2012: A Rather Serious Look Back

Fact: My posts here on Anti-Tourist Traveler are sometimes rather lengthy.

Fact: The above statement is an understatement.

Fact: I sometimes like to write serious bits, and I’m about to do that. You came to be amused, you say? Hey, then don’t read it! Skip to my post above or click HERE if you’d rather see the not-so-serious year-end summary. Ready to cry? I warned you. Oh come on, I’m not THAT bad. Am I?

People seem to be under the impression that I did not work hard this year. Just because I post photos and stories of adventures—from my weekends—does not mean I am living care-free and flouncing about mountaintops and clouds seven days a week. I strictly limit that to four days a week, obviously. But in India I usually worked extremely stressful 10-, 12-, or even 14-hour workdays six days a week. In Malta, I was often up quite early researching and late writing, and had to sit down for hours every day interviewing, gathering information, forcing myself to write articles on the spot, and editing photos. Many times I was extremely ill while at work. Am I complaining? No, because I chose said jobs. Was it an experience? A lot of the time, yes! And sure—not many folks get to scuba dive on the job or conduct college workshops on innovation as “work,” but for that I sacrificed anything even moderately resembling a real paycheck, comfort, stability, or any sense of normalcy. I made these choices, and I’m pleased with them, but please don’t think I haven’t been working or have been living off of someone else’s dime.

People ask me when I’m going to actually get a real job and settle down, and to that, here’s what I have to say. 2012 has been a terrible year for so many people. There have been multiple mass shootings. Innocent children have been gunned down. I just learned that a childhood friend exactly my age was thrown from her horse and killed. Another friend of mine was found dead in his home this year. And I saw violent death more than once while abroad. Of course it changes you a little. Tragedy has been seemingly rampant in 2012, and these sad events really make you sit down and wonder. Life’s just too short to not be enjoying ourselves every day we can. At this point in my life, my years still aren’t about working all year with 10 days of freedom and perhaps a few sick days. I’ve made choices: Choices not to have kids, not to have a high-paying job, not to know what I’m doing a month or a year from now. Those are choices I’ve made that I’m pleased with, for what makes me happy–still–is exploring. 2012 has been the most incredible year of my life, but I ran through nearly every emotion possible. Who said my year’s been easy? I didn’t know if I’d walk normally again with my leg injury in India, and was alone and scared. I didn’t know what was wrong with me when I came back from Thailand and had to see four doctors with no real health insurance (and I’m still battling an extreme case of Lyme Disease). I earned virtually no money and sometimes didn’t know where I’d sleep at night. But again, this is the life I made for myself in 2012. Sustainable? No, but I’ve paid for it with my savings. I work hard in between my adventures to make the life I want for myself, so please don’t assume it’s been a.) easy, b.) free, or c.) lucky. We needn’t compare, because while jobs, marriage, and a family may be your thing, I used my time, money, and energy to make myself excited and happy. We’re going to have a different set of photos and stories to share from our years, and hopefully we’re both happy with that. We don’t have enough time in this lifetime to whine, to think what could have been, or to wish. We need to do what makes us excited to live, because we only have one chance at that. 

Also, it’s gotten to the point where the fact that I don’t have a boyfriend, have not given birth, and do not have a stable job or income makes people actually think I’m not in control, but I see it as just the opposite. I’m not hurting anyone else and am making choices for myself. And please, don’t think that whether it’s amazing Facebook status updates or hundreds of baby photos, any of us are having fun 100% of the time. We as people don’t post the average; we only advertise the amazingly good or terribly bad. You won’t hear the stories of loneliness, money problems, fighting, or dilemmas we all go through on a daily basis, but in reality we all battle these things. In short, don’t assume. Just make sure you’re happy with your own life, and if you’re not, work on making changes.

People have talked about my Malta and Italy photos a whole lot more than anything else, which surprises me. I think it’s beach scenes, hiking views…accessible vistas that are different but not too far away from the unknown. My trip photos from India, Nepal, and Southeast Asia, however, draw far fewer comments. Why? I’m not sure, but perhaps it’s because it’s not very attainable. People aren’t about to go to those random, far-out places that require sketchy night buses, dangerous motorcycle rides up and down mountains in torrential rains, and uncomfortable nights alongside no one who speaks English. There are awesome places, people who look like they’re from another century, crazy bugs, and scenes that are just plain odd, but I’m guessing people can’t identify with them very well. It makes me feel bad, because I want to transport people with my photos and stories. I don’t know what I can do differently, but here’s an example of what I mean:

The most popular photos of the year, based on Anti-Tourist Traveler comments, Facebook comments, and friends who wouldn’t stop talking about me in the purple red-carpet event dress: 



Some of my personal favorite photos of the year:


Notice the difference? Sunsets, me doing activities, me dressed up, food, and camels vs. portraits, moments, bugs, and scenes. Well, to each his own I suppose.

