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Archive for the ‘Living As An Expat’ Category

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!

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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’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.

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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. ♥

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When Homie and I left the States a little over eight months ago, we dreamed of traveling all over Europe and knew that we would eventually make it to Tunisia, Africa as it is less than an hour’s plane ride away from Malta.  Since we needed to re-new our travel visas and were required to travel outside of the Schengen zone, Tunisia was our destination.  We just returned from an 5-day, all-inclusive vacation that served two purposes, we have a freshly stamped passport and we added another continent to our list of travels.

We were excited and just a little bit nervous because we had no idea what to expect.  When we told our friends in America that we were traveling to Africa, most immediately assumed that we were going on Safari!  This girl does not do Safari, she does all-inclusive hotels with a pool, a spa and room service.  Well, we never used room service, but we did see a live camel and he was only there to provide entertainment for the children lucky enough to get a ride.  We found out that we could book a two-day trip for a camel ride in the Sahara desert, stay at an African version of a bed and breakfast for less than €100 each.  Homie was very excited at this prospect, but luckily for me we didn’t have enough time and the camel ride would have to wait for another trip.  A camel ride in the Sahara?  Ummm, no thanks.  With my luck it would be like the time I went horse back riding and the saddle fell off the horse with me in it.  I don’t like riding live animals, they are so unpredictable and they have no brakes.

We arrived to the hotel late and just made the buffet before it closed down for the evening.  I don’t mean to be a complainer, but I really am not in to buffets, especially ones that don’t have the germ/sneeze/cough glass covering all the selections.  I was starving though, after traveling all day and my empty belly won out.  We walked in and the first thing I see is a cute little five-year old reaching into the olive tray with her hands and another woman picking apart a baklava desert with her fork.  Yum.  So I grabbed some roasted chicken (very hot so I knew that no child could have touched it with their dirty little fingers) and a jacket potato wrapped in foil and reminded myself to let it go, we were on vacation!

When the desk clerk told us that a bell hop would watch our luggage as we ate, we didn’t think she meant literally.  We wander back after Homie filled his plate three times (did I mention my husband loves all-you-can-eat buffets?) and the bell hop is still standing next to our luggage smiling as if he just won the lottery.  He took us up to our room and patiently explained all of the amenities and waited for a tip.  I had to nudge my darling husband who reached into his pocket to oblige and handed over three or four dinar coins, and as the bell hop was leaving I inquired about the air conditioning.  He stomped over to show me, then stomped out.  It wasn’t until the following day, when we exchanged more euro for dinar that we realized we gave him about .30!  We felt horrible!  We were able to make it up to him on the day we left.  He happened to be the one who put our luggage in the storage room because we had a seven hour wait for our shuttle to the airport. 

The hotel had two large swimming pools, a salt water pool and a pool just for the kids.  We quickly learned that in order to get a lounge chair with cushions you had to get out to the pool by 7 a.m. to claim your spot, leave your towel on your chair and then go to breakfast.  We just happened upon this information our first full day there because we were up really early wanting to explore the hotel grounds.  We got a lovely spot, under an umbrella and spent the whole day at the pool, and it was a good thing because it was nearly 100° and humid.  I knew we were in a Muslim country but I was not prepared for the traditional Muslim women’s bathing suit.  While I was in my bikini and still feeling the heat,  these Muslim women were covered from head to toe, (only showing face, hands and feet) in their bathing garb while their fat and hairy husbands were in a regular bathing suits and I couldn’t help but think how unfair it seemed.  Now, I know it is their belief and their religion, but it bothered me.  In all other respects, each Muslim family I observed acted just like any other family on vacation and I never saw any man treat any woman badly, subservient or rudely, so I just had another cocktail and let it go.

The second day we decided to check out the hotel’s beachfront offering and it was a completely different experience.  A beautiful sandy beach was just what we needed after weeks of laying on the rocks near the sea in Malta.  There were many vendors walking up and down the beach selling their wares and they never tell you how much anything costs.  You have to offer a price, then haggle as though your life depends on it.  They get insulted if you don’t haggle, as if what they have to offer you isn’t worth haggling over.  I thought I was good at it, but in reality I’m a wimp.  I know this because I bought a lovely ankle bracelet for six dinar and the lady next to me got it for four.  So on our last day we had time to souvenir shop and went to a little bazaar area to look around.  I found a beautiful Chanel knock-off bag that was only 24 dinar and I haggled for 20 dinar.  The shopkeeper went down to 22 and I demanded 20.  He wouldn’t go for it, so I started to walk away, assuming he would chase after me and give in, which happened when I bought a little harem outfit for our friend’s daughter.  He didn’t chase after me and all I have been thinking about since we returned is that damn Channel bag that I really wanted and was too cheap to pay 2 extra dinar for.  We’re talking the equivalent of 1 euro.  I’m just heartsick over it, and I console myself with the thought that he is probably just as mad that he didn’t sell the bag for 20 dinar.

