Welcome to Sunday Summary, the meme in which I attempt to summarize the week that came before.
Most of the time, I put together these weekly summaries in the late evening hours on Sunday but this time I have begun at the crack of dawn. Later today, I will head to the bus terminal to board a mini-van and spend a week in Phang Nga – the province on the mainland just north of Phuket island. Unfortunately, this is not a holiday and will involve considerable hard work.
Before I explain my journey north, let me summarize what was perhaps the easiest week in my teaching career. It was at least the first in a very long while that was (nearly) hassle free. It was final exam week at my school; since I currently teach in the lowest level of Kindergarten, this involved giving oral tests to very young children. In fact, this was their very first assessment in what, hopefully, will be a very long life of learning.
The exams covered the basics and there was no sign of the crap we were required to teach them, aside from the last question which showed a picture of the Thai flag; I usually asked them either “Where are you from?” or “What country is this?”. I kept the test very simple beginning with their nicknames (see my post “Thainess Part 6: Family & Nicknames” for an overview of this spirit-snatching preventative measure) and easing them into it with questions such as “How are you?” or “Are you happy?”. I had a few images to which the kids had to point to match a phrase which worked part of the time; I adjusted to the kid, often having them just repeat the phrases (“Good morning”, “Good night”, “Wash your hands”, and “Eat breakfast”) so I could check their pronunciation.
The second page had several random letters of the alphabet as well as numbers. This was so that they could identify the letters and numbers out of context although you could tell a few were singing the “ABC Song” in their heads until they arrived at the letter on the page. On identifying fruit, most children said “apple” (or app-en) but would almost invariably say the Thai word for “banana” first. About half would correct themselves when prompted. The next page consisted of images the students had to count; there are two or three classrooms that do not have number posters (nor the alphabet, for that matter) and I was surprised that the majority of the kids in those classrooms could not get past the number four or five. Some would just grind to a halt while other would go from “five” and then say “seven” or “eight”, skipping “six” entirely. While we did the numbers from time to time, the kids had no method of practicing during the long periods of time when I didn’t have a lesson with them. I will buy some posters to put into those classrooms and check to see if that makes a difference.
The last page began with an image of a boy and a girl swimming. Only two children in the entire K2 level of Kindergarten said “swimming”, several others said “swim” but most just said “wai nam” (the Thai words for “swimming”). I hadn’t taught the word but when I asked if they liked doing this, most kids said “Yes, I do” or similar. One child shook her head vigorously, obviously not a big fan of jumping in the pool.
Finally, a recent vocabulary picture – almost every kid quickly said “pencil” before the last question which had a photo of both the Thai and U.S. flags. I varied the question a bit from class to class; the kids in classes with kind homeroom teachers could usually answer “Where is Teacher Mark from?” by pointing at the correct flag and saying either “U.S.A.” or “America” while the kids in other classes got either “Where are you from?” or “What country is this?” while I pointed only at the Thai flag. Most of these children would say “Prathet Thai” but would self-correct to “Thailand” when prompted. These are the same classes which do not have any English language posters and the teachers are constantly yelling at them (and, in one, at me!). I want the children to have fun during my lessons and I do my best but it is difficult to have them do any sort of learning activity that involves them breaking their sit-up-straight position on the floor for fear of getting yelled at (or worse!) by the Thai teacher. Hence, they don’t learn as well as the other kids because they sit there in constant terror, never being allowed to have some fun. I feel for these kids.
There were a few glitches on the first day – a smoke-filled corridor and ensuing evacuation during the second period really did not help matters much. We attempted to cough our way through the third period exams but it was rough going. On Tuesday, I was giving exams in the hallway with each student coming out one by one for their three or four minutes with me when the teacher from Monday’s third period class approached me. She is one of the yellers and the only one that I am scared of (she has yelled at ME! on several occasions in front of the class). She knew the kids had been late returning to the room the day before and she demanded to know how many kids I’d tested in her class (she hadn’t returned with the kids, her TA sitting in the classroom). I told her that I got through nine students at which point she said she wanted to see the tests; since I was in the middle of doing tests for a different class (and had left hers at home anyway), I said I would do that on Wednesday when I visited the class at the scheduled time. She just said “Stand by” and left in a huff.
