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Archive for the ‘Living Simply’ Category

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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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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It’s finally over.  Pope Benedict XVI was on the little rock in the sea for 26 hours, and although this was considered a visit of spiritual nature, celebrating the 1950th anniversary of the Shipwreck of St Paul, his visit swirled in controversy and debate.  As Malta cleaned up their streets and waited patiently for the homily praising their faith as a nation, where abortion and divorce are against the law, this visit would also feature the Pontiff meeting with eight child abuse victims who stated that “We now have peace in our hearts because the Pope found time to meet with us.”   The victims, now in their 40’s met with the Pope for 35 minutes, were given Rosary beads and told by His Holiness that he “would pray for them”.  One of the victims actually asked the Pope, “How could this have happened?” and the Pope replied, “I will pray for you.”  I guess he didn’t have an answer, but he will pray.

My question is, who was praying for these poor children when they were being sexually abused by their misguided and deceptive priests in which they were supposed to be able to trust and believe in, a representative of God, the emblem of trust and faith?  I had to ask myself how, now as adults,  could they be so easily placated by a 35-minute meeting and a blessed chain of beads.  I had to shake my head in disbelief as I read article after article on how allegations and confessions had been covered up by John Paul himself and others who were higher up in the Catholicism food chain. 

I was raised Catholic and the experience of my First Confession was not a fond memory.  Father Hall baptised me, commenced my First Communion and baptised my son.  Father Hall was also the priest who heard my First Confession.  Generally, you made your First Confession just before you made your Confirmation, so there was no getting out of it.  My best friend since second grade went in first and as her sister and I waited for our turn,  we could hear her bawling her head off, loudly.  It was all we could do to keep our composure and not giggle uncontrollably as we sat in the pew, waiting for our turn.  

I was next and as I crept in, I whispered, “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.”  I then nervously listed all of my sins that I could remember, trying to come up with a reasonable amount.  I swore at my mom, I stole a pack of gum, I hit my sister.  I lied about where I went one night with my friends.  That was about all I was going to divulge.  I thought it was a pretty good list of sins.  I mean, I really wasn’t a bad kid, I didn’t do a lot to get in trouble, and as my parents were quite over-protective and controlling, I really didn’t get the opportunity to get into a lot of trouble.  As I waited to hear what my penance was going to be, imagine my surprise to hear Father Hall ask me if I let any boys touch me.  Touch me?  Touch me where?  How could he possibly know that I let one of the boys in the neighborhood kiss me when we were playing ditch in Morelli’s yard one night when it was pitch black and everyone seemed to have nothing better to do one summer night?  So I did the unthinkable, I lied.  I said no.  I couldn’t admit it.  I felt instant shame.  I was only 13!  And naive as hell.  So not to be undone, Father Hall had to up the ante.  He says, “Well okay.  That’s good. But have you ever touched yourself?”  Now, this was getting weird.  Touch myself?  I said, “I don’t know what you mean.”  Father Hall said, “You know.  Touch yourself, down there.”  I knew what he was talking about and if he thought I was going to cop to anything, he could well, go to hell!  I said, “No! No! I don’t know what you are talking about!”  He must have recognized the panic in my voice because he then wrapped it up pretty quickly.  I got three Hail Mary’s and four Our Fathers and was told not to lie and make sure to buy my chewing gum from now on.  I hustled out of there so fast, I didn’t wait for my friends and just ran all the way home.  I tried to tell my mother about it, but of course she didn’t believe me and she said, “You must have misunderstood what he was saying.”  WTF?  Misunderstood?  Ummm, no.

So that is when I believe I lost my faith in the Catholic Church and everything it stood for.  Yes, I had my son baptized, the Catholic guilt ran deep in those days, and I didn’t want my son to go to hell just because he hadn’t had blessed holy water poured over his head.  Father Hall passed away nearly 20 years ago, and who even knows how many other young girls (or boys for that matter) he terrorized in the confessional. But that is nothing compared to what these other kids have gone through and it just pisses me off to no end that these horrible, unspeakable crimes against a child’s innocence occur, and keep occurring.  It’s not supposed to be that way. 

At first, when we found out the Pope was going to be in Malta, I truly thought about attending the huge publicized Mass and had a sliver of desire to go see him, then I thought, “Why?”  Just to say I saw the Pope?  So what.  That’s not me, and I’m not going to pretend it is. 

