I woke up (very early) Thursday morning with the clear decision to leave yesterday in yesterworld, and that it has to be a better day. Even if it was 6:30 in the morning and sunny like it’s the middle of the day. I still couldn’t bring myself to open the cupboard in the kitchen (in fear of the cockroach, who I assumed have returned to its cupboard home) so all the (two) pots were sitting outside on the hob, mocking me. We had another private school to see, so we (I say we, but it was Hidai who I was anger-delegating to) called the taxi on Wednesday evening and because we were so traumatised from being late on Monday, we asked them to be here at 7:45 for an 8:30 meeting at a place that without traffic is 7 minutes away from here. Of course we got to the school at 7:55.
After walking around, and watching all the parents drop their kids off at school we finally went inside, and immediately got lost. Why don’t schools have clearly marked signs and directions? How are we supposed to guess the office is on the second floor? After three people explained it to us (I am not sure if it’s because everyone is so nice or because we look out of place and lost) we found the reception area and waited. This school has a place for Ron, but Yon will be on a waiting list – he will be first on it, but still he will be on the waiting list. Like the first school they were very nice and friendly, the location is the same as the first school, and both of them will be in the same building, and everyone seems so happy to be there – the office workers, the teachers, the students. It is really weird, like you are being transported to an alternative universe where school is fun. Anyway, as I summarised the visit, it seems like they put less emphasis on the academic side and more on the community, inclusion, social aspects of learning, which raised the question, which one is more important?
With this question we went outside to wait the mandatory 20 minutes until our taxi came to take us to our third private school meeting, in a school that is a walking distance from our temporary flat. The driver complained the whole way about everything to do with Malta, and especially about the traffic, which was non-existent, and we got to the marina again 20 minutes ahead of time. There was nothing for us to do but have seaside snack time (don’t worry, Yon still found things to complain about).
The third school is the most international we’ve seen (where the other two were mostly Maltese kids with about 25% foreigners), and because it is in the middle of the city, it is also the smallest. Personally I like it that the class are about 15 kids, I like the individual attention and connections you can get with the teachers. But for Ron it felt too tiny, and Yon has already made up his mind that he is going to the first school, so we left this school feeling a bit conflicted and with the decision to try and get Ron a visit to the secondary (senior) school in the first school we’ve seen because we’ve only visited the primary building. For tomorrow. Because after that it’s the Easter holiday.
We felt very daring and adventurous so we took a different way back to the temp-flat. I know. Crazy. But sometimes when you take a different route you discover new things, or so I explained to the kids in a very zen-like way (because of course they complained about this huge change in direction). And we did! We discovered that right next to our temp-flat there is a “everything” shop that sells DIY and home maintenance things, but also has a blender (as soon as we asked for it the seller knew we are “smoothie-making-people”, which led me to question our life choices) and food containers. Oh, food containers. And bin liners. But that’s a different story. And right next to it, 2 doors down from us, there is a tiny grocery store which we went into to get ketchup and rice, and left with a box of strawberries and the promise that they are the best we’ve ever tasted. I didn’t care how they taste, because now I had a container to put the strawberries in after I clean them!
Hidai left us to go into work, and I managed to prepare a much more proper lunch (though it did take me about 2 hours) of chicken nuggets, rice and steamed vegetables. I was so proud of myself it was ridiculous.
After that I felt I can tackle anything, so I finished the food shopping. It took me three more hours, I couldn’t update the address to include Hidai’s local number so we had to write it as a “note”, and I had to try 2 different credit cards (mainly because of the security measures that with German cards means you need a German phone number, which we don’t have anymore, but like anything else to do with Germany I don’t want to talk about it or even think about it, and for some reason it always come back to f*&^%ck with me), but yay! Food will arrive on Friday!
And to finish the day on an even higher note of success, we managed to take out the rubbish. Yeah, it’s a thing. Apparently in Malta you don’t have communal bins where you empty your flat-bins. You are supposed to divide your rubbish into two piles – recycle (which goes into the grey bags) and non recycle (which goes into the black bags) – and then you take out the bag according to a schedule you get and put it in front of the entrance to the building, and it gets collected. Which in our case is at 8:30. So it took us a few days to get the bags, then to discover that it’s 8:30pm, and then to make sure that other people are doing it and we understood the instructions. Just to make sure, Hidai checked with the grocery-store owner, and we left our black rubbish bag on the sidewalk.
The rubbish bag was gone! Success. Hidai managed to talk to the first school and order the taxi through the app (now that he has a local number he has started looking down at me 🙂 ) and we were again 30 minutes early to a school. We had 5 teachers asking us if we need help this time, and loads of parents looking at us funny. Just because we stood in the middle of the parking area, with two kids and no car and looked at the kids on the playground. What is the world coming to? But it did give us a chance to see the kids at their natural environment, with no teachers or parents around. I have to say I was surprised at how well behaved they all were – no shouting, no cursing, no fighting, no running around too much. Just talking to each other, and looking content. We got to see them lined up and hear a speech about Jesus and Easter and being kind to each other, and don’t forget your books in the lockers. The tour around the school was really great, and we got even more confused about which is the best school to pick (well except for Yon, who has already decided it’s the first school and that’s it).
