Saturday, April 30, 2011



If you haven't read the post below this one, it might be helpful to do so first...

No, you can't stop corruption in Thailand, so don't even freaking bitch about it.  

I had asked the school for an advance on my salary since I'd run out of money.  My last salary from OLC on March 3rd was not for the amount I was supposed to receive and I had a start date at Songsaeng of May 1st, leaving me with a measly amount of baht to live on for three months.  Plus the fact my trip to Penang was expensive and on top of all that...I was forced to attend to a motorcycle repair I'd put off for way too long...the thing finally breaking down.  

This wasn't a problem for them and since they knew my work permit was going through, they called me last Friday to come into the school to pick it up.  They called me at eleven in the morning and said "be here at 2:00 p.m." what I call lately..."The prime time for a thunder shower..." and I wasn't wrong.  

I drove the short distance to the school in a rain slicker, the rain coming down in sheets.  When I got there, I wasn't surprised to find Juliet in a rather large huff...

"We need your passport!  We have to get the paperwork to the labor office and we will have to send the required paperwork to the Teachers Council of Thailand for your teachers license!"

Standing there in the office, dripping wet, a small pool of rain-water beginning to gather at my feet, I slowly put on my best and most sarcastically evil grin.  

"Well, that's funny.  YOU told me that private schools don't have to submit paperwork to the Teachers Council of Thailand in Bangkok for a foreigners teachers license."  Whenever I'm right, Juliet just acts like she never heard what I said...but I wasn't about to let this slide...no way.  I had her and she knew it.  

"Do you remember what I told you in early March about Patong Wittaya School?  I told you they never listened to me and it ended up costing them a lot of money.  Juliet, I sent the PDF form for the teachers license in an e-mail to you the first week in March but you never printed it out.  So, after three frustrating weeks trying to impress upon you the urgency of getting the paperwork into Bangkok, I finally had to go out and purchase a printer myself so I could print the form out.  And where is that form now...almost two months later?  It's still in your folder."

I was careful with this, as you have to be careful with Thai's...they lose too much face and you'll have an enemy for life.  But, I got my point across and was pleased with myself.  Lucky for them (and me, since it was still pouring outside) I had my passport with me.  I've learned to grab all my paperwork any time I have to deal with them because invariably they will ask for something I don't have and I'd have to make the trip back home to fetch it.  

But, the real clincher was yet to come.  

I received my salary advance, signed the typical Thailand paperwork, which is always reams of paper (Thai's LOVE paperwork), and thought I was all set to go back home.  Then Juliet said to me...

"We have your work schedule now.  You will be working twenty-six hours a week (that number changed later to twenty-nine) and your first working day will be May 16th, a Monday.  So, you will receive a reduced salary in May and the normal thirty-thousand baht (30,000 baht) the end of June."

"What?" was my...rather loudly expressed...reply.  

Not only had Juliet changed my start date, which was printed on my original contract, she had informed me my salary would now be reduced because of my late start date and I would not be receiving the thirty-four thousand baht (34,000 baht) originally printed on my signed contract...A contract, that copies of which had been distributed to the Royal Thai Consulate in Penang, Malaysia, the Labor Office in Songkhla and was due to be sent to the Teachers Council of Thailand in Bangkok.  

"Are you NUTS?  You can't have me sign a contract for a May 1st start date and 34,000 baht and then two months later change that contract on me verbally!  That's highly illegal!"

I was fucking livid.  My brain was screaming at me to shut the hell up and calm down but my natural American aggressiveness that goes well beyond assertiveness was kicking in big time.  Meanwhile, Juliet had a worried look on her face and was on the phone talking to somebody higher on the totem pole.  The "Farang" was becoming unmanageable.  

To many of you reading this, no doubt it just seems straight forward to you.  But, this is Thailand...still a third-world country and listed # 78 on the 2010 International Corruption Perception Index...their rating closer to Somalia's than Denmark's #1 rating.  Hell, even the United States is low on the score, at a pitiful #22.  Thai's think nothing of screwing a foreigner, let alone one another.  


Luckily for me, Juliet remained on the phone for some time.  Enough time for me to get into my head and reason with myself.  You see, I knew I was lucky to have gotten this job and I didn't want to jeopardize it by acting out in anger...something you just don't do in this culture.  Assertiveness is a necessary attribute in the U.S. but it is NOT an attribute here.  


After another brief discussion, I played one of my acting roles...that of being befuddled.  I simply said one, short, simple sentence that basically resolved the whole thing..."I think I need to see a lawyer."


