Friday, December 21, 2007
As we all know (med-free childbirth notwithstanding) I am a big baby when it comes to pain. But they had only booked me for getting one cavity filled and I wanted to move quickly so maybe we could fit both in. So the first goes without meds. Actually didn't feel anything at all. The dentist said the second one was a bit deeper, i could get numbed if I wanted but she thought we could make it through without meds. In the spirit of expediency i agreed to try. Yep, made it through also without Novocaine.
I feel tougher already - 2 cavities without pain meds. See, this living overseas thing really does let you find out what you're capable of.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Not Slug Bait
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Mythical lamb sausage
However, a decent portion of the 2% not-catholic is muslim and there is a small community in our area. Our butcher told me about 5 months ago that they did make lamb sausage but only in small batches and only once a week, and that only one butcher in the shop was authorized to make it (leading me to believe it is halal). Since then, I have asked about this lamb sausage no fewer than a dozen times. Either they sold out, or didn't make it that week, or forgot to make it, or something. I started to think it was just a big joke and there really was no lamb sausage. I even left my name and phone number one time so they could call me when there was sausage ready to buy.
My mom heard me talk about the lamb sausage and decided she was going to get some before she left Malta. She spoke with one of the butchers who told her it is only available by pre-order (not that anyone ever told me this!) so she went ahead and ordered a batch and ... miracle of miracles, when she went to pick it up on the designated day, they had it ready and waiting for her!
After all the anticipation, it was only OK. For sausage, it was not very seasoned.
When we go home in February, although Terry is fighting me on this point since he doesn't care either way, we ARE going to Bolton's for their turkey sausage and turkey bacon. I have never had better. If I also get a whole chicken to roast while there Terry may stop giving me grief about it.
Friday, December 7, 2007
Brewing Part Two
BTW – One gardening trick is if you have a slug problem leave container of beer in your garden. For some reason slug are attracted to the beer and they will drown themselves in the brew. This is a safe way to get rid of slug without chemicals. Also a get way to get rid or some bad beer that didn’t come out the way you hoped it would.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Part of the dearth of postings has been that there is little more to say about our house, and nothing really to say about our pediatrician, and those are the only 2 places I had been since Alex was born. Well, there was Alex's first social event, Halloween at the Ambassador's. She very kindly slept through the first couple of hours and when she woke and got cranky we beat a hasty goodbye. Tragically, we got no photos of her in her "first halloween" outfit.
Alex also experienced her first "Bunco" experience 2 weeks later. It was wonderful to be in a room full of moms who missed the newborn days - I only held her when she had to eat and reveled in the relatively rare experience of eating food with 2 hands. My meal plans these days generally include a mental list of what can and can not be eaten with one hand.
We did get a turkey for Thanksgiving, and made it with mashed potatoes, green beans (aka wonder sticks and yes, when they are fresh/not canned they are tasty!) cranberry sauce, and apple pie. It turns out the French must have free range turkey b/c the bird was juicy - so obviously not overcooked - but surprisingly tough. It worked well in the soup Terry made later, though. Alex also had a "first thanksgiving" outfit and we did get photos this time.
Many of the cities in Malta have market days one day per week. The one in Valletta has more touristy fare and less produce, although it does have live animals for pets and for dinner (Sundays), the one in Marsaxlokk has fish and a somewhat better balance between produce and touristy t-shirts (Sundays), and a friend invited us to accompany her to the market in Birgu (Tuesdays). Birgu's market is for the Maltese - about 1/2 mile of the best looking fruits and veg I have seen on the island, lots of Christmas decorations, cards, and treats, breads (the Maltese do amazing things with flour, water and yeast) and cheap clothing. Although Alex decided mommy's arms were way better than the stroller, it was great to see what they had and make a mental note to go back when we needed more supplies. Next time I will take photos, I have just figured out how to use and send photos from my camera.
I completely screwed up when the first night of hannukkah was, and we never got around to finding candles anyway, but Alex did get her photo opp of her in her "first hannukkah" bib. Nope, not a whole outfit this time.
Whew, now we are caught up.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Thanksgiving Day turned out to be a busy day here. A bunch of the Embassy people get together for a touch football game on Thanksgiving. As the week rolled along the people organizing the game were having trouble getting a pitch (field in the States) to play on. So on Wednesday the game was basically canceled due to no pitch to play on. So I thought I would have a nice relaxing day off. Do a little cooking, whole lot of eating and basically relax a bit. On Wednesday afternoon we got incoming pouch that had the brewing supplies I have been waiting on. There was a long ordeal in getting the supplies here in order to try brewing my first batch of beer. So once it finally came on Wednesday and the football game was canceled I decide I would try to brew my first batch of beer on Thanksgiving. So when I wake up today (thanksgiving day) I had some breakfast, and then started getting everything together to brew. So I am in the middle of the process of brewing and Lynne comes down to tell me that I got and SMS on my phone. So I go check in case it is important and here there is a message from the Ambassador's husband that the game is on for one o'clock at Golden Bay. Golden Bay is one of the few sandy beaches in Malta.
Now I am not sure that I will be able to make it because I am not sure how long it will take to finish brewing the wort and getting it sealed up in the fermenter. When brewing beer you boil all the ingredients and make this liquid called wort. When boiling is done you move the wort from the pot to the fermenter let the wort cool and add yeast. Over the next 6-14 days the yeast turns the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. One thing about brewing is sanitation is really important so you can’t stop midway or you might get some nasty bacteria or wild yeast that will make everything taste terrible. So I have to get everything properly sealed before leaving. I finish up the boiling and moving the wort to the fermenter around noon. I realize it is going to take hours to let the wort cool in order to pitch the yeast. So I seal up the frementer tight and do some clean up and I run off to the football game. I will pitch the yeast after the game. Hope this works.
The football game was played on a sandy beach. Sand is really not fun to play football on. On defense it is nearly impossible to cut and jump routes. This made it an offense heavy day. Fun all in all tho. Once home I finish clean up from the brewing. The wort was still pretty warm from feeling the sides of the bucket so I waited another hour before pitching the yeast. Then I went to shower. The turkey was running way ahead of schedule on being done so I had to start my portion of the dinner early then expected. So my relaxing day ended up being pretty busy till it was all said and done. I had fun doing everything today but did end up being pretty full.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Alexandra Sophia has arrived!
Friday, October 5, 2007
Still no baby. I got to hear another story yesterday of a woman for whom, with both of her children, she went from nothing to delivery in about 3 hours. So I do have some hope. Maybe baby will come today.
On a side note, we recently discovered that the unique flower and fruit in our yard is passion fruit. Once you know what it is, it is really easy to look it up. Check it out, the flower looks like an alien. Unfortunately, ours doesn't seem to be very edible. Or at least tasty. Terry yelled at me when I wanted to taste it so I made him do it. Some of our trees are also filling up with what are clearly citrus fruits, it remains to be seen if any are edible.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Because of our house reconstruction project (back in Philly, before we joined the FS) i was particularly interested in the stories of the restoration of the building and of the artifacts. I felt some kinship when the curator explained that every time they opened up a wall they found new problems they hadn't expected, with the attendant time and expense added to the project for fixing said problems. When Falson died, he left the house and his possessions in trust and left it to the civil servants to execute the plan .... so the building remained untouched for 40 years. The artisans employed to restore what items they could were innumerable, from armorers, to textile experts, to architects, to university students (who had the exciting task of vacuuming every page of every book in the library, wearing gas masks all the while because the room had been loaded with DDT to preserve the books).
