Stand in the place where you live / now face north / think about direction / wonder why you haven’t before. – “Stand” by R.E.M
I like that song. I like to be able to picture where I am in relation to the rest of everything. Which way is north, how far away is water, where is the sun/moon/miscellaneous cosmic object, in what direction is my house, etc. Being in Malta, it should be easy to picture where I am, right? It’s tiny. I should be able to list my co-ordinates at any given moment…. since there are only 316 square kilometers of archipelago to choose from.
It is much smaller than my hometown (see the above comparison map). If cities ate countries for breakfast, Ottawa, Canada could probably eat Malta for breakfast. (But it would be dusty and I bet it wouldn’t taste very good. Lotta cats.) As a leather worker I met in Valletta put it, the island is “the last dot God thought of.” God built the world, he said, and them whimsically dropped one more rock into the Mediterranean Sea.
So why do I keep getting lost?
Because straight, grid patterned streets would be too easy for an invading force to navigate. Historically, the island, being so well placed in the middle of the sea, has been a target for many an army.
Well, the city planners of yore would be happy to know their idea worked.
I, the er… unstoppable invader, am drawn into these adorable little streets and before I know it the sun has vanished from sight, the buildings on either side having blocked it from view, and the gradual curve in the road has turned me right around. I know where I am but I’m still lost. Well played, Maltese olden-timers.
I’m trying to embrace this being “lost” thing. I wander on foot or bike or bus, use the sun (if possible) to orient myself, ask for directions. I have a vague tourist-geared 8″ by 10″ map I refer to sometimes that shows the major (haha) city (hehe) centres. But mostly I just freestyle stumble my way through the country. I hold onto the fact that, worst come to worst, if I keep walking I’ll eventually hit water. And then I can follow the coast back to Birżebbuġa where I am staying with my aunt and uncle.
I’m discovering good things can happen when you’re willing to get a little lost.
To Be Continued.