June 2021: Ending the Month on High Notes

Whew! I am glad June is coming to an end. Although it didn’t seem like the month dragged on and on as much as other recent months. Now that it is coming to an end, I feel like there are a million and one things I need to accomplish in the next day.

As mentioned in my last “daily” post (12 days ago), I returned to work a couple of weeks ago but only for an hour each on two consecutive evenings each week. My Sunday lesson will not resume until my student’s mother receives her second vaccination. With the way the process has started, stopped, and semi-started again, who knows how long that might take. As a result, I will end up with a total of four hours on June’s salary; it would have been five but a fire broke out last Thursday and we had to close the office and classrooms as a result.

That also happened to be the day that we were scheduled to receive our second jabs of the COVID-19 vaccine but we arrived early in the morning only to find that the local government had postponed our appointments and gave our doses to Thai citizens despite the hospital’s protestations. They quickly rescheduled the foreigners for the following Sunday (no matter what the local press claimed, it was all done with a minimum of fuss and V-day went very smoothly).

Receiving my 2nd COVID-19 vaccination last Sunday. Our batch of CoronaVac was “homegrown”, produced by Siam BioTech.

But, This is Thailand (we just say “T.I.T.”) so there always must be a wrinkle. While waiting our vaccination certificates, a spokesperson informed us that these would only be valid for inter-provincial travel. Should we want to actually go to another country (escape Thailand, in other words), we will need to journey to Bangkok in order to obtain a passport vaccination certificate at an inflated cost. The spokesperson said, “Well, you stay in Thailand for a long time and never need to go anywhere else — no problem — just keep the certificate and no need to go to Bangkok.” By the way, the Minister of Public Health recently tried to add the vaccine they gave us to the list of banned vaccines for entering the country. Ironic, isn’t it?

There were a few other caveats but they are just too depressing to contemplate.

However, I received two offers of increased work yesterday. One was with a rival agency and would have involved a long round-trip journey each day at a private kindergarten (while the little tykes certainly are cute, they quickly wear you out with their tiny attention spans and there is usually clean-up involved so not my favorite level to teach). I didn’t turn down the offer right away but I did contact my long-term employer (my 10 year anniversary with them is this coming Monday) to see if I could change the time of my in-house student.

I told the office manager why I was asking; she said she would call me back and when she did perhaps 10 minutes later, I was offered an opening at a school closer but which still involves a tricky travel route. I will teach a fairly easy schedule of primary students (P1 through P6) starting this Thursday, 1 July. There is one day with five lessons, a couple with four each and two with just three classes (Wednesday’s schedule has at least an hour between each lesson). I think it is a much better assignment and harkens back to what I did my first two years with the company when I was the only foreign teacher at a school where I taught the exact same levels minus P1. Just like the earlier position, there isn’t a text book to follow and it will be mostly vocabulary and some conversation.

On paper, my new schedule looks pretty easy (especially Tuesdays and Wednesdays) but it will take a little while to get used to being on my feet in a hot environment for most of the day after months of inactivity. I’m a bit glad that my first day at the school — this Thursday — is the busiest of the week so I can hit the ground running.

I don’t have a lot of time to prepare so the lessons this Thursday and Friday will just be “getting to know you” sessions and checking to see what their previous teacher taught them during the two weeks since the school year began. Tomorrow, I plan to take a motorbike taxi to the school in order to determine how close I can get to it using local (and cheaper) transportation and how long it will take to travel from the school to our offices on the two days that I have to teach in the evenings. I am not even sure if the local buses (songteaw) are even running anymore. If not, I will need to take a motorbike every day there and back so I will need to carve that out of my budget. I certainly won’t be walking there everyday as I did last term working at a different school. I am really looking forward to it as it certainly beats staying home nearly every day trying to find something to do.

My routine hasn’t fluctuated that much since the last time I reported on it. I read at least an hour every day (and finished three books in June with another two about halfway done). I do something with stamps every day as well. I haven’t blogged very much about them in the past two weeks (although that started to change this Monday) but I spent a couple of days working on my Big Blue (Part II) worldwide album and a bit of research here and there.

