Things I would take with me for moving countries (I)

The headache of packing a huge suitcase before the trip. The compulsory journey to Ikea in a new location. The equations and calculations – how many clothes, how many decorative items, if any, how many things for daily life… I certainly don’t miss any of those. These were my chores of moving to a new country, and I’ve lived in quite a few – usually for various short-term projects or interships. The stay in Malta is my longest, and perhaps it’s a good chance to contemplate how I would do it differently today.

Moving to Sweden in 2006 and moving to Malta recently are worlds apart in terms of logistics and my skills in moving around. When my bestie at the time and I set off to our Erasmus adventure on the opposite ends of Europe, we dreaded the thought of having to buy various utensils, bed linen and the like. My friend decided to take as much stuff as she could possibly carry, and I thought I’ll freeride on the shared kitchen. When I arrived, I found out that the previous student had left some bedsheets behind, which I happily used. In Budapest two years later, I bought some simple things at Ikea and left a box for a student I knew when I moved out – I was told the box travelled for several years to come from one Lithuanian student to another. Buying mugs, forks and pillowcases in each new country is annoying.

Since then I am continuously working to optimise my luggage when I travel, and so moving into a new life abroad would not be tremendously different from a trip on a low-cost airline. These are the tips I’d like to pass on to movers of today.

  1. Think about the various occasions you are likely to have in your new country. Will you be required to wear formal clothes every day? Are you excited about some outdoor activities your adoptive homeland will offer? What will the weather be when you arrive? Start following it on your weather app two weeks before the trip.
  2. Modify your travel kit. These are some of the things I would certainly take with me if I was to move countries again.

1 – large scarf, which doubles as a blanket, a shawl or a cushion when needed. 2 – a black wrinkle-proof blouse. I’ve had it since my first big trip to Japan. It’s easy to combine with any colours and suitable for formal-ish occasions. 3 – ‘hippie’ trousers to wear at home or at the beach, or to put on top of something shorter when you need to enter a temple or something. 4 – fast-drying Adidas trousers I got for my trip to Thailand. 5 – something small and practical given to you by your friends or family. Your new home might look sterile and lonely for a while, so it’s essential to have something that brings good memories. At the same time, there’s no reason to clutter the luggage and the new place. In my case, I brought an owl-shaped jewellery box given to me by my habitual travel companion, Ugnė. 7 – there’s no way to be without a pair of jeans, especially in winter.

8 – a set of smart towels: beach, hand and body towels optimised for travel (fast-drying, extra compact, etc). 9 – sleeping bag liner to avoid frantically searching for bed linen around your new place, for staying with friends until you find a place, or for various other occasions. Plus the other things I got for my trip to the US. 10 – a top that is actually only connected sleeves. It transforms a T-shirt into a somewhat smart-casual long-sleeved top. 11 – a silk blouse, which takes next to no space and makes me look effortlessly chic. 12 – a nostalgia item. In my case it’s a monkey photo peg, in which I keep printed photos of people I love. 13 – a dress, and I say this as someone who doesn’t like dresses. There are some occasions where a dress is extremely practical, and the beach is one. In my case it’s a thin wrinkle-proof summery dress which can be transformed into something more formal with No. 10 and a necklace, or sort of smart-casual with No. 14. 14 – my new most amazing amazingness, a linen blazer which looks respectable but is comfortable and wind-proof. Its previous owner, who sold it to me at a clothing swap in Malta, told me that I’ll want to wear it all the time – and I do. 15 – a windbreaker jacket. Thin enough for late spring and Northern summer, it can be boosted for warmth with some sweaters underneath.

And yes, the rest of the space reserved for clothing in my suitcase would be turtlenecks and a couple of sweaters. When it comes to shoes, I’d say, winter boots (yes, I need them even in Malta), running shoes, ballerinas, sandals and some kind of formal shoes, and/or anything that the seasons demand.

Once you make a set like this, you’ll be good to go for at least a few weeks in your new location, if not longer. And you’ll also have space in your suitcase for exotic goodies from your country to surprise any new friends you will make.

Drawing on mini canvas

I bought a few mini canvases from Nanu Nana on my last trip to Germany. I love using them outdoors in Malta.

