Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Too Many People - Too Big a Problem?

The blog returns after a hiatus of approximately one month, mainly because there's really been nothing to write about in that past month and, well, blogs always slow down during the summer in any event. Whether I'll continue writing after this remains to be seen, but I might just leave the site so as to occasionally post an item or two. Or twenty, when I'm bored. I know that I can't compete against DCG though!

Well, not many things do often come to my mind that are worth putting fingers to keyboard, but recently, I couldn't help but notice something that a good friend of mine pointed out. Apparently, though I still have to see this confirmed, the law freshers tally the grand amount of over three hundred people this year, something which, if true, stuns me and further reinforces my belief that things have to change before they further spiral out of control. It's useless that we publish course reform reports if any suggestions in such reports will not be taken up by boards that are competent of rectifying such situations, and it's also useless just pointing out the obvious that there are problems in the course without simply proposing solutions for these problems.

The law course reform booklet, which was today published online, highlighted one important thing that really struck me - that many students are of the belief that law has become a dumping ground for those people who have not made it into their first choice courses, mainly due to a lack of sufficient grades to enter such a course. Therefore, with the entry requirements for the law course being banal to say the least, people are applying for this course with the belief that they can still be considered as among the 'elite' group of students at the University. Unfortunately, what these students don't realise is that when more and more apply on a yearly basis, the prestige of the course automatically starts to decline. Again, if true, 300+ students entering the law course this year means that there are at least 115 more people than the amount which entered three years ago, an amount which has subsequently declined to probably just around over 100. There is no chance in hell that in three years time, the mammoth number which has graced the course this year will decrease to a similar number as the current 4th year students.

Sooner rather than later - if it hasn't already, that is - law is going to become yet another B.Com - where people graduate like a tray of pastizzi.


Of course, the problem isn't only limited to the law course. If it were, then I really do ask someone to pinch me because I'd believe that I'm dreaming. Recently in particular, I've been finding that our Y4J group has been growing exponentially. While reiterating that such a group is by no means exclusive and that this itself is a good thing - a very good thing, believe me - I find that we have to be careful of some drawbacks as well.

Forming part of a tight-knit group of 60 odd people is not easy to say the least, and therefore, all efforts must be made, on a regular basis, to ensure that conflicts do not arise. Of course, there are people who have differing opinions on everything, but we just have to ensure that we are completely tolerant with one another in all circumstances. Such a big grouping means that not everyone is going to know each other inside out, obviously, so being sensitive to one another is more imperative than ever now. In my opinion, as a group grows, then consideration towards other people in general must grow too - the risk of finding someone having a bad day is greater than before, and therefore, one has to be careful of such things happening around them. Acceptance of each other's individual characters needs to be taken notice of.

I know that what I'm saying here might be obvious to many people, but I feel that we need to be aware of it. We're all human and we all make mistakes, after all, so it wouldn't be surprising to find someone not giving a hoot about these things occasionally. We just have to be more careful of the things that we say and more sensitive to people in general.

God Bless You all,

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Explosive in Nature

The recent fireworks factory blast in Gharb, Gozo, has left a bitter taste in many people's mouths not only with regard to the lack of safety procedures involved which, in all probability, led to the explosion of the factory, but also to the amount of lives that this incident has taken. Unfortunately, in Malta, we seem to have the mentality that something tragic is needed in order for the authorities (if any!) to take due action; and even when this happens, what due action is taken is something that is generally beyond the general public, i.e. it is never reported. We just have to face the reality that we're living in a state where practically everyone covers up for one another at whatever cost, even if it means that the lives of other people are at stake.

Of course, first, second and third come the protection of our personal interests, and then only after that - and there should indeed be a big IF inserted into that equation - come the interests of the public at large and the state in general. Crazy and mentally demented as he might be, perhaps Norman Lowell was right when he recently called the public at large a bunch of sheep - for they generally religiously follow and accept anything that someone with the remotest hint of power says. It's pathetic, to say the least.

That aside, however, I found it blatantly ridiculous - even more so than certain things that occur on these islands - that the Xaghra feast scheduled for today was not cancelled in light of this recent tragedy, the official reason being that those who died did not form part of the Xaghra locality and therefore the village should not be affected by it. The link between the two instances, that being the feast in question and the fireworks factory as mentioned above, was that this factory was actually producing fireworks for the Xaghra feast. I beg to imagine what the hell might have been going through the mind of the parish priest in question when he uttered these comments, and where his Christian roots have gone. The least that the community could have done, as a sign of respect for those people who perished in this blast and their surviving families - and just for the record, this was not the first explosion at this factory, for another such explosion occurred in 2005(!!) - was cancel the feast. But no, and I quote Daphne Caruana Galizia here because I agree with her viewpoint 100% in this instance, the community has just lost thousands of euros worth of fireworks; it would be a shame if the amount of money spent on the village feast had to suffer the same fate!

