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It figures...  I travel halfway around the world, spend a month walking along streets that aren't in the best repair weaving among huge crowds and street stalls while avoiding touts trying to sell me suits and massages as well as dodging all manner of motorized vehicles, only to have a bad fall just steps outside my front door.  I was returning to my car to bring in another load of groceries (I had about eight large bags) when I tripped on an upward step in the dark.  Apparently, the outside lights on the buildings either are being turned on later at night or aren't working at all.  I have bloody scrapes on both knees (despite wearing jeans) as well as various knuckles on both hands.  Much more painful than my Thai sun- and motorcycle burns ever were.  Oh well, mai pen rai.

This afternoon was actually the first time I've left the apartment since returning home late Wednesday night (it's now Saturday).  I'd planned to pick up my mail at the Post Office but found out they now close at 3p.m. on Saturdays (they used to stay open until six); I was about 90 minutes too late.  So I ventured to Target instead, intending to buy a better (i.e., warmer) coat but they had nothing except for ugly fake leather ones.  I purchased some storage containers instead to begin sorting the items I'd like to keep and begin throwing out or selling the other junk.  I also purchased a warm blanket for my bed because I've been absolutely freezing the past couple of days and don't want to remove anything off of the guest room bed.

Finally, I went to the grocery store.  Almost everything is on the healthy side — plenty of fruit (I found some "fresh" mango and pineapple), salad fixin's, and juices.  I even purchased some soy milk, although I doubt it will be as good as the unpasteurized milk in a glass bottle that I fell in love with in Bangkok.  I was really missing the grocery aisles at Big C!  Anyway, I think I bought enough groceries to last an entire month (I usually buy a week at a time; my total was $106 and change; I NEVER spend that much on groceries all at once).  I didn't have my frequent shopper card with me but the cashier knows me so gave me the discounts anyway for a $23 savings.

I've slowly been organizing my trip records — both blogs are now completely updated (although I still have several entries on TravelBlog that I want to attach photos and I've begun making a DVD backup of my video.  I've finished with the first two plus hours of video and early this morning I got to the New Year's Eve footage which I shot very soon after first meeting Tim.  Silvio, Lek, me and Tim, and several other friends were celebrating by drinking in front of the hotel.  The video footage is rather dark but it's nice to hear Tim's voice so early in the relationship.  Later, I'll pick up work with the sea canoe tour we took on January 2nd.  I haven't yet found much footage that I'd like to edit out as it's all very interesting (I've finally learned to not narrate while I'm filming and to film in very short — 30 seconds or so — segments at a time), capturing the sounds as well as the sights of my adventures.

I'm holding off uploading photos until I retrieve my mail.  I'd mailed home a package from Portland that includes at least two CD's of photos including the SantaCon festivities.  I'll need to upload those first to keep everything in proper order.  That gives me another day in which to finish renaming the photos with the date and time taken (my old camera did that automatically, this one gives a number to each photo) — a long process when there's over 3000 photos, most of which I think are very good and worth sharing.

Tim and my phone calls are beginning to get longer as I learn more Thai and she learns more English.  This morning, we talked for almost an hour (she called my home using a calling card so it was very inexpensive — a two-hour card to call the U.S.A. costs just under $5 in Patong) and it was our best talk yet.  I'm getting very good at pronouncing Thai correctly (still have problems with some of the tones, however) as she understood almost everything I said without my having to repeat it.  I've been writing down appropriate phrases found within my four Thai/English books but am starting to retain more and more in my memory.  And when she responds in Thai, I can usually decipher what she's saying.  I was trying to get her to speak more English this morning, but she was so thrilled with my Thai that she kept urging me to speak Thai and would often laugh with delight at my apparent success.  When I visit her again, I'd like to take her on a tour or two in Bangkok after our journey to Chiang Mai and Lamphun as she's never spent much time in the city.  She's trying to talk me into coming back for her birthday in mid-April but I doubt if I can manage that; it would be nice, though as the Thai people really know how to throw a birthday party.

I did do a bit of price research — Thai Airways has a non-stop from LAX to Bangkok that would cost as little as $1110 including taxes and fees but I wouldn't want to spend 18 hours on the same plane without stopping.  But that price is around $500 less than I spent on airfare for my entire December/January trip, including the Albuquerque to Portland segments.  A round-trip to LAX on Southwest or America West would cost an additional $220 or so.  But I also found a China Airlines flight from L.A. with a 2-hour stop in Taipei on Expedia for as little as $748 including all taxes and fees so that makes a return trip even more attractive.  Particularly since next time I could probably find a small apartment to rent for 10,000 baht per month on a three-month rental — that's about $255!

I also need to start restoring my financial records into my Money program; I accessed two of my bank websites this morning (I had to call customer service for one in order to get my log-in information) and transferred some funds to the account I use to pay bills with (I get a much better interest rate on the non-local account).

Plus, sometime in the next several days I plan to begin catching up with e-mail.  I received one from my friend Stian in Norway today — and also from bass player Rich Ruth of The Rainmakers, whom I haven't talked to since probably June 23, 1990, at their farewell show in Columbia, Missouri (Bob Walkenhorst had contacted him requesting some material to use in the reissue of the Balls album, and once he found the boxes of Rainmakers memorabilia and tapes thought to contact me to see if I'd like them for the "archives").  I definitely want to send a long reply to both of those!

But tonight I just want to relax away from the computer, watch some t.v. and perhaps begin looking at the vast amount of reading material that I brought home with me.  I really need to get back onto a "normal" sleeping schedule as I'm still on Thai time (it helps out so I call Tim at times that are convenient for her).  But, I've had that sort of schedule off-and-on for years now, sleeping during the days and staying up at night so it's not so different now.