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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

My Basketbsll Shame

Ok. This happened about 3 weeks ago but I've been too embarassed to share it with the world outside of Lop Buri (there isn't a soul in Lop Buri that doesn't know about it due to the fact the colour of my skin making me stick out like a sore thumb and the fact that I am always out and about).

Many many weeks, in fact possibly months, ago Keara and I went to play basketball. I wasn't playing particularly well so I gave up and decided to climb the frame of the basketball hoop. Giving my desire for climbing trees this seemed a perfectly natural thing for me to do. Realising that it was easy enough and that I had a good view of the park and Tobie's bar it became a bit of a regualr occurrence. I actively encouraged many people to join me. I prided myself in getting Brad up there one night (I love Brad but. other than drinking, he never participates in my activities). I had Manjula, Lou Bear, Ice, Brad and Natalie up with me. Never all at the same time though.

My ultimate mission was to get Romy up. She is much like Brad in that she doesn't do pointless things unless they benefit her in some way. The night we found out about our visas she came out of the toilet and said that she wanted to go up. I was shocked because she had alwasy been scared to go up claiming that it would fall down. I took her up on her offer and showed how easy it was to get up. Then Chris and Melodie, a couple who passed through Lop Buri on their travels but came back to visit us, came into the park and I shouted for them to join us. Everyone worried about it falling down and I told them all not to worry. I told them I'd had this many people up before, which I later had to admit was a lie. It was as Melodie was asking Chris to hold her drink and climbing up the next bar that I felt it start to go backwards. I looked over at Romy who's face was one of pure terror. Everyone was falling forwards except for me. It seemed to happen in slow motion and I just kept telling myself that it would be ok.

We hit the ground and all jumped up straight away. I immediately started trying to lift it back up and when I turned round to shout on the others to help me I saw them all skulking off and a sea of Thai people rushing towards me. Romy was yelling Brad's name like a banshee. Once it was established that everyone was ok (damn lucky really considering I fell on the base of my spine. It was probably my relaxed thinking that saved me from getting badly injured) the locals set about propping it upright. I felt like the biggest tit in the world. The next night Tobie asked me if I wanted to go up the basketball frame and I replied that I never wanted to hear the word basketball ever again.

We went to check out the new bar for the winter festival yesterday. Brad saw a bouncy castle and said

I suppose we're all gonna have to stop you from going on that thing when you're drunk?

I said definitley but then asked him if I could go on it just the once.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I Actually Can't Think Of A Title For This Post

I was very bad and didn't go to see the monkeys ravaging their feast. Y'see it was Tobie's birthday on the Saturday night and the monkey bonanza started at 8 in the morning. We had planned to stay up all night and go to it but Tobie ended up going to bed earlier than he normally does and after there wasn't really much to stay up for. I've been a bit lazy with my camera recently but with less than 2 weeks left here I really should make an effort.

Tobie had a good birthday. I bought him a cake and he ate one mouthful of it just for me even though he hates sweet things. It was only a little cake and most of it went in Brad's belly (he was having an Oprah Winfrey moment) and some of it went in my face and some of it went in Paul's face.

This week Tobie is setting up his new bar at Pibul school. Every year for one week Lop Buri has a winter festival. There are stalls upon stalls of things to buy and all the bars in the town close while new ones are set up at the school. Tobie has been talking about this even pretty much since I got here and this year he's got Brad and I working for him. I think all we have to do is make cocktails and be there. I'm looking forward to it and I think it will be a nice way to spend my last week in Thailand.

I found out an interesting fact today. The number one selling crisps in Canada are dill pickle flavour. I guess if you like dill pickles you'd find them delicious but take it from me they're just wrong. Very wrong.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Monkeys and Madwomen

It's a full house at Brad's at the minute. Brad, Lou, Keara, Natalie and I have all been sleeping there the past few nights. I was having a nap yesterday and later in the day I met up with Natalie and Keara at Noom's. When I arrived Natalie told me that as she'd walked out of Brad's room there was a Thai lady standing there watching me sleep. VERY strange. Natalie couldn't get any sense out of her but reckoned she was trying to offer some kind of cleaning service. Obviously she doesn't realise that it's just not the done thing to let yourself into other people's houses, walk up the stairs and watch people sleep. To say I was creeped out is an understatement.

This week I'm teaching youngsters. They're Primary school age and ten times more pleasant to teach that the adolescents. It's nice to be working again. Also I finish everyday at half two. I'm only doing it this week and half of next week to cover for someones who's had some tragic news.

It's the monkey festival this Sunday so hopefully I will have lots of photos of crazy, starving rabid monkeys. It's meant to be quite a spectacle so I'm looking forward to it. Security have to batter the monkeys with large sticks to stop them eating the food too quickly and when they let them loose they go mental stuffing their faces. Sounds a bit scary.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Lopburi is a lovely place but like all lovely places there are sometimes bad people. My friend Natalie and I were walking down the road at 10 O'clock at night. It's a quiet road at this time except for the hordes of crazy barking dogs. Brad had called me but I missed the call. He called Natalie straight after and as she was talking to him on the phone a dog attacked her from behind and nipped her on the ankle. We yelled at it and out of nowhere there were about twenty dogs around us. We yelled some more, stomped our feet and Swung our bags around.

