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.


Karol said...

Hi Mary,
I found your initial impressions from Malta to be very interesting. As you may know I spent a semester in Slovenia (University of Maribor) as a Fulbright Scholar in spring 2006. I thought you might want to look at my memories and pictures from that country at
Have fun and keep records of impressions. I believe that Fulbright Program gives an excellent opportunity to gain understanding of the country and people. Enjoy,
Karol Pelc

Mary said...

Thanks Karol,

Yes, the Fulbright is a wonderful opportunity for American academics--and there are programs that bring international students and scholars to the US as Fulbrights, too.