Readers' Submissions

Gentleman’s Agreement

  • Written by Mickey
  • October 22nd, 2010
  • 20 min read



Thank heavens for the Stickman site, it is some where we can release our inner torments, and express our woes and not get criticized about it. (Well most of the time)

What are we talking about, Teaching, Its been in the news a lot lately, you hear many good reports and more bad, I have one friend who has been teaching here for 20 years and he loves it, he loves the teaching, just hates the Thai politics,. You read on stickman where the occasional person enjoys teaching here. I just read recently where that if they done a test on Thai Teachers 90% would fail, and this morning in the paper they are worried where the Thai elite are sending their children (as young as 5) overseas because the system here is not up to par. The irony is that they are worried if they get an education overseas they will not learn Thai culture, think about it, may be that is where the problem is, its all about denial (face) not admitting there is a problem.

I have one close friend who is very talented loves teaching and puts enormous amount of effort into his classes, but goes through the same frustration as I do, and he was probably the best teacher at his last school and the students loved him but he was sacked because he made the Thai teachers look bad.

I was uncertain what to title this sub, here is a list and no doubt when I finish it will be a completely different title, but never the less all these conditions apply.

1/ my teaching experience in Thailand

2/ do they really care

3/ Denial, it’s all about denial

4/ Face, it’s all about face

5/ do they really like us

6 kiss arse and it usually works

7 / it’s not what we can do for you, but it’s what you can do for us

I have friends I can talk to but most are retirees who aren’t really interested in my work. What I’m writing about is my previous employment, and it’s not the typical “I teach English in Thailand”

I have submitted a few articles on Stickman mostly about women and there foibles and one about sin sot and I took Sticks advice (I didn’t need much encouragement) and as he said ‘Run for the hills” which I unduly ……. Done

A bit about my self purely for the exercise and it’s not about self glorification, as I mentioned in my previous articles I teach Aviation and I made contact with this college (as from now we will call A) in 2008 and have been teaching and instructing there for one year. Teaching technical English, Physics, mathematics and various fields in Aviation as well as hands on skills.

As a new born I was brought up on a diet of tools, machining and engineering, my dad was in the trade and so was his dad both very smart men

I left tech college at 17 and joined the RAAF on my 17th birthday and I thought I was in heaven, 10 years studying about aircraft engines and most of my time in an overhaul depot, machine shop, and engineering After the RAAF I worked in civil aviation and soon was running a large component overhaul shop and chosen in preference to older and longer serving staff purely because of my skills and diversification, there I got my LAME license, it was one of those jobs where you can work 20 hr days and not get enough of it.

After that I started my own engineering business had a clinically clean machine shop and manufactured and built/ prepared classic and race cars, built many cars for major race events in Australia, I my self have driven on most circuits in Australia including Bathurst and built and prepared cars for other drivers, up until a few years ago I built the quickest Road legal race cars in Australia and had a few sales in a America where one of the cars holds the Guinness book of records as the fastest registered road legal race car in the world (2003) at 340 kl/hr

Still keeping my hand in aviation and have done a lot of flying and my share of fast cars and bikes, I have a lot of skills and experience and what you call multitalented but I have never really been successful because I’m what you call a sort touch, any way enough about me , now about my work in Thailand.

Without going into long drawn out detail I had an interview with A in 2008, his employment was “Seeking highly skilled & professional aviation personnel” and his story was he left Thailand at 17 and went to the States and worked for Boeing and Douglas and came back here to start a dream of his an aviation college and apparently he wasn’t getting any support from the Government or the education system , and only was small and keen to grow, I have since learned that he is not recognized by the education department or Department of Civil Aviation as you will find out later and the problems it has caused.

I told him I would be back in Thailand permanently in Nov and I would do my best to help him he asked me about salary and I said its negotiable but I would like at least 30,000 but its not that important at this moment, I have a bit of money (my first mistake).

