Act 1 - Victor Joseph and The Christ Child
SETTING: The Island of Gozo, Christmas Eve 2018. First on a boat, then in Victor Joseph’s classic car on the road to St. Pauls Church.
“Not for you!” says (ok yells) one of the crewman on the boat to Gozo. I hear this a lot. Somehow I’m on the same tour as 40 other people but not on the same tour. There is a green wristband group, an orange wristband group, and then there is me—The lone wristband less ranger who is evidently not allowed to partake in fruit platters.
I thought they were going to leave it at that, but they have to get the captain involved because it seems there is no bus to put me in once we’ve reached Gozo. There’s a lot of hurried discussions while I stand there awkwardly, all green and orange passengers having taken their rightful seats. Then this fellow pops his head around a red VW van and motions to me -
VICTOR: Christ Child come! Sit by me. There is no room for you so I will call you The Christ Child. Normally I charge you extra for da jumpa seeeat but today you arrra lucky.
KATIE: Well it’s Christmas, it’s my day.
VICTOR: Haaaa (slapping the wheel) Yes The Christ Child have-a the lucky seat for Chrrrris-toe-mas.
A car passes honking the horn slightly more than necessary and Victor yells out the window.
VICTOR: “Ayyyyyyyye Hey sus Creeeesto! Why dey Honka da horn eh? You know I never Honka da horn. Only do like this (Victor Joseph gives a very on pitch fine-tuned yoo-hoo whistle) just a little yoo-hoo.
KATIE: Well maybe he thought he was just doing a little yoo-hoo?
VICTOR: No no, he sah furll-o-fit.
KATIE: A furlo fit?
VICTOR: He sah FULL O FIT…a leeeeetle shit you know?
He’s moved his rage away from the car and is turned fully towards me while driving. At this point I know there is no way he’s going to get his eyes back on the road unless I agree with him.
KATIE: OK I know, a little shit.
VICTOR: That’s right.
He slaps the wheel but doesn’t honk and looks back to the road.
We’re not on the road long before he interrupts his voiceover about St. Paul to pull over, drop the radio and point to the right.
VICTOR: Aye - there Christ Child, it is your home.
It takes me a minute to figure out what I’m looking at, but I knew from the little shit dialogue that I better figure it out before he has to explain it to me. There is a hand-painted sign that says “Bethlaham Village”— Think a low budget version of the Holy Land theme park in Bill Mahr’s Religulous.
I thought I was quick, but not quick enough for Victor. He has to explain it to me.
VICTOR: It isa da Bethlaham where they bringa animals and play pretend for The Christ Child. You know the keedsa (kids) they come and gonna giva the money for people is doing nothing….play pretend?!
KATIE: Yes, play pretend. So will you be Joseph?
VICTOR: No, I am Victor.
KATIE: But you could play pretend Joseph.
VICTOR: Ha (slapping the wheel repeatedly but NOT honking) YES Christ Child, I think I should do like this. I am too old for driving driving driving eh-va-ree day.
KATIE: You’re not too old for driving.
VICTOR: Christ Child…..let me a tell you sum ting. Dee car maybe classic…..but driver is vintage. Better is time to play pretend Joseph, I do it.
Act 2 - Lost Lamb
SETTING: The Cliffs and Caves of Gozo
Victor Joseph drops us off at a tourist trap in Gozo. It’s a little rink-a-dink boat tour through a cave. The boats haven’t run in 3 weeks because of choppy water, but today is “probably OK…probably”.
As far as tourist traps go, this one is pretty harmless. It’s only 3 euro and a 15-minute ride through several caves which are very scenic and bat and monkey free as far as I can tell. Where we get into trouble is the “probably OK” part of the sales pitch. It’s OK in the sense that no one hurls nor goes overboard but people are (figuratively) shitting themselves with every crashing wave.
