Sunday, March 27, 2011
Trying to deal with Thai's....
There just isn't any way I can possibly convey what it's like to have to deal with Thai people....
The word "Impossible," comes to mind...but that's not necessarily so since sometimes things work out. But, most of the time things don't work out since they are really total uneducated or under-educated idiots in most cases, who couldn't think themselves out of a wet paper bag if the need arose.
There are whole websites, essays, debates, and online articles devoted to the subject of Westerners having to deal with or work with Thai people. Mostly it's Western businessmen, CEO's of companies, etcetera, that have to learn how to deal with Thai's as employees. But, there are other areas of concern, like mine, where I'm on a deadline of sorts, having to get my paperwork into the respective agencies on-time or in a timely manner, in order to secure my work permit, teacher's license and non-immigrant B visa. Time for me is running out....
Thai's are incredibly selfish.
Most often Thai's only think of themselves in any given situation and in my opinion, they could care less what happens to the foreigner...in any situation.
If I were a business owner in the U.S. and had to hire a Thai, I would simply fire them rather than try to understand them or learn how to deal with them. But, that's not the case when you're here in Thailand and you have to deal with Thai's since you're in their country.
I've been trying, my utmost, for months...to get Songsaeng Commercial School to assist me with my paperwork. Talking to Thai's is exceedingly frustrating since they appear to have no capacity for linear thought or critical thinking skills.
Panic and chaos seem to be their rule of the day.
If a Thai doesn't know how to do something, or if they have trouble understanding a concept, they will simply do nothing. This is their solution to not understanding something.
They don't appear to attempt to understand any particular situation, they just either lapse into a panic state or they simply chose to ignore the situation altogether. I've often referred to Thai's as "Cowards in Control," since in the preface I often have to deal with them, they are in control since it is their responsibility to handle a situation involving the foreign worker. But, when "In Control," of a situation involving a foreigner...such as dealing with work permits, the foreigner's teachers license, the foreigner's Non-Immigrant B visa, when they don't understand something...they either botch it, ignore it, or put it off for weeks, months....
Meanwhile, my last non-immigrant B visa has expired and I've had to do three border runs in order to stay legitimate in the country. When you do a border run, you only get 15 days in the country before you have to do another one. I'm lucky since I can hop on my motorcycle and take off for the Northern Malaysian border at Dannok, a seedy little town rife with sleaze and prostitution located on the border of Malaysia and Thailand in the South.
To further paint a picture of the ridiculous reasoning Thai's are capable of, get this:
On my first border run, on the 20th of February, I arrived at Dannok in the early afternoon, parked and locked my motorcycle and began winding my way towards the border checkpoint. Like many towns in Thailand, it's a mind-fuck...so much going on that it's impossible to notice everything.
It's a shanty village...ramshackle markets, kiosks, makeshift tourist trap sites selling useless items, clothing stores, fruit stands...reputable store fronts and hotel entrances totally obscured by all of these ramshackle shacks and shanties positioned on the sidewalk...touts shouting at you from every angle, "Hey YOU! Hey Farang! You want PUSSY? You want fake passport? What you want FARANG? We give you anything! We SET YOU UP! How much money you have FARANG?"
Then I saw a small folding table set up on a street corner, utter filth scattered all over the ground, putrid smells coming from everywhere...on the table were Arrival and Departure cards to submit at the border checkpoints...two types of cards necessary to present to immigration. I stopped and picked two of them up. I was just tucking them into my backpack when some Thai Muslim woman ran towards me and said, "Ten baht! Ten baht!"
I looked at her incredulously, frowned, then looked back at the table where there was clearly a small sign printed on cardboard that crudely stated, "Visa form - 10 baht."
"You! Ten baht! No go!"
"Fuck you. These are government issue forms. You have no right to charge me for them!"
Which was true, but...A) She didn't understand a word I was saying and... B) This is Thailand and I could have probably been arrested for "stealing" those forms from her. So, having lived here for six years, I returned them to her and told her politely to go to hell.
