Saturday, September 29, 2007

photos Sept 29

Here are photos of my new canine housemate, evening shots from a walk along the harbor, and a few from the opening of the university.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

reflection 1

I went to a conference last Feb. that included discussion on how to assess the learning outcomes for students who do international travel. One idea I found persuasive was to have the students write a reaction each day--something they saw or heard that caught them. They discuss it. Later, they can come back and correct, amend, or expand on the observation. I'm going to try this out for myself, though not every day.

Malta is about the size of Martha's Vineyard, yet has 400,000 citzens and gets (like the Vineyard) over a million tourists. If I compare Malta to where to where I live, up in the Lake Superior region, the contrasts are great. In the whole of the US-Canada Lake Superior region there are about 500,000 people. Houghton county is probably as large a territory as all of Malta. Malta has virtually no permanent, free-flowing fresh water. Superior, as Rudyard Kipling once put it, is a "fully accredited ocean," only made of fresh water.

All kinds of birds, fish, animals live near me--I've seen bear, lynx (I think), ermine, deer, moose and the many local and migrating birds. Most of the native animals of Malta have lost their habitat and it is bad luck to be a bird flying near Malta, because the bird will likely be shot and stuffed (despite rules against this). Malta does not yet have, as near as I can tell, hunter/conservation groups like Ducks Unlimited or Whitetails Unlimited. In the US these groups have been very important in preserving natural areas, educating hunters so that all the hunting laws are obeyed, and promoting the enduring love of nature. The question of the birds is front page news here in Malta and clearly some sort of important cultural and political change is underway. Right now international and (the very small) local conservation groups are watching the hunting areas to prove that the bird hunters are killing protected birds. This is a big problem, given Malta's membership in the EU. What seems missing, however, are groups like Ducks Unlimited who promote both hunting and nature conservation. Hunting, as I understand from living in Lake Superior, is a very important cultural event--deer camp is a regular ritual, and one can't schedule important meetings during the opening of deer season. My guess, as a perfect stranger to Malta, is that hunting has a similar place among some communities here. It was probably hard in the US early in the 1900s to changing hunting rules (and heaven knows we hunted and destroyed habitat so that many America birds went extinct). I'm now curious to know more about that US change, so that I can compare it to the challenge posed by hunting here.

One thing I am increasingly finding interesting about Malta is how it feels like a small town and yet has everything "full scale" in terms of an independent nation. Thus, one encounters diplomats, ministers of government, big and small business, all the disciplines of a major university, excellent hospitals, and so forth. Yet, everyone knows everyone else it seems, which is a lot like living in the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan. Like at home, I'll tell someone I live in St. Paul's Bay and he will tell me how a brother-in-law lives near me. Or, I'll be talking to a woman who tells me the daughter of a best friend is starting law. I quite like it.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Hanging laundry

I did my laundry on Sunday and then carried the wash up to the roof to hang up to dry. Suddenly, in one of those moments of memory magic, I was in the backyard of our house on Minnesota Avenue in San Jose, California, a girl of about 10. I'm hanging the family wash on our large, revolving clothesline with my Mother. This was the last house in which we did this, moving on to a dryer soon thereafter. I'd forgotten the pleasant feel of damp clothes gently patting me on the face or back as I put things on the line or moved them around. I'd dip and slide between pieces on the line, like a swallow. Like today, pinning them up on a bright blue day blessed me with cheer. Then later, when the sun had done its work, I collected the clothes from the line, and the scent of sunshine and breeze on my shirts again made the mundane lovely.

I do clearly recall that I got tired hanging laundry some days, and that it was not so pleasant on cold days. But this time, after all these decades, I finished the day with clean clothes and a visit to a summer day in my childhood when I was simply enjoying helping my Mama with the wash.

Friday, September 21, 2007

New Apartment--views from roof

Today I went with Stef and looked at my two great choices for an apartment. One, in Naxxar, is in a rather posh neighborhood and quite a nice, sleek apartment. The other is in St. Paul's Bay and is rather more bohemian and comes with a dog (and cows next door). It has good views of the sea and is three blocks walk to the sea. It was nice to have two such choices.

I chose St. Paul's Bay. The town is less purely residential than Naxxar and, yes, the sea mattered to me. Last winter, I would look at pictures of apartments in Malta and daydream about one with a view and a quick walk to the sea. I didn't really expect to get the view or walk, but I have. The pictures are from the roof of the apartment, but I can see the sea and hill from the rooms in the apartment. I'm delighted and will also soon learn whether I can become a dog person as well as a cat person [Hercules, the cat, lives in the flat on the first floor of the building.] I move in tomorrow.

another try on photos

Thursday, September 20, 2007

photos from arrival

I just succeeded in adding a picture, so now I'll try more. The next learn to blog step will be mixing with the text and labels.

