Life in Malta, Part 1: Problems and Solutions

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Welcome to my first post from the sunny country of Malta! Where’s that, you ask? Chances are that unless you’re European, have visited relatives in southern Italy, or happen to have worked on a cruise line around the Mediterranean, you probably aren’t 100% clear on where this country is. Well, it’s here. If you ask what I’m doing, the short is that I’m a scuba diving travel journalist. For the long, read two posts down, an entry titled “Exciting News!” which is conveniently…here.

I’m living on an island, and you know what they say about that! “When you’re on an island, you figure out how to solve all your problems because there’s nowhere to run to—you’re stuck.” Actually I have no idea what they say about islands except that a lot of people want to leave. Strangely enough, Malta will solve all of your problems! I picked common fears, phobias, addictions, and problems folks in the world face these days, and I have to say that this island country has truly provided answers—no, not just answers, but real-world solutions—to all the problems I could possibly imagine.

 

Problem: You’ve got a gambling addiction and can’t bear the thought of being away from gambling, or at least not having casinos nearby.

Solution: There are mini-casinos all over town. Seriously, if you walk down a street you’ll find a mini-mart, a butcher, a hair salon, a mini-casino, and a shoe shop. Called Fairplay or Bestplay, these tiny “stores” have about 5-7 slot machines and are nestled in high-class, frosted-glass storefronts. Open most of the day. Obviously for addicts. Come on! Also, there are three regular casinos, a horse track, and loads of online better companies that run betting all over the world. Then there are bingo and slot floors in small shopping malls, hotels, and more. I know it’s common in Europe, but it is definitely weird to me to plan a trip to buy a shirt, a rack of lamb, and some candlesticks, and then stop into these undercover-looking rooms to use slot machines.

Problem: Global warming? It’s a huge problem, yes it is! And what’s being done about it?

Solutions: Don’t worry; every time I jump in the water to go diving, the world’s water level rises 1.46 inches. Statistical fact. 

Problem: You’re sick of all the NYC sheep wearing their white headphones 24/7, completely oblivious and unable to hear you even when you try to be nice and tell them they dropped their pink iPhone cover.

Solution: Almost no one owns iPods, iTouches, iPhones, or even MP3 players in general here, so don’t think they’re not hearing you; they’re simply ignoring you. Oh no, wait, those are just French tourists being rude. Nevermind.

Problem: You don’t understand these solutions. There not helpful, you say!

Solution: Read something else. A grammar book, for starters.

Problem: You’re watching your figure and don’t want to have your flab showing while in your bikini.

Solution: No worries! Everyone here is on a strict diet of pasta and bread, so looking pregnant under the afternoon sun helps you fit in.

Problem: You’re superstitious and are worried about black cats, the number 13, and all that jazz.

Solution: In Malta there’s almost always construction going on, and almost never anyone on the ground directing traffic. Cranes are overhead holding heavy objects above your head, road crews are oblivious to the backhoe clawing a foot away from your car, etc. There’s so much construction, in fact, that whenever you walk the city streets, the likelihood that you’re walking under multiple ladders is about 103%. And I haven’t even told you about the…oh shoot, wha—

Problem: Your vote doesn’t count unless you leave in Ohio or Pennsyltucky. Whatever. You want to live in a free country where they listen to the people.

Solution: There’s a big election coming up in Malta, and the politicians are advertising heavily on the billboards. If you want to know how they vote, read it here: http://bit.ly/VJHc8S. What are their stances? Labour laws, the economy, no divorce, domestic v—wait, no to divorce? Where am I???

Problem: There’s a company here called Enemalta.

Solution: The solution is in the name! Actually it’s an energy company, but in a largely English-speaking country…research those words, people!

 

Well anyhow, I better get back to work. Around here you’ll see some photos of hikes, famous cliffs, the sea, a trained falcon, old Maltese cliff homes, and more. Next up will be a bit of photography from my lovely hikes around this island, the villages of Malta, and snaps of me riding on a Segway around cliffs. Seriously.

 

Cheers,

Coop

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Exciting News!

Finally I am feeling well enough and sure enough to announce some exciting news. Can you guess what it is? Choose no more than one of the following:

a.) I now own an emu.

b.) My Mongolian prince proposed to me.

c.) I was finally released from the Canary Islands Penetentiary.

d.) I have a 2-month job.

e.) I finally made it into Guinness for most tattoos, piercings, and body hooks on a female.