The audacity of all of this...these leeches creep over to the border checkpoint in the morning when new cards have been laid out and they simply steal all the cards and return to their little make-shift Thai rip-off station, charging foreigners 10 baht for cards that are supposed to be available for them free-of-charge.
And when you get to the border check point, I guarantee you...there are NO cards available there since they all have been snatched up by Thai leeches.
Anywhere else and those people would have been raided, arrested, and fined for stealing government issued material and trying to make a profit off of them.
Amazing Thailand indeed!
I approached the first border checkpoint on the Thailand side. (No worries about the cards since I'd snatched several of the arrival / departure cards and only given back one set to the Muslim bitch).
No problems at the first border check point. The Thai immigration officer perused my passport, looked at my digital image on his computer screen (there's a webcam staring you right in the face when you approach the check station), looked at me, scanned my passport, looked at the computer screen again and finally began slapping the rubber stamp down into my passport pages. Every Thai immigration officer appears to have the same two expressions...
He handed me back my passport and I began winding my way through the throng of Thai's and Malaysians, all standing around with their fingers up their asses seemingly doing nothing.
Then I entered the tunnel of touts....
A bevy of motorcycle taxi-men trying to get you to use their services, which are simply to drive you to the next checkpoint at an inflated fee of 100 baht (or more), which besides being highway robbery, is just flat nonsense. I know of several foreigners who go to the border on a reasonably frequent basis and end up paying the fee every time...having these vultures charge them outrageous fees. "A waste of good money," I tell them, but they don't listen. They are too concerned about comfort, willing to pay ungodly amounts of money just to avoid a tiny bit of inconvenience....
"No, no thank you! Sorry, no!"
I wade through the throng and break free of the crowd, seeing the walkway to the Malaysian border checkpoint. It's a pleasant enough walk...stroll actually...as long as you've arrived early, since in March it's the dry season and temperatures soar quickly as the day bears on...
Five...maybe ten minutes later I approach the Malaysian border and enter the pedestrian walkway. It's a covered walkway, which is nice if the weather is shitty. In Southern Thailand / Northern Malaysia, don't let the sun fool you, an approaching storm can occur quickly and soak you to the bone in less than two minutes.
The Malaysian checkpoint often has prostitutes hanging around outside the enclosed, air-conditioned building. Why? I have no clue. It seems to me it's a pathetic attempt since most of the people at this site get dropped off by a tour bus, a hired van, or are on foot. A quicky before deciding to cross the border into Malaysia? Who knows? But, the Malaysian border officers are very astute, running them off if they get too close to the building. Perhaps these whores are Thai's and there is some clause that Malaysian's crossing back into Malaysia can bring a guest? Go figure.
The Malaysian side is pleasant. Immigration officers in Malaysia are often polite (not always), smile and will joke with you. On my first run, I had forgotten one of my forms and the Malaysian immigration officer simply informed me of what I'd forgotten...to which I informed him, "All the Thai leeches steal all these forms and try to sell them back to the people crossing the border. I would not buy one since it is not only illegal, but I am sick and tired of paying leeches money that I don't have to pay. To which he not only agreed with me, but gave me the form I needed and instructed me to go to the back, fill it out, and just return to him.
"You don't have to wait in line again. Just fill it out and return it to me when you are finished and I will process it."
All of this said with a smile. That's how it should be, but I can only try and imagine the bullshit these guys have to deal with on a daily basis. So, if Malaysia can take the incentive to be pleasant, why can't the Thai immigration officers do the same? Because Thai's are basically assholes when it comes to foreigners.
I get through the Malaysian checkpoint and run to the bathroom...I've got to pee in the worst way. Then, I leave the bathroom, cross the street, and enter the Malaysian departure side.
Again, pleasantness all around. I head to the Malaysian border departure checkpoint and they smile at me. They peruse my passport, stamp it, and I'm on my way.
