Written by Alex Hickey
Tuesday 18th July,
Looking pretty in a den of thieves is like trying to sell bacon at a pig pageant. A scorcher of a day rises and a hangover is an unwelcomed reality when waking up in the wrong person’s bed on such a sun soaked day. The sad fact of the matter though is that in the placid, crystal seas of the central Mediterranean, this kind of thing is fairly common place. Half way across the island, with a meeting at 10am nearly an hour and a half to get there, the burn one tends to feel is not necessarily from the sun.
“Stay and have a coffee,” she insists
A quaint notion and not one that wouldn’t be welcomed, but in the fast paced world of an island high on amphetamine and laughing gas, each wave counts and must be caught.
“I wish I could baby,” I announce “But I have to get to my next meeting and I probably won’t be done until tomorrow morning.”
Sadly this was about as true to form as could possibly be; Tuesday had begun and was not letting its guard down for anything.
After a beautiful, hour long bus ride that should have taken maybe twenty minutes in any other country, I arrived in St. Julian’s. Food is a luxury when time is an asset and one must choose his stance on many very obvious things with caution when in this position. I picked up a burger from a local burger joint as I had 15 minutes to spare and made my way down.
The meeting was over a content writing job and one of many to consider. The problem in these parts is not as those in many other places, lack of cash or good political structure, economic meltdown or foolhardy practices; in the land of the sun, opportunity is abundant, money flows freely and you’re often stuck between the devil and god himself. After an hour of coffee, pictures to be analyzed and strange, ethereal talk about the job, I had some kind of idea as to what needed to be done, and I was absolutely convinced that a job of such caliber would require ample amounts of dangerous craziness. A possible choice, I supposed, but one that would need to be done ever so gingerly.
After a quick check in with my most recent fling, I was off to my main place employment.
Working in the ESL industry, that is to say teaching English to foreigners, can be a very interesting and often times, abstract job. Three hours; three hours was all I could afford to offer of my time this particular day, far too much was pending and I couldn’t possibly indulge in any more than that. Still a fair paycheck for such a short time which was spent mostly discussing and listening to jazz, but time is precious and one needs to allocate leisure time as well as professionalism, sometimes in the same breath. Banging one’s head against the wall gets you nowhere in this place, an industry filled with diseased mongooses with ego problems at the top and semi coherent garden snakes just trying to keep everyone happy at the bottom. But as they say, you can lead a horse to water, but if he’s retarded, he’ll drown.
And finally, evening came; the final meeting of the day was here. I could relax, escape the vicious rays of the sun and cool off with a nice glass of red wine, true to Mediterranean style. So my lovely accomplice and I passed by the wine shop and went over to her friend’s house to let the good times roll and engage in talks of international business.
We arrived to a home-cooked Korean meal; it was good to finally have a warm meal that wasn’t mass produced. We sat and drank for a while and discussed economy and investments and such and after a short while, what we all had sat down and met for came to a head. He offered a teaching job back in Seoul at his academy with a hefty pay; now going so far out was not my ideal plan for the winter especially with those unbearable sub-zero mornings, but I’m malleable at the right price. I offered to sweeten the deal by helping him in other ventures and we finally sat on looking into the logistics of it.
As we drank, sometime around midnight, I had noticed the odd pattern design on the wall which upon further inspection I realized was wall mold; a common nuisance in these parts but unresolvable in the summer months. He claimed he had mentioned it months ago to the owner, but she was reluctant to do much of anything about it. I then asked if he had any rent left to pay to which he said no, somewhat confusedly; there was fairly little he could do on the subject short of litigation at this point because he couldn’t simply refuse to pay; it was after all a health code violation and illegal to allow someone to live there. And at €900 a month for a two bedroom on ground floor in Gzira, he’d been robbed. But with lack of proper lingual skills and a lack of “Malteseness” for lack of a better word, he was unlikely to receive any sympathy let alone compensation for this negligence. I offered to set him up with the board of consumption and in a pinch found a third job opportunity; I never saw law as a feasible career path but hey, I was open to anything.
We sat and drank Chianti until the early hours of the morning; I walked the girl home and gave her a kiss good night. This island isn’t a big one but for those willing to work from 8 am till 2 am the next day, there’s surely potential.
It’s a wild place and things could happen at any time anywhere.