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.

Continue reading “Exhausting Holidays”

My work has not only intruded upon my various hobbies including philately and maintaing my blogs but has completely taken over my life to an unprecedented degree. I believe the last time I was this busy may have been back in my university days during which I also worked in restaurant management.

While I am quite exhausted, the majority of this work is stress-free. I do enjoy all that I do. However, once I return home at the end of each long day, I am almost always too tired to do anything except watch a bit of TV and read a chapter or two before my eyes shut involuntarily.

What has occupied my time, you ask?  Much of my “free time” at work last month involved preparing and then conducting a three-day English camp for 55 young students at a beach resort in northern Phuket.  Our clients, once they sign the contracts, determine the camp’s main theme and then it is up to me to break that down into manageable , teachable parts around which we can still have a great deal of fun games and other activities.  In this case, the client was an administrative sub-district which operates several schools in the eastern portion of the island.  Their chosen topics were Global Warming and the 3 R’s (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle).  Try teaching that material to 10-year-olds with extremely limited English skills!

I prepared numerous flash cards, worksheets, as well as props and backdrops plus I created around 15 different games for this camp which was held Wednesday, Thursday and Friday last week.  Thankfully, the usual rainy season wet weather did not make much of an appearance (five minutes during the second morning) and the camp was a great success.  The most difficult part was during the second afternoon when the children needed to use what they learnt the previous day about their assigned topics and put together 15-minute skits.  They were given approximately two hours time to write scripts (in English!), learn their lines (each child had to say at least one sentence), and create visual materials out of a rather limited amount of paper, future board and tape/glue.  Only one or two students completely froze but nobody gave up (or cried!).

I created a video using photos and video taken by myself and some of the other teachers and students at the camp:

The camp and its preparation were in addition to three 2-hours per day, five days per week private lessons.  The earliest student (9-11) is preparing to take the entrance examination for one of the most exclusive international schools in Phuket; my 11-1 student will enter university next month and is strengthening his grammar skills while the 1-3 course is helping a TOIEC (Test of English for International Communication) candidate.  All three enrolled for 30-hour courses.  The early morning student has renewed twice (the most recent was yesterday) so she will learn for a total of 90 hours.  The 11-1 student has renewed once and the 1-3 is at the mid-course point.  Tomorrow, I will add a fourth class to this already grueling schedule, 3-5 preparing a student for the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam. The latter, in my mind, is the most difficult of these types of tests (I am also certified to teach preparation courses for TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) which I rate as the most enjoyable to teach.

I am also scheduled to begin my annual courses for staff members of Thailand’s fifth largest bank, Krungsri Bank of Ayudhya, in about two weeks’ time.  I spent several days last month conducting placement exams and interviews for this year’s crop of eager tellers and exchange booth personnel.  All of these courses involve a great deal of preparation (and study in some cases) in addition to the actual classroom lessons.Oh, and there are two more English camps scheduled to begin about three weeks from now. The theme for each of these (different grade levels from the same school) is English for Tourism with the students becoming “Junior Guides”.  The younger students will conduct surveys of tourists on one of our beaches during the last day of camp while the high school students will act as tourist guides in one of the resort communities.  I certainly hope their English skills are better than those at the last camp!  For this, I need to create a “manual” for our Questioning Kids and Junior Guides including sections on Local Transportation, Attractions, Culture and Food.

As I mentioned at the start of this article, June was probably my busiest month ever.  As far as billable hours are concerned (a significant portion of my work is not billable), I ended up with nearly 30 hours in overtime pay (I have a base number of teaching hours as salaried management).  If there are no additions or subtractions (students occasionally need to cancel due to illness or inclement weather), my schedule for this month will put me at around 75 hours of overtime (nearly double my required teaching hours).

