Last Sunday we landed in Malta, after a 4 days whirlwind in which Hidai signed on with his new job, we said goodbye to Israel and I tried to pack everything we had with us and everything we accumulated in Israel into 5 suitcases (hello 35kg of overweight). Because there are no direct flights from Israel to Malta (well, not entirely true, but the company here couldn’t order the direct charter flight) we chose to fly the night between Saturday and Sunday, on the reasoning that at least we’ll have Sunday to rest before we start the running around.
We usually don’t do night flights, Yon needs his sleep or he starts getting tummy-aches and turns into a whining blob, I don’t sleep well in airplanes and I am not a person that can function well without sleep so I tend to be a bit bitchy, Ron complains and Hidai has to put up with all of us. So of course we had the pleasure of sitting in the middle of a group of teenagers on their way to their first holiday abroad, and of course they were going to Amsterdam (did you know you can…. Smoke weed there?!), so they were very excited, coupled with the fact that for some reason the pilot left the lights on inside the plane, the first leg of our flight did not include a lot of sleep. I did wish all of them as much fun in Amsterdam as I had in our two visits there (hint – not so much). We continued our night, after poor Yon threw-up in the airport, in trying to figure out why the border control in Istanbul decided we had to go through the incoming just to immediately get our passport signed as departing (probably because we got delayed in the toilet and they already closed the connection section of border control, but we didn’t know that at the time)… After we drank some coffee, got the kids glued to the iPads and I fell asleep on the trolly holding all our bags, we were all ready for the second flight, which was quiet and lovely (I assume, I was asleep even before the plane took off) and brought us to Malta, 14 hours after we left my parents house.
All our suitcases arrived, last off the plane, but arrive they did, so I was extremely relived. We managed to get them on the two trollies, only to find out that we have to take them off because apparently even when you go in the green-lane all (and I do mean all) your bags have to be scanned at the entrance to Malta. Well, it was priceless to see the look on their faces when they scanned our suitcases and found the baking pans, the electric-keyboard, the mini-Xmas tree, and the food I brought with me. We managed to get through customs only to find that the driver the company was supposed to send to meet us at the airport sent a different driver whose car was too small for all our luggage, who then transferred us to a different driver with a van, who parked a bit of a distance away from the entrance, and it rained.
Luckily Hidai’s company is putting us in a company-apartment for the first few weeks so we have time to search for a new place to live and a school for the kids. The apartment is furnished and clean and most importantly – has internet, but there was no food or basic things in it (not even for a cup of coffee), so we unloaded, ate all the snacks we had left and went downstairs to figure out how we can get food or a taxi or cash, on a Sunday, when Google strongly insisted that everything is both far away and closed. Luckily, just as we started walking we saw a woman coming out of the next street holding a grocery bag. This is how we found out that we have 4 small groceries right next to us, two of them open on Sunday. And the “everything you need in one place for very cheap” store, or as we call them ever since we saw our first one on the way to Gib – the Chinese store (We’ve seen lots since then all over Europe and they are all run by Chinese people for some reason). We took a walk around the marina, ate in the local Pret-wannabe sandwich shop, and bought some food and essentials. I think we were all asleep by 9pm.
On our second day we managed to wake up on time and get organised almost in time, in order to start the 2 most important goals of our first week – ID registrations and finding a school. We have decided to be open minded about the school thing and try to see both state and independent (doesn’t that sounds much nicer and less posh than private) schools. Our first school was an independent one, which is situated a bit less than 10 minutes away from our (temp) apartment by car (or about 40 minutes walk). Our meeting was at 9:15, so at 8:30 we called the taxi company to order one. Well, they found it funny at least, but apparently this is not how you do things here – for the morning, or the busy hours, you order in advance. Or you go outside, walk to the marina and try to stop a passing one. Which is what we did, and after 10 minutes of frantically looking around the street for a passing taxi it only cost us twice the rate we would have paid had we ordered it the night before, but we did get a free lecture about Malta traffic (if you want to go by taxi leave an hour in advance, if you want to go by bus leave 3 hours in advance). Naturally, because it always goes like this, the driver took us to the wrong school, and when we finally got to the right school we couldn’t find the entrance, mostly not because there was no school-sign like we thought, but because we were so upset about being 15 minutes late that we ended up going to the wrong place, causing more people to look at us weirdly, and being about 25 minutes late.
Yay, what a wonderful start. We apologised profusely, and they were nice enough to still see us, even if they did let us wait there for another 15 minutes. The headteacher was really nice, and all of us were really impressed with her and with the school. Since the school issue was a very big question and cause for stress for us, especially after we were so disappointed with the education the kids received in Berlin, to see a school that seems nice, accepting, good with disabilities, all for parental involvement and with a strong emphasis on education and manners, and especially that did not look down on us because we home-schooled this last year, and did not give us the feeling we should be thankful for them for even considering accepting us, was a huge (huge, huge, huge) relief for us. Yon left the school somewhat disappointed he can’t start tomorrow.
