SIX WEEKS IN THAILAND 1999

In late July 1999, I flew to Thailand for good. Earlier that week, I had gone to the airport to buy a one way ticket for BKK. Hany and Russ came over to take some of the things I wasn’t bringing to BKK, such as my winter clothes and exercise equipment. They talked about turning 40 in Korea. The yogwon (hotel) adjama complained about how she would remove the sofa in my room, so I told her that I had paid well beyond the day I was leaving and to just use that extra money to pay for a mover to remove it. She laughed. When I checked in at Kimhae, a bunch of people were standing by the door, so I used my luggage cart to barrel through them. They laughed it off. I had to pay an extra 100$ for my 2nd bag. I had not yet realized that I was only allowed one piece of luggage (it was my first time moving countries within Asia). I had met a super hot flight attendant on the flight and she gave me the number of the person who hired English teachers for Korean Airlines. She even asked me where I was staying, Ohyo was waiting for me at the airport with her parents. We went out for pork, even though I had specifically stated that I would not eat pork and I rudely picked the pork (moo) out of the dish. I should have just been thankful, but at the time, I wanted to prove a point that I was not going to eat unhealthy meat. They then drove us to a huge room or studio apartment, where many of her classmates were sleeping on the floor communally. They were all doing internships again at various places related to tourism, such as hotels. Her father owned that room, so it appeared that I had hit the jackpot. The next morning, they all applied baby powder to their faces. I thought it was to lighten their skin, but it was to prevent sweat. They hired a motorcycle taxi to go find more motorcycle taxis for the rest of us. They all went their separate ways and I went to the Japanese International School for an interview. I first met with the principal, and he was a really genuine nice guy. I met with many of the English teachers there, who were mostly from Britian. They were sure I had the job, and were already giving me tips on how to get privates and that they’d help me get an apartment. The outgoing teacher said just show them flashcards. I had what I thought was an excellent lesson-demo, but the principal thought otherwise and offered the job to someone else. Therefore, I ended up getting a job in Ohyo’s department as a professor of tourism management, for which I was under-qualified, and it only paid 30,000 baht (1000USD) a month. It also started in November, so I’d have several ideal weeks. Ohyo and I moved into our own one bedroom studio the next day. While she went to work during the day, I’d usually go to the nearby Don Muang Airport to use the free internet to look for work. Sometimes, I’d use the internet cafe doesn’t the road. Otherwise, I watched a lot of TV. I opened a bank account at the Thai Military Bank and even got a pager. We’d often go out at night to nearby malls to eat or watch movies. Sometimes, we’d eat locally at soup meatball and noodle places. We’d go to Chainat every weekend to see her parents. Each room in her family home had walls, but they didn’t reach the ceilings. I also met her sister and her boyfriend, who lived in a far off province, teaching poor students. Sometimes, we’d hangout under the house in the hammock, which I broke from my weight. Neighbors would come and go through this area freely to socialize on their way to or from somewhere. Other times, we’d hangout at her aunt’s home, which was just next door. Her uncle was a sailor, who was away a lot, but made great money. They had a baby, too, with whom we played with often. We always ate THE BEST home cooked Thai food. One morning, we even ate frogs, as her father had a frog farm (and a gun). Ohyo lived on a large river (the Mekong??). I wanted to swim in it, but they wouldn’t let me. I also wanted to go into the “poor” area, but they wouldn’t let me. Finally, after a month of pestering them, I went there by myself. The people who lived there were really friendly. There is a serious divide between the rich and the poor in Thailand, meaning that the rich do not see, talk to or interact with the poor. W did once go into that area to eat pad-Thai, because it was cheaper than the other places. One a different day, I remember Ohyo introducing my to a farmer who had a huge oxen with horns. The farmer was proud of it and wanted me to video tape it, for which I was more than happy to oblige. Later that night, we also went to a carnival of sorts, a night market. We ate insects, and saw a car drive around a curved runway, so that it was driving sideways. There was a Thai man there who was so dark, he was darker than most black people. One day, on a Saturday, I had a premonition that the mailman was coming that exact moment and had mail for me. First of all, how many times does mail come on a Saturday? Secondly, why would I be getting mail in the jungle? Well, guess who showed up not a second later, but the mailman on his motorcycle with mail for me! After I had met Russ Dew, he made me aware of my spiritual side or workings of the brain we have not yet tapped into. Back in Bangkok, I lent Ohyo’s friend money for an abortion. Later that night, we went out downtown to party. As we walked around outside, three large Russians walked by us and pushed Ohyo really hard on the chest, so hard, it left a welt. The Thai people looked at them with an incredulous look, and I wanted to retaliate, but what could I do? There were three brutes and one skinny tall English teacher… Ohyo even told me to just walk away. I wrote an email and after writing the letter (email) to Russ, I printed it out, as I liked to read and reread my messages on paper back then. On the way home, I had another premonition that I should check if my money was there or not, and it was! I went home, saw at the local pool, and met a Dutch guy there. He loved Thailand so much, but didn’t really know about the English teaching scene. After our conversation, he sounded convinced, and was going to give it a shot. Later that night, as I was watching “She Bangs” by Ricky Martin, as well as TLC’s She Ain’t got No Scrubs on the tube, and eating tropical fruit. On the way out of the airport, where we had eaten dinner, a frantic mother and her son didn’t have the money for the departure tax that they needed to pay, so they asked me to buy their jewelry. At first I said no, as I thought it was a was, but Ohyo said to buy them, as the lady was crying and it was actually true (I sold the jewelry the next day for a profit at a pawn shop). That night, Ohyo’s father drove us back to Chainat and he changed lanes without checking his blind spot, nearly running over a guy and a girl on his motorcycle. We were done, though. Our relationship had taken a turn for the worse, so her friend bought me a one way plane ticket to Montreal. I called Mom, but she wasn’t home, so I called Dad and Sharon, and they agreed to pick me up at Dorval (Montreal) Airport.