I’m still, STILL so shocked at how many people travel or live abroad, know “facts” about where they are, and still have not lived, really lived there. I understand to some degree; if I were living abroad for a substantial length of time, I’d want to be comfortable if possible. Still, hang out with locals and eat their food, even if it’s difficult. No one said living in a foreign place was easy. But travelers? If you’re going on a 2-week vacation to relax in the sun, fine, be that way. But if you’re going to a truly foreign place…why are you complaining? Isn’t the point to experience things, and to learn? I complain about rice and traditional clothing as much as the next gal, but when all is said and done I accept it and follow suit, whether it’s covering any exposed skin in 110 degree heat or not making out with my multiple husbands in public. But most people: Why are you partying like you would at home? Why are you all comfortable when, if you were really experiencing a place, you’d be with the locals and feel…well, awkward? You can feel at ease, but you should not feel as if you’re in your normal Western home. Doesn’t that beg the point of travel?

Now that my rant is over (Though there’s plenty more, so if I haven’t yet bored you, please–when you see me in person—ask anything! I love opposing viewpoints and am curious to hear your opinions), I leave you with a very long thank-you list. If not for everyone I met this year or re-visited—or kept in touch with while away—I don’t know what this all would have been like. To all of you: Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

In no order whatsoever: Mady, Tobie, Larvin, Varun, Signe, Jared, Vic, Ola, Daniel, Jay, Anwar, Kristine, Claire, Paul, Ruth, Deepak, Rajesh, Sanit, Anshul, Gregor, Katia, Jay, Martin, Mithin, Rapunky, Rohit, Rohan, Roshan, Vadiraj, Vanessa, Krishnaveni, Polly, Whitney, Frida, Jimbo, Kate, Niel, James, Harpreet, Vinoth, Amir, Timothy, Reilly, the Bih, the Blem, Greg, Piero, Ron, Tim, Jennie, Katie, Gina, Omar, Brenna, Ana, Ken, Martijn, Kemal, Nina, Tanya, Marta, Niels, Roy, Brett, Colleen, Azeem, Jessi, Noel, Sally, Krishna, Amrut, Geeta, Shashi, Savio, Jibin, Jimmy, Chris, Jared, Sarah, David, Satvik, Shridhar, Lhakpa, Tsering, Tashi, Pasang, Billy, Sergio, Juan, and my wonderful, wonderful students of DFP7, DFP8, DSF3, DSF4, and DSK. You guys made my 2012.


The Case for L.A.: Food, Fun, and…More Food


My brother and I were recently in L.A. for meetings concerning his comedic web series, Concierge. Actually, he was there for meetings; I was just his unpaid, lowly chauffeur.

Before heading out to the west coast together, we knew how important it was to plan a food route, and not surprisingly, food became the main focus of the trips. We ate, ate some more, hiked, ate, went to meetings, and ate. Makes sense, right?

L.A. gets a pretty bad rap. Sure, there’s tons of smog, there are traffic jams, it takes forever to get anywhere, and people can’t seem to talk about much besides movies and tv. And everyone is from New York, anyhow. But outside of those complaints and the omnipresent plastic surgery, there’s a wonderful place. Most people who visit see the tourist spots, and frankly, if I only visited Times Square and Little Italy, I’d hate New York, too. But we did something simple: We avoided all the tourist spots. In fact, we didn’t see a single tourist our entire visit! Instead, we did what I always do on trips: Introduced locals to food and places they didn’t even know existed. We have quite a few friends there, but only a handful of the people we met up with had ever been to the nosheries we found. Together and/or with friends, we went to Sapp Coffee Shop, sketchy 24-hour burrito joints that were delicious (including Los Tacos), Surati Farsan Mart for Petish and more (it’s food, not a porn store…geez!), The Griddle Cafe, the Guppy Teahouse, Scarpetta, and much, much more. I loved hiking in the canyons, getting our backstage tour at the aquarium, fixing our flat tire in Beverly Hills, and more. Plus, the fact that there are vast national parks, waterfalls, climbing opportunities, beaches, and so much more for the outdoorsy person makes this metropolis a real pleasure to explore. In New York, one feels much more “stuck.” Honestly, I wouldn’t mind living in L.A. at some point. People are just too hard on a place that few have actually explored! Everyone was just so nice, which was perhaps most shocking of all. I surprised myself, because I was completely prepared to hate L.A. I ended up quite pleased indeed.

