(Late!) Sunday Summary #36, AKA “Moving Mayhem”

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

As I write this entry, it is an EXTREMELY HOT Monday morning, the first day of May. Although we are no longer experiencing the abnormally high temperatures that we saw the last two weeks of May, it is still uncomfortable to do even the simplest of tasks.

Today is the first in a week on which I can be completely lazy if I so choose. I was offline for the majority of last week as I spent every day finishing my big move across the island of Phuket. Nothing about it was easy (and I probably lost more than a few pounds in sweat) but it is essentially finished now.

I know very few people here who own a vehicle larger than a motorbike. Since we are all on the school holiday, most of those were completely unavailable. I was finally able to make arrangements for a friend to help move the remainder of my (dismantled furniture) and a few other larger items on Saturday.

From the old (will NOT miss the grimy pink walls)….
…to the new (much brighter, but those green curtains have got to go!)

The preceding five days were spent throwing away all sorts of things, many dating from my move from the U.S. to Asia nearly 20 years ago and other items kept accumulated over the years mostly related to my teaching career. Teachers tend to hold onto anything that can be used in a lesson and, in my case, I had boxes and boxes full of student artwork (my mantra was always “Wow! I’ll scan those someday!”).

The theme of this move (my first in nearly 12 years) was “Let’s get rid of that crap!” and I kept to that for the most part.

I have many shelving units to put back together (with ALL the screws completely mixed!).

There were many obstacles. I think, other than the sheer number of things I decided to discard, the biggest hurdles were:

  • Lack of personal transportation
  • Old apartment in very old building, currently under renovation, on the fourth floor (no elevator!)
  • The HEAT!!

Yes, it was HOT!

My usual routine was to make the journey from my new apartment in the southwestern portion of the island to the old apartment a bit east of Phuket’s center portion. Most days, I walked out to the highway running past my home in Kata Beach and flagged down the local bus known as a songteaw. The passenger compartment of most of these are quite old and made of wood. They are open on the sides (large windows without any covering) and open on the back (a small step on the rear bumper is the entry and exit point). If it’s crowded — there is a small area at the back on which one can stand and hold on to tightly so as not to get thrown off! I found that if I started very early in the morning, there were far less Russians filling the passenger compartment (yes, Kata is perhaps 90 percent Russian occupied now — mostly expats but a few tourists); each one tends to take up three or four times the space as your typical Thai rider — not just due to physical size but most will sit sideways, sometimes with one of their legs on the seat. Most are headed to the big shopping mall; on the return trip, they will take up more space as they never seem to put their bags full of purchases on the floor or under their seats. I long for the days before they discovered the songteaw as a cheap form of transportation. But enough of that digression!

The newer songteaws are framed in aluminum.
The heat outside just bakes the passengers inside.

Once I got to the end of the bus line, I had to walk about 15 minutes to my apartment building. I was usually very sweaty upon arrival and then it was a climb of four flights of interior stairs (more sweat!). Since the building is being renovated (I think all of the apartments are receiving new floor tiles, remodeled bathrooms, and newly painted walls), the top floor (where my apartment is located) has become the construction workers’ camp. Not only are the hallways littered with wooden fixtures and stacks of old tiles torn out from other apartments, but the Burmese who are doing most of the heavy lifting are actually living on every available piece of floorspace. I often had to navigate around sleeping people just to get to my front door (the first day, I had to push aside a bed frame and mattress to gain entry), not to mention all sorts of trash littering the hallways and top landing of the stairwell. The one trash can on the floor was often overflowing with remnants of their meals.

When I opened the front door of my apartment, it was like entering a blast furnace. I would immediately head for the balcony door and prop that open to allow a bit of airflow. The one ceiling fan offered a meager breeze but the only light came from the bathroom and a lantern I brought.

