Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Public Transportation on Malta’ Category

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. ♥

Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »

One celebration that Homie and I have always enjoyed is Mardi Gras, or Carnival.  Malta and Gozo have celebrated carnival for hundreds of years and we couldn’t wait to see if the celebration here was anything like the party atmosphere we experienced in New Orleans, one of our favorite cities in the States.  I did a little reading on Malta’s history of Carnival and found that in the 16th century a jousting tournament was held as part of the celebration.  While jousting is no longer a featured event, we found that there is plenty to see and do during carnival week.  The Maltese are very fond of dressing up in costume, and wearing elaborate masks, but they do not “throw” beads or collect the bead necklaces that are so popular in New O.  Malta’s celebration is family oriented, at least in Valletta, and  they don’t have nearly as many parades as we saw in The Big Easy. 

Friday we had planned on going to Gozo, however the weather did not cooperate, so we decided to go to Valletta instead.   While many of the smaller villages celebrate carnival, the party is especially recognized in Valletta, Floriana and Nadur, which is on the island of Gozo. The party in Nadur is supposed to be the rowdiest and probably a little more like what we are used to.  On this day in Valletta, there was a parade and dance competition scheduled in Freedom Square.

We got to Valletta around 4pm and festivities didn’t start until 6pm so we decided to check out St Paul’s Shipwreck Church.  One of the greatest events in the history of Malta is the shipwrecked arrival of  St Paul in AD 60, who is said to have brought Christianity to the islands.  This elaborate Baroque church was built between 1639 and 1740, and to look at the outside of it, I was amazed at how big the church actually is.  It is dark, but beautiful, gloomy is how some of the guidebooks describe it, and I would agree.  We were able to roam throughout the entire church and even down to the crypt in the basement with its dark, winding staircase.   The church houses many treasures including a dazzling gilded statue of St Paul, carved in Rome in the 1650’s, which is carried through the streets of Valletta on the saint’s feast day, February 10.  We also saw part of the saint’s wrist, his actual bone that they have contained within a golden reliquary.  The church also features a small part of the column on which the saint is said to have been beheaded in Rome.  We wandered in and out of all the nooks and crannies and navigate our way down a dimly lit hallway.  Just as we realize we were on our way to the priest’s private chambers, we hear a small Maltese man bellowing for us to return.  Ooops!  There were no signs anywhere, and we marveled at our ability to be able to just roam about freely.

We wander down Republik Street and find a coffee shop. We go in to warm up and consider watching the parade from our table by the window.  We spend the next hour relaxing and admiring the elaborate costumes, worn mostly by children.  They love to pose for you and consider it a compliment if asked to have their picture taken.  

The parade started and we knew this because of the band music that was starting.  We walked out towards the crowd and all we ever saw was just one float.  It was big, colorful, and the back of the float sported a huge jester wearing flippers!  So when we realized that no other floats were forthcoming we wondered over to the Square where the dance competition was to take place.  The explosion of color from the dance participant’s costumes was amazing!  So much detail and work went into these ensembles!  We stood and watched for at least 45 minutes, then headed for the bus to Paceville. 

I was craving mac and cheese and I know I can get it at the Hard Rock Cafe.  We also know that we can get a decent burger there, so we went in,  watched some cool rock and roll videos, and ordered some dinner.  We talked with the bartenders we made friends with when we first moved to the island.  Basically kids themselves, (only need to be 18 to bartend in Malta…) they were all dressed up, having a great time and we love that they remember us when ever we stop in.

Leaving HRC, we hit the Rasta Bar, and we always have such a great time there.  My new friend Ruth was behind the bar as LB was on holiday in Wales.  We met some more people who always seem to have the greatest stories, like Joseph, who is a horse jockey.  He was quite the character and liked challenging the police by continually smoking in the bar.  Twice they walked in and tried to catch him red-handed, and failed at both attempts.  If you get caught smoking in the bars in Paceville, it’s the smoker who is ticketed, not the owner of the establishment.  When I inquired about this to LB on one of my first visits to the Rasta Bar,  he looked at me dumbfounded.  How could he possibly control his patrons when he is trying to do his job?  I had to think about the logic in this…

Once again our bus did not make an appearance.  On the opposite side of the street,  is the Wembley Taxi Service.  When the bus did not show the previous week, we walked across to inquire about their service and was told that there would be a 45 minute wait.  That evening we ended up taking an over-priced cab home. This evening we were luckier,  and what a great experience!

You walk up to the counter, tell them where you need to go.  It is 2 euro each for the ride and you wait until the van comes, and if there is enough people who need to go in the same direction, all you need to do is wait for the van.  You give them the money at the counter and they give you a little “Paid” ticket.  You walk about 30 feet to the curb and give the “attendant” filling the van your ticket.  This sounds easy enough, but when you are dealing with a bunch of drunken people at 3 a.m., things can get a little confusing.  So the attendant tells Homie to go ahead and get in the front seat, right next to the driver, and I hop in the nice, comfy seat right by the window.  This upsets the attendant and he asks, “Don’t you want to sit by your husband?”  So I say, “Of course!” and I also hop in the front and no sooner do I close the door, we are off and running.  It costs 1.16 euro for the bus ride home,  and we are dropped a good six blocks from our door.  For an extra .84 cents each we were dropped right at our steps and it was worth it after such a long day.  The camaraderie was also something to mention. As each person is dropped off, everyone yells, “Good night! Ciao Ciao!” as if we have spent the entire evening together.  How nice to know that everyone gets home safe and sound.  A comfy ride, dropped at your door and good night wishes, all for only 2 euro!!  Well worth the price of admission!

~Peace~

Read Full Post »