Saturday, August 23, 2008

This is what we don't love about Malta

The web site used to have a very helpful jellyfish report. It simply stated which beaches would have jellyfish washing up and therefore you should avoid them. I noted that it existed but never had need of it because we are not beach people.

As I mentioned previously, Alex loved the beach. So we decided instead of doing chores all weekend this weekend we decided to take her to the beach and hopefully we'll all have a good time and she will nap well from the sun and fun. But where to go? I pulled up the trusty web site only to find that the jellyfish report had vanished. Now, I can pay 1 Euro any day I want to get the report SMS'd to my phone at 8:30am. Grrrr.

The handy thing about being married to Terry is the weather report did give the wind direction and he figured which beaches were likely safe and he was right. We really, really love our daughter because we both relived why we don't like beaches but she was so happy we will probably go again, especially as the next 2 weekends are both long holiday weekends. But, next time, she better give us that nap she promised!!!

This is what we love about Malta

On Wednesday - my only totally free day each week since I started working - I ran errands. On Friday afternoon I tried to buy chlorine and discovered my credit card was not in my wallet. I got Terry on the phone and had him check our account - no funky charges. Then he said the last charge was from a pharmacy. I had completely forgotten about that errand! It turns out the pharmacy was on the way home from the pool place so I was passing it anyway. I went in and before I even said anything the pharmacist - who was the same guy who had helped me when I went in Wednesday - said I had left my card there. He went to get it and said he tried to run after me when I left but didn't find me, and that he tried calling the credit card company in the USA to have them contact me to tell me the card was there but he couldn't get through.

THAT'S customer service and I am now a huge fan and lifetime patron of the Balzan Pharmacy, in case anyone in Malta reads this :-)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Embassy living is like a small town

As I think about plans for a baby shower I'm co-hosting, and the play group Alex usually half sleeps through, and the welcome get together for new families, it occurs to me this is in my fantasy land what small town living used to be like (having never experienced small town living I can't attest to the veracity of this fantasy). OK, neighbors aren't showing up at doorsteps with baskets of muffins and a casserole, but something pretty close does happen - families do check in with new folks and take them around, help them find the grocery store and the best route to work, etc. There is a real - small - community, with the attendant goods and bads ... someone is always around if you need them, and everyone knows everyone else's business. Making sure people are included is just something you do.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Working girl

After more than a year of unemployment, I am now working part time at the embassy. It is lots of fun - when an employee's spouse pops into my office to chat about schools and finding a piano teacher for her kid, that doesn't take me away from my work, that IS my work. Woo-hoo! It's 3 not-full days at the office, which is for me a perfect amount of time to be away from Alex. When I need to take her in, though, nobody has any problem with it and we have our pack 'n play set up in my office for that purpose.

Alex has a nanny who comes when I am working and the two of them are already pretty attached. She naps better for Jennifer than she does for me and I'm OK with that. Jennifer and Kirby are fast friends too.

With the heat we haven't been doing much fun stuff for a while. We're looking forward to next month when things cool off and we pull out our list of things we want to see and do before we leave the island. Now that we are on our home stretch we really need to get moving!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Village life

After about 1.5 years here, I realized we never posted any photos of our little village. My walking route for most things takes me past the church in Balzan (technically not our village, we live in Attard, but it is close enough) For once, I remembered to bring the camera with me to snap some photos that illuminate our world.

These are traditional Maltese balconies. I have not heard a satisfactory explanation as to why they are designed this way.

You'll find ornate ironwork on many houses, whether it is grillwork, the door knocker, or a gate or fence. You will also often find cats in the most unlikely locations. Here are more photos (and yes that is a fish cart. There are fish stores but most mongering is done on trucks/carts).

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The strike is over.