Normally, I would try to do a lot of work at home (designing flashcards and other camp materials, creating the books, etc.) but by the time I arrive at my apartment following a 90-minute local (open-air) bus ride, I can barely keep my eyes open long enough to eat dinner.  I have still maintained my reading streak, although some evenings may see only 10 pages read, and there are one or two television programs I watch each week.  I am far behind reading blogs, not to mention writing my own entries.The only philatelic activity that I have managed since mid-May has been the occasional purchase of Thai stamps from the nearby Phuket Philatelic Museum.  However, one first day cover (for His Majesty the King’s Coronation) sold out before I got there and Bangkok failed to send two stamp issues (no stamps or first day covers) to Phuket at all.  They do that from time to time; I think they feel that there isn’t as much interest in non-Buddhist or non-Royal issues so they simply do not distribute them to very many post offices outside of the capital.  It is frustrating to say the least.  Every year, I end up buying half of that particular year’s stamp issues from an online dealer (I cannot order stamps from Thailand Post itself for some unknown reason).

I think that, realisticly, I won’t be able to return to even occasional blog entries for quite some time. I hope my workload will lessen by mid-August but at this rate, who knows? All I know for certain that the our teaching agency/ language school is set to move to a location in Old Phuket Town at some point in the near future (possibly in August or September). That will involve an emtirely different kind of hard work! Perhaps I will be able to return to a high degree of philatelic pursuits, Postcrossing, blogging, and the rest of my hobbies before the start of 2020. I certainly hope so!

 

I was about ready to call this a “slow philatelic news week” and publish a very short update article when the United States Postal Service chose today to announce three new stamp issues due later this year. Unfortunately, the anticipated issue for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 is not among them. The information about each issue comes directly from the USPS press release:

Sesame Street

United States – Sesame Street (2019) sheet of 16

The Postal Service honors Sesame Street as one of the most influential and beloved children’s television shows. For the last 50 years, it has provided educational programming and entertainment for generations of children throughout the country and around the world. The stamp art features photographs of 16 Muppets from Sesame Street — Big Bird, Ernie, Bert, Cookie Monster, Rosita, The Count, Oscar the Grouch, Abby Cadabby, Herry Monster, Julia, Guy Smiley, Snuffleupagus, Elmo, Telly, Grover and Zoe. Art Director Derry Noyes designed the stamps.”

T. Rex

United States – T. Rex (2019) block of 4

With this pane of 16 stamps, the Postal Service brings Tyrannosaurus rex to life — some 66 million years after its demise. One design illustrates a face-to-face encounter with a T. rex approaching through a forest clearing; another shows the same young adult T. rex with a young Triceratops — both dinosaurs shown in fossil form. The third and fourth stamps depict a newly hatched T. rex covered with downy feathers and a bare-skinned juvenile T. rex chasing a primitive mammal. The “Nation’s T. rex,” the young adult depicted on two of the stamps, was discovered on federal land in Montana and is one of the most studied and important specimens ever found. Its remains will soon be on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Art director Greg Breeding designed the stamps with original artwork by Julius T. Csotonyi, a scientist and paleoartist.

Spooky Silhouettes

United States – Spooky Silhouettes (October 2019)

Halloween has long been a holiday that lets us delight in the things that scare us. With the approach of autumn, Spooky Silhouettes stamps will offer fun, frightful scenes that symbolize this annual celebration. Four stamps feature digital illustrations in which traditional Halloween motifs are rendered as black silhouettes in eerily backlit windows. Artist Tyler Lang created the artwork. Art Director Greg Breeding designed the stamps.

As a teacher, I should be thrilled with the Sesame Street stamps but I feel 16 different stamps is just too many. The T. rex stamps do nothing at all for me and we’ve had way too many dinosaur stamps already. I do like the design of the “Spooky Silhouettes” set, however. Any one of these could be the designated issue for National Stamp Collecting Month, or perhaps that will be the previously-announced (but no design yet revealed) Frogs issue.

With the announcement of these new Halloween stamps, I am reminded of one of the celebrations I miss from the years I lived in the American Southwest. This is Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, which pretty much replaces Halloween in portions of the Southwest as well as throughout México. México has released stamps for the holiday since 2009; I only have one of these (the 2012 release, on a first day cover), which I featured on ASAD in October 2016. A week or two following the Dia de Muertos stamp release each year, México issues one or more stamps marking Dia del Cartero, Postman’s Day. While seeking to add a few of these to my collection on eBay recently, I came across a stamp from 2017 which seems to combine the two special days:

Mexico – Dia de Muertos with Postman (2017)

I love this stamp and hope that someday México will release one picturing a skeletal teacher (perhaps in front of a class of skeletal students); the annual Día del Maestro (Teacher’s Day) in mid-May is also annually commemorated with attractively-designed stamps. I am beginning to obtain a few of these in preparation for an “education on stamps” Topical Pursuits. This will probably appear a couple of months down the road.