~Peace~

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The past couple of days have been rather extraordinary.  It all started last Friday morning when I met two fabulous women at a lovely little hotel called Hotel Juliani.  I wandered in full of anxiety and met two fellow wordsmiths that I can now call friends.  As freelance writers and journalists they both had tons of advice and leads for me as I make myself known on this tiny little island I now call home.  D. is from the UK and has two young children.   AB is originally from New York state, spent 20 years in Sweden, and has two teenage girls.  I am now part of a writer’s group and am so ecstatic to have dedicated time to work solely on my book.

It was an absolute gorgeous day so instead of taking the bus straight home I decided to meander down to the Black Gold Saloon for a bite and continue working.  AB offered to join me and decided she would meet me there after a conference call.  With my laptop blissfully connected to the Internet and a glass of white wine in front of me, I am surrounded by the views of the bustling tourists and the never-ending seascape.  I am happily chatting away with my brother in Minnesota as AB walks up and I take a second to realize that I am finally settling in to my new surroundings, meeting friends and feeling comfortable, at last.

AB’s husband is opening up his own business in Valletta and she invited me to the opening the following evening.  I thought to myself instantly that Homie is working tomorrow evening and wouldn’t be able to attend. Could I actually take the bus all by myself to Valletta, in the dark, and find this place all on my own?  Yes my mind screamed, and all of a sudden I heard myself saying, “Yes!  I’d love to come!”  Then I got a hot flash.  Don’t worry self, I pleaded, this is easy.  As I listened to AB describe how to get there, I realized that it may be possible, I knew where the Wembley store was and as she was talking I could feel the anxiety of sweat start to evaporate.  Yes, this is possible!  As my confidence builds and I decide that I am in fact ready venture out of the flat on my own, I begin to think about what to wear, and try to fight off another hot flash.   I do want to meet more people, and this would be a great opportunity for me to network, so I was determined to go, even if I was flying solo.  Besides, they’ve never met me before, so the outfit no longer seems important.

AB leaves for another conference call and I pack up to hoof it on home.  My darling husband will be home soon and we planned to kick it up a notch by heading out for some fun this evening.  Tonight’s agenda includes a dinner with fellow expatriates and then on to our favorite little haunt, the Rasta Bar.   The expats were meeting at a little restaurant called Surfside Cafe.  Appropriately named, this little eatery sits right next to the sea and has been recently re-modeled.  Like a tall electronic beacon in the night we see a dartboard in the corner as Homie and I enter the cozy venue.  We’ve seen pool tables scattered about the local establishments, but never a dart board.  We make a pact to come back soon when we can enjoy the view of the sea, have a couple of Cisks and play a couple games of darts.  Even though he beats me every time, and I do mean every time we play, I am still excited about a 501 game and pencil in a date in my mental calendar.

Homie and I split a burger, we meet some more wonderful people, and then bustle ourselves out the door to catch the bus to Paceville (potch-a-ville).  We get to Rasta and LB lights up when he sees us and we are happy to be there.  We have a wonderful time, I meet a guy from South Africa, four girls on spring break from Texas and more Maltese regulars.  Finally, around 3:30 a.m. we crawl up St. Rita’s steps and make our way to the Wembley cab service.  By exactly 4:20 we are already home and my husband is snoring peacefully by my side. 

Saturday is another beautiful day and I’m excited for the party I managed to get myself invited to.  I start talking myself out of going because I hate going to events alone, especially when I only know the host or hostess.  I shake it off, grab my bus fare and make my way to the bus stop and five minutes later the bus arrives to deliver me safely to the city of Valletta.  Finding the new business is as easy as AB said it would be and I have a wonderful time!  I had a delightful conversation with a gal from Iowa and her husband, and they are excited to learn about the Rasta Bar as they too love reggae music.   I find that there are more Americans in Malta than I realized, and everyone is just wonderfully nice. I meet people from all over the globe and as AB offers to give me a lift home I quickly accept.  I offer to help clean up and just pitch in by putting food in containers and of course I offer to take some home!  I can’t help thinking how much this reminds me of Minnesota!

We wake up Sunday morning to another enchanting day of sunshine.  After stuffing ourselves with salty bacon and sweet french toast we take a long walk to find a peaceful spot to sit and read.  Right across from our original Malta home, the Preluna Hotel, there is a seasonal cafe that is now open.  We stop, decide on two scoops of  delicious gelato, read our books and people-watch. As we relax and soak in the sunshine I am again thinking about how grateful I am that we took this chance on life, because life is total bliss at the moment. 

~Peace~

*Title in memory of Alex Chilton ~ RIP!