His collections are impressive, and the rooms are well appointed. The dining room is set up for a dinner party of six with the fine china, crystal and silver laid out, the kitchen made most of us envious even though it didn't have modern amenities like running water. All in all it was one of the highlights of my Malta touring experience.
We finished the tour at the cafe on the rooftop. Unfortunately, the cafe is only available to patrons of the museum. Our lunch was topped off with wonderful Fontanella chocolate cake (the cafe owner's mum is the proprietor of Fontanella so he gets desserts from her).
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Pointless 2:30 wake up call
Last week the New England game was shown live in Malta so I didn’t see the Eagles game. I knew they were going to rebroadcast the game on Monday at 4:30pm so for an entire day at work I would not talk about football, or go to a whole list of websites for fear I might find out the final score for when I watched it later. I made it the whole day and watched the game in agony like the rest of Philadelphia (excepted delayed 21 ½ hours). Last night it was the Eagles on Monday night football and I was very excited, because it meant I got to watch the game live since no other game will conflict with it. All I had to do was get up at 2:30am.
So this morning I rise in the early morning to watch the game. I make coffee, head into the living room, and turn on the television before I go grab something to eat. As I fire up the TV I notice the screen is oddly blank. The little bar along the bottom of the screen from the cable box says there is no signal. So I start playing with the television and sure enough all the channels are out. Next I check the cable modem and that is down. Nothing is coming in over the cable line at all. I checked all the connectors starting outside and working in to see if one of them is bad or loose. Nothing. So after all the playing around I give up and call the cable company knowing this is a lost cause because there is no way anyone is there at this hour. The Maltese don’t really believe you should need service 24/7 if your utilities are not working. So after the phone just rings and rings with no answer I give up. I got and up and went through all this only to be thwarted. So I go to sleep on the couch because I don’t want to wake Lynne up.
Off to work I go. Somewhere around 8:30 Lynne emails me everything is back to normal. She never even had to call the cable company, everything just came back up. Damn you football gods why do you mock me??
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Are you ready for some Football
So back to the match. The Malta team is out of contention for further playoffs but could play spoiler to the superior Turkish team. I have never been known to be a big fan of football/soccer (from this point I will refer to the game as f/s). The Maltese fans were really into the game and enthusiastic. I was impressed by their enthusiasm. There are some bizarre things about f/s that make it tough for Americans to take. The first thing is the injury time out. What is with this? When a player gets injured the clock continues to run. Officials keep track of the time that play is stopped for injury. Then this time is added to the end of each half so there is a full 45 minutes per half. As you are on the edge of your seat (as much as anyone can be for f/s) for the final seconds of the game the announcer comes over the loud speaker there are four minutes of injury time. So play will continue for another four minutes. Here is the problem with this. The clock stops at 45 or 90 minutes. They never show the injury time up on the scoreboard. So now you have no idea when the game is really ending. Absolutely ridiculous. I have a novel idea. Press the stop button on the clock during an injury so that everyone always knows how much time there is. This really is not that complex, but some reason nobody has sat back and said “this is idiotic” lets fix it.
Since we are on the subject of injuries. F/S players are some of the biggest cry babies ever. I have seen peewee football games with less crying. Diving is unbelievably rampant. Players on both sides will dive if they are so much as touched. I know they are trying to draw a foul but really it cheapens the game and not to mention slows the game down (as if that is possible). Really if you are going to go down with an injury if should be for a real injury. If you leave the field for any reason you should no be allowed back on for 15 minutes. If your team had to be down a player for 15 minutes of the game it might make the players think twice about diving.
On to the biggest problem Americans will have f/s. The Maltese were thrilled to play to draw against the better Turkish team. This drove me and the other American crazy. I want conclusion in my sports. No stupid draws. It felt hollow and empty. I really don’t understand how they are excited about that. Americans like winners and losers. A tie makes you feel like "why bother?". Americans will accept a tie on rare occasion but don’t love it. You have to at least play one overtime period first. There are lots of other quirks about that game that I find annoying but those are the big three. All in all the game was fun and people really get into it. I would certainly go to another game. The one thing me and my boss agreed on is we need teach the Maltese how to tailgate. Cold Cisk and hot dogs for everyone!
Sunday, September 9, 2007
So, this morning we prepare to set out. Oh, wait, just as we are letting the dog out one last time before heading out, we hear loud music and many voices that seem to be coming from the road. We walk up to the gate and are greeted by a huge bicycle procession passing on our street. We are not going anywhere until that passes, and the line of bikers passes out of sight. OK, there is a bend in the road about half a block up, but it does seem to go on forever. In reality, we are delayed about 15 minutes. We still don't know what the purpose of the bikers was, so if anyone in Malta is reading this, feel free to fill us in.
Today's trip was to Ghar Dalam, a cave at the south end of the island where remains of prehistoric animals have been found. The cave itself is an interesting geological experience too. We also appreciated the vegetables, randomly but clearly being tended to, growing in the dirt just outside the entrance to the museum portion of the facility. When you first walk into the cave, you can see the only portion that still has animal bones. The rest have been excavated. The cave is a pretty good exhibit, especially by Malta standards where at many sites all the good stuff has been removed and can be viewed at the Museum of Archeology in Valletta. Although I didn't love the Victorian display of rows and rows of hippo kneecaps and huge jars of red deer teeth, I can appreciate the volume of animal remains that were found there and understand that without any full skeletons, a recreation wasn't easily possible. The "new" part of the museum was great, though. Who knew that elephants and hippos were found in Europe during and after the Ice Age? And they reduced in size through evolution when they got trapped on Malta because this tiny island really can't sustain such large life?
After Ghar Dalam, we went to wander around the fishing village of Marsaxlokk. We had gone there once for dinner but hadn't spent any additional time there. I don't know if it is every Sunday but there was a huge flea market type situation all along the water. There was some fish for sale (although I am pretty sure this wasn't the fish market) and some produce (which was very convenient because most things aren't open on Sundays in Malta) but mostly it was the usual flea market stuff. We did find peanuts at a ridiculously low price (we snack on nuts a lot and at the store it is so expensive, for such small quantities, we have been begging parents to ship us lovely Costco-sized bags to keep our habit up). I got a little hungry grumpy after every single restaurant and cafe along a 1/4 mi. stretch of waterfront was full so we pulled out the nuts and discovered why they were so cheap. They were raw. The roasting instructions I found on the internet required removing the red papery stuff from the nut and I have to say roasting peanuts is the biggest PITA ... probably even worse than cooking Indian food, which is time consuming and a huge PITA. We have decided that the next batch of roasting will not include the removal of that stuff and we'll just deal with it.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
September in Malta
The mosquitoes are out in full force, and this is the kind whose bites cause welts. I got one bite right on the top of my foot, my shoes must have chafed it and now it is a little swollen. No, it is not pregnancy swelling, the other foot is fine.
