Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Salt & Light, Ants & the Men's Camp

Salt air, a very light light, and a comfortably hot day—my first impressions of Malta.  (Artists, this is a light to end all lights.) 

I’m not dripping in sweat yet—even as a wait several minutes on the tarmac for my friend to deplane.  I just close my eyes and breathe that delicious salt air and warmth.  I’m here!

An immaculate airport, with a spectacular sculpture in white—second impressions.  No one is at the customs booth, and we walk out into the lobby where Linda spots me first and rushes to greet me with a bear hug—yay!!!!  We’re here!!!!

A bit more of a wait as her husband arrives on another plane, and then we head off to our lodgings—but not before nearly being killed in the parking lot.  A Maltese plate.  So pedestrians are targets, like in Italy.  Note to self.

Now it’s hot.  The car is hot, the air is hot, people are hot.  A blanket is spread on the back seat, so we don’t burn our legs.  Haven’t seen that since I was a kid going to Jones Beach. 

The sights are glorious.  I feel like I’m in Jerusalem more than anywhere else—olive trees, low, very light beige buildings, cactus, Mediterranean flowers and shrubs I’m not that familiar with—but recognize oleander, bougainvillea…lovely. 

The light is compelling.  How would I paint it?  Light the color of the lightest sand.

The Big House: this is where we’ll live for the next two weeks—with a family of 5, and 13 of us, with the rest of the team scattered I know not where.  Open plan, two bathrooms, three floors, umpteen balconies, alcoves and fans.  Thank God for the fans.

A few ants seemed to have followed me over, and grown larger.  Fly on my bed.  Flies swarming a fir tree across the street.  Nowhere near the flies in Bobbio.  Thank God for that.

The Maltese strike me as small of stature, and oppressed.

We go to the men’s camp, so the manager can look us over, check our passports, and give us paperwork to fill out.  We get a look at some of the refugees, clinging to shade, and mostly looking Somalian. 

Most touching moments of the day: a guard the size of Yogi Bear and looking quite intimidating on entrance is found on exiting to be feeding a stray cat he took in.  He smiles shyly, and scoops more kitty chow on the floor.  We shake his hand and bless him. 

Pack to the prayer center, where chicken curry, a Maltese pasta dish, salad and fruit await.  And then the dancers are off to rehearse (another flash mob!) and the rest of us begin a time of prayer and worship.  A couple from Australia lead off in the most relaxing and meditative jazz—perfect for jet lag…or…is it….zzzzz….

Three hours later, I’m in bed, staring at the bare overhead bulb, while housemates find their way through showers, drinks, chat and some back to the prayer room.  We will attempt to cover prayer 24/7 for the next two weeks, but no schedule is fixed.  The dancers arrive later and I finally fall into the sleep of the dead…day 1 and 2 of arrival over.  

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