Sorry to everyone! New posts are on their way!

Well.. there’s not much I can do to apologize to all of you for such a huge delay in updating my blog (it’s been about 4 months). Here’s what I’ve been busy with:

  • Getting my “Club Coach” certification from the Canadian Freestyle Association. I coached entry-level (Jumps and Bumps) freestyle this season, and it was probably the most fun I’ve had as a ski coach so far!
  • Deciding what to do with my life (i.e. applying to jobs and grad school, interviews, rejecting offers, etc.)
  • Being EngSci Club Chair (leading the Graditude Campaign, organizing Iron Ring, running a ski trip, etc.)
  • Receiving awards (Cressy Student Leadership Award, Spirit of EngSci Award)
  • Designing an airport.
  • Designing a highway bridge.
  • Designing Finite Element Analysis Software and modelling the Skydome.
  • Writing a public policy paper on the Ethanol Fuel in the United States.

My point is… I’ve been pretty busy, and that’s why I’ve been absent for a while. Look for some future posts related to my recent experiences, future plans, and other random tidbits that will appear once in awhile when I am so inspired!

I’m a Featured Student!

Recently, the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering at the University of Toronto decided to feature some of its current students to give the program a little more exposure. I am greatly honoured to be one of those students and I hope that my story highlights the incredible experience and formation that can be received by attending a world class University and Faculty.

Check out my story and the stories of others on the Faculty’s website!

What’s Next?

I, along with many other graduating students, am in a difficult phase of life, full of uncertainty, hope, and disappointment. Entering engineering right after high school was an easy choice that was quite natural for me. After 3 years of education and a year-long internship in Spain, I am a very different person than I once was and now I am dealing with the question of “What’s next?”. I can envision what I want my life to be in the future, but don’t know which path I should take to get myself there. Ultimately, I want to live a happy life. I want to love and be loved. I want kids, and I want to be with them at every moment as they grow up. I want to be someone important; not for the fame or for my ego, but simply because I want to put my incredible skills and talents to their best possible use; settling for anything less would be a waste of my potential. I want to die smiling, without fear and without regrets.

Enjoying a dinner with Joe Meyer and his wife, Julie, some years ago.

I was recently inspired by the story of the passing of my dear adopted grandfather, Joe Meyer. In the last years of his life, he battled cancer and defied the expectations of his doctors by making it to birthday after birthday, all the while loved and cared for by his family, friends, and dear wife. When the day finally came for him to pass on last Spring, he knew and so did his wife. She told him that he could go and that he didn’t have to fight anymore. She nodded to the attending nurse who removed his breathing mask and began to sing him love songs reminiscent of the joyful time they spent together in their early years. Joe Meyer hung on for another hour without life support, although I was told it seemed like an eternity. All the while, he smiled peacefully, without ceasing to gaze upon his wife, the love of his life and his companion for over 50 years. I see so many people living lives complicated with unnecessary anger, bitterness, and regrets, and wish that more people could live happy and die peacefully like Joe Meyer did.

So what about my future? I seem to have a pretty unique combination of skills and talents and am looking for a way in which I can fully apply myself and continue to grow (“like a tree through the ages”). I am currently open to any path that will take me where I want to go, whether it be through grad school, an early career opportunity, or perhaps something else entirely. I have enjoyed my research experiences so far, and certainly believe that I possess the attributes to become a Master’s student in Engineering, so assuming a professor will sponsor me, it is certainly one path I could see myself excelling in. The big question, of course, is where and what do I study? Should I continue in Civil Engineering or consider other alternatives as well? I have also been contemplating employment as a way to get a head start on life, but have been overwhelmed with the possibilities! Most of the “1-to-2-year-rotational-leadership-development” programs are quite intriguing, but seem to be more directed at computer engineering, commerce, and business graduates (and therefore it is a little hard for me to compete for those spots). Furthermore, a lot of structural engineering jobs require more than just an undergraduate degree. More than just “what”, another big question is “where?”. Do I want to stay in Toronto long-term? (Probably not) If not, where? The States, out West? Europe?