In other news, the culinary adventures are continuing and I am getting pretty good. Of course, once the baby is here I won't have an entire afternoon to chop and blend and simmer .... as a cooking neophyte, I didn't realize that a good 80-90% of cooking is just the sous chef's job - all the chopping and measuring. I can't wait for a good hardship post where we can have domestic help to accomplish those chores for me. The folks who ship out next summer are going through their bid cycle right now, and it is really exciting to hear about the places they are contemplating. Our next bid cycle is still in the directed phase - the first two posts are "directed" - so it is a different process and we don't get the full list. We're only 6 months here but getting caught up in everyone else's excitement I am anxious to see our list! It will probably be good that I will soon be distracted and somewhat loopy from sleep deprivation.
Terry and I each got a treat a couple of weeks ago: a cappuccino maker and an ice cream maker (the one we shipped just doesn't like the different voltage). We're been having fun experimenting with them. We can't quite get the milk to foam properly ... my decade-plus-old experience with an industrial strength cappuccino maker doesn't seem to help (yes, when coffee shops were just starting to proliferate I worked in an independent one, one summer in college).
Baby update for those who just have to know: nothing new to report, everything is going just dandy. My OB is on vacation this week and starting next week - my 36th - I see her every week until delivery. Baby is healthy, I am healthy, tying my shoes has become a hassle and if I go too many days without swimming my back starts to hurt. I am not desperate for her to be out yet or anything, but I am getting anxious to meet her.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Rum Drinks for Philadelphia
Something that has been going on lately is in Malta is there are even more lizards everywhere. I think the eggs have hatched in the last month or so because there are little lizards running around everywhere. Well the other night I went up to our bathroom attached to the master bedroom and there is a tiny lizard trying to hide when he saw me. This is not the first lizard we have had in our house but, up till now, they stayed in the hallways and places with easy escape routes. Not this little guy. I quick snapped some photos of him. Click on the above picture to seem some more.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Kirby's adventure with the Maltese health care system
Anyhoo, Thursday night he almost completely refused to eat. We finally coaxed him into having his dinner, but he didn't finish it. This is practically death's-door behavior for our hound dog, so we planned to call the vet first thing this morning. Our 2-doors-down neighbor had recommended a vet we hadn't yet had reason to call. On the neighbor's note giving us the vet's name and phone number, he mentioned that the vet will come to the house. Go Malta!
The downside to the Maltese vet is that he would come "in the afternoon". Could I get a more precise timeframe there? Nope, of course not. So I hung around the room that has our only telephone because I have been very bad about hearing the phone if I am too far away, and I can't reach the phone in time if I'm upstairs anyway. Our house is too big. The vet came around 3:30pm and checked Kirby out. Turns out he has hip pain, which was either caused during one of his play dates with our friend's dog Kodiak, or is just a sign of his advancing age (he'll be 9 years old in January). The vet gave me an anti-inflammatory and said if Kirby is still in pain after the pills run out, then it is likely arthritis and he'll do further testing, but if he is good as new then there was probably just some accident when the dogs were playing. What a relief! I was fearing everything from sandflies to cancer.
The kicker - for the house call, checkup and prescription, the guy charged 10 Maltese Liri. That's it! I can't even get a regular checkup at the vet back home where we have to bring him in for that little! For all the extra expense of this country, sometimes we find we can get a break.
Dentist visits should not be so exciting.
One nice thing about the dentist's office it is in the basement of a hospital. Never thought about how really convenient that is till now. The dentist ran upstairs himself during this time to have his eye flushed out since he got quite a bit too. Before doing this he instructed another dentist to quickly close up my tooth and then have someone take me upstairs to have my eye looked at. So once the tooth was closed, off I go upstairs with the hygenist. Her name is Lan and she is very nice.
We had to wait a few minutes until the Optometrist could see me. He checked my eye out and said there was no permanent damage. He put an antiseptic in my eye and then put a patch over it that I had to wear till the next morning, then he gave me drops I have to put in my eye daily for a week. Till it was all said in done this was the most exciting and painful dentist visit to date. I hope I don't get another one to challenge it. Of course, I still have to go back because we never finished the procedure I had gone to the dentist to have done. They were not able to reschedule me until early October, so I may have to cancel the visit if Lynne is in labor. At least I'll already be at the same hospital!
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Ugly, nasty August
Then came this week. Back into the high 30s/heat index into the 40s. This time, though, we have humidity too, so instead of feeling like an oven it feels like a sauna. Further, being now in my 8th month of pregnancy, my tolerance level for anything at all that disturbs my contentment is at an abysmal low.
To top it all off, today we had an occurrence that had been happily in remission for the last month or so - a power outage. A siren began simultaneously with the power cutting off, so I correctly assumed this was a region-wide event and not isolated to my house, as the last few outages I survived had been. When the siren finally stopped the power did not come on, so I went ahead and called the electric company to find out what was going on. The lady there said they were aware of the outage (I can only imagine, the first 3 times I tried to call I got a busy signal!) and power should be back up within an hour. To their credit, the power actually returned within 15 seconds of my hanging up the phone. Weird.
One thing this experience taught me is that the pool is 100% worth all the hassle. When it is hovering around 100F at noon even limestone can't keep you cool. The pool was the only thing that kept me from completely going bonkers.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Where is Edward Scissorhand when you need him?
One of the things about living somewhere is you often don’t see as much as when you are tourist. Malta that is the case for us. In dealing with the everyday events of life we haven’t had as much time to just go explore the island. Plus it is freaking hot here.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Saturday night we went for dinner in Sliema. We tried another Indian restaurant. At this point I give up there is no good Indian restaurant in Malta (Lynne has not yet given up). Philly really spoiled us when it comes to food. Most food I have everywhere I go now I am always like there is better in Philly. During dinner Bruce called to tell me the Eagles preseason game was being rebroadcast on AFN. So after my good wife agreed to go with me (Bruce lives in Sliema so it would be silly to go home and back) we drive to about where Bruce lives. What a mess that was. Here is the down side to festa - when you are going to a town that has one for some other purpose than attending the festa you are surprised. Then it hits your there is nowhere to park. The streets are full of people and traffic grinds to a halt. So after driving all over Sliema looking for parking, we finally give up and went home. No football for Terry. So sad. Up until this point I have had to watch Canadian Football to get my fill.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
The husband introduced me to the riddle of the 11 "hads" - my own name for it - and I loved it! Here goes. Punctuate the following phrase to make it grammatically correct. Here's the phrase - John wheras Peter had had had had had had had had had had had the most marks in the exam.
On the other side of us sat a few people I actually knew from various spouse events or friends of friends. It really made me feel like I was settling into the country that I could introduce Terry to people I knew!
At the other end of the room sat folks we knew from our embassy, so we also hung out with them a bit. One of the women is an actress/singer and ended up singing "Country Roads" with the hired musician after a lot of cajoling from others in the group.
