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We have more or less settled into somewhat of a routine that repeats itself with slight variations from day to day.

Most mornings, I wake up before Tim.  That can mean that I roll out of bed anywhere between six and nine o'clock.  I quietly collect my laptop from the makeup desk in the master bedroom, along with a book or my digital camera, and then set up my workstation on the living room table.  I begin uploading photos using my Webshots software (I generally upload in 18-photo mini-batches) while I read my morning e-mail — my current domain address has yet to attract any spam so I usually don't have much to wade through on a daily basis other than a few local news bulletins and the occasional friend & family mail.

Between nine and eleven (depending on how late we stayed up watching a DVD movie or Thai television), Tim cracks open the bedroom door and peeks out.  I swear she reminds me of a zombie before she has her morning coffee, looking for all the world like a beautiful version of the undead.  Her first task is to make a cup of coffee for the two of us, which is really tasty (her "secret ingredient" is something called Beep which, as near as I can tell, is some sort of ice cream topping which makes the brew especially creamy).  While we drink our morning caffeine, we watch my photo screensaver or Tim watches me write a blog entry or e-mail.

The routine after that varies a bit depending what our "big plans" for a particular day may be.  During our "lazy days" (lately, the norm instead of the exception), one or the other of us will sweep the house (all the rooms are tile) while the other follows with a mop.  A couple of times a week, the floor-cleaning routine includes a thorough scrubbing of the bathrooms.  We (meaning I watch Tim) do the laundry two or three times per week; lately, this has been a minimum of a two-day process as Tim usually waits until the second day before she begins ironing (this area has been deemed "off limits" to me).

The meal preparation has been reduced to just a couple of times per day (sometimes only once a day) as Tim is eating much less now than when we first moved in.  I think she also worries about how I perceive the smell of the Thai cooking as she has been frying fish out on the back patio lately.  Most days, she will make a quick trip to a nearby market or food stall in order to find me some fried or barbecued chicken along with a bag or two of sticky rice.  During the meal, she usually feeds this to me by tearing off strips of chicken from the bone, pressing it into a thumb-sized mound of rice, and then dipping this into a bowl of sweet chile sauce before popping the entire morsel into my mouth.  She's very quick at this and usually waits patiently as I try to chew and swallow what's in my mouth or take a drink of soda, yoghurt drink, or water.  Only when my chicken is finished will she begin eating her bowls (now down to one or two, along with a plate of "greens"/weeds); my protestations that I can actually feed myself have been to no avail.  I think this is part of the legendary stories of how well Thai women take care of their man and no Western ideas of woman's liberation can change this.

If we need to run errands, we shower before leaving the house — even if we have already had our first showers of the day (most days, I take between two and four showers).  That way, we stay "fresh" at least as long as it takes us to dress and get onto the motorbike.  I find it best to have a "to do" list before we leave the house and to realize that I'll be lucky to cross one thing a day off of it.  Tim gets easily sidetracked and often we end up stopping off at one of her friends' homes rather than our scheduled stops of the day.  I know now from experience that "a quick stop to see my friend" is, at a minimum, a three-hour exercise in patience for me.  First, they have to get caught up on all the gossip and events that have happened in the hour or so since they finished a 90-minute telephone conversation (which occurs several times daily).  Then, they have to buy a bunch of food to eat (guess who pays for this food?).  After the meal, it's more conversation (and during the before- and after-meal talks, they almost always go inside, leaving me outside alone to twiddle my thumbs) and occasionally it's a "darling, so and so come now to give me hour massage" or some such "request."  This happened two days ago and the only way I ended that was by saying "jep ton" ("hurt stomach") so Tim took me home so I could use a "real" toilet.  Of course, yesterday, I agreed to take her back so she could have her hour-long massage which ended up being another marathon visit with the same friends (honestly, what do they find to talk about so much every day?).

Anyway, I've learned that if I really need to get something done on a particular day is that I need to start "requesting" it several days before.  For example, I wanted to go to the council office to pay the rent (due on May 11).  I began putting it on our "to do" list on Friday and we finally were able to do it today.  I'd been trying to get us to an Internet cafe almost as long (to print out travel documents — I'll probably buy a printer when we return from Chiang Mai) and we will (hopefully) go tonight.  This is all part of the Thai attitude towards time (and I'll reprint some excerpts I found on this subject in a future blog entry) and it does no good to get angry or upset about it.  A simple farang like myself can do nothing to change such a basic tenant of life here so I just laugh it off and make quiet "suggestions" to get us back on track.

