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Long Time, No Post

I know.  It’s been forever.  Even though there is lots to catch up on, this post is going to be short and sweet.  I’m thinking that if I keep the posts shorter, I will post more often. If I start writing about all the reasons why I haven’t written, I may develop another case of unimaginative writer’s block and that would be a bad thing.

Below I am listing the top five things that happened since I’ve last written.

1.  I spent the month of August in Minnesota.  It was a great trip and even though it was the longest vacation I’ve ever been able to take, it also went so fast.  I didn’t get to see all the friends that I wanted to, but I had nearly a week of fun, relaxing time with my son and my grandson at the cabin in northern Minnesota. And the shopping was a dream. I came home to Malta with five new pairs of shoes and three pairs that I had in storage. Just writing about the shopping in the States is giving me sweet visions of the Mall of America. Nothing in Malta compares. 

2.  Homie spent 90 days out of Malta to satisfy his residential visa requirements.  For nearly seven weeks I was living in Malta on my own.  It was hard.  Even though our good friends were there for me, giving me a ride for the big shopping trips and events that were too far to take the bus by myself,  I realized how dependant I had let myself become on Homie. He ran all the errands, did most of the cleaning and nearly all of the shopping.  In my defense I was working full-time, but I still took for granted all that he was doing.  Talk about role-reversal! We will find out very soon if his application for his spousal residence permit has been approved, keep your fingers crossed for us!  I never want to be separated that long again!  It was very hard, on both of us.

3.  I was in a terrible car accident.  Homie wasn’t in America two full days and I was involved in a head-on collision while out with some friends.  A drunk Italian driving a Smart car hit us head on at about 40 KPH.  We were in a small Mazda and I was in the back seat with out my seat belt buckled.  Had the Italian been driving anything bigger, I really don’t think I’d be typing this right now.  I was pretty banged up, missed nearly a week of work and experienced being in an emergency room, in a foreign country all by myself.  It was very difficult.  Luckily all three of us are okay and mended, but the Italian driver?  He walked away, no ticket, no remorse and not a penny of compensation (car insurance would not pay).  My friend’s car was totaled and there was absolutely nothing she could do about it.  She can hire an attorney at her own expense, but it will take years before the case is heard and the Italian has already left Malta.  But now, I always, and I mean always, buckle up in the back seat.

4.  I celebrated my 50th birthday twice.  Depending on who you are, milestone birthdays can be traumatic, and my 50th could have been for me had I not had amazing friends to celebrate with on both sides of the globe.  You may remember a past post about my good friend Inga, the fun and crazy girl I hang out with in Malta – she rented a huge cabin cruiser, complete with a Captain and took me and Valerie (the third member of our posse) out on the Mediterranean for the entire day!  It was the best birthday a girl could ask for!  So. Much. Fun.

I am amazingly lucky because I am still the best of friends with my high school peeps, for nearly 35 years now, and we threw a large party in Minnesota as we all turned 50 this year.  Everyone showed up, and most of the parents were there as well, along with kids and other friends I hadn’t seen in a very long time. When we all get together like that its as if we are 15 again and we were up almost all night rockin’ out to tunes from the 70’s and 80’s and reminiscing about our crazy youth!  It was a great time!

5.  I am finally writing again.  I’ve been in a major slump.  Part of it is feeling uninspired and part of it was never being able to find a block of time where I could just sit and write without constant interruptions.  I really thought I would be able to get a lot of work done with the book while Homie was in America, but it never seemed to work out.  There is always so much to do in the summer time!  But I’m back in the saddle and my goal is to have the first draft of the manuscript done by the end of January.  I’m finally excited about the book and the direction that I’ve decided to take.  I’m energized to write again and I have a feeling it’s going to be a good read!

Until next time my faithful readers, and I PROMISE – I won’t wait six months before the next update!