About the food: the chicken was surprisingly tender and juicy, beef kabobs were also a hit although because I hate green peppers I didn't love them as much. The swordfish was juicy but not very flavorful, but then I never got into swordfish. After being spoiled on USA lamb, I don't care what anyone says about Oz or NZ, their lamb just can't compare. It was flavorful but a bit tough and very small. Jacob's Creek wine flowed, Terry didn't love it as much as I thought he'd like an Aussie Cab-Shiraz blend.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
One thing I have been doing to keep myself occupied and learn some new skills is ... cooking. In addition to the thwarted biscotti attempt, I have made the usual cookies - choco chip, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter - and brownies, apple pie, ice cream, and the other night we made apple fritters. One thing we decided we'd do for each post is buy a good cookbook of local foods and learn to make some. So, I have made Maltese Lebanese kofta (Yavuz still makes better kofta than me, maybe it's the Turkish vs. Lebanese recipe), tomato soup, and tomato sauce. Carrot soup is on t he list for this week. As unbelievable as it will sound, given my rants about tomato sauce in Malta, with a few tweaks this tomato sauce is the best I have ever made. One of the tweaks of course is to omit all sugar called for in the recipe.
I stand behind the book we bought being the best one I could find - our criteria being that (1) the foods in the book be actual authentic Maltese cooking, as opposed to nouveau or gourmet variations; (2) the foods be mostly things we would actually eat - I vetoed one that was full of snails, squid and calf's livers; (3) the recipes be simple enough I'd actually be game enough to try to make the stuff; and (4) it be at least a little pretty - however, when I checked the book out before buying it I had not noticed how many recipes called for ham or bacon as a flavoring.
If anyone has a suggestion for non-pig items that would work, if not as well then mostly as well, I'd love to hear them. I have seen a couple of halal butchers so I figured maybe there is turkey bacon or some kind of seasoned beef or lamb sausage that would work, but I have not yet been past one at a time/situation that I could go in. This being a 98% Catholic country most butchers and grocery stores see no need for any kind of pig substitute that would deliver a similar-enough flavor.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Somehow, although we knew this was the case and our landlord even showed us where, outside, the tank was hooked up to the line to the cooker and the empty/spare tanks were, we never really thought about the implications of having our cooking gas come from a tank ... namely, that it could run out.
Run out it did, today, in the middle of a baking project around lunchtime. This is a relevant factoid because it just so happens that the gas-tank-refill guys make their rounds in Attard on Tuesday mornings, around 7am. I am incredibly lucky that our landlord had a mostly-unused tank for his grilling, and he's letting us have it and we'll replace it next week when the gas guys come around.
It is an interesting system. Apparently, people who need refills leave their gas tanks outside their doors, and the gas guys come around in the early morning (7am-ish), honking to alert folks that they are coming. If you have a tank outside your door, they will come to your door for the payment, then refill your tank for you. On Tuesday we'll get a refill or two so we don't run out again ... we actually have several empty tanks and we just never thought to ask about what we need to do to keep our cooking fuel moving along continually.
One more lesson learned. We may actually get the hang of living here by the time we leave!
Monday, August 6, 2007
No Spoilers for Me!
Friday, August 3, 2007
Our house is clean!
Turns out we were overly optimistic. First, this house is more than twice as big as our house in Philly. It is much more open to the outside and there is constant dust in Malta (presumably related to the lack of nice greenery to anchor the dirt to the ground). Second, we also have the pool and the landscaped yard to care for. Third, because of poor preservation methods and frequent energy outages the grocery shopping must be done at least weekly, which involves 2 separate trips - 1 for groceries and 1 for produce. Sometimes additional trips are needed. I have a feeling we are about to add the trip to the butcher after our first tasty purchase there. And fourth, I can't be a drudge-drone all the time. (fourth-and-a-half is that the bending over involved in mopping is becoming much more uncomfortable as I get closer to my 8th month)
Our cleaner came for the first time today. She also works for my landlord/neighbor, who raved about her. From my previous efforts to clean this house I estimated how long it should take her to clean the parts of the house I had asked her to clean. She was almost exactly on target, so I congratulated myself on my predictive abilities ... until I noticed that she cleaned several areas I had mentioned she didn't need to worry about. Basically, she is just plain amazing. Given that some of the areas she covered hadn't been touched in the 3 months we have been here, all future cleaning should be easier for her. I can't wait for her to come again (in 2 weeks) and make the downstairs all nice and pretty.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Ambrosia is located in Valletta. I had eaten lunch there a month or so ago, and both my friend from the embassy and I had risottos. They were both delicious, however, I reserved judgment because I have found that outside the USA you can generally get a good risotto even if the restaurant has nothing else to recommend it. When my friend Bethany was visiting, though, we decided to go for dinner.
The place is tiny, although both times I went there were no problems getting seated - lunch was on the late side, dinner was on the early, so that may have helped. The menu is on a chalk board on the wall, and we were happy to see several veggie options - we had ruled out Fusion Four for dinner because there was exactly one item on the menu Bethany could eat and it was a starter salad. I had a lamb and aubergine (eggplant) tart, which turned out to be lamb and potato with roasted aubergine and morrow (zucchini) as the side. The crust was perfectly light and flaky, the meat well seasoned and tender, absolutely delicious. Bethany had the goat cheese tart and it was also everything we could have wanted it to be. Terry will have to write in what he had because I can't remember. Dessert was something chocolate that wasn't too sweet - a problem i have encountered more frequently than you'd think - and although there was no room in the belly to finish it, I gave it my all.
Monday night, the good gastronomy continued at Bouzouki in St. Julian. Unfortunately, we had eaten snacks that turned out to be larger than necessary before the movie, so Terry wasn't very hungry for dinner afterwards. He got the basic Greek salad - which was a larger version of the side salad I got with my meal - and it was pretty much everything you'd want in a salad. The veggies were fresh, the dressing good enough to want to sop up every last remnant with the bread, and the feta was too good to be pasteurized - so Terry got mine as well. My sea bream was just grilled with lemon (Maltese lemon, for the first time I have seen in a restaurant) but it was as good if not better than any fish I have had in any restaurant since I have been here. Terry's big complaint was that the awning covering the entire outdoor section blocked all breezes, so he was too hot. I was comfortable. We'll go back in cooler weather.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Last night we went to the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta. We wanted to see the collection of Terracotta warriors from China before it left town. The display was very good. The major problem was that there was no air-conditioning in the Museum. While I am sure this is lovely in December, in July it is just brutal. It was so bad that after a half hour Lynne needed to leave. One thing Malta is trying to do is increase the tourism from the Scandinavian countries and Germany. I don't think a lot of Swedes are going to love looking at one of the bigger tourist attractions on the island when inside it is 95 degrees.
The Maltese really may want to take a larger view of the tourism offerings in this country and how to make them more attractive. Although there is a wealth of history and natural beauty here, a lot of people are turned off by oppressive heat that can not be escaped in a museum. Lynne and I had decided that we would not go to the museum back in April figuring we would leave the presumably air conditioned activities until summer when walking about outside was too hot. What a mistake. I never heard of a museum not being air-conditioned. OK there is one in New Delhi, but that is India! I don't think the tourist industry of Malta would like to be in same class as India. Other than the temperature issues the display was impressive. I will mostly go back in the winter to view the entire (permanent) collection.
