Monday, December 26, 2005

Feliz Navidad!

I was going to wish Gode Yule, but I'm not exactly sure how it's spelt (rule of thumb for Swedish, when in doubt, take an english or german word that means roughly what you want and pronounce it like the Swedish Chef.

Seriously, he might be a muppet (literally, not just in the sense I use it to mean slightly stupid person) but that man has done wonders for my pronounciation. It's definately not right, but it's better than saying it English-style, at least I'm trying.

Maybe this is why I didn't get promoted, advising people that "hurdy hurdy børk! børk! børk!" is a good way to practise Swedish probably isn't part of the Anglo-Swedish edition "How to win friends and influence people".

And to think I wanted to be a diplomat. Regular readers of this blog (so that would be Mum and Dad since no one else has the patience to wait for me to feel like writing) will remember previous incidents of my cultural sensitivity.

On that note, Australians really are special. We (a multi-cultural group of guys from work) met one at a party on Friday - the host had pointed her at me because I was from New Zealand.

"Oi beet oi ceen giss weere youse is from" (that's enough dialectising from me, for any readers unfamiliar with Straylan, you'll just have to imagine a female version of the crocodile hunter, only a lot more nasal.

She "guessed" where I was from. This is not a great achievement at the best of times, but when people have been calling me Kiwi (since I'm one of perhaps three New Zealanders on the island) from the minute I walked in, it's a gimmie.

Sinder - an Indian-British guy who sounds straight Birmingham and looks straight New Dehli (or whatever the sub-continent's equivalent of Birmingham is). According to miss Geography, he's definately French (to be fair, he does have a gallic nose).

Karl - was probably born within a stone's throw (at least by catapult) of the house we were in is definately Polish.

Cyrus - he's portugese-spanish but apparantly looks hungarian. After a strong hint she guessed portugal. He hinted "and the country next to it" "ummm, Italy". Now, I know that Australian high schools haven't been the same since Susan Kennedy had her accident (neighbours joke).

Anyway, you get the idea.

While I'm busy offending people, recently I have learned that you can describe 90% of Maltese women with the following adjectives - short, black hair, loves shopping, hot-tempered, loves shopping, lots of cousins, probably has a name from the bible (unless their family ran out).

The families here make my mother's network of relatives seem very Protestant. One guy in the office literally had 50 something first cousins (he thinks), another is well into three figures if you include second cousins.

Actually, if you replace one or two of the "loves shopping" with "loves cars" you have a pretty good description of 90% of maltese men as well although the name thing is less accurate since a lot seem to be called Mario (or at least the ones called Mario are always shouting at people).

Well, that's my daily dose of political incorrectness out the way.

Hope ya'll had a good Christmas (if you're in my family, presents are on their way, I promise - although my sister and one brother have already recieved, so I'm running at 33% on time delivery, which isn't bad by my standards).

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Long overdue Richard update - mostly random pontificating actually

Well, it's been almost a month since I last wrote anything, and from memory, I didn't write very much then. In my defence, I have worked about 320 hours in the last month (that's an average of 80 hours a week, don't get me started).

People sometimes ask me what it's like living in Malta (or they would if I had any human contact with people outside work). To be honest I don't really live in Malta. I live in little Anglo-Swedish internet company colony that happens to be in Malta.

The short answer is to visit (the tourist board website). A more accurate answer is

Since I'm me, I'm going to give a much longer answer which won't have much to do with the question (I really am much better suited for the academic world than the business one I think). But more on that later.

The comparison with colonisation is a deliberate one - we come from overseas to exploit Malta's resources (a very low tax rate for Internet companies and a cheap source of English speaking labour). We have Maltese people working for us but they are mostly on the bottom of the ladder (although the intelligent ones are getting ahead nicely with experience). By us I mean that the company has Maltese employees - it's the law and they can't find enough foriegners to bring in and Maltese people are cheaper because there are no relocation costs and they compare the salary to Malta (very good) not London or Stockholm (poverty line). I also mean that most of the employees here have employees of their own.

I believe that Matt and I are the only foreign people in the company who do not have a cleaner. This might be because we are both happy with a moderate level of dirt and mess. It might also be guilt from having family servants as a child (his parents work for a big Japanese company and they spent time in Thailand where I assume they had locals working for them) or maybe that's just me. It is weird to me that a flat full of guys in their 20s have a cleaner (it's also weird that their flat is probably in the top 10% or 25% of dwellings in Malta). Mind you, most of my fellow employees need a cleaner since they make me look domesticated, which I guess I am actually -I cook (when I have time), I clean (when I can be bothered), I know how to do laundry (one of my friends here actually had to be shown how to work a washing machine!).

Sure, I haven't actually finished unpacking yet, but I never do. No matter where I live, I never get around to using drawers and cupboards / wardrobes whatever they are called. Seriously, the only places I have ever fully unpacked (with the possible exception of family homes although I usually just stored my clothes on the floor there too, much to the dismay of my mother) are the Army (where it was a direct order, and I tended to obey those, most of the time) and Mt Ruapehu (where I was living in a six foot by six foot room - yes it's possible for a six foot two guy to live there, you sleep slightly diagonally).

This might be because shorts and t-shirts are more conveniently stored on a chair or spare bed, it might be nomadic angst, it might just be because I am lazy - take your pick. Maybe I fear that the natives will wake up one morning and throw us out.

Maybe I'm seeing colonial issues everywhere since I did that sort of thing for my honours year in history and am feeling the academic bug something fierce right now (that or it's bird flu).

A native uprising is not likely, in fact their burocracy (yes I know I've spelt it wrong) rules over us, the last two months I have probably paid for the kebab shop guy's kids' Christmas presents.

Yes, I am a regular at the kebab shop near the office. I even have my usual - lamb doner on coleslaw, rice and veges, onion, and chips or mashed potato if they have it - fusion cusine baby, well that and my Belfast heritage, and it's very good mashed potato. I don't know why a Turkish immigrant to Malta makes such good mash but it's almost as good as Dad used to make! In my family that's a higher compliment than like Mum used to make - I may disparage her cooking from time to time, but she is actually a pretty good cook, it's just that Dad is much more cheffy in his approach to food).

So yeah, I hinted earlier that I was thinking about going back to university. It wouldn't be immediate, I'll probably be here for another few months / couple of years - we'll see how my application for a promotion goes and if my job gets better than it is now. If it's a few months I will probably do one more immature job (at a ski resort in Europe I think) before probably heading back to NZ. I suspect I will do something about NZ history, although if it is military history I'd be better off trying to get into a British university since almost all of New Zealand's wars have been over here. There are a couple of people at the Department in Auckland who I really respect as people and as historians, so I might well end up going back to good old Auckland University.

But this is all speculation on my part. Right now I'm going to stop writing, and go for lunch in Valetta (the capital, where many of the famous and touristy old buildings are) with a friend of mine. It's a bit wet and grey (stupid Mediteranean weather doesn't co-operate) but for a first day off after about nine straight I'll take what I can get!

Anyway, I hope you all have merry Christmasses and Happy New Years (although I will hopefully contact you again before then I wouldn't bet on it based on past performance).

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?