Stickman Readers' Submissions November 1st, 2010

Life After Thailand Part 2 – Onwards and Upwards! (and dealing with loneliness)

Okay, well I think it’s fair to say that things have improved for me since my last (first) submission on Stickman. To be honest I don’t know if that’s something to be particularly proud of – to recap, at the end of my previous story I was broke, unemployed, and seemingly stuck forever in the frozen-over-hell that is Farangland (in fact frozen hell would be considerably milder in temperature I imagine!)

But things have thankfully got considerably better for me since that low point a few weeks back – true, I still live in the UK and true, I’m only marginally less in debt than I was before, but I am at least gainfully employed! After eight days of endless telephone interviews with various recruiters/head-hunters/random cold callers and two face-to-face interviews, I managed at last to secure myself a reasonably prestigious job in financial services. In fact, the interview was two days after my first submission on Stickman went up, got the contract through the post the very next morning!

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Now eight days might sound like an impressively short time to secure a new job after being summarily “canned” (my mum thinks so at least) but I think it’s probably fairer to judge it in terms of the quantity of applications, as opposed to the actual time frame. To get this one job, I sent off no less than two hundred and fifty applications (just over thirty a day!) For one job offer. Not so impressive now eh? Anyway, nonetheless I am now once again a fully employed member of society!

So what job, you might ask? Well, to summarise quickly before you fall asleep with boredom, I’m a junior associate at a well-known wealth management company, who basically look after and invest the assets and money of the very wealthy. As a lowly associate I’m more or less a dogs’ body for my boss, a senior financial advisor, but I do deal with a few “delinquent” clients – basically, formerly rich people who (as a result of the credit crunch) have quite literally gone from riches to rags, and now owe us rather than save with us (as well as savings accounts we also provide our clients with specialist mortgage and credit card products.) These guys once had it all but now, if we were in Thailand, would be prime candidates for perpetual membership of the Pattaya Flying Club. I’m assigned to them because basically they’re worthless to our company – where once they were an asset, they’re now just a liability, and my job is to just make sure they pay their debts to us before we kick them straight out the door.

Not that’s an easy job – I’ve got one client who’s a property developer (well he was until the banks repossessed most of his houses) in his forties who wears designer Armani suits and drives a Porsche GT3 (lease scheme, three months behind on payments, our firm arranged it for him) and whose kids are attending a private school that probably costs more than I make in a year. Yesterday I had to phone him to come in to talk about his mobile phone bill, which hasn’t been paid on time for the third time this year. That’s right, this guy walks, talks and acts like Sir Richard Branson yet he’s so maxxed out he can’t scrape together £50 to pay his phone operator on time every month. But you wouldn’t know that from talking to him – no, when he comes in he acts all outraged, about how incompetent our firm is and why we just can’t pay his bills on time, after all “that’s what he pays us for?”

“Well I’m afraid we can’t pay anyone if you don’t provide us with the necessary funds, sir,” I’m forced to smile and say calmly, after taking a deep breath. “And, what’s more, on the matter of you paying us – you still haven’t as of yet settled your bill we sent you for last quarter’s management fees.” Cue another ten minutes of him ranting and raving. Oh how wonderful Farangland is.

Sometimes when he comes in he’s in a more cheery mood, although unfortunately that doesn’t make him an any less repulsive individual. He’ll boast to me about how many thousands (of pounds) he won at a high-stakes poker game the week before, or how quickly his houses are ‘flying off the shelves.’ I just keep smiling and nodding, all the while thinking yeah, sure mate. The only place a house of his is going to fly into is some grim auction house, dumped there after the bank who repossesses it comes to the realisation that selling houses in this depressed market is like trying to sell sand in the Sahara – there’s too much of the bloody stuff around already!

Briefly moving off the fascinating topics of wealth management and property markets (yawn, yawn) elsewhere in my life everything’s more or less ticking averagely along. Things are going so-so with April – the good news is now that I’m not working in London and not commuting for hours every day, we get to chat in the morning and in the evening. On the downside, she got turned down for a tourist visa to come and see me in the UK.

