So we get to Tuesday morning, where we learned our lesson and ordered the taxi in advance, so we’ll be at the Identity Malta office at 7:30 because the gate-keeper said that contrary to what I assumed, there shouldn’t be a queue that early in the morning. Well, we got to the building at 7:20 and discovered two things – First of all, people in Malta park as if they are playing Tetris and there shouldn’t be any white space left. Honestly I have no idea how they even manage to get out of their cars, let alone how they manage to get the cars out of there; and second, there was a queue. While trying to figure out how to navigate to get to the end of the queue (you have to go through the Tetris cars), we saw a tiny sign saying “EU door” and pointing to a different direction, where there was no queue! So my good friend the gate-keeper was right and after I asked about a million more questions and produced a million more papers to prove the kids are ours and we are a “we”, he looked at me and said – “But you already got the white papers for you and the kids yesterday, didn’t you?” and I said yes, so he just looked at me even funnier and started talking to Hidai. By 8:00 we finished all our business there and Hidai got his white paper (with the most horrible photo ever. His is even worse than mine, and that is saying something).
We decided to enjoy the fact that we’ve actually accomplished something, and that I was almost sure everything is ok, and walk to the ferry from Valletta to Sliema, which was our next destination. We passed about 20 policemen on the way (they stand around in Valletta at the beginning of almost every street), some beautiful views, and a sign for Horse cabs. The ferry is really a fun way to get to Sliema, you only have to survive the steep downhill walk and unlike me not get trampled by people rushing to buy tickets. It’s really cheap, and also really fun, the only thing is it comes every 30 minutes and the whole thing takes about 7 minutes, so most of the time is about waiting. At least you get to wait on the boat, where you can go crazy with photos (me? no, not at all, I took a totally acceptable amount of photos).
Sliema was the first place we visited in the hope of feeling this elusive x-factor that will hint that this is it, this is the place to look for our new home. The thing is, we are new-build kind of people. I know a lot of people like character and quirks, and wooden floors in their homes. Me? I like modern, impersonal, hotel-like apartments. Complete with the standard nondescript furnitures and appliances. And in Malta, there is a mix of old and new, built in a mishmash kind of way, where the roads are (really) narrow, the building all touch each other and each balcony looks directly inside someone else’s home, and everywhere you look you see a building. It made the whole thing feel very claustrophobic and hard to get used to in the first couple of days, so Sliema with the tourists and the shops and the new sea-facing buildings looked like the natural place. Since everything went much faster in the Identity Malta than I thought (I anticipated something in the neighbourhood of 2 hours) we got to Sliema before they even opened our first destination – coffee break at Marks & Spencer so we had to pass the time walking between the tourist shops and hiding from the mini-rain. The M&S has an amazing balcony overlooking the bay, an afternoon tea offer which we absolutely need to take them up on, and the most important thing you can’t get in non-British corners of the world – scones with real clotted cream.
After the much needed scones (and doughnuts for the kids), we went to tour the surrounding areas and try our luck with the local public schools. The thing is, most public schools did not answer our emails, and when they did they refused to give information, refused to meet with us and generally gave us the feeling of “people shouldn’t choose schools” which we definitely do not agree with. So we decided to do the element of surprise thing and just show up in the hopes that someone will talk with us. Sometimes it works. This time it did not. The only person who talked to us was the guy at the entrance who said that no one will talk to us, go to the main office somewhere else, there is no reason people should choose schools for their kids – schools are determined by where you live and that’s it, and the school is run and taught in Maltese anyway. Oh, and the secondary is boys only. The whole thing was very depressing. Add to that the fact that the streets looked as narrow and closed and mishmashy as the ones next to our temporary flat, and you can understand why things started to look less positive. It was one of those “did we make a horrible mistake?” moments, so we decided to do the only thing possible, and go to the big, new, modern shopping centre and feel more like ourselves. On the way there the scenery started changing – lots of cafes, and quirky shops, and then lots of known and loved brands (Yon found Tiger and 30 minutes and 2 swords later the world was alright again) and then we were next to the marina again, and on our way to the shopping centre.
shopping centres are shopping centres everywhere you go, so we ate some sandwiches at M&S, argued with the kids, gave them iPhones to play with so they will let us rest for a bit, walked around, bought last week edition of Heat and went into the supermarket to find they have a great selection of foods we like from everywhere in Europe. On the way out we looked around the surrounding houses and discovered two important things – there is a football pitch above the shopping-centre, and in Malta they like to build really narrow buildings that makes you feel like if you gain 2kg you won’t fit into.
