This week seemed to fly by really quickly! That’s a good thing as I’ll receive my first paycheck from the new job in another week. Hooray! But I am going to have to really stretch this cash as I need to use some for September rent and to start paying off a couple of loans (I’ll need to figure out how to put money in my PayPal account to accomplish the latter). I’m also planning to ask my agency to begin accumulating the paperwork I’ll need to obtain the Non-Immigrant (B) visa — the Royal Thai Embassy for Singapore lists nineteen separate documents now needed (I couldn’t access the Penang consulate’s site). If all goes well I can take care of that during the term-break holiday the latter part of next month.
I had some really great classes this past week, plus a few duds. The P6 (sixth grade primary) classes are probably my favorite — we get the most accomplish and they are usually quiet and attentive throughout the entire sixty minutes. The P4 classes have become my least favorite — P4/3 is okay but the two after lunch are loud and the kids just want to create as much mayhem as possible. Even the Thai teachers are having difficulty with them so I’m not alone. The P3 lessons this week were fairly upsetting — the first one includes an extremely violent young boy who tries to attack other students whenever I take my eyes off of him (and sometimes when I’m staring right at him). It makes writing anything on the board or checking other kids’ work extremely difficult. This week he began coming into the two P3 classes while I was teaching to try and disrupt those as well. He came close to hitting another kid with one of the extremely heavy wooden chairs during the last ten minutes of the lesson on Tuesday. Scary stuff! The P2’s are angels — they sit quietly (well, at the beginning anyway) and perfectly mimic whatever I want them to do. They might not understand but at they are very good at copying; I call them my myna birds. They also try to prevent me from leaving at the end of the lessons by grabbing a hold of my legs and hanging off of my arms. Actually, some of the P5’s and P6’s do this as well!
It was a very hot week and I was usually soaked in sweat by the time I finished teaching each day. My first task after reaching my small lane is to buy a few soft drinks at one of the local shops and then trudging up the four flights of stairs to my room. I immediately turn on both fans (one on the floor, one on the ceiling) and sit there chugging the first soda. After that, it’s usually a cold shower. I then either read a bit or try to figure out what food I’d like to go and buy. I venture out most evenings in search of snacks or meals — I try not to keep a lot of food in the apartment as it spoils quite quickly (plus if I drop a small speck huge numbers of tiny ants suddenly appear). The local ants are so sensitive that yesterday I bought a 2-liter bottle of Big Cola that evidently had some trace of food on the outside. When I opened the bottle to pour a drink I suddenly noticed dozens of little ants crawling all over the outside! It’s a wonder I didn’t drop it…
I have two favorite grocery stores now (the market on my street just doesn’t have much variety). Both are quite a walk — Phuket Supermarket off of Rasada Road is the closest but it’s bottled-drink variety is lacking while Tops Market in the Robinson’s Shopping Center takes me about twenty minutes to get there. I love the 20-baht container of cole slaw plus the fact that if I go there it’s a good excuse to eat at McDonald’s. In fact, I’ve eaten under the Golden Arches each of the last two nights.
On Friday, I ventured out about 10:30 at night — not overly late but it was a strange walk. Thai people generally don’t like to do much walking — they’ll hop on a motorbike to drive to a shop around the corner from their house — so there usually aren’t many people on the sidewalks other than food vendors or taxi drivers. It’s the latter that bother me. I guess since I’m a white male walking after dark that automatically means I’m looking for a sexy lady. Every single motorbike taxi driver I walked by (and some ran across busy streets to accost me) asked me if I wanted a lady for “boom-boom or massage”, rather than the “you want taxi?” that I hear during the daytime. When approached, I always clearly and loudly say, “mai aow, krap!” (meaning, “I don’t want, thank you!”). This was the very first Thai phrase I learned and it’s useful not only for the pesky taxi and tuk-tuk drivers but for the massage girls, tailors, and others who might try to offer you services you have no desire for. Generally, this works fine. But I suppose Friday was a slow night because several persisted in trying to convince me that they knew what I wanted and that they were the one that could best show me where to find that. Do all Thai taxi drivers just think single farang men are only in their country to sleep with Thai women? One optimistic gent even said he’d take me to Patong for “only 2000 baht” (I consider 500 baht even too expensive for such a trip!). Anyway, at least they only bothered me on my walk to McDonald’s and left me alone on the return trip.