Here is some information on the Terracotta warriors.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Jellyfish, Jellyfish Everywhere
I have been swamped at work and I am trying to catch up following an upgrade that happened at post. Lets just say it did not go as smoothly as advertised.
Work at home has been more than anticipated. Keeping up with the pool, lawn, etc. Has been a bit of pain. This was compounded by the long hours at work.
Went out on a boat last weekend with some people from the embassy. All in all is was a fun time. I was the first in the water when we anchored. This was probably related to the fact that I was melting in the Mediterranean Sun by the time we were anchored. Within about two minutes I swam into a jellyfish (or maybe it swam into me). That was quite a startling pain. It hurt like hell. We poured salt water over it for the first couple of minutes then some white vinegar and that helped. There was a mild burning after that, and it lasted for a few hours. You can see the picture of the sting area above. After getting sea sick (I am such a wimp on boats) I later went swimming again. This time I took the goggles and a snorkel so I could see better in the water to keep the jellyfish at a distance. With the goggles you could easily see the bottom - 8.5 meters down. That is almost 28ft for us US Standard people. The water was extremely clear. As you swam around you could watch the fish and jellyfish swim around below you. The are really interesting to watch from a distance. Most of the fish are pretty small but it was still fun to see them. I have a link to one of the fish I could confirm that I saw. I have not been able to find a nice reference site for the fish off the island of Malta. If I find one I post some more fish picture links. Here is the link to the White & Saddle Bream.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Jellyfish, and our first trip to Gozo, sort of
We spent most of the day in and out of the water, eating, chatting, and getting in or out of the sun as temperature and need for fresh air shifted. Sunscreen was strongly recommended and frequently reapplied. We also took turns going out in the dinghy to explore some caves nearby. In the caves the temperature was a good 10 degrees Celsius cooler than outside, at least. Some of the guys took the route of crawling from one cave to another - there is a rocky ledge that you can walk along, then a small opening where you have to crawl on all fours to get through to the other side. I was not permitted to take that trip. I am surrounded by mother hens ... even Terry, who went through on a second trip out, said it was good I didn't try. Hmph.
Several people had masks and snorkels, and we worked out a relay system whereby folks on the boat - who could see the water more clearly - would alert those heading into the water whether or not jellyfish were spotted nearby. Then, folks in the water with the masks would check out if they saw any approaching.
Terry, and another individual, still managed to get stung. Terry made me take photos of the marks on his arm, which I can only presume he will post when he gets around to it.
Luckily, folks who have been here longer than we have had all the necessary provisions to promptly handle the sting - white vinegar and anti-itch cream. If you get stung by a jellyfish, you want to first rinse the area with salt water (NOT fresh water, which releases the toxins even further) then apply white vinegar to the area. When it has dried off, apply anti-itch cream. It won't be pretty, and it will continue to sting and sort of burn for a while but it too will heal and if all goes well without a scar.
As a side note, when I was snorkeling around, I could see tons of little fish, as well as jellyfish that were quite pretty when they stayed far away. The water was reputedly over 10 meters deep (I think. Terry will correct me if I got that wrong) and we could see all the way to the bottom. The clarity of the water here is unbelievable.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Olives, honey, and camping in
Their main walkway is lined with olive trees, along with the resident emu (penned) and dog and cat (roaming freely on the property). The owner took us to his olive press and explained the process, also telling us that there are olive trees on Malta that date back 2000 years and that his farm is part of a program to re-introduce more of the native tree. The night was cool, the atmosphere relaxed. You couldn't ask for more!
All the food they prepared was grown on their, or neighbors', property, and was some of the best food we've had in Malta. I had a piece of the sheep's milk cheese before I knew what it was, and it was heavenly. I drooled over, but did not partake in, either the port-dark beef carpaccio drenched in their oil, herbs, and served with kiwi slices or the tomato-red sashimi tuna. They brought out loaf after loaf of Maltese bread and homemade rosemary foccacia cooked in their brick oven, served either simply with their oil or with this spiced pea spread. I was quite content to stick with this "acceptable" food.
They have relatively recently begun to make honey - just a few years - and Sammy showed us some of the trays of honey that were ready to process and bottle. They smelled delicious. One of the older hives works off carob trees, and their honey is chocolate dark. I can't wait to get my hands on some of that! Apparently, a hive will find a kind of flower they like and work that until there is no more nectar. The cookies they served for dessert was made with their honey and some kind of nut (I think almond, but I know they have pine nut trees so it may have been that), topped generously with powdered sugar. Mmmmm.
Here is some information about the husband and wife team.
The adventure of the evening continued when we got home. It turns out that the air conditioning units in our house are not all they are cracked up to be. Poor Bethany had no AC in her room the entire time she was visiting us last week, and the night she left the AC in our bedroom died. Our landlord called the AC folks but this is their busiest time so they can't come until this upcoming week.
Walking into the sauna that was our second floor, we realized we couldn't sleep there. When we moved into the house, both guest rooms had single beds ... we ended up putting the two mattresses from the main guest room up in storage on our third floor and putting our double bed, that we had shipped from the USA, in that room. So, we had extra mattresses that we had expected to use to house overflows of visitors - we're still waiting for an overflow of visitors! The mattresses were brought down and we slept on the floor in the living room, where the air conditioner seems to be leaking (there is what looks like a wet mark down the wall) but still working. I guess we will continue to sleep here until the weather cools off (October?) or the air conditioning folks can come and fix the units. Mind you, the units were brand new and installed the week we moved in - only 3 months ago!
Friday, July 20, 2007
The glamorous life
I have looked up the name of the movie and have seen nothing about it. I have no idea what production company it is, who the actors are, what the plot of the movie is. I have no idea if it will ever make it to a movie theatre anywhere in the world. But if it does, you will get a good look at my street, assuming all those scenes don't end up on the cutting room floor.
The crew and I have been completely pissing each other off. Yesterday was really the worst, mainly because I had to get Terry to a dentist appointment and my friend to the airport. When returning from the first errand, the police officer at the barricade at the far end of my block only let me through when I assured him I was a resident of the street and had off-street parking. While I was navigating the road, though, another individual or two felt the need to confirm those facts as well. It was a mass of humanity and cars - without drivers - blocking the road. We live only one house in from the other end of the street (the road at the corner is called Lord Strickland Street), but we have some debate as to whether it is legal to drive up the Lord Strickland - there is a sign at one end that it is one way except for residents, but then halfway up the street there is another sign just proclaiming that it is one way. I have seen plenty of folks turn onto my street from Lord Strickland, but then I have seen many clearly illegal driving tactics so you have to take these things with a grain of salt. Anyway, it did become clear to everyone that any further venturing from my house would have to take place via Lord Strickland. I thought that was the simple solution. Silly me, it never occurred to me that there would also be the unmanned truck parked directly at our gate, and when I asked them to move it I was told they were shooting right then and I would have to wait.
What idiot messes with a heavily pregnant lady in the oppressive heat?? They did end up moving the truck within the minute, and even helped me open the gates to our driveway. When I returned from that errand the guy manning the barricade was nowhere to be seen, so I moved them myself (they were less than 40lb, mom!) and again had to make them move the truck that was in front of our gate.
