An Ode to My Mom

My Mom’s name is Gail Cooper. I can’t tell you how long she’s been ‘36’ years old because she’d probably hunt me down and kill me. Momma Coop (as she’s known to my friends and when I talk about her) is fucking awesome.

When she came to visit me while I was studying in London, one of our favorite cities.

I’m a self-proclaimed and proud Momma’s girl. Since I was little, we’ve been extremely close. Literally and metaphorically. As a baby I found no reason to cry unless I couldn’t see her. Even throughout my adolescence when most tend to ignore their parents for their lack of coolness, we remained best friends watching a movie (usually the same four Pride and Prejudice, You’ve Got Mail, Sense and Sensibility, or Sleepless in Seattle over and over again) on a Saturday night. Our personalities were/are so similar our communication can be completed in a shorthand or reading of mood. My brother sometimes felt like he was left out of our little club.

Stockholm is another favorite. I trudged her all over Europe.

Not to say it was sunshine and rainbows all the time in the Cooper household. Our similar tempers could rage against each other with me slamming my door until one of our stubborn sides broke and called peace. I tried testing envelopes when I could, but she’s one of those ‘mean moms’ that employs tough love like a boss. Our house was not a democracy, but a dictatorship.

Being one of six was pretty tough growing up.

One of the hardest things about this nomad lifestyle I’ve chosen and being in the Peace Corps is not being able to talk to her every day. When she would come home from work, we would catch up on the day, cheering my accomplishments and cursing those that gave me trouble. (She’s a real Momma Bear type, mess with her cubs and you’ll be ripped a new one. Nothing would ruffle her fur more than at my basketball games and someone gave me an unnecessary shove.) She was right there in my daily life, no matter what.

When I graduated from Pitt, you know who was my loudest supporter.

Part of this growing up thing is learning to live with out her here. To be frustrated/angry/sad/lonely/happy/homesick and learn to deal with it on my own. The freedom can be exhilarating, but sometimes it’s really hard. To borrow a line from You’ve Got Mail, ‘ and missing my mother so much I almost couldn’t breathe.’ The network of Thai women in my life are a good band-aid to help through the transition. They’ve been my family when I couldn’t reach mine, picking me up when I’ve been down whether I liked it or not. Just like my real mom.

Can’t wait for her to visit my home in Thailand!

I’ve never excelled with expressing my emotions and displaying affection. I usually return her ‘I love you’ with a Ghost ‘ditto’ and wiping the goodbye kiss off of my cheek. So Mom, this is my dedication to you. I hope it makes up for all those smart-ass remarks, eye rolls, slammed doors, betrayed your trust, didn’t take your advice, and made your life harder than it needed to be. Thank you for being a ‘mean mom.’ If I’m ever a mother, I hope I can be half the mom and the woman that you are because that would be pretty exceptional.

Our little trio.

To all those kids out there like me, make sure you give your Mom an extra tight hug every day. There will come a time when you can’t and there won’t be anything you’ll want more.

Friday Five

Five Things I ‘gave up’ for the Peace Corps

With ‘where you go?’ being a popular Thai shout to me, I taught myself early the Thai answer something to the effect of ‘where the wind blows me.’ The Thais were confused and clapped when I looked up the word for metaphor.  This is one part of my personality that the Thais don’t understand. I liked that part of my life, traveling anywhere and everywhere, but that’s something that’s going to need to be put on hold for the next ten months as I’m supposed to spend as much time as possible in the village. Life in Peace Corps is not of the nomad spirit.

I consider this most important in transportation department. Going anywhere is a matter of how hot it is outside, whether or not I can muster up the energy to conquer my laziness, and/or if I’m going far, how patient I’m feeling in dealing with the Thai public transportation system and the people involved within that. I can’t wait for the day that I can get into a motorized vehicle that I’m legally allowed to drive without fear of repercussions and go wherever my little heart desires. Or on the legitimate public transportation line that will allow me to be taken by where the wind blows me. Either or really.

I can’t tell you how often I used to look into a mirror everyday. It wasn’t necessarily to admire my existence (though it is fairly grand), but rather to make sure I’m still presentable to the outside world. Now that it’s really hot again, I just don’t really care anymore. With my fashion choices, hair in a constant, crazy bun, and a serious lack of make-up, it just doesn’t matter. People are going to stare at me anyway, why put in the extra effort? At least until next cold season.

