I arrived in Malta on Sunday afternoon (10pm Melbourne time) and got a lift to my hostel courtesy of the lady I sat next to on the plane from Dubai to Malta. She lives in Sydney and was staying in Malta for two months with her extended family and they were a huge welcoming party for her at the airport. One of her nephews was instructed to give me a lift to which he kindly obliged.
The hostel I’m staying at is very nice, clean and friendly, and they have lots of international students staying here who come to Malta to learn English. I had no idea that so many students would choose Malta to learn English. Apparently it is known in (by those who know) that Maltese teachers teach better English than the English themselves! I love the accent and pronunciation that all Maltese have, when they speak it is a very pleasant, well rounded sounding English.
My room-mate is a girl from Kazakhstan, who speaks very little English – she arrived a few days before me and is a student at the NSTS English school. I asked her to write down ‘Hello’ (Privet), ‘Good morning’ (Dobroe utro), ‘Good evening’ (Dobroi nochi), ‘Goodbye’ (Do svidaniya) and ‘Thank you’ (Spasibo) in Russian so we can at least communicate that much. Over the three days I’ve been here she is a little more eager to try some English and followed me down to breakfast this morning – so I think she may be extremely shy as well. The brekky at the hostel is good – I had a choice of cereal, breads, cheese, meat and jam and little mini freshly baked croissants.
I spent the afternoon and evening walking around Sliema and was amazed at the crazy drivers – I’ve since heard that if you can drive in Malta you can drive anywhere in the world, including Italy! I am bound to think that is true too. The streets are tiny narrow spaces, and drivers fly through intersections at amazing speed and dart into the smallest space between traffic. Blind corners are also approached with the same reckless abandon and a few times I’ve flinched thinking they might hit something yet more often than not they squeeze through unscathed. I’ve become used to the constant screech of tyres and have only heard one actual collision thus far, which I find quite surprising. All being said, I take extra care when crossing the street now.
The parking situation is quite interesting also. Cars are parked any which way, in the direction of the traffic or opposite, it doesn’t seem to matter. And the space between parked cars is, on average, only about two inches I’ve noticed. It is impressive once you get over the initial shock. Streets here usually have a line of cars down one side and moving traffic on the other half of the street. If the street is one way all is good, yet if it is a two way street there is mostly a game of ‘chicken’ going on to see who gets through first! Luckily the cars here are all small ones, for large ones would simply not fit down most of the streets.
I’ve been tooted and had comments shouted at me from passing cars, thankfully I don’t understand Maltese, yet I get the gist of their comments from the leering faces out the windows. Not everyone is like that of course, most people I’ve stopped to ask directions or information from have been most friendly and helpful. There was an older Maltese lady who sat on a bench next to me in a public square who started complaining about some young boys who were kicking a ball around and she obviously thought they shouldn’t be. I nodded along with her tirade, for even though she was speaking in Maltese I got the gist of what she meant. She obviously took my nodding to mean I agreed with her complaints for she really got worked up and out came a torrent of words I could not keep up with. I had to wait for her to take a breath before I managed to say ‘English’ and she changed tack immediately. The change was remarkable, not only the language changed but so did her demeanour and I then was subject to a much calmer grumble or two about her dislike for the ball game. Although I agreed the boys should be careful, I thought it was nice that young kids were actually outside running around getting some exercise. Thankfully she changed the conversation to a more pleasant topic, and we chatted generally about where I was from ‘Ohh, Australia’, and why I was here. She did recommend something to eat from the kiosk at the square, and I took her advice and found myself an ‘assartart’ (although I’m not sure of the spelling). It is like a quiche, except you have a choice of ricotta, spinach or peas for the filling, wrapped in a pastry case that was pinched together at the top. And along with being so delicious, it cost me only Є1.10.