Touched down in Malta twice today, as the first landing was aborted. All went safely, but a good reminder that it always is necessary to close safety belts tightly and stow away things that can fly around in such a procedure, or others.
About from an annual GDP growth rate of 5% people appear to become wasteful. I have seen it in East Germany after the 1989 reunification, when people were running to Aldi to buy fruits, while tons were rotting on the trees. I have also seen it in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, now Malta. I came back from a walk with a few branches of Malva to make some tea at home. On the way I met a neighbor, let's call him George. He became excited when he saw my Malva branches and told me, that when he was a child, they ate the flowers with honey. "Do you want some, George?", I asked him. No thanks, I got some Coke in the fridge.Read More
Cemetraries are some of my favorite “hangouts”. They provide solitude, good perspective on many aspects of life, memories, tell stories and also say a lot about the local culture by how people treat their ancestors. Military graveyards additionally remind us of the nonsense and horrors of war. There is many of all this on the Capuccini Naval Cemetary. But what is special for me, is that here lies Henry Ernst Wild who survived the Shackleton expedition and then died of typhoid in Malta.
Like every year, also 2019 started with a long walk. This time it was from Kalkara to Marsaskala, along the rocky coast and back; a bit more than 20 kilimeters. As of the strong wind from the New Year's night, the sea was rolling on the roks with high swell and in its typical turquoise color for sunny days in Malta. There is no better way than starting a new year like this.
Senglea (Isla) is the one of the "Three Cities" which involves the dockyards. This was the part of the Grand Harbour which was the center of British Naval ship maintenance and suffered consequently heavy damage during World War II. A lot if the region was abandoned and people were forced to move to the more rural areas, causing a lot of tension in the Maltese population which sometimes is still funnily present in some respect. Those who remained in the Grand Harbour region, specially in the South, had to live in ruins. The dock yards became a major employer, and rebuilding started. With the independence of Malta from British occupation (some call it "protection") this became the heartland of the Labour Party. Today, I personally think it is one of the most beautiful places on Malta. Sure, there is still a lot to do. But I rather see the potential than the deficits.
Spring is trying to make its break through in Malta. That means very changeable weather and also quite a bit of the well needed rain. We will be happy about it when the summer kicks in, as the water table is rising. I walked to the Marsaxlokk fish market along the coast from Kalkara. It takes about three hours one way, and is a very nice walk. I like the food section of the market, and of course specially the choices of fresh catch. Even Malta is in the Mediterranean, and you would think there should be supply of fresh food everywhere, there are in fact not many choices. One is the Marsaxlokk market on Sundays and then there is the farmer's market in Ta Qali and a small one in Birgu. Strangely the common food culture in Malta is very "English", even the traditional Maltese cuisine is excellent. My Sunday was filled with all together a 7 hours hike to get a fish back home, and all of it (hike and fish) was very nice.
Today I had the rare opportunity to take a photo of my favorite work space in Malta: the National Library in Valletta. Normally, photography is strictly forbidden. But today, I did not go for work, but for pleasure, to attend a concert of the Malta Baroque Festival. So, I was not facing the librarian on duty - who is a wonderful person, helpful with any question you may have, but very strictly implementing the rules on weekdays for everybody's benefit. Today, on Sunday, I could turn to the security guard and ask: "It is so pretty. May I take a photo?" And I was answered proudly: "Okay. Quick!" So, that's the snapshot you see below.
The concert itself was a real pleasure, excellently performed and guided through. The ensemble was Les Contre-Sujet and they played mainly German Baroque composers (with one exception). I took the liberty to link in a photo of them from their website (below), as this illustrates nicely the spirit they brought to these prestigious halls. I strongly suggest you have a look yourself and hope you have the chance to see and hear them performing. They even kept their humour when the Maltese version of Humpapa Music blended in from the street. I really liked it. The ensemble performing was Samuel Rotsztejn, Koji Yoda, Maya Enokida, Eric Tinkerhess and Takahisa Aida.
It was windy the first two days I arrived back to Kalkara, and there was the long awaited rain or which the island needs every drop. Still I took my DJI Spark drone and flew it in the breeze, cutting a few clips together with Camtasia. This is the production software I am going to use for my online statistics tutorials. It does need a bit of practice. But flying the drone in the wind needs more.
