Thursday, December 26, 2013

Eating ornaments

... cannot taste good, but Avocet has sampled a few this year.

Gharghur wreaths

Just some pretty doorways on a walk for milk recently...

 Our home below :)


I am... very!
I have drafted the million ideas or past events. Will work to get back on track!
... as I miss blogging and using my brain.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Nature indoors... for a while

When our landlords showed us around the house, the conversation of "pests" came up. They said rarely one sees one or two around the house, but they spray occasionally along the outside doors and that generally deters future guests from getting too comfortable.

When Chris and Nic went in the underground pool room (pumps and things), down the skinny hatch and narrow ladder hole, Nic mentioned the occasion scorpion might hang out on the walls in the dry summer months.

Today, while on the phone with a friend, I spotted a guest with peripherals enroute to the kitchen. I first looked for exactly where Avocet was and then near breathlessly whispered "Ahh, scorpion". To which she had to ask me to repeat myself. So another near whisper came out, and she instructed me to smash him. I said I'd rather relocate him, her laughter followed by "You're crazy! Call me back.".

My blood racing, I nearly frightened Ceti to death by the serious, "Stay back! Ouch!". So while she obediently huddled by the kitchen doorway, I tried to spatula (I have limited resources here folks!) him out from under the wine cellar door (which lays flat on the floor). He raised back (to DEVOUR me!) and in doing so, got wedged between the door and tile with one pincher. So on to open the cellar door, child still in fear and my heart thumping, scurry for the lights, check the walls and chase him down the stairs with cereal bowl and spatula in hand. Scoop him up, I did! And then proceeded to search for any other buddies who needed to be located with him. All clear!

So Avocet and I watched him for a bit, had the "Don't ever touch! Ouch!" lesson and proceeded to walk him down the alley... far down the alley... to his new rocky home.

We enjoy our several large millipedes who move around the house at night and curl up on various rooms in the house, but the scorpions... not so much!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Fort Ricasoli Tour

There are several historic forts in Malta, but only one is open to the public. So we took advantage of an embassy trip to Fort Ricasoli in Kalkara (across the bay from the capital of Valletta), when invited for a private tour of this closed fort this past weekend. 
(above- family shot, view across toward Valletta, barracks from English during WWII)
(below- Ceti and Madame Ambassador, view from the point, steel reinforced bunker from WWII)
The fort is owned by the Maltese government, who primarily offers it out to the film industry for filming. They don't earn much from the actual location, but by the revenue the hospitality to the crews while on the island brings in to the economy. Some more famous films shot here: Troy, Gladiator, Argos, Game of Thrones. It was really pretty amazing to walk into areas and immediately recognize them from a movie... or know your feet were in the same place as Brad Pitt or Russell Crowe!

Many set props are still on location in storage areas. The facilitator also set up some props for our enjoyment. The kids enjoyed playing, and everyone took advantage of the great photo ops. 
(above: the girls playing market, door from Gladitor?, wine from the market set)
(below: lovely archways, doorway to the tiger scene in Gladiator, playing around on the Gladiator set) 

 (above: Calesi's birdcage from Game of Thrones, playing pinchy lobster, wine)
(below: replicated statue, Miss Princess enjoying her throne, archways)
We spent about 3 hours at the fort, walking through beautiful historic rooms and trekking out to the end of the fort, seeing the sea and areas from battle so many years before. The weather was amazing, and an excited embassy bunch made for such a pleasant morning. The hosts and hostesses could not have been more friendly and accommodating, even helping clean up a muddy kid #2 and a bloody kid #1 from our usual family outing antics. 
 (above: Papa and Mini time... grape feeding and all)
(below: learning about the industry, storage areas, making new friends)
 No surprise when we had two sleepy, slouched kids on the car ride home. 

Marine Ball - 2013 - Malta

A last minute dress and our smallest ball yet, but always a great time. Meeting new coworkers and friends, mixed with a night sans kids
and a backdrop of the moon over the Mediterranean was sure to please. 

Here's about the only "selfie" we took, since the embassy had a photographer snapping away. Hope to get those soon too! Happy Birthday Marines!!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Force Yourself Upon Me

A friend drove us again this week. She has "forced" herself on me... which I am very thankful for. I am not a very good "asker", and in this mobile lifestyle, that is often a hindrance. Our personalities mesh, and our little ones are enjoying the play dates as well.

We didn't need groceries, have errands to run or really need anything in particular, so I offered to pass for the day and let her tend to her own family's needs. She suggested instead that we go for a drive, maybe see some beaches that they like... perfect idea!
The countryside is beautiful here; I expected nothing less really after scouring Google images for the last month. She said in a few weeks, after the rains, the countryside will be alive with flowers. I can't wait to see for myself. She showed us the hidden gem of Gnejna Bay and a few others. All picturesque and uncrowded, as tourist season is waning. 