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As I research my next topic (finally caught a freelance gig and am loving it!)  all  I can think of is,  “isn’t technology wonderful?”   It has become such an integrated part of my life.  I use my laptop for everything from job searching and submitting my work, to checking my online accounts; to Skyping with my grandson.   I don’t think I’d be a happy expat without it.  My laptop and the internet are my connection to my antecedent world and my current world, and having it does not go unappreciated.  I don’t even care that I am not currently wireless,  the speed to which I’m connected is not important, I’m just grateful to be connected!  

Before we left home, friends pleaded with us to create a Facebook account.  Homie and I resisted; we had no desire to become ensconced within a public forum.  Once we were on the road, we caved and each of us created an account.  As it turns out, we love Facebook and log on throughout the day.  Within the last couple of weeks, all my siblings have joined, I’m able to keep in touch with my nephew who is in the service, and have made friends with people all over the world. I started chatting with people I haven’t seen in years, and I love telling them I’ve moved to Malta!

There are two technology-challenged people in my life and they are my parents.  My Dad, a retired over-the-road truck driver has no interest in the crazy talking box and the only highway he cares about is the one you drive on.  I call him (he has managed to operate a mobile phone however….) every Sunday.  My mother, who would love to be more in sync with technology has just recently bought a laptop, and I learned this through my brother whilst Skyping one Sunday afternoon.  I couldn’t believe it!  I had to cut the video chat short so I could call my mother to confirm.  Sure enough she had purchased a laptop, all on her own, at Wal-Mart.  Nothing against Wal-Mart, but, oh forget it, I’m not even going to go there.  I excitedly ask her how soon will I be able to email her?  When will she have Skype downloaded and operational?  Her answer is,  “Oh, when I’m ready.  I have to take this in baby steps!  I bought Mavis Beacon and I have to learn to type first.”  So she may have the Internet by Christmas.  Maybe.  On a more positive note, Homie’s parents are connected, we Skype regularly and are kept abreast of all the family shenanigans.

Another thing I love about Facebook is that I can upload and post all the pictures I want.  And for the last remaining cousins or coworkers that still haven’t mastered or even wanted to, the art of creating profiles and maintaining security settings, I can just send them a link and they can view the pictures without having to sign up.  This is so ironic because that was my whole beef in the beginning, I didn’t think it was right that you had to sign up for a service just to see someone’s pictures. 

What can I say about Skype that hasn’t already been said or written?  Skyping with my grandson has been amazing, and I can rest assured that he won’t just think I’ve abandoned him, as we spent so much time together in Minnesota.  We Skype every week, telling each other ghost stories and creating our own version of the  “Choose Your Own Adventure” series. 

Being able to see and be seen has its advantages and disadvantages.  Especially when you’ve been writing for a couple of days and there’s no reason for “getting ready” when all you are going to be doing is sitting in front of the laptop.  Why does it always seem as though every one in my contact list decides they want to check in or talk about the weather when I’m on the fence about hair and makeup?  This whole scenario reminds me of a Jetsons episode I saw when I was a kid;  I was always fascinated with that cartoon series.  Jane, the mom, got a phone call and it was early in the morning.  She hadn’t gotten ready for the day, so she put on this mask that covered her hair and face, a replica of her, at her best.  So she starts the video call and halfway through the conversation, her friend sneezes and blows off her mask and then says,  “Oh, I have to go!  Someone’s at the door!” and cuts transmission.  Jane felt so bad for her.  It was so fun to believe that video phones were even possible!  I was fascinated, even then as a child, with technology.  I’m actually keeping in touch more now with my friends in Minnesota than when I lived there.  Every Saturday my friend Sandy and I Skype, have a glass of wine and play backgammon online as we chat.  Before we know it, a couple of hours have passed, and it’s almost like we were getting together at one another’s home for the evening!

Being so far from home has many disadvantages, but technology has solved some of the biggest obstacles.   Now, if only technology could solve the one thing I’m really missing, holiday family dinners.  When we call on Easter, before anyone asks us how we are, we will get the full menu, in detail.  I suppose this is just a small form of “payback” since we ditched the American life and are living our dream,  they have to even the score somehow even if all they have is a spiral honey ham, roasted baby reds and green beans almondine.  Cheesecake for desert. Yum.

~Peace~

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No matter where you call home, as soon as the weather starts to get warm and sunny, all you want to do or be is outside in it.  No matter your age or your shoe size, lifting your face to feel the warm sunshine can be exhilarating and inspiring.  The sun has been shining for the last couple of days and at a sweet 68° , this has been the warmest of days so far.  Maybe not so much for the Maltese as we still continue to see the locals bundled up in their winter gear, never forgetting the fashionable scarf.