Honestly, sometimes I wonder how certain people were educated. It's a trait that's becoming all too familiar with time, placing our personal agendas before that which makes sense in the context of things. The shocking thing is that the Xaghra feast continues to be backed by its parish, and that there are also some people who are willing to celebrate the night away, drunk on cheap ass beer and lying down in the middle of Xaghra's main square, while five people who were working on their fireworks are dead. Obviously, thinking that what happened is not tragic and that the show must nonetheless go on. It's one of the biggest paradoxes I could ever imagine - but at the end of the day, the most important thing is that we boast about being a Christian country, isn't it?

God Bless You all,

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

And We're Back!

There is no doubting my mind that Soul Survivor is just a wonderful experience no matter how many times one ends up by going to England.

While this year's trip marked my second time in going up to Shepton Mallet, I really felt that this time I went up knowing that I shouldn't really be in line for any unpleasant surprises or difficult times and that I could see this trip as an opportunity to just relax, forget about all my worries and just receive instead of serve, which is the position that I willingly find myself positioned in all too often while in Malta. I knew how Soul Survivor worked now, as opposed to having to venture into the unknown two years ago; and therefore, could see this as a different experience to that which I passed through back in 2008, which was primarily an experience of healing and confirmation.

And indeed, for the most part, my thoughts above were confirmed. Having said that, however, nothing is ever plain sailing and of course, there indeed had to be a hitch or two along the way just so that I would have endured a test. However, I found that even though some of these 'tests' did initially worry me, keeping a calm head - something which I don't think I would have even been able to envisage around a year ago now - managed to help me plough through them with flying colours. Being sick for the majority of the trip, for example, was something that I found immensely frustrating, especially when this culminated in me not being able to speak for most of the second day, all of the third day and part of the fourth. However, especially during the praise and worship sessions, this made me realise that you don't necessarily need a voice to worship Him - if you just keep focus in your heart, it's more than enough and just as effective.

Sickness and poor health aside, however, I found that the biggest test was not having my best friend there for a week. It made me realise a couple of things in particular - primarily, while Mark and I still communicated on a daily basis, it meant that personally, I had to make it my mission to ensure that I could just 'let go' and rely on other people; and secondly, it also allowed me to form some bonds with people that I would not have previously imagined I would indeed 'bond' with. I'm obviously not speaking about the obvious culprits, people who besides Mark, I can always be found with; but people that I was friends with before but I now feel that I've brought back to Malta a stronger friendship. The experience really served well for that purpose.

Also equally amazing, and I say this being an older member of the group, is the maturity levels that the majority of the younger members of the group have. While I already knew this, I really found Soul Survivor to be a confirmation of it, and a real fantastic way to find out about these people's characters. A lot of those who are four or five years younger than people like myself have their heads screwed on really well and they really do have their priorities set straight. That aside, they are also exceptionally intellectual and caring people, and I believe that the majority of them indeed do display a maturity that belies their age. I know that when I was 16/17, acting like this was more of the exception rather than the norm. Now, I can only see it from the opposite perspective, which in my eyes, is encouraging. The best thing about it all though is that such maturity is not being achieved at the expense of having fun and not enjoying teenage life - these people just have enough in them to go and find a balance in this regard. Kudos.

Perhaps I might not be as charged up as I wanted to be coming back from Soul Survivor, but I do understand and appreciate that the experience served me in good stead and that I would have no regrets in going up again. And again. And again. It's just something out of this world, outstanding, titanic; something that cannot be missed. Indeed, for me, just being one of out 12,700 other people who are there for the same reason is humbling and overwhelming enough.

God Bless You all!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Plastic Christianity

Malta is renowned for being a devout Christian country that is the beacon of moral values, which is fine by many people's standards. However, shrouded in the midst of this nation's values is an air of hypocrisy that is so vast and so explicit; a hypocrisy that even shames the majority of us from being called Catholics and practicing this religion. Mhux l-aqwa li nmorru l-quddies nhar il-Hadd, hux?

Here, I'm not speaking about the major topic of the day, i.e. the possible introduction of divorce legislation in Malta - that is something on which another blog could possibly be dedicated to and something that I have my own viewpoint on - but speaking about the public's attitude at large to other people. If Malta was the true beacon of Christianity and Catholicism, then I'm almost certain that we wouldn't be seeing Cikku and Peppu swearing at every corner in Valletta, or fights breaking out in the middle of Paceville almost every Friday. I'm not saying that we would be perfect either - no one is - but surely if those practicing people, the people who are allegedly holier than thou for the best part of 45 minutes on a Saturday evening or a Sunday morning, stuck to their apparent values during the week, when out, when at work - wherever - then we would be a lot better for it all.

Just because you play a game of football and you make a mistake, it doesn't mean that you have to go swearing in the direction of God and blame Him for your troubles. Just because something doesn't go right when you're doing a chore or have an errand to do, it doesn't mean that we have to curse until we feel better. Just because someone teases and bullies another person, it doesn't mean that such a person has to go on a subsequent rampage. If there's anything about this in particular worth highlighting, I would know - I've been down this route and for practically ten months now, I've managed to 'reform' my character accordingly. On a personal level, when compared to the past, I do not lose my temper as much as I used to and I do not descend into such vulgarities so easily, as was the case back then.

