Stickman's Weekly Column November 7th, 2004

Saturation Point?


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For some it is merely a way to get a foot into Thailand and for others it is their career, their Thailand career, the only way they know to be able to stay in Thailand. But there is a growing number of people who now look at it as a rather embarrassing way to make a living. I am of course talking about teaching English.

What has surprised me is the number of people who apply for teaching jobs. At my place of employment, I am the one who places the job ads online and I am the one who fields the inquiries. Two jobs advertised in the last year have had an absolutely phenomenal response. The most recent, which was somewhat unique in its requirement, had over 60 applicants! And about 2/3 of the applicants met the necessary criteria, on paper at least. The previous position advertised received a similar number of applicants and again, the quality of people who applied was breathtaking. We even received applications from guys with a doctorate from such prestigious universities Oxford and Cambridge. I kid you not! I was flabbergasted at the quality of some of the people applying.

If there is a school out there which requires an English teacher aged 30 – 35, who can also teach drama and is happy to knock out a course in poetry, must be from Australia or New Zealand, preferably have had a few years experience in Thailand, can coach the school soccer team, has no convictions, can pass an AIDs test, is well presented, is blonde haired and blue eyed, is married, is a staunch Christian, has all of his or her teeth, is clean cut, knows that a Pratunam tie just doesn't cut it, doesn't carry a Nike sports bag to work, shaves every day, smiles and never complains then have no fear, because I am sure there are suitable candidates out there right now!

The big growth area in the last few years has been placing native English speaking teachers into Thai high schools where their role is anything from being little more than a walking radio, a point of contact for students they teach once a week, to being the students' core English teacher, i.e. the only person they study English with. So, the biggest demand for English teachers would appear to be in Thai schools, both junior school and high school, teaching English as part of their general school education.

But the funny thing is that there aren't that many native English teachers teaching in Thailand who are actually properly qualified to teach these kids. Those "qualified teachers" teaching here are invariably qualified to teach either one or other subject, be it maths, science, social studies or the whole bunch. They are not trained as teachers of English as a foreign language! And those teachers who say that they have a TEFL qualification, an RSA, a Trinity or whatever often conveniently forget that most of these English teaching qualifications are courses in which the teacher was trained TO TEACH ENGLISH TO ADULTS! It seems to be a very small minority who are actually trained and qualified to teach foreign kids (as opposed to adults,) English.

This week I did an experiment. I had a think about the ideal candidate for an English teaching position and based on that knocked up what I considered would be the perfect CV. Age had to be mid 30s, young enough still to have their looks intact but old enough to be taken seriously. 5 years experience in Thailand which suggests at least some understanding of the nuances of Thailand and its unique culture. Married, which shows, or at least suggests, that one will not be out in the naughty bars every night. Oh, and qualifications – a degree in education and an RSA. On paper at least, a damned good candidate.

I sent the CV and a kick ass application letter to 10 different organisations advertising teaching positions in Bangkok. I amended the CV in a couple of instances so that it met all criteria listed in the ad. I thought replies would be coming in thick and fast but no, NOT ONE SCHOOL REPLIED! An ideally qualified candidate and not one response? It could be that responses have yet to come back as they weigh up the various applications, or it could be that the CV intimidated the person reading it and he threw it into the bin, something which is a very real problem in the industry…or it could be that SO many people are applying for jobs and competition is so intense, that even an ideal candidate might not even get an interview!

English teaching has been a backup plan for many Westerners moving to or even living in Thailand. If things go bad I can always teach English seems to be many folks' thinking. But things are changing. True, there are stacks of jobs out there, but many of these jobs still pay less than 30,000 baht a month and worst of all, there seem to be stacks of people not just applying for them but fighting for such positions! Has the English teaching industry in Thailand reached saturation point?

WHERE IS THIS PICTURE?

It was Bei Otto, THE German restaurant.

Neon sign….and its NOT Nana!

Last week’s pic was taken from the Windsor Suites Hotel, looking down on Bei Otto, probably Bangkok's best known German restaurant. A number of people got it right, many mentioning that they really like this restaurant. Each week the first reader to correctly state where the pic is by email to me wins a 500 baht credit from Tony's Bar in Soi Cowboy. Please note that the credit MUST be claimed within two weeks. So, to claim that prize, you must be in Bangkok at some time in the next two weeks.

FROM STICKMAN'S EMAIL INBOX

Pain in paradise.

