It has been my tradition for a number of years to make a vain attempt at recapping the year that was before plunging headlong into the year to be. With the last two years having been the worst in recent memory for virtually everyone on the planet, I would prefer to simply stop at this point. I mean, what difference does it make? It seems like no matter what little glimmer of hope arises, something occurs to whip us right back around to where we were before. That has not been a good place to be since late February 2020 (your mileage may vary).
From my position as a teacher of English as a Second Language (ESL) in southern Thailand, I will state unequivocally that 2021 was much, much worse than 2020. Needless to say, 2020 was dismal in many more ways than it wasn’t but the personal effects were minor compared to the year that ended yesterday. The only improvement, I suppose, was that the fear of COVID-19 was replaced by frustration and annoyance more than anything else. I think actually becoming infected myself was the essential ingredient in dissipating my personal scare factor of the pandemic.
Throughout it all, I have been an advocate of the basic preventative measures such as social distancing, mask-wearing and getting vaccinated (not, to mention, boosterized!) and remain so, despite my getting sick anyway. Having spent much more of 2021 out-of-work because of the virus and the local reactions to it, I become quite angry seeing tourists coming here thinking they can go about freely without any worries at all (come to my town, you had better put that mask on!!!). As it is, we are teetering on the edge of our 5th (or, is it the 6th?) wave of severe pandemic mayhem.
I returned to school two days before Christmas. What a weird week it was as we saw more and more students and teachers opt to stay home due to the Omicron variant. My classes in Prathom 1 (first year of Primary school) saw me teaching online at the same time as I taught half-full classrooms of real, live kids. Some of my Prathom 4 classes were similarly dual online and in-person. The big rumor over that last day of school on the 30th (prior to a four-day weekend holiday for Western New Year) was that we will not return on the 4th of January as scheduled. As with everything in Thailand, any decision will not be made until probably around midnight on the 3rd. Personally, I wouldn’t mind if we went to doing online classes from home (during Term 1, I taught online but had to do it from the school each day which was what led to my getting sick).
It is these last-minute decisions and overreactions that annoy me the most. I had been waiting on my Term 2 position since the 1st of November, losing nearly two months of income as a result (and not having fully recovered from the work stoppage between late March and the end of July). I did not find out about my current position until the evening prior to starting it. Having to walk home each day past dozens of foreigners not wearing masks did not add to my sunny disposition; at least I wasn’t alone as I saw a few angry confrontations between our stalwart locals and these possibly disease-ridden invaders late in the week. While I don’t condone the violence, seeing these tourists experience the feelings of my fellow Phuketians did seem like justice served cold.
However, it is time to cast all of these awful thoughts and experiences aside. I desire a different experience for 2022 — one that may require me to ignore my brain and my eyes if I desire to retain my sanity.
I have always managed to escape reality somewhat by immersing myself in books and stamps. Over much of 2021, I severely cut back on both hobbies — I was often too tired or stressed-out to read much more than a very few pages each night and I had to put a moratorium on philatelic purchases due to income issues (the shutting-down of our postal service for a significant portion of the year was another factor!).
While I no longer seriously make New Years Resolutions, I want to make an effort to become more organized in certain endeavors. As for reading, the only real change that I can make is to lower my annual book goal. For the past two or three years that goal was to finish 50 books in a year and I struggled to reach it. For 2021, I decided 45 was a good number and I hit that early this month. I only managed to finish one additional book in the past three weeks.
Over the past couple of months, I have been avoiding some of the lengthier books in my To Be Read (TBR) virtual pile so that I could complete my goal. I think the solution is to state a goal of 25-30 books for 2022 and tackle some of those longer works. I can always increase it later as I approach this much more reasonable number. I still cannot believe that I was once able to knock out 80-100 in a single 12-month period!
As for stamps, I think I will set aside the general worldwide collection and concentrate on filling the gaps in my French and German albums as well as resume buying Thailand’s new stamp issues for 2022 (I hope they publish a yearbook for 2021 as I wasn’t able to buy any of the stamps released since last May). I have been working on my main stamp website (Philatelic Pursuits.com) over the past weeks and am quite pleased with the results. I hope to resume posting at Postcards to Phuket in the near future and I may even think of some way to resurrect A Stamp A Day in 2022 (a renaming is probably in the cards as well).
As for this blog, I will continue with my usual meandering posts although I have decided to rename the photo feature since “Daily Phuket” no longer really fits. How about “Phuket Weekly” or something like that? I believe I can maintain a weekly summary format much better than my recent attempts at saying something relevant about occasional hastily-shot blurry images. I am running out of Phuket Town locations that interest me so either I need to go further afield to the beaches or abandon this place altogether. If I remain in Thailand, I can foresee a move to Bangkok as I have never spent enough time there to really see all there is to see. I doubt that I will ever return to the States but, if Thailand continues along the path it has for the last several years, perhaps relocating elsewhere in Asia may be in the cards.
For any of that to happen, however, I need a few solid years of working as much as I can. Even without the pandemic screwing with everything, that is becoming increasingly difficult as I get older. Schools here do not care one wit about years of experience; what they want is young teachers and more are requesting only females for their staff. Victims of such ageism and sexism have no recourse here but to hope they can find some place not yet infected by this trend. My options are numbered by more than merely getting old. Ideally, I will have at least another ten years before I hit retirement age. COVID-19 had added to that but school administrators seem intent on hastening the inevitable.
The future is cloudy. I hope 2022 allows me to move forward more than backwards. Good luck to all of us…