My New Year’s resolution was to blog once a week.  The last time I wrote it was January 11th.  I achieved the same result with my resolution to start up my strength-training program, but as of today I am back on track with both.  It only took four months to get started, but let’s focus on the positive.

There have been quite a few changes for us in the first half of 2011.  We moved into a penthouse apartment less than 10 minutes from our old place. What makes it such a great move for us is the new place is completely decorated and feels like a home.  We have a large terrace off of the kitchen where Homie’s Weber grill resides.  We rescued it from Inga’s place as it sat all alone in the back of her garden.  Then we have another very private terrace off of the bedroom and we get a lot of sun and a great view from both of them.  It has literally changed our perspective living on Malta and we are so much happier in the new space.

Another huge change is I’ve switched jobs.  I am now writing web content and managing the social media outlets for an online gaming company.  While the writing content is a bit more exciting and diverse than the technical work I was doing previously, the bad news is that I have to go through the complete process of getting the work permit all over again.  At least this time I had all my paperwork in order and now it is just a waiting game until the new permit for the new company is approved.  I’ve been talking to a few people who are ‘in the know’ about the fact that the DCEA has changed procedures making the process a bit more streamlined, and all I can hope for is that they know what they are talking about and the new permit is approved asap.  It is against all rules and regulations to work while you are waiting for approval, so I am hoping that it goes fast.  In the meantime I picked up some contract work from the States, so we should be okay as once again I wait to become legal to reside and work in Malta.

Homie is currently in Sweden helping out one of our good friends ready their home for selling.  One of the first couples we met when we first arrived on the island, AB is American and BW is Swedish, and they have been living on Malta for the last three years while they’ve rented their home just outside of Stockholm.  Their eldest is currently attending George Washington University (doing fabulously well I might add as she is interning at the White House) and they have decided to move to the States in July to be closer to her and AB’s mom.  You may remember faithful reader, that AB invited me to join her writer’s group when I first came to Malta and because of her and her gracious support, I’ve met so many lovely people from all over the globe.  She will be sorely missed and I hate to see her leave Malta, but life is never static, always changing, always evolving and we will remain friends for life.  She recently picked up a book agent as she has finished her first novel, so she continues to be an inspiration to me.  I just hope she remembers to give me her coffee pot before she leaves…however, I am not one to beat around the bush so I have no problem reminding her.

I miss Homie terribly, I really do and the first couple of nights were horrible, especially when I got home from work and dinner wasn’t started.  But it has given me extra time to get my half-written (who am I kidding? not even half…) manuscript sorted and I have re-kindled my determination to get the first draft written by the end of the year.  The story is coming along quite nicely and I believe that if it makes me laugh it will make a whole lot of others out there in the world laugh as well.  I was just Skyping with my son the other day, complaining about Malta (I have a terrible case of  island fever) and how homesick I’ve been lately.  He says with complete conviction, “Okay ma, just come home now.  You did it, enough is enough.”  He was goofing around with me, but he was serious too.  Most of my family and some of our friends never imagined that Homie and I would have really made a go of it and gone this far, stayed away this long.

The book is turning into a half memoir/half fictional story about how having a personal goal, a dream or vision affects every person in your life, and, how it ‘doesn’t’ affect them.  What we went through as we tried to make the people in our lives understand why we needed to do this became quite humorous.  Some were and still are supportive, some just pretend to be supportive, some just shrug you off or feel it is their sole purpose in life to try and talk some sense into you. There is so much material there to write about, including all the great adventures we experienced along the way, that it will be hard to edit.

I’ve changed so much since leaving Minnesota and it will be interesting when I go home because a lot of the people in my life haven’t changed at all, still working the same jobs, living in the same home, doing the same things. Skype, Facebook and email keep us connected, but at the end of the day, we are still on the other side of the world.  Our  trip home will be documented religiously because this is the part of my story where the circle of this adventure connects.   Coming full circle, going back to Minnesota, as a visitor, having achieved, accomplished and proved, that if you want something bad enough, there’s nothing on the planet that can keep you from having it.