When we first started making friends with some of the locals they were quick to tell us that the island takes on a much different personality in the summer season.  They didn’t waste anytime boasting about the unbearable heat in the same way we love to amaze over a Minnesota winter.  More than one person would say, “When it gets hot, (then the shrug…) just jump into the sea!”  It would be during this interlude that I would envision people walking down the street, sweating in their suits and skirts, kicking off their shoes and jumping headfirst into the salty surf of the Mediterranean.  I wasn’t that far off.

Homie and I have found our spot by the sea.  It is about a 10 minute walk down to the promenade by the marina where some of the biggest boats I have ever been close enough to touch are anchored.  Right around the bend there are steps leading down to the enormous flat rocks that are covered during high tide, but serves as your beach-by-rock during low tide.  It is here and all over the island that the locals and tourists alike spread their towels, munch on baguettes and jump into the sea at will, to cool off and enjoy nature’s abundance. 

We found a spot along a 50 to 60 meter stretch that has instant access into the water.  You will not see any “Do Not Swim – No Lifeguard Present” signs posted.  No “Beware of Jellyfish” postings either.    We spread our towels and I start to meditate by taking in the sights in front of me, while Homie skips off to explore like he’s ten again.  He spots a broken fishing rod in the water and wrestles with the thought of jumping in to get it.  It is the end of February and the water temperature is about 52-54°, so jumping in is not appealing to me in the slightest.  In fact I can safely say that I hadn’t even considered it.  Homie on the other hand is now taking off his shirt for a dive and I am ready with the camera to document it.  He jumps in and pops back up with a hoot and holler that the folks over in Valletta could hear.  He decides at this point that the broken fishing rod, (at least that is what we think it is…) is not worth the effort and he climbs out as though piranha are after him.  We stay for a couple of hours and just as we start to consider leaving, a man in his mid 50’s sets his little bundle of clothes near us and we wonder where he came from as he jumps in.  His friend joins him ten minutes later and they have a nice swim.  They politely inquire as to the time and I tell them.  One man gets out and dresses quickly and is on his way. 

The other man, John, who left his bundle of clothing near us, retrieves his towel and he is so close to us, I have no choice but to say hello and a conversation ensues.  I’m trying to talk to him while politely keeping my eyes diverted, and he has no issues regarding the fact that he is in the process of dressing himself right in front of me, a perfect stranger.  He has come to the sea for a swim on his lunch hour.  As he is dressing I learn that he has been to America a few times.  Once to watch his cousin become a member of the clergy, which I could tell he was very proud to share.  He’s also been to Florida and California; and as a youth, spent a year in Georgia.  He has three kids and his wife’s brother has a drug problem.  He has lived on Malta almost all his life and he has no regrets.  To have regrets,  for any part of your life, is to not have God in your heart.  He told me all of this as he dried off (rather thoroughly) and changed into his clothing, (long pants, long-sleeved shirt, sweater, scarf and hat).  Then he folded his Tony the Tiger towel (I had to comment on this which drew a delightful laugh) with his wet swimming trunks, said it was nice meeting us and cheerfully returned to work. 

The next day we were again at the same spot when three boys and two pug dogs showed up.  They were after the broken fishing rod.  I had a delightful conversation with Nathan who is ten and learned to speak english by watching American cartoons.  His brother, the brave swimmer of the three,  was going back and forth over whether or not the jump into the sea was worth helping out his friend (who was fully clothed by the way, with long pants and a long-sleeved shirt) who wanted that broken fishing rod with a passion most children reserve for the newest Playstation game.  When Nathan’s brother saw us he asked if we had goggles and Homie happened to have his.  They tried and tried and couldn’t get it out.  They saw a man swimming in the distance.  They started shouting for him to come and help.  The man ignored them.  I told them that the man’s bundle of clothes were near and he would be in soon.  They waited patiently for him.  No sooner did the man paddle up, the trio were on him begging for his assistance.  Nathan’s brother came running up to us for the use of the goggles one more time.  The man easily retrieved the broken fishing rod and after returning the goggles they were merrily on their way, dogs in tow. 

Just another beautiful day down at the sea, happy, happy, happy to be me!

~Peace~

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I’ve decided that the counting of days in Malta is too constricting, and writing every day doesn’t always happen.  I started the “Life in Malta:  Day ?”  because sometimes it took me longer than I wanted to come up with a catchy title for each post.  Then when I’d write, a  catchy title would pop into my head, but then I felt obligated to stay in form.   I’ve also decided to try to keep each post under a thousand words, why?  Discipline.  I think.

