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Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

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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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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Whenever I talk to my friends and family in Minnesota, I say that “Everything is the same, but different.”  From grocery shopping to job searching to Malta’s nightlife, the contrasts are all around us, everytime we leave the flat.  Every day is a new adventure and that is why making the decision to lead a life in a land we knew little about is what we considered “living our dream”. 

So far, living on Malta has been lovely and not hard at all.  We talked to friends of ours that moved to Cairo last night, and I don’t think I’d be as happy living there as I am living here.  We are able to get almost everything we could want, and again, the statement, “the same but different” applies.  Some items that look exactly like what you expect you are buying, turn out to be completely the opposite of what you thought you were getting.  Like the pickles we bought the other day that I was sure were dill, but ended up being “sweet” pickles, only because I was unable to read the Maltese label.  Some things strike you as funny and interesting and at other times it can be really annoying.  In the end, all is good because we are doing something very few people have been able to, for whatever reason, and we remind ourselves to always try to embrace the contrast.  What we thought made us happy in the States, for instance all the variety,  doesn’t matter to us  in Malta.  We are living with less that we ever had and it is actually comforting.   Like not having the responsibility of owning a vehicle.  We are living more simply and are happy doing it.  

It has only been a couple of weeks since I started my job search, and I realize that patience is a virtue.  I try to fill my time during the day writing and keeping busy, and I now realize that I long for the daily interaction only employment can bring.   I am so looking forward to meeting more people and learning more about where I live and the people who have lived here before me.  I started wondering why I wasn’t hearing from any of the companies I’ve applied at, (because once they see my resumé, how could they refuse me…?!), then I suddenly realized, it’s the week before Carnival!

Carnival has been celebrated on Malta and Gozo since the 15th century.  Since the days of the Knights of the Order of St. John’s, Carnival is one of  Malta’s largest celebrations and Homie and I couldn’t be more excited.  We are going to Gozo to celebrate and expect to see parades, costumes and eat all the traditional food that will be served by vendors on the street and in the small restaurants all over the tiny island. Gozo is a short ferry ride away and we’ve been waiting for the weather to get a bit warmer to go visit, but after talking to our Maltese friends we’ve been told that the celebration on Gozo is one not to be missed. 

We have celebrated Mardi Gras in New Orleans several times.  We would leave the cold Minnesota tundra and drive south for 20 hours to spend a long weekend in The Big Easy.  We made this trek five times consecutively, until I finally convinced Homie that “been there, done that” was something we should think about.  The celebration in New Orleans can quickly become exhausting and draining.  We would stay in the French Quarter, (where else?) and everyone is either on their way to drunkenness or returning from hours of debauchery.  The parades are amazing, and it’s fun to collect as many beads as possible in one night out just to start a whole new collection the next day.  And, the people watching has always been above expectations, especially on Fat Tuesday when everyone is in costume.  

We have asked our Maltese friends about what to expect from Malta’s celebration and we realized rather quickly that we won’t be experiencing anything like we did on Bourbon Street.  They talked about the parades, the costumes and the food.  We did find out about one tradition called The Kukkanja which is a high vertical pole covered in grease with prizes at the very top.  Always located in a public place, it dares people to try to climb to the top to claim the prizes.  Sounds like fun, if not a little messy.  I can’t imagine any prize that is fine enough for me to try, but it will be fun watching others get to the top just to see what could be worth the effort.

Last year there was trouble in Nadur (Gozo) when a young man was arrested for dressing up as Jesus Christ.  The Maltese are predominantly Catholic and in 1933 a law was enacted that made it clear that anyone who publicly vilifies the Roman Catholic Religion can end up in jail for up to six months!  Dressing up as Jesus, a priest or a nun is considered denouncing the religion and the courts do not look favorably upon you, even if it is carnival.  Many thought the authorities had taken this young man’s costume too seriously, but none the less he was charged, held and then fined.  Homie and I remembered a picture I snapped of him on our first visit to New Orleans when Homie’s hair was the longest it had ever been and we both remarked that he looked a lot like Our Savior, so we thought it may be in his best interest to wear his Cubs hat to Gozo, just in case…

Tonight we plan to take the bus to the largest casino on the island, the Dragonara Casino, located in St. Julian’s.  The building itself was built in 1870 and has lots of history.  The palace got its name from the promontory on which it is built,  and means “dragon’s lair”.  Ancient folklore tells the story of a roaring dragon that lived in the caves and hollows beneath, but most will tell you that the noises were no more than the waves crashing about the little peninsula on which the building stands.  