Thai's are terribly afraid of the legal process and wicked afraid of lawyers.  I was ushered upstairs to "Frowny Face's" office and was in there for about twenty minutes.  I stuck to my stance and I acted pleasant.  


"Well, yes...I understand your views but this is a legal situation.  I've already signed a legal document, copies of which have been submitted to the Royal Thai Consulate, the Labor Office, Thai Immigration and the Teachers Council of Thailand.  If you want to change the contract now, I will need the advice of a lawyer in order to understand the correct way to proceed here, as what you are attempting to do is very illegal."


Basically, I won.  The only thing not changed was the reduced salary for the month of May, since I was going to start late on the 16th, rather than the 1st.  Frowny face, the assistant manager of the school, knew I was correct but I think she took me for being some sort of pushover, which I am not.  But, my take on this whole thing was comparable to my carefully negotiating a land-mine laden piece of ground without getting my legs blown off.  


Living in Southeast Asia is certainly not for the faint of heart.  

-Jeeem-

It’s about time I played a bit of catch-up and brought my happenings up to date for all you who actually bother to read this stuff I crank out. 

I’m sick to death of working for English teaching agencies here in Thailand since most of them try and cheat you as best they can, pay you late, or offer you minimal salaries while they are making money from the schools hand-over-fist.  So, after working my last job for the lousy, corrupt, disorganized OLC agency in Songkhla, I swore I’d never contract with another agency again unless I absolutely had to do it as a last ditch type of thing. 

A considerable time before my last week working at Songsaeng Commercial School in Ban Thung Lung, I began looking at job offers here in the South of Thailand and found pretty slim pickings. 

It has been rumored for a long time, Filipino English teachers are being hired by many Thai schools here in the South, simply because they can be had cheaply. 

While Native English Speakers from the U.S., Canada, England, and Australia are getting minimum salaries of 28,000 baht to 40,000 baht depending on their experience, credentials, and where they are living, Filipinos are pulling in salaries from 6000 baht a month to 10,000 baht a month.  So, if money was a big issue with your school, who would you be looking to hire?

I decided to approach the school I was working for, Songsang Commercial School in Ban Thung Lung, and ask them if they might consider hiring me privately.  I already knew the school was fed up with OLC teaching agency, so I banked on my chances since I have lived here in this area, near the school, for better than six years. 

About a week before my last working day at Songsaeng, I was told the school was interested in hiring me.  I was excited, but I’ve lived in Thailand long enough to know better than to begin putting all my eggs in one basket.  So, I continued to send my resume out to other schools who were hiring foreigners out-right.  Then, after my last working day, I was notified the school wanted to have a sit-down meeting with me. 

My appointed “foreigner representative,” Jahrut Mahjanwat, who goes by the nickname “Juliet,” was present at this meeting…and as things go, we never got to meet with the big boss, the school manager, Arunrat Rattanaphumi.  She was just too busy.  So, we met with Juliet’s immediate boss…a woman whose name always escapes me, but whom I’ve nicknamed “Frowny Face,” since she almost never smiles. 

The meeting lasted about twenty minutes.  I kept things simple and bowed to the school’s fear of their hiring me and my disappearing somewhere along the line, placing them in a very difficult position.  Thai’s often want guarantees, never quite understanding that there are no guarantees in life.   

My current salary under the employment of OLC agency, had been 32,000 Thai baht, but I often got cheated out of the exact amount I was supposed to get paid.  So, I told the assistant manager I’d agree to work for one year at 30,000 baht with the understanding if things worked out well and the school wanted me to sign a contract for another year, my salary would be increased, along with other, extra bonuses.  You see, it's not Rocket Science...English teaching agencies like OLC, Stairway English, Teacha agency, and others, get better than 100,000 baht a month for providing Native English speakers as teachers to a particular school...with the extra guarantee they will handle all the paperwork (work permit, visa, etc...), which most schools don't want to deal with.  But, I pointed out to my new employers at Songsaeng Commercial School, the incredible savings they would incur if they were to hire a foreigner like myself, outright, rather than pay their money to an agency.

We shook hands on the agreement and I left.  Six days later I was called at home to come to the school and sign my contract. 

I live very, very close to the school.  I travel by my motorcycle and it takes me on average, only five to seven minutes to get to or from the school.  It’s very convenient, so I was very excited about being hired outright by this school, which is a well-known school in the area, of which I am a very well-known foreign teacher, having taught English in this village for over six years. 

