What a difference this Christmas is compared to last Christmas. Last year at this time we spent a very lonely, but cozy Christmas in front of the computer with hot chocolate watching ‘A Christmas Story’, one of our favorite Christmas films, with no tree, no Christmas decorations, and no presents. The only people we really knew were the bartenders at the Hard Rock and the sweet ladies who ran the little ‘Step-In’ store right by our flat. We have come so far.
We’ve been at our same flat for a year and have managed to endear ourselves to our landlords and their adorable little girl who loves the American candy I have ready for her when we pay the rent. We really don’t know any of our neighbors, but there has been quite a bit of moving in and moving out, so it is very difficult to try to get to know anyone. We’ve had Maltese, Italian, French, English and Swedish neighbors, but we really never had the chance to get to know any of them.
We joined an Expat group in March and have made so many friends. The group grows and thins and grows again. Many will be friends for life, and the boat trips to Comino and the Blue Lagoon was a great way to get to know everyone better. The expats also meet on Friday nights at different pubs and venues and we love listening to everyone’s story about how they ended up on Malta. Every story is unique and its amazing how your path ends up crossing with certain people. We’ve experienced many different restaurants, learning many different Maltese traditions and I love trying the local cuisine, even though I still haven’t had rabbit stew! Homie knows exactly how many McDonald’s there are on the island, and we have finally figured out how to explain where we are located when we order food to be delivered. That act alone has probably saved our marriage.
We’ve gotten to know the buses, and don’t mind taking them at all, except when the students are here in August and September, then forget trying to get on a bus between 7 and 10 p.m. We love the Maltese busses and the way they are decked out with the Virgin Mary, reminders to pray and promises of forgiveness. Sometimes you will see the older Maltese women genuflect before they get on and we can never tell if that is a good sign or a bad sign. We know where to catch the bus if we want to go to Mdina, Birkirkara or Mosta. One thing that has struck me is that most of the Maltese people who I have gotten to know really dislike taking the bus, they’ll drive even if it’s a 10-minute walk. The island is approximately the size of Staten Island, but because there are so many cars and the roads are so congested, it can take over 45 minutes to an hour to drive to a location that would take you twenty minutes to walk to. I walk to and from work everyday and I’m home sooner than most people can get through the next stoplight.
We have found great spots to swim, we have figured out the neighborhood shortcuts and when we go for walks we almost always run into somebody we know. We’ve been invited to many of our friend’s homes and have gotten to see many different types of abodes with traditional stone architecture as well as very modern and updated apartments.
I have a wonderful stylist that already knows exactly how to cut my hair, I’m joining a gym soon and Homie has a key to a local tennis club where he joined a league a few months ago. We are getting to the point where it’s a necessity for each of us to have a mobile, and we will soon. A great friend loaned us an older model and we bought a €10 sims card and a €5 pay as you go card, and it lasted us nearly three weeks. It’s not the greatest device to sms on, but it does the job. I’ve now gone without a mobile for a little over a year and I am starting to miss having it. Kind of bittersweet, a friend who is moving home to Canada (hate to see her go…!) is planning on selling me her little beauty when she leaves next month.
Homie has gotten his visa issues squared away finally and it has been a rough road, especially for him as he didn’t know whether he was going to be able to stay or have to go home for a couple of months. I really thought I did my homework before we left the States, but on an island this small, they can make their own rules. But it is sorted and we don’t have to worry about it any longer.
I guess you could say we’re established. We left the States with very little money, big dreams and a will to make it happen. We had a vision, and we made it a reality. (That vision included a tumble dryer, so I have a little work to do, although I have temporarily solved that issue…) In a year’s time we are sitting pretty good and with nothing but great things on the horizon. What’s exciting to me is that one day, Homie and I said, “Screw it. Le’t just do it.” And we did. And here we are. Happy as bloody hell! Can’t wait to see what 2011 brings. Here’s to having a dream and then living it.
Merry Christmas to you all and may 2011 be every thing you dream it will be. ♥