I know it was foolhardy to apply for a visa when I’m so penniless but I am servicing/repaying my debts (if slowly) and I do have a full-time job. Also I put a ton of
work into the visa form, read up on all the horror stories and sent in what I thought was a very convincing cover letter as well as tons of photos, bank statements, passport stamps, a letter from my parents giving her permission to stay at our
house, and more besides! <That is why one should use a UK visa firm – some have a 100% success record!Stick>

wonderland clinic

Alas, it wasn’t enough, so I guess another trip to Thailand’s on the cards sooner than I thought! To be honest this isn’t an unwelcome prospect at all – although having the visa turned down means I won’t see April for a heart-wrenching three months or so, it means I’ll be going back to the wonderful, amazing, beautiful Land of Smiles!

Going back to the topic of my job as a financial cubicle drone, I think the thought of returning to Thailand is pretty much what keeps me going. As you Stickmanites know, the thought of going back to paradise on earth is far more effective than any caffeine in getting you up at six in the morning to go to work! <I know it will sound almost unthinkable to the average Stickman reader, but many of us in Thailand dream of a holiday in the West!Stick>

Although, having said that, there are some things to look forward to in my job – namely, eventually getting the lucrative responsibility of managing decent clients. The insolvent, soon-to-be-bankrupt clients of ours (that I have devoted much of this submission so far to) in fact represent a very small minority of our total customer base. It’s only because I’m a lowly junior that they’re the ones I have to deal with – the majority of people who use our services are wealthy (sorry I imagine you’ve guessed that already, with a ‘wealth management’ company, the clue’s in the name.)

It’s worth mentioning here that when I say wealthy, I don’t mean just a little bit rich – like guys who have six-figure incomes and live a champagne lifestyle, but who haven’t got a penny saved and who if they lost their job would be out on the street in a month’s time. No, most of our clients are liquid rich – they have millions, if not tens of millions, in cash or easily accessible assets. Most of them could retire right now if they wanted to.

We get people from all different walks of life – some came from impoverished backgrounds, some were born with a silver spoon firmly in their mouth, some are British and some are foreign (mostly Chinese, as in Thailand they seem to be the ones with the big money.) But they all have one in common – when they walk into the room they practically smell of money. In fact you can almost taste it (ok, exaggerating a bit here.)

One example is this elderly British gent, in his early seventies who sold a chain of restaurants for a fortune years ago and is now living the life. This guy is obviously a business genius, but style isn’t his forte – his seemingly one and only outfit consists of an ancient tweed jacket matched with a pair of the most awfully garish bright red chino trousers. Yet he still somehow manages to look ridiculously distinguished and cool (for a 70-year old.) If this guy walked down Nana or Patpong, smelling as he does of incredible wealth, it’d be like dropping fresh meat in a piranha tank – he’d be devoured within seconds. He drives to our firm’s office in a £250,000 Bentley Continental GT – I remember seeing it one day and thinking how does he justify buying a car that costs as much as a house? Not in an anti-capitalist way I might add, or even a “I-hate-rich-people” way (I don’t!), more in a “I’m so bloody jealous way” if I’m brutally honest!

It occurred to me then that now I know how the Thais feel! When I go to Thailand and spend half a month’s wage on one night in a hotel room, or a whole month’s wage on a night out, they must stare with the same amazed look that I have on my face whenever I see that Bentley. Ah well, that’s the way of the world I guess, all’s fair in capitalism and business, I’m sure our elderly client worked very hard for his Bentley – though rather depressingly it amounts to roughly a whole decade of my current earning power after taxes! And, unlike my client Mr. Broke & Obnoxious, this gentleman paid cash for his car – £250,000 with no finance whatsoever. Nice if you can get it!

Isn’t this submission supposed to be about Thailand? I can hear you guys thinking now as you’re on the verge of slipping into unconsciousness in the face of all this finance waffle. Sorry, I’ll leave off the shameless self-promotion of my (not) amazing life and get back to talking about the subject of this submission, namely dealing with the issue of loneliness of life after Thailand.