I took a bus back to BKK and a few hours later was greeted by Ohyo and her mom. They stayed the night and wanted to see me off, to make sure I’d come back! Nope, we were done. I met their friend at the airport, who had a one way ticket for me, on Canadian Airlines. I got the hell out of there. The flight transferred in Hong Kong. At the time, things were lax; we were still pre-9/11. There flight attendant saw me using my video recorder, so he asked me if I wanted to video tape the cockpit. I said sure, but didn’t do it, as I thought I’d have plenty of other chances. I ended up with a window seat, which sucked for the couple sitting next to me, as I needed to use the bathroom quite often. I remember they made an announcement right before we had taken off, asking passengers if anyone would get off their overbooked flight for 100$. I was laughing inside; 100$? That would barely cover a hotel, and remember, back in 1999, trying to call people back home who already had made arrangements to meet you at the airport wasn’t as easy as today. Well, when I got back to the airport at Vancouver to transfer again, there was a dog getting on the plane looking for drugs, knowing thst the flight had originated in Thailand. The immigration guy gave me all kinds of hassle. “Why do you have a one way ticket”, Where’s your furniture and stuff; I mean, you’ve been gone a year”, Why are you coming back? What did you do over there?” I gave him straight and honest answers, who pissed him off, because it made him look like an idiot every time I answered him. Then, while I was getting my bags, some customs guy flashed his badge at me, saying: “You have been signaled out for a search”. Just as he approached me, I missed grabbing my bag, but the nice guy next to me pulled it off for me. I was brought out to a different room, where a nicer lady searched everything in each piece of luggage with a nice combed tooth. She even took out my Thai toothpaste and asked what it was. I turned it around where it was written toothpaste in English and said in elongated English: ” Toooooothpaste”. She was embarrassed, closed the suitcase and let me go. I actually sat in the aisle over from the nice guy who got my bag off for me, but did I talk to him? Nope, I chatted up the cute Chinese (Hong Kong) Canadian sitting next to me the whole flight back. We exchanged phone numbers. Dad and Sharon met me at the airport.

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