I spent my day off Wednesday by traveling to Central Festival. I needed to turn in my signed payment form to my employer and took the opportunity to engage in some window shopping. Again, the local pink bus was my conveyance and I’m becoming quite adept at using it. I plan to spend part of the long weekend next week exploring Routes 2 and 3 so I can put together a comprehensive article about the service. I do know that Route 2 goes as far as Super Cheap, a notorious Thai supermarket north of Phuket Town, so I’m looking forward to checking that out (the last time I was there — perhaps two years ago — the friend who accompanied me became ill from the heat and the smells). I had planned to splurge on my lunch by eating at either Sizzler (the all-you-can-eat salad bar is 179 baht) or Burger King but in the end I opted for McDonald’s. While I was there a group of Korean boys were creating mayhem by running throughout the dining area screaming at the tops of their lungs while their moms sat nearby talking, apparently oblivious to the many angry patrons. None of the staff ever approached either the children or their parents but a lot of customers either tried to stop the kids or simply left. One boy actually crashed into my table, spilling my soda onto my fries. I glared at him and told him to “settle down” but he just took off again at warp speed. At least McDonald’s staff gave me new fries and refilled my Coke. When I worked in fast food restaurants I would never stand for such things and would have removed the families. But here in Thailand it’s quite common to see this behavior in public places. I suppose the parents are just happy their children aren’t destroying their own home. Personally, I would be embarrassed if my child acted in such a manner.
Once again I spent quite some time browsing the books at B2S, finding several more to add to my want list. I’ve just about talked myself into buying the Lawrence Block anthology when I get paid next week but we’ll see if I can actually part with 600 baht for one item! I did buy one book this week — at The Books on Phuket Road — a bilingual volume of essays about various aspects of Thai life, culture, history, and holidays. It was quite interesting and I learned a bit, despite the rather poor English translations and nonexistent proofreading. I had planned to return later for a similar volume of Thai folktales but decided against it following completion of the essays book. The lack of proofreading is something I find in so many books published in Thailand. Even those written by authors whose first language is English are poorly written and edited. I actually avoid books published by certain companies because their track record is so poor (even if the book is well-written one particular publisher will slap a cover on the front that is so amateurish I’d be embarrassed to take it to the checkout stand, not to mention have it sit on a shelf in my home!). There’s another publisher whose books all seem to contain very interesting subject matter (not the usual “expat lit” set in seedy bars) but these also tend to be poorly written/translated/proofread although have beautiful covers. The books by this last publisher are all priced at least three times as much as similar books by other publishers. There are several I’d love to read but simply cannot afford. This is all very frustrating for a bookworm such as myself.
At least the bookshops themselves seem to be thriving here in Phuket Town. There are certainly quite a few — most of their stock are Thai-language with a smattering of English-language mass market novels, “expat-lit”, travel guides, grammar books and dictionaries, etc. — and most I’ve visited remain fairly busy throughout the day. Seng Ho — Thailand’s oldest bookstore and the one closest to my home — is probably the most popular. It’s always crowded with students in the afternoons and on up until the nine PM closing time. The customer service desk will even sell you a mobile top-up card if you need one. I’m only scared of the dwarf-lady who seems to live outside, beckoning me with her scratchy voice and toothless smile. There aren’t many beggars in Phuket Town — I’ve seen perhaps four on regular occasions — but this one is downright creepy.
I’ve also been struggling with the Internet connection in my apartment. When it does work, it’s usually extremely slow which makes uploading photos for this blog extremely frustrating. The wireless is constantly turned off and on throughout the day and it’s very unpredictable. For example, it was on this morning long enough for me to download email and to start writing this week’s Sunday Salon but it died just as I tried to save the draft. There’s no telling when it will come back on (which explains why some articles are published a day or two after I’ve written them!). I feel part of the problem is the fact that I’m on the fourth floor and the router’s antenna is way down in the lobby. I do have an extra antenna which I try to angle out my door but if someone is physically turning off the connection it doesn’t do much good. It does teach one to constantly save their work!