One intriguing possibility, quite different from any other option, is to train for the 2014 winter olympic games, likely in a skiing event. Why? Simply because I’m a great skier, and I doubt many other Maltese citizens can say the same. One option I’m considering is putting two and two together and finding a job out west so I can work, gain engineering experience, and train all at the same time.

While the questions and the uncertainty are a slight burden on my shoulders, it also provides me with a fantastic opportunity to create a life for myself, however I so choose. I really want to do something unique, something that will set me apart from the rest of the thousands of graduates in Canada this year, and I challenge each and every one of you who are also in the same position and reading this post to do the same! We are all in a position where we have great potential and now is the time to do something special, something crazy! If we don’t follow our dreams today, tomorrow we will wake up and discover it’s already too late.

Disconnectedness

I’ve only just caught my breath after being submerged under a sea of changes in my life over the past 2 weeks following my return to Canada. In retrospect, arriving back on the same day that school started was not the greatest idea! I’ve been severely disconnected for the past few weeks as I’m still on the waitlist for an iPhone after one month of waiting, and the internet was out for a week at my downtown residence! It’s funny, actually, how far we, as the modern human civilization, have progressed in the past decade. I’m closing in on my 10th year anniversary of owning a cell phone and I’ve realized over the past few weeks just how dependant I have become on it! Without receiving calendar alerts in my pocket, beamed to me from Google Calendar, I’ve actually forgotten a few appointments and sheepishly walked in late after running across campus after suddenly remembering where I was supposed to be. Without being able to keep in touch with my friends when I’m out and about, it has been impossible to make spur-of-the-moment plans: I’ve had to start arranging to meet people in set places and set times again. Without being able to check my e-mail on-the-go I often miss important emails. Nowadays, people send you emails with the expectation that you’ll receive and read them instantly, and this is no longer the case for me (especially since I didn’t even have internet access at home!).

We, as a culture, have gotten so accustomed to getting things instantly that when we have to wait, it drives us crazy. One of my professors was talking about how people lose their mental sanity when they are sensually deprived (sensually NOT sexually, although that perhaps, is another theory worth considering). He talked of an experiment whereby a healthy human being would be rendered crazy after just 24 hours in a dark, quiet room, after of course, they had caught up on sleep. I’ve therefore gone through somewhat of a rehabilitation process and have now discovered new ways to keep in touch with people. For example, when I used to come home to Oakville in off-peak hours, I usually called my parents from the train to pick me up. Now that I don’t have a phone, and it costs 50 cents to make a call from a public phone, I take a bus for 65 cents and get home just fine. When I need to call my girlfriend, I just go to her apartment building and use the front-door buzzer, which conveniently is routed to her cell phone (although it’s a little hard to have a private conversation when there are people impatiently waiting to get into the building).

I’ve also realized how ridiculous Bell Canada can be. Not only were they responsible for my 5-day internet deprevation, but they also wanted to charge me $50 to activate my old cellphone as a prepaid phone until my new phone arrives! In Spain, I could have bought a prepaid phone + a sim card + 2 euros of starting credit for just 19 euros! Perhaps they were afraid I would just stick with the prepaid plan and not end up buying the iPhone… who knows?

Anyways, now anyone following this blog can understand why I haven’t been able to update it in a while. There are many pictures that I’ve still got to post, and I wanted to write a little about Sweden and Norway, and my newfound love for Scandinavia (partly due to my newly furnished room with Ikea furniture and a few sumptuous meals in Ikea’s restaurant). There is also the big question as to what will happen to my blog now that I’m back. The blog used to be directed towards my travels in Europe and a means for keeping in touch with everyone back home. The blog now needs a new direction, but this I believe, will naturally evolve along with my inspiration. You can look forward to the same level of reflective insights and a new direction that will take you on a journey with me to bigger and better things.

