Things that are Precarious: A Vertigo-Driven Photo Essay

It seems that when traveling outside the USA, I find many things that just don’t look stable or safe. Case in point: houses on mountains, motorcycle rides over landslides, or me on anything. Here’s a collection of precarious things that would freak any mother out–especially mine. And yes, I use the term “precarious” quite lightly. So what here is precarious?

The girl who leaned out to take this photo of me rock climbing, for starters.

Or these homes in the Cinque Terre, Italy.

Or these schoolboys in Thailand mugging for my camera over the previous night’s landslide.

Or really, everything about this photo. No wonder we didn’t have power for a week.

How about any of these mountain roads in Nepal?

Or this giant fly, trying to function on this planet on its measly legs?

Or me on other cliffs:

Or me…not on any cliffs?

Or this village dessert’s contents, in my stomach, given to me during an event at which I was the honored guest?

Or me in this hammock in Malaysia (because the first one I was in broke, and I still have the scar to prove it)?

How about these bridges in India, Cambodia, and Thailand? If only you could see the true angles…

What is the likelihood that this Maltese road does NOT suddenly end and drop into the sea?

Or that my hiking buddy is NOT going to be caught in a gravelanche?

Or that several teenage girls CAN actually live in this tiny house on stilts in Asia?

And finally, will you trust that this egg-carrying bicyclist will never have to suddenly swerve or stop short?

Precarious or not, I’m still alive. Barely, but I still am. Remember: If you’re a mom, do not look at this post. Sorry for the late warning.

Life in Malta, Part 3: Networking


My my how time flies! One year ago I was writing to say I was leaving to India for a fellowship, and now here I am abroad, not sitting in a cute little café and drinking a cappuccino, but actually about to return to the states with a baby on one hip and four babies on the other hip. Or is it five? I don’t really remember, but I guess however many I get through airport security with is how many I’ll bring to the homeless shelter with me.

I just stopped over to visit a friend in Italy for a few days and will then return to the good ol’ USA. Hey, come on—I’m pretty nearby and need to pack on an extra few before I return home so everyone believes the bit about the pregnancies. Anyhow, Malta was good to me. I realized that no matter where in the world I am, friends and strangers alike offer their kindness, learning experiences, and adventures within every walk of life. And how does one meet these people, you ask? I’ve found that networking, a term which I used to hate, has come in so very handy with meeting people—even people on the small island of Malta. As you should know by now, I simply love standing around in a fancy-schmancy atmoshphere, awkwardly “connecting” and noshing on awkward things like chips and dips, fondue, and hummus in order to explain to fellow unemployed people how we can pretend to be of use to each other. My remedy? I went out into the real world for mini sessions of “Coop’s Networking Nightz on the Streetz.” Here then are bits of these conversations so that you, the viewer, can understand how to network while abroad.


Street Scene 1: The donut truck man parked on the street

Man: You want some donuts?

Me: Hmm…well they do look pretty good…but I

Man: No, you really don’t look like you need them. You really don’t.

Me: Wha–


Street Scene 2: Inside a small corner shop

Random Maltese Woman: Hello–where are you from?

Me: I’m from the USA.

RMW: Oh, America! What do you think of our country?

Me: Well it’s very beautiful and many peope are friendly.

RMW: America is a big country, yes? And you people make lots of movies and are loud I think.

Me: Well yes, Malta is very tiny compared to America, and yes, we tend to be somewhat loud p—

Interrupting American: DO YOU HAVE ANY HEINEKEN 6 PACKS?

RMW: No, but we have Cisk. You know, Maltese beer.


Me: I’m sorry.

RMW: Don’t act all innocent. I’ve heard your cackle.


Street Scene 3: Along the promenade, speaking with a first-time scuba diving customer

Me: Hi there, and what do you do?

Guy: I’m a magician.

Me: Oh, awesome! You do stage magic or i—wait, how come I’m no longer wearing any clothes?


Street Scene 4: Walking on the streets of Gozo

Voice: (From behind. Husky-ish.) Hullo Kuh-thryn.


Same creepy old 4-foot-tall man: Hey there, hey, hi, hi you. We’re going to be all right. All right. Yeah.

Me: (Audibly shudders)


Street Scene 5: Couple giving me a ride.

Couple: Are you on holiday here?

Me: No, I’m working here for a scuba diving guide on Malta & Gozo.

Couple: Very nice! We’re on vacation.

Me: (confused since they sound Maltese) From…?

Couple: From Floriana! (near the nation’s capital, approximately 30 minutes away)

Me: So you come here on vacation. Er, holiday.

Couple: Yes, when it’s the weekend or we need to relax, we come here.

Me: Ah. I see. Well that’s close by! Do you ever travel…abroad?

Couple: Sometimes we go to Gozo!

Me: Ah. Mhmm. What about…to other countries?

Couple: Our friend once took the ferry…to ITALY! Wow!

Me: And I thought Maltese peeps didn’t get out much!


Street Scene 6: On the street, innocently waiting for the bus

Random Nigerian Man: How are YOU?

Me: Uh, I’m fine, thanks.

RNM: My name is !Xobile. Are you married?

Me: Well you skipped over quite the courtship period, now didn’t you?

RNM: I would like to invite you to marry me and be my 6th wife.

Me: I’m flattered, really. Under more normal cir—

RNM: Boom! Married. 


I’ll be back in the U.S. in just a matter of days. I assume it’ll be the usual: Jet-lagged sleep; the eating of brownies, cookies, processed food, and cheap Chinese food; seeing friends; doctor’s appointment; enjoying consistent hot showers; not having folks stare; job hunting; and gchatting with my newest Nigerian prince. Until Italy and the end-of-the-year’s Best Of 2012 list, I’m out!




[Photos: Unedited goodies from the isands of Gozo and Northwestern Malta]


[click above to see multiple photos in one go]

Life in Malta, Part 1: Problems and Solutions


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: 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.













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:


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!