On my first overnight in the old apartment, I ordered spaghetti bolognaise delivery. The restaurant forgot to send cutlery and I’d already moved mine so I had to eat this with my fingers.
Another night, I had pork with spicy rice and sweet basil from 7-Eleven. They never fail to give you a handful of forks, spoons and ketchup packets. I use it all! The ketchup (only Heinz, Roza doesn’t work) turns this into a salty, slightly less spicy flavor that I love.

I had removed my smaller bookshelves previously by taking them apart and carrying the pieces back on various songteaw trips over the past few months (I’ve lived in the new apartment since last November). Most of my stamp collection — albums, boxes of stamps and other items, etc. — had also been taken over bit by bit since around January. What remained were mostly educational materials (books, games, flashcards, paper, student work from 10-15 years ago), etc.), CD’s and DVD’s (hundreds), and magazines (including hundreds of copies of a British music magazine called MOJO, each with an unopened CD fastened to the cover — I’d been storing these for a fellow teacher who returned temporarily to the U.S. pre-COVID but had since died). There were also the large shelves that held most of this stuff, a clothes dresser that mostly held old papers, as well as two desks. Not to mention a wardrobe full of clothes and all manner of nick-nacks covering every surface.

My first task on the first day was to buy large trash bags. There used to be a supply of heavy-duty bags on each floor of the building but I couldn’t find any. The only ones I found in local shops were the much cheaper variety so I could only fill each one halfway or less. I took out most of the magazines and books using a single box and dumping it into an outside trashcan. There is only one of the latter at my building and it is just a regular household garden size — not large at all. Once that was full, I would have to wait for the bin men to show up and empty it just so I could refill it again. Luckily, they came around almost every night at 9pm. I think they emptied it twice one night. Either that, or a neighbor started removing the thrown-away magazines!

Since I haven’t spent much time in Phuket Town in recent months, I also played the part of tourist during my move last week and took a few photos of places in Old Town that I normally just walk past. These are around the Jui Tui Shrine which is where the official start of the Vegetarian Festival occurs every year (late September or October).

Twice during the week, I stayed all night as I preferred making my trips down and up the stairs when it was dark — I didn’t want my neighbors to see what I was doing. It wasn’t much cooler at night and I had to navigate the sleeping workers on the fourth floor. One night, I made 15 trips down the four flights of stairs carrying heavy loads of trash (and then trouping the four flights up which became progressively harder as my arms and legs felt like rubber after a few trips). The last night, I made 18 round-trips!

I threw out three shelving units — one due to termite damage and two that the spiders had found! I dismantled my desks and two bookshelves that seemed in good shape albeit with a little mold here and there (last fall was our dampest ever). I went on a mission to find white wine vinegar to mix a solution to use in cleaning off the mold — vinegar is hard to find in local Thai shops and non-existent in the 7-11’s I visited.

Kasikorn Bank building on Th. Phang Nga, Old Town Phuket

As I am reliant on public transportation and helpful friends, I could never take anything very big back to Kata without a much larger vehicle. Early in the moving process, I used the Android app called Bolt (similar to Grab or In-Drive). This driver service was useful for small loads and I even took my mid-sized refrigerator in one sedan but the government has now made most of these illegal which has had the effect that their fares have increased several-fold.

The songteaw leave from just outside the Municipality Building a few steps away from Kata Yai Beach, complete with a helpful schedule and map. The day after I took this photo, they changed the schedule (the last bus times are earlier) so I need to return and take another photo. From the Municipality, the songteaw travels north (very slowly) past Karon Beach before turning south on the inland road — passing my new apartment about 30 minutes after its start time. From there, it’s another 45 minutes to the end in Old Town.

Last week, while waiting for the promised Saturday assistance, I took my loads back to Kata via songteaw almost every time other than a few late nights on the back of a friend’s motorbike. For each, I would pack two jumbo-sized tote bags (given to business owners by Krungsri Bank to carry large amounts of cash — very strong!) as well as my regular school backpack. There were a few times that the combined weight of these three vessels was probably 150 pounds (or more!). If I was taking the songteaw, I would strap on the backpack first and then lug the two tote bags from the old apartment building, through the neighborhood, through a shopping center parking lot, across the street and through the park, the entire length of Old Town, and finally up half of the big market street to the Kata bus stop.