Is this just me being a softie, or what? I have travelled extensively, and I have found many ladies, in many countries, willing to please me in all sorts of ways. Only in Patong, Phuket, strangely enough never in Pattaya or Bangkok, have I found ladies wanting to HURT me. I buy them drinks, I chat with them, and then, suddenly, they grab one or both of my nipples and squeeze, so hard that blood comes out of my eyes. When I complain they act all offended and say "many farang like". Not only that, I have had girls in Patong suddenly bite me, on my arm, or my shoulder or wherever, but always painfully. WTF? Are there international tourist brochures advertising masochistic trips to Phuket? Is Phuket the Transylvania of Asia? Perhaps the 'Thai main man' is a masochist, which would explain a lot. Did the first pioneer to arrive in Patong happen to be a masochist? I would be interested to hear how many of your readers enjoy this treatment, rather than the smooth pleasurable bliss that I love, and have received the world over.

Don't judge a book by its cover.

You know, most Western men venturing into Asia with the specific purpose of getting themselves a girlie, are those fed up with emancipated woman of the west. Logically they are looking for a feminine, sweet, even sexy girl. That's all good and well what the outside is concerned. But mostly they do not realize what they get on the inside. And as they – those western man I mean – are quite helpless or at least not very able in many cases to sort out their own lives even back at home they are in a very delicate position. And, for that, you give them perfect insight in your latest Weekly. Let's get things clear. Many western – and even some Asian I would say – men think those Asian Barbies are a bit stupid, not thinking a lot but rather wanting to perform in bed, and are just feminine to please their husbands which they adore… Oh boy how wrong they are. Asian woman are so clever. They know that you admire their beauty – although they will forever doubt if they are beautiful enough compared to the girl next door – and their feminine way of loving you comes at a price. They are super jealous, want to be listened at, more accurately they want things to go their way ALL the time. They are very sensitive as well when it comes to presents as regard it as a must, or a tool for fixing trouble as you correctly state.

Things must have been REALLY bad!

My wife's view as a Thai seems to be that they should clear all non-Muslims out of the area and then drop a bomb on the South! Hell hath no fury like a Thai woman defending her country. The troubles have been there for a long time now. I remember my brother-in-law, who is a policeman, transferring from Songkhla to Khon Kaen because it was too dangerous and that was over ten years ago. Things must have been really bad because he even brought his mother-in-law back with him!

De facto curfew?

It would be easy to dismiss the bar closing times issue as just the rantings of a few expats and mongers, but the unfortunate thing is that it really does matter to tourism in general. I was in Samui in September and the Green Mango, the only place in central Chaweng open after midnight, was so packed every night that you couldn't get anywhere near the entrance if you arrived late. Mongers and expats make up only a small percentage of farangs in Thailand at any one time. Mainstream tourists in general are young, and many of them female. After they have done their sightseeing, shopping and swimming, they want to get down on the groove, put their hands up in the air, put 'em high, pump it up. Take away the nightlife and add a bit of police harassment, and these punters won't ever bother coming back again.

Is Thailand about to be invaded by a bunch of randy Aussies?

There has been a crackdown here on Thai ladies coming to Australia on false visas to work as whores. A number of people were in court in Sydney last week charged with trafficking in sex. One was a white guy married to a Thai. The paper said that a Thai woman, living in Thailand arranging such women had received $Aust 48,000 in 2 months from two Sydney brothels. There appears to have been an operation between our federal police, immigration and Thai police to break their business.

Control.

Personally, I think the article on Control would have been better placed on www.stickmanAustralia.com, cause control is what western bitches are expert at in a BIG BIG way. In fact, in the last 30 years, the bitches have even managed to get aspects of their control mechanisms ingrained in family law. Remember 40 years back, when woman’s rights groups first popped up? Well, did you know in Australia now there are groups of men campaigning for their social rights? The tide has TURNED, BIG time. In Thailand I don't doubt that some try it, but believe me, they are all amateurs when compared to western women.

More Thai study options.

You've given a couple of mentions to Thai and Asian studies in England. I'd like to throw in my old alma mater, the University of Hawaii. Their Foreign Languages department is tops. You not only can study Thai, both language AND literature, but you can also earn a full 4-year bachelor's degree in Thai. I was told that the department there offers more languages for study than any other American university, although I cannot confirm that. Certainly in addition to the old standard European languages, they offer many, if not all, of the South Pacific languages, Khmer, South and West Asian ones. You cannot get a degree in all of the languages on offer, but many, such as Khmer, you can take for your minor or just study for a couple of years to satisfy the foreign-language requirement that comes with American degrees. Thai, though, you most definitely can get a degree in, and Hawaii is a great place to hang out for a awhile…IF you can afford to live there.