The trek from Malaysian departure to Thai arrival is not far...but if you're there late, it's a hot, sweaty trek.
On my first border run I arrive at the final checkpoint...the Thai arrival checkpoint. I take a look at the four checkpoint stations in front of me and pick the one with the female immigration officer.
Probably on her goddamn menstruation period, or suffering from PMS.
"Where is your visa!"
"What do you mean by 'Where is my visa?' My old non-immigrant B visa expired and I've had to cross the border..."
"You understand you now have only 15 days in the country!"
"Yes, I knew that before I even arrived today."
"Don't get that way with me! You should have a visa!"
"You had better be careful. You may have to leave this country."
"And why is that? I know that to not be true. I've studied the law. I will ask you...'How many times can I cross the border in order to obtain a 15-day tourist visa?'"
"There is no limit. You can cross the border for a 15-day stay as many times as you want."
"Oh! I get..."
"BUT! If you attempt to cross the border too many times, an immigration officer might stamp your passport barring you from entering the Kingdom any more, so you will have to stay in Malaysia."
"What? Uh...let me get this right...There is NO limit to how many times I can cross the border, BUT, if I do it too many times, I can have my rights to stay in Thailand canceled...right?"
"That is correct."
"In other words, 'Welcome to Thailand...'"
Stupid of me...you don't argue with the person in control.
But, soon I will be leaving Thailand bent for Penang and my fifth Non-immigrant B visa...soon....
Mused by Jeeem at the following date and time: 3/27/2011 11:59:00 AM
It didn't even occur to me that anything had happened in Japan until I received a pop-up screen from one of my news service accounts this morning.
I clicked on the pop-up link and was taken to a site that showed one of the most remarkable videos I'd ever seen of a tsunami that hit Japan's coast and just kept going...and going...and going...seemingly for miles and miles, destroying everything in it's path.
Things seemed surreal, as the tiny little houses, cars, buildings and roads in the video...obviously shot from a helicopter or plane...just crumbled and burst into flame before my eyes...like a little toy village. It just didn't seem real, although I knew it was. I'd never seen anything like it, even in the devastation that hit Thailand's coast years ago, just months after I'd been vacationing on Koh Phi Phi island.
Then it hit me....
Growing up in El Paso, Texas I met and befriended practically a whole Mexican family just up the road from me. My best friend Steve Willis and I used to run together quite often and we all used to hang at Grandview Park Public Swimming Pool, where Raul Herrera and his brother Jesus Herrera used to hang out. Over several summers we grew to be inseparable.
My connection with Raul Herrera...a.k.a., "Camel," his nickname arising from his height, bent stature and semblance to a dromedary...a nickname he certainly was not fond of at all...was mainly our long conversations while walking to or from Austin High School, regarding our mutual love and fascination over Asia and Southeast Asia.
I remember Raul saying to me once, "I know I will travel to Asia one day. Japan probably...I don't know...maybe China...and I'll learn the language.
I vividly remember him saying that.
While I simply went on and on about how my parents had lived in Asia for seventeen plus years and how all I ever heard about was Asia, Asia, Asia...so, my desire was also to travel there, but perhaps not as delineated at Raul's dream.
Zip forward several years....
I'd lost contact with Raul early in the game, shortly after graduating high school...besides, we really weren't that close anyway. But his brother Jesus and I were close and although I had lost contact with Jesus, I always knew various ways to get info on him. I'd last spoken to him in 1989 at my mother's funeral when I managed to find his phone number and call him when I was in El Paso. We talked briefly and he told me he'd become a preacher at some church in the highlands.
Years later I set out to contact him again. Since Jesus was blinded by a shotgun blast to the face back in high school, I always knew to contact the Lighthouse for the blind. The info I got back this time was sketchy though and some Indian guy wrote me to say last he'd heard Jesus was in Mexico. But, word was finally passed on to his older brother Mike in Florida and he, in turn, contacted his brother Raul who was living, of all places, in Japan.