For most of the month, I have been on a spaceflight kick. I grew up as an “Apollo kid”; coming from Texas, we were quite proud of Mission Control in Houston and I recall seeing the ghostly images from the moon landing as a young boy of four-and-a-half. It might be my earliest memory, in fact. I became especially interested in NASA during the Apollo-Soyuz and Skylab missions and vividly remember when the latter returned to Earth in 1979. Other than earlier first day covers of the various U.S. space-related stamps, my first space covers were autographed Skylab mission launch and re-entry covers. I really got into astro-philately with the earliest tests of booster engines and other hardware preceding the first of the Space Shuttle missions. I stopped collecting during the time there was serious doubt over NASA’s future following the Challenger tragedy.

I celebrated my vaccination and return to full-time work with my first burger and fries from McDonald’s since last February! So good!!
I only finished three books in June but I am halfway through my goal for the year. I think I will choose a few thrillers over the next couple of months as I can read those much faster than non-fiction or literary works (I spent a lot of time of the Charles Frazier book due to the beauty of his writing).

Last month, I stumbled across the recent “The Right Stuff” television series (I’d read the Tom Wolfe book years ago as well as watched the original movie). I binged-watched those and began seeking out eBooks about the early days of the U.S. space program. I just finished a book called Beyond by Stephen Walker which details the events in the USSR leading up to and including Yuri Gagarin’s initial journey out of our atmosphere. I have also been watching episodes from the 1998 series “From the Earth to the Moon” (why didn’t I watch these when they first came out, I wonder). I suppose reading and watching about space is the only recent deviation from my earlier routine.

So far (with two evenings left in the month of June), I have listened to 764 songs from 75 different albums — a total of 57 hours and 58 minutes if I played them all non-stop. That is a significant jump from May’s 473 songs played (39h 22m). Many of the albums played in the past week have been Bruce Springsteen official live recordings, the first Springsteen that I have listened to since October 2020 (1 album — his latest). I played a couple of compilations a year ago but hadn’t played very much of his vast archives of live material for several years. I state all this as Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band is my favorite live band of all time and he is probably my favorite songwriter as well. My collection of Springsteen totals more than 500 different albums (many of them bootlegs). It’s nice to have his music back on my playlist. With anybody — great favorites or new discoveries — I really have to be in the right mood to listen to them. It is Bruce’s turn once again, I guess.

While their comrades were inside putting out the flames and dealing with thick smoke, these guys were left to change the flat tire on Phuket’s modern pumper truck.
Yes, the mall is on fire but the evacuated staff sat against the building! The fire started in the kitchen of a Korean restaurant on the third floor and smoke eventually became thick enough that businesses started closing down. Our office was the first to high-tail it out of there. Everyone else followed about thirty minutes later. You could see the flames outside as well but it was all back to work a couple of hours later.

What will July bring? I do know that I will be much busier with work so that will affect my blogging activities a bit. Once I become comfortable with the gaps in my teaching schedule, I will probably start to at least prepare for articles while at school if nobody objects (they usually don’t). While I will try not to go on a big spending spree (I budgeted tightly although I do have a comfortable amount of savings), there are a few things I will probably purchase within the next few months. First on my agenda is to replace my toaster oven; I will probably buy an air-fryer as well. There are a few books in my eBay watchlist that would be nice to finally order. And with Windows 11 coming this fall (and finding that my current laptop lacks the specs needed to install it), I will start looking to upgrade my home computer, probably as this year’s birthday/Christmas/New Year’s gift to myself. Plus, I can resume planning for my massive May-June 2023 trip (I have yet to announce where I am going to anyone but my sister).

Things are definitely looking up, compared to the end of last month. All this and Phuket is going to try and reopen to international tourism on the 1st of July as well. It’s called the “Sandbox” as it’s an experiment for the entire Kingdom to see it if works. Looking at the long list of requirements that potential travelers need to meet, I wonder if anybody is brave enough to try it and the list is daunting to say the least. But the local economy NEEDS this is there if any hope for post-COVID survival in Phuket. I am praying that this doesn’t result in further outbreaks; the government has said that if there are more than 90 cases in a single week, they will shutdown once again. And that is something we definitely DO NOT NEED!

Fingers crossed, everybody.

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