Peter and partners have bought the Old Dutch and take over the end of the month, though Boss Hogg is not involved in this one. They will redecorate it a little until the slow season and then a complete facelift will be made. While it is right there at the Soi 23 end of Soi Cowboy which sort of puts it right in the hustle and bustle of the city, it has always been a nice spot to get away from it all, sort of a quiet oasis. Progress is good, but I bet more than a few people will be sad to see this venue change format as I assume will happen. We'll just have to wait and see.

And speaking of Boss Hogg, this week he caught up with a fellow whom a couple of years ago had given the infamous "Soi 4 ripoff merchant" some money for an investment in a bar. He told Boss Hogg this and the good Boss confronted the crook about it who denied all knowledge at that time. Well the good news is the fellow miraculously managed to get all of his money back before said crook was arrested. It is just fantastic that an influential bar owner was able to assist like this. In Boss Hogg's words, "I hate liars and thieves."

Thursday night the police closed every bar in Nana Plaza at 1 AM sharp. The captain from Lumpini police station entered Nana Plaza with a few other uniformed policemen and ensured that every single bar closed at exactly 1.00 AM on the dot. There were quite a few disgruntled and frustrated customers. Somebody was so angry that a beer bottle was hurled off one of the balconies! Nobody seems to know for sure if it was from the second or third floor balcony an they're also not sure just who threw the beer bottle but the police captain was walking around the ground floor at the time. There seems to be no witnesses to the incident, but the thug whether farang (far more likely) or Thai who did this is certainly did not help the situation. The next night which happened to be a very busy Friday night in Nana, once again ended abruptly at 1.00 AM. The Lumpini captain was obviously very annoyed by the incident and who wouldn't be? Saturday night Nana Plaza was closed by police at 1.20 AM.

The Nana Plaza bars are reporting a definite increase in farang customers. One bar manager said that there are quite a few new faces arriving. The fresh faced tourists and newbies appear to be finally arriving. These guys seem to have memories like the girls!

Last night Bully's hosted a buffet dinner for the football masters, a tournament for over 35 years old. Apparently there are 17 teams, each with 12 players, all from different corners of the globe. The fun schedule was handled by Greg at the British Thai Chamber of Commerce. All 150 of the guys' stomachs were full and each walked away with a Big Dogs T-Shirt, proving that even in this business they crossbrand. Everyone raved about PJ's ribs and had fun.

Former Manchester United player Lee Sharp must have been involved in this tournament as he has been seen having a few beers around Nana Plaza the last couple of nights. Lee has been on the Football Focus TV show panel and was a Manchester United first team player for several years. Bar managers in Nana Plaza said Lee Sharp was a gentleman, very friendly and approachable, just like one of the lads. So next time someone gives you shit about going to Nana Plaza, just remind them that if it is ok for pro footballers, it is ok for you!

In last week's column I mentioned the fluorescent paint show and its apparent loss. I am reliably informed that you can see the paint show nightly at Tilac and at Sheba's, and also at Susie Wong when it reopens on the 18th November.

What's with the block wall the PTT / 7 Eleven station put up on Sukhumvit Soi 4. Well what ever the reason, Nana Minimart's sales have amazingly increased by 25,000 baht per day. People do not want to have to walk all the way to the corner of the soi and back to get to 7 Eleven – and that wall blocks people coming out of Nana Plaza or thereabouts and walking in a straight line directly to the 7 Eleven that is attached to the gas station.

This wall here….weird.

Boss Hogg has almost thrown in the towel on one of his Nana ventures and in an effort to get the old Vixens spot completed, he has hired a foreign general contractor to finish it. Apparently the fellow took the job on the condition that he is not disturbed while working. It is said that the work will be completed by December 10th. The name will be Boss Hogg's Bahama Nana… And poor old Boss Hogg has a hole in his wallet! He is looking for the Thai contractor who owes him 250,000 for his truck…proof that even an old hand gets caught out sometimes.

We moan and groan about Thai people from time to time, but last week I saw yet another gesture of kindness from a Thai that I reckon I'd be really unlikely to see in the West. I'd been showing my parents around Bangkok and we had spent the morning at Chatuchak Market when Dad became overcome with heat and we decided to take him back to the hotel. On the skytrain he was groaning a little and we thought he was going to throw up there and then. A Thai woman noticed he was in a bit of distress and handed him one of those menthol nasal inhalers that are so popular with the locals. She gestured that it was for him to use and keep, at which point she got off the skytrain. A few snorts of that and the old fella was feeling a lot better – and the skytrain cleaner never got any extra duties that day.