These are just a few of the photos from L.A., and they were taken on my brother’s Canon SD1400 IS–a nice, nifty little gadget. See my Flickr account for a more in-depth look at our rapid weight gain trip.

I can’t wait to visit again!

My Southeast Asia Trip Part 3 (and I’m still existing on rice)!

Hey everyone! Guess what? I didn’t have any rice this week! You know that of course I’m lying. Of course I had rice. But to be honest, I did get something different. We made fries from pumpkins and potatoes, and had them with Heinz’s 58th variety, Thai ketchup. It was amazingly greasy. Pumpkin fries in a wok? They were delicious, but it could be because I’ve had only rice for the past 4 weeks. Anyhow, from the emails and notes I got regarding my last email, it seems as if I must tone it down this week. I think a few of you took me a little too seriously! Of course I’m writing about my experiences here, but I want it to be clear that I’m not complaining so much as trying to make my time here sound as awesome as it is, and just as interesting and entertaining for the reader. I’m having a really great experience and want to tell my stories to you all, so please enjoy.

As usual, the internet is in short supply. I’ve decided to go a different route this week. Many of you have written in, so this week I’ve done my best to answer reader questions. Let’s start with this popular one I received all the way from Guam!

Q: Coop, could you go into more detail about what you actually eat with the rice? You said you ate various vegetables and rice. What are they? How are they cooked? Is it tasty? Typical of Thai food? Do you ever find any…foreign ingredients in it?
-your friend, Guam

A: Ah, good question, Guam. What we eat are usually vegetables that are either completely different here, or not even seen in America. Even if it’s a similar vegetable variety, it’s usually cooked in a different way from how we Americans would cook it. But if you ate here, you’d realize that everything starts to taste much the same. So we’re given a portion of freshly cooked rice in the morning, cold rice for lunch, and fresh rice for dinner. The vegetable might be cabbage, or baby cabbage, or an Asian lettuce, or some weird, ridged, long, green veggie, or mini white eggplants, or green leaves, or bamboo. But almost everything is prepared in the same way. A bit of oil goes in a wok over the fire, small garlic chunks are added (with skins), and then the cut vegetable is added. Mysterious seasonings are sprinkled on. These might include salt, or pork seasoning, or various viscous liquids. Then water is added and the thing is covered. It cooks for a while, and this makes everything the consistency of something that’s been stewed or simmered for a long time. It’s a veggie in a bowl of seasoned water/borderline soup. If you recall Arrested Development’s hot ham water, well…I think this is probably very similar.
The cooking is not typical of Thai food, but is my tribe’s food. It’s very simple to make, and when I cooked one time, they were shocked I could do it. Seriously? It’s oil, garlic, the veggie, seasoning, and water. Pretty simple. It’s tasty the first time. As for the foreign ingredients part of the question…there are so many things and creatures that are in the food that we’re not even going to go into it.

Q: I heard your multiple comments about a lack of toilet paper. I also heard that you have a 1-year-old baby in your household, so I’m curious. Diapers…?
-Terri Fyedbutt Coorious

A: They don’t do diapers.

Q: Yo dawg, you know me, I’m a party animal, and while I know you’re lame and don’t do that stuff, I still figured you’d know the party scene. I have a 3-part question. First, what’s the night scene like?
-awesome dude in kolej

A: Ah, terrific question. We finish eating at 7PM. Kids do homework or go to temple, or play with the limited number of toys. Parents and grandparents talk and smoke their ginormous pipes. Friends sometimes visit. There are also chores, such as getting water, washing dishes, or sweeping, though they tend to enjoy sweeping most when we have the open bowls of food lying on the ground so that the dirt and partial creature particles can gently float into my meal. Sometimes I go to my pal’s home (the English teacher I made friends with here) where we’ll talk and eat bizarre dishes, such as passion fruit, fish sauce, and red pepper. Or instant noodles (YES! Ate that twice.) with lemon, red pepper flakes, chilis, and cabbage. Or lemon with red pepper and salt. Sometimes I’ll crochet or read. That’s the usual evening.

Q2: And the street scene? Loud and crazy? Hot chicks?

A2: Lots of pigs roam the streets. And piglets. And chickens, homeless dogs, the
occasional crab or water buffalo, cows… Motorbikes frequently pass by, as does the
occasional pregnant woman.