I should have realized there was a problem, at the time, we were driving in his “Ford” pick up and he was telling me how wonderful Thailand is and Thais can do or achieve any thing, Thailand is self supporting and we don’t need any other people we should be completely independent. I didn’t know him well enough to give some cheap come back, like “isn’t your ford built by a foreign owned company?” so I just let it go.

In the beginning I just worked casual hours and then he moved his operation from Karat airport to Phitsanulok airport and he offered me work and he talked about some big projects that would come to fruition, like Boeing 747’s that are time expired and accumulating parking costs at Don Muang, Phitsanulok, and various other airports, he was putting quotes in to dismantle, move them and turn them into hotels, I thought what a great idea and I was quite excited about it.

So my 30 yo son and myself packed every thing and moved from Bkk to Phitsanulok, we had a house organized and were to move straight in but the real estate agent was all bullshit and kept putting me off and making excuses, so I told him to forget it and we had to find a house ASAP because the truck was about 5 hrs behind us, thankfully we were having breakfast at 0500 and the local lady in the restaurant said she knew of a house and was only 10 mins a way, so it worked out and turned out to be a better house and cheaper.

Initially I would look after his classes while he went to Bkk to do his business trips for quotes and after hours I would do research on making/manufacturing jigs, stands and ground support equipment, and even had a visiting friend who was a very experienced boiler maker to help with some ideas, A was impressed with his skills but wasn’t impressed with his quote to help, keeping in mind I was not being paid as at that time.

He asked me what my son was doing and I said he was looking for work in Bkk but will probably have to go back to Australia soon, and he said if he is keen he should come here and work for a while and if he shows talent I will give him some work

He said the hanger needed some improvements and the second class will start soon and could manufacture some items, we designed things like rotating aircraft engine stands, concertina hanger doors and hanger doors that pivot from the top all these were designed with out drawings and manufactured. I started seeing a pattern first he had no idea in engineering and secondly he was always cutting costs the material he supplied was like tissue paper that thin you couldn’t even weld it let alone support the weight of an aircraft engine, I know most things in Thailand are a compromise, but if you are going to do something do it properly, attention to detail is every thing in business.

He asked my son how much does it cost you in cigarettes and beer for the week and he said 1500 bt, so A told him he will pay him 1500 a week which is 6000 a month, and he offered me 10000 a month with the encouragement that these dream contracts will come through and we will be paid good money.

After a period of 5 months my son realized there was no future for him here with idol promises, no work permit and low pay realized he had to go back to Australia he gave notice that he would leave in 2 weeks, and A paid him 2500 for the 2nd last week and the last week my son didn’t go back to work but spent the last week with his g/f and wife to be and A asked me where is Daniel I said he is spending the last week with his g/f. A was upset he said he paid him an extra 1000bt and couldn’t comprehend why he didn’t spend his last week with A, I mean after all he was paid for that week.

I told him don’t worry about it for the amount he was paid and he really did work hard (and smart) it’s not worth worrying about it

The irony is now that he is back in Australia he is making 1500bt an hour.

I asked him about a work visa because my 12 month visa will run out soon and I will have to renew it or return to Australia, he said he has troubles with his school but he will get his sister to look into it because he didn’t want to loose me, I said to him “PLEASE let me know what is happening because I need to make arrangements and know what I am doing”.

One of my better elder students (P) came to me and said he had a problem he has been offered a job with one of the airlines (he worked before with one of the airlines) but he felt a loyalty with the school and should finish the 18 month class. I said to him look at it logically, if you stay you will end up with no recognized qualifications and you will be like the other 3 that had done the previous course and 2 are still here repeating the classes because they cant get a job, and the other one is working at the Zoo in Chiangmai and you will be 220,000 poorer without work, or take the job now and you will have pay and good pay and in that 18 month period you can advance in the company. Well P decided on the airline job and hasn’t looked back and has e mailed me many times thanking me for helping with the right course in his life.