After a little over two hours in the shuttle bus, we finally get to the airport in Tunis and we check in.  We are immediately told to follow a customs official into a room with our luggage.  He didn’t speak English and we don’t speak French or Arabic.  He shouted at me to open the suitcase and he went through everything, simply tore it apart.  When he was done he said, “Put it back!”, which I did.  Then he went through our backpacks.  All I could think about was this stupid show Homie and I always watch called ‘Banged Up Abroad’.  We weren’t the only ones, nearly every one on the shuttle had their bags searched as well.  Our backpacks were searched three more times and twice the customs officers asked me for my passport and ticket as we waited to board our flight that was delayed for over two hours.  Most of the passengers around us came to the conclusion that they were looking for someone, they were everywhere.  It was really kind of scary and I couldn’t wait to get on the plane!  We finally made it back to Malta at about 2:30 a.m. and it felt so good to feel like Malta is finally ‘home’.

~Peace~

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I’m getting pretty good at taking the bus.  In Minnesota I always had a vehicle, and now after seven months of depending on public transportation I am happy to report that it is all going well and every bus ride is an adventure in itself.  Whether it is the tourists bugging the drivers for directions (which they grudgingly give), to the Maltese women who genuflect as they get on, or the rowdy teens on their way to Paceville, there is always something to observe and ponder during the 15 minute ride. 

Just the other day I hopped on and here the driver is talking on his mobile and smoking a cigarette.  Six months ago this may have concerned me, but now I just smile and have to give the guy a little credit for his multitasking skills.  As we are lumbering down the Strand he spots a friend.  He is still moving but manages to slow the bus to a crawl so his friend, carrying a can of Cisk beer, can hop on and talk to the driver as he continues on his way.  This was my thought, “Wow, that’s amazing that he managed to do that without any cars honking at him.”  The Maltese love their car horns, and while it is universally annoying, I have to admit I was fond of my car horn as well, although I didn’t use it nearly as much as the Maltese, however, they may be equal to New York.  It’s a toss-up.  Anyway, I’ve yet to see a bus in an accident, they are always on time and run frequently, and you can take the bus anywhere on the island.  I’m also fortunate to be able to travel this way because now I don’t have to struggle with the decision of how I, as one small person can lessen my dependency on oil. 

I am sickened, as tens of millions of people are around the world, about the travesty that is occurring in the Gulf.  I have tried diligently to keep up with what is going on by reading all the articles I can find, watch as many videos (one in particular had me in tears, for as far out as 30 miles into the gulf dolphins and whales were covered in oil, not knowing where to go…) and the more I try to do this, the more I feel like there’s nothing I can do to help.  The only thing I can do is lessen my dependency on oil and try to get others to do the same.  Not everyone can start depending on public transportation, but everyone can limit their gas intake, by making a pledge to only fill up once a month.  I could go on with other suggestions, but there’s more to talk about and I’m not your mama.  Either you realize what man is doing to Mother Earth or you don’t care.  It’s as simple as that.  ‘Til death do us part…

As I’ve written before, it is against the law to get divorced in Malta.  The Pope was here in April and in his Homily he stated that the rest of the world should follow in Malta’s footsteps for they understand the importance of holy matrimony.  Or something really close to that. Well, there is now a “Divorce Bill” in Parliament.  Thursday’s headline read, “People will decide on divorce, PM says” and the article stated that the Prime Minister feels that the privilege of deciding on something as important and vital to our society – the family – should not be taken by Parliament, but the electoral (people).  Turn the page and you come upon a roving reporter’s view as he took to the streets of Valletta to see what the people had to say.  

The first response printed read, “I don’t agree with it.  I’m 79 and I’ve been married to the same woman for 52 years.  I like a lot of other women but I only have one wife.” Well, I suppose that could be interpreted in a number of ways. Interestingly, of the 10 people interviewed, 2 agreed that divorce should be legal and the other 8 did not agree.   It seems, from what I’ve seen and what my Maltese friends have told me, that after a while, if the marriage isn’t working, the couple will separate and see other people, (I wonder if the Pope knows this…) but of course they stay married.  To me, this seems like it would cause more problems than just starting over.  Another interesting observation was that out of the eight people who disagreed with divorce becoming legal five were men and three were women and the women vehemently disagreed.  One women said that if divorce became legal, the island would be cursed. 
‘Til death do us part…

The weather has been absolutely fantastic!  It is July 9th and by now, as everyone we hang out with has been telling us, it should be stifling and suffocating and it isn’t!  Some days are a bit more humid than others, but there is usually a breeze and I have not had to turn on the air conditioning yet.  I’m dreading when I will have to as the cost of it is astronomical, much more expensive than the States.  Like the vehicle, it is a luxury item that we are trying to live without.  I’m getting pretty good at living without and not shopping as the extra-curricular activity that I once knew.  I’m kind of sick of my wardrobe, but get a new dress or pair of sandals occasionally, but it is not anywhere near where it was when I lived in the States.  Both Homie and I realized recently that we really are doing what we set out to do, “Live more simply”.  Money is good, I love money, but it’s not about how much money we have.  For us it’s become more about appreciating our surroundings and doing everything in our power to be happy and content.  Making sure we take a walk every day, observe our surroundings and be grateful every day that we took a leap of faith and decided that living our lives now, no matter how scary it gets sometimes, is so much better than not living at all.  ‘Til death do us part!

