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Archive for the ‘Adjusting to Living Life on an Island’ Category

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!

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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!

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When I lived in Minnesota I worked for a lovely little non-profit agency that helped women succeed in starting their own businesses, changing their careers and finding employment in non-tradtional ways.  I worked at WomenVenture for a little over five years and did everything from creating and implementing computer classes to interviewing women on public assistance determining whether or not they had what it took to work in construction.  One of my most fondest memories of working for WomenVenture was meeting Gloria Steinem. 

I’ll never forget when she walked into the Minneapolis Convention Center, at 70 years young, wearing brown leather pants, a camel colored turtleneck and her trademark shades that covered half her face.  She was lovely and charming; had a warm greeting for everyone she met, and her thirty minute talk that afternoon was inspiring and uplifting, complete with a standing ovation.  It occurred to me the other day that if  Gloria knew what goes on in Malta, she may consider a Women’s Liberation Movement on the little rock in the sea.

Recently it has come to my attention that there are a few drawbacks to being a woman when you live in Malta.  (When I say drawbacks, I’m strictly talking about what I consider to be a couple of leaps back in time.) A couple of weeks ago I was having coffee with a few of the expats and one of my new acquaintances was telling us the story of her friend, who had recently moved to Malta from the UK (quite common, the Brits retiring or starting businesses on Malta) and she had bought a small house to renovate and live in.  After receiving an overwhelming bid from a local contractor, she decided to purchase all the bathroom remodeling supplies on her own in an attempt to save a few bucks.  She shopped and picked out all that she needed for her new powder room and the salesman was quite giddy as he wrote up the invoice. As the order was completed and she handed over her mode of payment, the salesman stated that she would need the signature of her ‘husband’ to complete the sale.   She stated quite calmly (I would have blown my stack like a cartoon character) that she was living alone on the island and didn’t have a husband.  Then surely, the bathroom salesperson says, your father wouldn’t mind coming in and signing?  As soon as she was able to regain what was left of her composure, she again said that she was living alone on the island and that since she was 46 years old and had not lived with her father for quite some time, that no, her father would not be able to come in and sign for the order.

As I sat and listened to this unbelievable tale, and tried to keep my mouth from hanging open, my expat friend said that she finally had the contractor go with her, sign the invoice (he didn’t have to pretend he was her father, boyfriend, lover or Uncle who came to visit…) and she was able to complete the transaction.  There’s no doubt that this is an isolated instance, but as amazed as I found myself that day, I started to see bits of evidence to support the fact that women are not considered equal to men in my new home and I just hope that my big American “girls are just as equal as boys” attitude doesn’t get me into a heap of trouble…

I should have known something was amiss when in the ‘early months’ of living on the island I attempted to place a take away order and as I was trying to recite our address to the rude young man on the other end of the line, he asked me, and not very politely, if I could speak english.  I handed the phone to my husband, in disgust, (you should have seen his face at the prospect of not having pizza and wings delivered…) and heard him reciting the address in what I am sure the person on the other end of the line would have considered perfect english. 

A couple of weeks later as we contemplated ordering in, I refused to be the one to place the order.  I had a hard time convincing my husband that he should be the one to do it.  Finally, he conceded and placed the order without incident.  Later that week, my darling husband came home and announced that a female co-worker had validated my complaint; she believed I was right, women are simply not treated equally on Malta.  

So now I find out that in order to open up a bank account in Malta,  I will need a certified copy of my marriage certificate, a certified copy of my divorce decree (both documents are currently in a secured storage space in Minnesota), my passport, and a Maltese ID card, which is not-so-easy-to-get as an American expatriate.  If my husband would like to open a bank account, all he needs is a Maltese ID card and his passport. 

There are so many different adjustments one must make when relocating to another country.  We have been here just about five months now and I am realizing that it will take about a year to really feel like our new surroundings are home.  Most expats will tell you the same thing and I now know how true it is.  We are just about at the halfway mark.  I finally found a job as a technical writer for a software company and have been busy with my first project of re-writing the main training manual.  We are going on our first boat trip around the three islands on Saturday and will finally be able to see Gozo and Comino.  What do you suppose the chances are that the driver of the boat is a woman?  Tune in next week to find out!