I am pretty sure I am their most troublesome resident.
Monday, July 16, 2007
- This is festa season. We have a lovely roof from which you can see a large swath of the island - it is very convenient to live in the middle of the island! Well, on a Saturday night we can just pull out our folding chairs onto the roof and check out the fireworks from the various festas. On June 30 we got good views of 2 fireworks displays, and a tree-obstructed view of a third. I have a feeling this is where we will spend many Saturday evenings in the summer (ah, and next summer I will do it with a cold beer or glass of wine in my hand!)
- We both swam in our pool, finally, 2 months after moving in. Terry went at night about a week ago, and it was too cold for me at that time. I went in during the day and it was incredibly refreshing. We want Kirby to get into it, he'd be so much cooler if he would, but I couldn't get him remotely close to me when I was in the water. We have a pretty large ankle deep area at the shallow end, so he could even lie down in the water. Terry will have to throw him in one of these days.
- I think summer is finally here in full force. The stuff at the produce stand didn't look as good as usual and there was much less selection. I went Tuesday morning, so it should have been full of prime stuff, the vendors get their new shipments Monday afternoons. We may be down to frozen veggies in the next month, and I don't think the fresh stuff starts up again until after the rains, which would be after October. Just think, baby will be here by then.
Friday, July 13, 2007
The temples were much nicer, in better condition and had more useful information than the Mnajdra and Hagar Qim temples - and many of the friezes and statues are replicas, so why they can't do that at Mnajdra and Hagar Qim I don't know. Tarxien were the last of the neolithic temples built on Malta, and . Here is some more information about them.
Monday, July 9, 2007
One thing that clearly separates the two, though, is the festa. In the summer every village has a festa to a saint, some villages have multiple festas over the summer season. We somehow had gotten the idea that this past weekend was Attard's festa, but in fact it was Balzan's. Fireworks began on Thursday, during the day, of course. It seems loud noises are even more appealing here than pretty lights, because an awful lot of fireworks go off during the day in this country. We are uniquely situated, because Attard is smack in the center of the country, and most high buildings are located on the coast. This means we have amazing views from the roof of our house. In fact, we have left a couple of chairs up on the top floor (which is really just a storage area) so we can bring the chairs out to watch fireworks in the distance on the weekend.
This weekend we were at the Ambassador's Residence on Friday night (when festa celebrations really start to heat up), because it was the official celebration of our Independence Day. The night was actually cool enough that Terry was comfortable in a long sleeved shirt and I really considered going home for a wrap - we live a convenient walking distance from the Ambassador - except that I had nothing that would match my dress so I just endured.
Saturday we had planned to check out the festa. After our experience with my father at Qormi's festa, we had resolved onto to attend ones we could walk to, and this certainly qualified. Again, we mistakenly thought the festa was in Attard, so our plan was to eat dinner in Balzan, and then head over to Attard. We were lucky that there were restaurants open in Balzan, and decided to try Fra Giuseppe, which is just off the square where the church is located. Terry had a fantastic salad and acceptable ftira (a panini-like grilled sandwich), while I had a mediocre soup and salad with the same yummy dressing, but a quite awful piece of not-grilled chicken.
Stuffed, we did not partake in any of the festa food, which is largely similar to fair-food back in the USA - soft serve ice cream, cotton candy, etc. No fried dough or funnel cake, though, but there are several stands selling Maltese nougat.
The decorations at a festa are ornate, with banners, lights, and statuary. The church is completely lit up with multicolored lights. The main street was lined with statues of the major Old Testament figures. We had not thought to bring our camera, but will not make that mistake when we go to other local festas, because it really is amazing the detail, and the work, that goes into preparing for these things. The other amazing event is the music - every little village has a band club, some - like Balzan - have two. There was one band set up in the square, and one that looked like a marching band except that they didn't march anywhere, just stood there, that we listened to for a while on our way home. The quality of the music was impressive, again you have to remember that the only pool of talent they have to draw from is from the folks who live in the area, as a good musician living in, say, Hamrun will be in Hamrun's band club. According to wikipedia, Balzan's population is a whopping 3,400.
We debated sticking around for the fireworks, but decided it would be better to watch them from our roof. Wouldn't you know, Balzan is in the direction of the few tall trees in our neighborhood, so we could only see the high ones! We ended up watching the fireworks from some other village's festa off in the distance ... to be honest, the other village had more consistent delivery, and slightly more impressive fireworks anyway. Terry tried to take photos of the fireworks but they just didn't come out.
Sunday is usually the main event of a festa, when the statue of the saint being honored is carried around, but we did not get going early enough in the morning to see that part. More fireworks Sunday evening, and on Monday the street cleaners were already hard at work.
Sunday, July 8, 2007
Lemons, lemons everywhere
The lemon tree is in full fruit production. We have been picking them this week, and as you can see we have a major motherlode of lemons. The one tree that produces all the fruit is not too big, and we have no ladder to get the stuff way at the top, so you can only imagine the production potential we have here. Terry had some really good intentions of ways we could use the lemons in cleaning products, but after some research we learned that lemon scent, and lemon oil, are common ingredients in household cleaners. However, lemon juice itself has limited application, one major use is cleaning copper. Well, we don't exactly have a large copper pot collection, so that information is largely useless to us.
We froze quite a bit of juice, and Terry has the idea of essentially canning a batch of lemon juice to avoid taking up so much freezer space - also, because of power outages, large amounts of freezer storage is a risky proposition. We'll report back on how that goes. In the meantime, there will be lemonade flowing from our home for quite a long time to come, and I think we'll try lemon curd, lemon pie, etc.
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
4th of July
On the 4th we had to get up earlier than normal for a day off because we both had plans. Terry - the guy who can't handle heat - decided playing softball on the 4th of July was a must. I was going with some folks to Buggiba to an "Underwater Safari" - essentially a boat with underwater viewing section. This woman's daughter had gone with her school and really enjoyed it, so we decided we'd go too.
We gave ourselves about 45 minutes to travel about 10km. Silly us. It took at least 15-20 minutes just to go about 1km through Sliema and St. Julian. By the time we got to Buggiba it was already 10:30am - boat launch time - and we hadn't found parking or the boat site. So, we ended up settling in to the noon boat ride and we had about an hour to kill in Buggiba, where none of us had been previously. Buggiba is a coastal town on the northern portion of Malta. It is very cute, lots of shops and little places to stop for snacks and a cold drink. In some ways it is a lot like Sliema, clearly tourist-focused - but with less traffic and fewer people crowding the promenade. Here is a bit of information about it.
The boat was much smaller than we had expected, and from the top we could see down into the viewing area. We could see a surprising number of fish just right off the dock, and they were surprisingly large. We had only seen little guppy sized fish everywhere else along the coast, and these were at least a foot long. No, not big, but you see our comparison. The boat took us out toward an island with a statue of St. Paul and we went down to the viewing area.
