Sunday, 27 May 2007

Malta-El Salvador: Building Bridges

Last Wednesday, my wife and I met Jose Roberto Andino Salazar and his wife, Patricia, at the Phoenicia Hotel in Floriana. We accompanied them to the Fortina Hotel, where we had a wonderful dinner at the Taste restaurant.

Mr Salazar is the Ambassador of El Salvador to Italy. This was the first time that a Salvadoran ambassador visited Malta!

After having dinner, we went for a short walk along the Sliema promenade. That evening, Milan won the match against Liverpool and the streets were filled with countless individuals honking their horns, playing Milan anthems, and waving huge flags. Mr Salazar and his wife enjoyed viewing the way many Maltese people celebrate on such occasions!

Following the walk, we invited the jovial couple to our apartment in Sliema. We showed them some of our books and talked about various matters. We mentioned a number of places worth visiting and agreed to meet again.

On Thursday, Mr Salazar presented his credentials to the President of Malta, Dr Edward Fenech Adami. This was followed by an exquisite lunch at the presidential palace in Attard. The ambassador later told us that while having lunch with Dr Fenech Adami, he mentioned us to the Maltese president! Mr Salazar informed the president that we were both working in the financial services industry, that my wife was from El Salvador, and that I was Maltese. When Dr Fenech Adami enquired about our names, the Salvadoran ambassador could not remember our surname (Cuschieri)! Mr Salazar's wife told us that she spent some time talking to Mrs Fenech Adami, who appeared to be very proud of the fact that most of the vegetables served during lunch came from the palace gardens.

On Friday evening, while attending an exhibition of various artistic works by Victor Diacono at the BOV premises at Santa Venera, my wife received a call from the ambassador. We were invited to have dinner with them at the Phoenicia Hotel. Since we had to less than an hour to get from Santa Venera to Floriana, we had to leave without being able to talk to Dr Fenech Adami, who was also present at the exhibition. We wanted to introduce ourselves to him as the individuals mentioned by Mr Salazar during the previous day's lunch.

We had a great dinner at the hotel. Mr Salazar and his wife entertained us with a detailed description of their encounter and the lunch with Dr Fenech Adami on the previous day. His wife was amused by the notion that hats appear to be so important during diplomatic events in Malta! Before we left the hotel that evening, we agreed to meet on the following day in order to visit Gozo.

On Saturday morning, my wife went to meet Mr Salazar and his wife at the hotel in Floriana. She accompanied them to Sliema. We then went to Cirkewwa to board the ferry to Gozo. The weather was quite warm, but there was a strong breeze which saved the day for us.
Moments after we left the ferry at the Mgarr harbour in Gozo, a number of taxi drivers swarmed around the Salvadoran couple like honey-chasing bees. One of them showed a postcard map of Gozo and tried to persuade the ambassador to visit a particular site. It was only after talking to the insisting taxi drivers in Maltese that they left them in peace.

We decided to visit Victoria, Gozo's capital city. After a quick visit to the local market, we had lunch at a beautiful restaurant close to Cafe' Jubilee. My wife and the ambassador had a pizza, I ordered penne alla carbonara, and Mr Salazar's wife followed my advice and ordered some "bragioli". They enjoyed the food very much. I smiled when they commented about the huge portions of food they were being served on the Maltese islands!
After lunch, we headed towards the Citadella. While touring the fortifications, we also went into the Cathedral and learned many interesting facts about its structure and history. Although this was not my first visit to the Citadella, I always enjoy the breathtaking views of Gozo that the place offers, especially when one climbs to the very top. Given that there are so many steps, I would not recommend a visit to these fortifications during the summer months!!!

The Citadella tour was followed by a drink at Cafe' Jubilee. Mr Salazar and his wife liked the place a great deal!

Shortly after our return to Malta in the late afternoon, we went to the Valletta waterfront. By that time, we were all quite tired. Indeed, we did not spend more than around thirty minutes there. Having said this, they loved the area!

We eventually accompanied them to the hotel. We bid our farewells to each other and promised to keep in touch. Mr Salazar and his wife were extremely nice, knowledgeable, and humble individuals. We all committed ourselves to do our utmost in the attempt to strenghten the relationship between Malta and El Salvador. Hopefully, my wife and I will be able to visit them later on this year in Rome!

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