Feeling Confident
This is something that affects nearly everything about my life here. I hesitate telling a story because I don’t know if I have the right Thai words. Sometimes I do and I still get laughed at for reasons that I can’t determine. People don’t tell me things, so where I think I’m going, supposed to be doing, or how I should dress is in a constant jumble. Though it’s gotten better, rare is the time that I feel like in that moment, I’m where I should be, talking how I should be, and with whom I should be chatting.

Being ‘With It’
While I realize I have it a whole hell of a lot easier than Volunteers of yesteryear, but there are times when I read what’s happening in America and I have to give my head a scratch. From ‘look book’ fashion videos to who is going to win the Republican primary, I’ve never felt more out of the loop with the rest of the world. My brain feels like it’s rotted a bit when it comes to edjamacatin’ itself. I realize it’s no one’s fault but my own as I could, if I really wanted, find out what’s going on over there, but who has the time? People over here want the real, hard-hitting news. Like what I ate for breakfast.


A few weeks ago, I posted how much I wanted to go to Hobbiton. I didn’t realize I’d be joining a new town called Hermiton. Hermitville? Hermburgh?

Since I’ve come back from Chiang Mai, I’ve become a full-fledged, card-carrying hermit. It started out so innocently, allowing myself time to recovery from the magical land of cheese and farangs. Who wouldn’t need a few days to settle back in the moo-bahn after that? Then a week hit. I forgot what day of the week it was. I realized I hadn’t passed out of the front door for forty-eight hours. I scrounged out whatever sustenance I could come by. I wallowed in my dark bedroom wanting to go to family weddings. I ate cold spaghettios. My main social interactions were yelling at my computer screen/the TV shows I’ve engorged myself with as I laid directly in front of the fan on the tile floor. It hasn’t been pretty.

I keep thinking to myself, what’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you being productive at all? Why can’t you get out of the house? Why are you being so anti-social? Why are you talking to yourself so much?

Last April, I was such a conqueror. So fragile, but so willing to go out and give it my all. I even wrote a blog post about it. Now I kind of suck. The past two weeks I’m having a hard time motivating myself to respond to emails and do simple paperwork. I think it’s safe to say, I’ve fallen into a rut.

Back when I was bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and willing to bike around in April heat.

At this point in a Volunteer’s service, about 13-15 months, it’s sort of expected. You don’t quite have the enthusiasm as when you first arrived to site, but the finish line is still so far off in the distance that final spurt of energy hasn’t quite sparked yet. Essentially, I feel like their retarded little games aren’t funny anymore, but I’m not nostalgic enough yet to keep humoring them.

I think the cure is coming this weekend. With the turn of the new (birthday!) month, school starting in less than two weeks, and a visit from Jeff this weekend will hopefully set me on the straight and Peace Corps narrow. I’ve been out of the house yesterday, today, and will be on the move tomorrow too. For this hermit, that feels positively social butterflyish.

Conquering the First Year

My first year of Peace Corps was an overwhelming rollercoaster of ups and downs that I’m glad to have made it out alive and now thriving. At least in my opinion. Your video of the week, talking nonsense about the nonsense that went on in my brain my first year of Peace Corps.

Friday Five

Five Freedoms from Living Alone
It has its ups and its downs, but these are my favorites about living completely and utterly alone.

Food Freedom 
Drinking out of the bottle without a straw, candy eating, odd timing… and it feels so good.

Sleep Freedom 
I can go to sleep at midnight, wake up late (on a non-school day, late = 8 AM), and take naps and no one is around to call me lazy.

Conversation Freedom
This has been my favorite so far. I’ve visited my host family (ies) and really enjoyed it, but went home when I wanted. I chat with the ladies next door, but then cocoon when I’m ready to get back to my crafts. It might be small, but it sure feels big.

Hobby Freedom
Whether it’s pretend slaying orcs, trying new hairstyles, or my newest DIY jewelry obsession, I love that I can do this to my heart’s content without people watching over my shoulder or having to worry about making a mess. And, I can just leave things out until I’m ready to pick them back up again. I love being messy. Sorry Mom.

Hygiene Freedom
Ok, this one might sound weird. I come from America with the typical one shower a day policy (and sometimes going a day without, gasp!) and that is simply not sufficient for Thais. You’re supposed to shower in the morning when you wake up before leaving the house (despite the sweaty bike ride), maybe an afternoon refresher on your extended lunch break (despite your teaching/work schedule), and again before bed (can’t argue there). I remember my host mother in Ayutthaya chasing me one morning until I ‘showered’ (aka I faked it). Now that it’s March, I have creeped up to two a day, but it’s on my terms. And that’s the best part.