Those who are prone to seasickness may not have enjoyed this part, as it got a bit warm and stuffy down there and occasionally another boat would pass nearby and the wake would rock us a bit. The viewing area was basically a row of fold down benches, for 2 people each, and rows of windows on both sides. From what we could gather when we re-emerged upstairs, the boat took us around the island. It was probably 20-30 minutes in the viewing area. We did see a LOT of fish. One minor complaint I had is that there was a great poster of the fish one finds in Malta, with their pictures and names so you could match what you see with its name. However, the poster can't be seen from anywhere other than a few certain benches in the middle, and once you were seated you couldn't get up. There were a few we saw often enough that we remembered their markings and were able to match them up when we walked past when viewing time was over, but I would have preferred to have access to the poster while we were watching. Although there was a decent variety of fish, they weren't particularly colorful or with interesting markings, for the most part. Yes, I learned to dive in Australia so I have probably been completely spoiled and jaded regarding the aquatic life found in most parts of the world.
All in all, I thought the tour was worth it, and would go again with visitors who want to take the trip. We had tentatively planning to go with Terry's dad, we thought it was something he would really enjoy, but as he and Terry get horribly seasick, we may give it a skip.
The ride home was of course only 25 minutes, as we had expected the ride there to be, and Terry and I met up and headed out to a barbecue hosted by an embassy family. Our contribution was my apple pie, which was not as good as it can be - I have to tinker with the timing of things in this climate. Also using fresh lemon juice has a different effect from using the concentrated stuff we have at home.
It was a little strange having a 4th of July without fireworks, not even on TV, but it turns out our village is having its festa this weekend so the fireworks are a-comin'.
Sunday, July 1, 2007
Today was full of excitement. We decided to head down to Marsaxlokk (pronounced Marsa-schlock), which is a little fishing village to the south and where the traditional fishing boats are still used by fishermen who still go out and get the day's catch. There are also several beaches nearby and we figured we'd finally get ourselves wet in the Med. Like most beaches in Malta, the ones we visited (went in at 2, only walked a bit around a third) were rocky, craggy, had some sharp dropoffs and were generally not like the nice soft sandy gently sloping beaches at home.
Within our first ten minutes in the water I got stung by a jellyfish on my arm, painful but not dangerous, and Terry's water shoes - never before worn - got a huge tear in them. Later, I cut my knee on a rock and Terry got a couple big scrapes on his arm. I should mention that we are not really beach people, in fact we have never been to a beach together in our 7 years together. Days like today remind us why, and make us really happy to have our pool.
The coolest thing, though, was witnessed at the beach. A power boat came towards the shore and it had advertising of a local ice cream company. We kept saying "Do you think...?" and "Is it..?". Then we saw the swimmers all coming to shore and grabbing their wallets. Yup, we got our first sighting of the Ice-Cream Boat. The folks lined up, got their treats, then the boat motored off to another shore. What a great idea!
After the excitement at the first two beaches, it was getting cooler when we hit the third and we just walked it a bit. The interesting part was that it had clearly been a salt pan at one point. Some parts still had crusted salt dried along the relatively smooth and even ground. We'll probably go back there with the camera. There were a bunch of people fishing in that area, we didn't see any swimmers.
We finished the night with dinner outside at a restaurant in the town of Marsaxlokk itself. We each got the fresh catch - sea bass and breem - the breem was better than the bass, and that seems to be a trend around here. They were both tasty, though, and quite fresh. It was cool enough that Terry was comfortable and I needed my sweater. All in all the evening was lovely, and I don't see us going back to a beach any time soon.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Dad bought a deck of cards and we discovered we didn't really remember how to play any card games. We ended up playing gin rummy but I am pretty sure we did it wrong because someone won a hand within 2-3 rounds, and I remember the game going on much longer than that. We also headed up to the more comprehensive restaurant for a change of pace and hot food for dinner, and being Malta even an airport meal took over an hour.
Amazingly, the plane did actually take off at 12:30am, as we were first told.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Visitors, Part II
Friday, June 22, 2007
Understandably, they were hot, tired and frazzled by the time they reached their hotel, so we kept it low key and ate dinner together at their hotel (Le Meridien St. Julian. centrally located, but has some housekeeping issues)
Thursday we met up for the "Knights of Malta - 1565" performance. It was held at the Powerhouse Theatre, which was formerly a powerhouse (electricity) when the Brits were here. Located at the Valletta Waterfront, it is of course in Floriana, not Valletta. I can't really recommend the show - there were many of what I would call non sequiteur scenes to showcase the various performer talents (i.e., belly dancing, ballet, baton twirling, dressage - yes, the cast included 8 horses) and they were pretty good. However, you leave the performance knowing no more about the Siege of 1565 than you did when you arrived, and the love story was simply annoying and distracting. I can certainly think of worse ways to spend 2 hours, but I also admit I don't think we'll go again. One interesting issue we ran against was that we were to be at the theatre at 8:30pm, yes could not find a restaurant that opened before 7pm. When I called that one, I was told we'd only make the 8:30 show if we took their recommendations on what to order, i.e. pasta rather than steak, one course rather than two, etc.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
What I Did Today
Well, by noon I was busy ..... Unpacking. My. Stuff.
WOO-HOOOOO. Tons of things we had forgotten we had even packed. Things we had been pining away for. It is amazing the things you realize you love. Butter dish. Cheese grater. Mixing bowls.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
I am so obviously pregnant that 2 ladies offered me their seats on the bus! Also, I feel baby kicks every day now. Baby really likes 5-6am to do gymnastics. Without fail, every day, I have been awakened at that time. Oh goodie.
We finally heard the heartbeat - on all previous visits we just saw it beating on the ultrasound but this time my doctor has the thing that plays the heartbeat. Baby's got a good strong, slow beat - it never went above 150. Baby is measuring perfectly for its age, and overall doctor is pretty happy with our health. On the ultrasound we saw it scratch its head, then it waved to us.
This stuff is pretty cool.
Oh, and I finally have weight gain. I seem to be starting on the recommended 1lb/week gain and, again, doctor is happy with the progress. Mom is less happy, because it is still a net negative from when I became pregnant. Will I become a Jewish mother when I become a Jewish mother?
June 15, 2007
I don't think I mentioned that the pregnant lady who's been in the hospital for the last 3 months finally delivered her well-over-5lb-perfectly-healthy baby this week! This means she finally left the hospital and went home this week! I went to see them yesterday and her little boy is so, so cute, and so tiny, and he slept the whole time I was there (guiltily overstaying the "guidelines" for visiting new parents, but she had so much to tell me about the delivery and what they do and don't do here with a newborn, etc). She let me hold him and it was the first time I have held a baby so young (for both of my nephews' births I was in a different state and couldn't get back quite so quickly). One good thing to know - the preemie clothes were swimming on him. I have no real idea what to expect for size for my baby, but neither of us are particularly big so I am assuming something under 7lb - which means the newborn size may be big! I never thought that would happen. I guess we'll just figure it out in approx. 16 weeks. Or less, or more, depending on how baby feels.
Saturday, June 9, 2007
June in Malta part 1
I am once again being tempted by rumors, and hope that my heart will not again be broken. I have been told that the documents that have been in Maltese government hands for more than 3 weeks (instead of the usual 1 day) have been released and we can schedule delivery of our ship freight. The date set right now is next Thursday, June 14, which gives me about 4 days to unpack everything before book club at our house and then my dad showing up 2 days later. Think I can do it?!?!
