Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Hej Hej

Hej hej!! Hello from Sweden!!! I'm finally settled in my new town of Vetlanda.  This is my first time in this beautiful country and I have to say it's an easy adjustment!   

The swedes have gone the extra mile to make us (myself and two other teammates that both played soccer at University of Wyoming) comfortable.  Right now we stay in a guest house in a nice little neighborhood a 5 minute walk away from the center of town.  It's spacious, clean, and cozy!  Of course, the girls got to go to IKEA to get some essentials for our home for the next 6 months (our own choice of sheets, towels, etc.). Also, we have a fully furbished kitchen and bathroom equipped with a washing machine!  There really is nothing I can complain about. 

Everyday we get to eat at the hotel in town.  It's actually a Best Western, but you wouldn't know it if the sign wasn't displayed.  Upon walking in there are real candles lit through out the lobby and dining area.  On nice days we can eat on the patio decorated with flowers in dainty pots and oh man is there sun here!! No wonder the swedes are considered the world's happiest people.  Though, I haven't been here in winter!  Back to the food, it's actually delicious.  We eat both breakfast and lunch here during the week.  For breakfast they have meats, cheeses, yogurt parfait buffet, and they always have a massive basket of all different types of bread (which I naturally try to avoid-but of course sometimes I can't resist!).  They also have hard boiled eggs, bacon, and scrambled eggs.  I usually have yogurt w/ muesli, raisins, finely shredded coconut, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, chopped hazelnuts, raspberries, a drizzle of honey, and a sprinkle of cinnamon! There is always fruit to grab too.  They have a coffee machine, regular, coffee, and an extensive tea collection!  

Now to lunch, which is amazing!  When we first walk in for lunch we ask what is on the menu since we cannot speak or read swedish!  I've picked up a few words and know usually what meat or fish it is, but no idea how it will be prepared.  They have a different lunch every day with a second option in case you don't like there main dish.  Then we fix ourselves a salad or grab a cup of soup.  Once again, there is always is bread!  The salad bar is on point.  They have a mixed green house salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, shredded carrots, etc.  Then there are various other salads that change day to day.  My favorite are their bean salads that often have cashews added- a nice addition if you ask me.  We are served lunch shortly after we walk in and every meal thus far has been good.  Usually it is meat with potatoes and vegetables, but I have also had tuna and salmon.  They offer a lot of pork here, but it's tasty.  And, if we are up to spoiling our athlete diets, they have ice-cream and coffee cookies/cake at lunch.  For dinner we are on our own, but I don't mind because we like to cook!  Carmen has made us tacos and last night I made some coconut curry stir fry :). 

On to the town…  Everything is walking distance for the most part, but having a bike is definitely a bonus (and yes we have bikes). There is the gym, grocery store, a couple salons, a theater, a bowling alley, a liquor/beer/wine store and other little shops including H&M!  We are pretty much set.  There is no Starbucks, but Vetlanda has their own coffee place.  We go here A LOT.  They call it "fika" and we will spend hours just sitting outside talking and sipping coffee.  The place also has a bakery and tasty treats--but once again I try to avoid!  The portions here are much smaller than the states.. and so are the people for the matter! Well, they are all tall, but almost none obese. As for going out, the hotel actually turns into a bar/club on Saturday nights.  There are 3 different bars- a lounge area in the basement and the other two upstairs near the dance floor.  They play house music, but I don't mind!!  This means a lot of me jumping up and down and everyone wondering what's wrong with me.. but I thought that's how you dance to house music! Either way, great place for the young people to go.  

The chairman of our team always checks in on us and makes sure everything is going well.  He has asked if there is anything we would like to do etc.. and I said I wouldn't mind access to the golf course and where I could find some trails.  He has shown us both. The nature here is unreal.  I feel like I am living in a romantic novel, but where's my husband!? The streams, trees, flowers, wildlife, and lakes are plentiful here. The peacefulness they have translate to the people.  Everyone is so nice!  They are classy, educated, mannered, and mature-- think the opposite of a college town! But everyone lets loose every once in awhile.. after a few drinks anyway!  Ahh the only drawback here,alcohol must be purchased before 2pm on Saturday or you will wait until Monday.  Apparently the government believed there to be a drinking problem in Sweden, but not anything crazier than what I see in other places around the world!  We are here to play soccer anyway so it doesn't really affect us. 