I go to the trouble of saying figuratively because last time I was on a boat like this (Ko Rong, Cambodia Christmas 2016) the only other passenger besides myself literally shit in his crocks out of fear at the same time as I broke open my stitches after an airborne anchor came down on my already partially broken foot. It was terrifying and just so happens to be another time I was on the wrong tour…hmmmm.
Anyways, it’s safe to say that this boat ride was enjoyed by none and as soon as their little sea legs hit the ground, everyone in the boat makes a B-line for the safety of the VW van. Except me…I could have sworn that Victor Joseph said we had an hour here.
So I start climbing the viewpoint to St. Paul’s Church and find that it’s unusually loud for reasons I can’t identify. I make it up to the top and find the culprits are 7 Chinese children all with their own drones. Maybe that’s what knocked Paul out.
I take a look around and climb back down much earlier than I’d like as to be on time for Victor Joseph’s departure in his classic car. I’m almost to the bottom when I hear and loud and persistent yoo-hoo whistle…….uh-oh.He spots me before I him.
VICTOR: Hey Sus Chreesto Child where you go?
KATIE: Sorry, I thought you said an hour.
VICTOR: Who say one hour? My English not so good but not saying one hour Christ Child.
KATIE: Actually you’re Jesus now because you found the lost lamb.
VICTOR: Ha (slapping the wheel but NOT honking) Yes! But I am thinking I have all the little lambs and then get in front of classic car…where is little pink one? I look eh-vah-ree-where and cannot see you.
KATIE: That happens a lot.
VICTOR: Hey sus Chreeesto Christ Child.
Act 3- The Promised Land
SETTING: The meeting point at the town square in Victoria, Gozo.
At the next stop, I make sure to get back to classic car early FOR REAL. I am sitting in my special seat that I didn’t pay more for when I hear a rustling outside the window. Victor Joseph pops his head up into my window like a whack a mole and starts laughing. He is pretty limber for being so vintage.
He takes this opportunity to ask me the questions that everyone asks me: - how old are you; why you come alone; why you not marry; are you a lesbian and cannot marry in your country…the usual.
Then he explains to me why I don’t have a group. The boat captain was supposed to drop me at the island before this one, but I was the only one who wanted to go to that island and he didn’t want to drop me there alone in case I don’t come back because there are no hotels and no more boats there.
He agreed with the captain’s decision before I wandered off in Act 2, but now he’s certain it was the right call. I’m a little annoyed but it means that I got Victor Joseph’s tour for free, which was a pretty priceless Christmas present.
VICTOR: You isa the goooood teasha butta very badda student no? My English is not so good but I think you know what I am meaning by this. Not listening, go too fast a hurry hurry, OH is lost, what to do?
KATIE: Yeah that happens a lot.
VICTOR: Hey sus Chreeesto Christ Child. Letsa go to the boat no, you making me a very tired.
We get back to the boat and it turns out the captain is going to take us by the aforementioned first island but only for an hour. The crew still isn’t budging on the snacks though. No wristband, no accouterments.
We pull up to the island of Comino and step off to a steep stone staircase leading up to the walking trails. If there is one retail management factoid I remember from college (and it is possible that this is the only thing I remember) it’s that most people instinctively go right when they walk into a store. We reach the top of the stairs and land on a path that runs perpendicular to the stairs. Sure enough, all these suckers go right.
Victor Joseph would not be happy right now, but I just can’t do it. Must go left!
Left was the right choice, by the way, because soon enough it’s just me and the deep blue Mediterranean Sea.
It’s too cold to swim and I don’t have a swimsuit…but if there is one thing chaperoning field trips in Thailand taught me, it’s that neither of those things matter. So I get in up to my waist and walk as far out as I can without treading water.
When I get back to shore, both my phone and my off-brand FitBit are dead. I have no idea what time it is….but I’ll probably make the boat.
This story is dedicated to my friend and fellow traveling Teacha, Ciaran who passed away in Lao this Christmas. He would have sided with Victor Joseph for sure….but he also would have gone left with me. Until we meet again my friend, and we will because you owe me 2 beers and I owe you $1. All my love, Teacha Katie
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