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Posts Tagged ‘Living in Malta’

It’s been three months since I’ve been working full-time in Malta, it’s gone so quickly and I think I’m finally starting to fit in a little bit.  I am past the imaginary finish line of the “probation period” and things have been going well, even though the only Maltese word that I can seem to remember is ‘Mella’ (of course).  Homie and I have come to the conclusion that the only reason that we can’t seem to memorize any of the Maltese language is because we don’t ‘have’ to.  English is spoken by 98% of everyone on the island, so we are able to communicate quite easily. 

All of my colleagues are Maltese, except for the owner who is Greek, and two others who are German.  I don’t get mad when I’m the only one in the room that can’t understand the conversation, I just feel isolated.  I tell myself that they are not talking Maltese around me because they don’t want me to know what they are talking about or that they are purposefully trying to exclude me, it is just that this is their language and when you let your guard down during the course of the day it is easy to slip into your native tongue.  At least that is what I hope they are doing!  But then there is another part of me that is annoyed and kind of hurt by it.  I know I  would not speak in a language in front of someone, let alone carry on a 20-minute conversation in front of that person, if they could not understand what I was saying.  I think it is really rude and insensitive, especially if that person was the only person who didn’t understand.  Just today we ordered take-away and most everyone was in the board room eating lunch and everyone was talking in Maltese.  I wanted to stand up and take my lunch to my desk where my iPod and the Internet were, but I didn’t.  I wish I could just politely say, “Could you speak in English please?” and I can not do that either for some reason.  I’m so afraid I’m going to offend someone, unintentionally, and I don’t ever want to create problems with my co-workers. 

In any situation in America, whether social, work-related or family and friends related, I’ve been a really down-to-earth, assertive and tell-it-like-it-is kind of gal and I’m not here.  That pisses me off too.  That I can’t be myself.  I have been popular and well-liked in all of my previous positions and I love  making people laugh. And it never fails, I inevitably become half of the office’s confident.  But I don’t see that ever happening here. 

Right before the Christmas break the people I sit with in a rather large room were all called into the board room for a short meeting.  We were told that because of reorganization and expansion purposes we were going to be switching offices.  Because part of my job includes recording instruction videos for our software, I was getting my own office.  I thought this was great for my work, because it does get noisy every now and then and I was wondering how I would manage.  But then it occurred to me that I will be segregated from my co-workers even further.  I am curious to see how it works out, sitting by myself has its advantages, but then I won’t have the opportunity to get to know the people I work with better.

Other than the language barrier things have been going well at work.  I’m finally understanding the software and have no problem finding the tools I need on the network to do my job.  I love the fact that I can walk to work and it is just a short 10 minute jaunt to and from.  The office atmosphere is relaxed and they have flex time, meaning that you can come in up to 10:30 a.m. and then leave at 7 p.m.  I have health insurance and direct deposit.  I have access to the Internet and freedom, meaning I am left to meet my deadlines without anyone looking over my shoulder, criticizing my work.  Then, I called in sick.

I was sick.  I had a terrible head cold.  In the States, I probably would have went into the office, but here, it just seemed like too much trouble and I didn’t want to give anyone my cold.  I emailed the HR gal and about a half hour later she called me at home.  She wished me well, told me to take care and said the Doctor would be by shortly.  Huh?  I said, “Doctor?”  She said, “Yes, the company will send a doctor to your flat.”  I said, “Will he call me first?” She said, “No, but he usually comes by in the early afternoon.”   A couple of hours later the phone rang and it was the doctor, he was lost.  I truly did not feel well, (thank God) and tried to give him instructions to our flat, but he lost patience with me and, well, he hung up on me.  Now I was thinking I really didn’t want to see a doctor who was angry with me.  So Homie, always coming to my rescue, offered to go and see if he could find him.  Of course he was successful and less than 10 minutes later I could see them on their way to the apartment. 

So he examined me and sure enough, I had a sinus infection that may possibly turn into bronchitis, so he wrote me a prescription for an antibiotic (I’m actually surprised that he didn’t ask for my Father’s signature…) and for ibuprofen.  As he was giving me all the instructions for the medication, the rude American that I am, I interrupted him and said, “Well, I can go back to work tomorrow, right?” It was a Thursday.  He looked at me with a worried look on his face and said, “Slow down!  You may want to take an extra day to recuperate and get back to normal before you go back to work!”  I just looked at Homie,  shrugged and said to the doctor, “Well, if you think it’s best.”   It was a great 4-day weekend.