Last week saw very little time, once again, for any philatelic pursuits as it was the final week of the school year filled with testing and paperwork as well as an afternoon of activities for about 180 Kindergarten students. During the latter, I became quite dehydrated and nearly collapsed from heat exhaustion, having to cancel a business class later that evening. This week is perhaps busier (I am supposed to be on summer holiday) as I was asked to do a 10-day English camp in a temple school in the western portion of the island. I was told that the students would be high school level and spent several all-nighters preparing material for the camp (normally, we have weeks to put together these types of events). When I arrived, I found that the children were all between the ages of four and six and most had never even heard English spoken before! It has been a real struggle (none of the prepared material is appropriate and they won’t stay in one spot long enough for me to explain a game to them — nor would they understand if they did); I’ve been exhausted each evening and have been trying to pick “short subjects” for the A Stamp A Day articles. They have still taken about the same amount of time to put together each night as I have to constantly get up and walk around as my muscles tighten from the days spent chasing after tiny-tots. I will take a holiday once this camp finishes on March 23, which is two days before ASAD’s post #1000 and my planned hiatus from that.

Thailand – National Children’s Day, Scott #1170a (January 10, 1987)

Thailand Post has been very sporadic and random with their new issue and design announcements during recent years and this year is no exception. Details have yet to be revealed for the Royal Coronation issue (the ceremonies set to begin early next month with the actual Coronation occurring the first weekend in May), yet a rather blurry image of a stamp due the following week has just been revealed along with a few of the details but only in Thai. A single 3-baht stamp marking the 80th anniversary of the Foundation for the Blind in Thailand will be released on May 10:

วันแรกจำหน่าย : 10 พฤษภาคม 2562
ชนิดราคา : 3.00 บาท
จำนวนพิมพ์ : 500,000 ดวง
ขนาด : 48 x 30 มม. (แนวนอน)
ผู้ออกแบบ : ว่าที่ ร.ท.ปฏิพล ซอกิ่ง (บริษัท ไปรษณีย์ไทย จำกัด)
บริษัทผู้พิมพ์ :ไทยบริติชซีเคียวริตี้ พริ้นติ้ง จำกัด (มหาชน) ประเทศไทย
วิธีการพิมพ์และสี : ลิโธกราฟี่ – หลายสี
จำนวนดวงในแผ่น : 10 ดวง
ซองวันแรกจำหน่าย : 11.00 บาท

Thailand – 80 Years Foundation for the Blind in Thailand (May 10, 2019)

The next stamps to be released by Thailand Post will be the annual Thai Heritage Conservation Day issue on April 2.

I noticed this piece of information on a dealer’s site last week:

Confirmed from the North Korea Post Office that they no longer sell any Anti-US stamps (including those already issued and to be issued) due to political reasons. This causes the price hike and shortage of these types of stamps in the market.

I have mentioned on this blog and elsewhere that I have long “enjoyed” collecting the propaganda poster stamps from North Korea, especially those issued around the time of the annual “Struggle Against U.S. Imperialism Month” which runs from June 25 until July 27.  North Koreans flock to war museums such as the Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities and attend rallies against the “evils” of the United States. Over 100,000 gather in Pyongyang’s Kim II Sung Stadium to speak out against “the fatty monster U.S. imperialists” as part of the ‘Mass Rally on the Day of the Struggle Against the U.S.”, An stamp issue has been a part of the anti-American celebrations off-and-on since 1952, with most featuring images taken from fairly graphic propaganda posters. Despite the June 12, 2018, summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and 3rd Supreme Leader of the DPRK Kim Jong-un (김정은) in Singapore last year, North Korea released their anti-U.S. stamp set right on schedule on June 25.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – Joint Struggle Against U.S. Imperialism (issued April 2018) – imperforate variety

One of my primary reasons for wanting to travel to North Korea was to easily purchase these stamps (and the associated post cards, propaganda poster books, etc.) directly from the source. I planned to use these to mail postcards to my home in Thailand and to various friends (although I don’t think I would have tried to send any to the United States). I do have other reasons for wanting to travel to this very strange place before it changes and had been close to booking a trip when President Trump basically made it illegal to travel there  (since August 2017, Americans who have their passports scanned at a border checkpoint that points to a crossing into North Korea will generate a “revoke” code with the U.S. Department of State). I hope that the current round of talks will lead to a reversal of this policy very soon (the recent summit in Vietnam didn’t seem to end that well). The stamps on a postcard from there do not have to be anti-American to still be “cool”. For much more, please see my ASAD article from last year.