Of course I’m all (many here would no doubt say foolishly) loved up with my darling April, but post-LOS loneliness doesn’t just apply to the generous guy/shmuck who’s sending money to his beloved teerak whilst counting down the days till he can get on the next plane out of god awful Farangland. No, from the stuff I’ve read on this site I think it’s fair to say that post-LOS loneliness is something which affects most of us – whether it’s single guys missing their favourite bargirl, seasoned mongers missing the intimacy that they (however fleetingly) get with scores of gorgeous women, or even just feeling the absence of the all-round friendliness and kind spirit of the Thais.

It is this last thing which I perhaps miss nearly as much as April – I realise Thais aren’t all as relaxed and nice as their permanent mega-watt smiles would indicate, and that LOS is also the Land of Scams, but I’d still take it over what we have in Farangland any day. To be fair I don’t know about other western countries, but the UK is the polar opposite for Thailand when it comes to being friendly – everybody everywhere, from supermarkets to bus stops, walk around with glazed, fixed expressions permanently glued to their faces as they go about their no doubt miserably mundane daily routine.

I made a futile effort only a few days ago to make polite small talk in a supermarket queue with a middle-aged man in front of me – the blank look on his face was briefly replaced with one of terror, as if I clearly had some sort of serious mental disturbance for so much as contemplating the idea of conversation with a stranger in a public place. I’ll take a fake smile over that kind of reaction any day!

My planned date to return to Paradise is January 3rd next year, which in fact is just under ten weeks away, but feels like a lifetime. Since I’m in the fortunate (financially anyway) position of living at the home I was born in, I don’t have to pay any rent, and only give a token amount to my parents for food and bills. As such, my plan is to save the vast majority of my next two paychecks, which should just about give me enough to pay off the debt on one of my overdrawn bank accounts and have enough left over for a ten day holiday.

Matters are helped considerably in that my old boss has relented and agreed to cough up my one week’s severance pay, as well as the remainder of my commission from a couple of old deals. I say ‘relented’ as he only did this after I sent him no less than three letters requesting the owed money, with the final one containing a strong threat of court action. Anyway, the cheque’s in the post (supposedly) and that’s all that counts.

I’ve got my trip all planned – I’ll have a tearful reunion with April at Suvernabhumi, followed by a few days in Bangkok. Can’t wait to do some shopping at MBK and Khao San, plus there’s a fair few sights I still haven’t seen in my four previous visits to the Big Mango – Jim Thompson’s mansion, for instance. Although initially I imagine we won’t be leaving the hotel room too much (wink, wink, nudge nudge.)

From there we’ll go onto Chiang Mai to meet her second-youngest sister, the only sibling I haven’t met yet. She runs a restaurant up there with her Thai husband, and it might surprise you guys to know that in the months I’ve spent in Thailand and Southeast Asia, for one reason or another I never made it up to Chiang Mai! I’ve heard it’s amazing though, so it’s definitely top of my to-do list!

After that we’ll get a flight to KL and check out the sights in Malaysia for a bit. I’ve been once before on my first Asia jaunt two years ago, but only for a one day stop-over (didn’t make it to the Petronas Towers.) Finally it’ll all finish with going back to Thailand and spending a few days on the family farm with mum and dad in Isaan. Although, having said that, I’ve only ever visited Cambodia once for a few days and would love to see more of Phnom Penh, so if I can somehow squeeze a trip there into my budget/time that’ll be great!

So basically it will be an amazing time in what is certainly one of the most wondrous countries on the planet, before I reluctantly return to the dreary misery of Farangland. However all is not lost – during the last couple of days in Bangkok before I fly back to London, the plan is for April and I to go to the British Embassy and try a second attempt to make a tourist visa!

With my finances having significantly improved between now and then, and with April and I having been together for well over six months at that point, it’s my hope that my lovely teerak will follow me back to the UK only a few short weeks after I return!

At least then, when I go back to work in late January, and dwell on the countless shortcomings of the rainy wasteland that is Farangland – terrible weather, awful food, unfriendly people, expensive just about everything – at least I won’t have to dwell on it all by myself!

Stickman's thoughts:

Wow, it sure does sound like you miss Thailand a lot. Hopefully the daily updates on this site and my weekly rant help you feel a connection to the country you love.

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