Y para mis amig@s de España, ¡un abrazo muy fuerte! Ya os echo de menos. Estoy encontrando nuev@s amig@s aquí in Canadá del mundo español (la mayoría son de Sudamérica, pero bueno) y también voy a seguir con las clases de salsa 🙂

Ya he hablado con Geoff. Él está muy bien, todavía de buen humor y con el pelo largo. Nicole está bien también, estamos estudiando juntos y a veces, recordamos de todos las experiencias, viajes, y buena gente que conocimos durante nuestro tiempo en España. Seguiremos recordando durante toda la vida. Espero que estéis bien, y que nuestros caminos crucen en poco tiempo. Si aún no has hecho, añádeme a tu cuenta de Facebook para que podamos hablar (google: Raphael Sammut).

Justicia Española

La noche del 3 de junio de 2010 empezó como una noche de entresemana normal. Nosotros cuatro que somos de Canadá y estamos trabajando en CYPE Ingenieros en Alicante, llegamos a nuestro piso. Pero, distinto a noches normales, aquella noche, nuestros compañeros de piso alemanes estaban cocinando una cena típica de Alemania para todos los del piso. La comida olía bastante bien, y todos teníamos muchas ganas de comer… Bueno, todos excepto un hombre. Ese hombre era un nuevo compañero de piso, nos había dicho que era un periodista importante de Argelia y que trabajaba haciendo documentales sobre naturaleza. Era mayor, tendrían unos cincuenta años, con el pelo oscuro y encrespado. Llevaban gafas que ampliaba el tamaño de sus ojos. Además, solo hablaba francés, y aunque nos dijo que el español era una lengua muy fácil de aprender, no hablaba ni una palabra de español.

Como el internet del piso no funcionaba, llamé a la puerta del argelino porque el router estaba en su habitación. El argelino me invitó a entrar y encontramos el router desconectado del enchufe. Después de “arreglarlo”, el argelino se disculpó y me preguntó si podía usar mi portátil para entrar en su correo electrónico. Se lo permití y también le ofrecí ayuda. En cuanto volvió él argelino a su habitación, empezó una de las situaciones más difíciles durante nuestra estancia en Alicante, porque cuando volvió, encontró la puerta de su habitación abierta (él se la había dejado así, pero no lo recordaba) y se puso muy nervioso. Al no encontrar su pasaporte a primera vista, se enfadó y salió de su habitación gritando en francés que uno del piso le había robado su pasaporte y unos cientos de euros. Ninguno del piso sabía nada de lo que estaba acusando, y por eso, se puso más y más nervioso hasta que, en un momento, cogió dos cuchillos grandes de la cocina y empezó a amanecernos. En cuanto vi que había riesgo de que fuera a causarnos daño, y que se había vuelto loco, llamé inmediatamente al 112 y al dueño. Mientras la ayuda estaba en camino, el argelino encontró todas sus cosas en su habitación donde las había dejado antes.

Minutos después, dos equipos de la guardia civil llegaron a nuestro piso acompañados del dueño. Después de explicarle todo de que había pasado en los minutes anteriores, los policías detuvieron al argelino y le llevaron a la comisaría donde pasó la noche (y la siguiente).

Finalmente, a nuestro piso volvió la tranquilidad, y cenamos como reyes shnitzel, patatas, y verduras.

A la mañana siguiente nos llamó un policía de la comisaría para que fuéramos para hacer una declaración de todo que había pasado la noche anterior. El policía que nos estaba atendiendo nos dijo que teníamos que ir al juzgado a la mañana siguiente. Por desgracia, teníamos planes de pasar el fin de semana en Granada y tuvimos que acortarlos a causa de ese rollo. En el juzgado, estuvimos 2 horas esperando solamente para verificar que la declaración era correcta. Nos dieron una cita para testificar contra el argelino el lunes siguiente.

