Monthly Meanderings: August 2015

SAM_7003August saw my return to high school and I’m still trying to adjust.  My leisure time went from “perfect” to “will I ever have free-time again”?  September will be even busier but I should be able to take a lengthy holiday starting the second week of October.  At least the weather has largely cooperated; the mornings and evenings have been relatively cool with only the rare thunderstorm.

TEACHING
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The month started with the final two weeks of lessons with my Starter-level Krungsri Bank staff class.  This is the second year that I’ve taught these courses (an ECC partnership with Inlingua) and I really enjoy them – and not just for the classrooms full of smiling 20- and 30-somethings!  While I do love teaching kids – from the little P1 6-year-olds on up to high school students with emerging hormones, in both classroom and English camp situations – I have developed a real preference for teaching adults, particularly those in upper-level or business courses.

For the past two years, we’ve had teachers resign their positions a month or so prior to the end of the school term.  In 2014, I substitute taught at a small school in Phuket Town when the regular teacher quite suddenly, finishing out the second term.  I did the same thing earlier this year at a rural school on a small island east of Phuket which turned out to be my worst-ever teaching experience.  Now I am finishing out Term 1 at an absolutely huge school about a 15-minute walk from my home, the first time I’ve taught the high school grades for a lengthy period of time (about seven weeks).  I “only” teach fifteen lessons per week, but each class has between 40 and 50 students meaning I have some 700 students to contend with.

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While the first week in this new school was a bit rough – the new routine, trying to find classrooms, meeting new kids (some gracious, others leery), and dealing with the intense heat all took their toll – I am starting to adjust and (mostly) enjoy each and every day.  It is really pleasant that students that I don’t even teach will greet me with a big smile, a friendly verbal greeting and a traditional Thai wai.  The kids at my last end-of-term assignment were more apt to show their middle finger and use a profanity learnt from watching violent movies.  Not to mention that all of the Thai teachers and assistants are extremely friendly and all that I’ve come across speak more than passable English.  My only real complaint about the school is the lack of Internet access.

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Throughout August (and continuing into September), my agency conducted a series of Saturday and Sunday English camps at a small Buddhist temple school south of Phuket Town with a rotating group of teachers.  I’ve been on the Sunday teams and presenting vocabulary and games around the theme of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.  It is a lot of hard (and hot) work but also a lot of fun.

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I’ve also had my Saturday morning bank staff class which might possibly be my favorite yet.  They will take their final exams this coming week and I will be sad to see them go despite the fact that I will finally have a Saturday holiday (unless I am offered a new course or another teacher leaves).  I participated in two English camps on Sundays this month at a Buddhist temple school south of Phuket Town.  However, I was so tired from the rest of the week’s schedule that my energy for the games that these camps require was virtually non-existent. 

AROUND PHUKET
Perhaps the best part of the month were the bus rides I took to and from the two English camps.  I had never ridden on the pink bus’s Route 2 before and it was pleasant to see some unfamiliar neighborhoods.  This bus route takes a very meandering route, including a stretch down Cape Panwa towards the port and aquarium.  I may take a few exploratory trips during my free time in October.  I also discovered a restaurant very near my current school which looks quite interesting as they have a large banner advertising a variety of sandwiches.  I will try to eat there after school one day.  Other than walking home from school and the weekend bus rides, I didn’t get out at all this month.

BOOKS
Scan_20150814 (41)While I didn’t read quite as many pages as in July, it was still a respectable number (2218).  However, I only managed to finish reading three books – all non-fiction.  Late in the month, I started reading a Lawrence Block novel – he’s my favorite mystery writer – but the eBook version I had was so jumbled as to be virtually unreadable.  I’ll try to track down a better version the next time I can get online.  Between classes at school, I’ve been reading Helen Morgan’s fascinating Blue Mauritius:  The Hunt for the World’s Rarest Stamps while sweating in the teacher’s room. I’m about halfway finished with it now.

The books I finished in August were:

  1. The Smaller Channel Islands Catalogue by Anders Bckman & Robert Forrester (1989)
  2. The Smithsonian’s History Of America In 101 Objects by Richard Kurin (2013)
  3. Dead Wake:  The Last Voyage of the Lusitania by Erik Larson (2015)

POSTCARDS
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Five Postcrossing cards arrived in August as did two from my younger sister who was vacationing along the California coast.  I also received two that I’d won in auctions on eBay – one from Lundy Island the other an early twentieth-century card picturing Honolulu.  I’ve only written about one of these on “Please, Mr. Postman!” and hope to remedy this situation soon. 

