what rhymes with lovely stranger?

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So…..What  does rhyme with stranger? Visually,anger. In practice, its very opposite, plenty of good karma.

This week I had a second unexpected guest, a lovely stranger. Marta from Umbria. She contacted me via couch surfing, the site that has attracted one million members  who have enthusiastically embraced the concept behind the website. She was a host in  local homes in Limassol, Larnaca, Nicosia and Paphos.

Couch surfing brings together as feel good bedfellows people who are not suspicious of their fellow humans and who want to give or receive hospitality in an unconventional way. Surfing  as a stanger into people’s lives is an inexpensive way to see the world and peek behind the tourist scene. Plenty of references  on the profile of the would be guest help convince you to give from what you have, a room or even a couch and information and /or your time and company. Receiving is also on the cards. Instant and lasting friendship, if you are lucky. Companionship , to be sure and possibly return hospitality.

My guest , Marta, who is now my friend,   has a flexible job  in natural health that allows her to travel, her obvious  other passion. Her work is at a magnificent abbey in Italy which has been converted into a holistic centre. The perfect occupation for a true nature lover. A humanitarian, Marta has worked as a volunteer at an orphanage in Africa.

Marta has seen a lot of the world. She is a real free spirit living outside the box. In fact, she lives on a mountain with her dog Mela, some 20 kilometres outside the city. At 36, she is broody about starting a family. She now dreams of settling down with her steady boyfriend and having a bunch of kids.

We talked about natural medicine while we had an alternative tour of central Nicosia which is a city under construction. We visited the bargain hunter’s joints namely the anakyklos shop as well  the Nicosia  dog shelter shop, run by volunteers, me included. Aisha, who is Irish Turkish Cypriot  but grew up in Canada was on duty when we got there.. Aisha, a jazz musician. has made a documentary about the dog shelters on the occupied side of Cyprus which is a must see. We’ll try and screen it on the bicommunal Biz Emis program at CBC.

Next, we glided to the North at the Ledra Street cross point  stumbling upon  the Big Inn, Han in Turkish, a remnant of the Ottoman period.  Here various souvenirs including Lefkara lace is sold, made by Turkish women who fled the village. Other ladies came back to the South as trainees after 74 to learn the craft at the Cyprus Handicraft centre and made it their livelihood. My guest was impressed with the Ayia Sophia cathedral, now a mosque, we had an Efez beer at the Mosaic pub next to it. The next day we visited Famagusta and Kyrenia, prompting Carla to call Northern Cyprus unreal and dream-like.

The next morning I drove her to the Cyprus Handicrafts Centre on Athalassa Avenue. She then took the bus to Paphos to stay with the last host and  flew back courtesy of Rynair. At 70 euros for a return flight, the budget airline is the couchsurfer’s ultimate host.



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