Cuando entramos en el juzgado, yo tenía que responder a preguntas de ambos abogados para aclarar algunas dudas que tenían sobre mi declaración. El juez me tomó juramento y me avisó que yo podía recibir una sentencia de 3 años de cárcel por perjurio. Respondí a las preguntas claramente, directamente, y sinceramente. Al contrario, ¡el argelino mintió sobre todo! Él dijo que nunca había cogido los cuchillos y además mantuvo que uno de nosotros le había robado. A pesar de grandes contradicciones entre los testimonios, el juez no permitió más preguntas para descubrir la verdad. ¿Y qué de los 3 años de cárcel? Yo, la víctima, podía ir  a cárcel por 3 años por mentir, ¿y el acusado podía mentir sobre todo y no pasaba nada? Dado que no había pruebas suficientes (aunque la policía había cogido nuestros cuchillos la noche del incidente, cubiertos con las huellas dactilares del argelino),  desestimaron nuestro caso, y dejaron al argelino andar libremente por las calles de Alicante. Lo bueno es que (aún) no nos hemos encontrado al argelino después del proceso. Sin embargo, tampoco hemos encontrado nuestros cuchillos que ahora estarán en la cocina de la comisaria.

World Cup Fever in Spain!

IMG_9241.JPG
Nicole and I cheering on "La Roja" in one of their early world cup games.

How lucky was I to have lived in Spain the one year they make it all the way to the finals and win the world cup? I suppose some would consider it unlucky, with all the swarms of loud fans, honking car horns, and traffic caused by the games, however as a foreigner from Canada, where nothing exciting like the world cup ever happens, I was thrilled to be a part of the action!

Even though I had never sat down and watched a soccer game from start to end (shocking, no?), I found myself watching every single Spanish world cup game and even dressed up and supported “la roja” like a true Spaniard. Alicante was a truly exciting place to watch the game, where everyone rushed to the bars an hour before the game started to secure seats in front of the many new HD big-screen TVs bought just in time for the games, and sat outside cheering, drinking beer, and having a good time.

For the final game, I wound up in Toledo. After a disappointing first period watching the game in an almost-empty bar, my family and I rushed to the “plaza de toros” (the bull-fighting ring) where the action was at. The plaza was completely filled with people, all sporting the colours of Spain. It was as if everyone in that arena was linked emotionally; we all cheered, boo-ed, shouted, and screamed at the same time as Spain fought their way to become world champions for the first time in the history of the world cup.

Here are some pictures and videos to give you a taste of what it means to be Spanish and support the national football team!

[zenphotopress album=17 sort=random number=12]

WordPress 3.0 Installed

WordPress 3.0 has finally been released, and is now installed on RaphSammut.ca. I’m not sure what happened, but the automatic update knocked out my website and I am now going through the painful process of restoring everything.

(Obvious) Lessons (re-)learned:

  • Always back-up your files!! It’s as easy as making a tar.gz archive of your wordpress directory and a simple backup of your MySQL database.
  • Remember to disable all your plug-ins first (this may have caused my crash).
  • Put your site into maintenance mode before updating.

I could not get anything to work properly, so I just ended up installing a fresh copy of wordpress and am now transferring all my files to the new installation.

Oh well, you live you learn..

The reason I updated WordPress was so that I can start attacking my back-log of unwritten posts! Here’s my checklist:

  • Trip to Florence, Pisa, Siena (May 28-30)
  • The Curious Incident of the Angry Algerian with Two Knives in the Night-Time (June 3)
  • Trip to Malta (June 11-12)
  • Trip to Rome  (June 18-20)
  • Las Hogueras de San Juan de Alicante (June 21-24)

What else is new?

  • A big welcome to the new Canadian interns, Lucy Yin and Kasper Woiceshyn who have started working at CYPE Ingenieros in Alicante, Spain and are sharing the flat with us.
  • I bid farewell to by far the nicest and most fun room mates I’ve had the pleasure of sharing a flat with: Conni & Sebastian! (You can check out their awesome blog here).
  • The amazing atmosphere we’ve had in Alicante these past few days due to the feast of St. John and the World Cup (Spain is still in the running!!)
  • My dear mother and brother are visiting a week from today. We’ll be two road-trips: Alicante-Granada/Motril/Trevelez-Toledo-Cuenca-Valencia AND Valencia-Barcelona-Madrid.
  • My Grandmother and cousin are visiting at the end of the month for a weekend.
  • I head to Malta for 10 days from August 7-17, followed by a visit to Finland from August 18-22 and Gothenburg City, Sweden from August 28-29.

Stay tuned for the promised posts! Now that I’m on half-day summer schedule I have time to catch up 😀