It’s been three months since I’ve been working full-time in Malta, it’s gone so quickly and I think I’m finally starting to fit in a little bit. I am past the imaginary finish line of the “probation period” and things have been going well, even though the only Maltese word that I can seem to remember is ‘Mella’ (of course). Homie and I have come to the conclusion that the only reason that we can’t seem to memorize any of the Maltese language is because we don’t ‘have’ to. English is spoken by 98% of everyone on the island, so we are able to communicate quite easily.
All of my colleagues are Maltese, except for the owner who is Greek, and two others who are German. I don’t get mad when I’m the only one in the room that can’t understand the conversation, I just feel isolated. I tell myself that they are not talking Maltese around me because they don’t want me to know what they are talking about or that they are purposefully trying to exclude me, it is just that this is their language and when you let your guard down during the course of the day it is easy to slip into your native tongue. At least that is what I hope they are doing! But then there is another part of me that is annoyed and kind of hurt by it. I know I would not speak in a language in front of someone, let alone carry on a 20-minute conversation in front of that person, if they could not understand what I was saying. I think it is really rude and insensitive, especially if that person was the only person who didn’t understand. Just today we ordered take-away and most everyone was in the board room eating lunch and everyone was talking in Maltese. I wanted to stand up and take my lunch to my desk where my iPod and the Internet were, but I didn’t. I wish I could just politely say, “Could you speak in English please?” and I can not do that either for some reason. I’m so afraid I’m going to offend someone, unintentionally, and I don’t ever want to create problems with my co-workers.
In any situation in America, whether social, work-related or family and friends related, I’ve been a really down-to-earth, assertive and tell-it-like-it-is kind of gal and I’m not here. That pisses me off too. That I can’t be myself. I have been popular and well-liked in all of my previous positions and I love making people laugh. And it never fails, I inevitably become half of the office’s confident. But I don’t see that ever happening here.
Right before the Christmas break the people I sit with in a rather large room were all called into the board room for a short meeting. We were told that because of reorganization and expansion purposes we were going to be switching offices. Because part of my job includes recording instruction videos for our software, I was getting my own office. I thought this was great for my work, because it does get noisy every now and then and I was wondering how I would manage. But then it occurred to me that I will be segregated from my co-workers even further. I am curious to see how it works out, sitting by myself has its advantages, but then I won’t have the opportunity to get to know the people I work with better.
Other than the language barrier things have been going well at work. I’m finally understanding the software and have no problem finding the tools I need on the network to do my job. I love the fact that I can walk to work and it is just a short 10 minute jaunt to and from. The office atmosphere is relaxed and they have flex time, meaning that you can come in up to 10:30 a.m. and then leave at 7 p.m. I have health insurance and direct deposit. I have access to the Internet and freedom, meaning I am left to meet my deadlines without anyone looking over my shoulder, criticizing my work. Then, I called in sick.
I was sick. I had a terrible head cold. In the States, I probably would have went into the office, but here, it just seemed like too much trouble and I didn’t want to give anyone my cold. I emailed the HR gal and about a half hour later she called me at home. She wished me well, told me to take care and said the Doctor would be by shortly. Huh? I said, “Doctor?” She said, “Yes, the company will send a doctor to your flat.” I said, “Will he call me first?” She said, “No, but he usually comes by in the early afternoon.” A couple of hours later the phone rang and it was the doctor, he was lost. I truly did not feel well, (thank God) and tried to give him instructions to our flat, but he lost patience with me and, well, he hung up on me. Now I was thinking I really didn’t want to see a doctor who was angry with me. So Homie, always coming to my rescue, offered to go and see if he could find him. Of course he was successful and less than 10 minutes later I could see them on their way to the apartment.
So he examined me and sure enough, I had a sinus infection that may possibly turn into bronchitis, so he wrote me a prescription for an antibiotic (I’m actually surprised that he didn’t ask for my Father’s signature…) and for ibuprofen. As he was giving me all the instructions for the medication, the rude American that I am, I interrupted him and said, “Well, I can go back to work tomorrow, right?” It was a Thursday. He looked at me with a worried look on his face and said, “Slow down! You may want to take an extra day to recuperate and get back to normal before you go back to work!” I just looked at Homie, shrugged and said to the doctor, “Well, if you think it’s best.” It was a great 4-day weekend.