I get to travel with my job. It is both a blessing and a curse that can take it’s toll on a man. The positives are obvious. I get a paid trip to wherever they send me. I can expense things like meals, cabs, etc. I usually squeeze time to take in some sights and wander around. Some of the places, like Curaçao, I’d never go to otherwise. This is really cool, as it’s something unique that I can talk to people about. However, the negatives also weigh in. It can get very lonely. After a few days, you start to feel down, wanting to spend time with people. Whenever I end up in London, there’s plenty of people who owe me beers and I have a grand social time. Most of the other sites I’m usually by myself in a data centre carrying out work on our systems. You get sick of eating out for every meal of every day. The schedules are killer. For days that I’m working, it’s usually 14+ hours. I miss my girlfriend. She misses me. I miss my cats, my friends, decent coffee, and on and on.
I’m now on a 3 week trip. 1 week in Malta, 2 in Ireland. Malta: Day 1
Malta is a neat country. It has recently joined the EU and has an economy that’s expanding. As a regulated gaming site, we decided to have a presence here. There comes in me. I get to build said site.
To say the country is interesting is an understatement. The place is old. Much of its early development was Arabic origin (much to the detriment of its currently very catholic inhabitants) and it clearly shows. Many of the buildings are sandstone coloured. The roads are narrow and windy, which go around many hills. The country is very hot, and the current culture is very Mediterranean(which I will explain more of later).
I arrived mid-way through a Sunday and after a quick customs check (I arrived via Heathrow, which I hate with a passion) I grabbed a taxi to the hotel. This is where things started to get interesting. The car was a Mercedes, probably about 30 years old, in decent condition otherwise, and had no seat belts. That is correct. No seat belts. This may not be immediately alarming as many people don’t put on their belts when they get into cabs, except that people in Malta drive much like Italians.
After about 40 minutes of this I eventually arrived at the Hilton Malta, and paid about 15 Maltese Lira (about $50cdn!) to the cabbie and entered an quite modern Hotel, of which we got an off peak rate during the height of tourist season. This brings me once again to the Mediterranean culture. We have a contact here that works for us and everything goes through him. His name is Roger and whenever we need things, be it a hotel or things to get through customs, we talk to him. The reason for this is that to get things done here you have to grease the wheels, per say. That and it’s all who you know. Roger knew people at the hotel and brings them plenty of business, so he got us a good rate there. Roger knows that to get things through customs, you need to provide the right incentive to the right people. The whole country functions on kickbacks and favours. It’s not seen as bad here, as it would back home…it’s just how things are done. People here were blown away by the concept of condominiums, as they all said “if I were on the board, I’d be making a fortune.” They all would be trying to get kickbacks from contractors for business, etc.
After checking in I wandered around the local area, which is called St. Julians and is located about 3km northwest of the capital Valletta. St. Julians is generally a tourist trap area. Many hotels dot the waterfront and European travelers are everywhere, particularly British and French. The place has many restaurants and pubs, and some old windy roads. I walked around, dodging drunk men and got a bite to eat and took some pictures. After that, I retired to the hotel at about 8pm and got some sleep as the overnight flight to Europe was taxing. I can’t sleep on planes; fucking things. Malta: Days 2-3
Day 2 was my first day working. Some of our equipment was damaged during shipment and I had to investigate. Most of the day involved taking pictures, verifying the integrity of the systems and providing a report. Though I did manage to do some work in bringing up the systems. From Tuesday to Thursday, I was bringing up the machines, verifying the network, and working to get external access going. It was just standard work, really.I do have to say that I really appreciated the people I worked with their. They were all very friendly and helpful. They took much better care of me than some much larger data centres that I’ve had to deal with. They like chatting and will do it almost anytime. When I asked what kind of wine I should purchase to take home, they all got into a very heated (though still friendly) argument over which kinds I should get. This was a lot of fun. On Thursday I had brunch with our contact in Malta. Roger provided me with a lot of the work involved in setting everything up behind the scenes. Malta: Day 4
Day 4 was my day off. This often happens to me when I travel, as I tend to stay and work longer hours when I’m travelling for work. For this one day off, I chose Valletta as my destination. The most cost effective way of getting there is by bus, and what a wonderful ride it was.
The buses are mostly privatized here, and usually the driver owns his bus. The whole bus system radiates into and out of Valletta, which if you’re trying to go someplace else can be a major pain. The system is regulated by a quasi-government co-op that the drivers are all members of. The rides are dirt cheap at lm0.20 (about $0.75 cdn) and are in wonderfully restored 1950s era buses. They have no air conditioning and the ride to Valletta took about 40 minutes. Needless to say the smell wasn’t very pleasant, but the windows were open so there was some ventilation.
The capital is very walkable and I saw most of it in a little over half a day. After taking plenty of pictures and getting borderline heat stroke (even in the narrow streets!) I took the long, hot bus ride back to the air conditioning of the hotel and prepared for an early morning flight to London, where I will meet up with many co-workers there whom all owe me plenty of beer. A weekend there and I’ll then be headed for Ireland where if the past is any indication I can look forward to brutal 16 hour days, but can at least end the day with a fresh pint of unpasteurized Guinness.