We also discovered that bus drivers don’t like to drive crowded buses, so they tend not to stop even if they are only half-full, and that walking 20 minutes carrying shopping bags from the supermarket is not an easy thing. But you get to meet the ducks.
Wednesday was Hidai’s first day in his new job, and the first day in the last 365 that we were apart (not totally true because he did fly over to a few places before accepting this job, but those were temporary and this is a from now on kind of thing). I was really nervous about the whole thing (remind me again, how do you wash the dishes? And how do you wake the kids up? And how do you use the credit card?), Hidai was really excited about starting his job, and the kids were really exhausted so we decided to do a stay-at-home-and-only-play-electronics-day. It all started innocently enough, I organised our calendar, answered some emails, found all the food and kitchen things I packed so I could start getting back to a healthier eating routine, and felt like I’m on top of everything.
And then it was time to start preparing lunch ,and the day became the perfect answer to – so how does it feel to move to a new country?
The fall was swift and hard. First of all the hob here is an induction hob, which I wasn’t aware means that it doesn’t work unless you put the pot on it. And even then it only works with a timer. And when I finally thought about it (after about 10 minutes of gently cursing anyone who has any relation to this flat) I opened the cupboard and took out the pot, while trying to talk to the kids and check on the kettle, so I wasn’t really looking at the pot when I opened the lid and a huge cockroach jumped right in front of me and ran behind the kitchen cupboard. Well, after I got my heartbeats to a steady pace and the kids stoped shouting “what, what, what happened???!” I rinsed the pot and made the pasta, because we only have 2 pots here so there was really no choice in the matter. I planned on making some quinoa and Tahini-rolls (honestly amazing and so easy to make: 6 spoons of tahini, 3 eggs, and 1 teaspoon of baking powder and some honey. You stir them all together, put a spoonful in a muffin pan and bake for about 10-15 minutes on 180°C) for myself (healthy eating remember), and then I realised two things – I might have brought the tahini with me from Israel and bought some eggs, but I don’t have baking powder, and second, I have no containers for leftovers, so what am I supposed to do with the rest of the kids’ pasta? But I didn’t care, because I’m all for the healthy eating, so I tried to put the other pot on the hob, only to discover that at any given time you can only cook on full power if you are using one pot. When you put two, the same heat distributes between them, so it’s less power to each. But I didn’t let that stop me, why would I? After all, you cook the quinoa on low heat anyway. So I filled the kettle up again, and then it stopped working. Completely. This was the last straw.
We ended up eating a whole bag of pasta with ketchup, with no vegetables. Very healthy.
Then I decided that it might be a good idea to do the food shopping, so I went online because unlike Berlin, you can actually do your weekly shop online here (like any other normal place) and you don’t have to run around in and out of the supermarket every day of the week. That’s the theory at least. First it took me awhile to discover you have to register first, second I had to write a phone number when I still don’t have a local number and Hidai was in the process of getting his so I didn’t know it, but hey they say you can edit the detail later so that should be fine right?So I gave our international number. And then the website kept being so slow and getting stuck the whole time, it took forever. At 4pm, with only half of it done, I got to a point where I decided not eating is a valid life choice so I went on a much deserved break. at 6pm I heard from Hidai that he will be “running a bit late” so he got home at 8pm, by which time murder-suicide also looked like a valid life choice. So after hearing how wonderful his day was, I went to bed feeling very sorry for myself and my miserable life and left him to deal with everything.