Tuesday, May 22, 2007

May in Malta Part II

May 16, 2007

Monday was our second power outage of the month. The first reached even Sliema, and according to the newspaper this one was pretty big, although the Sliema-ites didn't seem to be complaining about it the next day. The first one was in the middle of the night, we woke some time in the night and noticed the alarm clock was black and at a later point noticed the alarm clock was blinking. This one happened around 7-8pm, as we were just finishing dinner. We had some plans for the evening that included phone calls home, but as all that was impossible we simply moved ourselves to the veranda – where there was still outside light – and continued our conversation. Our landlord/neighbor came by and asked if we had flashlights or candles, and we realized we had neither. He came by with 2 candles which we stuck to glass dishes with the wax and I felt very old fashioned, like I was in pre-electricity days walking around with my little candle in its holder. By 10pm the power had still not returned and all the light we had were these 2 candles, so we decided to go to bed. The grocery list does now include candles, since this appears to be a more-frequent-than-expected phenomenon!

Yesterday I took the car to be inspected. One of the embassy drivers came with me to give directions and do a little translating, which turned out to be a good thing. PA is one of a tiny number of states that only has one license plate. In Malta we are required to have 2 plates, and we have not yet obtained our Maltese plates – this inspection was one of the prerequisites to getting our plates and registration (obviously there will be 2 plates when we get the Maltese ones). Since we had a couple of extra plates from other vehicles we had gotten rid of prior to coming here, we just threw one of the other plates on the front. The guy doing the inspection was very confused about the non-matching plates, and we were advised it would be better to have one plate than 2 different ones, so I guess the front plate comes back off.

In driving I discovered that I am significantly more comfortable driving on my usual side of the car, even if it is the other side of the road. I had suspected this may be the case before the car arrived, and it turned out to be true. This is a good thing as I am about to be 3 weeks solo. I also discovered that living in Philly and getting all that good parallel parking experience will be handy here. Finally, the Maltese do not drive significantly differently from the Philadelphians. Terry fit right in from the start, I admit I am a bit too hesitant for the Maltese but I really don't want to crash our car and I am not always convinced people will slow down for my merge.

Today I finally wandered into Attard. We live in Attard but really we are on the Balzan line and most of our venturing out locally takes us into or beyond Balzan. I figured it would be good to get to know the town I actually live in, and it is a stunningly gorgeous day today, sunny, just warm enough without being oppressively hot (we had unseasonably hot weather this weekend, in the 80s but felt more like 90s. All the Maltese say that is more like late June weather ... Terry may not die here after all). I discovered a shop truck, which I don't need because the grocery stores are close enough to me but I hadn't realized they were as common as they seem to be. I'll try to venture out with the camera and get some shots of this. It is basically a cart, like the produce carts (I guess we should photo one of them too) but has basic grocery items like bread, juice, soap, etc. I also discovered Etienne's, which is the restaurant of the Ambassador's French chef. It is reported to be wonderful, and as our food exploring has not gone too well so far, I am sure we will try it out as a treat when my dad comes for a visit in only one month. He'll be here 4 days I am not sure I have 4-8 restaurants (lunch too!) worthy of taking visitors in my repertoire.

Oh, and I discovered this week that one of the cable channels here has Grey's Anatomy on at 4pm. I am pretty sure they are on Season 1 right now, so I can get caught up, since I never actually watched it in the USA. My first episode, I think, was the one Valerie made me watch when she helped me move, so that was back in January. I wouldn't say I'm hooked, like I am with Heroes, but I am getting into it. I hate that stupid nbc.com doesn't let outside-USA IP addresses watch the show online like I did in the USA when I missed an episode.

May 19, 2007

Terry is at the airport. I managed to make it home without getting lost – the route I took wasn't the route we had taken to get there, and it wasn't the route that kept me on the biggest roads, but it is actually technically a little more direct and I never had to ask directions or turn around, so I consider it a success. Now I have three whole weeks to fend for myself!

I think I have mentioned that I had heard when we started this whole state department thing that smaller posts tended to be a more close knit community – in fact some larger posts are completely community-free. This is certainly turning out to be true! Several people have made sure I have their phone numbers if I need anything, and I have received a couple of dinner invitations for while I am alone. My strategy is to have at least one planned interaction with other people each day so I don't become too much of a recluse (and definitely not a brown recluse). Of course, the rumor is that my stuff will be delivered to me on Thursday and I should be getting Kirby next Monday so I think I have plenty to keep me busy for the next 3 weeks (see mom, I am planning to take a good long time with unpacking. Not rushing it or doing too much at all). I really, really hope it works out this way because we have less than a week's worth of dog food for Kirby here and we were really hoping to get our ship freight before he arrived, because our boy likes to eat.

The other good news is our pool is finally clean. Our landlord is changing out the water so although I can swim this week, it will be drained at the end of the week and (hopefully) new water put in soon thereafter. There is probably still a good week or two before it is properly and permanently swimable, but if I really needed it I could jump in. The weather got cooler again – we are in the low to mid 70s now during the day – so I really don't need it quite yet.

There is a neighborhood cat who, my landlord warned, would walk in an open door and make himself (herself?) right at home in my house. It does come around and is so cute so we pet it, and it sometimes comes and meows at our back door. We are having fun with the cat for now – I can only imagine its visits will be curtailed when Kirby arrives – most cats don't appreciate the force of the loving attentions he pays them.

May 20, 2007

I should probably include an update of our garden. The callas are pretty much gone now (note to self, their season seems to be around April – May). The roses are in full bloom, some varieties are really in full swing now and some are heading the way of the callas. Also, somewhat surprisingly, we have hibiscus! The lemon tree is producing heavily – I really should go pick a bunch – a few are starting to turn yellow so I think the season may be closing soon too. The orange tree is just starting to get going, there are lots of little green balls but only 2 full grown fruit.

This morning I went on another of the weekend walks. It was very pretty, a short hike along the cliffs to the ruins of an ancient city, then further along to a defunct church. I did take lots of photos but will leave it to Terry to edit them and put them up so you will have to wait 3 weeks for that.

I was just about to take a nap in the heat of the afternoon and I heard violins. I got up and walked around the neighborhood, and it turns out there is an event at the Presidential Gardens (called Villa Bologna), which are across the street from me. It is usually all closed off and gated, but today the gates are open. I am assuming it is a wedding because the live music is interspersed with what I am assuming is a DJ playing USA sappy wedding type songs. Also, as I took a peek in, there are lots of little tables for people to sit, and tables of food, everything draped in white, everyone dressed up, lots of flowers, etc. Seems more wedding-y than concert-y, which would be the other choice. I took my tea to our bedroom balcony and sat and listened for a while.

Have I mentioned I am very happy with our choice of housing?

May 22

Of course rumors should never be trusted. Our papers are taking an unreasonably long time to clear, so now the earliest our stuff will arrive is Friday – but that is unlikely and would require the documents to be returned to the embassy today and there are only 2 hours left in the work day – so Monday or Tuesday or even later, it is. Of course, this butts us right up against the second-worst case scenario – movers in and out of the house on Kirby's first few days here, when he will already be highly anxious and uncomfortable.

Ah, the joys of our glamorous life, right?

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