My background is a fun artifact about me. I use it to explain my dark, curly hair and short frame. The guessing game about my nationality that ensues when people first meet me is encouraged for my own entertainment – no one ever guesses Malta. Other than a brief geographical lesson on my mom’s homeland and an ingrained appreciation for fresh pastizzi, I don’t harbour any of the chest-thumping pride that second generation citizens from other cultures do.
I rarely frequent the junction neighbourhood where Little Malta resides and I’ll probably never come to speak Maltese. This makes me feel guilty though. I boast about being half Maltese, and can sing all the praises of the beautiful island country I visited less than a year ago, yet I only swing by the Malta Bake Shop when I want to introduce a friend to their first taste of pastizzi. My second generation blood should be more important to me.
Malta is one of the smallest and densely populated countries in the world, spanning a little under 320 square kilometres, basking in the Mediterranean Sea. When people hear I’m from Malta, they assume I’m Italian, but the Maltese blood is Arabic with a hint of Brit. The language, maltese, is harsh on the tongue and ear and the skin shades vary from dark to English pale. Maltese are stubborn, loud, religious and hardy people. The women are solid and outspoken and their men are short and quiet unless provoked. Fishermen still set off in the morning and return hauling the day’s catch to sell to the restaurants lining the harbours. Churches are the geographical and architectural focal point of every town and village and you can’t escape the eyes of statued saints most everywhere you go.
It’s a country to be proud of. One where great hardships have been survived and where the people have remained steadfast and true to their home. During one of the many invasions in history, the people stormed the government, uprooting the political system that had newly assaulted them. It’s only one of the many examples of their perseverance and strength.
I want to do more than use my Maltese blood as an ice breaker. I don’t want a culture to simply be the explanation for my looks, or the reason behind my mom’s faint accent. I can’t commit to learning the language because it’s unrealistic. But I can commit to embracing more of my heritage; to making an effort to learn techniques for cooking Maltese cuisine or simply cultivating a willingness to be around the older generations on that side of the family. If I pick up more maltese phrases along the way, all the better!
What’s your background?
Cheers to a year of keeping track.