Did you guess c? Then you’re wrong! The real answer is d., but here’s why I’m excited: First off, I’m feeling almost normal again, and second, I’m thrilled I have the opportunity to work with people while diving, exploring, and photographing. I’m a travel journalist for a scuba diving site and their upcoming location for review is Malta, a tiny island country in between Italy and Tunisia. Confused? So are 99% of people I mention this to. Here’s a bit to help in case you haven’t already Wikipedia-ed it: http://bit.ly/PgqbQK

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Me diving in Malaysia

I’ll be writing, interviewing, taking photo/video, seeing what Malta has to offer, and diving most days I’m there. This will also be a chance to explore more in underwater photography, cliff jump, live with the locals, and really get a feel for the place. I found a unique job site while in Thailand, and upon signing up, this job was the absolute first one to pop up, and I remember my jaw dropped open because it was completely up my alley. Will I get rich doing this? No, but I’m thrilled to get to do this. 

Naturally I’m most excited about the diving part, but because of my recent illness, I’ll have to hold off for a couple of weeks until I’m feeling 100% and have medical approval. As some of you know, I came down with something in Thailand, got better on meds, then came down with something else on the flight home. On and off I was sick with what doctors believed to be mono, but after 4 different doctor visits and weeks in and out of bed, we all figured out it was a Lyme flair-up, or asymptomatic Lyme. Once on meds, I’ve felt human again. That was a close one. I’m just happy I’m going and pray my once-great health continues to improve. Thanks, li’l ticks. Now stay out of it, aight?

More details to come, but since I just got the doc’s approval to travel and leave…well, TOMORROW (Sunday October 7th), I have approximately 30 hours to get ready. See you in Malta!

Exciting News!

Finally I am feeling well enough and sure enough to announce some exciting news. Can you guess what it is? Choose no more than one of the following:

a.) I now own an emu.

b.) My Mongolian prince proposed to me.

c.) I was finally released from the Canary Islands Penetentiary.

d.) I have a 2-month job.

e.) I finally made it into Guinness for most tattoos, piercings, and body hooks on a female.

 

Did you guess c? Then you’re wrong! The real answer is d., but here’s why I’m excited: First off, I’m feeling almost normal again, and second, I’m thrilled I have the opportunity to work with people while diving, exploring, and photographing. I’m a travel journalist for a scuba diving site and their upcoming location for review is Malta, a tiny island country in between Italy and Tunisia. Confused? So are 99% of people I mention this to. Here’s a bit to help in case you haven’t already Wikipedia-ed it: http://bit.ly/PgqbQK

I’ll be writing, interviewing, taking photos, seeing what Malta has to offer, and diving most days I’m there. This will also be a chance to explore more in underwater photography, cliff jump, live with the locals, and really get a feel for the place. I found a unique job site while in Thailand, and upon signing up, this job was the absolute first one to pop up, and I remember my jaw dropped open because it was completely up my alley. Will I get rich doing this? No, but I’m thrilled to get to do this. 

Naturally I’m most excited about the diving part, but because of my recent illness, I’ll have to hold off for a couple of weeks until I’m feeling 100% and have medical approval. As some of you know, I came down with something in Thailand, got better on meds, then came down with something else on the flight home. On and off I was sick with what doctors believed to be mono, but after 4 different doctor visits and weeks in and out of bed, we all figured out it was a Lyme flair-up, or asymptomatic Lyme. Once on meds, I’ve felt human again. That was a close one. I’m just happy I’m going and pray my once-great health continues to improve. Thanks, li’l ticks. Now stay out of it, aight?

More details to come, but since I just got the doc’s approval to travel and leave…well, TOMORROW (Sunday October 7th), I have approximately 30 hours to get ready. See you in Malta!

My Trip Comes to a Close: Thoughts on Sarees, the Caste System, and Things Crawling Up Your Leg.

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I know none of you want to hear a long-winded summary of how amazing, trying, tribulatifyingtasticnessish, and rewarding my trip was. So I’ll make this a fairly short-winded rundown about my adventure-seeking superiority. Duh.

Yes, really, I did have quite the trip. I had some nasty illnesses and have learned to never again smooch so much with water buffalo. Of the 6 countries I was in–India, Nepal, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, and Thailand–I also can’t stop thinking about 3 countries in particular: Thailand, Nepal, and India. 