The curriculum for the M3-level (16-year-olds) in my school this week deals with “things to do in Phuket” and one of the suggested activities is for the students to write a postcard describing their activities on the island.  As I’d designed a Greetings from Phuket City card last year while attempting to learn how to use Adobe Photoshop, I decided I could use it for the activity.  I then designed a message side, including an “M3” stamp with the school’s name on it.  I printed enough to use in the two best-behaved classes.

STAMPS
Scan_20150814 (21)I only received fourteen stamps in the mail this month and purchased an additional seven new Thai issues at the post office along with a first day cover bearing several of these.  There was only one “new” country added to my “A Stamp From Everywhere” collection.  I also “issued” my set of eleven local post stamps honoring ASEAN Day early in the month.  Due to several circumstances (mainly having to work on the release date), I dropped the first day covers for these into a mailbox for their postmarks and eventual delivery to my home.  They arrived about ten days later looking rather ragged from the journey!

Stamps added in August (with the new issuer in yellow bold):

  1. Angra (6)
  2. Austria (1)
  3. Germany (1)
  4. Hawaii (1)
  5. Tasmania (5)
  6. Thailand (7)

BLOGGING

Writing for my various blogs also fell by the wayside mid-month as I began teaching at the high school.  I wrote and published just eleven articles – two for Asian Meanderings (including the July installment of “Monthly Meanderings”), one for “Please, Mr. Postman!” and the remaining eight appeared on Philatelic Pursuits.  I’m quite proud of “The Stamp Issuers” series on the latter although I can’t wait to finish the A’s.  I only write articles for the issuing-entities that I have in my collection and I am coming close to finishing that first letter of the alphabet (excepting, of course, certain places such as Aberdeen, MD and Alexandria, VA with their extremely rare Postmaster’s Provisional issues).  I enjoy researching the stamp issuers for each article, although some do have a rather confusing political and philatelic history.  The most time-consuming aspect is actually counting the number of issued stamps of each as listed in my copy of the Scott Catalogue of Postage Stamps (six-volume 2009 edition) – some places being easier than others (I’m dreading the next one – Angola).

MISCELLANEOUS MEANDERINGS

This month’s meandering rant deals with postmarks, specifically the non-application of them.  I receive mail from all over the world.  Whether it’s a postcard or a stamp order, the majority of my mail has a nice stamp or stamps affixed thereon.  Yet there are two countries – two of the top four in my opinion of stamp issuing leaders in design and postal services – that invariably seem unable to properly postmark the stamps they bear.  Those two nations are, of course, the United States and Great Britain (the others in my “top four” being France and Germany).  

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On the rare occasion that the stamps from these super-powers do manage to receive a cancellation, it’s almost always an ugly spray-jet type.  Sometimes, some of the stamps are cancelled while others are missed, demonstrating the shortcomings of the digital age in the postal system.  A nice postmark – preferably a handstamp but a machine cancellation will do, especially one with a readable CDS (the circular date stamp which shows place and date of origin) or slogan – renders the used stamps on the envelope a bit more “collectible”.  An ugly series of digitally-applied micro-dotted lines or no cancellation at all on a previously mint (unused) stamp is not something any collector has ever desired.  Many modern stamps (particularly from the U.S.) thus are rather scarce in used condition with a proper postmark.

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It wasn’t so long ago that my philatelic mail from the U.S. invariably arrived with the stamps cancelled with a nice four-bar hand-applied postmark in black or the red double-ring handstamps (both usually were about as big in circumference as a U.S. 50-cent coin).  Recently, my sister asked for such a cancellation on something she was mailing me from her local post office in northeastern Kansas.  She was told that they “don’t do that anymore.”

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By contrast, the mail I receive from virtually every other country in the world shows some real pride in applying clear postmarks – even Russia which has had some serious problems with their postal system during the past few years.  Many of these are obviously hand-applied rubber stamps (well, the mail from Australia usually has a machine cancellation but they are usually readable). I really cringe when I receive mail from the U.S. or the U.K. with recent commemoratives that have no sign of being postally used (they are no longer mint, either) as seen in the examples above.  It always makes me happy to receive an envelope such as the examples below from Germany and Denmark.

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And there are the rare bright spots, temporarily restoring my faith in the USPS or Royal Mail.

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Until next month…


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