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Life has been heating up lately, and I’m not just talking about the weather! We attended our first outdoor festival, I finally made it to Gozo and the World Cup has descended upon us with an excitement that only happens when there is a major sports event about to occur in your hometown.  

I hate to admit that I really didn’t pay much attention to this global competition when we lived in the States.  To me it was soccer, not football, and because I am surrounded by so many people from different countries, there seems to be a never-ending smorgasbord of fans, flags, horns and face paint.  It’s not about what team you are rooting for, such as with the Superbowl, but what country.  I have been contaminated with World Cup fever.  It is an actual disease that can only be cured by huge LCD screens, plenty of beer and at least a couple of your fellow country folk close at hand to help cheer for your home-country. Flags are waved, worn as shirts, shawls and skirts, and everyone is  screaming their bloody arses off  (UK friends are rubbing off on me), as though the players can actually hear them and will run faster and kick harder! Exactly like us (except my husband, the Bears fan) when the Minnesota Vikings were in the playoffs!

The night that USA and England earned a draw, (bear with me, I’m just now learning the lingo…) I was with the Expats at a five-star hotel as we launched the new expat membership card.  I was helping out the organizer with registration duties not realizing there was a small flat screen television right above my head.  I must digress for a moment to let you all know that there is a lot of UK expats on the island, and most of the Maltese are also rooting for England.  In the United States the majority of people vacation in Mexico or Jamaica, but in the UK, there is a huge amount of  people who vacation and retire to Malta.  So needless to say there were quite a few UK fans enjoying the lovely pre-summer evening, taking advantage of the drink specials, and dining on the complimentary nibbles while they watched the game right above me and my little registration table.

As I was tending to my secretarial/treasurer duties, I realized that when I saw blank, sad faces, and I heard the most avid of fans spill out a string of swear words that would even make my father blush (scratch that, nothing makes my father blush),  I knew that the USA team had scored (for those of you who watched, a goal is a goal!!).  It was only me and another fellow American expat, a Marine from Florida, screaming with the passion reserved only for Superbowl Sunday, over the goal that kept the UK from receiving three points instead of the one point they ended up with.  Needless to say, the free beer stopped flowing and had I realized that there was even a chance of this happening (everyone feeling sorry for me because I was “chained” to the registration table…), I would have whoop-whooped a little less boisterously.

Homie has picked up another part-time job working at the World Cup Village (WCV) located on Manoel Island, which is conveniently just a five-minute walk from his job at the small restaurant on the Strand.   It has been working out perfectly and the restaurant has been very flexible with his schedule which was a pleasant surprise.  We’ve become great friends with a fellow novelist originally from the states and her swedish husband who came up with quite an original idea.  For only €8 he will take your photo (or up to three people) and super-impose the image on any world  ‘stadium’ background you choose.  He has hired my husband to help him run the booth and not only do they offer these one-of-a-kind photos, but they are also selling t-shirts.  The Swede has offered to split all profits with my husband 50/50; which we both felt was an amazing and generous offer.  Homie is a happy expat because he gets to see as many games as he wants on one of the biggest sports screens available on the island. He has the added benefit of being able to get a t-shirt for himself from every country, and this has made him very happy.  I am also happy because now I can finally stop feeling guilty for selling nearly every t-shirt he had since 1972 at our string of garage sales last summer.

The WCV is not like any event you would see in America.  Homie and I walked through the gates to set up the booth on Day 2 and a guard told us that the event did not start until 1:00 p.m.  Homie says, “I’m working at one of the booths.” and the guard says, “Okay.”  and didn’t give us a second glance.  No badges, no questions, no problem.  The booth is not locked down, just a “tent-like” structure with nary a door, and the Swede feels comfortable leaving all merchandise, photo printer, expensive bike trailer and other miscellaneous items over night and unattended.  The area itself is gated and locked, but not everyone leaves at the same time and each booth is only required to be opened for at least eight hours of the twelve that the event is open to the public.  When I researched Malta there was quite a bit of information regarding the low crime rate and now I am seeing it with my own eyes, and I have to tell you, it is pretty refreshing.  However, I still do not step off of the curb without looking twice as the Maltese all drive as though they just got their driver’s license yesterday.  Somehow, I think that may never change.

Here’s to the World Cup and team USA!  I don’t think they will be able to win the Cup, but wouldn’t it be brilliant if they did?

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