However, if you do something that allegedly offends our morals, as seen in today's online edition of the Times, where two youths decided to sunbathe in the middle of Valletta as part of a sketch designed to make the hits on YouTube, then we very ironically hit back at such people by reoffending our morals and swearing the hell at them. I don't care if these people were wrong and acting contrary to the law - although, quite frankly, I don't see anything offensive in sunbathing in the middle of Palace Square or in front of the Law Courts (if people do so on the beach, which is a public place, then what's the difference?) - that's not the point. Perhaps those institutions of our country need to be mocked, anyway. The point is that the people who passed by these youths, disgusted at them and swearing away just to prove their point, are probably people who are such alleged practicing Christians. Of course, being a Christian only counts for that amount of time on Saturday or Sunday, as I mentioned above. It doesn't count for the rest of the week. It doesn't count in every second that passes during the day. Or so we think.

This is not to mention that people in this country perhaps do need to get their act together and start thinking as if we're in 2010, soon to be 2011 - and not stuck in the 1950's, or, God forbid, the 1970's - taht il-gvern soppressiv ta' Mintoff. In addition to living the values that we Maltese allegedly promote, we also have to move with the times and realise that it is time to catch up with modern-day Europe, and stop acting like a third way country or a dictatorship. But it's easier said than done for this is Malta, after all.

God Bless You all!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

It's One Thing When You're Here!

As many of you know, I'm back at EF this summer and am (finally) happily teaching Upper Intermediates. Although all my students are Spanish, something which generally poses a problem because such students often speak between themselves in their native tongue, the majority of those that I'm teaching are relatively well-versed in the language and therefore, conversing in English is relatively straightforward with them; this as opposed to last year, when I just had Elementary students - a downright 'mare for someone who struggles to write in simple English, let alone speak it.

Anyway, following last Monday's attempted intimidation/assault/call it what you wish by the hamalla from the depths of God knows where (I still insist, had that bitch or her son/boyfriend/brother/whatever ogre he might have been as much as laid a finger on me, I would have beaten them to a pulp), the last thing I perhaps wanted on a Tuesday morning is school at 8 a.m. Of course, my sleep had been massively disturbed due to this... incident. But yet, I had to live with this, for this is what happened. It's useless crying over spilt milk.

Anyway, all zombified, I walked into class that morning and all was fine. The first lesson actually went to plan and without any hitches. As is the norm with this group of students that I have, they were cooperative and willing to work, and actually seem to enjoy the lessons. Fantastic. However, two particular incidents straight after this lesson (which did not involve my students) - please note that my students' brains were meant to be fully functioning yet mine was still completely... asleep - then jolted me into action for the rest of the day. Perhaps, with hindsight, thank God they occurred!

The first was actually a bit absurd, but I believe that I was in the right. Some idiot was sitting on the porch that leads to the school building and had a tissue in hand. He was wearing a cap and looked like a rapper, with the only difference that he was caucasian - rappers, normally, are not. Anyway, our coolio friend decided that he didn't want to hold the tissue in his hand any longer and threw it into the road. I caught the fool red-handed. Being the dedicated corrector of people that I am employed to be, I decided to approach this student and told him that he had thrown the tissue onto the pavement. He vehemently disagreed with me, protesting his case in a not too dissimilar manner to a chihuahua. Seeing his non-compliance with my telling him that that he did, I ordered that he go and pick up the tissue. The student once again refused, and actually told me to tell him to 'say please' (yes, I quote). Say please? Bloody hell, I'm a teacher and he's a student; if I told him to pick up the wretched tissue because he actually threw it on the floor, then he sure is going to pick it up! Eventually, after I showed him that I wasn't going to budge and that I was boss here, he got off the porch, picked it up and threw it in the bin in a similar way to how Joris Mathijsen slammed a football into the ground after disapproving of a decision made by the referee in the World Cup Final last Sunday; this to the tune of me telling the student, "We do not litter our country!" Well, we do, but I can't accept these tourists doing so - they can do what they wish in Spain, but here, it's another thing altogether.

If the first incident perhaps merited attention and me remembering what happened, the second incident, which occurred straight after the break finished, was just plain farcical. Some student came to school - he must have been drunk - at half past 9, when in reality, his lesson was at half past 4 in the afternoon. It transpired that he thought that yesterday was Wednesday. Anyway, our friend found me and asked where his lesson was, and I kindly indicated that it's in the afternoon. Fine. He then asked if I was his teacher, even though his sheet said "Michelle Borg" on it and did not indicate my name. Yet again, I replied that I wasn't his teacher. The boy kept on insisting that I was his teacher, and I told him that Michelle is a girl's name. I then asked him whether I looked like a female or not to him - you know; shaved hair, growing stubble, deep voice... these characteristics should have all given it away. In truly idiotic fashion, this student replied in the affirmative and said that I WAS a female. (I hate using 'emoticons' in blogs, but this really merits a '-_-'... big time.) I was shocked that he did not know/notice the difference between a man and a woman. And please note, the reason why I was shocked was because his timetable indicated that he was an Intermediate student!! Someone, evidently, guessed his way through the placement test...

Oh well, any other crazy adventures from work will be posted here in due course! What a wacky world us teachers have to put up with...

God Bless You All!