~Peace~

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Baseball
When we decided to move to Malta one of the drawbacks was the fact that we were going to miss out on seeing the Minnesota Twins play this season in the brand new outdoor stadium.  It wasn’t a deal breaker, but none-the-less, it was a bummer.  So when we were able to get the game in tonight, we were both happy to be there, if only by way of our computer screen and a shaky connection to Sopcast.  With a little bit of patience and some real determination, we finally connected in the bottom of the fourth inning.  What a beautiful diamond in the city, looking all green and new!  The Twins won, Kubel hit the first homerun in the new digs and we found ourselves craving a good old-fashioned American hotdog.  The only thing that may have made the experience a bit more realistic would be hearing the wail of Wally the Beerman!  It was a great game and the stadium looks amazing.  Outdoor baseball is back in Minnesota, and it is about time! 

Prostitutes 
When we first moved into the flat, our landlord kindly took Homie down and around the block to show him where the grocer, DVD store and Step-In (a little store kind of like Tom Thumb…) were located.  Then he pointed way down the block, near the bus stop and looked at Homie and seriously stated, “Be careful down there.  That’s where all the hookers are.”  We of course immediately started to wonder what kind of neighborhood we got ourselves caught up in.  Here we are five months later and we actually do live in a nice little neighborhood (if not for the continuous traffic…) complete with a kick-ass DVD store and a reasonable grocer right around the corner.  It takes five minutes to walk down to our little bus stop that takes us to Rasta Bar, and on the way,  nearly right across the street, sit the ladies of the night.

When we first moved in we were anxious to walk around and check out our surroundings.  As we first encountered the ladies, either sitting by the open window or standing in the doorway, our nostrils were assaulted with the fumes of heavy perfume and Aqua Net.  It doesn’t matter what time it is, whenever we have ventured past, they are all done up and open for business.    When I was able to catch their eye, I’d make sure to smile and say hello.  By the surprised look on their faces I realized that they were not expecting any Minnesota nice, but hey, that’s just me.   They don’t really bother anyone, except maybe someone’s wife, and it seems as though they are not hassled by the Puliza, as we have never seen or heard any trouble, even when we are dropped home by the Wembley cab service after hanging at the Rasta bar til 4 a.m.    Last night Homie walks in at 1 a.m. after a night in the kitchen chopping garlic and declares, “Well, I’ve done something tonight that I’ve never done before in my life.”  I said, “What could that possibly be?”  And he informed me with a huge smile on his face, “I directed some Russian guy to where the hookers are.”  I laughed and said, “Maybe you should consider pimping, there’s some money in that.”  And then we watched South Park.

Dingli Cliffs
Last weekend we were day trippin’ at the Dingli Cliffs.  I had been wanting to go for some time and we ended up having perfect weather as we headed out, on Homie’s only day off for the week.  We took the bus to Valletta and after consulting the trusty 2009 bus schedule we saw that Bus #81 would take us straight to one of the biggest tourist destinations on the island, the Dingli (din-glee) Cliffs.  The bus ride was the longest so far, about 30 minutes, and as we wound our way through the tiny villages and towns,  our new countryside started to get a bit greener.  Homie and I looked at each other like we were ten again and on the way to Disneyland, and I think it was completely due to the fact that we were now seeing grass, trees and colorful wild flowers.  Not a lot of color where we have been spending the majority of our time…

Just when we started to wonder how much further, the bus stopped with a screech and the driver shouts, “Dingli Cliffs!”  Everyone shuffles up and out of the bus and we find ourselves in the tiny little town of Dingli.  I do not see anything except a round-about and more cement.  Suddenly Homie exclaims, “Look at that sign!”  I look to where he is pointing (there is a picture of this in the photos…) and on the building in front of us is a little sign with an arrow that says, “Dingli Cliff”.  So we start to hoof it down the road, following our fellow passengers, wondering where the heck we are going.  We walk for about a half mile, with buildings on either side of us and all of a sudden we the buildings are behind us and we are confronted with the most beautiful view of the Mediterranean Sea yet.  The road that skirts the cliffs is over a thousand feet above the sea, and is easily the most panoramic view we have witnessed so far on this tiny little island.  At the end of the road sits Bobbyland, the only restaurant in sight, so we stroll in for a few Cisks and split a dinner of Steak Diane (still can’t do the rabitt which Bobbyland is famous for…) which was delicious. 