My stopover in Malta was very short, and my apologies to friends and colleagues for not catching up personally. But I will be back very soon so that we can gather in style. This time there were too many profane things to fix: internet access, a new SIM card since I lost my phone in China, dishwasher and the like. As you know these simple things take a lot more time in Malta than in other places. So time flew. Also, after being immersed in buzzing Hong Kong for two months, it also was a pleasure just to stroll along the rocky coast and watch the waves just by myself.
Kalkara is having a feast. It is the kind of annual celebration most towns and villages in Malta have in turns. It is a joyful one, with music, fireworks, food, wine and laughter. Communities here are local, but welcome all to join in. With the view on the neighboring towns or villages, all feasts tend to be more grand each year. And with respect to increasing altitude fireworks reach, the airport adjusts along the year its operational mode to stay out of the way. These days Malta is struck by some heat waves, pushing the mercury up to 44 degree Celsius. After noon until four all outdoor life gets quiet. Only the ones preparing the fireworks, are working under the boiling sun. The construction sites become very quiet during this season. I tried myself and it is impossible to move more that a few bricks, before longing for some shade. People in Malta are hard working. The reputation of Mediterranean lax does not apply here. Actually, I think it applies really nowhere in the Mediterranean. Not even in Libya. This myth must have been invented by people just coming and watch without feeling the heat themselves. For those who think austerity and discipline are the path to prosperity, yes (!), but just come and try to make a move outdoors when the sun stands high. Sure, there are a lot of things which can improve, no doubt. But working harder, is not one of them.
Human Resources is not my field of expertise. But I thought somebody who is researching in this area might be able to make good use of some data collected in February 2017. We conducted a discussion on the undersupplied talent situation in Malta among and with industry representatives of the island state. This was in the context of a Business Forum hosted by the Faculty of Economics, Business, and Accounting of the University of Malta (FEMA). To have a starting point for the conversation, I polled opinions and assessments among 58 forum members. They represent indigenous Maltese commercial activities which are hiring University graduates. Main customers of these companies are Maltese end customer (46 %), foreign end customers (28 %), followed by Maltese B-B (11 %) and international B-B (9 %). 6 % are the supplier of an international mother company. Above 60 % of companies generate more than 50 % of their revenue in Malta. The results were confirming the views that there is a shortage of talent and that graduates are ill-equipped with the skills, capabilities, and characteristics required when they come to the job market. For those who are interested in this field, please feel free to download and use the summary presentation, the original data (sanitized from participant identities) , and the survey. Perhaps it is useful to compliment own research, or as a point of reference. In this context, there is also an interesting paper which shows that the situation is not new in Malta, but becomes more obviously a bottleneck now, during a sustained strong economic growth period. It is by Andrew Triganza Scott and Vincent Cassar (2005): The voyage from M.C.A.S.T. to industry. A perceived gap analysis of the critical competencies' evaluative dimensions in the manufacturing technical sector. Journal of Maltese Education Research. Vol. 3, Nr. 1, 43-60. I opened the comment function to this blog post. If you have any questions, please get in touch.
Swimming season has begun. Given the strong wind we had the last few days, when I jump into my pool in Xgħajra, there are just two options: stay away from the rocks or break a few bones. The currents here are really strong here and it is better to have a pair of fins and jump into the deep water as far as possible. The waves can submerse you along the underwater cliff. The waves are a bit like day-trading at the stock market: rather unpredictable, but you get a feeling for the movement. But it can go still terribly wrong. And there is no "loss threshold" at which you can decide to get out. The good thing about this kind of coast is, that there are no beach tourists. They drown somewhere else in a Sangria bucket.
Last night we had an information session for our EMBA Programme at the old University of Malta Campus in Valletta. Together with the National Library, these are my favorite academic "hang outs" in Malta. After that, a few went to The Bridge Jazz Bar down to the Grand Harbour, and enjoyed, over a drink, the lively atmosphere of an early summer Friday evening in Valletta. My habitat in Malta became the Grand Harbour area, the Three Cities and Valletta. The only transportation needed here is the Ferry from Cospicua to the Valletta Waterside. Of course, beside this, life in Malta is directed to the sea.
