Home Is Where The Heart Is
(Sudbury, Ontario, Canada)
George Cross Award Commemorative Day
On the edge of burnout and desperately needing to get away, I talked to my husband Chuck, about planning a vacation. I said I wanted to see the country where he was born and raised. I wanted to see Malta. It was to be my very first trip anywhere outside of North America.
We started planning the trip immediately; finding an apartment, booking a rental car, making flight arrangements and finally, getting in touch with family that Chuck hadn't seen in over 30 years. The six months leading up to our trip were full of excitement and stories, research and pictures. But nothing was as exciting as finally touching ground at the airport.
We arrived on April 3, 2007 and my life hasn't been the same since.
We had made it across the ocean to a different country, a different culture, a different language.
As soon as we cleared customs there was a scream and Chuck's sister Connie was running towards us. Then came her husband George, her daughter Yana and daughter-in-law Fiona. Rib breaking hugs, and tears, and laughter, and even more tears ensued.
I knew at that moment, I had found a home.
For three incredible weeks, we revisited the places of Chuck's childhood and discovered all the new places that had grown up since he had left the Island.
We visited every historical and cultural site. We walked through the valleys, the fields, and the streets.
We attended the Strawberry Festival at Mgarr, the Good Friday procession at Mosta, and the Easter Sunday celebrations in Birgu.
Chuck and his family were concerned that the crowds would be overwhelming for me but all I could see were friendly, smiling faces. Kind faces. We visited with all the family and there was a LOT of family. Every day dawned with a new adventure just waiting around the corner.
I was in love with Malta.
Underneath all of the sightseeing and tours, throbbed the true heartbeat of my Malta experience - the people.
The Maltese people stole my heart. I have never felt so safe, so loved, and so cared for in my life. They treated me as if I had always been family, even complete strangers were there to laugh with us, talk with us, and share with us.
One memory that will live with me forever was sitting at an outdoor cafe in Valletta eating a freshly baked chicken pie with the sun shining and people all around us laughing and talking.
I remember thinking, "this is what life was meant to be like". I think that was the best meal I've ever had.
And then, time started to pass too quickly. The remaining week of our trip dwindled to a few days, then a few hours.
As we stood in the airport saying goodbyes, tears flowing, last hugs given, I felt that my heart would tear out of my chest and that I would never be whole again.
Before the plane had left the ground I had decided that, come hell or high water, I would live in Malta.
By the time we arrived at Heathrow, I had confirmed that Chuck felt the same. When we arrived at Toronto airport, we were trying to figure out how long it would take to sell everything and get "back home".
After a week of being back in Canada, still heartsick for Malta, reality sunk in.
We had family obligations (my parents are elderly and it would be wrong to leave them alone), work obligations, and life got in the way.
With help from Chuck's family, we've begun to make a stronger, more sensible (although far less romantic) action plan. I am learning the language and applying for my Maltese citizenship this year.
We will take things slowly, fulfill our obligations so when we move, it is with a clean slate.
When friends ask why I want to move this is what I tell them: The people are incredible, the food is wonderful, the culture is outstanding, the weather is beautiful, the history is mind boggling, there's never a dull moment ... how could I NOT want to move? And, why aren't you coming with me?
Congratulations Kat - You won our first "I love Malta" Contest!