Wednesday, December 19, 2007

law in malta

No, unlike the dog bite and medicine, I am not writing because of a recent encounter with the law.

Rather, I went to the Christmas party of the Laws faculty and got a ride back to university with the associate dean, who does constitutional law here.  I now have the very basic outline of things. Malta has mixed code/common law system.  In Civil Law, it is based on code law.  But in other areas of law and in Constitutional matters, it has elements of the Common Law.  Apparently there is judicial review by the courts, and lawyers will cite other cases.  But, equally, the lower courts are not bound by their precedents.  I may have this somewhat wrong, but that seemed to be the gist of things.  

The Malta Constitutional Court is not as powerful as the US Supreme Court, but it does adjudicate issues of human rights and of the constitutionality of actions and rules (hence judicial review).  If I learn more, I'll write it up.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Malta Medical Care

I got a question from a student in the US on whether Malta had socialized medicine or highly subsidized medicine.  I had answered that I didn't know, but thought it was subsidized.  Apparently, it is somewhat subsidized (I'm open to comments from any Maltese readers!). 

I asked my friend Carmen about it.  She says pensioners and people with low income do have cards that give them free care.  Everyone else pays.  She also reminded me that doctors recently agreed to a new contract with nearly double the pay of the old one, and that is a government-paid thing, I believe. I'm still unclear on whether that is all doctors or just those who would use the new hospital, Mater Dei, participate. I am also unclear whether doctors get one rate for hospital service and can supplement it with office visit fees like what I experienced.  The reason for the big increase was that Malta was losing doctors to better paying places in the world.  Now, some are returning and they are keeping a greater percentage of the newly-minted ones.  

I asked if there was private medical insurance.  There is, but it is generally less expensive to just pay out of hand (I am still unclear what happens in the event of a major illness for those who must pay).  I asked about the low price I paid for my doctor visit, and she said the visits ranged between 2 and 4 liri.  She also said it should be evaluated in light of the local income levels.  But, even that doesn't explain it to an American, where the average family income for a family of 4 is $60,000 (around LM17,000)--and that's not counting the growing income inequality in the US.

SO... Malta's medical care is not socialized  and may be less subsidized than I thought.  But, it doesn't seem as costly as in the US for the little everyday medical troubles.  I shall keep asking around and paying more attention to this question. 

Friday, December 14, 2007

Seeing the Doctor

I've had two instances where I saw a doctor here. Once, when a combination of a local bug and a pulled muscle got me wondering if there was something really wrong and just now about the dog bite.  Both were very different from in the US.  The first one was a house visit and cost me about 15 liri (~$50) plus a few dollars for the medicine.  Today I went to the local apothecary store, where Dr. Gonzi holds walk in (and perhaps also appointments) hours.  Friends here and in the US told me to get antibiotics for the dog bite and today it started to swell, so I dropped in.  Even before he took a look at it, he said "you need antibiotics."  I also learned this particular dog has a 'history' so I will stay far from him from now on.  Anyway, this doctor visit was all of 2 liri (~$7) and I only waited 10 minutes.  The medicine cost more and I was able to get it right in the apothecary. I liked him a great deal more than the other doctor, so I will use him in the future if needed.

It's interesting that doctors do both house calls and this low cost clinic-type thing.  The clinic idea in the local pharmacy is a really good idea in my view.  I imagine the doctor really gets to know his local patients through the house visit and the clinic--perhaps even better than the way we come to the doctor's office on an appointment back in the US.

Anyway, no complaints about medical and pharmacy care in Malta.  


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Malta is rabies free

Due to an unfortunate encounter with the neighbor dog, I learned that Malta is free of rabies. Good to know.  I may  have a permanent memento of my visit to Malta.  It can go with the dent on the finger next to it that I got when I banged myself on a door while carrying a box to mail to  Malta.

BUT... it does mean that Malta has extensive regulations for anyone wanting to bring a dog to the island. So, potential visitors out there, check well in advance of your visit if you hope to bring your dog.

And, while dealing with my bleeding finger, my dog got so excited by the delivery man that he forgot himself and peed in the house. I cleaned that up with my good hand.  He is now in the other room looking contrite. Smile.  

I do believe that I will remain a cat person. 


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Gaia Foundation

Today I said good bye to Chris and Sayward, who are headed to visit a friend from Tech doing her Ph.D. in Sweden. I went to meet with Rudolph Ragonesi, the leader of the Gaia Foundation project here at Malta. It is located at Ghajn Tuffieha (Ayn Too fee ha) on the coast and has a number of project to protect coastal areas, encourage the planting of native trees and plants (Malta has been heavily affected by exotic species), and encourage environmental education. The meeting was arranged by Joanna Zingarello of the US Embassy. She has been arranging meetings with the leaders of a number of Maltese environmental non-governmental organizations for me.

