mother and daughter on gozo – 1

Since Jessa was only staying in Gozo from Sunday evening until Monday afternoon, I delayed the start of my retreat until this evening so she and I could spend time together.  We joined the rest of the community for breakfast and lunch in the refectory (breakfast: delicious bread and fresh fruit – lunch: pasta course then roast and potatoes and veggies for the main course plus pancetta and ice cream for dessert – sorry, I didn’t take photos).

Before I met with my Fr. Tony who is to serve as my spiritual director, Jessa and I walked into Victoria/Rabat, walked around and climbed to the top of the citadel.  Fascinating structures with amazing views.  


View from the Citadel in Victoria/Rabat, Gozo

After lunch, we gathered our sunscreen and water and set out for the cliffs at Sannat where we knew we’d find spectacular views, and hoped we’d find the trails that we could take along the cliffs to Xlendi.

Spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea, Comino and Malta in the distance (photo does not do it justice)

Jessa staying a safe distance from the edge of the cliff

We did our best to find the trail that follows the cliffs, but no such luck.  There was a wall that prevented us from going the way we had hoped, so we simply headed inland and back to Sannat, through Munxar and down the slope to Xlendi.  Essentially, we walked the southwest part of the island.  Lots of farming and agriculture, gardens and cows and poultry.

Garden plot and farmland between Munxar and Xlendi in southwest Gozo


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we made it to gozo

After Jessa and I made lunch in her flat on Sunday, we took care of some last items on our computers, and headed toward the ferrys at Cirkewwa.  It was chilly and windy on the crossing, but such a lovely sea and islands.  We spent the whole crossing on the top deck (chilly though we were). 

Once we landed, the bus trip to Victoria (also known as Rabat) was uneventful, but we had a little trouble finding Manresa and the Guest House.  Google maps seemed to imply a very simple left turn and a walk of 900 meters.  In the end, that IS where the house is, but the corners and traffic to be navigated were a little unexpected.  We got some advice from a staff person from the bus company, and took a bus instead – it went to two neighboring villages, until the driver stopped and told this was our stop.  After a failed attempt to get anyone to answer the front door (right on a busy road), a visiting sister sent us around through the garden.  We were very relieved, but then struggled to find the entrance.  Finally, we found a side door and a note with my name and the room number. 


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pentecost at the anglican church

We went to Sunday worship at the Anglican church in Sliema, just a short walk from Jessa’s flat.  It felt like a little bit of Britain in sunny Malta.  It seems they are without a rector, and the clergy who led the service are from a neighboring parish.  Most everyone looked and sounded as if they are from the UK.  Most of the worshippers were clearly in their 60s and older, with the exception of the Jessa and her friends, and 15 or so people who were there for a baby’s baptism.  The contrasts between those who seemed to be regular worshippers and the baptism crowd could hardly have been more distinct. Really, it could have been a scene from a movie.

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tired out

 Jessa has been an amazing host.  She came and met me at the airport.  She was there before I got off the plane.  She has managed the logistics and directions and many of the decisions, and patiently dealt with a groggy, jet-lagged mother.  She has done a great job, but I think she is getting tired out.  It must be strange to suddenly be relied on so completely by someone you have relied on your whole life.  I want to think that I have not been micro-managing the plans and details – I’ve been willing to be easy and flexible and willing to let go, and I think that has been helpful.

However, when you are usually only responsible for yourself, it must be a real change to suddenly be responsible for someone else, particularly someone who has been responsible for you much of your life.  I think having some time away this evening after dinner will be good for us both.  I have seen enough things and am glad to have my feet up and my computer on my lap.  I’ll be Jessa is happy to be just a regular college student studying in Malta for the evening. 

Probably wise to share the decisions and responsibility as we make our way to Gozo tomorrow.



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busy, busy day on malta

Usually, we try and pace ourselves on vacation.  It seems wise not to try and take on too much in any one day.  I try and resign myself to the fact that there is no way to see everything that is interesting in any one area, and simply pick what we seem to have time for and are interested in.  Well, somehow that wisdom went out the window today.

After another restful night (amazed that jet lag hasn’t been too bad yet), Jessa met me at my guest house around 8 am and we bussed to the city center of Valetta (the Malteese capital) where we visited the archeology museum to see some of the artifacts from the pre-historic sites we were planning to visit in the afternoon.


