Welcome to Sunday Summary. This is a meme in which I attempt to summarize the week that came before. It replaces previous series such as Sunday Salon, Daily Phuket and Phuket Weekly.
This week of 29 August to 4 September just seemed to fly by. I wasn’t much busier than last week but add in some inter-provincial travel time as well as another all-day series of activities at my main school and I suddenly find myself on a Sunday evening trying to recall what exactly I did during the last seven days.
Monday began with a much easier topic than the last two weeks of trying to teach 5-year olds about their nation’s rich culture but it was still a bit much. I tried my best to get the material across — the curriculum just said “ASEAN” which, for anyone who has taught in this part of the world since before around 2015, is completely understandable. This is an acronym standing for the Association of South East Asian Nations and we usually focus on the ten different member states and their location around us.
Back when we were forcing it down the kids’ throats on a regular basis (in anticipation of the start of the ASEAN Economic Congress, or AEC, in 2016), I had accumulated a great deal of resources the aided in my teaching this topic. However, I never taught it to such young children prior to this week. Still, my lessons on Monday and Tuesday went very well.
I began each lesson blowing up my inflatable globe and pointing out how far my country (the United States) is from Thailand and then pointing out a few of the nearby countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam. I pointed at the various islands and continental lands explaining this was called ASEAN and telling them it was like a club we were all part of. (Of course, the tiny tykes don’t understand this.)
Other than the first period class on Monday, the kids had already seen the red, white, blue and yellow ASEAN flag by the time I got to their lessons. The Thai teachers began with a project emphasizing this flag and had the students glue pieces of colored paper on a pattern with this design. I stuck an ASEAN flag on the whiteboard and then free-hand drew a map showing the borders of all ten member countries. One by one, I displayed their flag (starting with Thailand) and wrote a number on the board within that particular country before sticking on the flag. I also wrote each country’s name, having the kids repeat the names and spell them.
By the time I was finished, the whiteboards looked really nice if I do say so myself. I then played a “game” (although we are not really allowed to): I have three of each national flag on cardboard stock and proceeded to place these around the classroom, pointing out various design elements and colors while repeating the various names. Once all thirty of these were scattered around the classroom, I would choose three kids and describe the flag they were to find and bring back to me. Rather than telling them, “Bring me the flag of Vietnam,” for example, I would request a flag with a yellow star on red. I always saved Thailand for last. The kids had great fun with this, especially at the end when I asked them all to figure out which flag was missing and everyone would run to find it (these were always hidden while the others were just scattered in plain sight).
Finally, I began clearing the whiteboard by starting with country number ten (usually, it was Brunei). I asked the students to repeat the name of the country and (if time allowed) asked a student to come up and point at the correct flag. Sometimes, I would have to describe the flag using shapes or colors but a number of kids began to remember which was which by then. I would then remove the flag from the board and rub the number and name as the kids yelled “Goodbye, [name of country]. This had the effect of keeping my materials in order for the next class and clearing the board (I hate it when the teachers before me don’t erase their boards). As I would remove the countries in reverse order, Thailand was always last (other than the ASEAN flag). Rather than the kids yelling “Goodbye, Thailand”, I had them say “Welcome to Thailand.”
Anyway, these were quite enjoyable lessons. I could tell the kids were having a good time and they seemed to be learning at least a few of the countries. If the students are involved, then I am happy. For my second lessons of the week, I had planned to give the students blank ASEAN maps and color each country according to a key on the whiteboard. But I didn’t have that opportunity.
As I finished my last lesson Tuesday morning, I was told that one of our teachers in Khok Kloy — a municipality in Phang Nga Province — had tested positive for COVID-19 and that I would need to cover his lessons for as long as he needed to recuperate. Our agency is so understaffed at the moment (well, it has been since the pandemic began) that any teacher who cannot work requires quite a bit of shuffling to make sure every lesson has a breathing (non-virus) teacher inside the classroom. Apparently, I am the only of our instructors who can travel to the farthest reaches of our contracted schools. Khok Kloy is not the farthest of our clients but it is the one we have the most difficulty in staffing.
So, once again I found myself at the local bus station in the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday boarding a minivan for the 90-minute drive north. While I was away, our agency’s Head Teacher covered my lessons at the Kindergarten in Phuket (I gave him some of my materials while I took some to use in Phang Nga). Thankfully, the weather was pleasant when I arrived at the bus stop south of the town. I also got lucky in that there was a motorbike taxi driver sleeping in the shelter whom I woke up to drive me the remaining 15 kilometers to the Kindergarten.
I taught Phonics (letter “B”) to the kids there for a couple of hours and then had to walk about three kilometers to the other school where I had afternoon lessons in Lower Primary. I taught the ASEAN lesson to them that I had been doing at the Kindergarten in Phuket. Those went very well although many of the children insisted on “Burma” and “Kampuchea” as the correct names for Myanmar and Cambodia. At least they know that Rangoon (Yangon) is no longer the capital city of the former (yes, I was able to add a bit more to the P2 lessons than just the flags and the maps).
I ended up having to go to Khok Kloy just Wednesday and Thursday (and both days had to wait nearly an hour for a southbound minivan back to Phuket, arriving home fairly late in the evening). Thursday afternoon, it was announced that both schools would close the following day presumably because of disease outbreaks. Despite our teacher testing positive for COVID-19, many of the Kindergarten teachers and students were not wearing face masks and one entire class was out sick with the virus. The Thai teachers were checking students at the gate for something (not sure if it was Monkey Pox or Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease) by shining a flashlight down their mouths, checking their fingernails, and having the kids take off their socks so they could take photos of their feet!
