The informational pamphlet for the Malta study abroad program promised nearly perfect weather every day. Nearly perfect. So I probably shouldn’t feel lied to, but there’s something violative about waking up on a Sunday morning to wet sounds of car tires on concrete and an eerie wind like an exhausted siren. I can see the church goers from my balcony dashing up and down the slippery steps. The Mediterranean is roiling like the bathtub water of a child who hates being clean. Which makes the single luzza I see all the more toy-like, bobbing desperately against the thrashing-limb waves. It’s anchor seems to be slowly giving up ground to the sea’s forces. The sky is one big white plain of cloud. The roads are slick mirrors.
It’s cliche, but my concept of time really changes when I’m away from all the bustling-hustling of America. I’ve only been here for about 10 days now, but it seems like a month. Not in a bad way, time is just perceivably different.
Like Ramona Quimby, Age 8, I don’t know what to do with myself on rainy days. Fortunately, I have at least 3 readers, so I’m trying to be productive by throwing a few words together for the internet. From the speed of it here, I suspect the Maltese are still operating on the series of tubes, pull-strings, and whistles Al Gore rigged up back in the 90s.
You’re sure this place doesn’t sell the Royale with Cheese?
There’s something strange and appropriate about the fact that I go to the McDonald’s down the street when I want to check in with people back home in America. It’s my internet access point, the golden arches are my Stargate. Before anyone starts spouting anti-american fast food rhetoric, McD’s is pretty high class here. The McCafe serves tiramisu that’s made fresh. Really, it does not come from a pull-top sardine tin or squirt out of an aerosol can. The baristas (I never thought I’d ever call a person with the golden arches sewn into the right rump pocket of his/her jeans a barista) draw flowers and treble clefs on the cappuccino foam. AND, if you order an orange juice, the employee behind the counter bends down and gets several ACTUAL ORANGES from beneath the counter, slices them in half, and then squeezes the juice. All right in front of you! So with regard to the McCafe and internet access portions of the international McDonald’s experience, “im lovin it.”
On the trip back from one of our many beach adventures, I was on an OscarMeyer (again, those are buses), minding my own business (which at the time was talking American-loud ((yes, I’m back to my ol’ parentheticals within parentheticals shenanigans, count the parenthesis!) an entirely different level of loud than Europeans are used to) about how the radio stations all play American music), when Nick the Brit plopped down in the seat next to me.
Nick the Brit is one of those older Brits with lots of visible capillaries on his nose, a white blazer, black shirt, and boat shoes. Clearly an Ocean’s 11-type heist mastermind. His cover was that he was just a nice old man on holiday with his wife, Marcel, and that the seat next to me was the easiest to lower his arthritic frame into. Yeah, right Nick the Brit, “holiday.” Like you can just declare a holiday any old time you want. He had heard me talking to some of the other students on my trip so he already knew I was American. Nick said I reminded him of one of his sons (code for “do you want in on this heist of the Maltese Falcon I’m planning?!”). His “wife,” Marcel, was in a seat behind us and she agreed in nearly-incomprehensible Cockney that “e’s a spi’in emige a ‘arry ow’ight” (I’m guessing [H]‘arry was arrested or otherwise decommissioned after the last heist). I replied that their son must be a scoundrel (international heist code for “I’m in for no less than 5% of the taking.”). They exchanged glances, laughed twice and Marcel nodded. Clearly, they were satisfied with my offer. I should have asked for 8%.
They told me to find a place called the Dubliner, an Irish pub owned by Nick’s “cousin,” Carl (probably the demolitions expert), and to tell him that “Liverpool is rubbish.” Yep, definitely a heist. I can’t wait for a first back-room meeting where the montage plays that introduces the other members of the team plotting to steal the Maltese Falcon.
Please submit ideas for my catch phrase. The Token American has to have a catch phrase. Clearly, I’m the Brad Pitt character in this scheme so think cool, think sexy to people from all walks of life, think Angelina Jolie totally wants to date me, DO NOT think Burn After Reading Brad. He’s hilarious, but I’d rather like to not wind up dead.
Paul, remember how bad it turned out for you when you tried to join that Rugby team in South Africa?!
Those of you who were on my mailing list when I was in SA know that I tried to join a Rugby squad. I’d rather not relive the memories or subsequent physical therapy, psychotherapy, aromatherapy, etc. BUT, I’m at it again. I went into a boxing gym a short walk from my apartment to see if I could use the facility for a month. Steve, the Australian owner, said he’d love to have me as a punching bag. I’ve been thinking about it, and I’m pretty sure this is my vocation- I’m destined to be a great boxer. Unlike rugby, there’s no tackling-type maneuvers, my bongo skills probably translate into some mean jabs, and I’ve seen other people play Punch Out! on original Nintendo (thanks roomie!). Qualifications? Check.