BTW, really, really into my crafting lately. Total new obsession, if only I could combine it with LOTR.

Welcome to Nerdville: Population One

Most Peace Corps Volunteers are afforded with a decent amount of free time, especially in the evenings. Depending on the person’s interests, activities generally lean towards watching movies or TV shows acquired from other Volunteers, taking up new hobbies (we have quite a few crafters and knitters), writing emails to loved ones, and reading. I’ve mentioned in a few posts how I started to learn how to braid my hair far more awesomely than ever before. That was before I got the call. The call from Nerdville.

This is me.

Now I mentioned I’m a big Harry Potter fan. Yes, I have reread them since coming to Thailand. I’m not sure what came over me last week, but I got a hankering to watch the Lord of the Rings (LOTR). Just a normal yearning, I usually watch these movies at least once this time of year on a cozy, wintry Sunday with my brother and my Mom looking on (she has the secret hots for Aragorn). Given that I missed that all of 2011, it didn’t surprise me that I got the urge.

In case you haven’t seen these in a while

Something else did though. So there I was, plunkered down for some good fantasy-world fun. And amusement I had. Until my computer died and I lost my preloaded movie. ‘Curse you computer worms’ I cried out, much to my host sister’s consternation. I explained, she giggled, I grumbled. I went to school the next day with determination to reload it. But those worms had taken hold and it wasn’t working. But then I started to get heated (and not because of the weather, yet anyway). Why isn’t this working?! I resolved to download the entire movie just in spite of those electronic maggots.

Once I started that process though, little schemes started whispering in my brain. ‘Well, after the first one, you’re going to want to watch the second. And the third.’ ‘Yes, you’ve got a point there…’  ‘And while you’re at it, why not just get the super-duper extended versions that Tyler always wanted you to sit down and watch?’ ‘I have some time with school ending, maybe…’ ‘Well it’s only 5GB, what are you waiting for?’ ‘What am I waiting for, you cotton-headed ninny-mongins?’ ‘That’s the spirit.’

And off I went. I’m embarrassed to admit what happened next, but I went into full-on nerd mode. The battle scenes were too bad-ass. I had to reenact them. While singing the theme song to Harry Potter (I know, that makes no sense). I rewatched scenes with Elvish spoken parts to memorize bits of the language. I studied hairstyles and redid them on myself while watching the movie. And then pretended to be Legolas, only the coolest character ever. Homedog tosses a shield down a set of stairs, surfs down it, AND takes out orcs at the same time. (I feel like I could dedicate an entire blog post to the epicness that is Legolas… maybe I will).

These antics were not confined to my bedroom. I’m hopping around school, the living room, and pretending to slay orcs (ie waterbuffalos) on my bike ride to school. Luckily, only my coteacher understands English or people would be really confused by my fake old English accent and saying things like ‘son of Sauron, I slay thee in the name of all that is holy’ when slapping at mosquitoes. I don’t think anyone has caught on yet and luckily, I’ve found a way to keep my nerd (slightly) in check.

Quietly and unsuspectingly, I sit with my Ipod touch in my host family’s living room. My sister is doing homework. Our Yai is doing all kinds of nonsense with meat and vegetables. Little do they know the imaginings going on around me as I finally, FINALLY read the novels. They sat for years on my shelf, but I never could find the time to sit down and explore them fully (when in reality, I just had to wait until I was in a rural village in Thailand and get the nerd call). Funnily enough, my host family is far more suspicious of me telling them that I am in fact reading a book on the small piece of machinery that I still haven’t been able to convince them is NOT a telephone (everyone knows Iphone and Ipad, but can’t gather the reason for an Itouch).

We all need a place to ‘go’ and escape certain circumstances (mine happens to be the beginning of hot season). Somewhere your brain can do whatever it wants and relax. Mine happened to be in Middle Earth in the green vastness of the Shire, wanting my own hobbit-hole to cozy up into with a fire and tea. Or Rivendall with the Elves. It’s opened up a whole new world to me and inspires me to pursue other books (and their universes) of similar topics. So if you’re wondering where I’m off to and/or a lack of posts, that’s where my brain has swept me off to. Now if you’ll excuse me, Nerdville is missing its chief resident. And I have LOTR books to devour.

The Nerdiest Photo I could find of myself

Total Count:
Movies: Fellowship of the Ring- Three times
Two Towers- Once
Return of the King- Twice
Books: The Hobbit- Finished
Fellowship of the Ring- 1/3 through!