Q3: Lastly, I need a great hangover food. I often party hard, and I expect

I’d party harder over there. What do you recommend for a
great hangover brunch?

A3: Rice.

Q: What’s the most dangerous thing you’ve done so far?
-your mother doesn’t want to know the answer to this question

A: Seriously, it’s a pretty safe place with the exception of the motorcycle riding. It’s what you have to do to get from point A to point B. There’s nothing I can do about it, so please don’t yell at me. But to answer your question, the most dangerous thing thus far has actually been the farming, no joke. On my family’s farm, for example, we had a ride there where I had to entrust my life to a 15-year-old, walk for a long time, and start farming only to hear the father yell. Three people and translations later, I found out it was because a colorful snake had bitten him. Poisonous? Naturally. So he motored back with one hand and was driven to the “hospital” an hour away. He had to stay overnight because his arm was so swollen. As for myself, I discovered that rice farming is in fact almost back-breaking work. I knew it was hard and thankless, but I learned that the taller you are, the harder it is. You can’t duck below the grass, so you have to stoop in a most uncomfortable way, and the blades of grass, weeds, and bugs really get at you when you’re down under the canopy of rice. That stuff is big. I am now a master with a curved machete. I also got two more leeches, cuts that kept bleeding, etc. The mom got a machete cut on her thumb following week. You also work on super steep mountains that you can easily slide down, etc. It ain’t exactly safe.

Q: You still haven’t told me what you’re doing there.

A: Technically this isn’t a question.

Q: Could you just answer her bloody question?
-Everyone else

A: Wait, how did you—

Q: Please?
-Don’t push it

A: Ok, well, it’s a long answer that I can explain better in person, but basically I knew I always wanted an adventure, and I was always interested in Southeast Asia. After living in NYC for a while and becoming frustrated with many things, I decided that now was a terrific time for a volunteer and travel adventure. And why not do it all by myself? That’s often my favorite way to explore. Since I knew I wanted to volunteer and work with my hands, but not pay to help others (which just ain’t right!), I had to research opportunities for months. I found some small sites that would exchange work for living and food, so I contacted many places and set something up. Eventually I decided where to go, how long to go, and what to do. Well, I’m still in the midst of deciding that, but I have a rough idea. I found a woman who would bring me up to the hilltribe village I’m in now. Cities across the world may be different, but in the end they’ve still got many similar characteristics and features. Also, true need occurs in rural areas where there is less funding and fewer resources. So to make long story short, I’m volunteering and traveling across Southeast Asia, and the biggest portion (this hilltribe volunteering) is almost over. It’s been amazing living somewhere else, and I feel completely at home here. After this (and I leave next week!), I’m heading to Malaysia for a bit of travel, then to volunteer there. After that, more traveling and possible volunteering. I love to help, and there are ways to do that in truly amazing places. I hope to bring everything I learn and see back to the U.S. with me so that I have new perspectives. Why wait until I’m old to travel and have an adventure? The time for me to explore is now, and that’s exactly what I’m doing.

If you want the long story of why I came, feel free to ask and I’ll tell ya.

Q: Do you ever wake up and still think you’re back at home in the States?
-Ignorant in Iowa

A: Oh, totally. I mean, often at home I’ll wake up, brush some ants off myself, see mountains out the windowless window, have rice for breakfast around a fire with people who don’t speak my language, and go to the bathroom in a porcelain hole with the opportunity to pet a pale greenish-pink lizard. Not that I have.

Q: Why don’t you just wash yourself in bleach when you arrive home?
-The Mystified Morristown Monk

A: I very much appreciate the suggestion, but it wouldn’t clean me and would only make me more pale. Besides, Michael Jackson did that and look what happened to him. Ummm…too soon?

Q: Ok, miss complainer. If you have such trouble communicating with your village folk, then why didn’t you study Thai before leaving?
-Smart Alec

A: Ok, thank you for that. Here’s the deal. First, I’m traveling to at least four countries, so getting good at any of ‘em would be hard. Like many languages, Thai is both regional and often incorrect in phrasebooks. The language books work for Bangkok and most surrounding and Southern provinces. Up here in the NW near Burma, it’s slightly different, but enough to mess up even “yes” and “no.” The writing is all crunched together and made up of loopy lines. It’s not the “nam pla” or “pad thai” English-ized Thai language that we struggle with in restaurants. It’s a completely different alphabet, just like Japanese. The main thing, however, is that they rarely speak Thai here! In fact, it’s the secondary language. There are about eight hilltribes in Thailand (who live in mountains, not hills), and each has their own distinct language. I live in a Lawa hilltribe. Not only are there no phrasebooks for my hilltribe, the Lawa language itself is different across northern Thailand! We’re not talking accents or slight differences; we’re talking about pretty much completely different words. The kids don’t even learn Thai until they’re about 6.
All of this is a tremendous excuse to make up for the fact that I’m terrible at learning languages and have very few words and phrases under my belt. But I get around.