And by the way, which one’s Pink?
Malta confuses me. It’s an incredibly Catholic island. Most of the houses have a ceramic saint protruding from the wall next to the front door. Saintly statues appear every few kilometers along the roads. They have more churches than days in a year. During the summer, every church apparently has a festival celebrating its saint. So I wasn’t too surprised when I overheard some people talking about going to the feast of St. Joseph:
“Are you going to the Feast of St. Joseph tonight?”
“Of course! What else would I do on a Friday night? Dance at a nightclub?!”
“Yes, I was being very silly by asking. I hope they play Shine On You Crazy Diamond.”
“Yes, and Have a Cigar”
I was under the mistaken impression that all church feasts are pious affairs involving a lot genuflecting, spritzing with holy water, some wafer-chewing, and the only rock going on is Peter himself. Not so in Malta. No. These people celebrate their saints by hosting rock concerts complete with firework pyrotechnic displays and carnival food. For the Feast of St. Joseph, the church of St. Joseph in Ghaxaq (pronounced like you’re trying to cough up a fishbone; “aaaakcha”) hired The Scandinavian Pink Floyd Project to shove the spirit of the season deep into the souls of the faithful with their renditions of The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon.
So, being the good Catholic that Momma raised me to be, I went to church Friday night.
When I got there, I discovered an outdoor plaza filled with people and loose rubble on the ground. The buildings surrounding the space looked a little like the Alamo. Their were families, elderly couples, teens with crazy haircuts, and a fair number of them sporting their favorite black Pink Floyd T-shirts.
Somewhere between Quidditch, Soccer, and Rugby is a sport called Gaelic Football
TV in Malta is D-I-F-F-E-R-E-N-T. An apparently crucial game of Gaelic Football is on right now. From what I gather, a herd of hulking Irishmen careen into another herd of Irishmen while a guy in a white lab-coat and floppy hat waves flags crazily. A grumpy bald guy with a Secret Service earpiece flashes yellow and red cards now and again. Apparently he’s some sort of attention-craver who just want’s the players to stop and watch his card tricks. If the ball goes between some uprights installed above a soccer net, the crowd gets loud. Other times, a guy is knocked unconscious; his body becomes an obstacle on the field for the players and the EMT squad might get a point if they can remove his behemoth unconscious carcass before another player’s cleats poke holes in him. No one wears pads so this happens more often than you’d think. There are goals and goalkeepers, but they don’t seem to be part of the game yet. In fact, they look a little confused about what’s going on. The ball can be dribbled, kicked, thrown, or completely forgotten about if it’s time for a fight. Oh, there’s one going on right now. The score is 0-13 to 2-04. 0-13 seems to be winning, but only by 3 points. The announcer’s accent is pretty grotesque, but I think he said something about a bludger going through the sticky wicket under the scrum?
Huuawe, you guys made me Ink!
We spent a portion of today on the island of Gozo, a short ferry ride away from the main island. We had lunch at an outdoor restaurant situated at the bottom of what can only be accurately described as a fjord, but since I was taught in grade-school that fjords only exist in Scandinavia, I’m thinking it’s a conspiracy. Hmm... So there were are, at the base of the fjord, eating mediterranean food when some children of the village we were in got excited about something they were pulling out of the water. Being the snoop that I am, I left my goat cheese and salty sun dried tomatoes to investigate and found that they had caught a squid. Squiddy, all in a panic about being yanked from his natural habitat was inking all over the place. When he finally calmed down/ran out of ink, one of the village boys let me hold him. The PeTA in me momentarily considering hucking the spent tube of Bic filling back into the sea, but the 1L law student in me knew that whenever a person captures a whale or other wildlife, it becomes property and hurling property into the sea might amount to a trespass to chattels or a conversion warranting damages. Not wanting to get involved in the Gozoan (Gozonite? Gozoish?) courts, I returned Squiddy to the boys and, like Pontius Pilate, washed my hands of Squiddy’s inkiness.
The Return of Scuba Storm
I’m heading back to the depths in search of monsters and treasure and swimmer’s ear. Look out bottom of the deep blue sea, I’m setting up camp and I’m not leaving...until the gas tank empties out...or shortly before since I might like a sweet, sweet bit of 02 on the way to the surface
I will be going to this magical place. Apparently Santa lives there. Is this section vague? Yes it is. But you’re curious enough to go on a Wiki adventure while you wait to hear about it. Aren’t you?