was then devastated by a successive series of catastrophic earthquakes. In 1454 it was replaced by a new castle, which is the edifice we visited that day.

From our visit, I learned a new word: machicolation. In constructing medieval fortifications, this was an opening created between the supporting corbels of a projecting parapet or the vault of a gate through which stones, burning objects, boiling oil, or boiling water could be dumped onto the heads of any enemy who breaches the outer defenses and assails the castle gates (see photo above for example).

It was fun visiting this empty shell of a castle and peering out through the crenellations at the top whilst dodging raindrops—it’s been raining quite a bit in Cyprus. We had a downpour this morning that cleared while we ran errands, and then came back with a vengeance when we arrived at Kolossi Castle. We had a couple of dry intervals that allowed us to step outside and view the exterior, fortunately. (The rain was likely responsible for our having the site all to ourselves—well, the rain and a pandemic anyway, so that was a hidden benefit.)

When the Castle closed for the day, we departed the premises and jumped back on the freeway, making a beeline for home. We were in the midst of a spirited conversation when Robin abruptly announced that an engine light had come on, and the car appeared to be overheating.

Those are among the deadliest words I know. Having suffered through innumerable vehicle problems in Los Angeles over the years, nothing raises my blood pressure faster than car trouble. 

Whilst suffering a small panic attack, I decided to trust that Robin would safely move us off the road. He turned onto the first offramp we came to and asked me to locate a gas station using Google maps. We arrived at a T-junction placed at the end of the exit ramp with signs pointing to Services toward our right. When we stopped at the stop sign we breathed a sigh of relief. Help was close by!

Then the engine died. And the car wouldn’t start. And it was getting dark. And it was Saturday night. None of these were optimal conditions under which to experience car trouble… in a foreign country… without AAA services.

When we realized our luck had run out, Robin pulled out his Bat-phone—a cell phone our hostess had given us to use locally in Cyprus—and he dialed her number (in Ireland no less). When she answered, he laid the situation out for her.

Let me tell you—Stabilizers can activate their network like nobody’s business. She had us rummage in the glove box and locate a packet that contained an emergency number for towing, and also the number for a friend of theirs who just happens to run an automotive shop and would be repairing the problem. We made those calls pronto: done and done. 

We were advised, however, that the tow truck driver would not be allowed to drive us home due to COVID rules. Uh oh—now what?!

Our hostess had an answer for that too: she called around and talked “Suzie” into coming for us (even though we were half an hour away). Remarkable! 

We played the waiting game after that… eventually the tow truck arrived. The car went up onto the flatbed.

No doubt because of the rain, the driver broke the rules and drove us three miles to that gas station we hoped to visit when we first reached the T-junction. (Except now it was closed.) 

We made more phone calls from there, updating everybody on everything. Communication was key. The auto repair guy promised to help us arrange a loaner vehicle until he could repair this one, and he dropped the bad news that we may have a blown head gasket (ouch! $$$$$!). 

Suzie arrived shortly afterwards and ferried us safely home where the cats were waiting, hungry and grumpy for companionship. That was an adventure I’m glad to have ended. I keep thinking of Meister Eckhart’s words: “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is ‘thank you,’ it will be enough.” We feel fortunate and well looked after in spite of everything. 

The excitement tuckered me out, though, and I look forward to curling up in a warm bed with my boyfriend, Max, cuddling and comforting me as he tends to do:

There will be more to come from Cyprus. Until then, have a wonderful Christmas, and may Santa be good to you!

warmly, -Dr. Vicky Jo

PS: Churches, cats, car, castle, and champions all start with the letter “C” of course! (For the record, the main “champion” was my optical surgeon, although several others in this week’s missive are likewise eligible for the title. Bless them all!)

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