Just two days ago another smaller casino was robbed and the thieves made off with over 500,000 euro after dumping the get-away car into the sea at Fort Angelo, then jumping into a waiting speed boat.  The police currently have no leads, as the helicopter used in the land and sea search was not equipped with a night-time search facility.  Again, everything is the same, but different…

~Peace~

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I’m sitting here this evening working on the book, freezing my butt off.  Homie and I have tried everything to get the unit on the wall to blow out some heat.  The only one we can get to work is the bedroom (our bedroom) unit and that’s the one we need the least.  The floors are ceramic and thank god I had the sense to bring my Minnetonka moccasin slippers from Minnesota.  I’ve been chomping on Nicorette gum and drinking Nescafe instant coffee all evening and I’m sick of both of them.  I would love, love, LOVE to have a cigarette, and I would love to have a whole pot of fresh brewed coffee, I’d be happy with just the smell of it right now.  I am making it my personal quest to find a grinder and a press this week!

Last night was the only evening of the weekend that Homie did not have to work and we had planned to go to the Rasta Bar in St. Julian’s (or Paceville, depending on who you ask…).  We listened to the Ipod, had a few drinks and played cards to get in the partying mood.  We have been bickering a bit lately and one of the bickers is all about getting sucked into the couch in front of the boob-tube and our energy levels.  I like watching movies, not that idiot Bear Grylls, the stoops on Mythbusters or African soccer.  Homie could sit in front of the TV for hours on end and watch up to ten shows at once by manipulating the remote until it needs new batteries. I on the other hand, would rather watch a movie or two, then listen to some music, play cards or read.  I will admit that I have been on the laptop far more than he has, but I’ve been writing and blogging and sometimes when you get in the groove, you lose track of time.  Then I’ll look up and be instantly irritated that he is watching somebody using their hand as bait in a swamp to catch a huge catfish, then eat it raw.  That Bear Grylls is something else.  I can’t just sit and watch that even though Homie tries to convince me that this show may save my life some day.   Well, maybe, but the odds are against it.  In an effort to avoid another bickering session, I promise to practice my fire-making techniques and make a mental note to always carry a flint in the form of a Bic lighter. 

It’s Friday night and we plan to leave about 9:30pm to go to our favorite little bar, The Rasta Bar.  Our plans are to stop at the ATM on the way, grab some cash and then the bus.  Homie thought he was getting paid today and since there was a death in the owner’s family (all the staff were shocked and dismayed at the fact that the owner did not close the business for two days as is the normal Maltese custom when there is a death in the owner’s  immediate family) they did not receive their “wages”.  The ATM did not give us the cash we needed, citing a pin discrimination.  I know I had my pin # correct, but after three incorrect attempts, continuing is fruitless.  So, disappointed and knowing our little haunt does not take Visa, only cash, we head back home.   I was actually secretly relieved, because it is far too early for me to be in a pub environment without nary a week of non-smoking under my belt.  I felt far too vulnerable and I knew that as soon as I start having fun and my inhibitions are lowered, I will talk myself into only having a puff, then it turns into a whole cigarette, then it turns into one cigarette for the road and before you know it I’m buying a pack.  So we head back to the flat, listen to music, play cards and finish off the beers and gin. Unfortunately, I had an emotional breakdown over “wanting” to quit vs. “having” to quit.   This is my dilemma:  I still like smoking.  I like it.  I don’t worry about getting sick from it and it is rare that I even feel the effects of smoking as I’ve never been a “heavy” smoker.  I remember stopping in at a teeny little store that sells everything from souvenirs to cigarettes by the hotel where we stayed when we first arrived in Malta.  When I asked for menthol cigarettes,  the darling little Maltese man showed me several selections and I laughed and pointed to one pack that stated on the front in bold black letters, “Smoking Kills” in both Maltese and English.  The guy looks at me and says, “But sometimes it doesn’t.”  I had to think about that because I do know some people who have smoked all their life and did not die from cancer.  Look at George Burns!

For me, I just know that it is time for me to quit.  That’s all there is to it.  But, I still like it.  I can’t apologize for it, it is what it is, but I cried about it (after too many Heinekens and an Absolute/diet Coke) and realized then that I’m mad that I have to quit.  I don’t internally feel that I have to yet.  But the expense is an issue and Homie is a non-smoker and he has put up with it, and my promises to quit for over ten years.  It’s time to say goodnight to the butts.  Luckily,  I’ve gotten the emotional crap out of my system now and god bless my husband for putting up with me.    

Today we woke up and we finally had a really beautiful blue sky day.  I threw my hair in a pony tail and we walked to the grocery store up past the strand and got a few items.  We didn’t have to go that far, we have a decent grocer right around the corner,  but the walk was great and we both actually got warm coming back.  It’s funny because it must have been about 17 or 18 and its easy to tell who is Maltese and who is a tourist.  The Maltese have their turtlenecks and winter jackets on and the tourists have flip-flops and t-shirts on.  It was a beautiful day and the walk was awesome. 

Okay, back to the book.  I need to get some work done tonight because tomorrow, Sunday I will be researching online gaming and getting myself prepped and ready for my interview on Monday.  Oh, and of course rooting for the Minnesota Vikings!  Go Vikes!

