01-20 Fin (Or, the End of January 2020)

The Golden Sea Dragon fountain in the Queen Sirikit 72 Years Park just a few minutes’ walk from my home in Phuket Town. In old Siamese tradition, the island of Phuket was formed from a giant sea dragon which you can (sort of) see in by looking at the island’s shape on a map. I walk through the park daily on my way home from the bus stop. It is the scene for many special events.

Thus, the first month of the Twenties comes to an end.

January’s are usually one of my slower months but this one was anything but.

I did my share of fill-in days (when I cover classes for an absent teacher) throughout the month. Last Friday, I was at a school that contains at least 3,500 students with some classes bursting with more than 60 students crowded in a space meant for 25 or 30.  Picture that with no air-conditioning and barely-functioning fans.  This last week has seen me commuting for three hours each day in the back of the most uncomfortable local buses you can imagine to teach at a temple school where the entire student population is around 140. I enjoy teaching in both types of environments, as long as I know it’s for a short period of time.

I was working full steam ahead to maintain my Philatelic Pursuits blog keeping up-to-date with the many stamps released during the first month of the year and will continue for another 11 months.  I had everything down to a finely-running routine when the entire site went down last week.  It has taken some time to restore (luckily, I had a fairly recent backup) and clear out the database and server errors as well.  It turns out that the entire hosting provider experienced issues and that it was a lot more than just my site that was affected.  I am happy to report that the site is (mostly) back online; there are still a few lost articles that I have yet to rewrite.  The restoration caused me to hit some memory limits and I am still working to optimize the images so as to reduce the load on the server.

I’m not sure if Plukpanya Municipal School is the largest in Phuket with some 3,500 students and who knows how many teachers but I cannot think of any others that feature multiple buildings, all of which are at least four stories tall with one being seven floors (this one has an elevator that students are banned from using). There are at least four separate flag ceremonies in the morning as there isn’t space enough for all the students to gather. Even so, many of the students have to stand at attention while watching the flag-raising from a balcony outside their classrooms.

Aside from the technical aspects of the crash, I am having some difficulty getting back into my routine. This has all occurred during my very busy week of commuting and filling-in.

To add to my own (joyful) overload, the annual Phuket Old Town Festival started last night under a new name: Phuket Local Foods Festival.  The focus of this festival has long been about the huge variety of wonderful food available but now it is official.  This comes two or three years ago after Phuket Town was declared a UNESCO World City of Gastronomy (when its bid to become a World Heritage Site failed).  I have historically spent every night of the three-day festival roaming the downtown streets — all of which are closed to vehicular traffic after 5 p.m. — taking photos, listening to live music performances on the multiple stages set up and, of course, eating.

One of many Year of the Rat (or Mouse, if you prefer) decorations around Old Town.

They were still setting up when I disembarked from my long bus ride from school so I wandered around taking photos of the food stalls (this year there is a large number of food trucks included in the mix) so that I could remember which ones I wanted to investigate.  I headed home to change clothes and decided to take a short nap.  Well, I didn’t wake up until after one in the morning.  The main stage performances were probably still in progress but I decided I would just stay at home.  It is the first night of the festival that I missed in probably ten years.  I will make a special effort to go tonight.

Luckily, I did read a bit yesterday during lunch so my reading streak is still active at 701 days (since 1 March 2018).  I will try to read a few pages in my book on the way home (not easy to read on the local buses but I will try). So far this month, I have finished three books and a total of 5,183 pages as measured by the ReadEra app on my phone. Much of my at-home reading is done using the Bibliovore app which counts the pages roughly the same).  The most recent book I finished (two days ago) was The Guardians by John Grisham, possibly the best book I’ve read of his in ten years.

Decorating the Golden Sea Dragon for the opening blessing ceremony for the Phuket Local Food Festival.

As for music, I listened to quite a bit since my “Nineteen in ’20” entry a couple of weeks ago. During the month, I listened to a total of 440 tracks from 49 different albums which comprised 33 hours of listening (mostly in the background). My most-played artist in January was The Jeff Healey Band followed closely by St. Vincent, Wilco, and The Allman Brothers Band starting the year in a real bluesy and indie mode.

This was probably my most active month blogging (but not in actual word-count with 43,288 this month) with 116 posts amongst my four blogs. The vast majority of these were on Philatelic Pursuits while there were five posts on Postcards to Phuket, three here on Asian Meanderings, and only two on A Stamp A Day (I’d planned a couple more but wanting to sleep won out!).

Finally, I managed to take at least a couple of photos each and every day of the month, something I don’t think I have ever accomplished.  Most days, I shot less than ten but twice this week I went way over one hundred photos in a single day (only one of which was a selfie).  Many were taken this past Wednesday when the afternoon classes at my temporary school were cancelled for a Cub Scout “activity”.  It turned out to be an “initiation” as Baby Tigers (lowest tier of Scouting in Thailand) which looked suspiciously like hazing to me.  A number of the students (ages around 6 or 7 on up to 11 or 12) cried and a few screamed as they were blindfolded and led into the “Tiger’s Den” where various cruelties were subjected upon them.  It certainly wouldn’t have gone over well in the U.S.  Yesterday, a number of photos were taken of the preparations for the Local Food Festival.  I expect to shoot some video of performances this evening.

My self-designed custom shirt for my hometown team winning this years Conference Championship and progressing to the Super Bowl, to be played on Sunday 2 February 2020 in Miami, Florida.

As usual, my photos can be found cataloged into albums in my Flickr feed. Those for most of January have just been uploaded. The highlights from tonight will be added sometime this weekend.

Finally, I just want to write one more time…. Go, Chiefs!  I still cannot believe my team is going to the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years.  I’ve been saying that I don’t really care if they win or lose, that’s it’s awesome just to make it this far.  It would be so much better if they do, in fact, win.  For the record, however, I have long claimed San Francisco as my favorite city in the United States but that is the city and not the team.  Go, Chiefs!

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