Sunday, 31 May 2009

Paceville and the Quest for a Romantic Partner

When talking about Malta, many young foreigners would surely know about Paceville. The latter represents the island's clubbing capital and it attracts thousands of people every weekend.

In this post, I do not wish to analyse the virtues and vices that are frequently associated with Paceville. I prefer to focus on the popular belief that Paceville is the perfect place for a single person to find a romantic partner.

During my late teens, whilst complaining about being single, many people encouraged me to go to Paceville during the week and, particularly, on Saturday nights. I followed this advice for a number of months. Result? I remained single throughout the entire period when I used to stay out at Paceville until 6am.

Of course, there could have been many reasons underlying the lack of success in finding a partner during my frequent visits to Paceville. My appearance during those times could have benefited from certain changes, but I still believe that there were other issues to take into consideration. More important issues.

To this day, I believe that Malta is a country of clans or tribes. The clans tend to develop in many ways; sometimes they are formed by individuals who had attended a particular school for several years, people who had worked together, people who believed in the same religion, etc. As a member of a clan, it becomes relatively easy to be introduced to potential romantic partners, to individuals who could offer one a decent job, to a network of friends.

In my case, I was not very comfortable with the notion of being a part of a group for a fairly long time. I stayed away from the many religious groups that exist in Malta since I did not want to be a hypocrite; as an atheist, I did not want to go singing religious hymns just to make friends or to find a girlfriend.

Since I did not belong to any specific clan, whenever I went to Paceville, I often felt as though I were a total stranger. I would see pretty girls all over the place, but they were virtually never on their own; they tended to be with many other people.

Furthermore, the noise level inside most clubs in Paceville was so loud that it was quite hard to imagine myself trying to strike a conversation with a girl that captured my attention. Such loud music makes it possible to flirt using body language, but there is little more that one could do in similar circumstances.

Since those days, the Internet has become an extremely popular tool. With the appearance of social networking sites such as Badoo and Facebook, an increasing number of individuals have made friends and even started romantic relationships via the Internet. The latter has certainly helped several people in Malta who did not belong to a specific clan. More specifically, the Internet contains countless groups that allow easy membership and contact with other people. Such access to one or more groups is not always so easy when analysing, say, a group of individuals in Paceville.

To conclude, I am glad that - in a very small country like Malta - the Internet has provided another way to make friends and to meet a romantic partner. :)

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Food for Thought

Whoever knows me will be aware of how much I enjoy dissecting various articles related to current affairs. In this post, I have chosen to focus on a number of points that have recently struck my attention.

According to an article published in the latest edition of The Economist, "India is a land of bright promise. It is also extremely poor. About 27m Indians will be born this year. Unless things improve, almost 2m of them will die before the next general election. Of the children who survive, more than 40% will be physically stunted by malnutrition. Most will enroll in a school, but they cannot count on their teachers showing up. After five years of classes, less than 60% will be able to read a short story and more than 60% will still be stumped by simple arithmetic" (p. 11). When reading such an article, many questions come to my mind: why is India often regarded as an economic giant that has benefited greatly from capitalism when faced with such shocking statistics? When reading about such poverty and misery, there is hardly any talk from several countries about the need for "regime change" or any discourse aimed at introducing different economic policies. There is talk of implementing numerous reforms, but the arguments are often very broad and fail to analyse several details.

In the same edition of The Economist, there was an article which praised the recent election of four women in the Kuwaiti Parliament. Although the article mentioned the fact that "Parties are officially outlawed in Kuwait, meaning that candidates run as independents" (p. 45), the tone did not appear to be as harsh as that often used when describing political events in countries such as Cuba and Venezuela. It might be interesting to note that whereas this magazine frequently talks about political prisoners in Cuba, this article did not really say much about the human rights situation in Kuwait. According to a website that I found whilst carrying out research for this post, I came across the following information: "There are scores of political prisoners in Kuwait, and prison conditions are often inhumane. There have been reports of torture and inhuman treatment of detainees, and some of those responsible have been prosecuted. Freedom of speech and the press is severely curtailed, and journalists have been sentenced to prison for criticizing the government or Islam. Most practice self-censorship. There is no freedom of assembly. The death penalty is applied."