I arrived at the school and walked into the main office.  Juliet was already there and ushered me to sit down.  She presented me with a one-page contract that was simple and concise, but bothered me in its simplicity.  I would much rather sign a contract that is a three-pager and covers many issues, than a one page contract which only addresses the start date and the salary.  

Ah, the salary.   

I quickly scanned the contract, which was in both English and Thai, and noticed the stated salary was 34,000 baht, not 30,000, the amount we had originally agreed upon in our singular meeting six days ago.   

But, I ask you…what would you do?  You’re expecting a monthly salary quote of 30,000 baht a month but you see a quote on the employment contract of 34,000 baht? 

Actually, in real life, I began to address this, saying...

“Uh…the amount…we said…uh, oh…never mind…Mai pen rai (no big deal).  A little voice in my American capitalist brain said, “Are you fucking nuts?  Shut the hell up!”   

The start date on the employment contract was as I figured…May 1st, 2011.  All was well in employment land…I signed the contract, copies were made and I left sailing on euphoria. 

I ran right to the packy and bought three beer Chang’s to celebrate…Beer Chang - - - 6.4% on the Richter scale. 

But even as I drove my bike to the store, I felt that typical uneasy feeling, that doubt...which I promptly ushered away.  Life was good…don’t fucking ruin it Jim. 

The next two months were a mish-mash of utter hell.  I did my research about what the requirements for the Teachers Council of Thailand, the Songkhla labor office and the Royal Thai Consulate in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia were, paperwork-wise, and passed on my newly gleaned information to Juliet, whom I was beginning to understand, as beautiful as she was…she was also a stupid, ignorant, bull-headed Thai woman who didn’t listen to anything except her own verbose bullshit.   

I had cautioned her previously, telling her the massive amount of wasted time and money Patong Wittaya School, where I'd worked previously on a private basis, had incurred from not listening to me about the same process, but naturally…Thai’s just don’t listen to foreigners.  So, we went through two months of wasted time and money, which...luckily for me was at the cost to the school....not me. 

Once we finally got to the labor office with the correct paperwork after Juliet drug her heels for weeks (mainly because she didn’t understand what to do and of course wouldn’t listen to me), I had possession of the coveted WP-3 form, which I gathered, along with the paperwork Songsaeng School was supposed to provide (again, after weeks of prodding and probing Juliet) and took to the Royal Thai Consulate in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia, which is always a rather expensive endeavor. 

I returned to Thailand several thousand baht poorer, but with my coveted 90-day Non-immigrant B visa.  Then, to make a terribly long story short, Juliet proceeded to put off other things until the last minute, forcing the labor office to require that we re-submit our paperwork again…Which brings us to the present.  

We’ve now been to the labor office with all the same, repetitive paperwork due to Juliet’s screw-up and delay, and we’re awaiting confirmation for my work permit, which should be issued by the beginning of next week…the 2nd of May, 2011. 

That’s the story up to now…BUT!  Stay tuned for the real shocker, which happened yesterday, Friday – April 29, 2011. 

-Jeeem-




Thursday, April 21, 2011


This is my fake International Driver's License.  I made it over a two month period, using only Internet searches, Photoshop and images I had on my computer.

I had the opportunity to use it yesterday, while on my way into Ban Phrue to purchase some medication.  

Usually, when I travel into Ban Phrue, I never see a Thai cop or a road block, so I suppose I've become lax.  This time I was just passing their local mosque on the main route 4 and not paying attention, was startled when a Thai cop suddenly stepped out into the traffic and hailed me over.  

It was too late for me to play my innocent game of "speed up, zip into the far right fast lane passing the road block and pretend I never saw him," so I pulled over to the Thai cops incessant, moronic, pointing at me and yelling, "You!  You!"

He approached me like the asshole authority figure he was and loudly barked at me in Thai, which was no surprise, since very, very few Thai cops know any English.  

I knew what he was asking for though...so with my hands shaking a bit, I reached for my wallet...thankful I had my fake International Driver's license I'd Photoshopped in there, but still worried something would go wrong.  

I tried everything I could to disguise the fact my hands were shaking...I was desperate...I couldn't afford to have my motorcycle impounded or end up in jail.  So, I did my best to act nonchalant like this sort of thing happened to me every day.  


I'm pretty sure I botched that part.  


The Thai cop snatched my wallet from me, not allowing me to take the ID out, the typical response of a Thai person in authority when dealing with a "Farang" or foreigner...and peered at every card, piece of paper and picture I had in there.  Obviously more interested in the money compartment than the rest of the wallet.

Suddenly he looked over my open wallet and blurted out a string of Thai.  I knew he was asking me "Where's the money?"  