I just happened to mention to A that my G/F was looking for work and he suggested that may be she could cook the students meals every day until she finds work it will give her something to do and the students wont have to ride into town every lunch time, he suggested a “kapow”, “kiadow” or something similar plus a good soup and a piece of fruit all for 30bt, and delivered, my girl friend just laughed at me but agreed to give it a go at least for a short time, she decided to give them soup and a meal for 25bt and no fruit, some guys were ordering “kapow moo gob” (wasn’t on the menu) she would buy it at the local restaurant for 30 bt and sell it to them for 25bt after 2 weeks they (A) started complaining they weren’t getting there moneys worth, I said easy tell them to get on there motor bikes and ride into town and buy the same for 25bt, it saves me running a business at a loose. Thai stupidity really amazes me sometimes and it made me realize I am just as stupid..

One thing I do know and that is reading engineering drawings. The 2 class rooms are in an open hanger with only a small aircraft dividing the 2 classes and one day I was teaching and at the same time listening to A teaching about a drawing that he had displayed for the students asking the normal questions on measurements and construction etc I was subconsciously listening and I heard him ask how is the base attached to the main body, instantly my attention was alerted when the students couldn’t answer the question and his comment was it is riveted, later during a break I asked him the question how is the base attached and he said riveted and I asked him to show me, he didn’t know where to look or what to say, so I told him as diplomatically as I could it is welded and if you look you can see the fillets and it actually says on the drawing the base is welded to the body, “OH Ok” but the students were never corrected.

Weekly the students are given a Quiz, that’s what they call it, I call it a test. In Australia the pass mark for most aircraft related exams is 90% some are 100%, here it is 75% and they have trouble achieving that and with a little help most will achieve it. After one test I went back to A and said I will mark them on 49 questions and not 50 because of this question it doesn’t matter what multi choice you pick it is 100% wrong, I don’t remember the question but it was related to hydraulics and if I did remember I would attaché it here. I asked him where did the question come from and he said the FAA book, I doubt it but we let it go

Next week the same question came up in the exam and I mentioned it to him that it is the same question as last week and there is no correct answer. His comment to me was “oh it’s not about the right answer it’s about the correct answer in English, it’s an English test” I was dumb struck, I was speechless I just walked away.

A asked me if I could repair the brakes on his Piper Cub as one of the fittings was damaged in transit, I said yes its an easy job and if he had a lathe I could make the fitting my self, but I will go to the local engineering shop and give them a drawing and get it made it really is a simple job just a male to male fitting made in brass and the thread size is 1/8NPT, now I felt I needed to explain to the shop that the most common thread is 1/8BSP nearly identical except there is one tread difference over an inch one is 28 and the other is 27 and seeing it is an American aircraft it is 1/8NPT, and I got that “I understand” and that stupid Thai smile and yes you have guessed. It, it was made wrong and even if it was right it looked like it was made by a 5 yo kid, they gave me my money back (only 100bt) and I went to another shop who were very professional and knew what I was talking about, and made a very professional job but charged me 150bt, A wasn’t happy about the price but as I said to him its not the price its doing the job properly, he failed to appreciate that all the O rings and seals I supplied for free, I supplied the red hydraulic fluid and the brakes were finished and tested and approved by A. The next morning he comes in with a container of automotive brake fluid and I asked

“What is this for?”

“It’s for the brakes”

I said, “It is finished, remember you looked at it yesterday and besides you don’t use automotive brake fluid on aircraft because it is hydroscopic, it absorbs water”

He eventually used the automotive fluid in the nose wheel steering damper (because he didn’t have the right fluid) I could smell it and I asked the students who assembled this with the wrong fluid, “that is the fluid A gave us”. I just shock my head in disbelief and walked a way.

Eventually the time came for my decision on a work permit and I had to ask him if any thing had been done (I knew he wouldn’t come to me) he said no cant do too many problems.

The promised projects were just that, idol promises, and he would go into BKK for meetings but nothing would eventuate I could see a common picture here he would go into BBK I would look after the school and he would come back and build every bodies hopes up and nothing would eventuate, I will give it to him he was very good at dream playing and believing it all (apparently he used to sell vacuum cleaners in the states after work).

These promised projects included work/contract with a new Russian airline work in Lao, a freight company operating MD1011’s from Don Muang and moving time expired 747’s to a new site as hotels or restaurants, at one stage it was all happening within the week.