Friday, 22 May 2009

Having a Child

As stated by La Delirante in her latest post, we have recently talked about the issue of having a child sometime during the next few years. Considering the fact that I am already 30 years old, an increasing number of individuals keep asking me about when La Delirante and I will have a baby; until now, our answer has often been something along the lines of "sometime in the future". Following yesterday's late-night discussion, however, both of us are having second thoughts about the matter.

At the moment, the thought of having a child in Malta could be described as a source of anxiety for both of us. There are several reasons underlying this feeling. First, La Delirante and I have virtually no family support in this country. Nowadays, given the high cost of living prevalent in several countries, it is extremely hard for numerous families to survive on one income. Consequently, both parents often try to maintain full-time jobs whilst recruiting family members in order to help with the baby whilst they are at work. I have witnessed this phenomenon at work; all the colleagues who have one or more children benefit from some type of family support. In the absence of such support, it is logical to ask: who could give us a helping hand? Private child care would be too expensive for us. Sadly, the current Maltese government does not seem to offer much in the way of child care centres; if my memory serves me right, many of these centres are not open throughout the whole working day and none of them appear to be free. Furthermore, it seems that a number of scholars have written against the idea of sending children to such centres before the age of three. If these scholars are right, one of us would have to stay at home and look after the child for the first couple of years. This would mean trying to survive on one income, which would probably lead to many problems (financial, psychological, etc.).

The idea of having a child is also a source of anxiety for us since this would undoubtedly affect our current standard of living. All the parents I know at work hardly ever go out to a restaurant or to the cinema and travelling becomes virtually impossible (unless some family members are able/willing to keep the children for some time whilst the parents relax abroad). Furthermore, the time that was once utilised to watch DVDs, read a good book, write, go to exhibitions would suddenly be replaced by changing diapers, frequent visits to the doctor, hours spent helping out with studying prior to exams, and so on.

When viewing the point mentioned above, some people might argue that we are being selfish in preferring to indulge in our hobbies rather than in rearing a child. Not really, I would say. In my 30 years of life, I have only been able to enjoy the things I liked during the past 3 years or so. I am not saying that I had an unhappy childhood, but my family was never the type to take me out to restaurants or to the cinema on a regular basis. I grew up as a very sheltered individual and I only managed to start enjoying the nice things that life has to offer during my early 20s. Even then, however, I could not do much because of my relatively low salary. Only now am I getting the opportunity to travel more frequently or to indulge in certain pleasant activities more regularly. La Delirante's background was strikingly similar to mine in this respect and we, therefore, both understand each other when we talk about the importance of having a reasonable amount of time for the things we really enjoy doing. We are still far from living the type of life we want to live. Faced with such a situation, when we ask ourselves whether we are willing to endure several years of numerous deprivations in order to have a child, the answer is a clear no.

Considering that La Delirante and I have bought a place for ourselves last year, there is still a lot to be done before the apartment looks the way we want it to. Bearing the ticking of La Delirante's biological clock in mind, we would only have around 4 years to carry out several huge projects before it starts becoming dangerous to get pregnant. Even though our salaries have improved over the past couple of years, we are still not earning enough to be able to do all the things we need to do during such a short period of time. The next few years will still see us trying to deal with a number of debts. Furthermore, the idea of trying to carry out numerous projects as quickly as possible would require sacrificing several things and putting a huge amount of pressure on ourselves.

Another worrying aspect of having a child in Malta is the country itself. Yes, one can eat well here and it is perfectly plausible to say that Malta is a very safe country. Yet, as stated in an article which appeared in the Times of Malta on the 21/04/2009, "Malta is the worst country for children to grow up in, if a study by York University is to be believed."

When it comes to State support, La Delirante and I do not believe that the current Maltese government could do much to help us rear a child. I have already mentioned the child care centres. Apart from that, Malta has one of the lowest periods of maternity leave in the EU.

The above are a list of points that we discussed vis-a-vis having a child. Bottom line: we are currently not willing/able to have a child.