India isn’t a terrible country at all; had I been traveling through it and not lived in it, I probably would have liked it a lot more. They just have so many problems there, and as one friend pointed out, they DO have the technology and resources; they’re just unable to spread those resources correctly and have even more corruption than we do here. They’re a country out of control: They believe that their massive population equals massive power. They’re beginning to understand and accept more in terms of marrying outside one’s religion, living with those outside one’s caste, even picking who one can “court.” To me–and this is only my opinion–I almost feel that those in love with India are actually in love with what’s on the surface: Unique and cheap food, beautiful colors, history, kindness, and tradition. I loved that part too. But unlike loving those same things in Thailand—a third-world country that’s happy with that status and has just millions, not billions, of people— India believes it is pushing into the modern world successfully. It’s not. Nothing real can change when the large majority of this billion-plus-member country refuses to even let someone of a lower caste co ok for them. Or how they separate their buses into the female and male sections because men can’t keep their hands to themselves. Or how women aren’t allowed to show skin because of how men may act. And it’s not just me complaining; these issues have real and measurable consequences when that rule means you can’t really exercise, farm, or do things “normal” men do (not that they exercise either). Come now, do you even remember seeing anyone from India in the Olympics? When the population is more than one-sixth of the world? The people were, as I mentioned, some of the most delightful and helpful people ever, and I would quickly rush to try to repay them with the kindness they showed me. But I also know that with a suffering economy, pollution running rampant, and a society that’s never been taught how to deal with strangers, there’s no way they can move forward. It breaks my heart to see such intelligence, corruption, and poverty (not that I even saw near the worst of it) juxtaposed in such a way, and simultaneously makes me feel so afraid and disdainful of what this country is doing to their own people—and to the world. When will it stop?

In other news, I still think about Thailand, Nepal, and India every day. Thailand still has horrible food but incredible scenery and situations as always. Nepal had great food AND incredible scenery. And India was great when I was visiting its people and enjoying the surface instead of working and understanding its many pitfalls. How very hypocritical of me, right?

It shocks me at how easy it is to travel in seemingly foreign and faraway places. To those who have never ventured beyond (your local big city), Paris and Cancun, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur probably sound scary and full of the unexpected. Well, they are, but too many never get that far. There are always hoards of young adults—many wearing “PUB CRAWL 2012 PHUKET – AN EXPERIENCE I ALREADY FORGOT” wife beaters—who hop from city to city, often in groups, visiting monuments, drinking on the cheap, hooking up with other foreigners, and looking exhausted and hungover at border crossings. Is this travel? Sure it is, though it’s not travel I’m a fan of. It shocks me how I can actually be working with someone in a foreign country who is so ignorant to what’s going on right outside our windows, or how you can live for years in an unfamiliar city and still elect to go to the local Starbucks every day. Is travel about comfort? I guess for most it is. For me, I seem to brag most about the uncomfortable situations.  I will never forget how crazy it was to be yelled at for having the wrong bit of stomach flab show in my saree, feel scared and lost while sick and seemingly alone in the mountains, get assistance while literally stuck in the mud during rice planting, and be judged by Indian neighbors for wearing shorts in my own home. How could YOU not want to experience THAT?! Those experiences are what I’m most curious about, at least, and I think it’s a lot closer to real adventure than tour guides. Why travel halfway around the world to do the same old when you can have be standing on a rubber tree farm, weilding a dangerous tool of sorts, unsure of what’s about to come next because something is biting your leg and no one around you speaks English?                          

I guess that’s enough from me this time around, but I’m always, always happy to share stories. Best of all? I have an amazing adventure coming up…well, in 2 days. You’ll hear about it soon! Until then, over and out. It’s been real, crazy, and absolutely unforgettable.

Coop

 

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[Here are some of my favorite new photos from throughout my trip. Enjoy!] 

1. (Top) My friend’s sister, a nomade living in Nepal’s Himalayas

2. (Above) The wind catches a woman’s saree

3. Crazy, awesome, magnificent bugs in Thailand

4. A student’s family in India, or the guessing game of Who Is Out Of Place In This Photo?

5. Teaching in Thailand, or the most set-up looking photo ever (it wasn’t)

6. Looking out in southern India

7. Showing neighbors my photos in Thailand (my friend translated for them)

8. And then there was that time one of the greasy locals grabbed me, put his arm around me (I was laughing uncomfortably), and proceeded to…BITE ME?! Stay away from this guy.

9. I can dress up. Sort of. Me and my first roommate, Claire, on conference day

 10. Being blessed by the locals

11. Learning to play the sitar

12. My usual posse of men. Kidding, kidding, they’re my students. Oh come on, stop being nasty!

13. Women of the woods

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