I received an e-mail from Raul about a week later and he gave me the contact info for Jesus, who was now living in Missouri. Raul hadn't changed much, he was still rather cold and acerbic in his words. Reading between his lines I could almost detect a sour disposition...an apathy for life in general. However, we have managed to stay in contact from time to time and I have relayed some information to Raul from his brother since as in many families there is a bit of distance between the two.
But, upon hearing about the devastation in Japan, my first thought was if Raul was okay. He's been living in Tokyo for well over twenty some-odd years now and working as a translator among other things...also keeping up with his love for music and publishing some stuff. I sent a brief e-mail out to him questioning if he was okay and this is the response I received...a fairly interesting read from someone who was there and experienced the earthquake and subsequent devastation and managed to stay alive.
The following is a copy of an email I sent to people on Saturday, the day after the quake hit.
The following is a copy of an email I sent to people on Saturday, the day after the quake hit.
The quake shook us on the 8th floor. I could not believe the way that building shook. People on my floor starting screaming and some people jumped under their tables. I tried to keep standing and leaned my pelvic region against the edge of the desk while holding my computer and monitors to keep them from falling over.
As the shaking continued without letting up, the huge computer monitor on the desk nearby was just about to fall over when I leaned over and grabbed it and kept it steady. On a desk further out, a compuer simply toppled over and broke up on the floor.
When the first quake stopped. Working mothers soon started to try to check on their kids in school or day care. However, the cell phones stopped working after a while. We were ordered to leave the building by stairway, and we could see cracks and a few small pieces of wall on the floor in some places.
We were allowed back in after a 30-minute wait, but the aftershock hit and we were ordered out again. I had turned off my computer twice and was starting up the computer a third time when the computer message in Japanese asked "Do you want to do a normal startup?" and I kinda laughed because the system was probably confused with me forcibly shutting it down twice within the span of a few minutes.
I carefully shut it down a third time and laid the computer and screens on my desk in an orderly manner so that they could not topple over. My supervisors were telling me to forget about the computers and ust get out.
We went to a park which is an evacuation center. There we waited a while and the ground shook gently. By this time, all cell phones ceased to function and some people had some devices that broadcast news. These were not transistor radios because they had screens.
All train services (both above ground and subway) were shut down, as were the toll highways. They made
arrangements for us to stay overnight (I assume) but those who had a means to get home were allowed to leave. I told my supervisor that I could walk home (which is a six and a half hour walk at least, but that doesn't bother me that much).
As I walked in the direction of my home and got to the center of Tokyo the streets got more and more crowded with people could be seen in the streets trying to walk home. Women in high heels entered stores selling tennis shoes or walking shoes to give their feet a break. I wanted desperately to get my hands on a bicycle because you can cover much more ground on a bicycle. My hopes were answered when I found a store that sold everything including bicycles. I chose the cheapest model (a three speed) but it took them one hour to prepare it, because everybody and his brother was buying a bicycle.
When I got out on the street, the streets were jam packed with cars and the sidewalks crowded with people.
It only took me 40 minutes to cover ground that would otherwise have taken about 2 and 1/2 hours, so I feel that
the bicycle decision was the right one.
When I got to my neighborhood, my piano and computer rack had been pushed up against each other in a jack knife sort of configuration which prevented either from toppling over. That was sheer luck.
That's about it. My legs are a little cramped this morning, but otherwise, I'm OK.
Tokyo seems to have been spared the devastation that the rest of the country experienced. There were three or four quakes that occurred within a few minutes or hours of each other in the ocean. Their combined effect seems to have caused the massive devastation.
I'm sort of trying to get through this right now, to take it all in. That's about it. We're all just hoping no more big ones come for a while.
Take Care Jim,
To me this e-mail was rather eerie since it came from the exact source. I must admit I've edited his e-mail a bit since Raul's grammar...well, sucks.