This week will really be like Christmas in July, between all the stuff Terry is bringing back from his trip home and now having access to my stuff again. Who knows, maybe I'll even be more parsimonious with my blog entries :-)
June 9, 2007
Today the hospital where I plan to have my baby had an open house for mothers-to-be so I went, having no idea at all what it would be about. Turns out it was lots of vendors of baby products and some seminars on topics like banking cord blood, postpartum depression, natural childbirth, etc. The schedule of seminars was totally wrong, so I didn't know when the ones I wanted to attend were, so after accidentally getting sucked into the cord blood one (we're not planning to pay to bank cord blood and certainly wouldn't be doing it at a facility in the UK if we did want to) I stayed away from the lecture room.
The very interesting thing is that they had a lovely assortment of warm hors d'oeuvres, mini sandwiches, etc. The sandwiches had either (1) gbejniet - Maltese goat's milk cheese, it MAY have been pasteurized but that is doubtful; (2) shrimp and smoked salmon, or (3) prosciutto. In the USA, every one of these sandwiches would have been verboten for pregnant women, and this was at an event specifically for pregnant women.
I walked away with bags of reading material and goodies such as samples of formula, diapers, baby massage creme ... mmmmm.... One thing I found very interesting is that for many of the vendors, they didn't have any real offices. Everyone gave me a card and said I could call or SMS for more information or to place orders. One vendor of formula said they deliver for free and will even deliver diapers. Now that is service! I did find it interesting that in a country where breast feeding is completely assumed - every hospital that has labor wards has lactation specialists, 24-hour hotlines, etc. - that there were so many formula vendors. And even the vendors acknowledged they assume we will all breast feed, but that when people return to work or want to have a break there is formula to fill the gap. I wonder if they don't pump and store breast milk - the way most breastfeeding women I know in the USA would do - because of the apparently frequent power outages that would spoil any milk in the freezer. Something to think about.
I was also amazed this morning when I was walking Kirby in the Gardens (aka San Anton Gardens) and got yelled at by a lady in Maltese for allegedly not picking up my dog's poop. First, of course I picked it up. Second, it had happened long before she walked in so the person she thought she saw could not have been us. Third, and most importantly - NOBODY cleans up after their dogs here. At first I was greatly put out by her, then I decided I should appreciate that there is actually someone else here who wants the sidewalks and pathways to be clean.
June 11, 2007
When will I learn?!?!?!?!? Our ship freight can't be delivered in Thursday because ... are you ready for this ... IT IS NOT IN MALTA. We just pissed away 4 weeks of our lives waiting for MFA to finally give our docs back, and when we contact the shipping company to arrange the delivery, they realize they can't find our container. Oh wait, they left it in Italy.
I had been joking that they pushed the container overseas and are now stalling to avoid paying the insurance, but now I am not so sure that isn't what happened here. We'll hope to find out more today. Poor Terry, first day back after 3 weeks away and he has to run around dealing with admin crap that should have been dealt with weeks ago!
June 12, 2007
OK, our container is still in Italy (allegedly) and who knows when it will be put on a boat? Im'shalla, we will receive our container some time before March 2009, when we leave this post.
On to good news ... I am getting off the island! Although I have not felt the island fever everyone talks about, I have been desperately missing good red meat. Baby needs extra iron, so I think I am taking it harder than I would have otherwise - I didn't have these cravings when I was in India for the summer. When my dad comes to visit a week from tomorrow, he will be heading off to England before back to the USA, and through the good work of a good travel agent, I will be heading to England with him. As an extra bonus the flight home includes an 8 hour layover in London so I get to get out into the city a little, at least hit a museum and a restaurant. My wonderful husband then gets to pick me up at the airport at 1am. He's very good to me.
Other good news - baby kicked for Terry tonight. He got to feel a few good ones - it was the first time he'd felt it (the other night when I think baby had the hiccups at 5:15am I didn't think he wanted to be awakened, so I let him sleep through that one) I have heard the baby's sleep and wake schedule in utero is the same one they will have once they come out, so I have been trying to keep general track of when baby's active.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
And the adventure continues
Tuesday starts off with some Kirby SNAFUs - getting too close to people on the walk and having anxiety and snapping, and tripping me, causing me to land rather heavily on his paw (he didn't try to bite me for that, though, which is unusual for him. Maybe he is starting to see me as "in charge of him"?) He also had some stress because some things were delivered from the embassy warehouse and I had to shut him out on the porch while the guy was in the house.
I had to run to the grocery store - less than an hour round trip. In that time he managed to pee and somehow get my purse off the front door side table, which resulted in his eating my Luna bar mini and who knows what else. At least it was lemon and not chocolate but I really don't know, in the aftermath, if it would have made a difference.
The day passes and everything seems OK. Then around 7pm the power goes out. Given that this has happened twice so far I didn't worry too much about it, and it was still too light out for me to tell if it was just my house or if it struck the whole neighborhood. Some time before 8pm I notice others have their power, so I call my landlord/neighbor. Turns out he is away for all of 2 days but his daughter (who also lives there) comes over and together we play with the breakers/fuses/whatever they are called. She calls the electrician but he declines to come out, even after she pulled out all possible pity excuses (I'm alone and pregnant) but says he can come in the morning. She and her husband very kindly offer for me to pack a bag and come stay at their house, but at this point it is past 9pm, I have candles and a torch [flashlight] and I have Kirby to deal with, so I decline.
While all this is going on, it seems Kirby's digestive system really gets a whiff of what he's done and rebels. First come the dry heaves, then comes the grass eating, and finally the puke - we were outside at the time, for which I am incredibly thankful. Apparently that didn't make him feel better enough, because he went back for more grass. He puked chewed up grass a mere 1/2 hour later - again outside - so I decided that even though he wanted to go back for more it was time to come in for the night.
My lovely neighbor plugged in extension cords from their bedroom to mine (they are both at the front of the house and my balcony practically reaches their window) so I was able to plug in a side lamp and I read and knitted before bed, which at this point was pretty soon.
Although her tales of woe were not enough to motivate the electrician to come last night, they worked well enough that he was at my house around 7:45am. He did find the problem and I had electricity by around 8:30am. There were remarkably few casualties from the fridge and freezer, mostly because lots of things were able to become Kirby treats. Hey, if the dog can eat partly decomposing dead pigeon parts without any ill effect, he can eat cooked chicken that got cool (not all the way to warm).
I was out today for a few hours and had debated crating Kirby while I was gone, given that his pee-while-I'm-gone rate is around 50%. VERY glad I decided against it because when I came home there was waiting for me the nastiest, smelliest, watery-and-yet-chunkiest poo explosion on the floor. It would not have been nice to have to clean that off Kirby himself. Obviously, the Luna bar had not yet completely worked its way out of his system. I sincerely hope it is over now, though.
Tomorrow is a Maltese holiday, Sette Giugno. It commemorates something like the Boston Tea Party that occurred in Malta in 1919. The gist is the British raised the price of bread, the Maltese rioted, and British soldiers shot into crowds and innocents were killed.
Here are some links about it