Afterwards, we thought we’d have a bit of a hike, but the terrain was so rocky, with no defined paths, complete with rusty gates in the middle of nowhere to prevent you from any further descent.  We meander back down the winding road to the bus stop, noticing a decorative cemetary on the way.  I snap a few pictures just as we saw the bus turning in the roundabout.  A great day exploring another part of the island and as the older bus jostled its way toward Valletta,  I am once again amazed that this Minnesota girl is living and loving life in Malta.

~Peace~

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We had so much fun last night!  Yesterday, (Wednesday) was Homie’s one full day off and it was finally sunny and beautiful.  It has been rather chilly, windy and rainy the last couple of days and seeing blue sky when you wake up is so energizing.  We got a few things done around the house, and then left the flat for a long walk, to take care of a few errands and enjoy a couple of Cisks. 

I submitted my CV (resume) to another Malta company that shows real promise.  This is a technical company located right here in Msida.  Our destination today was to see how close the company was and whether it was in walking distance.  I am happy to report that it is within walking distance and only about three blocks past Cafe Jubilee where Homie is working.  They have offices in Australia, Frankfurt, Tokyo and Texas!  I’ve researched and have read as much as possible about the company, and feel like it is only a matter of time until I start working there.  It-is-going-to-happen. 

After we discovered how close my potential new employer is, we walked into a really cool little bookstore that I hadn’t been in before.  They had great merchandise at a reasonable price and I found a few things that I want to go back and get.  Our main purpose for this visit was to find a sympathy card for our best friends in Minnesota. We found the perfect card and then browsed for a bit.  My husband was amazingly patient, and then I even took a few minutes longer drooling over the desert case.  I didn’t realize it at first, but the gift shop/bookstore is connected to a little sandwich shop.  I realized how hungry I was so we headed further down the Strand to an outdoor café and bar called Tri `Angeli that we like.  A pint of Cisk is only 2 euro and we decided to split a hamburger plate because we were still going to make dinner later.  We got our lunch and usually the portions are huge, but when Homie lifted the top bun we found that our cheeseburger was the size of a regular McDonald’s hamburger sitting  on this huge bun.  We both started laughing and if you knew my husband like I do you would know how hilarious this is. The size of his burger or steak can make or break his day.  

We made our way home after three pints each and really felt like taking it a step further and hitting the Rasta Bar.  It had been a couple of highly emotional days because even though we are over 5,000 miles from home, we can not seem to escape the family drama.  I grabbed the laptop and logged on to check email.  As I was reading the latest posts on Facebook, our Maltese friend who owns the Rasta Bar, started a chat with me and we ended up making plans to hang out for the evening.  He lives in Bugibba (buge-gee-ba) and he suggested we take a bus from Msida to Bugibba.  His plan included to then pick us up at the Bugibba bus terminal. Homie and I are looking at each other like, “What?  Take a new bus at night to somewhere we have not been yet?”  Here’s the deal.  We are public transportation rookies.  We feel confident learning in the light of day, but to try something new at night is a little daunting for us.  Liswed (I call him LB!) chats:  “I pick you up in an hour.”  Okay.  I let him know we will try and hope to see him soon.  I say to Homie, “Well, we just have to try, because we have to get used to taking the bus to get where we want to go.  The only way to learn is to do it!”  Homie reluctantly agrees and we decide to give it a go.

On the way out, we check our trusty bus schedule and quickly learn that we have choices!  We can catch either the 48, 49, 58, 70, 86, 149, 427, 449, 627, or the 652.  We go to three different stops, and stop the bus three times and each driver advises us to go Valetta and take the 49.  We look at the bus schedule and the 49 leaves Valetta and goes to Msida (where we are currently standing…) and then on to Bugibba.  So frustrating.  It is almost 8:30 by now so we decide to go home and call LB to let him know that our effort is fruitless.  We catch LB just as he is leaving to meet us and he sounds disappointed.  He says that he does not want to drive to Msida to get us then back to Bugibba then back to Msida.  I tell him I understand (when actually I am disappointed and don’t understand because he’s got a car and the island is only 20 miles long for crying out loud!!) and that we have plenty of time to meet again.  I hang up the phone and we start talking about finding a bar around Msida then the little handset chirps.  It is LB!  He has decided to come and get us!  Hooray!!  We tell him we will walk down to the KFC on the Strand, since he knows where it is and has never been to our flat.  We put our coats back on and practically skip (well, I did) down to the Colonel’s. 