As for the title of this post, well, it’s been so long since I blogged I had to do something radical to get your undivided attention.  If you are reading this sentence, thanks for sticking around and I promise that the next installment will not take four months to produce!

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.

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. ♥

Our Malta Anniversary

It seems hard to believe that we have been living on Malta for an entire year.  We have come so far since we first arrived and even though we are still waiting to hear if my husband is going to be deported (well, deported isn’t really the right word, but I love teasing him), we have done quite well and we are pretty proud of ourselves.  I’m working full-time, Homie has finally had a chance to take some time off of work to decide what his next goal in life may be and we have met so many cool people, friends for life from all over the world that we never would have met if we wouldn’t have taken the chance of following a dream.

There are many things we miss from the States, but when you come right down to it, other than family and friends, it’s all material.  There are so many contrasts from our former life, but in other ways, our daily life is not that much different.  I’m working everyday, in an office where I’m the minority.  It is a really different feeling and I’m not sure I like it all that much, but it offers a sense of perspective I never would have gotten in the States.  My colleagues automatically speak Maltese not to shut me out of the conversation, but because it’s their language and I have to remind myself daily not to take it personally.  Homie and I are taking a conversational Maltese language course in January, so I hope to at least understand some of the language before we go home for a long visit next summer. 

We are feeling pretty comfortable in our surroundings and now dress like the locals and not the tourists in November!  We know where to shop, what trucks to buy our produce from, where to get the freshest seafood and what Maltese wine tastes the best.  We know how to take the bus wherever we need to go and when we go for walks we almost always run into someone we know.   

I should have my Maltese ID card soon and with that I can finally open a bank account here, but it amazes me how easy its been to be able to live completely on cash, without checks or a debit card or any credit cards.  It has also been rather easy living without a mobile phone, (I vowed to go a year without one, just to prove that I could) although there have been some days when it would have come in handy.  It’s been easy living without a car, almost a blessing really with the parking issues here and auto congestion.  If we need a ride anywhere our friends pick us up or the Wembley cab will take you mostly anywhere for €10-12. 

We are used to watching the Weakest Link instead of Wheel of Fortune, having ham for breakfast instead of bacon and watching Eurosport instead of ESPN.  We went to Africa and will be spending Christmas in Sicily and find ourselves blessed to be able to travel all over Europe for so little.  We are now used to thinking in terms of Euros, kilos, kilometers and metres.  Lots of Brits migrate to the island and I find myself saying things like brilliant, straight-away and bloody hell! I go out for a fag and say Cheers! before even thinking of drinking before anyone else at the table or bar.

Skype and Facebook keeps us connected with friends and family and sometimes it doesn’t seem like we are over 4,000 miles away from home.  But now that we are at the one year mark and have taken a moment to reflect on all that we have been through with the visas, finding work and fitting in to a land where we had never even visited prior to moving to, I can honestly say that moving to Malta has turned into an adventure of a lifetime and we’ve never been happier!

Adventures can come in many different forms, like leaving America to live on a small Mediterranean island, or starting a new job in an office in a foreign country and then, there is my new friend Inga.  Born in Iceland and raised in Norway, this girl has become one of my favorite peeps to hang out with on this little rock in the sea.

The first time we met it was at an expat event at the Black Pearl, a bar and restaurant in an actual ship that had been resurrected from the sea, then used in the film Popeye.   She smoked all my fags, (I am still SO not used to calling them fags!) but in return bought me wine all night.  Me, Inga and Valerie (from France) had a great time inciting riots on the dance floor and by the end of the night we had promised to get together for dinner the next week.