I could see that nothing was going to happen and it took me a while to get the courage to ask him for more money, I explained to him that it is costing me money to work for him and I need more money, he looked at me in disbelief and said most Thais get 6000 a month and they live ok, and I said there is a big difference between most Thaïs and me, he said ok I will give you an extra 2000 a month and if you work overtime I will pay you 50bt (yes 50bt) an hour and I told him I want 30,000 a month and that is being more then fare.

Eventually I had 6 weeks to go for my expiry for my visa in Jan I gave him an invoice for the month of 30,000 and he nearly had a heart attack, I have never heard sooo many excuses, he has no money, the students are not paying and the courses are taking to long, the rent is to high, a lot of time is wasted etc etc.

I felt like bringing it to his attention the rent is not what he says he is lying, that he has just bought 200 rai of land near Nakhon Thai, according to his sister he has houses (plural) in the states and a big house in BKK and at 20 students at 220,000bt I might be a dumb farang but that adds up to nearly 4.5 million bt over 18 months, eventually to save face he told me he has to let me go because he has no work for me.

I was leaving any way, as much as I enjoyed teaching what I know best and the students were really great and keen, I knew it was going no where and it was all one sided, he is what we call in Australia a “tight arse” and having Thai Psychic it is what he can gain with little or no reciprocation of generosity let alone his obligation with the correct pay, one of my comments to him “If you can charge the students professional prices you can pay professional salary.

He kept telling me he was my friend. My girlfriend said to me “Michael he doesn’t care about you he is laughing at you and just thinks you are stupid farang and how Buddha is being good to him, that is how he is really thinking”

Any way we parted on friendly terms and he enforced that if any of the big projects eventuate he will call me.

I eventually got a teaching job at a private college teaching private students mainly TEOFL and IELTS and being adult and professional it is enjoyable, the hourly rate is good but the hours aren’t that great.

The following comments are what prompted me to write this submission.

Many months later P called me (remember P the student who left) and said his boss owns the 747 at Don Muang and he will pay me 3000 a day to work for him and to help move it, but I will have to talk to A because he is supplying the man power, the next day I spoke to A and he said I have to speak to P he is the boss, I said I have spoke to P and he called me and said its all go a head and I have to talk to you, his smug comment “oh we don’t need you”. I reminded him of his parting comment that he will call me if any of the promised projects eventuate, “Oh this is an easy job we don’t need you”, I spoke to A and reminded him how much I had given and it cost me money to work for him not to mention the tools I had lost and my own material I had to use for the students, his closing comment was “Oh we had a gentleman’s agreement its as simple as that”

It eventuated that P didn’t use A because his boss and no body in the industry thinks he has any credibility, P eventually used his own man power and the job was completed with out A.

Speaking to others in the industry they all seem to agree he doesn’t have the ability and talking to the Captain of immigration about work he mentioned don’t work for A because he is not a very nice man, I quietly failed to mention that I had already worked for him.

I feel sad for the students they are all keen and very enthusiastic and he keeps getting all these new students, the parents are involved in the orientation day and they can see this status that there young adult child is going to be involved in the aviation industry and is going to have a great future, little do they know the school is not recognized and they are getting inferior unqualified instruction and they will never get a job because A has no credibility, very sad for them.

I spoke to one of my older original students recently and he said they now have 2, yes 2 Thai teachers to teach Power Plant (if he was worth his salt you only need one) and he is not getting proper explanation and understanding and he said “we want you back Sir”

As a tourist you see it all in the tourist perspective and usually enjoy it as such, but when you have been here a while and specially when you work for them you see a side that is not very nice and its not only us they treat like that they also do it to one another as well, it makes you a bit cynical after a while

Thanks for reading, feed back is welcome but don’t tell me I was a fool I already know that, but I gather there is many a fool in Thailand.

Thai Dating, Singles and Personals

Stickman's thoughts:

I am pressed for time at the moment, hence no comments or editing. My apologies.