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Tales from Tunisia

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~

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!

World Cup Malta Style

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?

I can hardly believe it has been almost a month since my last entry in this online journal!  I finished my first project with my new company and am looking forward to starting something new.  It is so hard to adjust to the slower pace of life and to just “be”.  In every other position I have ever held, the work environment has been so fast-paced and deadline oriented that you hardly have a chance to catch your breath before another project is thrust upon you without a moment’s notice.  It really feels good to be part of the working force and I am very grateful to have found what appears to be the perfect fit for me.

May 1st we went on our first boat trip with other expats from all over the world. Not only did we get to see more of Malta by enjoying the picturesque views of Gozo and Comino, but we also had the pleasure of meeting people from all over the globe that are bound to be friends for life. We love hearing everyone’s stories about why they moved to Malta and how they came to be here. The boat trips are held all summer long, twice a month.  For only €15, you get six hours on the boat, plenty of time to swim and snorkel in three beautiful lagoons (pictures posted to your right!) and a complementary glass of wine. Everyone brings a dish to share, (about 20 people in all…) and a bottle of wine to share.  The experience is relaxing and it’s so much fun to be on the water that we plan to attend as many as we can.  The gal that organizes the events also does a meet every Friday evening at a different bar/restaurant on the island, so we have been meeting  people and getting to know them, as we see them regularly now.

May 7 was LB’s birthday at the Rasta Bar. On the way out the door to catch the bus, I grabbed my camera, ‘just in case’ and ended up taking pictures for the birthday boy all night. He had a delicious spiked punch in a carved out watermelon, and offered everyone a ‘welcome drink’ when they came in.  As soon as he saw us he rushed up to us and gave us six free drink tokens.  Then about two hours later, Hugo’s delivered sushi, satay and egg roll platters.  The place was jam-packed all night long and we had such a great time.  We didn’t get home until nearly 4:30 a.m.  It was a great opportunity to meet more Maltese people and to talk to them about their lifestyle and the way of life on the island.  It never ceases to amaze me how much love they have for their homeland and how well they know the history of Malta.  From the youngest to the oldest of everyone we’ve met so far, dreams of traveling abroad is always on their minds, but they eventually return to Malta and say that there is no better place to live.  

We managed to get our Mother’s Day cards in the mail on time and when we went to look for the cards all we could find in several different drugstores were cards that said, “Happy Mum’s Day!”  It was funny to us, having never have seen a Mother’s Day card like that before, and Homie chose a cute one for his Mum, but I chose the traditional “Happy Mother’s Day” for my mother.  It occurred to us that we really have to stay on top of the American holidays, (Mother’s Day is observed here however…) as it is easy to forget them, like Memorial Day coming up this Monday.  Fourth of July is another holiday only celebrated in the west and we were wishing that we had more space to be able to invite our new friends over for a old-fashioned BBQ and bean bag tournament, but it is not to be this year.  I am sincerely going to miss that day of brats, beer and lawn games with family and friends, so I suppose we will take our little disposable grill down to the rocks by the sea and have our own little celebration.  Malta is big on fireworks, they seem to find any occasion to light them off, so maybe we will get lucky and see a display that we can ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ at.  I can tell you there will be no brats, we have looked high and low for them, and when we go home next summer for an extended visit, we will just have to get our fill then.  My husband is already wondering if we will be able to find corn-on-the-cob here, and we are both hoping so.   When we decided to move to Malta and leave our American roots behind, we did not take into consideration ALL that we would be leaving behind, but it just gives you a better perspective of the differences in culture, lifestyle and customs of other countries.  But I can assure you that on July 4th, when we venture out for an outdoor BBQ, rabbit will NOT be on the grill!  Still not ready for that, will I ever be?  We were excited to see a new store open just five minutes from our flat called Miracle Foods where we can now purchase frozen meats and foods that are very similar to what we are used to seeing in America.  They also have fresh beef and pork and Homie is delirious with all the selections, except still, no brats. 

On May 23rd we went on our second boat trip and while the weather was not as cooperative as the first trip, it was still a massively good time.  It really isn’t warm enough for me to jump into the sea and risk the sting of jellyfish, but Homie loved the water and it is starting to finally warm up enough to swim.  We can’t believe the weather in Minnesota!  It has been hot and humid, warmer than Malta in the past week or so, but the weather we have been experiencing is much more to my liking (low to mid 70’s) and we keep wondering when it is really going to start getting hot.  The boat trips will really be fun then, when everyone is swimming and enjoying the hotness of the day.  And for those of you keeping up, the driver of the boat was not a woman, and when I asked our skipper if there were any woman captains in his company’s employ, he looked at me as though I asked him if the boat is capable of driving itself in the choppy waters of the Mediterranean! 

In the meantime, have a safe and happy Memorial Day!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Peace~

Pope and Circumstance

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~

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Peace~