Here would be a typical day for us:
Breakfast at the hotel
Bike ride to a turf field for a technical session with the local school
Lunch at the hotel
Gym sesh or see the trainer or Fika!
Get picked up by coach or teammate for team practice which is in the next town over
Make/eat dinner
Watch champions league or whatever football match is on :)

Like I said.. I can't complain!


our lovely neighborhood

the guest house we stay in
our field
one of our practice fields

Carmen (Canadian), Ashlyn (California), and myself
my cappucino at "fika"
Carmen and I on one of the trails

crossing the bridge

crossing another bridge

doing a back bend on a bridge

panorama of a bridge!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


I'm finally PRO!!!! After 21 years I am here! I think from the beginning, I knew I would not stop until I accomplished this goal.  My mom told me I couldn't wait to play soccer and that I was upset when they wouldn't let me play when I was 3 1/2!  And even at 4, I would push whoever to get the ball including my own teammates! I don't know where this innate desire to play came from.  I would say it started from my older brother who played and once this game peaked interest I couldn't stop.  Soccer and family are the two things that have been consistent and present in my life.  I don't know what I would do without either of them.  I am so grateful to be able to play the wonderful game at 25. But the number one reason I am made it here.. I never gave up!

Wow, it has been a journey.  Growing up in a smaller town, it was hard to find better competition.  I played on an all boys team at 9.  In middle school, I played an age group up on a travel team in the next county.  In high school, I had commitments to 3 soccer teams (high school-Leonardtown, Maryland Olympic Development Program-ODP, and club-Bethesda).  ODP and Bethesda had practices year round with most of them two hours away.  And then I played at Loyola University Maryland and in the summers I played on travel teams as well. Post college I really didn't know what I wanted to do with my life.  Two summers after I graduated I randomly googled the Philippines if they had a national team.  I emailed the federation and less than two months later I was playing in my first tournament for my mom's home country! I would play for the Philippines in the fall, find work in the spring, and then play in a semipro league in the summer wherever soccer called me- one summer in Jacksonville, Florida and last summer in Santa Clarita, California.  I wrote a status on Facebook how I needed a place to stay in FL and someone I had met a few months ago that worked for an international company that sponsored my Philippines team had a brother in Jax with a place I could stay.  In Cali, my coach had a filipino friend who had friend who had a friend where I could stay! And in the Philippines, I mostly stayed with some of my teammates in my coach's house! This is what my dad refers to as my gypsy life! Anyway, I continued to develop as a player and got invited to the preseason camp for the National Women's Soccer League's (NWSL) Washington Spirit.  Unfortunately, a week later I was cut.  But, I didn't stop!

This year I got invited to the Chicago Red Stars training camp.  I got to train with their team for three weeks.  I actually knew their athletic trainer because she went to school with one of my teammates from the Philippine National Team! Such a small world.  I stayed with her for duration of camp.  Last year when I was with the spirit I was more than overwhelmed.  I simply was not at the level, but I knew I could be.  I worked on my technical ability and it definitely improved.  However, at Chicago things still went over my head.  It was such a learning process though.  As player I learned a lot and was challenged day in and day out.  From a coaching perspective  I gained valuable knowledge for my future.  Not as many coaches as you think have gotten this sort of exposure.  While I am playing, I am always trying to take coaching courses and gain experience, so when that unfortunate day when I can't play competitively any more comes, I can hopefully get a job coaching. 

Shortly before I arrived at Chicago, I was offered to play for a team in Sweden.  One of my teammates from Loyola had played over there and I had been in talks with her contact.  He found me a team and I signed the contract.  I have never been to Sweden and I didn't know much about the team or the league, but this opportunity was exactly what I wanted.  I get to continue to ball (and I am actually baller status now as it is a professional contract!) and I get to travel.  What 25 year old doesn't want to be traveling and playing professional sports!?  This is exactly what I want to be doing right now and I am happy to say my journey continues!!  I will be playing for Landsbro IF and living in Vetlanda, Sweden.  I cannot wait! 