Q: Could you please provide us with some cool facts of the week?
-someone wondering if the P.E. teacher is still a chub.

A: I’ll do you one better:

Sad or awesome factoids of the week. You decide:
-During free time, the kids like to play with mini machetes.
-One person in my family of seven has ever been to a supermarket.
-Cabbage is the cash crop.
-The mom enjoys trying to make English jokes with me, and upon doing so, enjoys even more giving me a good, friendly punch to my arm or leg. This has caused me to bruise more than once.
-All of the following English phrases I’ve seen on notebooks and folders:
“Open Funny for friend”
“I’ve never care what tomorrow comes I’ve care just only today that have you.”
“ The most manifest sign of wisdom is continuing cheerfulness./Happyness collection
“Blessings are not counted in gold of dividends, but bythe love we share with
family and friends” (almost touching)
“be happy.. I want you to feel relax as we become friends/Sweeten memos”
“Hello! Catty/Heaven and earth to be together forever with you.”
“So sometime I let you be/Sometimes you let me be/I remember reading a book saying/Whenever you’re in dire strait/of your relationship/If one of them dare to move/back astep/And that would mak the two/go on moving”
-Nothing was mistyped in the above factoids

Q: What’s the deal with electricity? And the internet?

A: Even though I’m in a third world country, it’s not as bad as you think. It’s actually a bizarre mix of sub-colonial times and some of the modern world.
There are motorcycles, but the worst roads I’ve ever seen. Some of them are beautifully paved, and then 5 km. along you’ll reach a patch so bad that it’s dangerous to go through the muddy muck. There are ravines dropping right down one side of the road, and jungles going steeply up the other. And traffic congestion in the way of cows and water buffalo. If you’re sitting in the bed of a truck, the mud gets so deep that you can hang your arm over the side and touch it. Wheel alignment is frequently needed I’d guess.
There is electricity, but my family HATES when I have the light on, so much that they’ll ask me to move outside where there’s natural light. If I leave to go to the bathroom, it’s off when I come back. To save money on electricity? I suspect they don’t personally pay it. Besides, the tv is ALWAYS on. What, is tv that much cheaper to pay for? I don’t get it.
There is a mouse-infested “kitchen” where you cook by fire only. When the food cools down, it’s cold forever.
There are luxury bathroom holes for the teachers at the school, but the kids go in the woods. It sort of makes me sad.
As far as the internet goes, well, that’s why I’m rarely on here. I’m actually impressed that the power lines go all the way up here. The fact that internet is here shocks me. I have to borrow my pal’s laptop when he’s not using it, which is very rare, and there’s no guarantee even then that it will work. It’s pretty spotty and often cuts out in

Q: Could you give me an example of a conversation you might have in your home? I’m trying to understand just how much English they know.

A: I can definitely give an example. Janjira, my little sis and the best English speaking student in the village, was talking with me about science yesterday. Here’s what I remember:

Janjira: I be surprised if somebody came up with a scheme for substructure that worked. It would be based on some evidence, but as far as I know right now there isn’t any. You be surprised, would you yes? There are parallels between the leptons and the quarks: very, very strong parallels. Three families in both cases. So it seems likely that if the quarks were someday we, I mean I, no, proved composite, so would be the electron, the neutrino. And there’s certainly yes not evidence for that. So far nothing has pointed in that direction of bistr-no, um, sorry, another layer of constituents underlying the quarks. Nothing points to that. But you can’t rule it out completely, of course. Kat-er-een, you and I know that the present theory, the standard model, is a low-energy approximation of some kind to a future theory, and who knows what will happen with a future theory? But at the moment nothing seems to point to composite quarks or composite leptons.

me: Do you still believe superstring theory is likely to be a profitable approach to making progress in particle physics?