In San Anton gardens

Near Hagar Qim temples

Valletta allows people to have fun for free, businesses predictably pissed

In anticipation of the opening of the Valletta – European Capital of Culture 2018 programme, the city of Valletta prepared a full list of activities for residents and visitors – local and foreign bands, an acrobat flown around by a giant balloon, interesting characters walking in the crowd, colourful projections and, finally, fireworks. As ugly as Mediterranean winters can be, the day was exceptionally nice, with almost no wind. Predictably, many people chose the main square of Valletta to meet the new year – it is estimated that there were around 85,000 attendees, which is around 13 times the population of Valletta!

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Sustainable shopping in Malta at Tiffany’s SWAP

I thought it will be one of these events I click ‘interested’ on and never attend, but I was glad when a notification popped up as I was already in St. Julian’s. Tiffany Malta’s SWAP winter edition was the best shopping experience in Malta and I hope it will be repeated.

If you follow my blog, you probably know that shoppaholism is just about the antonym of me. I’m all for decluttering, reducing, reusing and living sustainably. Over this year I only went shopping for clothes in Malta twice, the other time being at a charity shop in Sliema with my friend. Yet charity shops in Malta are very far in quality from second-hand boutiques in Vilnius or other cities. The choice in local shops is limited, prices are high, and I pretty much have everything I need. But I enjoy supporting events like this, especially because it allows barter. Continue reading

Chocolate festival in Hamrun

I will not touch any chocolate again for at least a week, I thought, coming home from a sweet tooth trap in the South of the island, cheerfully chatting with my companions in Japanese. Friends from other countries told me that the now-annual chocolate festival in Hamrun is something you see once. It’s enough. This being my first year in Malta, I used the opportunity to experience this event, as each of its components sounded fun – sweet treats, festive atmosphere, and participation of diverse communities.

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Bucharest: hidden cafes, imposing buildings and bookstore tourism

It’s typical that the best cafes and bars are hidden in courtyards between several apartment blocks, a friend explained as we went for drinks to a trendy bar, complete with trees and a touch of South American fusion in its menu. With many outdoor cafes and bars outside of the tourist area thus hidden, Bucharest’s eclectic facades look somewhat grim. But who stays with the facades anyway? Bucharest invites the viewer to move on and search deeper.

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Building Friendships event in Msida

The first day of September was rich in intercultural events: Appogg (the governmental youth agency) and UNHCR Malta brought several communities together to share food and traditional music in Msida, targeting mostly families in their Building Friendships event, and Spark15, a young migrants’ NGO, publicized a contemporary music and games event in Valletta. It was a tough choice, but Msida and Valletta being relatively close, I expected to make it to both. The first one was attractive for the opportunity to meet organized diaspora communities in Malta. The second one promised an energetic and youthful vibe.

Msida, home of Malta’s junior college, is a well-connected town by the sea. With the event taking place opposite the church, there was a good chance that passers-by would spot it and spontaneously decide to join. The center of the square was kept free for folk dancing performances, and several food stalls were arranged in a semicircle, offering Palestinian/ Levantine, Bangladeshi, Ghanaian, Maltese and Somali food, with face-painting and drums workshops in between. Continue reading

Manoel Island – the overrated entertainment hub

Believe it or not, it took me half a year to go and explore Manoel Island, which is off the coast of Gzira town and is known for parties and events. In winter especially, it looked like the best parties take place at Funky Monkey, expats′s go-to bar on the island. On the other hand, I also knew the island as an obscure development project, whereby a company, MIDI PLC, is building commercial venues in exchange for restoration of the island’s historical quarantine and other heritage areas. The agreement was signed in 2000 by the ruling PN administration at the time – the political party that tried to win elections this year promising greater transparency than the incumbent government. However, a part of the contract with the developer reportedly went missing. According to Eurostat, three in five Maltese men and a third of women have not read a book over the past year, probably because news look like detective novels or thrillers. As the plan for the island contains a hotel, a luxury casino, and a shopping area, some NGOs fear emergence of the second, but less ambitious, Dubai, while the company promises that most of the space will be accessible to the public.

The island is connected to Gzira by a narrow bridge, which is a road without a sidewalk (not surprising in Malta). The first thing one notices upon entering is the famous Duck Village.

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