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I haven't felt much like writing in this blog over the past week.  I've been busy, although it seems like I haven't accomplished a whole lot.  I'm somewhat overwhelmed at what I need to accomplish in less than two months — trying to pack up a lifetime of accumulations, collections, and detritus is daunting to say the least.  I have so many things of value, both monetary and sentimental, that I wonder if I'll ever fit the items I want to keep into just one storage space.  My dad's solution is to toss anything I haven't actually "used" in the past couple of years but it is just not that easy.  In many cases, it would be like throwing museum-quality relics into the trash.  I think I'll just rent the largest storage facility I can find and start filling it.  If I need to rent a second one to store my car, so be it; the cost will still be much less than maintaining an apartment I'm not living in.

I will be cutting many costs during the time I'm staying in Thailand; not only will I not be paying $730 per month in rent, but I will eliminate the trash, water, gas, and electric utilities along with land-line telephone, DSL and dialup Internet services (I need to find out how to keep my MSN account overseas because I don't want to have to change my e-mail address) as well as numerous other monthly living expenses.

I've just mailed off my visa application to the Royal Thai Consulate in Houston (said to be fairly "friendly").  Instead of going with the 30-day "visa on arrival" that U.S. citizens can receive upon landing in the Kingdom, I applied for a double-entry tourist visa.  This means that on the first entry, I can stay up to 60 days.  Close to the expiration of that visa, I will need to ask for a 30-day extension which are almost always approved (the Immigration office in Patong is known to give these more often than others).  Shortly before that extension expires, I will need to physically leave the country, even if only to cross the border for an hour.  Returning to Thailand activates the second entry and the 60-day stay plus 30-day extension begins again.  This means that, provided my application is approved and I receive both extensions, I could stay up to 180 days on this one visa (triple-entry visas are also available but they are granted less often than double-entries so I decided not to push my luck).  With the visa application, you do need to submit a copy of a airline ticket proving you will be leaving the country at some point.  I wasn't sure if I should bank on the extensions but ended up booking a return flight on August 1 and listing this date on the visa application.  I can always change the flight once I'm in Thailand.  If the double-entry tourist visa isn't approved, then I can always cross the border into Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, or Malaysia every 30 days (up to one-year is the current limit) to use the visas-on-arrival.

Of course, legally, foreigners aren't allowed to work in the Kingdom on either of these visas.  But the Non-Immigrant and other visas are very difficult to obtain, even if you have a job lined up.  It's a paperwork nightmare and then you are only allowed 90 days in Thailand before you need to start applying for extensions and making periodic visa runs.  In fact, the "visa run" to cross the border and return in a day is such a common thing that travel agencies all over the country offer these just as they offer any other tour or airfare booking.

My plan is that, again providing my initial application and extension are approved and based on how Tim and my relationship is going (no reason to think it won't still be wonderful) and how much I still like Thailand (I certainly don't think I'll get homesick for New Mexico), once I activate my second entry I will begin the TEFL course at one of the schools on Phuket providing this instruction.  Throughout the four-week course, they aggressively pursue a position for you and then assist your prospective employer with the paperwork involved with obtaining a work permit and Non-Immigrant visa for you.  It's certainly much easier to do it this way than on your own.

Much of my "free" time has been taken up with reading all I can about Thai customs and culture; I think I have a handle on who to wai during introductions and greetings, how to keep from using my left hand at all (I'm left-handed so this will be difficult to remember), and to keep from pointing my feet at anybody.  I'm also getting very good at speaking Thai, although many of the phrases I've learned to say to Tim are rather romantic causing her to playfully call me "pok wan" (sweet mouth) to which I respond "phuuyt jing jing" (I truly mean it).  My pronunciation, along with the dreaded tones, is coming along nicely but almost everyday I'll try to say something which causes Tim to shreik with laughter at some phrase I've mangled.

Tim herself has been rather busy as well.  First her motorbike broke down causing her to lose some work and to beg rides from her friend Jum.  She stayed home several days, and as a result she became very sick from the heat there.  Once she got better, Jum's motorbike broke down (Tim fixed it) and then Jum became sick so Tim took care of her.  All of this down-time caused her to start thinking about changing jobs and yesterday I received an email from her basically asking for my permission for her to go to work for Lek at L&S Kamala Bay Village as a housekeeper.  I was very surprised that she wanted my opinion on this; she even wrote, "If you don't agree with me, I will not work there."  Although I got a little annoyed with Lek for trying to charge extra towards the end of my stay at L&S, I think it would be wonderful for Tim to work there.  I am indebted to Lek for introducing us in the first place and she is someone who Tim enjoys talking to and practicing English with.  I called Tim back even before she left the Internet cafe to give her my blessing.

Last night (morning in Thailand), Tim called me from L&S just as happy as can be.  Not only will she be cleaning the rooms but she will also cook some meals in the restaurant as well.  Cooking truly seems to be one of her great passions in life and she's looking forward to cooking for me when I return.  She also wants me to teach her how to cook such things as hamburgers and steak the way I like them.  Our call became a "pass-the-phone-around" type so I also got to talk to Silvio (who's really looking forward to my return) and to Lek (who offered to help us with getting a visa for Tim to come back to America with me because she "knows people"; first, we need to get her a passport in Bangkok however).  Silvio might be returning to Italy for a few months this Spring, depending on business at L&S.  I wasn't too clear on if Lek was going with him (I'd thought she was returning in January) or if L&S would be open during his/their absence.  I think I'll call him again next week to ask.

So, a lot has indeed been keeping me busy.  But as I look around the stacks of boxes and the unsorted/unpacked stuff cluttering my large apartment, I feel as if very little work has been accomplished.  I really need to knuckle-down and start clearing out this home.  At least I'll have help with the furniture and other larger items at the end of March — my brother-in-law is flying down from Kansas to give me a hand.  That's fitting, as he helped me move to New Mexico almost twelve years ago (driving the rental truck and flying back after the weekend).  And I still want to find time to take some final photos around town (there are still places in Albuquerque I've always wanted to visit but never seemed to find the time...).  So much to little time.