LB pulls up in a silver Mercedes.  We hop in and he wonders aloud where to go, what to do.  Suddenly he says, “You ever been south?”  Homie and I say together, “No!”  “South it is then,” he says.  He is driving and I think it’s funny that even in Malta there are different degrees of road rage.  Everyone is a poor driver in Malta, and everyone, including LB, drives too fast.  He is playing the part of tour guide happily, showing us  several points of interest and how they have affected his life, such as the dry docks where he worked as a youth.  We come along to a marina and he says he is looking for his friend’s boat to see if his friend is there, that he would like to show us the boat.  He drives by a small little pub and is looking inside, then grabs his mobile (iPhone btw…) and calls his friend Tony.  Tony answers and says to come to the pub, so we turn around and look for parking.  I make LB laugh by telling him no one uses their “indicators” (blinkers to you and me…) unless they want a parking spot.  Suddenly we see Tony walk out of the pub and motion to LB to pull up in front.

We go in and there are about ten patrons fixed intently on the football (soccer to me) match on the projection TV.  LB goes up to the bar and gets us beers and the gentlemen on my left introduces himself to me as Noël, you know, like Christmas, he says.  I am instantly engaged in conversation with him, and he is adorable.  LB introduces us and then Tony introduces his friends.  The door to the pub is left open and the place has cats strolling in at will.  A discussion ensues about all the cats on the island and everyone states whether they are a cat person or a dog person.  Then LB makes me and Homie laugh when he describes to us how much he hates cats and that they always seem to be attracted to him. He says he is patient with them, he pets them, but then they always bite him.  So to let them know who is boss, he plays a game.  He will rock back and forth on his chair and right at the most opportune moment, he will then set his chair down and it may just happen to land on the tail of the cat.  Then Tony launches into the days of when they were children (he is a few years older) and explains to us how LB was always called the little devil, and he was called the little angel. 

I turn my attention once again to Noël and he offers me a cigarette.  I told him I would love one, but that I have quit and I haven’t smoked for eight days and he is so apologetic I wanted to hug him.  We talk about quitting cigarettes and how he wished he had never started, as most smokers will tell you.  I say that I wish I could be the kind of smoker that could just have one once in a while, like when I drink beer.  We also discuss how it is sad to not be able to do something you enjoy because life is so short anyway, and that cigarettes can be bad for you.  Then he looks at me as if he is telling me something really important and confidential.  He says that he went to his doctor recently and his doctor asked him how much he smoked.  Noël told his doctor that he smoked two packs of cigarettes a day, which is 40 cigarettes!  I show my obvious concern.  So he leans in and he tells me, “The doctor told me, if you smoke 10 cigarettes a day, it won’t kill you.”  Then he says, very seriously, “But, if you smoke 11, it will kill you.”  He was so serious and I couldn’t help but laugh and then he laughed too.  We tried to guess how old each other was.   He told me how old he was and I was shocked to find out he was 67!  He looked more like 52 or 53.  The Maltese men age very well here. 