Phuket Town’s only Mexican restaurant
Iconic old police station clock tower
They painted the apartment building in the middle of my move!!

The distance was less than a mile (I think about 2km) but it was not straight. Most of the time, I had to go through hordes of tourists (especially those posing for photos around the old clock tower!) and — Sunday morning — market hawkers and their customers. Carrying those two heavy tote-bags with a heavy load on my back in such extreme heat was not easy but I did it and it sure made the final move that much easier as I had almost all of the small items out of the old and into the new apartment by Friday night. I had to leave one load behind that night as it was pouring rain for most of the evening and my friend with the motorbike was scared of the wet roads. We tended to take a bit more on the motorbike than I could alone on the songteaw.

Riding an over-crowded songteaw on market day (Sunday) filled with produce. The bags at my knees were full of pineapples and there was a large durian at my feet.
People getting on or off the songteaw after the produce was loaded had to walk along the center bench. It was like navigating a very wobbly gymnastics balance beam!
Enjoying a mango smoothie in the lobby of my old apartment building. I had to wait nearly four hours on Sunday to check out.

Saturday morning, I had to head to Phuket Town early for an entirely different reason. I had to teach! After many delays (I think they contracted us in February), I was to finally start teaching a course for a yacht company in the far northeast reaches of the island. Originally, it was to be a course for just a few of the sales staff but they decided to have various boat-builders, cleaners, and more join in. So many, in fact, that we enlisted a second teacher who had no experience at all in teaching adults. For me, this was my first adult student course since before the pandemic. I gave the second teacher a brief rundown on how to conduct the first class (I always give a pre-test to determine the actual level, rather than relying on the client’s statement) and what to do if none of the students understand anything at all!

My new home is a 15 or 20-minute walk from this beach, depending upon my route. The island is called “Poo” in Thai (“crab” in English).

Accommodations across from the Municipality Building
Beach access down from the Municipality Building

We had a driver to take us to the site at Ao Por, a marina northeastern Phuket. I had last been in this area of the island nearly 18 years ago and remembered the small wooden pier from which I took a boat to one of the islands in Phang Nga Bay for a getaway holiday. How it has changed! Gone are the little fishing villages and tumble-down shacks. It’s all modern condos and fancy restaurants now. The boat yard itself is a bit run-down (the second teacher taught his group in a large shed next to several under-construction yachts) while the sales office (where I taught) was quite modern and comfortable.

My class went well (the other teacher said he was “a bit disappointed” and that it wasn’t what he expected) but almost as soon as we climbed into the truck to return to Phuket Town, I received a text from the friend who was supposed to help me move that afternoon. He couldn’t make it after all and was leaving for Bangkok the next day. Oh, my! What to do? I began texting other friends to see if they knew anybody who could help and even checked one of the illegal driver-for-hire apps to see what sort of price they would quote me (mentioning that I needed to move broken-down furniture and several heavy boxes).

Early evening was always my favorite time to stroll down Thalang Road — just 5 minutes’ walk from my old apartment. Having moved, being here at this time of day would mean missing the last bus home. I really wish the songteaw ran a bit later (7 or 8pm would be okay!).

We were almost back to the agency’s office when it suddenly hit me to ask the driver who had taken us to Ao Por and return. It was a Toyota pickup with a covered bed and looked big enough to accommodate all of my remaining things. Our branch manager had accompanied us to the boat yard since it was our first class there so I asked her if the driver could help me just as we pulled into the parking lot at the office. She knew my old apartment was in the neighborhood right behind and she asked the driver. He said okay, that I only needed to pay 300 baht for gas and 300 baht for the time. Done! Six hundred baht was a bargain.