"Mai Mee," I replied, meaning "I don't have any..." to which his face dropped and he looked up at me with a frown and said, "Auck Bai!" or "Get out of here!" and I didn't waste time leaving.  


Typically, the guy wanted a bribe...but knew I didn't have money from my empty wallet...(My money was in the side pocket of my shorts).  


The guy never checked my motorcycle registration...my next Photoshop project.


-Jeeem-








And yet another snake in the house...

This one, as you can see, is rather large also.  I'm guessing about five feet long.  It's a cobra, although I'm not exactly sure what species.  

I raised a bit of a ruckus and it's hood expanded, although it never really straightened out and eventually disappeared into the crack you see, under the stone step.  I was a bit unnerved about this, since I had no way of knowing if it was gone from the house or not...will just have to wait and see.  

Boo Boo and Puppy are awful curious and have been downstairs scouting the area, so if it comes back out, I'll know.  Meanwhile the monsoon-like rains continue to come in the late afternoon. 


-Jeeem-

Monday, April 18, 2011


Another snake in my cottage...

I was washing my dishes in my kitchen and placed some dirty ones in the wash water to soak.  I then went to my kitchen table to work on my Sodoku puzzles while the dishes were soaking, when suddenly Puppy started whimpering.  Usually I ignore him but this time there was a certain tone to his whimpering that caught my attention and as I began to turn around to see what he was whimpering at, he suddenly started barking incessantly, looking directly under the bench where I kept my wash basin.  

By now, after at least four years living here, I know that's a sign I've got a visitor and I immediately tensed up.  I peered under the bench where I keep my rice bucket and some odd pots and pans and immediately saw a snake's face hoovering there, watching Puppy and I... 

This isn't just one of Jeeem's typical snake postings though...this son-uv-a-gun was a good six to seven feet long...closer to seven.

I've got most of the "snake eviction" on video but for the last week I've been online hassling with the Canon Support techs, as I can't seem to get my pictures off my camera.  But, as soon as I do I'll post the video for you.  I might have to dump some of my previous shots taken in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia during my last visa run, as I've found in the past that if the memory card is full, I can't upload photos until I take a few off...and that video surely filled things up fast. 


Puppy was a pain in my ass during the whole event, as I'd have the snake almost to the door and Puppy would come in and lunge at it, forcing it back inside...but eventually I managed to keep Puppy back and usher the snake outdoors.  As I poked and prodded with my trusty mop handle, brave little Boo Boo was sitting up on the stairs watching everyone.  Oh, and Chok?  Ha!  Nowhere to be seen.  Chok got one glimpse at the size of that thing and she was GONE. 

Besides the reticulated python that I posted about previously, which I found up the road in the village, this is undoubtedly the largest snake that's been inside my cottage to date.  I've been searching online for days, for a picture and name of the snake as well as a picture of a new bird I saw the other morning out on the Mangosteen tree just outside my upstairs window, but, I'm having better luck with the bird...a Chestnut winged Cuckoo, I think.


The snake had a large neck in proportion to the rest of its body, and two small projections on its lower jaw behind its mouth...almost like little gills..like on a mud puppy or salamander.  Weird.  Not sure if the thing was poisonous or not but I surely wasn't taking any chances.  Easily six feet and most likely six and a half from the tip of its nose to the end of its tail.  A good three inches in diameter too.  

Scary.  


I had the chance to smash it several times, but I've given that up...I figure Karma will kick me right in my ass for that.  Besides, the thing was just looking for a cool place to hang out and I've come to the conclusion finally, that I've got to learn to co-exist with these visitors of mine in a more friendly manner.  Lately, although it's the hot, dry season, we've had almost monsoon-like rains here, which I've read have been worse in the deep south of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat.  Severe flooding there.  The Tong river up the road did flood last week, but then it really doesn't take much for that river to reach flood stage.  


As a consequence I've found a dozen or so scorpions in the bathroom, as well as a couple centipedes...but have wondered where my bathroom frogs went???  

After my snake eviction, I figured the mystery out.  


-Jeeem-
video

I was surfin' Stumbleupon.com again and came across this video on a site claiming this technology is something "New and Different," offered up by the Smack Nightclub on Tavistock St., Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, England. 

Well, I beg to differ. 

While teaching and living in Guangzhou, Guangdong, People's Republic of China back in 2003, a handful of friends and I used to jump on the bus and head over to Xintang, a dirty little town that turns into one hell of a party at night.  One of the dance clubs we went to had the same lights, all over the ceiling, walls and floor and an awesome DJ just about every night spinning Dubstep, Trance, House, Hard House and IDM music until the wee hours of the night.  In fact, three more dance clubs we hit while I was living there, all had the same setup.  So, it's definitely not an exclusive to England. 

