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Monday, March 09, 2009

Why The Dream Ended

I never fully explained why I had to leave Thailand. It's pretty complicated but I'll try my best.

When I got the teaching job there Romy and I were the only 2 teachers who weren't with a British or US based agency. We were with a Thai 'govermental agency'. This 'agency' consisted of one woman, the lady who picked me up from the airport, and her assistant who's name was Pink. Pink was the one who settled us in and took us to all the relevant places to sort out our permits. I was teaching with my school for 5 months in total. We eventually got our work permits 4 months after teaching.

This is where it gets complicated. I went over on a tourist visa. After a few months there I was issued a non-immigrant B visa. This entitled me to stay in the country for a year. You need the non-immigrant B to get a work permit but once you get your work permit the non-immigrant B is null and void. Eventually I got my work permit.

Now this is where it gets super complicated and I'm not even entirely sure what exactly happened. By the time I got my work permit there were other teachers starting at my school. One was an older man from the UK. Frankly, we thought he was weird but he'd been in the country a lot longer than us and so I guess we were influenced by him. He informed us that he'd got a Thai friend to phone the local office that issued our permits. According to them Pink had called to say that we had resigned, Thus making our work permits void.

Now, had we known this we would have had 14 days to leave the country and come back on a tourist visa, but we only found out about 3 weeks later. After the 14 days we weren't even meant to be in the country, let alone work in it. We were also getting fined 500 Baht everyday we overstayed our welcome. So we freaked. We called the British Embassy and they confirmed our situation was bleak.

It gets better though. On top of us accruing fines we were owed a month's pay. It was up to our agency to pay us as the school had paid the agency upfront for 6 months. The situation got so bad that the school had to pay us half the month's wages out of their own pocket (this was a poor school). Obviously our head of department was as concerned about the situation as we were but for different reasons. She wanted us to continue teaching even though we legally weren't allowed to. It all got so convoluted and twisted that me and Romy felt we had no choice but to bail. This meant walking out on our apartments without paying what we owed them.

We packed all our shit up in one day, gave all the stuff we couldn't pack away to the teachers that had work permits and were staying. We stayed up 'til 3 in the morning because there was a door man in our apartments who was likely to get suspicious if he saw me and Romy leaving with all our bags. As it happened he woke up anyway and asked us in Thai where we were going. Romy said Chiang Mai. He seemed happy enough and we went to the train station. We left what had been our home for the past 5 months at 3 in the morning without saying goodbye to anyone.

The plan was to spend a few days in Bangkok 'hiding out' and then get planes back to the UK where we were allowed to be. We were hoping we could get away with the fines at the airport because our non-immigrant B's hadn't been stamped and so according to our passports we hadn't overstayed our visas. We'd saved the money for the fines anyway just in case. We enjoyed a crazy few days in Bangkok that passed by in a blur of Sang Som and Pina Colada's. Romy went to get her flight the night before I was due to get mine. She made it through without the fines and landed safely back in London. I'm sure she was never as glad to see it.

I met up with some of the teachers for one last Mexican meal the evening that I was due to catch my plane. I was informed that one of the teachers at my school looked at my documents and according to them, all was fine. Meaning that I didn't need to leave. I could stay and find a new teaching job. I remember calling mum literally an hour before I was leaving and telling her I was staying after all. I went back to Lopburi with my mates and stayed with Brad.

I'd been back in Lopburi for about a week and was getting myself sorted with more teaching when I was informed that the teacher who told me everything was fine was wrong. Right back to square fecking one. Still not allowed to be in the country, or teach, and getting fined even more. I think that was the point where I finally gave up. I'd done all I could to try to stay there but it just wasn't happening. I accepted my fate and dealt with the disappointment by believing that there was a reason why I was meant to be at home.

I finally went home a month after Romy. It was the strangest month of my life. I have much more to write about it but just now my fingers are sore and I'm parched. I haven't done it justice in this blog and I'll never fully understand what exactly happened so maybe I'll never be able to.


Anonymous said...

Would you ever go back and teach again (and make sure all the paperwork is sorted out in advance)? Looking forward to the next installment...

hootchinhannah said...

I'd love to go back and teach but I have a dream to travel s.america so I'm gonna do that before I do anything. And yeah, I'd sort all the relevant stuff out before I went.

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