The transportation strike that crippled the island has now ended. Actually, it ended yesterday. In a strange twist the hearse drivers pulled out of strike because they did not like the way the strike was going and how is was handled by the union. The hearse liberalization was the original reason the whole strike started. So the union has now accept that liberalization is the way of the future and the buses are starting to run again. It was very interesting to watch it play out but I am glad that traffic is returning to normal on the island.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Strike on the Island

A transportation strike is on in Malta. The government is liberalizing the license for the hearse companies. Basically they are allowing more companies to get licenses to drive hearse on the island. In a strange twist of fate the bus, taxis, and mini buses drivers are part of the same union as the hearse drivers. The drivers have been blocking road on the island to protest the liberalization of the hearses. This is cause major headaches in with traffic. Also with no public transportation on the island some Maltese are having a tough time getting around. One of the major roads on the island St. Anne Street that runs through Floriana to Valletta was completely blocked yesterday with mini buses and taxis. So far the protests have been mostly peaceful, but very annoying and disruptive. The Transportation Union claims they will not stop striking until the government reverses its position. The government claims it won’t reverse the decision and has removed the subsidies it gives the bus drivers (EU pressure might have something to do with that). Not sure who will break first. In the mean time, it is taking for ever to get to work and leave work since they are blocking the road in front of the embassy. Ah the joys of living overseas. Below are some links to local papers about the fun.

Photo is from the Times of Malta.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

She's a carnivore!

We hang out with some folks with slightly older kids, and it helps me get over some of my hangups ... one being the fear that Alex will choke on anything that is not pureed. So in the spirit of some day having a child who actually eats the same things I do at the dinner table, we cut up tonight's steak into very very small pieces. Oh man did she love it! we also mashed up some of the baked potato and she went to town on that too. Mind you, this is after more than 1 1/2 cups of largely pureed fruit, veg and oatmeal. She can EAT. Of course, she only weighs 15.5 lb at almost 9 months. Where does she put it???

In other news, because we were such slackers we never got around to finding babysitters for Alex, so we had to tag team the 4th of July party at the Ambassador's residence. This was only possible because we live a block away. So, when Terry put Alex down to sleep I headed on over, and about halfway through I said my goodbyes and went home so Terry could enjoy the party. There is a goodbye party this coming weekend for a high mucky-muck leaving next week and we are really hopeful that we'll have childcare lined up. One of our friends offered her teenage daughter if all else fails.

Another reason we really need to get child care lined up is that I'll be working at the embassy part time starting in a couple weeks. The job is the Community Liaison Officer and mostly involves keeping the spouses and other family members happy; for example, I'll be providing the welcome briefing and handbook, information about schools and realtors, etc to the incoming folks. I'm looking forward to putting on a suit once in a while and going into an office again. As much as I hate leaving Alex, I also think she and I will both benefit from a little time away from each other.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Summer is Here

Summer is here in Malta. Actually it has been here a while now. The pool is getting regular use and air conditioner use have sky rocketed. As will the electric bill in 3 months (when we finally get it). I am progressively hiding out more and more inside with shutters close to keep out any hot sun rays I can. Diaper only fashion statement is more and more the rage for Alex. Lynne is not really bothered. I am already looking forward to the late September rains to break the heat. For now I do my best to deal with the heat.

Couple of things going on here. There is a goodbye luncheon for my boss today. For whatever reason the dress code is business suit. Then on Friday is the July 4th reception. The reception is also business suit. Maltese summers are not a good time for business suits. You combine the heat of Malta with the extra clothing of business suits and you have a very hot and sweaty Terry. This is shortly followed by a stinky and generally grumpy Terry. It is odd because most people like to avoid the cold posts and go to place like Malta. It truly baffles me. Personally I would rather deal with 5 months of winter at sub zero then 5 months of constantly over 90 degrees Fahrenheit and often in the 100s. Hopefully that means there will be more cold post open for me. For now just I just have to curl up on the tile floor and do my best not to melt.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Malta in the Times (New York)

Sorry for the long gap. Not much is really going on. Everyday life of living in Malta is kind of boring like the states. We spend most of our time parenting Alex and doing the chores that are required. This does not leave a lot of fun time. But I will give you the headlines. Most are not that exciting. The frugal traveler reviewed Malta in the New York Times. Here is the link. So that is kind of exciting. The writer keeps talking about Horsemeat he had in a Bar. This is one of the many traditional foods of Malta, but it is not really anywhere near as big as rabbit or snails. Occasionally you run into a restaurant that serves it but it is far from everywhere like other foods of Malta. Two things that are everywhere is Pastizzi and Ġbejna. Neither of these items are even mention. Otherwise kind of an interesting article. I would like to thank Nate for send us the link.

Some bigger news is that the lots of the embassy community are rotating out this summer so it will be a whole new flock of people to meet. By September probably more than half the Americans here will be new. We will be the old kids on the block. Kind of crazy. Seems like it was not long ago we were just arriving. Hopefully some nice people come to post. For now that is all.