Week of 25 September to 1 October 2022
Welcome to Sunday Summary, the meme in which I attempt to summarize the week that came before.
I spent most of last week finishing out the first half of the school year up in Phang Nga, giving a whole lot of paper exams. While most of Thailand was getting pounded by the remnants of Typhoon Noru, Khok Kloi was relatively storm-free except during my walks to school each morning. However, since returning to Phuket around mid-day Friday, I have seen nothing but rain.
It was last Saturday afternoon when I received word that one of our teachers up in Khok Kloi, a tiny municipality on the mainland north of Phuket Island, had left. I was asked if I would go up to Phang Nga each day during the coming week to give the Primary students their final exams with the agency paying for my daily transportation. I had no desire to wake up before the crack of dawn in order to catch the early mini-van so I asked if they could provide accommodations instead. They agreed so I packed for a five-night stay and departed Sunday afternoon.
The “resort” (Dara 2) is located somewhat south of the main road through the center of town but it’s comfortable and has air-conditioning. I stayed here back in June during an earlier “forced assistance” at our schools in the area and preferred it over the other cheap place to stay that I was initially offered (being a definite downgrade from my vision of a Burmese prison cell). It may be a long way from almost everything but I will go for comfort over convenience every time.
However, I was not counting on this tiny backwater place celebrating the Nine Emperor Gods Festival as vigorously as Phuket does. The one Chinese shrine in the area just happens to be adjacent to my bungalow and last Sunday just happened to be the start of the 10-day festival. Long periods of drum-beating, gong-banging, fireworks-cracking punctuated the evening and nighttime hours that first night. A large roll of loud firecrackers were set off every hour from around 9 or 10pm and continued until four o’clock the following morning. Thankfully, the other nights only had noisy events up until around 10 at night so I managed to get a bit of sleep. Other than the first night, when I had to walk through the shrine on my quest for dinner, I did not come close to viewing any of the festivities.
I had been very proud of myself at arranging a motorbike taxi to take me to school by asking the driver who dropped me off at the “resort” (it calls itself that, but it’s just a collection of rooms in a row out in the jungle behind the Chinese shrine) on Sunday. I had a heavy box full of final exams to take to the school and wanted to assure that I got there with little difficulty. However, the taxi never showed on Monday morning. The staff tried calling a taxi for me but three different drivers refused before I gave up and began the long walk carrying the big box. This is a town where the only place you can find motorbike taxi drivers is at the bus station quite some distance south on the main highway.
The route to the Primary school (thankfully, I did not have any Kindergarten classes this week as those are held in a separate facility east of town) involves a one-kilometer walk north on a very narrow (and muddy) piece of pavement to the main road and then a journey west for about 600 meters (mostly in the street as the sidewalks are either blocked or in disrepair) to a major highway where I turn north again for another kilometer or so. Once on the highway, I walk as far on the right of the shoulder as I can — avoiding big puddles — while cursing the many who decide that the shoulder is either the passing lane or the main thoroughfare!
On that first day, man-handling the heavy box of tests, I got lucky as the parent of one of my students saw me walking while she was driving her child to school. So, I got to squeeze onto a very small motorbike along with mom, grandma, and the student. Four on a bike (none of us wearing helmets) with my box balanced at the feet of the driver and me hanging off the back with my heavy pack, hoping that the rear tire wouldn’t burst under the weight. I’d gotten about halfway so we rode about 1.5 km in that fashion. I was very appreciative of the ride despite the method (kindness of strangers in rural towns never ceases to amaze me). We arrived in the middle of the morning flag ceremony and assembly so all students and teachers witnessed my grand entrance.
I made a beeline for the IEP Teachers’ Room to sort each class’s tests just in time to go and give test four four straight hours (with a break for lunch after the first three). I’d been in this school enough times over the past several months where many of the kids already knew me and I was often greeted like a rock star with cheers and hugs. Over the course of the week, I conducted and marked four-page paper exams to 265 students ranging from grades 3 through 6. Luckily, the daily schedule was such that I could arrive an hour or two before the first lesson and had enough gaps throughout the course of each day that I only had to take one batch of tests home to grade Thursday night. I recorded the scores into my spreadsheets as I marked the exams (I’d already added formulas so it computed the totals automatically) and completed the work before I returned to Phuket.
My routine didn’t vary much from day to day. After the taxi debacle on Monday, I elected to just walk directly to school each morning. I only got caught in a heavy rainstorm on Friday — I was in sight of the school when the downpour came and nearly shredded my umbrella as I attempted to open it. The rain stopped just as I entered the school grounds; I much prefer those quick-moving squalls to the constant rain that has occurred in Phuket this weekend. After classes, the other foreign teacher at the school took me back to the “resort” on his motorbike; we only encountered rain once — on Thursday.
Most evenings, I would venture out around 5:30 or six to get some food. The first night, I found the almost brand-new KFC but stuck with microwaved meals from 7-Eleven the remaining nights. I didn’t eat at all Thursday night due to rain. It was a very long walk to either place; there were a few street stalls along the way but none had anything that looked remotely recognizable (or appealing). During this festival, eateries tend to bring out some really weird things under the banner of gin jay (eat vegetarian); most of them look like deep-fried dog turds so I opt for the convenience store or fast food chain. Delivery was not an option as the few options available closed down before seven or eight in the evening. Even KFC.