~Peace~

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It was a very productive day today, I got some good writing done and Homie spent quite a bit of time down by the water watching the fisherman do their thing.  I have the best husband in the world.  He gets out of the flat and lets me have some alone time so that I can write.  What he didn’t know is that the first 90 minutes or so I spent watching Moonstruck and I forgot how much I loved that movie!  

It was only about 60 degrees today, kind of chilly and I am apologizing to my fellow Minnesotans right off the bat.  Well, it is what it is and I am glad I don’t have to deal with the cold weather right now.  It is funny when discussing the weather because in MN it’s all about the weather, no matter what season it is.  You can check the weather and pretty much depend on what the forecast is.  Here, the forcast is almost always wrong.  It never rains when they say it is going to rain, and one minute there isn’t a cloud in the sky and the next thing you know its thundering and raining. 

Tomorrow we are applying for jobs and we are making it our intention to be employed (part-time only!) by the end of this month.  We both need to be doing something productive and working will help us learn the language (Maltese is very hard to learn!) and meet more people.  Homie has submitted his application to a darling little restraurant on the strand.  It’s just a ten minute walk from where our flat is located. The plans today include a movie in St. Julian’s.  Most likely it will be the new Sherlock Holmes flick.

Life has been rather harmonious lately.  The bickering has stopped between us, at the moment, as we are still getting used to only having each other to take all our frustrations out on.  I’m still somewhat homesick, but it seems to waning.  Not as bad as it was, and all I can say is I’m glad the holidays are behind us. 

Off to bed, it is very late and we have a big day tomorrow!  Ciao Ciao for now.

~Peace -n- Love~

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The water fiasco has come to a close.  The plumber came this morning with the landlord, Jonathan, and all the plumber had to do was run the water until the air bubble released in the hot water tank.  We now have hot and cold running water and a long shower is enivitable for both of us today. 

I’ve been writing all afternoon and Homie has been running errands for us.  Pasta is on the menu for this evening’s dining pleasure and a trip to our favorite bar on the island, The Rasta Bar, located in Paceville is scheduled for later this week.  We’ve been making friends with the Maltese and learning alot about the culture and way of life here.  We talked to Jonathan this morning about the housing issues in Malta, as there are over 50,000 available rental units on the island and new construction is literally coming to a close as most projects have been finished for some time now.  Jonathan is moving his family to the unit next to ours.  Yay.  On one hand it will be nice in the event anything goes wrong, but on the other hand, we won’t be inviting lots of people over to listen to music and drink wine.  I’ve decided to stay positive about the situation because I believe that to stay positive will only bring positive. 

I talked to my mom, sister, son and grandson last night and feel very conflicted about being away.  Like most families mine is diverse and extremely dysfuntional.  I feel split down the middle about being so far away.  At first I thought it would be wonderful to not be in the mix of it every day, but it sometimes is only worse because you are so far away.  I miss my grandson, Jayden, terribly.  He was the one person I had the hardest time leaving.  He is six years old and we are very close.  I can tell when I talk to him that he misses me too, and I struggle to not feel guilty about it.  How do you explain to a little one that moving away is something you HAVE to do?  They don’t understand and I just hope that someday he will.  I make it up to him by sending him little presents in the mail as often as I can.  It makes me feel better, that he is not going to forget about me. 

Currently it is partly cloudy and about 62 degrees.  I love the fact that it is almost always sunny here.  In Minnesota it can be quite overcast most days this time of year so the sunshine is really appreciated.  Yesterday was also a beautiful day and we spent about three hours walking down by the sea,  on the “Strand” and found a new restraurant that sells Cisk (pronounced chisk) beer for a reasonable price.  The Strand is a long walkway along the sea and is full of shops, restraurants and tourist kiosks.  You can get almost anything you need and there is a dollar store that we often stop at.  Most of the shops on the Strand are long and narrow when you go in and you must be very patient with others stopping in their tracks right in front of you to browse and check prices.  This is one thing I didn’t have a lot of patience with in the states.  I would instantly get irritated and mutter under my breath when this happened to me.  You can not be so free about it in another country, at least I can’t.  I find myself reaching into the depths of my inner patience  to remember that because the isles are so narrow, there is not much you can do about it.  Being able to roll off all the little things and irritants is a goal that both of us have and one of the things about ourselves that we want to change.  Patience is a virtue, it truly is.  The more I strive to become patient and have patience, the harder it is for me to be patient.  I try to consistently be aware of my surroundings not just because I am in an environment that I am not totally familiar with, but because I really admire the people I’ve met in my life who are patient.  This is a trait that I would like to think I possess.  At the time of this writing, however, I am still working on it.

More later.  Off to finish Chapter Two in the novel of the century.

~TTFN~

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