We immediately drove over to the building. The driver stayed in the car most of the time but my branch manager (a rather heavy-set lady) came upstairs and helped me lug down the majority of my remaining things. She had even more energy than I did! Alas, we both were too hot and sweaty after about five or six trips leaving behind what looked like about two songteaw or motorbike trips. I figured I could take care of those Sunday before checking out of the apartment.

The Oldest Herbs Shop — famous Chinese pharmacy which was featured in at least one episode of “The Amazing Race” — has moved, too! It is now across the street and farther west than the original location. So, is this the New Oldest Herb Shop or are the actual herbs now the oldest but not the shop?

We drove to Kata but had to park on the side of the highway when we got to my new building. The driver and my branch manager unloaded the truck while I carted everything up to the room (an incline up from the street and then just one flight of stairs). After the first trip, I finally changed out of the slacks and Oxford shirt I had taught in — I should have done that before starting to move things out of the old place! We finished quickly, I paid the driver, and they left. I went upstairs, turned on the ceiling fan and just collapsed under it. There I remained much of the rest of the evening.

On Sunday, I was due to hand over the keys to the old apartment around 1pm. Since we’d left some things behind the day before I decided to take the earliest songteaw (6:30). It was almost completely empty heading to Phuket Town. I put together a load — the heaviest yet as the backpack was filled with three old laptops and two tablets. I had planned to throw these away but decided I really should remove the hard drives first. Who knows what information is left on those! All that was left in the apartment were two pillows, a couple of boxes of postcards and not much else. I was to be picked up my motorbike at check-out time.

Thalang Road is VERY QUIET on Sunday mornings!
I only saw a few cyclists as I walked the entire length of the road.

I spent a couple of hours cleaning — one last sweep including the ceilings and top of the wardrobe and I mopped the entire floor. The latter was difficult as the heat had been so intense that the adhesive holding down most of the floor tiles had actually melted and they kept popping up exposing raw concrete. After some frustration, I gave up knowing that they were just going to demolish the room anyway once I had left.

I had expected somebody to come upstairs to look over the apartment before I turned in the keys (and the fob for the exterior security door). So, I remembered to hook the phone back in the wall (I’d removed it 12 years ago as it was in the way and who uses corded phones anymore anyway) and removed all the hangers from the wardrobe. The Burmese workers were happy to receive those (as well as my mop, bucket, broom and dust pan).

Sunny Sunday morning with the Sea Dragon at Queen Sirikit Park

The Sea Dragon looks westward to the entrance of Old Town

Nobody was around when I went down to the lobby. I sent a text to the landlord saying I was ready to check out and turn in my keys. He sent me a copy of the bill for May’s rent as well as the electric and water bills for April (and at a higher amount than when I actually lived in there full-time). His 17-year-old son soon arrived to collect this money. I explained that I paid a deposit when I moved in, plus first and last month’s rent so, if anything, they owed ME money. The boy didn’t understand and my Thai wasn’t good enough so I found one of the Burmese cleaners and she called the owner. He told me that he would contact the previous owners as they had not given them the records of deposits paid, etc. I always thought the building had been owned by the same people all of this time. Anyway, I am still waiting to see if I receive money back or if I will have to pay something.

Well, a very active week just moving stuff!

I also got word about my school. I will return to the same school I was at last term but later than expected — 1 June — and they would only commit to a ONE MONTH contract! So, I am guaranteed employment for the month of June but they won’t make a decision past that until 30 June. Crazy! At first, I thought it was because the new director has not met me or seen me in action yet — perhaps she heard that I am old and a male so there could be a bit of ageism and sexism in play (nothing you can do about that in Thailand). The Chinese teacher (who is both young and female) has since told me she isn’t starting until 1 June either and that, she too, received only a one-month commitment. Well, at least I am not alone.