In fact, I don't think I would object so much to the lengthy visits to the friends so much if only I was included a bit more.  I don't think they realize how lonely it is for me to have to sit either alone or among them when they are all jabbering along in a language that I don't understand.  Occasionally, I can determine that they are talking about me (the words farang — basically meaning "white Westerner" — or tilak — "darling" — are key give-aways) but my requests of "what do you say?" are either ignored, met with a one- or two-word response, or laughed at which actually distances me from the conversation even more.  I think I would feel different if I did have someone with whom I could speak English (and not the broken English I converse with among the few expats I've met so far — a German and a Dutchman).  (BTW, paying for everyone's meals no longer bothers me so much; I just keep the fridge less well-stocked and try to avoid going to restaurants with Tim's friends — if we keep the meals to the food stall variety, it is very cheap.)

Our returns home after errands and visits is usually a race against the rain as the rainy season is definitely here (although it has yet to rain today).  But what's been worse than the threat of storms has been our frequent travels in a major road construction zone.  The upper stretches of Chaofa West Road are currently being resurfaced.  However, the crews don't close the roads (or redirect traffic) while the work is being done.  So motorbikes, cars, trucks, vendor carts, etc. are all trying to navigate an ever-increasing poor road surface amidst dust, gravel, mud, and tar.  It's hot and dirty.  And, believe me, the hot tar doesn't feel too good on your feet (which generally aren't well-protected if you're wearing the standard sandals as footware).  This road construction seems to be inching ever closer to our home in Chalong; it would be nice if they would try and finish a section of road before beginning to wreck the next few yards and I think the road is getting worse rather than better.  I think that we could find some alternate routes for most places we need to go up around Central Phuket but Tim is reluctant to go too far out of our way.  (But I did manage to talk her into going to Phuket via Kata & Karon yesterday — a much more scenic route, I think, and it doesn't seem to add much travel time especially considering how slow the traffic is through the construction zones.)

Our evening routine usually includes a final meal between seven and nine o'clock.  This usually involves Tim re-heating some leftovers from earlier in the day for herself and me having a can of fruit from the fridge.  Occasionally, I'll have some "noodle soup" which Tim prepares for me special (not spicy, although lately I've been adding some chile powder to provide some more flavor).  I'm still not to the point I'd like to be regarding Thai food but Tim seems pleased now that I seem a bit more receptive to trying a little more.

A side note on eating:  the past couple of days while eating in public places, I've been very conscious of using my left hand as my primary eating hand.  In preparing to come to Thailand the first time, I remember reading about how you don't want to be seen doing anything with your left hand because it's considered "dirty".  But I hadn't given it a second thought when I came here since I've always been left handed.  I first began to think about it the day before yesterday when we were having lunch with Lek and Jum at a Chinese restaurant in Big C (MK Restaurant) and I was struggling trying to eat with chopsticks (never learned how).  The Thai people in neighboring booths were giving me funny looks and I got the impression they were more appalled because I was using my left hand rather than my inability to use the sticks.  I thought about that again today when Tim and I had our lunch in the basement cafeteria at Big C; I was trying to eat my wonton soup with my right hand and managed to spill much of it on the table.  Most Thais I've watched eat generally hold a big spoon in their left hand and a fork in their right, using the spoon to shovel items onto the fork before eating.  I've tried that but I just can't seem to make it "look good".  Something else I need to work on this week so I don't embarrass Tim when we visit her family...

We follow that meal most nights with a DVD in the air-conditioned master bedroom (the rest of the house doesn't have air conditioning).  Most of the time, it's an English language movie I've brought from the States (no Thai subtitles) but I've picked movies that Tim could enjoy without knowing what was being said.  These have included action flicks such as Kill Bill, Die Another Day, and Pirates Of The Caribbean, and a few "cartoons" such as Ice Age and The Incredibles.  We recently watched the romantic comedy Hitch over the course of two nights and Tim seemed to like it very much.  Occasionally, we'll buy a new DVD that has the option of watching it either in English with Thai subtitles, or dubbed in Thai with English subtitles.  Tim also has a stack of borrowed VCD's (which I don't like because of the often poor quality) of Thai movies (as well as some Brazilian, Chinese and Korean movies dubbed into Thai) which usually don't have English subtitles.  "Luckily", most of those movies have been so awful that Tim hasn't even wanted to sit through them for more than a half-hour or so.  We did watch one very good Korean movie all the way through; it was an epic that came out last year about some aspect of Chinese history and starred Jackie Chan (Tim couldn't translate the title for me).

Some nights, we'll start a second DVD (that's usually when the Tim's selections get played) during which I usually fall asleep.  We're usually both asleep between ten and twelve o'clock (and I'm almost always the first one sleeping soundly) — quite a change for me as I'm used to staying up all night and sleeping in during the daytime hours.  However, the past couple of nights, I have awakened around 1:30 or two in the morning feeling the need to wander out into the kitchen for a drink of water but I've then returned to bed to sleep until the morning.

Well, that's our general routine most days.  Even in the exotic tropics, life can become static.  It's the things you do to break up these routines that really make the adventure.  And most days, we do succeed at just that...