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Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota’

My New Year’s resolution was to blog once a week.  The last time I wrote it was January 11th.  I achieved the same result with my resolution to start up my strength-training program, but as of today I am back on track with both.  It only took four months to get started, but let’s focus on the positive.

There have been quite a few changes for us in the first half of 2011.  We moved into a penthouse apartment less than 10 minutes from our old place. What makes it such a great move for us is the new place is completely decorated and feels like a home.  We have a large terrace off of the kitchen where Homie’s Weber grill resides.  We rescued it from Inga’s place as it sat all alone in the back of her garden.  Then we have another very private terrace off of the bedroom and we get a lot of sun and a great view from both of them.  It has literally changed our perspective living on Malta and we are so much happier in the new space.

Another huge change is I’ve switched jobs.  I am now writing web content and managing the social media outlets for an online gaming company.  While the writing content is a bit more exciting and diverse than the technical work I was doing previously, the bad news is that I have to go through the complete process of getting the work permit all over again.  At least this time I had all my paperwork in order and now it is just a waiting game until the new permit for the new company is approved.  I’ve been talking to a few people who are ‘in the know’ about the fact that the DCEA has changed procedures making the process a bit more streamlined, and all I can hope for is that they know what they are talking about and the new permit is approved asap.  It is against all rules and regulations to work while you are waiting for approval, so I am hoping that it goes fast.  In the meantime I picked up some contract work from the States, so we should be okay as once again I wait to become legal to reside and work in Malta.

Homie is currently in Sweden helping out one of our good friends ready their home for selling.  One of the first couples we met when we first arrived on the island, AB is American and BW is Swedish, and they have been living on Malta for the last three years while they’ve rented their home just outside of Stockholm.  Their eldest is currently attending George Washington University (doing fabulously well I might add as she is interning at the White House) and they have decided to move to the States in July to be closer to her and AB’s mom.  You may remember faithful reader, that AB invited me to join her writer’s group when I first came to Malta and because of her and her gracious support, I’ve met so many lovely people from all over the globe.  She will be sorely missed and I hate to see her leave Malta, but life is never static, always changing, always evolving and we will remain friends for life.  She recently picked up a book agent as she has finished her first novel, so she continues to be an inspiration to me.  I just hope she remembers to give me her coffee pot before she leaves…however, I am not one to beat around the bush so I have no problem reminding her.

I miss Homie terribly, I really do and the first couple of nights were horrible, especially when I got home from work and dinner wasn’t started.  But it has given me extra time to get my half-written (who am I kidding? not even half…) manuscript sorted and I have re-kindled my determination to get the first draft written by the end of the year.  The story is coming along quite nicely and I believe that if it makes me laugh it will make a whole lot of others out there in the world laugh as well.  I was just Skyping with my son the other day, complaining about Malta (I have a terrible case of  island fever) and how homesick I’ve been lately.  He says with complete conviction, “Okay ma, just come home now.  You did it, enough is enough.”  He was goofing around with me, but he was serious too.  Most of my family and some of our friends never imagined that Homie and I would have really made a go of it and gone this far, stayed away this long.

The book is turning into a half memoir/half fictional story about how having a personal goal, a dream or vision affects every person in your life, and, how it ‘doesn’t’ affect them.  What we went through as we tried to make the people in our lives understand why we needed to do this became quite humorous.  Some were and still are supportive, some just pretend to be supportive, some just shrug you off or feel it is their sole purpose in life to try and talk some sense into you. There is so much material there to write about, including all the great adventures we experienced along the way, that it will be hard to edit.

I’ve changed so much since leaving Minnesota and it will be interesting when I go home because a lot of the people in my life haven’t changed at all, still working the same jobs, living in the same home, doing the same things. Skype, Facebook and email keep us connected, but at the end of the day, we are still on the other side of the world.  Our  trip home will be documented religiously because this is the part of my story where the circle of this adventure connects.   Coming full circle, going back to Minnesota, as a visitor, having achieved, accomplished and proved, that if you want something bad enough, there’s nothing on the planet that can keep you from having it.

As for the title of this post, well, it’s been so long since I blogged I had to do something radical to get your undivided attention.  If you are reading this sentence, thanks for sticking around and I promise that the next installment will not take four months to produce!

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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!

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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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Peace~

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