We went grocery shopping the other day and including the walk to and from the grocery store, it took about a half hour.  When I would shop in Minnesota, from the time I left my attached garage until the time I drove back in with my groceries, it would take no less than 1.5 hours, usually 2 hours (based on the fact that I am shopping at a grocery store, not Super Target, Costco or Sam’s Club).  I started thinking about the time it takes to shop in the US and the amount of variety the consumer is faced with. 

I could go on and on about all the things that I can no longer buy at the grocer.  And here are my top five I miss most:

1.  Mac and cheese (Velveeta Shells were my fav, then your standard Kraft Mac and Cheese, then when Jayden was over, it had to be the Spiderman or  Scooby Doo variety.)
2.  Shredded Cheese.  Not only could you buy any type of cheese already shredded, you have the option of 1 cup, 2 cup or 4 cup size bags.
3.  Salad in a bag.  Oh the variety!  Already picked, cleaned (boasting “Rinsed twice!” right on the front of the package!) and mixed with shredded carrots if you prefer!
4.  Bacon.  Period.  You can get what they call “streaky bacon” but it isn’t the same.  You can not get any type of breakfast sausage either.  We have ham if we make a big breakfast, which isn’t often, but it is crazy salty. 
5.  Picante sauce.  We found some salsa but it’s a thick, tomato-y , non-spicy, not worth the effort variety.  Chips and salsa was a favorite snack.  Tacos were a favorite dinner and a favorite left-over, but not-any-more.  You can buy taco shells, seasoning and the fixings, but it just doesn’t taste the same.  And there is only one brand to choose from.

Not only is there excessive variety in American stores, but there is excessive choices in which store to shop at!  It’s crazy compared to how we are now shopping in Malta! In most instances there is just one brand to choose from for many items.  I have noticed that when it comes to cookies and cakes, there is more variety.   You can get Oreo cookies, but no double-stuff, no mint or any other kind of variety.  And they are expensive.  I used to buy the Betty Crocker cookie mix where all you have to do is add water and a stick of butter, (finding butter that is already quartered is also a challenge) and the choices were endless.  I did see a cookie mix here, but only chocolate chip, and it was twice the cost.  The cake mixes and pre-made frosting cost anywhere from 3.50 to 4.50 each, very expensive! 

We can get Doritos, but not all the flavors are available. When I think of all the varieties of Lays, Doritos, Ruffles, Tostitos, Gardettos, Pretzels, it’s no wonder it takes forever to shop!  Instead of an isle full of salty snacks, it’s one isle of all snack foods, salty or sweet.  And in the states, for every choice there was also a low-fat or fat-free version.  Not here.  The selection for salad dressings are extremely limited, and if you do get a creamy dressing it tastes like mayonnaise.  Balsamic vinegar and olive oil is what is served when you dine out, and it is what we have in our kitchen now.  Our parents sent us Hidden Valley Ranch and A1 Sauce and we covet it as though it was liquid gold, and now that everyone is keen on the cost of shipping items to Malta, I am willing to bet we won’t be receiving another Sam’s Club size of our dressings again.  But that’s okay, we are getting used to our choices and it really isn’t that bad! 

I don’t mind shopping anymore because I’m not in the store for hours!  I don’t have bags and bags to haul home and put away.  What we buy is used and eaten, we have very little waste which is making us very happy.  In the states I would buy two salads because they were on sale and would inevitably end up tossing one whole bag or at the very least a partial bag.  I would buy produce only to throw some of it out, and this happened consistently and it was very upsetting to us to throw away food constantly.  We never seemed to be able to get through to another shopping trip without having to first clean out the refrigerator of left-overs and uneaten, too ripe produce before we put in the new, fresh purchases.  We eat what we buy now and very little is going to waste. 

Living here,  I wonder why is  America so different, why is our country is so full of excess?   I just took this for granted, never knowing any different.   Whether it is food, clothes, electronics or toys there is just too much to choose from.   I am discovering that having all the variety isn’t necessarily a good thing.  It induces a type of stress that I hadn’t previously considered.  With all the choices practically at our fingertips, how can we truly appreciate what we have without the contrast of not having it?  It’s easy to  appreciate when you are faced with the prospect of no longer having it.  It is truly liberating to know that I can be happy without all the choices and grocery shopping is no longer the chore it once was. 

~Peace~

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