Finished with my schedule that day, I went back downstairs eager to get to lunch as I was starving. I walked into the Teachers’ Room only to find the “scary teacher” in there along with five or six kids. “You test now,” she said. I tried to explain that this was my lunch period and also that her class test sheets were at home. This didn’t faze her so I made a new test sheet (I had a few blanks) for the first kid she shoved my way. That turned out to be a kid nicknamed “Jackpot” who is the most anti-everything kid I have encountered this year. He loves to sneak up behind his teachers and try to ram his fingers into places they do not belong. He pinches and bites and when he’s not doing that, he sits with an evil look on his face that makes me think he is plotting to blow things up.
Nonetheless, I tried to give him the test. His response to every question was either an emphatic “No!” or he would try to pinch my arm or kick my shins. I spent perhaps 15 minutes trying to give him the test before giving up. I was going to move on to the next child but their teacher returned and took the kids, presumably because someone else asked where they were. Later in the week, I gave the other kids their tests without any incident and was thankful that “Jackpot” was absent that day. The teacher told me to fail him (which you cannot do in Thailand); I gave him the lowest possible passing score – 60 percent.
However, ALL the other classes were easy. Very few of the children froze up although I had to spend a bit of time at the beginning to put a few at ease. Having the student’s classes, numbers and names on my scoring sheets really helped as some teachers sent them to me in random order rather than numerical order. I always checked the name on my sheet with the embroidered name on their uniform shirts. There were a precious few absences which I got when they returned to school and one that remained ill but took their test via a phone call. The only difficulty there was trying to balance the phone and show the pictures on the test at the same time. I had one student that was ill in the hospital but they said I could try to test next week. No problem.
Since I had most of the afternoons free, I was able to record all of the test scores on the assessments spreadsheets and send them to the agency in record time. I began to wonder what I would do next week as our contract finishes on September 30. Most teachers will spend the time finishing their assessments but I have nothing to do (save the one “missing” score).
Needless to say, there was an almost carnival-like atmosphere surrounding the school as I departed on Friday (after eating lunch).
That brings me to the difficult week ahead. Yesterday morning, I was informed that one of the teachers who covers classes at our two schools in Khok Kloy in Phang Nga Province would be unable to finish out the school term. Also, none of the final exams had been administered. Would I be willing to go to Khok Kloy and give the tests next week? After a few inquiries, I agreed to do it and even got the agency to agree to pay for accommodations (I didn’t want to make the round-trip mini-van journey everyday).
I have to take the big box of pre-printed test papers with me so can only take one small backpack; not looking forward to trying to juggle that box in the mini-van today (heading up this afternoon) or on the back of a motorbike taxi tomorrow when I take them to the school. I am not a big fan of invigilating a test in classes where I don’t know the students (I never subbed for this particular teacher but she was always complaining at how “challenging” these kids were), especially when I don’t know the material on the exam (the box is taped shut). There is no room to take my usual coloring sheets for early finishers so I don’t know what I will do if the exams don’t take the full period. I didn’t ask if I need to mark the exams and record the scores although I suspect that I will.
Oh, well. At least it means a slightly higher amount in next month’s payroll.
Thursday (and Friday) were broken up a bit as I needed to visit the Phuket Immigration Office in order to get my one-year visa extension-of-stay. The Thursday submission of documents was a bit unusual with the officials (completely new staff, I suppose reassigned from elsewhere) were completely off their rockers, doing all they could to antagonize as many of the foreign “customers” as possible. Luckily, none of the corruption was directed towards me although what I witnessed was certainly eye-opening – I’d had nothing but praise for the Phuket office over the course of four or five visits every year for nearly 18 years but that was completely wiped away on Thursday. I vented greatly in a Facebook post so I won’t repeat that here. I returned to retrieve my passport on Friday and didn’t see any further shenanigans when I did.
