Stickman Readers' Submissions March 31st, 2009

My First Trip to LOS, (Part 5) Prologue to Relocation

I am sure Stick is getting bored with this and as of now, I still don’t know where it’s going or what is going to happen next.

I had told Tawon that I planned to come back in May for another extended holiday. I had told Ian that this trip had convinced me to apply for a retirement visa and settle there full time. My experiences, up country as well as the extended holiday, had given me sufficient insight to know I would be comfortable there, both financially and emotionally. I had met many of Ian’s expat friends, mostly Brits and Aussies and the overriding impression I got was of people at ease with themselves. I had relaxed too (apart from Ian’s driving), and I had lost weight and felt healthier than I had done in years. I had a long chat with another friend, Matt, who worked for the British embassy, and he gave me some good tips and I left feeling confident that I could do the necessary paperwork and pack up my UK life and send it to Samui. I am not materialistic so I have few possessions that will not fit in a good sized rucksack. My house is rented so one month's notice is all I need. Sell the car and furniture and empty my wardrobe. Suits and winter clothes to the charity shop, and everything else can go to the dump. Think, decide and then act.

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My flight home is uneventful, apart from the fact I have to wait 5 hours in Dubai airport and I could do with a smoke. I find a few smoke rooms but the atmosphere is literally toxic. There is an Irish pub around gate 120 ish. I can smoke if I buy a drink. Pint of Guinness please. I am charged in Dubai whatever the local currency is. It works out at £8 a pint. I don’t care. After delays, I have been airside for over 10 hours and I need a smoke.

I arrive at Heathrow and we are lucky to land. It is about 9 AM and all flights after ours are cancelled or diverted due to snow. I get a courtesy bus to my long stay car park. Despite over a foot of snow and 30 days of no movement, my little Toyota starts first time.

All the way home I am in a bit of a trance.

I arrive home on 3rd February and the only thing in my inbox that catches my eye is from Tawon.

At first I am ambivalent. I know from reading books, and every post I have seen on various forums, this is not a good way to find what I am looking for.

The emails from her are encouraging and I feel good about the prospects.

We exchange emails and photos. I am waiting for the email begging for financial assistance. The mother and child problem, the sick water buffalo, money for gambling debts.

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No such email arrives. We exchange pleasantries which become more serious over time. She sends me pictures of our time together. Tawon has a change of hairstyle and sends me an updated photo of her. I find her even more alluring than before. Most of my pics are captured on my new mobile, and I can’t work out how to send them.

We exchange email and text messages daily.

It is now one month later and we have exchanged over 100 emails and more than 120 text messages, each more devoted than the last. For the first month, Tawon is paying a lady at the Internet café to translate my emails. By chance, I learn of a new Google service called Google translate.

I try sending my next email in Thai with an English copy attached. Tawon is chuffed, but continues to write me in broken Thanglish. She is working hard to improve her English skills (for my benefit?). She has been paying for email translation for a month and I know she is sending her mother money for her kids. Still no heartbreak stories asking for help.

I get a letter back from the police telling me my SA1 (criminal records check) will be back by 4th April. This is good news, except that the following week is the Easter holiday so the consulate in Hull will be closed for a couple of days and the price of flights will go up for sure. I check online and I can get a LHR to BKK flight with Emirates on 22 April for £470 return or a one way flight for £497…work that one out! As I plan to come back for a few weeks in July, and again at Christmas, I see that this can work in my favour. I can find cheaper flights, but I find Emirates cabins and legroom much better than being sat next to some fat smelly chav on a bargain bucket for thirteen hours.

I start searching for rental property in Samui. The signs are that the market is depressed right now. New builds are not selling, holiday homes are empty and owners facing the credit crunch back home cannot find a buyer. All this is good for the rental market. I have seen 2 bedroom bungalows on a farang estate for 12,000 baht per month. Decent holiday bungalows and hotel rooms with TV and fan or air-con for 500 baht a night. I am also aware that the stuff at this end of the market advertised by agents is still a bit overpriced. I reckon I can find something by looking at home made ‘For Rent’ signs when I am back there. It will be cheaper and probably better equipped. So I budget 6,000 – 10,000 baht for rent. Add utilities and a few extras like Internet and I could live comfortably on my pension.

So far so good. I have found out how my new phone works and sent the happy snaps from our holiday to Tawon. She is so pleased with them and sounds happier than ever. She wants reassurance that I am coming back and wants to know when I will return. I have now booked my flight and I am due to arrive back on 24 April. Not sure whether to tell her or keep it as a surprise as she is expecting me in May.

I get ruthless as I clear out the accumulated trivia of my life.

I have been getting email responses to this story and I’m grateful that people take an interest and it resonates with some, and I understand those who feel ambivalence. It is, however, a true story, told in real time, and I suspect that is the best way to tell it.

I have advertised my household possessions for sale and had a decent response. My car has been side swiped by a Tesco Tardis and I have to get a paint job done before I can sell it. More expense. Utility companies cannot cope with someone leaving the country. Why the hell is that? I know few people who are happy to stay here, and most would prefer to be in my shoes. Booked a trip to the consulate to sort out my type ‘O’ visa and started to let friends and family know I am moving on.

Tawon will take a break from work when I arrive, and I am trying to book a few days retreat for us in Lamai so we can decide where we take things from here, and look around for a long term rental property for me, and hopefully, her to share.

I remain convinced about the decision to relocate, and I have only a few doubts about the status of our relationship, and these are gradually diminishing.

I receive a long email from Tawon. Usually they are short and sweet, and full of stock phrases. In response to my questions, she has replied that basically, it is ‘up to me’ and she will do whatever I want. In some ways this should worry me, but it is written is such a way, that it is convincing. Overwhelmed by Thai culture and my lack of experience, I decide to rely on instinct.

If this tale is overlong, please let me know and I will cut to the chase as far as I can. If you are content to follow the real time situation, then also let me know.

Next time on “Lost”, I try to live without a car and a bed. My hell at the airport, and what I find in the stars…

Stickman's thoughts:

It's fascinating watching this tale unfold. I would suggest that you don't entirely burn your bridges at home. While it is admirable that you wish to give this new relationship 100%, sometimes it pays to be pragmatic and consider the alternatives just in case things don't work out.

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