- I got to Skype with my mom and sister early in the day so that I would be able to see my mom open her gifts that my sister and I got her. I got to talk with her and spend some quality time with her, albeit on a computer. I really miss her!
- Later that evening I made dinner at home with Melissa. We had cavatelli in a pumpkin sauce with pancetta and peas and arugula salad. To drink? Delicious local Maltese red wine.
(Being Puerto Rican, you get accustomed to a very specific menu for the holidays that includes Arroz con gandules, perníl or ham, potato salad and pasteles. For drink, you can usually find a bottle of coquito along with plenty of other spirits, so not having any of that was definitely difficult but you make the best of it and my best was simple, delicious, and quite local).
- After dinner Melissa and I exchanged gifts...she got me a beautiful satchel with cross body strap in a blush color (we are serious accessories girls and you can find some good stuff in Malta).
- We then went to Midnight mass at one of the very few churches here that give mass in English. All I can say is that it was beautiful and inspiring. The message? “To listen"....listen to God, listen to yourself and chances are you will always find the right answers. So profound.
- After the service, we enjoyed coffee and hot chocolate as well as pastizzi's at the church. A truly beautiful and authentic way to enjoy the night.
- Woke up to a beautiful sunny and warm Christmas day. Sun was shining, waters were calm and the air was warm but dry...simply perfect.
- Had brunch with my roomie at a local restaurant that was truly amazing and SO CHEAP!!! We are still confused as to how the food could be so good and so cheap, but it was.
- After, I quickly came home to shower and change to make my way to Marsaxlokk for a traditional Maltese dinner with my “mom away from mom", Violet and her parents. “Marsa" means harbor and “xlokk" means south in Maltese and I can see where the village got it's name. It is a small but beautiful village south of the island and your welcome into the village are two vineyards on either side of you while the main square is right on the water where all the colorful fishing boats are lined up and a beautiful gothic church is looking down on you...BREATHTAKING! Violet met me in the square and we walked to her home. It was such a lovely home with a beautiful conservatory and her parents are two of the most genuine and kind people I have ever met.
- On the menu for dinner was: Broccoli and Cauliflower soup with potatoes and bacon(anyone who knows me, knows how much of a soup girl I am), main course was roasted rabbit (or as my sister said, I ate Thumper, listen when in Rome...just sayin') and roasted vegetables. For dessert we had homemade mince pies that another teacher baked for us to share as well as homemade Baci made by Violet's mom. We also had fruit salad in peach liqueur as well as local cookies.
- After dinner, we sat in Violet's sitting room, she insisted I call my mom so I did (you never go against the insistence of the Maltese people, they are relentless, but in a way that really makes you feel cared for) and afterward we all just talked---about everything---school, students, how life in Malta has changed over the years, hobbies that her father used to partake in, how he is 78 years old and walks 7 miles a day, and what he did for a living as he worked as an Electrical Engineer for Commercial and Military ships, as well as travel, just normal but very interesting conversation. I was told by Violet's mom that she officially has an adopted daughter which for some crazy reason got me very emotional and I know it is because that when it comes time to leave, it can and will be so permanent:-(.
- When I got home, I was able to Face Time with my sisters to wish them a Merry Christmas and to see my dad, who was in NY from Las Vegas. We joked, we laughed, we talked about my sister Sam's upcoming trip to Malta. I got to see all the food I was missing out on as it was cooking away in the kitchen and I got to see and speak to my nephew and ask him about all the things that Santa brought him (yes he is 11 and yes I still ask what Santa brought him as that is how it will always be!). I even got to see and speak to my sweetart Megan, my pharaoh hound mix, she was resting but I called her name and she woke right up:-)...miss her terribly, my pretty girl! It was truly the perfect way to end the night.
So there you have it, my Christmas holiday in a nutshell. As much as I refer to Violet as my “mom away from mom", Melissa, as well as Violet and her parents, are very much all family to me and during my time here are my “family away from family". As I have stated previously, God knew what he was doing when Fulbright gave me and Melissa the grants for Malta; Melissa and I will forever be family, sisters from other moms, because we already are and we will always be able to see each other as we live in the Tri-state area, but to be able to develop this friendship with such a truly genuine and lovely family as the Rizzo's, a local family of Malta, really makes Malta hold a very special place in my heart. These are people that I will miss terribly when I leave as I miss my family back home. So as you can see, although this was not my traditional way of spending the Christmas holiday, that was really not important. The “how" is not the important part, it's the “who" that is the important part. I spent Christmas with my family, near and far, and enjoyed the holiday in a way that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
MERRY (HAPPY) CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY! Now to ring in the New Year in good 'ole PARIS;-).
Until next time!