Monday, February 22, 2010
Living on a Small Island Like Gozo
Living in Gozo has its advantages when you come to think of it. Some people would say that living on a island the size of Gozo, only 9 miles by 5 would make them feel like living in a prison, marooned and shut off from the rest of the world. Well they are entitled to their opinion of course. It may have been so way back in the 19th C when air transport was non-existent but it is obviously not the case any more. Times change and perceptions change too.
Nowadays, people look on Gozitans with a faint twinge of jealousy perhaps, because in Gozo, the inhabitants enjoy many advantages, blessings if you like. Those who visit Gozo for the first time become immediately aware of its redeeming features.
1. One is conscious of the clean-air environment as soon as one disembarks from the Gozo Channel ferry. The circulating fresh air prevails on the island of Gozo as a result of its small size and owing to the fact that every slight breeze tends to sweep clean the atmosphere from one end of the island to the other.
2. The tranquil way of life of the inhabitants. They are as energetic and active as they come, but they tend to go about their business and take life at a leisurely pace. Observe the attitude of the car drivers. Even when caught up in a slow-moving line of traffic* they do not swear at one another and you do not hear the angry honking of horns. They let the pedestrians use the zebra-crossings as they should and they give way to other cars coming out of the side streets. I drive in Gozo all the time because I live there and I have repeatedly noted with satisfaction this 'tolerant' attitude of the local drivers (bless them).
*(yes, this happens in Gozo too, once in a while and especially on some week-ends when people from Malta, the sister Island cross over for a quiet break)
3. In a small island like Gozo, people are not hindered by distances. One can go anywhere in 10 minutes at the most. I know that some people abroad have to travel 2 hours to their place of work and back every day. That makes their work day 12 hours long, poor guys. Many people here have their own car and they only use it to go from one village to the other since in any one locality people go on foot or sometimes they use a bicycle.
Environmentally speaking, I would wish to see more people using bicycles in Gozo because they are really quite adequate. I use one almost every day to go shopping and for an occasional short ride, to Ta Pinu for example.
4. In Gozo the villages are still separate from one another by relatively vast stretches of countryside. Apart from the primeaval appearance this gives to the island, this implies that many folk from the villages still have enough space to practise part-time agriculture and this results in fresh produce in the local market every day. It is a treat to go for a morning stroll to the market in Victoria and see and smell the freshly-picked green vegetables, the appetizing red tomatoes and many kinds of other fruit. Some items are imported but nothing beats the Gozo products for their taste and goodness. Everybody knows that. As regards fish the villages of Xewkija, Gh'Sielem and the seaport of Mgarr are synonymous with the fishing industry and some of the residents of these localities are full-time fishermen. They supply the market with their fresh catches although again some varieties are imported and nowadays we have fishfarms as well.
Note: The Maltese islands produce 50 million kilograms of vegetables and fruit every year. In Malta and Gozo together we have 700 hectares of vineyards and the production of Maltese wines which are among the best in the world reaches 3.5 million gallons annually. Not too bad for such a small island.
5. Living on a small island implies always having people that you know around you, not just your relatives and your closest friends but the men and women you work with, people that you know only by sight and all sorts of other acquaintances. It's almost like living in a large extended family and hence as a general rule the great majority of the towns-folk perhaps subconsciously tries to stick to the inbred rules of the social circle. Which is a good thing, in my opinion since there is less underhand activities and more harmony.
In the big cities no one knows anybody else or cares about anybody else. Nobody nods at you as you brush shoulders on the sidewalks much less smiles a good-morning at you. I was in Palermo once and I saw a man who got hit by a car on a busy street. The poor man fell to the ground and the car kept going - an outrageous hit-and-run. I ran to his help and assisted him to the pavement. Luckily he was not badly hurt but what astonished me most was the fact that nobody else offered to lend a hand. The people just looked on. They just couldn't care less or just plain afraid to interfere?
Living in a somewhat close community might be considered a harassment by some people who are used to live in the big cities, but for myself I accept these little benefits as god-sent gifts. Nowadays, in this chaotic existence of construction, congestion and noise, peace and quiet are the most sought-after qualities in a place of residence. Hence I consider myself lucky to be living in the tranquil surroundings of the small Island of Gozo.
Take a look at my newly-restored Town House for Rent in the heart of Victoria, Gozo.