It has been almost 2 weeks since I have returned home to San Luis Obispo, California. On March 29, we left Malta and arrived in Rome. Due to some delays, we were given the opportunity to explore a little bit of Rome in the afternoon and evening, before heading to the airport early in the morning to "catch" our flight to New York. While in Rome, a few of us got the opportunity to see the Colosseum, the Forum, Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps.
While in Rome we had dinner at a very nice Italian Pizza place. The food was great. Apparently, according to Phil's Pedometer, we walked over 10 miles that day. With all of the excitement it seemed like much less.
Before I close my final blog post, I would really like to talk about the one big cultural aspect and one big technological aspect that I took from my experiences in Malta.
In my blog before the trip, I mentioned that I wanted to learn more about the culinary aspect of the culture there. I would say that I more than accomplished my goal. While we were in Malta, Timmy Gambin, our local coordinator, set up a deal for us to have our dinners every night at this nice surf side Maltese cuisine Restaurant. Every night I experienced a new dish and got to experience a whole new style of food and ingredients. One of the most interesting observations I was able to make about the food in relation to US food was the use of oils. In our culinary culture we see mostly flavorless oils being used as a simple cooking medium and occasionally rich or enhanced oils for salads. In Malta, almost every dish I had was drizzled or cooked with oils that had such an intense amount of flavor, ranging from the most flavorful extra virgin olive oils to oils enriched with peppers, nuts, and even herbs. It was a shame I didn't bring a few bottles of infused oils home, as they not only complement the natural flavors of the food they were used on, but I could honestly make a meal out of it with bread and cheese.
As for my technical learning experience, I would like to talk about my experience with two different facets -- one related to what I learned about technology in Malta, and what I have learned from the work we actually performed there.
In my blog post about what I wanted to learn and bring to Malta, I talked about how our culture uses technology as an extension of our social experience in the US. While I was in Malta I spoke many times with Timmy and briefly with some of his colleges from the University of Malta about how technology affects their social lives. I found that there were actually quite a lot of parallels in our societies when it comes to our social link to technology. Apparently text messaging is quite big there, and quite a few of the people I talked to like to use MySpace, Flickr, and Twitter (apparently Facebook has not really taken off there). In terms of the raw uses of technology, I saw adds for some very impressive smart phones that don't even exist in the states yet, but the percentage of people with web-enabled (smart phones) seemed to be much lower than what I had been observing in the US before I left.
While doing our technical work, I occasionally picked up some very useful practices and facts about the programs and hardware we were using. In fact, I managed to actually see how things were working when we did our exploration and make changes to how the Malta Box operated to better utilize the time we had there. A slight modification was made to make it so that even if the serial ports were activated, they did not turn into a blocking state (blocks manual control from the control box) until the VideoRay software was activated taking control of the robot. Without even knowing it, I became well versed in the physical and software systems of the Video Ray ROV. It was nice to become so familiar with a specific product and its corresponding software, I feel that I could honestly consider myself an expert in the systems we used there.
Overall this trip was amazing. This was without a doubt the best trip I had ever taken. The technical and cultural knowledge I absorbed while I was there was priceless and I have become a much more well-rounded engineer. Thank you to all of those people who helped make this program possible.