With just five days remaining until the start of the Twenties, I find myself inundated with non-philatelic pursuits. I live in a country that is over 90 percent Buddhist with most of the remaining population being Muslim or Hindu. Christians make up an extremely small portion of the residents. And yet, Christmas is extremely popular. While the majority of schools throughout the Kingdom remain open on Christmas Day, most of these host parties where all students and teachers are decked-out in red felt shirts, skirts and/or hats and sing very bad renditions of “Jingle Bells” and “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”. Of course, Santa Claus (and his sexy sidekick, Santy) must make an appearance to lead the throngs of children in games until the unrelenting tropical sun.
Every year for the past four or five, my chief Yuletide duty has been to don the fake beard, red tights and a glorified (and shedding) heavy red-and-white bathrobe fastened by paper clips as the agency is too cheap to have somebody sew in proper buttons. This year, I had only two Christmas Day “performances” — both at kindergartens involving more than 200 students and two hours of outside activities. I lost gallons of sweat even before giving the first gift during the activities. I used Christmas stamps (most of them from 2019) on the flashcards that I created to teach the kids holiday vocabulary.
Needless to say, I was not in the mood to add additional Christmas stamps to this blog upon arriving home from that long day of work. So, the 2019 tally stands at 45 different issuers’ articles (I had wanted to reach 50; I may add a few more in update articles such as this one).
The 26th was similarly non-philatelic as I attended ceremonies marking the 15th anniversary of the Boxing Day Tsunami during which an estimated 270,000 people died in this regional disaster. Thailand (and particularly my province of Phuket) infamously failed to report many deaths (and the thousands of Burmese workers who disappeared during the tragedy were not even listed as “missing” due to racial discrimination against them) as the government didn’t want to scare away tourists! Following the sadness of the morning, we had a lengthy solar eclipse which covered some 76 percent of the sun here. It reached totality further south.
Arriving at work on Friday the 27th, planning to finish out my end-of-the-year paperwork in preparation to next week’s three-day holiday (we are actually closed Monday through Wednesday!), I was informed that there are two one-day English camps for the 5th and 6th of January. Each will involve more than 100 students and three foreign teachers. I cannot reuse the same materials for the different camps due to the grade levels involved and themes requested. I really have no idea when I will find the time to prepare 12 hours worth of games and activities between now and Sunday (I have a full teaching schedule from the 2nd through the 5th). I told the boss I would take existing games but they want “all new” materials.
I also suspect that during the upcoming couple of weeks, quite a few philatelic agencies will be announcing their new stamps so it may be quite a exhausting period for me with maintaining this blog. This is the reason why I have just set up an Instagram account and have started to post images of the first few stamp issues there. I will do the same on Twitter (I believe you can pre-schedule those posts) and in the Facebook group. I have also registered the domain https://www.philatelicpursuits.com and will soon work on transferring the contents of this blog from WordPress to my own web-host server.
I had planned to work on a few items to close out the year (and the decade) but most of my focus will now be on preparing for these English camps and keeping up with the New Issues of 2020.
Thailand has one final stamp issue for 2019 in the meantime. The long-delayed Chulabhorn Hospital stamp will be released on Sunday, 29 December. I suspect that the Phuket post offices will be closed that day — as usual — so I will buy my sheet and first day cover on Monday, the 30th. That date will also see the “release” of my final local post stamp of 2019. Rather than bearing the REPUBLICA PHUKETIA imprint of 2018 and the earlier 2019 issue (Queen Suthida’s birthday last June), they bear that of the sub-divisional eccPOST and will be used exclusively during our English camps. They are also my first triangular stamp designs — two for Prathom (Primary) students and two for Mathyom (Secondary) students — printed in Germany in September 2018. I will send a very few of these on combo first day covers with the Chulabhorn Hospital stamps and/or Year of the Rat stamps on 2 January.