France – Caves of Lascaux (April 26, 2019) first day of issue postmark

On April 26, La Poste of France will release a single stamp depicting the cave paintings of Lascaux Cave (Grotte de Lascaux) in a complex of caves near the village of Montignac, in the department of Dordogne in southwestern France. Over 600 parietal wall paintings cover the interior walls and ceilings of the cave. The paintings represent primarily large animals, typical local and contemporary fauna that correspond with the fossil record of the Upper Paleolithic time. The drawings are the combined effort of many generations, and with continued debate, the age of the paintings is estimated at around 17,000 years (early Magdalenian). Lascaux was inducted into the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in 1979, as element of the Prehistoric Sites and Decorated Caves of the Vézère Valley. Apparently, this is the first stamp France has issued honoring the site since 1968.

France – Cave of Lascaux (April 26, 2019)

Last week began with an extremely lengthy ASAD articles with the Monday blog about Hernán Cortés approaching 11,000 words (largely put together Sunday night into Monday morning) despite ONLY dealing with his conquest of the Aztec empire, a subject I have long been interested in. Wednesday’s article was big as well, topping out at more than 6700 words about Michelangelo. The others were much more reasonable with several maritime themes popping up. As I count down to a much-needed break from the blog, I am trying to include stamps from the lesser-featured stamp issuing entities. I am doing my best to avoid using stamps from the United States, Thailand, Great Britain, and Germany. The articles published since my last update:

  1.  March 4, 2019:  “Hernán Cortés & His Conquest of the Aztec Empire” (Spain — Scott #754, 1948) 10,929 words
  2.  March 5, 2019:  “Learn From Lei Feng Day” (People’s Republic of China — Scott #4071a, 2013) 2,025 words
  3.  March 6, 2019:  “Michelangelo:  Sculptor, Painter, Architect”  (Afars & Issas — Scott #C93, 1975) 6,744 words
  4.  March 7, 2019:  “Ross Dependency, Scott Base, and HMNZS Endeavour” (Ross Dependency — Scott #L12, 1972) 3,195 words
  5.  March 8, 2019:  “The Spanish “Find” Copán” (Honduras — (Honduras — Scott #C619, 1978) 1,608 words
  6.  March 9, 2019:  “Jukong Boat of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands” (Cocos (Keeling) Islands — Scott #292a-c, 1994) 972 words
  7.  March 10, 2019:  “The Mining Disaster at Courrières” (France — Scott #3190, 2006) 1,216 words
  8.  March 11, 2019:  “Bon Om Touk: The Cambodian Water Festival” (Kingdom of Cambodia — Scott #1997, 2000) 1,075 words
  9.  March 12, 2019:  “The Dory” (British Honduras — Scott #122, 1938) 2,430 words

That’s all I have for this week. Cheers!

Unfortunately, I didn’t have much of a philatelic week last week as most of my time was spent working on school-related tasks. The end of the long school year is upon us and next week is comprised solely of final exams — tests in English and Chinese subjects Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday with the Thai language exams occurring on Thursday and Friday. My M3-level students (roughly equivalent to the Sophomore level of high school in the United States) will take entrance exams for different schools on Monday before starting their holidays next Tuesday). The 2019-2020 school year will begin in early May, probably the Tuesday following the Royal Coronation of HM King Maha Vajiralongkhorn (Rama X). There should be plenty of Thailand Post philatelic items surrounding that long-awaited event.

Postccrossing postcard received on March 2, 2019, bearing one stamp from 2017 and two from 2018, nicely postmarked (many covers and cards from the U.S. miss postmarks entirely).

Continue reading “My Philatelic Pursuits #2019-08”