Have some of the vendors from Patpong moved to the stretch of Sukhumvit between sois 5 and 7? Honestly, that lo of vendors are some of the rudest people around – and that is really saying something because some of them are mutes!

Down in Pattaya, Walking Street seemed busier to at least one Pattaya resident who reported that he could not get a parking space anywhere near Walking Street for the
first time in two or three years! Most of the better gogos were crowded. Some farangs at bars by Saturday night – even away from Walking Street – though most bars hurting late in the week.

And still in Pattaya, bar and club owners continue voicing upset over earlier closing hours. A contingent of government representatives visited Walking Street on Thursday night. They heard a multitude of gripes related to closing times. Everyone they talked to let off steam, from business owners crying that they will be forced to close because of limited operating hours to tourists who point out that after a 12 to 20 hour flight and the pangs of jet lag, no way can they sleep at night…but neither can they party, which was their reason for coming to Thailand. Not one positive reaction to earlier closing times.

Lucifer Disco reopened after having been raided (checking customers IDs and for drugs, none found) and closed down. Most bars continue serving into the wee hours and beyond.

Many hotels in Pattaya were filled to capacity this weekend – and more than a few Bangkok hotels are too. The high season is just about here.

If you're looking at buying any books at any of the Asia Books stores, note that until the end of the year you can get a 10% discount by buying a one day or three day skytrain pass. When you get the skytrain pass it comes in a small paper sleeve and the sleeve currently has a 10% voucher. In fact if you were planning to spend more than 1,000 baht on books, buying such a pass, whether you needed it or not, would allow you to get the 10% discount and thus save money.

In the area where I live the cops seem to be out every day, checking cars, their licenses and the driving of all and sundry. They seem to target motorcyclists most of all but they do pull over some cars, especially cars which are driven by farangs. Funny that. Now the cops obviously set up on the side of the and it is easiest for them to wave people over who are driving in the leftmost lane. But one thing I have figured out is that if you are driving in the outside, or rightmost lane, it really is difficult for them to pull you over. So in the areas where I know the cops set up checkpoints, I tend to stick to the right and thus, never get pulled over. This is all nonsense really because my car is roadworthy, tax is paid and I have a valid drivers licence and really should have nothing to fear from being pulled over. But I am sick of the attempted shakedowns so I do what I can to avoid them. The one thing I would not recommend doing is swerving around the checkpoints to avoid them like some locals do – all the while the cops waving big sticks trying to knock them off their bike. Now that is madness!

The Obliterati – three infamous Bangkok writers – will read from their salacious works at Larry's Dive, Sukhumvit Soi 22, beginning at 8 PM on Thursday, November 18. Roger Beaumont, James Eckardt, and the curiously named S. Tsow will be joined on this gala occasion by special guest star Dean Barrett. Go and throw rotten tomatoes at the writer of your choice. (Bring your own tomatoes.) Free entry, cheap beer, great food, raffish companionship. Tel. 02-663-4563, 02-669-0796.

The stored value ticket, the credit card size smart card, for the MRT Subway is really cool.
It just has to be passed over the sensor at the gate. The cool part is that the sensor is strong enough to read it through your wallet, so all you have to do is pass your wallet over the sensor and the gate opens. Just be careful that it doesn't wipe info from other cards or somehow grab your credit card details!

Quote of the week comes from one of my few Thai friends. He said (in English, because he is fluent), "I hate Bangkok these days, it has lost all of its charm". So there we have it, it is not just us farangs who are becoming disillusioned. He then went on to say "Being here pains me – everyone is now pessimistic rather than optimistic – it's easy to live in shit if the people are upbeat and make you feel good – but when people turn pessimistic it makes you notice the surroundings."

The Bangkok International Softball League (BISL) is pleased to announce that the 12th Annual Bangkok International Softball Tournament will be held November 19-21, 2004. The tournament will feature 20 teams, including the defending champion Guzzlers from Korea, with over 250 players from Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, The Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Abu Dhabi, Shanghai, California, and Thailand. Additionally, hundreds of spectators will be attending the event. The 2004 tournament will be held at the Queen Sirikit 60th Anniversary Stadium. The organizer, Bangkok International Softball League (BISL), is a registered non-profit community group. Its sole purpose is to organize softball tournaments and leagues in Bangkok. The website with map is at: http://www.bangkoksoftball.com.