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What a difference this Christmas is compared to last Christmas.  Last year at this time we spent a very lonely, but cozy Christmas in front of the computer with hot chocolate watching ‘A Christmas Story’, one of our favorite Christmas films, with no tree, no Christmas decorations, and no presents.  The only people we really knew were the bartenders at the Hard Rock and the sweet ladies who ran the little ‘Step-In’ store right by our flat.  We have come so far.

We’ve been at our same flat for a year and have managed to endear ourselves to our landlords and their adorable little girl who loves the American candy I have ready for her when we pay the rent.  We really don’t know any of our neighbors, but there has been quite a bit of moving in and moving out, so it is very difficult to try to get to know anyone.  We’ve had Maltese, Italian, French, English and Swedish neighbors, but we really never had the chance to get to know any of them.

We joined an Expat group in March and have made so many friends.  The group grows and thins and grows again.  Many will be friends for life,  and the boat trips to Comino and the Blue Lagoon was a great way to get to know everyone better.  The expats also meet on Friday nights at different pubs and venues and we love listening to everyone’s story about how they ended up on Malta.  Every story is unique and its amazing how your path ends up crossing with certain people.  We’ve experienced many different restaurants, learning many different  Maltese traditions and I love trying the local cuisine, even though I still haven’t had rabbit stew!  Homie knows exactly how many McDonald’s there are on the island, and we have finally figured out how to explain where we are located when we order food to be delivered. That act alone has probably saved our marriage. 

We’ve gotten to know the buses, and don’t mind taking them at all, except when the students are here in August and September, then forget trying to get on a bus between 7 and 10 p.m.  We love the Maltese busses and the way they are decked out with the Virgin Mary, reminders to pray and promises of forgiveness.  Sometimes you will see the older Maltese women genuflect before they get on and we can never tell if that is a good sign or a bad sign.  We know where to catch the bus if we want to go to Mdina, Birkirkara or Mosta.  One thing that has struck me is that most of the Maltese people who I have gotten to know really dislike taking the bus, they’ll drive even if it’s a 10-minute walk.  The island is approximately the size of Staten Island, but because there are so many cars and the roads are so congested, it can take over 45 minutes to an hour to drive to a location that would take you twenty minutes to walk to.  I walk to and from work everyday and I’m home sooner than most people can get through the next stoplight. 

We have found great spots to swim, we have figured out the neighborhood shortcuts and when we go for walks we almost always run into somebody we know.  We’ve been invited to many of our friend’s homes and have gotten to see many different types of abodes with traditional stone architecture as well as very modern and updated apartments.

I have a wonderful stylist that already knows exactly how to cut my hair, I’m joining a gym soon and Homie has a key to a local tennis club where he joined a league a few months ago.  We are getting to the point where it’s a necessity for each of us to have a mobile, and we will soon.  A great friend loaned us an older model and we bought a €10 sims card and a €5 pay as you go card,  and it lasted us nearly three weeks.  It’s not the greatest device to sms on, but it does the job.  I’ve now gone without a mobile for a little over a year and I am starting to miss having it.  Kind of bittersweet, a friend who is moving home to Canada (hate to see her go…!) is planning on selling me her little beauty when she leaves next month.

Homie has gotten his visa issues squared away finally and it has been a rough road, especially for him as he didn’t know whether he was going to be able to stay or have to go home for a couple of months.  I really thought I did my homework before we left the States, but on an island this small, they can make  their own rules. But it is sorted and we don’t have to worry about it any longer.

I guess you could say we’re established.  We left the States with very little money, big dreams and a will to make it happen.   We had a vision, and we made it a reality. (That vision included a tumble dryer, so I have a little work to do, although I have temporarily solved that issue…)  In a year’s time we are sitting pretty good and with nothing but great things on the horizon.  What’s exciting to me is that one day, Homie and I said, “Screw it.  Le’t just do it.”  And we did.  And here we are.  Happy as bloody hell!  Can’t wait to see what 2011 brings.  Here’s to having a dream and then living it.

