My last meal in Malta: Honey-glazed salmon salad (with a delicious organic mustard seed dressing) at one of my favorite restaurants called U Bistrot. Not a bad way to go out. Here I am, hidden away in the corner of the restaurant, out of the summer heat, trying to be productive (still working on my thesis). But my view out the window of Spinola Bay and the gorgeous church reflected in its clear waters that I often pass with my friends on our many walks to and from San Giljan’s is stirring up some serious mushiness.
My walk back to Sliema from here will be my last, where I will then get ready to go out for the last time at Les and Jen’s flat, where I will then meet the group of friends who have been a staple of my life here in Malta at Lady Di Pub’s for the last time.
I think you know where this is heading.
I can’t believe I leave tomorrow. My time here has flown, but these last couple of weeks in particular. This week, these past couple days, it is starting to hit me. “Sh*t is getting real,” I’d think as I walk around this place that I’ve called home for nearly a year. This is all about to be a memory.
Last night we went to Surf Side to watch the Eurocup game. And I cried. But not because Italy won, or because England lost (went to PK’s — intense game). I cried because we were saying bye again, as another one of my classmates left today. That is what has been the hardest thing to see end.
Never before in my twenty years of school have I had such a fun dynamic with my classmates. Granted our program was the tiniest of all the International Masters Programs with just ten students, but still. We had this great chemistry and collaborative energy in class (one thing the professors never had to worry about was getting us to talk — we bounced ideas and discussion around organically to the point where getting us to shut up would be challenge), but more importantly, we were a close knit group even outside the classroom.
The girl whose good bye made me cry? That’s Taha. Everyone refers to her as Mama Taha, with good reason. She always is the one that takes care of us. If we have a stomach ache, head ache, if anything was wrong, Mama Taha came running to you with just the type of medicine you need. When I was sick and couldn’t go to Carnivale it was none other than Mama Taha who brought me over some homemade chicken noodle soup. But for me, above all of this, Taha has really been like a big sister to me. We both come from similar backgrounds, influenced by being raised by Asian-born mothers who have very particular cultural perspectives. Taha and I didn’t hang out every day, or go out every weekend together. But she was always the one that understood me on a level no one else could. Our heart-to-hearts helped me so much, and really put things in perspective for me. At the end of the year, when she told me how proud of me she was and how much growth she’s seen in me, I cried. I know, I know, enough with the me crying. But what she has to say means so much to me, I can’t help it. I could go on and on about how much I adore her and look up to her.
We have Geoffrey, whose conservatism, metaphorical interpretations, and constant pro and con analysis over any and every decision to be made had me thinking he was my father in a 22-year-old’s body. Sometimes (ok, a lot of times) we would stubbornly bicker back and forth, and even though I picked on him more than anyone else and even tortured him with the assignment of one of my weird voices as his internal monologue, I just love Geoffrey like a little brother I never had.
Gozo cheeselets are very popular, and have been one of the main local products of the Islands since time immemorial. But one type of Cheeselet, also known as Jasmine, has been our favorite for the past ten months. Some of the sappiest, most Lifetime Special-worthy comments come from this girl. But her high levels of cheesiness that earned her the nickname are all the reasons we love her. Jas has this light about her, this positivity that you can’t help but smile to be around. Her spirit has lifted me in times where homesickness and stereotyping has left us all in a negative haze. Her optimism has been contagious, and it’s definitely been something I’ve needed.
He doesn’t say more than a word or two in class. He is friendly, quiet, and extremely courteous to everyone. The perfect gentlemen. Seems normal enough, right? But between his insane athletic abilities (that guy you hate, who walks into any and every sport saying he’s never played yet dominates) + cat-like reflexes (if anyone knocks a glass off the table, before you even knew it was falling, there this fool is, cup in outreached hand in front of your face: “Here you go.”) you realize this isn’t just your average human being. Yeah, I knew something was up with this Finnish dude in the tiny swimming shorts. I’m convinced Miro leads a double life. The whole quiet, really smart, studious, minding-my-own-business, “normal” Peter Parker/Kent Clark by day…but building-climbing/flying at lightning speeds/saving the world superhero by night. After a couple Cisks in Paceville, of course.