Natalie got off the phone from Brad and we continued to ward the manic dogs off with our cross, affirmitve yelling. The best thing to do is show them you're not scared. Next thing we knew a young guy pulled up on his motorbike. He reached his hand out for Natalie's phone and she gave it to him. He pretended to dial someone's number and then shot off on his bike with her phone. We yelled at him and then went back to yelling at the dogs. Funnily enough the first dog that bit Nat was actually now protecting us and barking at all the other dogs.

Obviously Natalie was very upset and felt like an idiot for handing her phone over to some random guy in the street. She said she thought he was going help us with the dogs and that he might be calling someone. Then she said sarcastically Who did I think he was gonna call? Dogbusters? I couldn't help but laugh at this even though it was not a laughing matter. Brad picked us up on his bike and the biting dog (the one who caused the whole ordeal, although Nat was also blaming Brad for calling her) continued to follow us down the road barking at every other dog that came near us. This is life in Lopburi.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Better Than Eastenders

Talk about a soap opera. Two hours before I was due to leave to the airport I had some news that changed my plans and I decided to go back to Lopburi. But first it might help if I explain the situation that led me to decide to go home in the first place.

When I came to Thailand I was advised to come on a tourist visa because it's easier to apply for. I was promised by the agency that employs me that she would organise a work permit. I'd been there for 2 months with no mention of work permits. We started to push for it and were taken to Bangkok to get a Non Immigrant B visa, which you need before you can apply for a work permit. This was straightforward enough. However, my agency showed an incompentence at providing documents and paperwork for the work permit. They also showed a laziness in that it didn't seem to be a pressing matter. When I talk about my agency it actually consists of 2 people. A teacher who is in charge of a lot of schools around the province and who is also a governmental official, and her assistant Pink who was told she would receive training for the paper work but never actually did.

We ended up getting our work permits 2 days before the non B visa was due to expire. We raced up to Bangkok to reapply for an extension, which cost us a further 2000 baht. It was the day before our holidays that we did this and we were very stressed out by it. It was also the week that Danny was here and so cut into my time with him. I didn't complain though. I let Pink do what she needed to do. We had our holidays and came back. The first day of term was fine. I was looking forward to the second semester of teaching.

This is where it gets a bit hazy. The next day another foreign teacher let me and Romy know that Pink had been to the employment office and told them we had resigned. We hadn't and nor did the school want us to resign. It had something to do with the work permit and if she hadn't told them we had resigned the agency would have been taken to court. Rather than pay any extra costs for the mistakes they had made they decided to palm the problem onto us. So there we were still with no work permit. As we understood it because our permits had been handed in our non B visas were also no longer valid. This meant that from the first day of our holiday we had been accruing 500 baht a day in fines and we were legally not allowed to be in the country let alone work. We panicked. We stopped teaching staright away on the advice of the British embassy.

On top of this we hadn't received payment for the previous months work. So we had fines to pay, rent to pay and no wages to pay them. We had no choice but to cut our losses and go home. It was depressing. To add insult to injury the agency blamed us. Pink had lied and said we had refused to do certain things. Her boss wouldn't accept that it should all have been sorted a long time ago and she mentioned nothing about the money she owed us. The head of English kept telling us top teach the whole way through the ordeal not caring that she was putting us in a dangerous situation. The other teachers complained to her about us and no one seemed to understand form our point of view. It was very frustrating. So we left without saying goodbye to any of our students or any of our friends.

We made our way to Bangkok and resigned ourselves to going home. I was looking forward to it. I shopped for Christmas presents for everyone and spent a fortune on accomodation and entertainment. Romy went home on the Thursday night. On Friday night Brad, Lou and Tara came up to Bangkok to have mexican dinner with me. Lou told me that a man from the agency (someone I'd never met let alone knew existed) came on Wednesday to pay our wages but we'd been told that everyday for a week and it was the same the month before so we found it hard to trust them. He looked through mine and Romy's documents and told the head of department that our visas had not expired. When I heard this I wailed. It was all for nothing. Yes we still had no work permit but we had no fine and we weren't illegal.

So I talked to a couple of people and decided to go back to Lopburi with Brad and Tara than night. Now I'm here with no job, no home (I'm staying with Brad for a while) and feeling totally out of my depth. I never wanted to leave Thailand but I never wanted things to be like this. I know that if I ride it out that things will be fine but it doesn't stop the initial feeling of insecurity. I had totally psyched myself up for going home and now I have no home. It's been a long time since I cried but the comment mum left about potatoes and wood brought tears to my eyes. It's been a very stressful couple of weeks and I guess I'm just feeling emotional.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Coming Home

The day after I wrote my last post everything changed. It's a very long story, which I'm not capable of writing just now but it involves teachers and visas and me leaving Thailand. Obviously I'm very sad but it's been an amazing 5 months and I'm lucky to have had the experience.

There's so much I'm gonna miss but I'm trying not to think about that and instead think about the good things I'm going back home to, like seeing family and friends, cuddling the dogs while toasting by the fire (I'm gonna be so cold when I first go back), potato dinners, Zoe's delicious buns and cakes, Neighbours, fresh air and many more things that you take for granted when you're home but don't realise how much you love.

I think I might wait a while before writing about what I'm going to miss as it might make me cry a little bit and I'm in an internet cafe. My flight is a 3 O'clock in the morning. I have absolutely no idea what posessed me to book a flight at such a ridiculous time although I;m sure there was some logical reason for it.