The music in those clubs was so loud you could feel the music!  Dancing on the dance floor was an experience I can't explain here...you'd just have to experience it yourself.  Many a night I got lost in myself, dancing and writhing to those awesome beats. 

The awesome song on this video, by-the-way, is Rusko's "Hold On..." one I've had in my files and on my Mp3 player for quite a while.  If ya get a chance, head on over to YouTube and do a search for Rusko's stuff...it's definitely worth the trip.

-Jeeem-

Friday, April 15, 2011


If ya haven't figured it out yet....

You're supposed to shoot the damn duck!

More senseless entertainment by...

-Jeeem-
Without a doubt, the Scottish accent is one of the most interesting and captivating.  I've found that it tends to be regional also, depending on where the person is from.  Some accents are definitely harder to understand than others.  

About three years ago I stopped at a small cafe in Hat Yai for some breakfast and grabbed a seat right next to the sidewalk.  While waiting for my meal a guy stopped by and sat down at one of the tables out on the sidewalk right in front of me...he was a foreigner so after a bit I decided to strike up a conversation.  

I said hello and asked him where he was from.  I wasn't prepared for the answer.  

Quite honestly I don't know what the hell he said to me in return, even to this day...and embarrassingly enough, I had to ask him several times to repeat himself, his accent was that thick.  But, to compound matters he was a stutterer.  A Scottish stutterer...who taught English at a local school in Hat Yai.  Now that, is one hell of a deal.  

I haven't seen him in a while as I don't really get into Hat Yai all that often now, but I recently saw this video clip online and thought I'd add it as sort of a memorial to all my Scottish buddies.  Make sure you let the thing fully load before watching it. 

Hope you enjoy it.  

video

Aye there Peter...if you're watching, that'll be five quid!
-Jeeem-

Sunday, April 10, 2011

If you take a look at my Cool Column to the right, you'll see a new entry for "AWESOME PICTURES!" A depository of sorts for photos I find in my stumbles around the Internet.  

Hope you enjoy it!

-Jeeem-

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Sometimes you see something that just gives you the shivers and brings up enough emotion that it brings a tear to your eye.  It doesn't have to be anything sad or heartwarming...the video you're about to see isn't any of that.  

It's just a bunch of fairly talented young people having fun on a playground and believe me...there's surely a great deal of talent in this video.  

For me, I suppose it was a mixture of amazement and most likely the music, which is a tune that I've always liked...but this brought out a lot of emotion in me and I found I was rather disappointed the video was so short.



video


They all just seem to be having so much fun with it!  Every single one of the jumpers added so much to this video...

...From the two chubby gals to the guy who somersaults into the middle and then the blond who just sorta runs through...

...Then, if you pay attention to the left side of your screen, there's an elderly lady sitting there that the blond sorta gives a quick gesture to...who promptly gets up and moves after the guy on the bike comes through.  

Ha...it's like she's saying, "Well, if they're gonna start driving bicycles through there, I'm outta here!"  

Just awesome!

Hope you enjoyed it!

-Jeeem-

Thursday, April 07, 2011

BANANA
FLASHER

I can't remember exactly when...but it was maybe six or eight months after Facebook hit the big time that I read a well-written piece online warning people against joining up with it.  

The article was very informative and was good enough for me at the time to convince me never to have anything to do with Facebook and I haven't.  I've never joined up with Facebook or MySpace, since both social community sites were mentioned in the article.

Here are a couple links you might want to peruse that explain the reasons why.  

LINK 1  

LINK 2

LINK 3


Okay, so more than a couple...but, it shouldn't take more than three links to websites explaining the dangers of Facebook, to convince you.  


The thing that amazes me is some people think they can't get along without Facebook.  Granted, most of those people are most likely more social animals than I am, but still...aren't you just a little concerned about what is done with all that sensitive data of yours?


Think about it...and QUIT FACEBOOK!


-Jeeem-

Friday, April 01, 2011

The Most 
BEAUTIFUL
Asian woman
I've ever seen!

Occasionally, via surfing the Internet or using Stumbleupon...you come upon something that really stands out.  I can't remember where I saw this photo, but it doesn't matter...this woman is without a doubt....one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen in my life.  She's got the most perfect almond eyes I've ever seen. 

WHERE ARE YOU?

-Jeeem- 

 
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