ICOT 2013 in Limassol, Cyprus

The Cypriots claim all the best parts of Greek culture, like their raki, gyros, and Mediterranean beaches, but still have a unique Cypriot identity, with a splash of random foreign influences. They drive on the left side of the rode and use British power plugs, and the highest number of tourists come annually from Russia. My couchsurf host was a perfectly sculpted Cypriot, who ate only salad at night, and had a white shitzu terrier. She wore a pink bow on her head and always greeted your arrival by running up the stairs to eye level and offering her paw out to shake hello. I spent little time there, but instead saw the inside walls of a classroom for most of my time in Cyprus (which were very pretty walls, I must add).

me and Theo at TEPAK

ICOT is the annual International Conference on Tourism that I decided to attend last minute since I missed all things Greek. Cyprus isn’t quite Greece, but an independent tri-state country (the British, Turkish and Greek have unofficially split up the country) that I could also add to my country list. And, who am I kidding to not say I mostly wanted sun and 30`C. I also got to present my paper on ecotourism, which had a surprisingly large turnout, which was either thanks to my supervisor Dr. Nelson Graburn, or due to the fact that I was listed as a speaker from the University of Iceland in Israel. There was some confusion when the country code “IS” was expanded to Israel by the conference organizers, and people must have been curious to hear from a student at the unheard Icelandic university of Israel.

The conference included about 100 papers being presented over 2 days, minus a few no-shows, including the guy who won best paper (that award ceremony was a bit awkward). It was full of interesting characters, including the hunchback of Notre dame and a vivacious Brazilian woman who made an imovie presentation about the bikinis and beautiful people of Brazil for her talk. There was also a resident dog at the Cyprus University of Technology, who befriended everyone as if he had already known them for years.

Ironically enough, the largest problems we had were technical, with mics, computers and the internet not cooperating as they should, especially considering the fact that we were hosted by a technological institute. Other issues were the same things that come up at every international conference; the native English speakers spoke too fast, the non-native speakers of English couldn’t understand the accents of other non-native speakers, the South African’s always kind of sounded like they were speaking Afrikaans, and the North Americans couldn’t understand anyone except for other North Americans. This resulted in a lot of English to English translations and a few total misunderstandings lost in translation.

The clash of international cultures was more apparent, with different levels of classroom manners pushing the tolerance of each and every speaker. There were those who found it acceptable to talk amongst eachother, walk in and out of the middle of presentations, and the Cypriot photographers who were always switching lights and shutting doors in order to get the best photo of the nerve-wracked speaker. The Greek speakers were always the loudest, since they couldn’t whisper or exercise their inside voices. They even managed to walk louder than everyone else, their footsteps in the hallway heard from every classroom. But, their warm, friendliness never allowed you to lose your patience with them… so you just had to carry on and talk over them.

There were also those speakers whose last names you knew from referencing in your own work, and putting a face to those papers was always a pleasant surprise. The free time between lectures included lunch and coffee breaks, where all the presenters mingled among themselves. The superficial conversations always went the same, “Where are you from? What do you study?” Once you got past that, you were sized up as worthy of more conversation or not, and each and every academic had this natural inclination to compete with eachother in confidence and knowledge of what they do. The presentations were all strictly limited to 15 minutes, so it was always a race against time to show and prove as much as you could during your talk.

The conference had its funny quirks, but in the end, an international conference like this is always the perfect chance for academics to meet and mingle with people from all over the world, inspiring eachother to think about tourism in other ways and other places. But, despite our different backgrounds and various histories, it was wonderful to see how much we all had in common in the end, sharing our interests in tourism while being tourists ourselves in Cyprus.

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