We finished the tour rather early so we decided to bus it back. It was like we were going on this exotic adventure. We walked, we waited, we paid on the bus. When you pay on the bus it’s not that cheap (and that’s for winter price. For summer price it’s even more expensive) and it costs the same for adults and kids, so there really isn’t any difference between a bus and a taxi for 4 people, but when you buy a Tallinja card you pay half price so it’s much cheaper than a taxi. It took the bus close to forty minutes to cover the ten minutes distance to Hidai’s office, so we left him there and walked home because a) we’re so adventurous, b) tired kids is always an advantage, and c) it’s a 20 minutes walk all of which is next to the marina. On the way we learned that they have The Black Pearl ship, they have a pizza place that delivers, and Yon can actually talk non-stop for 20 minutes while walking.
The shopping came right after we finished lunch, and after the delivery guy informed me that the intercom downstairs doesn’t work so I was lucky someone left the door open for him to come in and actually check I was here. It didn’t even cross my mind to check the intercom, but we had food and that’s the important part. The only thing was, there was a 7 euros difference between my order and the delivery, so I had 7 euros worth of things missing, when the 3 page invoice doesn’t give you any clue as to which one are they, and so began the fun game of “let’s guess what’s missing”.
But at the end of the day (after I found only half of the missing things) Hidai found the cockroach, under the kids’ beds of all places, and released it outside, and I managed to finally make my Tahini rolls, and the weekend was officially on.
We could sleep in, because it’s Saturday, so of course I woke up at 5:30am because of the sunshine, and by 7:00 everyone was up and running. I have decided to make Saturday our first official “walking around for fun” day, because up to now every time we left the house we had a purpose or a destination. But because walking around totally aimless is too stressful for some of us, we left the house around 10am with the vague destination of “let’s walk to the cinema to watch the new Smurfs movie, and maybe stop in Costa on the way before eating lunch at McDonalds”.
Because we are still at the stage of constantly not knowing where we are, we use Google maps everywhere we walk to, and Saturday was no different. The problem with that is that Google maps might have “shortest route” but it most definitely does not have “no really steep hills route” and unfortunately Malta has lots of very steep hills and they are all lined with really narrow streets and when you get all the way up (while seeing things like a car with a knight helmet inside on the dashboard), it is only to discover that you are going downhill on the next street. We should have taken the long route.
But we did go into our first real-estate agency and organised our first viewing for Monday (we started the new home search on Friday with an email to all recommended real-estate agencies, with no one answering), saw a lot of really cute houses and made our way to the marina at St. Julian where we stopped at our first Maltese Costa.
I am not a huge Costa fan, but there is no Starbucks, and they have a new (for me at least) orange-mocha coffee, which was soooo good, especially with the caramel muffin. Yon agreed, as he “tasted” everyone’s food (except the apple pie of course because it is missing the two basic ingredients every cake should have – chocolate & caramel). The break was shorter than I would have liked, mostly because Yon kept asking “are you going to eat that?” and giving us really sad looks so we had to finish all the food quickly, but also because it took us about an hour and a half to walk this 20 minutes distance, and we still had to get to the cinema, buy tickets, buy lunch and have the “3D is not scary” talk with Yon, who has this irrational fear of 3D glasses, and up to this movie no amount of reassuring managed to persuade him to change his mind. But it’s the Smurfs, so we figured there won’t be any scary parts, and we’ll be ok.
Google led us to the cinema through the strip-club portion of St. Julians, but we forgave it because it also led us through the Holland & Barrett shop, where we found all those vegan, healthy, I-can’t-believe-we’re-actually-eating-this necessities. And from there straight to the cinema and the both promised and mandatory lunch in McDonalds (well, not for me, I got myself a sandwich at M&S) before the movie. It might have been the fact that it was the first day of the Easter holiday or that Maltese people really like the movies, but it was the busiest cinema I’ve been to in years, and it was 2pm on a Saturday (and they had 4 or 5 shows for this movie on Saturday alone)… The movie itself was cute, and Yon sat with his 3D glasses for the whole time (though the M&Ms might have helped too).
Because we are already very local, we decided to take the bus back to the temp-flat. We got to the station where we learned that a) 13a and 13 buses are the same even if Google doesn’t thing so, b) the local bus app is as accurate as Google about when the buses should arrive at the bus-stop, and c) St. Julian with all its posh houses and closed-communities and hotels is not the place for us.
Actually, when we got back to the bus stop near our temp-flat I started to get the feeling that actually I am getting used to this area, and maybe it is not so unliveable as I thought in the past (a whole two days ago). It was sealed the moment we crossed the street to get some fresh veg and discovered the guy there sells Medjool dates brought here straight from Israel.