The information I put in a recent column about the new Lonely Planet guide being out in December was way wrong….citing a totally unreliable course, a workmate of mine who was pissed out of his tree, it would seem! The new Thailand LP will not be out until some time around the middle of 2005. Sorry about that.

Lots happening down at The Pong this week. Pink Panther has moved from various rainbow colours to all white bikinis for its dancers. There are still many different styles of cuts and straps so the dancers can still express their own style.

Further down the street there is a large construction project underway. The multi-story building across the street from Electric Blue has been gutted and is being re-modelled. Rumour has it that a group of investors that have a well known disco in Pattaya have gotten involved here. Look for a big beer garden type bar on the ground floor and the group has applied for a disco license for the upper floors. Sounds interesting.

A quick trip across the street into Club Electric Blue proved worthwhile. They have some new entertainment, hate to call them shows and bring the wrath of the boys in brown down on them….so, let's just say, one is normal fare and one is rather good – so if you are looking for something different to see down at the Pong, drop in. It will be worth the effort.

For fans of SuperStar Bar and Goldfinger there was more good news. Aood, the long time greeter at those bars was in town last night after a long absence. He has been staying home after leaving Goldfinger after a "dispute" with one of the partners. He reported no plans yet to return to work but left the door open so we may be seeing more of him yet. In Goldfinger, normally an oasis of mediocrity as far as girls is concerned, some new dancers have been hired that are quite easy on the eyes.

Back at SuperStar Bar long time cashier Sow has been moved up to the mamasan position.

Even Pussy Connection has moved up the style scale with new matching bikinis for the girls and a couple of new dancers that have the bar moving up the scale.

Ask the Sticks

Mrs. Stick is here to answer questions surrounding anything that confuses you in Thailand, particularly issues of the heart. Please note that for general bargirl related questions, Mr. Stick might answer them. In her words, "why should I answer questions about those girls when you know much more about them than me". Mmmm….the Mrs. was not happy when she said that! Mr. Stick will try and answer the questions which Mrs. Stick is not so sure about.

Question 1: In a strange twist of fate I have become a mail-order American husband for a wonderful Thai lady that I met in the USA a year ago. I have been in Bangkok for about a month now. The American ladies frequently have told me that I'm handsome and given me a fair share of attention. However, I never gave it much thought until my recent relocation. I have been rather shocked at how the Thai ladies stare so aggressively at me and even reposition themselves to better observe me. Women in the USA would often shoot me discrete glances but would rarely be so shameless. Mind you, this is in shopping centres, at my job, and in the markets. Living life on the mild side, I have not sampled the more exotic Bangkok or Pattaya locales. At first my girl friend / quasi-wife was amused and proud to show me off, but now she is feeling jealous. She feels a little insecure and says to me, "I'm too dark to be 'qualified'." I have told here that such talk is nonsense, and that my standard of beauty matches her. Still, I've seen her eyes shooting daggers at the more "Chinese" (her word) looking girls who get to close. For my own part, it was a great boost for the aging male ego; you feel great at 37 when the sight of you freezes an 18 year-old lovely in her tracks. The most funny moment was the young lady who tripped over herself on the stairs by not watching her feet. Nonetheless, the novelty of being drooled over has lost its lustre. When we are out for several hours, I usually ask to go home, because the gawking gets unnerving after a while. The scrutiny makes me feel rather like a circus attraction. I don't mean to fuss and there could be much worse troubles. The kids are rather fascinated with me too, but that's cute not annoying. At last the questions: Is this surprisingly aggressive and forward behavior the norm for most 20-40 year old females in Bangkok? Do you have any words of wisdom to help me allay my lady's concerns?

Mrs. Stick says: You cannot stop this. Your girlfriend should actually be proud that you are the subject of such positive attention. Both of you should clearly understand the situation. You are farang and you are handsome so it is perfectly normal that people will look at you. So long as you are not flirting with these women then you should be fine. You need to assure your girlfriend that she is the most important person to you. I might eve say that you should enjoy the popularity that you have and the interest people are showing in you.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, please do not be shy to let me know of any mistakes in the column, be it typos, factually incorrect information or whatever. It is hard to proofread your own nonsense and I have read over some mistakes a zillion times and still not picked up on them. Have a good week.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Claymore, Mr Write, Rob S and Dave The Rave.