Merry Christmas to you all and may 2011 be every thing you dream it will be. ♥

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Adventures can come in many different forms, like leaving America to live on a small Mediterranean island, or starting a new job in an office in a foreign country and then, there is my new friend Inga.  Born in Iceland and raised in Norway, this girl has become one of my favorite peeps to hang out with on this little rock in the sea.

The first time we met it was at an expat event at the Black Pearl, a bar and restaurant in an actual ship that had been resurrected from the sea, then used in the film Popeye.   She smoked all my fags, (I am still SO not used to calling them fags!) but in return bought me wine all night.  Me, Inga and Valerie (from France) had a great time inciting riots on the dance floor and by the end of the night we had promised to get together for dinner the next week.

The next week it was my birthday and the three of us met for dinner at a cute little restaurant right on the sea and we shared three bottles of wine, and the last one I brought home with me.  Inga took a class to learn about wine and she is passing on the knowledge to me, free of charge.  This adventure was of a different flavor, there was a dead fish floating right below us and none of us could identify it and after the second bottle of wine and two Irish coffees, we seriously contemplated climbing over the railing and finding a way to get down to the rocks to check it out, but finally settled with talking the waiters into sitting down with us and having a glass of wine, even though they were waiting patiently for us to finish our long dinner so they could go home for the evening.

The next adventure was a BBQ at her house where I had so much fun playing hide and seek with her seven-year old in the mansion they are calling home for the next three years.  After the kids went to bed, we stayed up, discussed world peace, politics in Iran and damn if she didn’t teach me a thing or two about this crazy, radical world we live in. 

The next adventure was a short trip to Gozo, Malta’s sister island and a visit to the dentist office.  It seems this wild child has a phobia with the dentist and she needed some moral support.  I wasn’t working yet, and it was a beautiful day and who am I to say no to an all expense paid trip to the quaint little island? As we sat and talked it occurred to me that I had found a great friend; and in such a short time!  It seemed we were passionate about the same things and as we sat on the ferry and drank our Cisks, we both wondered how lucky we were that we were living on Malta and what luck it was that our paths had crossed so momentarily. 

On to Mdina!  Originally she offered to drive Homie and I to Valletta, since the work permit had not yet materialized, we needed to apply for an extension on our travel visa, and she knew right where to go.  But since we live in Malta, (and remember, we are glad we live here) they closed at half past 11 (that’s in the a.m. folks) and here we are at 12:10 with a whole afternoon free on our hands, so why not visit the oldest city in Malta, the silent city, Mdina.  As we park and get out of the vehicle the clouds start to get dark and here is Inga ready to give her umbrella to the parking attendant, and lucky for her I was there to talk some sense into her as it wasn’t a half hour later and we were caught in a torrential downpour.  We finally found a little restaurant appropriately named Bacchus, and we had the best lunch of calamari, wine and caesar salad (Inga doesn’t eat mammals…) and the three of us had a great day.

The other day we were supposed to meet for dinner and while I still don’t have a mobile (my year of giving up my dependence on the mobile phone is nearly up, and it was Inga who in her distress at not being able to get ahold of me claimed I was so “1995”) she was actually able to phone me.  How you ask?  As I’m biting into my delicious garlic chicken, the owner of the restaurant hands me a phone and says in his Maltese accent, “It’s for you.”  I answer and who else?  Inga.  At the hospital with poor little Freyja, who needed a few stitches above her eye.  We met later the next week for dinner and Inga picks me up looking like a battered housewife.  She has decided to take parasailing lessons and as she was getting to know the gear, the wind took hold of her and dragged her across the rocks for at least 50 meters.  She just laughed about it, and I thought to myself, it’s always an adventure with Inga!

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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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I haven’t been cooking any traditional Maltese food and one thing that I know I probably won’t do is Rabbit Stew.  I feel a little bad about it, because part of this whole adventure is learning and living the culture and that includes experiencing the Maltese cuisine.   Rabbit is a main staple here for the Maltese, and I just don’t know what my problem is, but I can’t seem to bring myself to order it when we are out, even though it smells quite delicious, almost like a spicy beef stew, but yet, not beefy. 