Janjira: It’s promising, yes no? I think yes, it promising, for the same reason. My class not to work on string theory itself, but though I did play a role in the prehistory of string theory. Primary it was thought that string theory and superstring theory might lead to the correct theory of hadrons, strongly interacting particles. Particles that are connected in some way with the nuclear force. But there was a serious problem there, because superstring theory predicted a particle with zero mass, zero rest mass if you want to call it that, and spin 2, a spin of 2 quantum units. Well, it happens to that no such hadron was known and it was pretty clear that there was no good way to fit it in. But then the suggestion was made in our group, and maybe elsewhere as well, that we’d been looking at the theory wrong — it was actually a theory of all the particles and all the forces of nature.

me: But that meant changing the coupling strengths from a strong coupling to the extremely weak coupling of gravity, right?

Janjira: Well yes so to that it meant a factor of 1038 in the scale of my, I mean not my [giggles] theory. The natural scale of the theory had to be altered by a factor of 1038. That’s a very considerable change, you think yes? But doing that, we could interpret the particle of spin 2 and mass zero — it was the graviton, it was the quantum of gravitation, required if we go to having a gravity theory, for example Einstein’s gravity theory, which is the best one so far, and quantum mechanics. So the whole theory was reoriented then, toward being connected at least, with the long-sought unified theory of all the particles and all the forces. Once you or me find the principle, theory is not that far behind. And that principle is in some case a symmetry principle always.

Q: What’s the coolest thing you’ve done so far?
-your boss, if you had one

A: Ah, good one. Well, I think I’m most thrilled when I get to take walks and explore. I took a walk the other day to the nearest village (4km away). It was up and down quite a few “hills” and I’m pretty sure that no white person had ever visited their village. Most people had seen a white person before, but some of the young kids and elders hadn’t, I believe. People literally stopped mid-movement and just stared in shock. Kids stopped playing, people stopped chopping wood…teens drove by and yelled friendly greetings. The walk was wonderful. I know people think I’m crazy, but there’s nothing like exploring on your own. I felt pretty safe, too. I was still near my home turf. I could just stop, look at the most incredible scenery around me, and smile. There was the most gorgeous landscape of rice patties I’ve seen yet, impossibly green and going on and on in waves across the fields, with the mountains as a backdrop. I ate wild passion fruit growing on the side of the road. I saw the most beautiful spiders and bugs in my life. I saw the clouds coming over the mountains looking ominous, but just gently rolling in as dusk set in. I saw the sun set over my village. It was all amazing, and it was just a walk.

Ok people, that’s all for now. I must get going. Big adventure today! Thank you to all who have written, sent things, and offered to help donate towards a college scholarship! I am looking into how to work everything out right now, so it will be a while before I have internet again or can come up with a definite plan. I will eventually, I promise. Sorry for anything spelled wrong…I’m in a rush! I have to start planning my next leg of the journey and leave for my 100km roadtrip today, so until next time, much love!

over and out,

My Southeast Asia trip Part 2 (and I haven’t died yet)!

Howdy, folks!

Hopefully you’re all enjoying what sounds like pleasant weather, as documented by the only English television station, the BBC. I’m ignoring the Disney Channel, which afforded me the unfortunate opportunity to watch the Jonas Brothers with the kids for the first and last time. They must be annihilated immediately.


By the way, a friend of mine asked why I called the last email “Update#2” instead of “#2 Update.” Yes, that’s why I’m friends with him.


While any email that goes so far as to mention the Jonas Brothers is already a complete failure, I will do my best to make the rest of it better. As usual, I have a very small window of time on the internet here, so I am going to report on the most recent happenings, newspaper style. Feel free to read all the headlines, or just the ones that catch your eye. Please don’t keep re-reading the part about the Jonas Brothers. Thanks.




Octomice Births More Popular than Ever

Seriously, I think they played “Red Light, Green Light” last night. The mice are so loud that I find it hard to sleep for more than a few hours at a time. They’re especially rowdy from 3-5am, and don’t seem to appreciate the fact that it’s REM time for me. I’ve had mice nearly everywhere I’ve slept for the past two decades, but these ones top the list in terms of partying. They seem to have races where they push off, and in an open-beam-and-tin-roof house, that means their claws scrape against the tin upon starting, and the wood scratches noisily while they’re running. Then the chattering starts. If these mice were humans, I think they’d be valley girls since they squeak nonstop. They cause so much noise and actually cause several things to fall off shelves every night. That rice does something’s body good, I guess. As for food, yes, I started bear-bagging it after discovering my precious ration of American snacks torn into. Oy.



