Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Good-bye Malta

Goodbye Malta

I leave for the US tomorrow. My Fulbright “year” is over. I have so enjoyed this time in Malta that I am sad to go, but glad I’ll be with my husband again. I'll keep this blog going for a while--add some pictures and further thoughts, show you some electronic pictures of my home up on Lake Superior, etc.

I am happy to say that I will be back in Malta and at the university for a few weeks next year and will be helping the university grow its international master’s degree programs with US schools. I think a few of the ideas for Michigan Tech-University of Malta collaborations may take hold. And, as I understand it, some Michigan Tech students will be coming to the University of Malta for “study abroad.” As we get more folks from my US university over to this country, we’ll form a “Friends of Malta” group to talk about the experience and think about new ways to relate to this country.

Everyone asks what I liked least and what I liked most.
Long term, I pray Malta really works hard to control the loss of its natural and historical heritage. I’ve been told by Maltese that many Maltese think what would be good for tourism would not be good for them. But, I think, sometimes what would make life good for the Maltese would also be good for tourism. A concrete island will not equal economic development—don’t believe that for a minute when the politicians and corporate leaders use it as an excuse to break the rules. Maltese tell me with longing how it used to be greener or there used to be pretty little villages that they miss. They’ve told me summers used to be not quite so hot. If you lose green, it gets warmer—not even considering what’s happening with the climate. Try it, drive with your windows open some evening and note how pleasant the air is as you go by open fields. Keep at the government for your own sake. If your lives are richer, the tourists will be happier too.

Daily aggravation: The bus system. I’ve already ranted about it. But, again, this is a topic where an easier life for the Maltese would also be good for the many people who visit your land. I wish Minister Gatt every success in his reform efforts. This is an issue that should cross party lines.

The wonderfully kind people I have met. You are a passionate people, but in a good way. I like how you argue about what’s best for the country. [OK…a touch more political cooperation would really be helpful in Malta, members of the two main parties are not different species of Maltese/Gozitans. Did you know that the Gov of California is Republican and his wife is Democrat? They are both out campaigning for their party’s candidate. They have a tradition of getting full-sized cut out figures of their favorite candidates. When one of the candidates does something stupid, their children put the figure outside on the lawn…it is possible to talk politics, have a mixed political family, and do good.]

Your wildflowers and green hills in the winter/spring. The green interlaced with the creamy limestone cliffs and homes set against the BLUE Mediterranean melt my heart.

The way your young people—my students and the youngsters I visited—see a big future for themselves here in Malta. We always say children are the future, but it’s extra special when the children see themselves making changes and fulfilling their lives in that future. I taught 10 year olds to university students. They have a zeal for the future and the kind of love of country that isn’t just mindless flag-waving, but rather an abiding and responsible commitment to their home.

What Did I Learn?

The social graces and taking time to talk to people are important. We forget that in the US—or I do. Americans are astoundingly efficient, but it comes at a social cost. Americans are friendly and polite, but I think the depth of socializing and the capacity to make others feel welcome that I’ve experienced in Malta are things I want to try to encourage in my own behavior.

US commercialism is in dire need of taming. It was shocking to me when I went home for that one week in May. I think it may be why we have such frantic lives and too little non-work related social life.. I’m going to keep some of the changes in my life where I can (see my Ecological Footprint post from a few months ago).

A renewed appreciation for the extraordinary quality of a Michigan Tech education. Professors and students work together in active and energetic ways and it makes for a wonderful experience. I am looking forward to teaching at Tech again. It was fun, however, teaching international relations here in Malta. And very interesting to teach international law to so many different kinds of students —Maltese, Erasmus, 3rd year law, lawyers at the International Maritime Law Institute, diplomats at the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomacy.

I learned I could train a dog to walk on a leash, stop jumping on people (mostly), and just generally be a quite lovely dog. I’d never had a dog before, so this was a surprise. He also helped me meet people!

I have a much greater appreciation for the work of US diplomats and will take that back into my teaching.

This will sound rather “zen,” but I learned that when one is using one’s “gift” it feels light and easy. When you are walking away from it, work feels hard. My gift is teaching and working with students and perhaps helping organizations learn.

I learned that it is easy to spend time in a new culture, but difficult to learn a new culture. I wish I’d signed up for Maltese when I got here, it would have enriched my stay.

I learned to love Malta. It’s sort of like how one can have different loves—of one’s parents, or a spouse, or one’s children. There’s room to love other countries in addition to my own. I had the oddest idea pop into my head when I went home in May. I found myself thinking that the US was too big. Smile.



Anonymous said...

Have a good trip home and spread the word about this oxymoronic island in the med!

Nice meeting you!

Mary said...

I shall do so.

Deb C. said...

I've enjoyed reading your blog, and look forward to welcoming you home! Hope your trip home was good. It's sunny in the Keweenaw although the temperatures can't seem to make up their mind yet.

Alton said...

Thanks, Mary. Though I'm on a different island in a different sea, I recognize some similar feelings.