August 2021: Living in the Twilight Zone

I honestly thought the month would never end. Every day brought a new level of craziness to the point that I felt I was trapped in an episode of Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone”. I do not even know where to begin as my mind has truly blocked out the worst of it, so I don’t think I will even try. At this point, anything I try to explain will border on the unbelievable and people will start to think that I am truly “Fruit Loops” in the brain. While I survived the month of August, September is starting off in nearly as worse a state. I just need to keep my sense of humor and try to dodge the bullet.

Much of this end-of-month wrap-up post will be attempts at providing captions to photos. I didn’t taken that many as the scenery itself didn’t change much.

We’ve had rain. Sometimes heavy, sometimes heavy with sideways wind. Most days have involved protecting electronics from moisture. Although I have been teaching online ever since late July, I have had to endure a 30-minute ride each day to and from my school carrying my new 24-inch all-in-one computer. Due to my preventative measures, it arrives at its destination much, much drier than I do. It is a lot of extra work wrapping and unwrapping it every time I get to school or return home. Some afternoons, I just leave it encased in its layers of garbage bags and backpack rain covers when I get back to my apartment — opting for a computer-less evening while I lay on my bed reading a book on my tablet.

I live in an apartment on the top floor of a four-story building. A very old building. Due to all the rain, there is a leak in my bathroom ceiling. It shorted out the light fixtures in the bathroom and one ceiling tile is now covered in mold. I’m afraid to touch it as it may just disintegrate and who knows what will fall into the bathroom then. Maintenance cannot come to fix it due to the COVID-19 protocols. I have a Sprite bottle positioned under the drip so the water droplets don’t splatter all over the place. Luckily, it is quite a slow leak so I don’t have to dump the bottle very often. Whenever the rain is super-heavy, I lay in bed watching the bedroom ceiling, praying that further leaks don’t appear. The bookshelves containing my stamp albums are covered in plastic, just in case.

At school, the drainage pipes cannot cope with the downbursts. The noise is deafening when you are trying to teach in the neighboring classroom.

My classroom tends to flood if it rains more than an hour or two. The wall to the right (adjacent to a breezeway leading outside) is starting to buckle from the moisture inside the wall.

The opposite wall (adjacent to the former art room) isn’t faring much better.

My setup in the far corner has remained dry (so far). It really is the only place that I can put my computer and other gear as the room’s sole electrical outlet is halfway up the wall in that corner. I share it with a rotting teacher’s desk, a water cooler (I liberated a water bottle from the library), and a host of mosquitoes and a few monster-sized spiders.

But the spiders in my classroom are nothing compared to the ones in the men’s restroom. There are four very large webs hanging over the two stalls containing toilets (one being a Western style, the other a squatter on the floor). I really try to avoid going in there but sometimes, I need to and I always pause to find out where the spiders are hanging before I commence my business. I hate spiders.

Have I mentioned that part of my school has been converted into a COVID-19 Care Center? This is the reason I was moved from my former workspace in the library to a remote classroom. Yet, I still have to pass through the detainees area to get there.

The wall decorations in the classroom are quite cheery as well with lovely English vocabulary words scattered about:

I even had some real live students come to school last week. There were five in all that came into my classroom over the course of three days. They are all related and live in a house just off of campus. Their mom dragged them over (against all the COVID-19 protocols we are having to abide by) and I was forced to teach them. The kid in the red shirt didn’t have a mask and I didn’t have an extra one I could loan him. Cute, but dangerous. They came again today but that caused a huge incident which ended up with me having to undergo a COVID-19 test.

Last week, we started a new schedule. They changed all of the teaching hours with the end result that I now have seven hour-long lessons back-to-back on Mondays and six each on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Last Monday morning, I was informed of the change just five minutes before the first of those seven lessons. That was a real back-breaker and my equipment began overheating by the afternoon. There are three fans in the room but they are not adjustable and point towards the front rather than the rear where I have to work (only one outlet, remember?). By the way, I have been in that classroom for nearly three weeks now and have yet to find a light switch! On the dark rainy days, my only illumination comes from the computer screen.

With the schedule change, there are no classes on Thursdays and Fridays but we are expected to go to school for the regular working hours (but without any extra pay) in order to prepare our lessons and materials for the following week. It worked out okay last week as I got everything finished and was finally able to relax a bit during the weekend. I was even able to watch a movie (“Seven Years in Tibet” with B.D. Wong and Brad Pitt) last Saturday night. I had to order a delivery meal as the rain kept me stuck inside.

Luckily, a great many of the zaniest parts of August were not photographed. I think for an indication, you can watch any given episode of “The Phuket News” on Facebook. Most reports leave you shaking your head at the sheer stupidity or contradictory nature of what is occurring throughout the Kingdom on any given day. Enough said (although it is no longer illegal to discuss the government and their ineptitude).

Useless statistics time….

I finished reading four books in August — two Brad Thor thrillers, a history of the inspiration, design and construction of the Statue of Liberty, and a work about the Finnish model of education. The latter has some awesome ideas but most would not be feasible here in Thailand. At least in the government schools where much of the system is geared not towards the students at all. The everyone passes even if they never show up rule is number one on my list of bad things about Thai education. I quite enjoyed the Brad Thor novels although reviews by longtime fans tend to say that they aren’t nearly as good as earlier works.

I think the 1,343 tracks I listened to in MusicBee might be the most music I have played in a single month for many, many years. The biggest news on this is that I basically “rediscovered” my longtime favorite, Bruce Springsteen. I have a huge Springsteen collection including hundreds of bootlegs (his Steel Mill gigs of 1970-1971 are amongst my favorites) and have been going back reorganizing the earliest ones, putting stray tracks together and tracking down tape lineages. For much of the month of August, I listened to Springsteen chronologically, starting with some recordings of him in The Castiles circa 1967 and am now up to the early 1973 recordings.

I also mixed-up my August music with quite a bit of New Wave including Talking Heads, Blondie and early Berlin. Fun stuff. The past week has also seen a rediscovery of Shania Twain and Lucinda Williams as well as a bit of progressive rock. Yes, my musical interests are quite diverse.

Well, that was my August.

September has started with a rapid COVID test and the “permission” to work at home for the next two days as the virus protocols are once again tightening up. While Bangkok is starting to go down (I think mostly due to how they are now counting new cases which only shows the numbers are better but doesn’t reflect the reality), local cases in Phuket have been increasing dramatically. Even then, they change the numbers to make the province look better to outsiders. For example, a criteria for the “Phuket Sandbox” (which allows tourists to visit with a host of restrictions) was originally that it would be stopped if weekly local cases went above 90. Well, we have been averaging more than 200 cases a day for a week now (almost 260 today) and so they dropped that criteria of 90+ AND they will start to allow domestic tourism once again while locking down the residents.

Just crazy stuff.

Hopefully, at the end of the month, I can report that it is finally over. Time will tell.

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