I have to make sure that I make a good impression, then. The Thai teachers I worked with last term were all extremely happy (if not downright impressed) with me — I got feedback that they felt I was always very well prepared with my materials and that I was very good with the children. I also demonstrated a willingness to be a “part of the team” and never balked at a last-minute change in schedule or routine. They appreciated that I was always on-time (early always!) and never failed in any of my duties. Too bad we were without a director for most of the term but I think once this new one meets me, I will receive a contract extension without any problem. In my experience, they never like to change a teacher after a school term starts anyway as the children have become accustomed to the teacher’s routines, behavior, and even their voice after a couple of weeks or so. And if a student really likes their teacher, they tell their parents who also don’t like change. We will see what happens, though. Just one more thing to worry about…

I had been hoping for a mid-May start to the school year, however, mostly because I was looking forward to a partial income in June (we receive our salaries for the previous month midway through the following month). I have been offered a fill-in job at a kindergarten in Phuket Town from 8 until 23 May. I told the agency that I could do that but would be coming by songteaw each morning meaning that the earliest I could arrive at the school would be between 7:30 and 7:45. Hopefully, that will be acceptable but I haven’t heard anything back yet.

The outside area at the apartment building where I lived for nearly 12 years. That blue trash can is the only one at the building other than a very small bin on each floor. It was a challenge removing so much trash from my room (coming down four flights of stairs each time). One of the last nights I was there, I ended up having to walk up and down our neighborhood looking for other trash cans to dump my stuff into. I bet all of my neighbors are happy to see me go!

The only other “news” for the week (and month of April, for that matter) is that I FINALLY finished Steve Berry’s The Last Kingdom last night. I started reading it back on 13 March and it’s only the seventh book I have finished in 2023 thus far. Since my goal this year is 25 books, I need to get back on track!

I also need to get back on track with blogging, especially on Philatelic Pursuits. I am getting very far behind on tracking new stamp issues on that site so I will focus on that in the near future. I know what my next two articles will be but I still need to do the research. My next article for my personal site will be about some of the “Greetings” and “Introduction” flashcards I have been working on.

I have found that I do my best blog work either early in the morning or late at night when it’s cooler outside. I am really looking forward to the monsoonal rains starting soon as that will help to cut the heat.

I did listen to a lot of music in April — 1,037 songs from 115 different albums. Compare this to 760 tracks from 99 albums in March. Part of this is because I was home more and part of it was because the songs were shorter (the overall playtime was about 16 hours more music played). Many of these were by The Rolling Stones as I finally got around to adding most of their catalogue (stored on my external hard drive) into my player software and have been listening to them in chronological order. As far as listening is concerned, I am up to a bootleg of a concert in Paris, 23 September 1970, but have added music up to the Bridges to Babylon album (September 1997). I also watched the last two episodes of The Mandalorian Season 3 back-to-back over the weekend. Well done.

This is right across the street from my old apartment building. I watched them build that condo in the distance (Supalai Downtown). That empty space in front used to be a warren of Thai-style apartments until several residents were murdered. Superstitions forced the owners to tear down the buildings and make it a parking lot for a nearby hotel. However, Thai people will not park in there (or even walk inside the gate) as they all know about the deaths. The hotel then relied on Chinese tourists but those dried up with the pandemic. I noticed this week that the signs at the hotel are now in Russian and English only and there is a big FOR SALE banner outside.

So, that brings me up-to-date.

My plans this week include getting back up to speed on blogging and creating teaching materials for the upcoming school year. Before any of that, in the heat of the day, I want to put together my shelves so I can begin filling them with the boxes of books, etc. that I brought over from the old apartment. I will probably end up throwing some of those away. It will also be nice to get back to my food routine… I have not been to the market for a baked potato all week and I am craving a pizza from the restaurant outside of my school. I think there will also be a haircut in my near future.

All of this and there is a strong likelihood that my Lovely Lady will return to Phuket later this month. First, she needs to return to her home province in order to vote in Thailand’s first general elections since the 2004 coup d’état in the middle of this month. Knowing her, she will want to spend some more time with her mother so, even though she says she will come back after the elections, I think June is much more likely. The calls and texts continue…

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