Below are some pics and links from my soccer career and I will definitely be blogging my adventures in Sweden. So stay tuned and thanks for the support!


Already protecting myself and the ball ;)
Even my school work was about soccer
Freshman year at Leonardtown
Freshman year at Loyola
AFC Cup Qualifiers in Bangladesh after I scored the first goal against Iran
AFF Tournament in Myanmar 
Preseason Camp w/ the Chicago Redstars

Raider's Cooke has drive to succeed-

Cooke provides a spark for Leonardtown-

Cooke's world-

‘Maldita’ runs away from Real World, meets kindred spirit-‘maldita’-runs-away-from-real-world-meets-kindred-spirit

Heather Cooke:  Philippine Malditas' Jock of All trades-

Washington Spirit select six in supplemental draft-

Red Stars announce announce 25 player preseason roster-

Also, one of the people that participated in my fundraiser for my fam in the Philippines bought my national team jersey on ebay and displayed it->

Lastly, my announcement with my new team in Sweden->

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Update on my Lola and fam

Last month my mom traveled back home to the Philippines to visit her family in Iloilo.  Building had finally begun.  Carpenters had to tend to their own families before helping out ours and others affected by Typhoon Haiyan. My mom traveled with one of her friends here in St. Mary's County who also had family to visit back in the Philippines.  

Hours before my mom was going to be on a plane, she got a phone call from her nephew saying her mom, sister, and brother-in-law were in a bad motorcycle accident and were in the emergency room.  There were no details about how they were doing other than they were in bad condition.  My mom called her sister in Canada to see if she had heard anything (the wife of the brother-in-law).  She had heard nothing.  Because my mom was about to board the plane, she told her sister to call home right away.  My mom spent the next 24 hours traveling halfway across the world wondering and worrying what had happened with her family.  Upon arriving to her home country, she had another flight from Manila to Iloilo and then went straight to the hospital from the airport.  What was supposed to be a happy homecoming started with my mom spending a week at the hospital taking care of her family.

The accident happened when my family was going into town via motorcycle.  Meanwhile a tree was being cut down.  No one was blocking the road and to make sure it was safe.  When the tree was being cut down, my family was just approaching it and had no idea.  The tree fell right in front of them/on them.  My lola and tita, both were knocked unconscious.  All of them were taken to the hospital.  My tito was taken to ICU.  He suffered a spinal cord injury and couldn't feel his legs.  He recently had surgery, but won't be able to move for many months and they suspect it will be years until he can even walk!  My lola got stitches in her arm and my tita got stitches in her head.  All of them were covered in cuts.  This was definitely not the trip my mom had in mind.

Finally my mom's sister in Canada was also able to return home to see her husband and her family.  The whole family hadn't been home together in 5 years. Unfortunately, it was this terrible event that brought them back together. 

Sorry for the melancholy story… Really puts things in perspective. On the upside the houses are coming along well!   

Below are pictures of the roofs/houses being rebuilt. Thanks again to all who donated money to help rebuild my family's homes! It means so much to me as well as my family! 



Tita Elma, my mom, Lola, my cousin Ellery aka Noynoy after coming home from the hospital

Having a meal after a few of the relatives donated blood for my Tito Raymond

The new roof in the family room of Lola

The roof up close

Working on the roof in the back of the house above the kitchen

Brand new structures for the kitchen made of hollow blocks and cement (not finished yet)

Another shot of the kitchen

The old structure of the kitchen

The left side is the new structure of the kitchen.  The finished outside of the roof with gutters. Almost done!

My Tita's brand new house (almost finished). Her house was completely destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan.
 And the highlight of my mom's trip.. visiting the mall where I still have an ad for Big Apple Express Spa! Joke lang! (Kidding!)