You see stuff on the Internet and podcasts, etc. and it's all media hysteria. This, however, is a direct account of what someone in the country experienced, which I think is pretty cool.
Mused by Jeeem at the following date and time: 3/27/2011 11:25:00 AM
Friday, March 04, 2011
I smell rain.
That distinctive scent in the air letting you know rain is either imminent or simply up-wind of you.
As a young boy in seventh grade I once asked my science teacher at Bassett Junior High in El Paso, Texas, what makes rain smell so nice. He was one of those teachers that were truly dedicated to answering the questions of young minds, so he prepared a whole lesson around my question. I don't remember the whole class, but I do remember he brought in different samples of things, like decomposing plants and tree bark in rich soil and a box containing several branches of sage brush. He mentioned things about bacteria and other things associated with plant life that cause the smell of rain. Then he passed around the branches of sage brush, instructing us to rub our fingers over the gray leaves and smell our fingers afterwards.
"Rub the sage brush leaves with your hands and then smell your fingers..."
It was like magic. It smelled exactly like rain to me.
Not everyone agreed, but there were a lot of immature jerks in that class as I remember...always trying to disrupt class and make stupid jokes. God we were little shits back then.
Well, no sage brush around here in Southern Thailand that I know of, but I'm sure there is plenty of decaying matter and bacteria about. Whatever the case, it's truly a scent that gives me a good feeling inside.
I love the smell of rain...
Mused by Jeeem at the following date and time: 3/04/2011 09:48:00 PM
Mused by Jeeem at the following date and time: 3/04/2011 09:17:00 PM
Thursday, March 03, 2011
Mused by Jeeem at the following date and time: 3/03/2011 08:36:00 PM
This is my new toy.
For the last, like three years or so....I've been toting around an i Mobile phone (translation: El cheapo). The cost? Just under 1000 baht ($32.77 U.S. dollars...23.64 Euros...20.13 British Pounds...1,475 Indian Rupees...99.39 Malaysian Ringgit) Then, around six to eight months ago my little El Cheapo partially died...couldn't call out...nobody could call in....this weird looking "Setting sun..." thingy in the middle of the screen, sorta burned in...so you couldn't even play games on the thing anymore. I was just carrying it around because the clock worked and so did the alarm. I could set my three programmable alarms for my classes, so I knew when to end class.
Then some Thai puke student stole it.
I didn't care so much except for the fact (as most of you with mobile phones know...) I had some important numbers on that thing.
My issues of late have been that I've been in a semi-panic...once again....over where I'm going to be working after this semester, which ended last week. I'm now dutifully unemployed, and have been sending my resume out to everyone on the planet. Problem is...you NEED a mobile number. So I had to break down and buy another phone. But, as I entered the mobile phone store in Thung Lung and began perusing the phones, I found phones had come WAY down in price since I last visited a phone dealer. I mean WAY, WAY down.
Long story short, just for shits and giggles I said to the guy behind the counter...."I am looking for a phone that does...well....everything. Internet capable, bluetooth, 3G, SMS, camera, video camera, numerous ringtones, Mp3 music player...everything.
And that is the baby he produced. The very one you see in the picture. Even the same damn color. I've never really been a "RED" guy, but this metallic sorta red with the black face, wide screen and QWERTY keyboard somehow grabbed me.
And it does do all that stuff I mentioned and more...games, apps, community contacts, photos, wallpaper, themes, SMS, Internet, OH! and did I mention it's also a phone?
Took me weeks to figure the thing out, but now we are getting along and the thing cost less than I would have imagined...under 3800 baht. Very, very affordable.
Trouble is I'm not an accessory type of person...so I've got to be hyper-vigilant about trying NOT to lose the damn thing, drop it, or leave it somewhere and walk off...just one of the reasons I don't wear jewelry, watches, rings or necklaces....
I'm plugged in baby!!!
Mused by Jeeem at the following date and time: 3/03/2011 05:37:00 PM