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Known noders

Leaving a long-absent lascaris out of the equation, we quickly reach the conclusion that 1 person out of every 200,000 is an active noder. Let's see a registry entry that beats that statistic.

Considering that the total population of Malta is about 400,000 (no, I haven't made any decimal place errors there), it's hardly surprising that I should be the first inhabitant to add an entry to the Registry. I live in the middle of nowhere, an area called Ta' Qali (forget trying to pronounce that if you're not Maltese), and that's bizarre when one takes into account that a population density of over 1100 people per square kilometer should leave few uninhabited areas.

Malta has been well described in other nodes but is basically a small archipelago in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, and is geographically part of the European continent. Describing its history would take a few years of constant typing since it spans 4000 eventful years of documented history. I shall spare the details and describe life here for a male in his late-twentiesearly thirties (damn!). Malta is a relatively safe place to live in with an acceptably low crime-rate but a paradoxically high drug-consumption rate. Alcohol is cheap and accessible (a pint in a pub ranges between 1$25 for local beer to 2$50 for imported beer) and although laws are rather strict, enforcement is a farce. Since more than 1.2 million tourists visit the island each year, the beaches during the day and the nightspots by night are normally thronged with a variety of females from all nationalities who are forced to dress minimally to beat the heat, a problem that I bear with great fortitude. Nightlife is almost all concentrated in a small area on the East coast and within walking distance over 400 outlets cater for all tastes, from multiplexes to Rock bars and from open air discos to underground jazz clubs. Sleep is optional in summer when leaving the office at 6pm to make happy hour in the pub is a necessity. This is followed by a meal, and then migrating to Paceville, where all the bars and clubs are concentrated. We stumble out of pubs at 1am and head on to whatever form of entertainment suits us. Friends of mine go to clubs where they dance like spastics until 5am while I personally prefer going to a jazz club and listening to live music until 4.30, followed by a quiet pint or two with the musicians. This leaves around 2 hours of sleep with sunlight streaming into my room.

All varieties of food imaginable are consumed with the possible exception of the traditional Mediterranean diet, since we seem to prefer the Italian pizza and pasta habits to salads and olive oil. Fish is naturally a local forte and tastes better here, in my biased opinion, than anywhere else. Rabbit is consumed in large quantities, often stewed or fried with garlic and is considered a national dish of sorts. Other specialities unique to the country are cheeselets made of goats milk and a large crusty loaf of horribly addictive white bread. We do adhere to the Mediterranean spread that includes sun-dried tomatoes and pickled onions, capers and olives.

Maltese wine is made from both locally grown and imported grapes. The reason being that while a warm, clay-rich soil is excellent for certain grapes, it is terrible for others, and drinking the same wine every day can bore even the most indifferent alcoholic. Premium wines are of excellent quality and used to cost much less than their, often-inferior, imported counterparts. The abolition of import duties that EU membership brought along caused a sharp drop in the price of imported wine and this was instantly reflected in the volume of local wines sold.

The pace with which we live is not slow enough to be considered sluggish but much more relaxed than the frenzy experienced in major cities around Europe. Time is concept that is treated elastically by many and procrastination is rampant in the lethargic and inefficient government services. Complaining is a national hobby, so we've finely honed the skill of complaining loudly with a smile on our faces while enjoying a good meal.

The boring stuff

Malta was a colony of most of the powers that dominated the Mediterranean and Europe throughout the ages. Phoneician, Arab, Roman, Spanish, French and, most recenty British rule have all contributed to our tortuous political, social and linguistic history. We gained independence from the British as recently as 1964 and have since been a democratic republic with a bi-partisan system. A smaller and completely ineffective green party tries to raise its voice over the noise caused by two ungainly behemoths, the Nationalist and the Socialist parties. Each enjoys a roughly equal split of favour amongst its minions, making local elections hotly contested.

The majority of the country claims to be Roman Catholic but religious fervour is continously diluted as a nation that was chiefly rural grows up and deals with the glorious West. This is not entirely a bad thing. The islands remain insular and isolated, proposing a quaint face to inquisitive tourists and a claustrophobic chicken-run to the more globally-aware inhabitants.

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