My classes on Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday were all cancelled. This usually happens at exam time as the students want more study time or a bit of relaxation. My trip to Phang Nga helps to ease the pain of the loss of income for those in-house lessons.
While I didn’t see anything interesting this week on my daily walks to and from school, the long walks to the Phuket Immigration Office on Thursday and Friday yielding some cool discoveries.
Phuket’s largest and most popular annual festival is a local version of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival which is supposedly the largest outside of China and called simply the Phuket Vegetatian Festival or thetsakan kin che (เทศกาลกินเจ). It features many long processions through Phuket Town, accompanied by numerous explosions from people throwing firecrackers at each other and from deities borne aloft on sedan chairs. There are all sorts of bizarre rituals during the festivities including faithful piercing their faces and hanging a wide variety of items from the large brass skewers embedded in their cheeks, bladed ladder climbing, numerous people running on beds of hot coals, bathing in burning oil, and so much more. Many of the more popular events were muted over the past two years due to the COVID-19 restrictions so the 2022 version will be its grand return.
I had been wondering when it would begin (it is based upon the Lunar calendar and so is different each year) as I had begun to see some indications that it would be soon. They were installing large statues of some of the emperor gods on Thursday and I finally found a sign that listed the dates: 26 September to 4 November. Due to my being in Phang Nga this upcoming week, I will miss the dramatic first night and many of the morning and afternoon processions. I will make a special effort to attend the grand finale on the night of the 4th. It an hours long bombardment of the senses with the non-stop fireworks beginning around 9pm and lasting without let-up until the wee hours of the morning. Towards the end, the smoke is so thick that the spirits and their entourages just materialize out of nowhere, the shrines spouting flames as they come running towards the crowds. Not for the faint of heart!
During my walk to Immigration, I also stumbled across a newish Mexican restaurant near my preferred viewing spot for the Vegetarian’s Festival grand finale. I had seen its menu online sometime before the start of the Pandemic but could not find the location. Actually, it was on Google Maps but I just couldn’t find it. I noticed a foreign couple on the sidewalk taking photos of a streetside menu. When I looked a bit closer, I saw the name I remembered searching for several years ago: Cholo’s. There is minimal signage (which you cannot see at all if walking from the south; I was coming from the north on this day). I will definitely have to check them out as soon as the big festival finishes.
I only had two lunches at school this week and both were extremely spicy. I didn’t get to eat lunch on Tuesday but they had the nice boiled chicken that I like. I ordered a fish and chips from Food Panda one evening. Pizza Company had a Buy 1 Get 1 Free promotion so I celebrated the end of exams by ordering a Super Supreme and a Pepperoni on Friday. It was enough pizza to last me all day Saturday with my final two slices making up a Midnight Snack last night.
I received only one item in the ole Mail Bag this week and it was actually hand-delivered by our new postman. He happens to live in the building so it wasn’t any great feat for him to come up to my fourth-floor apartment but I still appreciated the effort.
The item in question was a postcard sent by my sister during a recent visit to San Antonio, Texas. The cool thing was that it pictures The Alamo, the former Spanish mission and fortress where a pivotal battle in the Texas Revolution of 1836 occurred. It’s a place special in the hearts of all Texans (I was born in Dallas). At the time I received the card, I happened to be wearing a t-shirt from the very same place. Nice coincidence.
I didn’t do any fun reading this week….
….because I started a new blog.
For some time, I had been wanting to post more of my various collections online. I have entertained thoughts of creating clickable stamp album pages (I lack the coding skills to make this work the way I want it to) or a “Look into my boxes” format. I have seen a few other collectors of postcards or covers post just the images with minimal commentary in the past. I decided early this week to do the same.