All of a sudden I had three full beers in front of me.  Homie and I became concerned that we were not able to buy a round, but when we tried to order a round, one was already on the way.  I’m talking to Noël, reveling in the fact that he thought I was 32 and LB pokes me in the arm and says, “Drink up!  We’re leaving soon!”  So I oblige him and we all step outside to smoke.  I made Noel give me a smoke, but I didn’t light it, I just pretended to smoke and oddly, this really helped me.  I asked Tony what he did for a living and he said he works with wood.  Then he says very seriously, “I’m not a carpenter, I work with wood.”  I told him that when I lived in Minnesota I ran a training program where we helped trained women in construction.  He looked at me with his mouth agape, and started laughing, and in between gasping breaths he says, “They say women can do construction, wood working, but they can’t. No, they can’t.”  He is politely chuckling and kind of just mumbling on and on about the equality of men and women and I realize that I’m in another country and I laugh too.  I keep my mouth shut, because who am I to argue.   Suddenly Tony decides we are worthy enough to see his boat.   We walk with him, just across the street, to the marina and Tony hops on his boat and slips off his shoes! He and LB start a very animated conversation in Maltese and finally LB says that they are talking about the fact that LB refuses to take his shoes off to go on a boat!  Homie decides that he too, does not want to, and later tells me that he felt it might be rude to leave LB on the dock by himself.  I want to see the boat and I say I will take my shoes off, but my problem is the distance I have to jump from the dock to the back end of the boat.  Tony laughs and puts down a little “bridge” that helps.  I take off my boots right away and keep telling Tony how awesome his boat is.  He says, “What is this ‘awesome’?  This means nothing to me.  Don’t you think my boat is lovely?  Lovely is what my boat is!”  And I say immediately that it is just horrible American slang that I can’t seem to let go of and I make a solid effort to use the word lovely in every sentence.  The boat is actually really lovely with three bedrooms, a bathroom,a  full kitchen, and the woodwork is gorgeous. He offers me a beer and we get comfortable at the table.  We are having a great drunken discussion about whether the earth is going to end in 2012 and suddenly Homie shouts that LB wants to leave.  Darn it!  I hadn’t even finished my beer!  So I get my boots on and make it back to the docks and here is LB reading his email on his iPhone, and it doesn’t look like he is in any hurry.  I give Homie the look and say, “I thought we were in hurry!”  LB thinks this is funny and Homie just shrugs and I know he is wishing he would have had a beer on the boat.  As soon as Tony makes his way to the end of the boat and starts questioning LB as to why he has to leave, it is still early, LB is suddenly ready.   So then I say to Tony, “Wow, these are nice docks.”  And he looks in the sky, and he says, “Ducks, where do you see ducks?”  This makes us all laugh and Tony says that in Malta they call the docks pontoons.

We take our goodbyes and tell Tony we hope to see him again and of course he knows that we will.  We pack ourselves into the Mercedes and I ask LB what part of Malta were we exactly and he says we were in The Three Cities.  This is a trio of towns, Vittoriosa (where the bar and marina are located), Senglea and Cospicua.  A close-knit working community largely dependent on the work that is at the dry docks, where LB worked as a youth.  The Three Cities were originally named Birgu, L-Isla and Bormia, but their names were changed after the Great Siege of  1565.  Birgu became Vittoriosa (Victorious), L-Isla became Senglea (after Grand Master Claude de la Sengle), and Bormia became Cospicua (as in conspicuous courage).   Very cool. 

So we are on the way home and LB is driving, messing around with his iPhone, and fooling around with his car stereo.  He says how amazing the iPhone is and shows me an app he has that if you hold the phone next to the stereo speaker it will tell you who the artist is and what the name of the song is.  I ask him if he’s got a decent stereo in the Mercedes to get him to turn it up and he says,  “Here’s a song I love, listen to this!”  He cranks up the sound and after the song I say, ” Great song, who sings it?”  He says, “I don’t know! Let’s find out!” And once again, he pulls out the iPhone.  We both agree how handy this is.

We pull up to the flat and I get my three cheek kisses (not everyone gets three and LB will tell you this) and he shakes Homie’s hand.  We thank LB and tell him what a great time we had and he squeals off into the night.  We are home, home in Malta and we feel so lucky to be here. 