When I texted our Head Teacher to inform him of the school closures, he said he had just been told that my regular school had some sort of all-day activities planned for Friday. Did I want to go to school and do that or have a day of rest? I didn’t want to lose a day of pay so I said I would be happy to play games all day and would try to think of a good activity during my minivan ride home. The Head Teacher said he would try to sort out an activity and just to make sure I wore a “sky blue” shirt on Friday.
After two sunny days up in Phang Nga, of course it poured rain for my Gate Duty on Friday. The Head Teacher brought some fairly elaborate materials to school and stayed there until lunchtime as my station partner. Our activity involved the kids wearing masks representing different dinosaurs while they negotiated a path we taped to the assembly hall floor where each stepping-stone required them to perform some action such as “Flap Your Wings”, “Shake Your Tail”, “Hop”, “Stomp on Four Legs”, etc. It was great fun but exhausting as the kids cannot read yet so I just took each group of five or six along the path and they copied my actions. I think I did this around fifty times over the course of four hours (no breaks). We also participated in a couple of rounds of Tug-Of-War (I pulled the Head Teacher off of his feet twice).
My partner left at lunchtime so after I ate, my station was a form of “Tin Can Alley” where I had the boys compete against the girls of each class to knock over the stacks of rubber “cans”. The girls tended to be better at aiming than the boys who would almost invariably over-throw. The activities finally finished sometime after three in the afternoon, after which myself and another teacher had to carry heavy tables and other items back up to classrooms on the second and third floors of the Kindergarten building.
During the day, most of the Thai teachers were not involved in the activities (leaving the university interns to do the dirty work). Instead, they were making fish balls, some sort of palm sugar desert, and many liters of snake fruit milk to sell at an adjacent market. They made quite a bit of money as there were huge queues of older kids during lunchtime and parents in the afternoon. Every once in a while, they would give us free samples.
My weekend classes were more or less back to normal: my young kids on Friday evening as well as my pair of teenagers and small group of young girls on Saturday afternoon (no morning classes). The teenagers cancelled their Sunday afternoon lesson but I went into the office anyway to print out and laminate the flashcards I created for next week’s topic of “Living Things”.
I only managed to publish one article (about a new Thai stamp) all week although I have one installment of my “Thainess” series all ready to go as soon as I add a few images into it. I think I will have time to do that either tomorrow afternoon or on Tuesday. I also did a bit of work on my Google calendar of new stamp issues, adding in a few upcoming stamps for September.
This evening, I began watching the latest episode of Graham Beck’s #philately off-shoot of his very popular Exploring Stamps YouTube channel. As always, it inspires me to become a better philatelic blogger. This episode mentions several other new stamp-related vlogs that I will take a look at in the next few days. I would love to have a stamp video channel if I can figure out how to do a quality one. Graham has really set the bar high and I have yet to see another philatelic vlogger come anywhere close to what he does.
I didn’t read every night but I did make some progress in David Page’s Food Americana. The chapters on Mexican food and barbecue were particularly good but served to make me exceedingly hungry for those two cuisines. Both are impossible to find in my particular pocket of Phuket island. With the school term finishing at the end of this month, I should have time and money enough to travel to the west coast in search of non-Thai food.
I have a very extensive music collection and most evenings find me listening to something blasting out of my Bluetooth speakers. When I bought my new computer just over a year ago, I decided to make sure every song was properly tagged. Most are in full albums rather than just random tunes and I am very particular in how I title them so they remain organized both alphabetically by artist and chronological by release date (or recording date for live concerts or broadcasts).
I use the MusicBee player which has an information field that can hold entire Wikipedia articles or reviews about each music track. Most evenings, I will spend some time adding music from my external hard drive and copy-paste details into those fields. I also want to make sure each song/album has artwork. That can be problematic on many of my bootlegs (soundboard and audience-sourced recordings, radio broadcasts, and even unreleased demos or studio outtakes). For many of those, I create my own cover images; it can be quite time-consuming finding suitable images and I try to use different fonts and colors. Below, you will find a very small sample of some of the artwork that I have created for my bootlegs.
The results are satisfying but it takes a very long time to add in my music. For example, I have been working on my Bruce Springsteen collection for ages. The first ten years of recordings are fairly complete now (1966 to 1976 — yes, there is A LOT of material pre-dating his first album (Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., released in January 1973). I have also added most of his official Archives live albums (I don’t yet have the most recent one, Rome from the Sessions Band Tour).
This week, I added some Genesis — the 1997 Calling All Stations album as well as alternate takes from those sessions, the singles, promotional radio broadcasts and several recordings from the 1998 tour; this is a very under-rated period of their history following Phil Collins’ departure from the band. With the Ray Wilson era fully documented in my player, I spent last night adding material from the 1970-1975 era (plenty of live recordings plus eight discs of demos from the July 1974 rehearsals for The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway sessions).
On a rare Genesis tangent, I think I will work on adding Steve Hackett solo material this week (he just released a new live album a couple of days ago) and perhaps some more of my Peter Gabriel or Tony Banks albums.
Last week, it was all Blondie and Debbie Harry.
Lovely Lady Kan is still stuck up-country and spent most of the last week or so suffering from a toothache. The clinic gave her pain-relieving tablets that she is slowly becoming addicted to. Hopefully, the weather and other elements clear enough next week for her to return to Phuket. This has been a particularly difficult period of her up there and me down here but I think we have weathered it more or less intact.
Still hot and rainy. The only days that I didn’t get wet were the two I spent teaching in Phang Nga, although the sky looked really iffy as I was waiting for the van back to Phuket Thursday afternoon.
I hope the week to come is just how you want it to be. Cheers!
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