There was exactly no point in leaving. Earlier, at the “ropes course” (i.e. Anna, Pasha, a piece of rope, and two umbrella stands on the beach), I sketched off. Actually, I sketched off twice. We’ll get to that in a minute. 

Anyway, when I sketched off the second time, a couple of other people were sketching off, too. Pasha gave us directions for the rest of the day, namely, to meet the rest of the  group at the Golden Tulip (the hotel where Anna’s staying) for crafts, after which we would go to supper together. That was where it was written on our schedule that we would meet the Rotarians this morning, so I double-checked that it was the same place. Pasha said yes. So I went over there, and it said “Closed.” I should add that the sign on the door was Berlitz, but the Russia-dweller in me figured it was entirely possible for a language school and a hotel to be combined into one with no signage indicating such. That wasn’t the case. So I walked down the street and found the hotel. No one was in the lobby. Granted, I was a bit late. But I was only a little late by Russian standards, and not early by Russian vacation standards. So I asked the receptionist. She said none of the conference rooms were booked, she didn’t recognize the name of our group, and she hadn’t noticed a large group of Russians earlier in the lobby. So I didn’t go to the meeting. Instead, I went to an Indian place I saw yesterday that had an early bird special: 1 entree with rice and naan and a glass of wine for 10 euros. Since 10 euros exactly the limit I’ve set for myself for fancy meals, I was pretty pleased. 

Turns out that in Malta, 5:30 is too early even for the early bird special. The waiters kind of laughed when I came in, but said I could have a seat and wait until they were finished opening up. I sat and read the Malta Times for probably half an hour, which was really interesting. I’ve copied a couple of the articles and games, and they’ll be in the Facebook album. I was the only person in the place, so I had 3 waiters to entertain me. 

The rice. Oh, the rice. Sweet basmati. With not only saffron, but flax seeds (?), cloves, and star anise. Holy God nothing has ever been so good. On the way to the water after that, I ran into Anna and much of the group, who were presumably looking for the seafood place Anna had heard about. They followed the directions she gave them and wound up at the shore. No restaurant in sight. I’ve been in that situation before, and it is 0% fun. Anyway, I tried to apologize to her for missing the meeting earlier, but she had other things to worry about, so I went on down the beach. Talked with some guy from Ghana who was nice enough. He’s lived here for 6 years. He has family in Moscow, but has never been there himself. 

 

Forgive my indelicate segue, but I have a bone to pick. Generally speaking, Russians are SO EMBARRASSING when black people are around. When we were having supper last night, these two guys walked in, and one of the people on our trip went “WHOAAAAAAAAA” and burst out laughing. What do you even do to that?

Anyway.  At the cafe earlier today, I told the waitress with my brain-waves that if their wifi worked and their coffee was good, I would be a daily visitor for the next week. Deal made. None of the waitstaff speak much English–only Italian. Stereotype=reinforced.

Wifi at the hotel is 2 euros/hour. Gelato at the cafe across the street is 1.30. Most people would say that if I go to the cafe, I get gelato and free Wi-Fi. But I prefer to see it as discounted Internet plus a free gelato. 

The Rotarians today were quite interesting. There were three of them, all older men (as you expect from Rotary–or at least I do), one Maltese, one British, and one originally German but moved here 40 years ago and considers himself Maltese. Anna gave a presentation about the work Rotary Cherepovets-Sheksna does, and they gave a presentation about their group, and my roommate gave a pretty good presentation about Cherepovets. Then Anna broke us up into groups for Q&A. We each had a question card with things like “What’s (typical) drink where you live?” The goal, of course, is to add the correct articles (and sometimes adverbs/superlatives). Well, I (obviously) chose the circle with the German, and the activity was made slightly awkward by his very-good-but-not-perfect English, which prevented him from realizing that reading the line directly as written does not end with a grammatical sentence. It confused some of the students. 

Anyway, we talked about all kinds of things. I wished we’d have more time and students who were confident enough to go off-script and ask some actually interesting questions, but that’s life. I think dual-language countries are super interesting, and I could have interrogated these guys (or anyone here, really) all day about it. The official languages of Malta are Maltese, a Semitic language with heavy Romance influence, and English. Anyway, they said in their presentation that all of them speak both languages. So I was curious about the German’s experience with this–how he learned each language, whether he preferred one or felt more comfortable in one even after all these years (rough calculations indicate that he moved here not too long after college). He kind of avoided the issue, talking instead about his children. He raised them in German, but they learned English with their friends/at school. They also speak Dutch and Italian (TONS of Italians here, both tourists and residents). His daughter now lives in Charleston. His son lives somewhere now but used to live in New York, where he was the (an?) assistant producer for Sex in the City.  Public schools here are taught in English, and Maltese is taught like a foreign language. Private schools usually put more emphasis on Maltese, teaching math and science in English and most other subjects in Maltese. 

Erin, I just finished telling you this, so skip this paragraph. The runway of the Maltese airport is 3.5 km long. The island of Malta is 7 runways tall and 3 runways wide. 

The rest of the photos are on Facebook now, my gelato is gone, and I’ve stayed as long as I can (politely) without buying another one.  Ta-ta for now. Sorry about the disorganization.

Oh, one more thing: on the way to Moscow, WE SAW A MOOSE. It tried to kill us.

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