I first thought I would add occasional posts on my main blog (the one you are reading now) or have individual collection pages. I wanted to post other items that I own that are not stamp-related. I have a fair number of coins and banknotes from different places as well as things like pins from the Olympics and Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, patches obtained on my travels around the world, and much more. I thought that a minimalist approach would allow me to get more of my items online faster as the prospect of time-consuming researching and writing lengthy articles simply doesn’t appeal to me anymore. Nor do I have the amount of free time I once enjoyed. I thought that I would just scan whatever appealed to me on a particular day, upload it, and then include the necessary information in a caption instead of a full article.
In the end, I found it easier to create a brand new blog which I have titled MY COLLECTIONS and the first few entries are rather brief. However, the first comment I received was from a very noted figure in the stamp world and someone I respect very much. He happens to enjoy reading my researched write-ups (and, thus, learning from them) and I agree this is the preferable approach. While I had already planned to highlight certain items in longer articles (either there or here), I am making an effort to at least include a bit more information rather than a caption with the lead image.
I envision a mix of simple post the picture entries and some that are a bit more detailed. When I have time, I can always expand a minimalist article into a full-length one. When I do, I will feature them at the top of the home page. While most of the articles will be of stamps or covers, I am attempting a bit of variety with each series of posts (I was aiming for three or four per day but that, too, will vary with my workload).
Latest Posts from MY COLLECTIONS:
- Due to wartime needs of copper for use in ammunition shells and other military equipment used by Allied Forces during World War II, the United States Mint researched various ways to limit dependence and meet […]
- So many of the items I have in My Collections spark long-ago memories and today’s entry is no different. From sometime in early 1974 until August 1977, I lived with my family in the Nashville, […]
- For several years in the mid- to late 1970s, my father and I would load up a tent, sleeping bags, cooking gear, and outdoor clothing onto the back of his small Honda 650 motorcycle, climb […]
- One of the interesting souvenirs available at most international stamp exhibitions is the philatelic passport. This item is usually a little larger than the standard national passport and is filled with a number of pages, […]
- Today, 24 October, is United Nations Day which marks the anniversary of the entry into force in 1945 of the UN Charter. With the ratification of this founding document by the majority of its signatories, […]
I didn’t add very many albums into MusicBee this week other than a few live recordings by The Allman Brothers Band and Gov’t Mule last night. As far as listening, I finished my Rod Stewart streak with his relatively awful 1982 Absolutely Live (I am saving the Faces box set, Five Guys Walk Into A Bar, for a time when I can really sit and appreciate it). I listened to a bit of Styx by accident (The Grand Illusion and some live recordings from 1977 and 1978) before waking up and switching to a recent Blondie webcast, some solo Deborah Harry, and a full three-hour Gov’t Mule concert recorded in Jamaica during their January 2019 Island Exodus IV.
I managed to sit through another episode from Season 2 of “The Wire” (I much preferred the first season) early in the week but I was saving Episode 5 of “House of the Dragon” for after I finished my paperwork for school. I didn’t even download it until Wednesday (I usually do that late Monday or early Tuesday) and finally watched it on Friday evening. The last bit before the credits gave me the creeps (the rat lapping up blood while the wedding occurred in the background) but it was a brilliant ending.
My sweetheart has elected to remain at her home in Buriram for the time being to take care of her aging mother. The house has really taken a beating during this monsoon season (and it ain’t over yet!). The plan is to start repairs to the roof once the heavy rains cease and to begin saving to build a new house entirely. I think she had come to the decision a few weeks ago and had been afraid to tell me. Once she did, early this week, her entire mood lightened up (and it’s always pretty upbeat anyway) and we have had some of our best conversations yet.
While I doubt that I will make it up north during my holiday period next month (I still have in-house lessons every weekend), I am already thinking about a visit next March or April once this school year finishes. Unfortunately, we only have a three- or four-day holiday at the end of December. Kan assures me that she will return to Phuket for a visit long before I can go to Buriram. Long distance relationships are hard, but we are both doing whatever we can to keep things as good as we can.
Photo of the Week
I hope the week to come is just how you want it to be. Cheers!
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