The only problem with the school for us is the location, as we really wanted to enjoy the small size of Malta and have the triangle of work-home-school in a walking distance like we had in Gib and London (more because Hidai worked from home but still). Here it’s more popular to drive everywhere which we really didn’t want to do (as far as I can see they drive Israeli-style, but on the left side, both of which can be very unsettling). So most people use special school-buses that take the kids to and from school. To a paranoid and anxiety-prone person like me, it is like saying “and then we are sending the kids home riding a dragon”. Oh, and it’s two different buildings for Ron and Yon, and they are not even close to each other, so two different buses. Yay.
We finished at the school, said our goodbyes, the headteacher closed the door behind us, and we were left stranded in the middle of no-taxi-is-ever-going-through-here town. So we walked to somewhere that looked a bit more central (like we can tell the taxi where we are), asked where we are, and called the taxi company, only to hear it will take them 20 minutes to get to us… At least they were nice enough to give us a glass of water for Yon, who can go through a whole day at home with no water at all but the minute he goes outside (especially if we don’t have a bottle with us) has to have some water. And a snack.
The taxi took us to the government building in Valletta to start the process of registering for a Maltese residency card. The company sent us the forms in advance so we filled everything and made sure we had all our documents ready (after the hell we went through in London and Berlin with getting the residency approved we were very anxious about the whole thing), and after a short coke and toilet stop we went into the building, only for them to send to a different building, where they sent us to a third building, a short 15 minutes walk away. Not to bad, after all it was only 11:00am and the website says they are open till 14:30. Or are they? We got to the Identity Malta, which was the right building, found the EU part (the only door without a sign, thank you for asking), and figured out we need to wait in the queue to the guy who gives out the numbers to the office (who turned out to be the gate-keeper for the ID card. You got past him you’re ok). Only to discover they close at 12:00 and that all the people in front of us were part of non-married couples, which is like the arch-enemy for immigration officers. It takes forever and about a zillion documents to convince one of them that your relationship is real, and you do all that in front of the guy who is in charge of the numbers and the rest of the queue, because when it comes to immigration we are all in it together. So we stood there for about 40 minutes, listening to the life stories of the 4 couples that were ahead of us, learned how long each of them been together, who went with whom abroad, who has a shared Facebook account, and their plans of marriage (to which the gate-keeper said, please come back after you do). When it was finally our turn (and after he closed the door to make sure no one will come in because it was after 12:00) his first question was are you married? Well, we brought the marriage certificate, and the kids as proof. Then it started – Why don’t you have an apostille on the marriage certificate? (ahhhh, because we had it notarized and translated into both German and English, and because it was good enough for Gibraltar, UK and Germany), Why don’t you have the new form no one knew about filled? Why don’t you have all the pages of your passport copied (because nowhere on the form or website does it say you need to), Why do you only have a copy of Yon’s birth certificate and not the original? (Because they lost it in Berlin and I forgot about it, and it looks exactly like the other 3 birth certificates we showed you). On and on it went. So we answered really calmly and nicely and showed him all of our residencies – Hidai has a collection, that proves he is a spouse of an EU citizen, so all that was left was the copy of Hidai’s passport, so the guy sent him to a really close shop to do it. Only the shop was closed for lunch, like every other shop in the vicinity, so it took Hidai about 40 minutes to do it. In the meanwhile I made sure all the new forms no one knew about were filled, and we managed to get the holy grail – our papers in a blue folder and a number to go into the mysterious office. It was a bit of a let down to discover all you do in the office is get your picture taken. And then you get it – the white paper with your serial-killer photo on it, and the number that will one day be your ID number. In about 3-4 weeks. Or more. Or less. No one knows.
But poor Hidai wasn’t back by the time the kids and I got our white papers, so the gate keeper and I (by that time we were buddies) said our farewells and I told him we’ll be back 7:30 am the next day to finish Hidai’s part. He did explain I can send Hidai by himself, but I told him this is not how we do things around here. We go everywhere together. Because we’re corny like that. By that time they closed the office so we waited for Hidai (who went out with nothing but his passport and some cash) outside, and I was shaking on the inside from the strain of the whole thing. I was also not really convinced that everything is ok. And I couldn’t breathe because I forgot my drops, and Hidai had run the whole way back just to find us outside, so we figured – when in doubt go for comfort food, and we ended up eating lunch at McDonalds. Or at least the boys did. I ate a side salad and some fries. Not because of dieting reasons, because of these being the only non meat options reason. Luckily McDonlads is right next to a pharmacy, who did not break for lunch so I ended up with some nasal-drops and we started walking around the main street in Valletta, and when I say walking around I mean between toy shops, so the kids will be reassured that they do have LEGOs in Malta.
Our last stop for the day was the barracks and the wonderful sea views in Valletta, which is one of the places where you take gorgeous photos that make everyone else jealous and your day worth it. I love the sea. Well, from afar at least. A (tourist) taxi and some fresh bread later we were back at the apartment for yet another early night.