Dispatch from Malta

February 24, 2009

My name is Michelle Hough, and I’m an associate professor of business administration at Penn State Greater Allegheny. I’ve received a Fulbright grant through the U.S. State Department to help promote international educational exchange.  For the grant, I will travel to the Mediterranean country of Malta (located 57 miles from Sicily) and teach at the University of Malta. This blog will tell the story of my travels…

So, here I am, safely arrived in Malta. It’s Monday, Feb. 16, late afternoon, and it’s been a very busy few days. I left Pittsburgh last Wednesday and arrived on Thursday. The flights were all on time and uneventful, with the exception that my younger daughter had caught a bug just before leaving that made for some interesting travel issues. I’ll leave that to your imagination.

Upon arriving, we were met with a contingent from the university, and from the U.S. Embassy which was really nice. When we did this in Denmark a few years ago, we were really on our own so it’s been much nicer to have “people” to help out - particularly Anna from the University, who’s been a godsend!

So now, this next part is for all you back home who have envied my moving to a warm, Mediterranean island - NOT QUITE! We arrived in a bit of a cold snap - it’s still winter here in Malta for the next several weeks, with daytime temperatures around 6C, or 42 F, and colder at night, of course. Upon arrival, we were booked to stay at the university residence for up to a week while we searched for apartments.  At the university residence (also a youth hostel), we were given a small efficiency apartment. The only problem was that it was right next to the students’ common room - very, very, loud as a result, for a good part of the night. And it was not only the students, but the pet roosters which the hostel owns. Did you know that, contrary to popular belief, rooster don’t just crow at sunrise? In fact, they crow ALL NIGHT LONG!

Anyway, we then asked to be moved to a quieter room and were given a small efficiency in “the farmhouse.” One thing I really want to stress is how warm and extremely nice the Maltese we’ve met have been. We mentioned the noise and they really went all out to give us a quieter place. And the farmhouse was very quiet (although the roosters still crowed all night long) and also was amazingly cool. It’s several hundred years old, built of thick blocks of stone, and very rustic. Maltese architecture is built to keep the heat out since it’s hot so much of the year, so the walls were literally two feet thick! I’ll attach pictures with the next post. Think massive stone blocks for the walls and floors, huge rough hewn ceiling timbers, sort of like a medieval castle. Only problem?  Medieval castle = no heat. We had only two small space heaters which were mostly ineffective, the water was only a degree above what could charitably be called “lukewarm.” Best of all, due to a slight mix-up at the front desk, when we moved rooms, our kitchen equipment didn’t move with us. Remember, they cater to college students and youth hostelers so they’re very careful about keeping track of utensils, etc. In the end, we stayed in the farmhouse for two nights and, although we’d bought a few groceries, we didn’t have even a spoon to use. (Yes, in case you’re wondering, we did ask at the front desk to fix the situation but housekeeping had already left and so we were unable to get our utensils until literally a few hours before we moved out!) So, imagine very primitive camping in very chilly temperatures and you’ll get the picture. We would heap covers onto our beds (and fortunately, there was no shortage of covers) and then dive into bed, pull the covers up over our heads, and not emerge until the sun started to warm the place up in the morning. One good thing to come of it is that it made us very motivated apartment hunters.

So now, we have a lovely apartment, about which I’ll write more in my next post. I also will start teaching my classes soon so I’ll write about how that goes. I’ll post lots of pictures next time since my Internet connection will get hooked up at the apartment soon. And of course, since we now have an apartment with heat, it’s gotten much warmer, the sun is shining, the sea is sparkling, and I’m starting to feel like I expected to feel, living on a Mediterranean island. So far though, we love it here, and the people have been really, really, wonderful.  More later…

 

  • Michelle Hough

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated November 18, 2010