The next week it was my birthday and the three of us met for dinner at a cute little restaurant right on the sea and we shared three bottles of wine, and the last one I brought home with me.  Inga took a class to learn about wine and she is passing on the knowledge to me, free of charge.  This adventure was of a different flavor, there was a dead fish floating right below us and none of us could identify it and after the second bottle of wine and two Irish coffees, we seriously contemplated climbing over the railing and finding a way to get down to the rocks to check it out, but finally settled with talking the waiters into sitting down with us and having a glass of wine, even though they were waiting patiently for us to finish our long dinner so they could go home for the evening.

The next adventure was a BBQ at her house where I had so much fun playing hide and seek with her seven-year old in the mansion they are calling home for the next three years.  After the kids went to bed, we stayed up, discussed world peace, politics in Iran and damn if she didn’t teach me a thing or two about this crazy, radical world we live in. 

The next adventure was a short trip to Gozo, Malta’s sister island and a visit to the dentist office.  It seems this wild child has a phobia with the dentist and she needed some moral support.  I wasn’t working yet, and it was a beautiful day and who am I to say no to an all expense paid trip to the quaint little island? As we sat and talked it occurred to me that I had found a great friend; and in such a short time!  It seemed we were passionate about the same things and as we sat on the ferry and drank our Cisks, we both wondered how lucky we were that we were living on Malta and what luck it was that our paths had crossed so momentarily. 

On to Mdina!  Originally she offered to drive Homie and I to Valletta, since the work permit had not yet materialized, we needed to apply for an extension on our travel visa, and she knew right where to go.  But since we live in Malta, (and remember, we are glad we live here) they closed at half past 11 (that’s in the a.m. folks) and here we are at 12:10 with a whole afternoon free on our hands, so why not visit the oldest city in Malta, the silent city, Mdina.  As we park and get out of the vehicle the clouds start to get dark and here is Inga ready to give her umbrella to the parking attendant, and lucky for her I was there to talk some sense into her as it wasn’t a half hour later and we were caught in a torrential downpour.  We finally found a little restaurant appropriately named Bacchus, and we had the best lunch of calamari, wine and caesar salad (Inga doesn’t eat mammals…) and the three of us had a great day.

The other day we were supposed to meet for dinner and while I still don’t have a mobile (my year of giving up my dependence on the mobile phone is nearly up, and it was Inga who in her distress at not being able to get ahold of me claimed I was so “1995”) she was actually able to phone me.  How you ask?  As I’m biting into my delicious garlic chicken, the owner of the restaurant hands me a phone and says in his Maltese accent, “It’s for you.”  I answer and who else?  Inga.  At the hospital with poor little Freyja, who needed a few stitches above her eye.  We met later the next week for dinner and Inga picks me up looking like a battered housewife.  She has decided to take parasailing lessons and as she was getting to know the gear, the wind took hold of her and dragged her across the rocks for at least 50 meters.  She just laughed about it, and I thought to myself, it’s always an adventure with Inga!

When we left the States in November of 2009, most of our friends and family thought we had gone loco.  Don’t get me wrong, for the most part they were very supportive, some more than others.  We had our life savings, our dreams of how things were going to work out and just each other to lean on.  I planned on penning the novel of the century and my husband dreamed of taking a year or two off and doing nothing but fishing and lazing in the sun.  It wasn’t long until the savings dwindled down to the danger zone and my husband picked up a small part-time job and I started hunting for work as well.  It took me a little over five months, but I finally found a great position and we were so happy because I would make enough for us to be able to finally stop worrying about money.

I really thought I did my research before we left the States and as it turns out, instead of getting an ‘A’ on my homework, I get a ‘D’.  There were so many documents that I should have brought with us and there were so many things that I was not aware of, such as the fact that Americans are a third country national (anyone who does not possess an EU passport, or is not a resident of an EU country).  When you do not possess an EU passport it is extremely hard to find employment in Europe.  Another strike I had against me is that I am not bi-lingual.  Malta is home to over 100 online casino companies and even though I applied at every recruitment agency and job searching organization, no online casino would hire me because I did not speak another language such as Swedish, Norwegian or German.  Even if I would have known a little Spanish I could have gotten in some where, but it was not to be. 

