A NYT article about libraries and civil society was one of the warmest and most hopeful texts from the other side of the Atlantic in the recent years. It made several key points: libraries are open, inclusive and fun spaces to interact – or to be by oneself. The growing emphasis on libraries can hopefully replace the recent obsession with cafes in many discussion circles.
On my three most recent visits to Vilnius, I couldn’t help but admire how cool the national library has become. People go there to record their podcasts, schedule meetings, work on their stuff, concentrate on reading or talking, or attend events. The building is bright and inviting. I could only dream of this when I made a few attempts to get work done at the national library in Valletta. The gloomy building was cold and dark, and although I enjoyed the selection of newspapers to read and the set-up, it was clearly built for reading something from the library’s archives. To continue discussions on public space, ignited by last year’s Capital of Culture events, Valletta should revitalise its libraries rather than move community events and discussions to cafes. Libraries should be our focus as we, as communities and democracies, seek to create the ultimate anti-Facebook.
Last Sunday was the day of 40 birds in Lithuania, which means, according to traditional wisdom, that 40 species return from the South by that day. Some say that due to climate change the list of species changes, but their number remains roughly the same. I trust one of my favourite Lithuanian photographers, Marius Čepulis, for the species count. Meanwhile, I am trying to keep track of bird presence in Malta.
Birds in Malta do not get all the protection they deserve, bird-watching in spring is exciting in Malta, as various species pass by on the way to continental Europe, and, thanks to dedicated volunteers who monitor protected birds against hunting offenses, many survive the journey.
Robin is a common and brave bird. Click on the images to enlarge them
When I was still relatively new to Malta, I wrote about how the Danish word ‘hygge’ captures what I sorely lack in Maltese houses and offices. Now I’m going to use the Swedish word ‘lagom’ to explain, in my understanding, why so many people get frustrated about living in Malta but continue living there.
Being a member in a couple of Facebook forums for immigrants, I frequently see some people estimating, half jokingly, how long it takes until some Maltese member will virtually shout “Go back to your country” after an immigrant complains about this or that. A few hours. A day! Maltese people join immigrant groups for various reasons – to sell stuff, to advertise, – or to offer tips and helpful advice. Once in a while some of them snap in the face of criticism of their country. Those who complained get an additional point – “you see, they’re not welcoming people after all.”
My theory about the patterns of complaining among Malta’s immigrants on social networks has to do with cognitive overload. It is rather difficult to form habits and automatisms, because you have to be on the lookout as you move around, and constantly process the environment. Various negative stimuli add to the overload (noise, pollution, eyesore buildings, stressful road conditions, dust, garbage and pervasive humidity assault all senses). But I’ll elaborate this some time later. This time I’ll try to answer the question why people stay in Malta when they see so many negative aspects of both its development and its cultural habits. Continue reading
Real estate mogul Frank Salt, whose family-owned business is one of the largest in this sector in Malta, is known for writing somewhat puzzling columns for the Times of Malta, the country’s largest, conservative-leaning newspaper. I won’t help the editors, who eagerly publish all this, in their clickbaiting efforts, but you can find out about Salt’s interpretation of things by searching for his name plus ‘Times of Malta’.
In one of his columns in December this year, he said of British colonialism: “It was a match made in heaven.” Later in the column he wrote that it paid off to be friendly and not to mistreat people from other countries. Perhaps he was correcting the damage of his previous column, which I wanted to discuss here not because of its any meaningful contribution to public debates, but because of a very interesting warp in Salt’s reasoning, where he starts off by stereotyping and blaming people from other countries and ends up admitting that many of the problems boil down to bad infrastructure. Continue reading
I recently had a story published in the Equal Times – one of my favourite publications to work with. As always, it was a demanding process, and I took a long time to work on it. As a result, I collected by far more stories than I could use in the article. Since then, a pedelec rental scheme has been launched in Valletta (I’m still to try it out), and the government hinted at more ferries and other solutions. The blog is a good platform to follow up on the story and reflect on various sub-issues. Continue reading
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
Coffee is one of the greater joys of this life. But it’s important to know the cultural norms of each place to avoid disappointment – I learned it the hard way.
Rule No. 1 is easy: never order a coffee by saying just ‘coffee’. In Portugal, ‘coffee’ means ‘espresso’. In Luxembourg, Lithuania and many other places, it means a regular black coffee, which is a less diluted version of americano. In Malta, by default, ‘coffee’ it means tasteless instant drink. Fair enough, despite being so close to Sicily, this is what local people seem to enjoy. But if you, like me, like the continental style black coffee, espresso lungo is as close as it gets.
A local blog entry on living plastic-free a whole month has been on my mind for a while. Being in the Mediterranean makes me more aware of plastic waste. In Egypt, gorgeous observation points and splendid buildings were often marred by piles of plastic waste accumulating around them. In Israel, all vendors insisted on packing everything in plastic. I collected these bags and took them with me to the market, but even with my restrictive habits, I had to vacate a full cupboard section of plastic bags before I moved out.
Now in Malta plastic bags are typically given by default, and they are not like the super useful Lithuanian plastic bags with handles, that can be used for carrying stuff and are easy to tie. On a windy morning, carelessly discarded garbage becomes a chaotic orchestra, with papers swishing about, cans rattling and plastic bags rustling. The news came out today that recycling has dropped in Malta, one of the least recycling countries in the EU, and so the crowded beautiful island is drowning in garbage. I’d like to imagine that perhaps the figures quoted in the newspaper are partly to do with people using less plastic and having less to discard, but I strongly doubt it.
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!
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