Yesterday night I took the opportunity to go to a small performance by the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra in the Robert Sammut Hall in Floriana. Nice programme, well performed, and I enjoyed also the information and guidance by Melanie Waite, who was leading through the evening. I had a little new discovery, which was a composition of the contemporary composer Ross Edwards. It was very Australian, in the sense that I could well imagine the vast space of the country. And also it became a bit repetitive in the end, which reminded me of the long drives through the Australian outback. I have to go back one day.
Capers are flower buds of caparis spinosa, which are pickled in sea salt and vinegar for the use of seasoning of traditional Mediterrainan dishes, salads, fish and even pizzas. The season for picking them in Malta started mid April and now you very often see people with a bag or bowl standing in the bushes to pick their little harvest. The pickling in salt water (about 2 table spoons per 100 ml of water in a covered bowl) induces a fermentation process which produces mustard oil and a strong taste within 3-5 days. Then rinse the capers and store them in salt water. At later stage you can pick the caper berries, which are also etible and used in Mediterranan cuisine.
Beginning of April, on my way to the grocery behind the village, strolling through the secret gardens, there were yellow flowers covering large sports of rural Malta. Now summer is coming and the blossum is largely gone, making space for a hot and dry season. It is the time when life turns its focus from inland of the small island state towards the azur blue sea. Soon most vegetation which is not irrigated or a succulent will hibernate in a yellowish tone to welcome the next rain. This year, winter was quite generous with water and the spring was exceptionally colorful. But now the colors are changing.
This year, thanks to ample rainfall in spring, local havests in Malta are good. There are two main farmer's market in Malta: one in Ta' Qali Attard (Tuesday 16:00 - 19:00, Saturday 9:00 - 17:00) and the other one at Birgu, St. Edward Street (Saturday, 7:00 - 12:00). This year's first local patatoes are available and grains will follow soon. Both markets have a decent supply of local vegetable and fruits. And of course such markets always teach you a lot about traditions and culture. It is good to see that the demand for such products is growing. The easy acess to junk food and degraded eating habits are already a public health issue in Malta. And also a success in local agriculture will return the value of agricultural and garden land, which otherwise turns too easy into a rubbish tip here.
Behind the house there is a path leading along thick fortification walls to a small land of pines, olive trees and secret gardens. It is still the green season in Malta. Soon, the temperatures will rise into a Mediterranean summer, and the colors will be dominated by the yellowish limestone. It is said that the village name "Zabbar" derives from the Maltese 'tiżbor', which means pruning trees and goes back to the Middle Ages. I have my own paths through Malta, which keep me away from the noisy and congested traffic. This is one of them. In Malta you have to connect the dots in your own way. And that's not just when looking at the map.
If you google "Gallic Music", you might end up with "Gaelic Music", which is about the Scottish equivalent of German humpapa music (better though). This is how the google algorithm, by following the masses, can put you on the wrong track. Of course you don't google anyways but you ixquick, if you don't want somebody advertising you the wrong music for the rest of you life.
When I bought myself a ticket to the Teatru Manoel for yesterday's performance of "Gallic Music for Cello & Piano", I just wanted to have something to ambulate to, between campus and home. Had no expectation. Then, it was great! Of course, I knew it would be Gallic (not Gaelic) and turned out to be an homage to La belle Epoque, in an extremely good interpretation. The cellist was Sebestian Hurtaud, a young man with a special style of expression with his instrument, and at the piano was Bruno Canino, who was of amazing lightness and you could feel the twinkle in the eye of a master who has "seen it all". It was also my first visit to the Teatru Manoel, built in 1731 by Antonio Manoel de Vilhena, Grand Master of the Knights of Malta. It is a wonderful wonderful place.
I was thinking of how to illustrate this post graphically, and lacking an own photo, I took a painting of Giovanni Boldini in the spirit of La Belle Epoque, portraying the perhaps first "Supermodel" in history: Cleo de Merode.
Along the coast of Malta, you often find stone pans carved into the rock, from the time of former salt production - some of them up to 350 years old. The Mediterranean has with > 38 ppt a very high salinity, given high evaporation, low rainfall and being except the Gibraltar strait cut off from the Atlantic. But I guess, the main reason why they exist is not the salt content of the sea water, but the need for Maltese to take any business opportunity and no other significant resources on the island. The salt pans pictured below, are no special ones, but just a structure you find walking South of Fort Rinella - here taken on the New Year Walk 2017. Of course, now is not "salt season", but in the hot summers.