If I ever had internal thoughts of annoyance, shock, disgust, or anything else that couldn’t be said out loud and that I wondered if anyone else also noticed, I could always count on looking up at Jen, whose eyes would tell me she sees the exact same thing. I don’t know if it’s because she was the very first person to reach out to me (and was the one who welcomed my mom and I to crash at the girls’ place after only meeting her once), or if perhaps there is a kinship in the fact that we both apparently have the same kind of sweet blood that the Maltese mosquitos just couldn’t get enough of. But either way, I just know that I’ve always had such a soft spot for Jen, aka Hennifer from the Rock. Going to miss her typical “Ohhhh Ev,” reactions after telling her about any one of my series of unfortunate events that I’d swear would only happen to me…only for her to follow it with a story of a strangely similar experience that she’s been through. Only us, Jen, only us.
Johnny Tsunami. Not going to lie, didn’t know about this party guy at first. Too much for Grandma Ev to handle. But I can honestly say that over the course of the past year, he has impressed me more and more. Probably what I was impressed with the most, even inspired by, was his eagerness to learn. I think we as students have become so sucked into the school system and because of its structure, are so conditioned to just go through the motions — need to write 3,000 words, need 5 more pages, read 3 more articles, 8 more sources, all to turn it in, get that grade… If a professor tells us to skip a chapter, overlook a section, we’re glad to do so. But when Jonathan would ask what more he could read outside of the requirements, or ask about real-world implications, it reminded me why I am really here. He wants to get everything out of every experience, in the class and outside, and that’s something that I think we all need to be reminded of from time to time.
And then we have Lara. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I have never met — and I’m convinced that I will never meet — anyone quite like her. She is a riot. And she is wonderfully inappropriate at times, which we absolutely love about her. The tiny island of Malta just can’t contain her. She has this charisma and this way about her that is just so one of a kind. She is the kind of girl that lights up a room, brings life to the party. She has such a magnetic persona. She is ambitious, free-spirited. She says what’s on her mind and is never sorry about it. She is blunt, but she is real. From confessing jokingly her crush on a professor, to telling me how stupid I am for not going to the doctor after getting punched the face, she says what she feels. She is a good, true friend. When you really need her, she will be there to pick you up. She has recently become unsure as to what her future will hold, but I KNOW she will be successful. I know it. Malta can’t contain her, the world barely can. She will take it by storm regardless of what it is she chooses to do, I know it.
And lastly, because he’s Maltese and we just all hate Malta so much and are actually all allergic to any and all things Maltese…there’s Mauro. Ok that was a joke that only the ten of us will understand (sorry). But in all seriousness, I could honestly go on and on about how great of a guy he is. For one, he knows his sh*t. In class, I was constantly impressed with his input and insight. The ultimate gentlemen, so considerate. Just a down right, genuine good guy. Not just my favorite Maltese guy, but one of my favorite guys all around. It is so rare to meet a guy so down to earth and so courteous. A lot of it had to be upbringing (go Mauro’s mommy!), but I’m convinced that a lot of it is just the nature of who he is. We all loved to pick on him, just as much as he liked to pick on us, and it was really fun to fake karate chop and punch him in the face. Definitely going to miss him.
And of course, Les. Our comic relief, our music source, our social media wiz, our all things sun and beach-loving girl, our shoulder to cry on. But you know how I feel about her already.
Our time here is ending, and I’m getting mushier as my departure time approaches. But I just wanted to take note of the amazing group of individuals I was able to meet in my program. We are all so different, but this group of people have really became my family these past ten months. We have been through such a unique experience together. Not only has this been a time in my life I will never forget, but they are people that I will never forget, even as we come to the end of our time here and return to our respective homes, dispersed across the world.
I love you guys. See you b*tches in Vegas once these dissertations are history.