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Posts Tagged ‘Living Abroad’

I know.  It’s been forever.  Even though there is lots to catch up on, this post is going to be short and sweet.  I’m thinking that if I keep the posts shorter, I will post more often. If I start writing about all the reasons why I haven’t written, I may develop another case of unimaginative writer’s block and that would be a bad thing.

Below I am listing the top five things that happened since I’ve last written.

1.  I spent the month of August in Minnesota.  It was a great trip and even though it was the longest vacation I’ve ever been able to take, it also went so fast.  I didn’t get to see all the friends that I wanted to, but I had nearly a week of fun, relaxing time with my son and my grandson at the cabin in northern Minnesota. And the shopping was a dream. I came home to Malta with five new pairs of shoes and three pairs that I had in storage. Just writing about the shopping in the States is giving me sweet visions of the Mall of America. Nothing in Malta compares. 

2.  Homie spent 90 days out of Malta to satisfy his residential visa requirements.  For nearly seven weeks I was living in Malta on my own.  It was hard.  Even though our good friends were there for me, giving me a ride for the big shopping trips and events that were too far to take the bus by myself,  I realized how dependant I had let myself become on Homie. He ran all the errands, did most of the cleaning and nearly all of the shopping.  In my defense I was working full-time, but I still took for granted all that he was doing.  Talk about role-reversal! We will find out very soon if his application for his spousal residence permit has been approved, keep your fingers crossed for us!  I never want to be separated that long again!  It was very hard, on both of us.

3.  I was in a terrible car accident.  Homie wasn’t in America two full days and I was involved in a head-on collision while out with some friends.  A drunk Italian driving a Smart car hit us head on at about 40 KPH.  We were in a small Mazda and I was in the back seat with out my seat belt buckled.  Had the Italian been driving anything bigger, I really don’t think I’d be typing this right now.  I was pretty banged up, missed nearly a week of work and experienced being in an emergency room, in a foreign country all by myself.  It was very difficult.  Luckily all three of us are okay and mended, but the Italian driver?  He walked away, no ticket, no remorse and not a penny of compensation (car insurance would not pay).  My friend’s car was totaled and there was absolutely nothing she could do about it.  She can hire an attorney at her own expense, but it will take years before the case is heard and the Italian has already left Malta.  But now, I always, and I mean always, buckle up in the back seat.

4.  I celebrated my 50th birthday twice.  Depending on who you are, milestone birthdays can be traumatic, and my 50th could have been for me had I not had amazing friends to celebrate with on both sides of the globe.  You may remember a past post about my good friend Inga, the fun and crazy girl I hang out with in Malta – she rented a huge cabin cruiser, complete with a Captain and took me and Valerie (the third member of our posse) out on the Mediterranean for the entire day!  It was the best birthday a girl could ask for!  So. Much. Fun.

I am amazingly lucky because I am still the best of friends with my high school peeps, for nearly 35 years now, and we threw a large party in Minnesota as we all turned 50 this year.  Everyone showed up, and most of the parents were there as well, along with kids and other friends I hadn’t seen in a very long time. When we all get together like that its as if we are 15 again and we were up almost all night rockin’ out to tunes from the 70’s and 80’s and reminiscing about our crazy youth!  It was a great time!

5.  I am finally writing again.  I’ve been in a major slump.  Part of it is feeling uninspired and part of it was never being able to find a block of time where I could just sit and write without constant interruptions.  I really thought I would be able to get a lot of work done with the book while Homie was in America, but it never seemed to work out.  There is always so much to do in the summer time!  But I’m back in the saddle and my goal is to have the first draft of the manuscript done by the end of January.  I’m finally excited about the book and the direction that I’ve decided to take.  I’m energized to write again and I have a feeling it’s going to be a good read!

Until next time my faithful readers, and I PROMISE – I won’t wait six months before the next update!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Peace~

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Peace~

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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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I know that I am not the first person to complain about the traffic on Malta.  It’s in the newspapers, its in the blogs and even our Maltese friends admit to the occasional road rage episode.  I just hope it isn’t a deal breaker for me.