Then we visited the Co-Cathedral of St. John (which is rich in history related to the Knights of St John) and unbelievably ornate. 
Overwhelming, really.
After a couple hours of that, I was grateful to walk outside and see some plain, unadorned walls.  Jessa led us to a lovely café overlooking the Grand Harbor for lunch and we enjoyed the sunshine and sea breezes.
After lunch, we made our way via bus to the sites of pre-historic structures.  These stone structures overlook the sea from a rough, weathered hillside and it is amazing to see them and consider how they were built there.  
On our way back to the exit, we followed a trail to a protective tower, but then lost our way when we tried to follow another path back to our start place.  It was rocky and thorny and on a hillside overlooking the sea.  Not too horrible since it was warm but overcast (hazy, foggy even) but we were afraid of getting in trouble for being off the trail.  Finally found our way, and ran to catch the bus and avoid an hour-long wait for the next one.  Hooray! 
We got off the bus at the University of Malta and walked through campus, then followed the route Jessa walks to and from class (about a 30 minute walk) back to the flat.
We enjoyed dinner will Jessa’s friend Luke, as well as two new friends who are from Korea and are here in Malta studying English.  Once the pizza arrived, it was delicious, but the wait was unreasonably long – apparently, tonight is the finals of Europe’s version of “American Idol” and many people were ordering “take-away” so the kitchen got swamped.  Stopped for gelato on the way back, and I am settled into my room with a cup of tea.  It was a full day.  We plan to take a more leisurely pace tomorrow!
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friday with the luther group

I woke at 5:30 am to the same kind of bird songs that have been waking me at home lately.  I felt a little stiff, but rested.  I am not sure I moved all night, but I was very glad I heeded my host Stefan’s advice to close the shutters to keep out not only light but street noise.

After a lovely chat with my hosts over yogurt and toast, I hurried to the designated meeting place for the group today.  It was just two blocks from my guest house, so I was there in plenty of time.  We took a van ride to Mdina and Rabat to visit the national archives and a house/museum in the morning.  After a charming roof-top lunch, the rest of the group headed back to Sliema and Jessa and I spent some more time in Mdina and Rabat, visiting the city wall, one of the churches, a Roman house site and looking at the streets and houses.  As the afternoon was heating up, we caught a bus and took a leisurely and charming “tour” back to Sliema for a dip in the sea.  Ok, Jessa took a dip.  I took a wade, but it was refreshing enough.  The waves were strong and I was grateful to stay on my feet.

After dinner with Jessa at a restaurant on the sea, Jessa an I joined a friend of hers at a local pub for a beer (ok, I had wine) and a nice chat about their trip to Morocco and other things this semester.

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it couldn’t have gone better

My travel was uneventful.  Made the connection in Frankfurt after a mostly sleepless trans-Atlantic flight.  Left on time for Malta and arrived without much to report, except it was overcast … just like a central PA day.  Grey and cloudy and humid.  The topography and colors were different than at home, but the grey was very familiar.  Apparently, this is not common.  I must have brought it along.

Jessa was at the airport waiting for me – we saw each other through the glass as I made my way down to baggage claim.  After a long wait with about 50 others from our flight for the final bags, I emerged from customs (no one wanted to talk to me about my stuff at all) to find Jessa standing near the door with a worried look on her face.  I guess the final wait was a little too long.

We rode the bus through the cities and towns of Malta to Sliema, where Jessa and her classmates live.  I am struck by the uniformity of color in the housing . . . until I realized that it is the color of the stone they have here.  Limestone colored.  Brownish greyish and flat roofs. 

Jessa kept me moving to help with the jet lag and we finally settled in for dinner with her group from Luther College at 8 pm on Thursday.  Excellent meal surrounded by bright and energetic and kind college students.  Finally, at about 9:30 pm Jessa let me go back to my guest house (read bed and breakfast) to sleep.

You’d think that after 5000 miles of travel and about 34 hours, I would have fallen asleep immediately, but I had become accustomed to being awake.  Read a little Malta history to settle in and finally got to sleep around 10 pm.

It really couldn’t have gone better.  And this morning, I feel much more like myself.

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