~Peace~

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It’s been a long eventful day in Malta.  I still have not had a cigarette, and it occurred to me today why it is called a “habit”.  Most of the temptation and frustration stems from  automatically reaching for a smoke when you are so used to having one when you were a smoker.  That first cup of coffee, after eating, while you are working on the computer, taking a break from cleaning.  There are  two items missing from my usual daily routine that I do not have to deal with here.  The first is the phone.  As soon as the phone would ring, I would instantly go to the pack and light one.  It went hand-in-hand.  The second is driving.  I absolutely had to have a smoke on the way to work, and on the way home.  I especially loved this ritual because it would just be me, the road, and my smoke.  No one in the car to bug me about the smell, or complaining that the smoke was drifting to their side.  (Side note: Never did I smoke in the car when my grandson was in the car or anyone else that didn’t smoke or didn’t like it.) These two instances do not occur in Malta for obvious reasons.  No one is calling us and we no longer have a vehicle.  One thing that changed here that I did not do in Minnesota is taking the cigs when we left the house.  Whether it was for a walk, or out to eat, or just down to the DVD store, I would make sure to grab the smokes.  I still miss them but the good news is that I am starting to feel the desire, the bloody in-your-face-I-have-to-have-a-cigarette-NOW desire is subsiding.  I know it will get better as time progresses, just have to get past the 72 hour mark.  I have faith that I may be successful this time around.  There is about 65% less temptation going on around me.

I can’t get my friends from Minnesota off my mind tonight.  They suffered a devastating loss as their brother died from complications of a heart attack today.  He was only 45 years old.  As a family they decided to take him off of life support, as he had suffered brain damage.  It is so hard to be so far away when something like this happens.  Before we left Minnesota we completed our Health Care Directives and left a copy with my mom and Homie’s parents.  This is a nifty little document stating what you want done if you are ever in the position of having to be kept alive by a machine.  It made us both feel better that our wishes were documented and it made me think about what Laurie and her family must have been going through to make that decision. 

I made such a stink before I left the states about not joining Facebook, I was so against belonging to an online community.  There is something so vain about it, and I felt like it just wasn’t my gig.   I have done a complete 360 on the subject and Facebook has become our continual link to family and friends, and I’ve even gotten some of my family members to join.  It has been wonderful to keep everyone up to date about what is happening with us and of course what is happening with them.  So much easier than continually sending individual emails.  It was awesome today because our friends kept us posted about what was happening with Laurie’s brother and we really felt that we were a part of it and that we could in some way, through Facebook, be there for them.  We were able to let them know continually since it happened that we were thinking of them.  Another great feature of technology.  I often wonder if I ever would have been able to make this move without it!   

On a much brighter note, I finally secured a job interview for Monday.  In Malta there are several online betting companies and after talking with some of our Maltese friends, they have said that these companies are the best to work for on the island, they pay better than most other companies.  I have sent out my resumé relentlessly for the past week, checking the job postings every day.  I saw a situation vacant, (that’s what they call a vacant position) at a betting company that would be perfect for me.  It was so nice to finally get excited about a potential ‘situation’ and I applied online straight away.  This morning I found the contact person’s email on the website and sent a cover letter describing all my skills and talents.  They promptly emailed me back, and while I will not be considered for the position I wanted, I was still invited to come in and interview to see if there is anything that I may be a match for.  I am very excited to at least get my foot in the door, and I am sure that once they meet me they will have no choice but to hire me because I am an excellent employee and I have motivation, drive and enthusiasm!!   I am really excited to get out there, meet more people and really integrate within the community.  I want to try and start learning the Maltese language which every Maltese person we meet will tell you that you will never learn it and they are very proud of this.  Homie and I bought a phrase book and promised each other that we would practice together for at least an hour every evening and we have not done it yet. 

Tomorrow Homie doesn’t have to work until 7 p.m. so we are going to walk to where the interview is to take place.  We looked over the Google map feverently this evening to determine whether or not the office is within walking distance from our flat.  We believe that we can walk there in about 30 minutes or so, but it is supposed to rain tomorrow, so hopefully it will hold off a bit while we walk.  I am so grateful that Homie is able to go with me so I know where I’m headed, because I get lost really easy.  I get lost in my home town.  And once I make a wrong turn and realize that I’m lost, I start to panick and then all hope is lost as I am unable to navigate my way out of the blunder.  The timing is perfect, and this is another instance when I discover that life is all about timing and fate.  Homie has been working every day, whether it is 4, 6 or 8 hours as he did yesterday.  I finally make contact on a potential situation just today and tomorrow is the only day that he would be able to help me find the place.  I’ve been cooped up in the flat so much lately that a nice long walk is just what I need, and I am so excited that I too may be working soon.  Wish me luck!  

~Peace~

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