We hit a garden center on the drive home, an excellent way to end the day. (Today, Ceti and I potted some lovelies who moved with us, too sentimental to leave behind. This is far from their first move.) I continued to feed the hungry minions in the back seat through the morning, while enjoying the drive. 
I told her that she's been such a gift to my sanity this past week. She even drove us to the mall for a Marine ball dress, since we won't have our HHE in time for the ball. I promise to pay it forward and continue to fill her ice trays.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bus Riding

As I write, I sit on the public bus at the Valletta Rotunda, awaiting my way "home" for the night. Car shopping again, not fun when relying on public transportation to get you there and back. This one may be successful, better than earlier in the week. (update... not successful, still shopping)

The embassy has a car guru, who they say can "feel" a car and tell you good or bad from standing near it. He referred us to a great mechanic, a quiet and broad man, who declined my handshake the first night due to his grease, but was friendly tonight. He doesn't say much, a nod here or there, but kind eyes. Saviour is his name, so far it's held true in guiding us to safety of passing on some lemons. It's difficult when there are so many imported cars here. As Forrest would say, "neva know whatcha gonna get".

As we sit on the bus at the rotunda, a pretty spot surrounding a lovely fountain, the bus is idle, slowing filling to capacity. I was lucky to board early, as now it's standing room only. An older gentleman, short as most Maltese, glasses and a button down shirt, offers his seat to a woman standing before him. I think she hesitates, knowing he is more than 20 years her senior, but realizes she'll offend, so accepts his kind gesture. He is pleased and stands proudly. It warms my heart and brings a smile that I'm unable to stifle.

In this and many things, I see so much potential here for a lovely 2 years. And call it misfortune or fortune, learning to use the bus helps me feel empowered to keep venturing out onto this small rock we now call home.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Settling into Malta... Finding a "Home"

Yesterday marked a week that we've been in Malta. We've been hitting the pavement hard, seeing houses & apartments throughout the area from the embassy east to the sea. While apartments are luring, with their rocky, turquoise views... all so breathtaking... in good conscious, we chose a country home instead. The fear of two daring girls exploring a high rise balcony was too much. And after 2 years of being a bit "cooped" up in our Dhaka apartment, we needed to spread our wings and enjoy some of our own outdoor space. 

Today GSO/FM (the embassy handy dandies) took a tour of the house, looking for any electrical or safety issues. It received a glowing review, only needing a security fence in front of the pool (yes, I said POOL... yippee) and some deterents around the balcony railings. So in about 10 days, we hope to be out of our temporary hostel hotel, away from the laundry hanging, poor water pressure, noisy streets and hard single beds (well, a "full" bed of two singles pushed together in our room), and on to start "living" our next two years in Malta.
(The office, "wine cellar" door, kitchen and dining areas.)
The house is in a small village between the ocean and embassy, a short 5 minutes to Ceiba's new school & about 10-15 minutes for Chris to work. Part of it was an old stable; the owner gently built around its history, staying true in design and carefully decorating. The stone is amazing, and it feels like a castle in places (especially the master bedroom). It's a quiet place, as when we went the other night to see the house in the night (wanted to see if it was brightly lit and quiet), we heard nothing but the crickets outside. Imagine we will need the drone of fans for a while, until we remember the quiet nights of our old woods home in Illinois. And I'm sure the neighbors will know the girls first names and some colorful vocabulary from hearing our discipline echo down the narrow, stone streets.
(The 2 living rooms, door to guest bath/laundry, back patio and spiral to 2nd floor)
Cannot wait for our things to arrive, though our UAB (air freight) is here awaiting us already. Our HHE should be just a week behind our move in date, we anticipate. Most rentals in Malta come fully furnished and equipped, so we shouldn't miss a beat until our effects arrive. Hope our king bed fits through the door...
 (Guest bed with private balcony, girls' bedroom overlooking central patio with garden)
 We couldn't have found a better fit, and we hope no quirks come up later. But their taste is spot on with us, a bit quirky and eclectic. The garden area is picture perfect, and their attention to detail is lovely. We can't wait to borrow it and call it our own for a spell!
(Landing stairs to the "castley" master, upstairs bath)
**After note to you FS peeps or explanation to others, most Foreign Service housing is previously arranged and provided upon arrival... complete with some stellar furniture (sometimes a few years behind in style). A few areas remain LQA (Living Quarters Allowance), where you are allotted a budget to find and maintain your own housing. Sometimes this is a curse and sometimes a blessing. Malta utilities are high and most everything is imported, so you have to chose with your pocketbook and not your eyes. Hopefully we made a good choice, time will tell!