Sunday Summary #34

Welcome to Sunday Summary, the meme in which I attempt to summarize the week that came before.

It has been two weeks since I wrote my most recent weekly wrap-up. There still isn’t much to talk about as we have another month remaining of the Summer holiday. School begins on 15 May and I still have not been informed of my assignment for the next school year. Fingers (and toes) are crossed that I will return to the same school that I taught last term as I really loved it there.

While I spent most of the first week of April doing behind-the-scenes work on my Philatelic Pursuits website as well as a few blog articles along the way, this past week found me a bit more lazy. I had wanted to focus on creating more materials for the upcoming school year but that is difficult when you are not certain where you will be and what grade level you will teach. Thailand is a very strange place in many regards and this not being informed about school contracts until the very last minute might be the oddest that a teacher has to deal with.

Expat market in Kata, surrounded by abandoned condo projects

I had planned to start sharing flashcards, etc. as I created them and set about writing a “brief” introduction to the series. My first draft was nearly 4000 words long and detailed my 16 years as an English teacher in southern Thailand but barely covered what I had been doing since the reopening of schools in this post-pandemic period. I rewrote it to emphasize my recent transition to teaching Kindergarten and how last year had a significantly different curriculum than previous schools. That version came to just under 3000 words but I decided to keep it and add numerous photos from throughout my career. Writing the captions to those added another 1500 words to the published article.

In the next few days, I will begin the “Teaching Thailand” series proper with some of my activities and games I use to teach the alphabet. These were originally copied from something I saw another teacher use many years ago and have since seen versions of both online. So, they are not entirely original which got me wondering about how much of what we use as teachers is truly unique. I would guess that very little of it is. Even some of the games I used to play at English camps — some of which I had “made up on the fly” — had to have had their initial idea based on something.

Magnetic alphabet letters to use next school year
More alphabet letters

I create new sets of flashcards each year and those are created using royalty-free clipart (and sometimes real images) found online. So, even those are not completely original although sometimes I manipulate the images somewhat and create new borders and logos, etc. The cards I made during the last week of school took a considerable amount of time as I tried to give the characters on the cards a Thai appearance, wearing our school uniforms (a tartan pattern on the neckties and shorts/skirts). I have decided that was a one-time thing just because it took an entire school day to create just 10 or 15 cards! I will create more flashcards in the upcoming week.

Thai washing machines
Get ready to get wet

As far as the stamp blog goes, I feel I am falling behind on updates. I cover new stamp issues of the current year and began adding galleries a couple of weeks ago. These showcase ALL of the stamps released by each country in one place; previously, collectors would have to wait until I wrote an article detailing a particular set of stamps before they saw the images. While a good idea (and an attractive one, I think), it is slowing down my update process quite a bit for places that issued a lot of stamps that I didn’t already have good images of. Most postal administrations provide high-quality images for upcoming stamp releases but a number don’t provide anything at all. I try to find the highest resolution available for any given stamp. I also like to present these on my site with transparent backgrounds so that it appears the stamps are placed directly on the page. I remove these backgrounds in my favorite photo-editing software (PhotoScape X) but some are more difficult to remove than others — I really hate shadowing in stamp artwork, for example.

This week, I launched the YouTube version of the stamp blog. I have long wanted to create stamp-related videos but was held back by the lack of a photogenic stamp den to film in and a desire not to be on-camera. Early in the week, I had been watching videos about AI tools for creators most of which I didn’t see a need for (I like doing my own research and writing and don’t see the need to rely on ChatGPT or others to do that work for me). In the middle of one was a mention of an easy-to-use tool which took your recorded audio and synced it to the mouth and actions of an animated character. I tested it out and felt that I could use it for my planned stamp videos. I made an introductory video one night and one about new stamps from Canada the next night.

I think they seem a bit odd with just the animated character doing all of the narration with stamp images as the sole visual aspect. It really needs some live action video so I will experiment with how I can do that. Mybe if I can find royalty-free stock footage of the subject matter on the stamps that would work; I could have the stamp overlay the video footage and do my voice-overs. I will make my third attempt sometime in the next week (I hope).

A potato in the market
New favorite yogurt

Apart from staying at home and working on blogs and video creation, I got outside on a few occasions mostly to eat. I recently discovered a sort of walking street/market area which has a nice variety of food at lower prices than those closer to the beach. It seems more expat-oriented than tourist-oriented so that it nice. Most of the foreigners who live in this area are Russian and, I am told, a few Ukrainian. The market has some Thai food but it is mostly Western with a huge selection of barbecued meats, sushi, and baked potatoes. The latter have been appearing at markets throughout Phuket for sometime now and the price-point is normally about 100 baht for a large potato with melted cheese. This new market has the same size of potato with cheese priced at 70 baht. They also have a baked potato with sour cream and onions for 80 baht; I ordered the latter once but really missed the cheese. On my next visit, I noticed that you could add sour cream and onions onto any potato for 10 baht extra so I ordered a cheese potato with the add-on — win, win: baked potato with melted cheese, sour cream and onions for a total of 80 baht. Love these sort of hacks!

Thursday was the Thai New Year celebration known as Songkran which is just a huge water fight — refreshing on these hot days. I wrote about my Songkran experiences in a separate article that night which you can find here.

Songkran near the beach in Kata
Virtual grocery shopping on Kan’s birthday

I also made two trips to my old apartment in Phuket Town as I continue to clean it out so that I can finally stop paying rent for it. One night, I took out 10 large bags of trash — teachers generate a lot of paper! Tomorrow, I want to go and see what else I can bring over on the back of a motorbike taxi. The goal is to ask a friend with a truck to help me at the end of the month for the few things that are too big to carry on my own — my desk, the largest of my bookshelves, a dresser, etc.

Kan and I celebrated her birthday on Friday virtually — she’s working at a restaurant in Pattaya now and will probably return to Buriram to take care of her mother full-time in another month or two. The current plan is for me to spent my next school break (October/November) with them there. Of course, our plans constantly change.

Ready for Songkran — Kan Kan with typical flowery shirt
Playing water with friends in Pattaya on her birthday.

I didn’t read much (at all?) over the last week — I am still about halfway through Steve Berry’s The Last Kingdom — nor did I watch any videos other than the aforementioned AI YouTube videos and a few about cooking. I think I finished season 1 of 1923 last week but still have not downloaded this week’s episode of The Mandalorian. As I am writing this Sunday Summary fairly early in the day, I plan to spent the evening watching something. I listened to a bit of early Heart last weekend and a few Jeff Healey Band bootlegs last night.

And that is my Sunday Summary for the two weeks of 2 to 16 April 2023. I hope that I have something interesting to report next week.

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