Sunday being my usual day off and the Friday afternoon announcement that local schools would be closed on Monday and Tuesday for Chinese New Year — not to mention extremely high temperatures and a huge dip in internet speed caused a great deal of relaxation (err, laziness) at the Jochim household over the past couple of days. The Thais really have the right idea on how to deal with the heat: they sleep through it. I haven’t yet mastered the art of not waking up in a pool of sweat, however.
My personal cooling-off method involves spending time in my air-conditioned office at the teaching agency “working” on various projects but the more time one occupies that space, the greater likelihood into being drafted into doing “real” work. Despite not having any Saturday classes there right now (my long-term student currently being on hiatus until next month), I put in about seven hours of office time this weekend. This capping-off my “long week” of two teaching hours in the high school each day book-ended with pleasant walks to and from the school. I really do love my current schedule and my life is more stress-free than at any other time in recent (or distant) memory. In fact, my life would be absolutely perfect if only my body could adjust to the unrelenting sun.
I mentioned in last week’s update that my days had developed into a fairly standard routine. Not much has changed but each day is interesting due to what I read — be that in a novel or research for a blog — and what I see or hear. The sources for the latter are numerous: something amazing happens during nearly every lesson I do at school (usually not really related to what I am teaching); I keep my eyes open whenever I am walking in town or riding the bus as unexpected occurrences are constant; and somehow I manage to watch a few downloaded movies or TV shows each week and listen to quite a bit of music while reading and writing. This week’s highlights include the Queen bio-pic Bohemian Rhapsody, two episodes from the second season of Star Trek: Discovery, and my first The Big Bang Theory in quite a while (I cannot believe this is the final season). I’m looking forward to watching Aquaman and The Girl in the Spider’s Web during the short holiday if the heat inside isn’t too bad.
For music, I’m currently listening to as much Devon Allman as I can get my hands on (I’ve had Turquoise and Ride or Die for a while along with a couple of live shows but I recently came across his earlier albums with Honeytribe as well as some recordings of last fall’s tour with Duane Betts; it’s all great and continues the great legacy of the Allman family). I also have a few new (old) Santana and Steely Dan soundboards to listen to. I am rarely NOT in the mood for Steely Dan.
Although I didn’t get to eat any Mexican food this week, I did try a restaurant I’ve had my eye on ever since it opened about two months ago. Juicy Lucy Burger & Bar is on Yaorwat Road in Old Town Phuket, just past the traffic circle identified with the fountain created by tin-mining sledge sprayers (turn east and you end up on Ratsada Road which is the location of the biggest market on the island and the street where the songteaws leave for points all over the island). Now, the name “Juicy Lucy” refers to a regional style of hamburger invented in Minneapolis in which cheese (traditionally, slices of American cheese) is molded into the center of the patty prior to cooking. I had no idea if this particular restaurant in southern Thailand offered the Minnesotan favorite or just copied the name. I was intrigued and prepared to be disappointed.
It took a friend of mine visiting from China to spur me into suggesting a visit to Juicy Lucy. My first glance at the menu told me that I’d probably made a good choice as there were explanations not only about the Juicy Lucy burger but also about the “Smashburger” (more about that once I’ve returned and tried one). Another good sign was that the menu warned against a 20-minute waiting time for the Juicy Lucy. Most “Western” restaurants in Thailand tend to rush the process so I was happy that they would be cooking our burgers to order and not worrying about the time it took. The conversation was pleasant and the twenty (or more) minutes past by unnoticed.
The burgers arrived plated with potato wedges, wonderfully seasoned with sea salt and a hint of garlic, on a buttery brioche bun, wonderfully soft and holding up well against the onslaught of juice to come. I knew two important aspects of this burger from watching YouTube videos: there should be no garnish and you should let it sit and cool for a couple of minutes or risk burning your tongue on the hot, molten cheese as it shoots out on the first bite. I warned my friend and we waited a heatbeat before plunging in. Yes, the juicy cheese flowed out but looked wonderful. While he was devouring his burger, I removed the tomato from the top. So, this wasn’t a wholly “Juicy Lucy” as there was some garnish — the aforementioned tomato, some very tasty pickles and a thin bed of lettuce both top and bottom. I believe these helped to keep the cheese from soaking into the bun making these additions necessary.
I cut my burger in half and was pleased to see the juiciness of that flowing cheese, most of it remaining inside. The burger was very well-seared and tasty. Yes, you taste the cheese in every bite but you also can savor the beefiness of the patty. Honestly, I cannot recall eating a better sandwich in the decade-and-a-half since I last set foot in the States (and, specifically, Kansas City — beef capital of the Midwest). The only disappointment of the visit was the knowledge that we’d have to wait another twenty minutes for a second burger (and, by then, we were no longer the only customers). Oh, and my potato wedges began cooling off before I had a chance to eat them all. Minor quibbles on an excellent meal. The price is quite good as well — 299 baht (less than USD $10) for the burger and potato wedges. My soft drink was 39 baht. I will return soon to sample the smash-burger but will probably order a Juicy Lucy again as well. The Mexican restaurant will have to wait a bit longer I fear.
Now that I try to think about it, not much else happened out of my regular routine. Not that I mind as my routine is comfortable and enjoyable. The school year has entered its final month and I began two-week projects in each of my Secondary level classes. My students are creative but also left to their own devices for far too many hours of the day. When I arrive for my first lesson, I often find them engaged in “odd” behavior (such as dismembering a stuffed Teddy bear and dousing him with red food coloring one day) or just sleeping on the floor. Once I’ve written the date on the board, however, they are up and ready for wherever I lead them. They don’t realize it, but they are often influencing what I teach them and it’s always interesting, often unexpected.
I didn’t finish a single book this week (I have less than one hundred pages remaining in Worth Dying For by Lee Child so that will happen today) but I certainly made up for it with my writing. I have yet to miss a single journal entry all year (I don’t recall ever being able to say that in February) and every one of my blogs had multiple entries in January. That trend will continue for the foreseeable future as I am highly motivated. Spurred on by the Juicy Lucy experience, I am already contemplating trying out a few new restaurants in the area and attempting to write reviews. I’m really not that great at the latter but I certainly enjoy eating!
This week’s photo slideshow video consists mostly of my walking route to and from school. This time, I created captions right on the photos; unfortunately, I didn’t proofread and allowed at least two typos to exist. One is an extra “o” and the other is an unneeded apostrophe. Can you spot them?
Take care, dear readers, and I will report back next week (probably back to the “regular” Sunday afternoon schedule). Happy Chinese New Year!