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I haven't really had a chance to update this blog for the past several days so I'll attempt to now.

Saturday morning, I had my first experience of giving alms at a Buddhist temple.  We drove the short distance to Wat Chalong armed with our "monk buckets" and purchased joss sticks, garlands of flowers, and candles at the entrance.  I just watched what Tim was doing; unfortunately, she couldn't explain the significance of anything because of the language barrier.  I'm not always certain if she realizes that I would like to know what we are doing and what certain things mean; even asking the Thai name for something gets more blank stares than clarification.  Anyway, we knelt before one alter, bowed and waied, lit the candles and joss sticks and put them into holders.  Then, we placed the flowers into bowls at the base of a large golden Buddha.  Next we went to raised platform which contained a number of gifts for the monks (buckets of food and supplies similar to the ones we brought along with wrapped Buddha statues).  A monk soon sat on the platform, we bowed to him while performing the wai (similar to raising your hands in a prayer gesture); he gestured for us to come closer and he began chanting while we bowed our heads and (I think) repeated what he was saying.  At one point, he doused us with water (which was freezing).  Finally, we were given a brass vessel of water which Tim took outside and sprinkled on a tree.  We gave him our buckets of stuff, waied again, and backed off of the mat on our knees.  After that, we walked to a different temple where we purchased some sort of flower, more candles and joss sticks — we lit these in a flaming trough outside another temple (mine flamed up into an inferno before I was able to put them out, causing some laughter among other worshipers).  We then went to an alter where we placed the still extremely hot sticks (during this process, I managed to burn my arm as one of the sticks came loose from the others).  We then went inside this temple and placed the flowers in a bowl of water and the candles into another container.  Someday, I hope to find out what all this meant....

After our temple experience, we stopped at a nearby Internet cafe where I'd planned to (finally) upload photos to my Webshots account.  However, this cafe did not have any CD-ROM drives installed on the computers so I couldn't follow through with that idea.

Later that afternoon, we returned to Big C and purchased a washing machine.  Our laundry had reached the point of critical mass and Tim was reluctant to use one of the many local laundry services (most of which hand wash just as she is used to).  As with everything else here, installation is pretty much do-it-yourself and I was left stymied by the instructions (no pictures, just lists in Thai which Tim couldn't help me with either).  It wasn't until Sunday afternoon (with help from Puk) that we got the machine to a point where we could use it.  It's kind of a jury-rig in that when we use it we'll put it on the back patio, run the electric chord through the kitchen window with the intake hose attached to a garden hose.  At this point, the out-take hose is too short and the runoff drains on the patio and into the rocks — I don't like this as I don't know what the accumulation of soap will do so I plan to try and find some more length of the right size of hose so we can eventually run this over the back wall into the alley.  Or, perhaps, draining it into the sewer tank might be an option...

Anyway, Saturday night Tim and I went into Patong for a bit of partying.  We hired Nit once again to drive us (he's almost become our personal chauffeur) since Tim planned to do a fair bit of drinking and neither of us wanted to be driving her motorbike back to Chalong at such a late hour.  We were dropped off at the eastern end of Bangla Road near the boxing stadium and walked the length of this main entertainment area and back up again.  It was still fairly early in the evening so it wasn't yet crowded.  There were more farangs than Thais; most of these were families taking photographs so I played "tourist" a bit myself.  We purchased a couple of beers and some watermelon in the Big 1 Market below Ocean Plaza — this is a market similar to a 7-Eleven where a number of people had been trapped and drowned during the tsunami in December 2004.  It was kind of spooky being down there but I didn't see the plaque that had been placed in remembrance of the victims.  We took our small picnic back up to street level and enjoyed watching people walk by.

A bit later, we took a motorbike taxi to a large plaza in the southern part of Patong.  It was the last day of the 2006 Biker Week and this area was filled with Harley Davidsons.  We spent some time looking at (and posing for photographs next to) the various choppers.  At the end of the plaza, a huge screen had been set up on which a soccer match was being broadcast live from London.  I think this will be one of the ground zeros when the World Cup soccer matches are held in Germany (soccer is very popular here due to the number of British Commonwealth and European expats).  We found one of Tim's friends manning a bar near the big screen and we settled down there to visit for a while; she had first introduced me to Deng the night before my last departure from Patong.  Not only did we each have a couple of bottles of Singha, but we had some excellent sliced mango (the best I've yet tasted — it was so good that we bought 10 mangos from Deng to take home with us).  Exiting this plaza (during which I purchased a Bike Week t-shirt for Dad), we ran into Tim's friend Lek (NOT Silvio's Lek) who works as a motorbike taxi driver.  She/he (another ladyboy and I'm never sure exactly what to call them) drove us to Rock City at the northern end of Patong for free.  Rock City is very similar to a Hard Rock Cafe with similarly high-priced food, drinks, and souvenirs.  A bottle of Singha costs 125 baht here compared to 30 baht for the same sized bottle at a 7-Eleven.