Most of the time I spent in the rented room was watching YouTube videos or listening to music (I had the foresight to bring my external hard drive containing my audio collection). On the last night there, I spent an hour marking the last class’s exams and at least two hours trying to repack my belongings into my laptop backpack. I checked-out early Friday morning and headed back to the school for the last three scheduled classes; since I’d already completed their exams, I played the “Hangman” game in each class. One of the staff members from my agency actually came up to Khok Kloi to pick me up so that I didn’t have to endure the usual routine of finding a ride to the bus “terminal” (a shelter alongside the highway far to the south of town) and then waiting to flag down a speeding mini-van in order to get home. I really appreciated the personal touch for a change.
The week started with my first KFC meal in well over a year and it tasted really great. The rest of the week was made up by school lunches (one was too spicy, two were pig-slop, and one was the best meal I’ve ever had in a school) plus evening snacks and micro-meals from 7-Eleven. Since returning to Phuket on Friday, I have placed two McDonald’s delivery orders (one for dinner, the other for a rare breakfast) and bought shredded chicken breast and bread to make a few sandwiches at home.
As I was very busy this week with exams and too exhausted in the evenings to keep my eyes open for very long, I did not do any fun reading at all for the second straight week. Now that I am on holiday for the indefinite future, I really hope to remedy that. Stay tuned…
I also didn’t do a whole lot of blogging while up in Phang Nga. While in the rented room, my laptop was positioned on the nightstand at the head of the bed but it wasn’t conducive to sitting there typing for long periods. However, Thursday night, I did start working on what became my “Postcrossing Topical Catalogue 2011-2022“. I had made a listing of stamps commemorating the Postcrossing project on my Philatelic Pursuits blog back in 2018 and had long wanted to update that. I set a target of October 1st as that is annually celebrated as World Postcard Day. I worked on that a bit Thursday and Friday nights and finished it up yesterday afternoon, the only entry published on this blog since last week’s “Sunday Summary“.
However, yesterday morning I posted five articles on the MY COLLECTIONS blog, spending some time writing about each item rather than just posting photos with minimal commentary in the captions. I will try to write up most items on that site as I move forward as, yes, I too like to learn new things. Research is fun as long as I don’t let it overwhelm me.
Since I was in a fairly bloggy mood yesterday (my weekend classes all having been cancelled, partly due to the weather and partly due to the students wanting a bit of a break), I even wrote a short article about World Postcard Day on Postcards to Phuket. This was only the second article on that blog that I have posted all year, it being almost as neglected as A Stamp A Day. I’d like to revive at least the postcard blog at some point in the near future, perhaps shuffling the cards I had planned for MY COLLECTIONS over to that site instead.
Latest Posts from MY COLLECTIONS:
Latest Posts from POSTCARDS TO PHUKET:
This week, I listened to the entire output produced by the duo of Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs — three albums of cover songs (two in deluxe editions with bonus discs), plus three compilations of stray tracks and live performances. That was over the course of my stay in Phang Nga. Upon coming home Friday afternoon, I cranked up the speakers to listen to a live Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band concert (Detroit 1980), some live Marillion from 2017, a Gloria Estefan Spanish-language album, the sole Emerson, Lake & Powell album, and a whole lot of live Lone Justice from 1984 and 1985 when their style was still described as “cowpunk”. Coming into the new week, I think I am in the mood for some Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, circa 1995.
In September, I listened to a total of 798 songs from 95 different albums (down from August’s 1,146 tracks from 143 different albums). I think that is the result of much earlier bedtimes during the two weeks of final exams (at two different schools, two different provinces). I should surpass that with October being a holiday month.
I watched episode 6 of “House of Dragons” Tuesday night in Khok Kloi and managed to get through two episodes from season 2 of “The Wire” while up there as well. I discovered yet another YouTube channel focused on fast food and snacks and binge-watched that for a couple of evenings. I really need to find a movie or two to download during my holiday this week.
While we chatted every day, Kanchana and I didn’t manage a single video-call all week which, I believe, is the first time we have gone through such a long stretch. We will attempt one later today. I was a bit surprised by a food photo she sent early this morning (usually, she sleeps much later than that). Most of her food consists of strictly Thai fare but today she made scrambled eggs for the first time. Ironically, I ordered scrambled eggs from McDonald’s this morning — my first fast food breakfast in many, many years (I also had two pancakes, two sausages, two hash browns, and an English muffin).
Earlier in the week, the Lovely Lady also revealed she had received a job offer in Phuket and was thinking about coming back here to take it rather than remain indefinitely Upcountry. Of course, her decision is largely dictated by the weather. Much of the eastern and northern portions of Thailand were devastated by the typhoon (now downgraded to tropical depression) when it made landfall on Thursday. The storm even generated land-based tornadoes which had supposedly never occurred in this country in an area that had already been under water for many weeks. The domestic airport in Bangkok, not to mention all approaching highways, is similarly inundated.
Photo of the Week
I hope the week to come is just how you want it to be. Cheers!