In Minnesota, Homie and I were the happiest when we lived in the Uptown, a trendy part of Minneapolis.  We were in the heart of the city, in a lovely apartment right off of busy Hennepin Avenue.  We both drove to work, but as soon as we drove home the car was parked for the evening and we walked everywhere.  There was always something to do and wherever we went, we walked.  We loved it!  When we went to sleep at night, we hardly heard any traffic, even if the windows were open.  Well, we did hear traffic in the summer, especially on Friday and Saturday evenings, when the windows were open, which was often, because we didn’t have air conditioning.  However, by 2 a.m. the noise was gone, except for the occasional whine of an ambulance or police cruiser.

Here we are on an island living our dream and all I hear is traffic.  Honestly, it never stops.  When we first rented our flat, and I realize we didn’t know the lay of the land then, we really thought we were off the beaten path, but we now believe we happen to be on one of the busiest roads on the island! The traffic seems to quiet down a bit at night, but it never really stops.  During the day, it can sometimes be unbearable!  From the cement trucks, to the city buses, from the garbage trucks to the little foreign affairs that haven’t seen a muffler in decades, it’s a total mayhem of gasoline and exhaust.

I was reading the Malta Times the other day and came across this little gem.  In March of 2001 a man was driving, admittedly excessively and negligently, struck another man and unfortunately, killed him.  It is nine years later and the man driving finally had his day in court.  He received a €4700 fine, an 18 month prison sentence (suspended for three years), and here’s the part that this man thought was unjust, he lost his license for 10 months.  The article ended describing the make of the car and the damage that the poor dead man had caused to the vehicle.

Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death on Malta.  When I did my research about Malta before the move, I have to take the high road and admit that I read a lot about the traffic and the drivers and the high rate of accidents.  No amount of documentation could have prepared me for what my eyes see now. 

I don’t understand the complete fascination that the Maltese have with driving.  There are not just “smart” cars here.  No sir-ee.  There are SUV’s, Caddys, 4X4’s, and even the lone Hummer I’ve seen driving around.  And the amount of car dealerships blows the mind.  Every Maltese person I’ve talked to complains about the cost of driving, and owning your own vehicle.  They have to post their insurance information on the inside of the windshield and parking is at a premium, which actually reminds me a lot of the Uptown and all the headaches associated with having to get to a place by a certain time or there would be NO PARKING FOR YOU!!

The drivers have no care or concern for the pedestrian.  You walk at your own risk.  If you happen to get in the way of the Driver, you suffer the wrath of the extended horn.  The Maltese love to honk their horns.  Today, Homie and I were walking down to the sea by way of the marina.  We were on a somewhat private road, that ran right along the marina and was a one-way street.  We heard cars behind us  and scurried to the side.  It happened to be two student driver vehicles.  The first student driver was a more mature adult woman who was white-knuckling the wheel and going (God forbid) at least 5 miles below the posted speed.  Right on her tail was another student driver, somewhat younger,  and as we are looking on we see the second car’s instructor reaching over and honking the horn at the first driver.  All we could do was laugh and thank the stars above that we are not concerned with or ever intend to purchase a vehicle and drive in Malta.  I must admit it is totally liberating not having a vehicle.  We do not miss it one bit. 

We found out that it is rather cheap to rent a car for a couple of days time in Malta and I suppose in the summer months if we plan on doing some day tripping that may be an option.  I had elaborate daydreams in the states of owning a cute little Vespa that Homie and I would putt around on all over the island.  That thought is now nothing but a whimsical fantasy of the unenlightened American.

I was walking down the strand yesterday to meet my husband after his shift and walk home with him.  On my way down I encountered a man lying on the pavement and two young girls talking to him as if he were having a bad dream.  I stopped, concerned, not knowing what the heck was going on.  I find out that the two young girls had been chatting away (the Maltese have a charming phrase they use quite often, “To be completely honest with you…) and had actually hit him as he walked down the road.  Well, it was kind of his fault, he was walking in the road and not on the sidewalk… 

Malta is like the UK, they drive on the opposite side of the road, as compared to the U.S. (well I suppose “opposite” would be a matter of opinion) and the steering wheel is on the opposite side of the car.  So its been rather difficult and sometimes confusing for me to remember which way to look while crossing the road and looking for oncoming traffic.  Homie has had to throw his arm out and stop me, rather brutally on certain occasions,  from walking right into an oncoming vehicle.  So now, I make it a point to always look twice before crossing.  Always!

~Peace~

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