I finally ended up applying for a call center position at a company that provides virtual computing software.  I was filled with hope, they actually had offices in America.  Surely, this opportunity would pan out.  Two weeks after sending my cover letter and CV, I received the dreaded email response, “Thanks, but no thanks.”  I was so mad!  I was over-qualified for this position and didn’t they know what a great and dedicated employee I could be?!  Before I could stop myself I penned an email response that went something like this:  “Thank you so much for responding and at least telling me I didn’t get the job.   I understand you must be really busy, but if you could give me some advice I would really appreciate it.   I have been job searching for five months and can’t even get an interview!  Is it my CV?  Is it my cover letter? Or is it because I’m American?!”  I hit send before I could talk myself out of it and figured what do I have to lose?  Two hours later the CEO called me.  He offered me an interview to come in and talk about re-writing all of their technical manuals and white papers.  The position started out with my doing a couple of projects for them and after a couple of months they offered me a full-time position.  It was a perfect fit, I was writing and the wage was better than anything else I may have been able to find.  So now, all we had to do was start the process of applying for the Malta work permit.

Since Homie and I had allowed our funds to drop to damn near the poverty level, we had not traveled outside of Malta and regretfully, we had let our travel visas expire.  A travel visa is good for 90 days.  We knew we had to travel outside of the Schengen Zone (two years ago all we would have had to do is take the ferry to Sicily!) and come back into Malta to get our passports re-stamped.  We booked a trip to Tunisia, (see previous post) and enjoyed a lovely holiday until the stress of having to go through customs to get back into Malta hit.  We were scared shitless.  We had heard horror stories from our expat friends about people that they have known that were not allowed back into the country.  European countries do not take kindly to you over-extending your stay.  We ran the risk of getting kick out of the Schengen Zone for up to five years.  But luck was on our side that evening as our flight out of Tunisia was delayed for two hours and we did not get to the Malta customs gate until 2:30 a.m.  We were the last flight in, on a Sunday night and the customs officials wanted to go home just as badly as we did.  We stepped up to the counter, gave the official our passport, held our breath and watched as our passports were stamped and handed back to us.  We were so relieved!

Now that I had a freshly stamped passport and was once again legal to be in Malta, my company could start the work permit process.  And what a process it is.  The first hurdle was I needed my actual college diploma, which was safely tucked away in my storage facility in Minnesota.  Thank God for my good friend in the States who dropped everything and found my son, who had the key, and went to the facility to find it.  I was on the phone with him, guiding him as he put me on speaker and  I shouted out boxes that I had labeled.  After a few hit and misses he finally located it.  He Fed Exed it to me and I had it within a week.  In the meantime, my new company placed an ad in the Malta Times for the position and the ad had to be active for a week to allow other applicants to apply.  The only way a third country national like me can get a job in Malta is if no other Maltese applicant is qualified for the position, which I suppose is the way it should be.  In any country. 

Four weeks after returning from Tunisia, the HR rep and I had everything we needed to apply for the permit, including another Fed Ex delivery that included my marriage license, my divorce decree and my college transcript.  The company paid the €150 filing fee and the day that the HR rep was to drive to the ETC office in Halfar to submit the application, she called me and said she needed my actual diploma, so I had to walk down to the end of the block to meet her with the document. My beloved diploma with my degree and the all important seal is still physically out of my possession, but I’m not really worried, it will find its way back to me. 

As I write this I am still waiting to get the permit, and once it is mine both Homie and I will have the all important resident visa sticker for our passports and I will be able to work in Malta for one year’s time.  My company will apply for my renewal for up to five years.  After five years there is another process that will have to be done, but by that time I am hoping that my book will be published or at least on the way to being published and then who knows?  I may be blogging from the South Pacific…!