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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 As we understood it because our permits had been handed in our non B visas were also no longer valid.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.


Nelly said...

You'd have ended up kicking yourself if you'd gone home under those circumstances. The wood and potatoes will keep!

Anonymous said...

There will always be wood and potatoes. Definitely better than Eastenders and we hope things work out ok.Dad xxxxx

Anonymous said...

I didn't understand any of that at all but it sounds like you are doing the right thing. I'm sure it will all be fine soon.

hootchinhannah said...

It's true, I couldn't leave under those circumstances. I've contacted someone about teaching a couple of hours on a Saturday. It's not much but it's a start. Right this minute there's a cute fluffy puppy dog licking my toes.

Anonymous said...

Hang in there Hannah. You're a resourceful wee scamp and it'll all work out for the best.

Also, it is freezing here at the moment (especially as my boiler isn't working), so I'd definitely give it a few months yet.


hootchinhannah said...

Is that Tomingus Tom? I thought maybe you were dead.