We took a table in the front row, center stage, and settled down to enjoy the music.  I really liked the giant reproduction of a shackled King Kong that towered over the stage serving as a cool backdrop.  The one band we saw here were excellent, playing a mix of Thai originals and Western covers.  My favorites were a spot-on version of "By The Way" by The Red Hot Chili Peppers and a hard-rock rendition of The Knack's "My Sharona" which featured a lenghty guitar solo in the middle break.  I never thought I'd live to see the day that any band could make me like this song!  We were waiting for Puk to join us after she got off work but around midnight Tim wanted to go to another club called Margarita.  We took a motorbike taxi which cost 100 baht; this was a distance we could have easily walked but I humored her.  We got a table in the corner of the club, overlooking the intersection of Bangla Road and Rat-U-Thit 200 Pee Road, giving a good vantage point from which to observe the late-night revelers and traffic.  I enjoyed watching the street more than the band inside the club (which played the lengthy "Stairway To Heaven" by Led Zeppelin twice during the hour or so we were there — I've never been a fan on this son which is one of the most oft-played songs on American commercial rock radio).  I had tired considerably by the time Puk showed up and was anxious to call it an evening.  Tim, however, had just gotten her second wind and was in a dancing mood.  She went up to the stage and danced during a couple of the songs played by the band (I remember one being AC/DC's "TNT" and can't remember if she was up there for Queen's "We Will Rock You"; by this time, I had a pounding migraine headache and each drum beat sounded like it was coming from within my skull).  I finally dragged her out of there around 2a.m. (which she wasn't really happy about) and we called Nit to pick us up.  It was a long drive back home but once there we had no problems falling asleep.

We slept in on Sunday.  Puk showed up unannounced around noontime but had brought food (rice and miscellaneous baggies of Thai food for Tim and a tiny 7-Eleven hamburger for me — not the best-tasting object but I really appreciated that she thought to buy it for me; Tim didn't like the taste of her food either but the leftovers later came in useful when taxi-driver Lek showed up as well).  After lunch, Puk helped me hook up the washing machine and then she taught Tim how to use it and also how to sort clothes into different color loads, etc.  I was surprised that Tim had never before used a washing machine after all the time she spent encouraging me to buy one (which, by the way, was fairly inexpensive at 3800 baht — less than a hundred dollars U.S.).  In this climate, you don't really need a dryer — just lay the wet clothes over the back wall and other object and they dry very quickly in the sun.  Later in the evening, Tim sat on the living room floor ironing everything (including socks and underwear, which I found very amusing).  While we were still doing the laundry in the afternoon, Lek stopped by and we fed her some lunch (the leftovers Tim couldn't force down herself).  After Puk left to go to work, the three of us went to a large open-air market in Phuket Town where we spent the early evening hours browsing the many stalls.  I bought two pairs of cargo shorts for myself (neither of which fit, despite the stall owners assuring us they were the correct size for me — one of these was actually a good fit for Tim which she found hilarious), as well as a number of small objects for Tim (including sunglasses, earphones for her cell phone, etc.).  And, of course, we bought some baggies of food for dinner at home.  I found some strips of fried and seasoned pork which were excellent (but they didn't top my favorite "discovery" — barbecued chicken found a few days before at another market).  I also quite enjoyed the strips of fish (Tim calls these fish "bahn" which I think she's saying fish "balls" but the jury is still out on that) that I dipped in some sort of tasty chile sauce.

Sunday was probably the most frustration-free day since we've moved into the house.  Every bit of it was enjoyable as I think I'm becoming more accustomed to "going with the flow" instead of sweating the small details.  There are still worries (such as how to get the phone line installed) but these are decreasing with time.  Last night ended with me making a call to Kansas to talk to my sister (for 30 minutes, which were clear-as-a-bell on the phone) and with us watching the first 45 minutes or so of "The Last Samurai" before we fell asleep.  I'm not sure what we're doing today other than seeking out an Internet cafe with CD-ROM drives installed on their computers.