If you thought that village life meant that everyone was innocent, mild-mannered, and similar to one another in all ways, well, it’s not exactly true. Mostly, but not all. Apparently, two years ago, a guy in his twenties who lives down the road was arrested for some sort of illegal activity. Communicating through broken English, I gathered that it was the trafficking of some illegal drugs that landed him in the (likely bamboo) clinker. He recently came back from jail, so everyone was excited to have him back. They say he’s a “changed man.” The thing is, even in such a remote village as this, people will still be people. Those videos you always see of kids in third-world countries dutifully learning, super poor, in shredding school uniforms, but without making a peep and all ears? Those only show one side of the story. I feel that same scene could be filmed here, but people still are individuals, no matter the society. The kids here are very pleasant and pay attention for the most part, but they are still unique individuals, no matter how much the government or surroundings might try to mold them. Yes, they all look the same, have the same haircut, and wear the same uniforms by government rules. But they’re all different. There are the dutiful, quiet, hard workers, the loud, obnoxious kids, the class clowns, the slightly spoiled brats (in this case, that means that one child has a newly donated coat), the kids who don’t try, the “special” kids, the average kids. I think it’s the same no matter where you go, which I find interesting. Besides, if every child was the same, wouldn’t it be boring? Wouldn’t there be no variety, no challenge? What do you think?


Villagers Owe Triumph to Visiting Brainstormer

Free Time No Longer in Surplus

Zero Carbon Toilet Paper Plant Promoting LEED-Certified Buildings All Across Thailand

Kathryn Cooper Named New TP Buddha

Voting Shows New TP Buddha with Higher Ratings than Revered King and Queen





I recently discovered Thai snacks. There aren’t a whole lot here, but there are a few for sale at the corner market. My American snack food and protein bar supply was soon running low, and despite the delicious, filling, and nutritious standard meal of rice and UDG (Unidentified Dying Greens), I decided to take matters into my own hands and splurge on some snacks. Seriously, sometimes the meals are not good by anyone’s standards, and a snack is necessary. Guess what most of the products are made from? If you guessed rice, YOU’RE CORRECT. Puffed rice with honey and black sesame seeds, rice cakes with brown rice syrup, cookies, rice byproduct snacks, etc. etc. At least it’s something different, and at an average cost of about 21 cents per snack, I’m not breaking the bank. Nor am I adding any nutrition to my diet, but in this place, that’s just how it is. This is a new way for me to get fat(ter), cheap(ly)! While there was delicious food in Bangkok, here it’s another matter. Entertaining, though. The cookies, for example, come in four flavors. Chocolate, coconut, coffee, or chicken. Yum!




Sets Example by Producing No Garbage or Landfill Waste

That’s because they throw it all out their back window.




It all started innocently enough. “Ka-ter-een, I need your help. I want to make pretty my room,” goes the rough translation of what my li’l sis said. Sure, of course I can help. She needs to buy wallpaper. Okay, no problem. I suspect I’ll buy it for her, but whatever. “You come with me to buy?” Sure, I’d love the chance to go “into town” (translation: about 20 little shops on the main road, and some other markets, and a bigger population than here) to do anything! This means I might get some real food. I’m told we’ll go on Tuesday. Tuesday morning rolls around, and I’m excited to go somewhere different after school. But no, we’re going this morning. Skipping school for wall decorations? Um…okay. The priorities are a tad messed up. So 15-year-old Janjira, 6-year-old Dom, and I start walking to the main road. Main as in a sometimes-paved 2-lane mountain path. We wait about 45 minutes for a truck to come, pile into the truck, and go partway, bumping along in the back. It’s either this or motorcycle. Soon we get out. I pay for our ride. Another truck with some space in the back comes along, so we get in that. Down into town we go, total trip length = 1 hour, or 2 if you wait a long time. I pay for that ride, too. The town is actually so far down and far away that there’s about a 15 degree temperature difference. So we get into town, we meet up with the father, and go to a market. First I’m asked to buy Janjira two posters. No problem. Then I buy them snacks. Then I’m asked to buy the dad sandals. Okay. Then we walk a few steps, and…can you buy us a wok? We need a new one, they say. Okay… Then we go into town, where I buy a few more snacks and food things. Oh wait, have to get wallpaper. Pay for that as well as drinks for the 4 of us. Oh, let’s get lunch. Pay for that. And I really needed bananas, but the ones I had seen were purchased by the time I came back. Well, if you buy Ovaltine for us, we’ll buy you bananas, they say. Okay, so I buy them Ovaltine. And then we wait 2 hours for a truck to bring us back up to our village. This time it rains, but the people are friendly, so before we’re fully soaked, we’re all under a tarp in the back of the truck. And I pay for the ride back for us. What I’m not mentioning includes the stunningly gorgeous ride, the soybean and rice fields, the sun hitting the mountains, the banana trees, the fact that I’m stared at and that no one speaks English, the tasty and not-so-tasty snacks, and the general experience of it all. The part I’m unfortunately concentrating on, though, will probably get me much flack. It’s the fact that I felt…used. I know I’ll be thought of as rude, uncaring, and ungracious, but that’s not how it is. I don’t mind helping them out at all. Not at all! I expected to spend a lot of money on them. I’m more than happy to help them! They’re feeding and housing me, after all. And really, I don’t blame them for wanting things and asking me. No matter how poor of an American I am, I still have more money than they’ll ever have, whether you convert to Thai money or not. They’re dirt poor. It’s just that I hate that feeling of being invited to help, and then led on, and then asked to buy more and more. I know I sound terrible, but I just wish that someone had warned me, or even that they had asked if I could buy some things for them. Instead, to the foreigner’s eye, it just appears as if they’re walking along, see something, and ask the rich girl (yeah, I never thought I’d be called that, either) to buy it for them. Ah well. Again, if I was in their situation, I would probably do the same thing. They need supplies, and I’m a money source. They’re not trying to use me, but it just…happens. It’s not as if they can communicate that they need me to buy them a lot. But you can’t blame me for having a bit of a sour feeling in my stomach. If you need help or money, just ask me for help or money, but don’t lead me on and make me feel used, aight? Am I that mean?