Oops, I'm still having trouble, but here is one of Mdina.

malta photos


I landed in Malta to the auspicious sound and color of fireworks, a tradition for the feast days in each of the communities on the Island.

It was hot and humid, but getting through the airport was easy. I was delighted to find that both the US Embassy cultural affairs officer and Stef, the liaison from the U of Malta (and boyfriend) were there to greet me, if only for a few minutes. They had a driver and car ready to take me to the University residence, where I still, as yet, reside.

I awoke to sunshine, the ringing of Sunday churchbells, and the sight of flowering hibiscus outside my balcony. In the courtyard of the facility I saw palms and the swimming pool. A walk, even in the heat, yielded excellent narrow and walled streets. I like peeking into gardens and looking at all the doorways and wrought iron. I found a place called San Anton gardens (presidential palace), which were lovely--I promise photos eventually. As I walked through Lija, Balzan, and Attard, all I heard was Maltese--a lovely-sounding lanugage. I can catch some English and, especially, some Italian influence in it, but it is no Romance language. It is a Semitic language, heavily influenced by Arabic. Lucky for me they ue a Latin script.

Later, a member of the faculty picked me up to look at his place in "far off" St. Paul's bay. I'd guess it is about 10 miles from the main urban area. Wow, great view of the bay in one direction and in the other of a hill. I even liked his dog. We walked the three blocks to the shore and, well, I just can't describe all the colorful boats, buildings, bathers...and that blue of the sea. He took me to a seafront restaurant and we had excellent conversation, fish, and wine. I almost took the place on the spot--and might yet do so.

Monday took me to the university, where I began the paper work and met Prof. David Attard, a distinguished maritime lawyer. He directs both the International Maritime Law Institute (IMLI) and the International Law part of the faculty of Law. I'll be working with both the IMLI and in the Faculty of Law. On T and W I attended a Life Long Learning conference, headed by the internationally known Peter Mayo. The Maltese attendees were primarily in nursing, but there were some educators. Most of the international attendees (Sweden, Finland, Montenegro) were actively involved in promoting life-long learning/education. Needless to say, I learned a great deal about education and nursing in Malta and in Europe. It reallly is very different from the US, a matter I will eventually take up in this blog.

Nursing in Malta is in the midst of the kind of change that nursing went through a few decades ago in the US--they are moving to full degrees and beginning to offer a graduate degree. What this means in practice is that the entire community is very open to change and possibility. Much of the emphasis in the conference was on change and, especially, on the policy and politics side of education for life. The nurses noted that they did not "do" policy, but saw its relevance. I mentioned that I had heard a nurse educator in the US, who was lamenting the sorry state of public health in the US after 9/11 (at a Homeland Security Dept meeting), say that US nurses needed policy education. At the end of the conference I offered to have coffee and policy discussions with the nurses, if they were interested. I hope we get to meet again, whether for a mutual exchange on policy or otherwise ( I got a great tip on shopping, too!).

One of the nurses on the U of M faculty said she might have an apartment. So I went and looked. Lovely area, sleek, modern. It has distant views of water and spectacular ones of the cityscape. So, I'm also considering that one. I hope to have a home in a day or two more.

After the conference, Prof. Gustafsson (Sweden) and I went by bus to Mdina, the medieval capital of Malta. We walked all through it and looked out over the island. it was something, and I will go back. We got turned around at one point, but with local help got that straightend out. He was very good company, so that will become a memorable evening of sight-seeing and exploring a new place.

Today Stef and a very kind man from shipping and I went to customs to get one of my boxes. It was one randomly selected for checking. It was a brief and friendly affair, mightily facilitated by the shipping expert who took us there. More paperwork followed on campus...and now I have network access to the university system.

Then Mr. Anderson, cultural affairs officer of the US embassy, picked me up for lunch and visit to the embassy. Due to various travels by higher ups, he was representing the US today. So, he had the ambassador's car--flying the US flag and all. Off we went, looking quite official. We talked over other things I might do while here and life and politics in Malta. I really enjoyed the conversation. I realized when we went to the embassy that I had not actually been in an embassy; I've only been in the State Department and at the Canadian Ministry of External Affairs. So, it was interesting to see the various consular functions.

There is so much more, but I'll stop for now. Too many words, no pictures!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Getting closer

I'm leaving soon, just a week away.

I have one possible lead on an apartment--sea view and a view of a hill that will be covered in wildflowers Dec-Mar. Those flowers would be quite a change from the snowy world of Michigan Tech.

I'm not sure my mind has quite caught up with the date. I have yet to send some boxes ahead, but I know I'll finally do it. I've delayed because each time I check a box I take things out of it. I'm sure that's a good sentiment.

I've nearly finished off the little details at work and have handed off my various jobs to good people. It will be fun to see what they've changed or created on my return.