The Gaia Foundation is going excellent work here--and would like to do more. If you would like to learn more check out their website at: As far as I'm concerned, Malta is a special place and in critical need of efforts to enhance and protect its natural and heritage resources. Various development projects, however, seem to crop up rather ad hoc and threaten the islands that make up Malta. Local residents are increasingly alarmed, so this is not just the view of a visiting foreigner. Sprawl threatens agricultural and natural areas of the US. It threatens Malta--but the Maltese have literally no room for error.

In any event, here are some photos. First is seeing Chris and Sayward off --we were at opposite bus stops. A photo of Dr. Ragonesi. One of Charlotte (foreground) the new communications person and Carmen, who has an astonishing capacity to collect and sprout seeds of highly endangered trees and plants of Malta. Then come some photos of Carmen's handiwork in the Gaia nursery.

More clouds and rainbow

Sorry...more clouds and rainbow. The three of us got very excited over a double rainbow in one direction and sunset in the other.

Dingli Cliffs

Chris, Sayward and I went walking/exploring on Sunday. It was cool, quite windy and rainy at times. Nevertheless, we had a fine time. We got day bus passes and went to Dingli Cliffs. There are few photos of that. My camera died and nothing was close for new batteries. Then we had lunch at Bobbyland, a local favorite. Then we went to Buskett Gardens, created by the Knights of St. John in the 1600 and 1700s. It's the largest forested area on the Island of Malta and quite pretty. For reasons that made sense at the time we went home via Valletta. The ride was longer than expected, but worth it in the end. Valletta has some great Christmas lights up. We stopped at a courtyard cafe near the Manoel Theater where there was a showing of local artists.

Monday, December 10, 2007

visitors from Tech/Ghana 2

Another try on photos.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Visitors from Tech/Ghana

Chris (with beard) and Sayward Fehrman came to visit me. They are making their way home to Michigan Tech after finishing their two year tour with the US Peace Corps in Ghana. It's been a pleasure. They talked to my classes, have been off biking in Gozo, we went to a party (which I forgot to take any pictures of) and yesterday we had a lazy day. So, we found Christmas music and Paul's Christmas decorations and did up the department. I may well take some of their Gozo photos, but here are some from the effort to decorate. The Nativity display is remarkable with its giant camels and water buffalos.

I'm having some picture troubles...stay tuned.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

victoria Lines 3

More photos as we headed along the limestone formation and down the hill. It was a great deal of fun. I'm becoming a member of the Malta of the Geographical Society and will go on more of these rambles. Given that I had walked at least a couple of kilometers earlier in the day and then added another one or two, I must have walked 8-10 kilometers yesterday. I'm not too worse for the wear today. There's one picture of me, just to mark the fact that I did it.

Victoria Lines 2

This set of photos are from a place we stopped at after an hour of walking or so. It begins (photo at the top) with a view towards the distant cliffs of Gozo. The rest are other views.

Victoria Lines

I share an office with Paula, who does the administrative work for the Mediterranean Journal of Human Rights. She is one energetic person! She told me about a "walk" the Malta Geographical Society was having yesterday and asked if I would like to come. I said yes. I took the bus down to Valetta, where the group was getting picked up. Off we went. We walked at a good pace for 2.5 hours. That was quite a ramble. We went from a place near Chadwick Lakes (actually an irrigation project) to Mgarr [sounds like emjar]. There are two Mgarrs, this is the one on Malta, not on Gozo. The walk took us up and along what are called the Victoria Lines. Malta has a series of limestone ridges and this is one of them. While walking I suddenly realized that clumps of leaves were really bulbs like paperwhites. I asked and people said yes, they would bloom in January. I can hardly wait. Also, up in the area we were in we found wild thyme and many other fragrant leaves. Quite nice!

This set of photos begins (at the top) with a picture of Paula in the foreground and her friend Hilda. It has scenes from the way up the hill to the limestone formation.


My favorite natural feature of Malta are clouds. I know that sounds odd, what with the lovely sea views and limestone cliffs. But the clouds are simply remarkable. You can look to your right and have blue sky, to your left is a dark grey mass bringing rain, behind you are clumps of them. They build up in the sky, take fantastic shapes. Well, I just love them and can say I've never seen anything quite like it. This is a photo of a rainbow against the dark rain clouds.