Best Known for Grazing, Massive Poops, and Standing in the Middle of the Road

I got to see a cow slaughter. While I know that this will disgust many of you, I thought it was awesome. Okay, okay, so I missed the actual killing because I got out of school five minutes late, but I saw most of it. The cutting, the different sections, the pulling out of this and that. It was really amazing. She was such a pretty blonde thing, too.  




The other morning I wake up and was make my way out onto the deck, walking to the “kitchen” for breakfast. The mom runs onto the deck with me, holding her slingshot, a grin on her face. She points to the tree and aims. Pfffwit! She hits her mark, and a bird drops 20’ onto the ground below. Supermom™ scampers back out front, down the stairs, and onto the ground below the house, runs out amongst the trash, picks up the bird, and brings it back, handing it to her son and my “little brother,” Dom (age 6). Dom grabs the bird, waving it at me, smiling gleefully. The tiny bird regains consciousness and looks dazed as Dom pets it, then puts it in a cage. “Why did she hit the bird?” I asked in so many words to Janjira, my “little sister,” who speaks more than 20 words of English. The response, in so many words: “Dom likes birds.”



    • Clean dishes.
    • Dogs being a man’s best friend. Not true here. No, calm down, they don’t eat them. They just ignore them. The dogs here are essentially strays, but they’re comfortable around humans who promise to pretend they don’t exist. MAN do they give you the sad eyes.
    • Clean clothes.
    • Washing anything and/or trying to stay clean.
    • The P.E. teacher. In one of the few places where the kids are actually fit, and happily play outdoors, and where they’re poor, and exist on rice, and where they desperately need the chance to use class time for actual learning, they have a P.E. teacher.     


      And he is fat. 






          But I’m serious. I was getting water the other morning (below and on the side of the house, which is on stilts) and the mom didn’t know I was down there doing chores. She was also doing chores. She swept the garbage over the edge onto me.


          Okay folks, that’s all for now. I love all your feedback, so keep it a’coming!


          And no, I’m not suffering from “culture shock.” I adjust very quickly, and these anecdotes are simply my way of telling y’all what it’s like. Things are so unsanitary here, and I’ve done many things I shall never speak of. On the flipside, I’ve gotten to do some absolutely wonderful things, such as see the sunset from the raised platform under a 20’ gold Buddha. All alone. With a 360 degree view of the mountains. It was absolutely gorgeous. And I got to go to a monastery, as well as to several farms, which are night and day compared to anything in the U.S. It is stunning here, and I will never forget it. The people are very friendly and welcoming, albeit fairly unwilling to learn anything new. But more on that at a later point in time.


          I still want to give the most talented students a chance to go on with their learning. I believe everyone deserves a chance, but if that’s not possible, I want to give at least one child, a very dedicated and motivated student, a chance to study. There are some particularly bright students here who will have to become farmers if they’re not given the opportunity to do something else. There’s nothing wrong with farming, but some of the students wish to be something else, and I want to give at least one that chance. If any of you know about starting an oversees scholarship, or how I would go about setting up donations and/or a fund, please let me know.


          Until next time, I will do my best to stay safe and sane. As for all of you, stay safe, stay healthy, and take a hot shower for me. Can’t wait to hear from all of you!


          Much love,