We had a pet rabbit growing up, and still to this day I can’t believe my mother let it roam about the house freely, but its name was Cinnamon and we loved her. (Or was it a “him”?)  I can’t remember how it even came to be that Cinnamon became our family pet, but she was so sweet and loved to sit on your lap and be petted.  So as I fondly remember Cinnamon, it becomes even more difficult to consider eating rabbit stew or anything made with rabbit as one of the ingredients.  When we go to the grocer, I quickly scan the meat counter to see if there is anything we want fresh (this is a splurge as fresh meat is so much more expensive than frozen, for obvious reasons…) because I do not even want to see fresh rabbit behind our grocer’s meat counter.  For our Easter dinner we plan to purchase a beef roast (wanted the ham, but oh-so-salty here) which Homie can then season and pat and nibble from while its cooking in its own juices and he is so looking forward to it!

It’s been a rather weepy couple of days for me, I’ve come to discover that I am over-emotional when a holiday rolls around.  Easter was always a favorite.  Years ago in my previous life, I would go to church with Grandma, then she would come to my house and help me cook dinner.  We’d play Yahtzee and drink coffee and I would get to listen to her stories of life on the farm growing up. Further down the path on Memory Lane I’d make an Easter basket for my grandson,  and have so much fun watching him trying to locate all the plastic eggs we’d hide all over the house that were full of chocolate and other things that he wasn’t supposed to have, that only a Grandma can get away with.  God I loved to torment my son whilst spoiling my grandson!  (It’s in my top-ten list of favorite things to do.)

It has been a very busy week here on what I fondly now refer to as the little rock in the sea.  Normally our one night out each week is Friday and last Friday Homie had to work.  So I went with my friend AB to the expat gathering at a little jazz club in Paceville.  The band was a young ‘Captain & Tenille’, but singing jazz , well I guess I wouldn’t even call it jazz, but to be fair they sounded okay (but not really).   After the first set I got restless and could practically hear the reggae calling my name from the Rasta Bar which was only a five-minute walk away.  Finally my companions were ready to head out and we went to another cool place I haven’t been to yet called Tiffany’s.  Situated right in the middle of a small man-made bay, it was a dark little cigar bar with oversized easy chairs and a great atmosphere.  It offered a huge balcony/deck where you could also dine and had a great view of the sea and million dollar condos. 

We left Tiff’s and finally headed to Rasta.  My new expat friends had not been and ended up loving it as much as Homie and I do.  LB was his regular charming self and I felt right at home as some of the regulars cheeky-kissed me when they saw me and LB got me a beer right away.  It wasn’t the same without my husband, but I was entertained talking to my Maltese friends and watching LB work the ladies.  We ended up staying out until nearly 4 a.m. and one of the expats, who has moved here from Germany gave us all a lift home, and I was so glad I didn’t have to deal with the Wembley cab all on my own.

Couple of updates.  Still haven’t found employment, but not worried at all, I know the Universe will provide. The expats are so cool, the ones that have been here the longest know so many people, and it won’t be long until I finally get my foot in the door. The freelance writing is still going great and the more I do it, the more I love it, and the more I learn.  Started the cigs, but monitoring my intake and will always and inevitably quit again.  Homie and I had our first bout of sickness, a stomach bug that came and went in 72 hours.  It really made us think about how damn lucky we are that we are so healthy and we were so grateful we didn’t have to go to hospital.  (That’s how they say it in Europe…you go to hospital.  You don’t go to ‘the’ hospital!)  While meeting all the new cool expat people I met a woman and her husband who is a marine and is working at the US Embassy (where I just recently submitted my latest application).  They were headed to Sicily the next morning for American supplies and she asked if there was anything I wanted from the PX.  Well I made my way around the jazz club until I found a pen and a napkin and she delivered it to me last Monday because we were still not feeling well enough to meet in St. Julian’s. What a sweetheart!!  Among other goodies, she delivered Lays potato chips, Mountain Dew and Advil! I truly believe it helped to speed up the recovery and 48 hours later we felt fine. 

Fine enough for Rasta Bar this Friday….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Peace~

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