Stickman's Weekly Column June 12th, 2005

English Teachers, The Bane Of Bangkok?


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Many years ago when I was a new kid on the block, a Scotsman employed in the profession said that he always felt so embarrassed telling anyone that he was an English teacher. “It’s all rather embarrassing”, he said. “We really are at the bottom of the ladder, you realise. Tell a bird you’re an English teacher and she’ll move on to the next bloke”, he told me. This was not what I wanted to hear!

I have to admit that I’m never forthright in offering English teacher as my profession when meeting people for the first time. But I don’t lie per se. I’ll say something like “computer teacher” which is technically true because I teach a few computer studies lessons. I might even say something a little dafter like wannabe columnist or if I’m feeing frisky, I might even say PI. It all depends on my mood.

Getting back to Mr. Scotland, is there any truth in his words? Is admission that one is an English teacher in Bangkok something of an embarrassment? A few months back the school where I am employed undertook a search for two new employees and I was right in the thick of it, screening CVs, liaising with applicants and sitting in on the interviews. It gave me the a real insight into the type of people who are teaching English in Thailand.

The ad was clear in its requirements. The ideal candidate would be a native English speaker currently in Thailand with a university degree and preferably some teaching experience in Thailand – something considered vital as Thai students are an awfully sensitive bunch. The requirements really weren’t that high but the salary was, at around twice the average Bangkok teaching salary. With this in mind we were expecting quality applicants…

From more than 110 applicants, 70+ % simply didn’t meet the requirements. They weren’t a native speaker (more than 50%), they were currently outside of Thailand or they had no experience in Thailand. That left 30 odd CVs to sift through.

Of the 30 or so still in with a chance, some applications were dismissed because their credentials were insufficient or inappropriate, or those whose CV suggested that they just wouldn’t fit in. It has to be said that given the ease with which many computer programs allow you to make your own CV, or the very affordable services locally that will do it for you, the state of some people’s CVs was quite astonishing. Of course, it is very possible that we overlooked some ideal candidates simply because we felt their CV was not up to scratch.

But then the covering emails were even worse. Almost half had spelling or grammatical errors. We all make typos but surely when it comes to applying for a job you take a little more care? The DELETE key got a major workout over the course of that week. We didn’t even want to see their CV if they muffed the covering letter. There’s no room for sloppiness.

From 110 applicants, we eventually narrowed it down to seven possible candidates. All had good CVs and on paper looked like they could make a decent go of it and so they were invited to attend an interview.

Come the interview day and what an absolute debacle it turned out to be. 4 out of 7 applicants arrived late though in defence of two, they did call before the appointed time to say that they had been caught in traffic and would be late. Still, Bangkok traffic notwithstanding, I thought that was pretty slack.

Of those who couldn't make it on time, there was this one fellow who was a shocker. He turned up an hour and a quarter late after he had been walking around in circles in the vicinity of the school. He finally arrived looking like he had just finished running a marathon! Worse still, I don’t think he'd ever heard of deodorant. Are there really people living in Bangkok who don’t use deodorant? Surely this is some sort of crime in the tropics?

And then there was the guy with the fake credentials. And then there was the guy who started arguing with the Thai staff. And then there was the guy who thumped the table. And the guy with the slag! Hold on, I’m getting ahead of myself. It was a rather exciting day, you must realise! After two applicants I'd realised that there was a column there and hurriedly started making notes about it all!

As mentioned, one dude turned up with an interesting looking lady. Perhaps she was a lady of the night, perhaps not, but one thing’s for sure, she was a native of Isaan wearing tight jeans and a skimpy top. Spaghetti style, the Thais call it. As soon as the interviewers saw her, the looks on their faces were priceless. Their best efforts to conceal their contempt were not good enough…even he picked up on their expressions and must have realised that bringing her along was not the brightest idea he'd had that day. What was he thinking?! He must have walked away knowing he wouldn't be employed.

And then there was the guy with the fake credentials. Out on Khao Sarn Road, and very likely in some other parts of town, it is possible to order fake credentials. I’d never actually seen any until this week and was amazed at just how bad they look. With the naked eye you could clearly see that it had clearly come off an inkjet printer. What’s more, asking him a couple of leading questions quickly confirmed that the credentials presented were fake. Incidentally, Bangkok Phil over at Ajarn.com wrote a very interesting piece this week about how he had met with a local lawyer and the word is that while working without a work permit is of course illegal, it is not nearly as bad as submitting false documents in the application for a work permit. Apparently that really is a big deal.

And there was one guy who started arguing with the Thai staff on the interview panel about the merits, or lack of, in the Thai education system. The guy just didn’t seem to realise that arguing with the Thais and saying “I don’t want to say education sucks in Thailand but we all know it does and well, I’m not really telling you anything you don’t know” failed to realise that he had immediately insulted the Thai staff and ruled himself out. Are people really this stupid? I guess they are.

One fellow with a booming voice was considered too loud and potentially aggressive and was ruled out too. Thumping the desk and saying that "I will do anything for my students" just about sent two of the interview panel to the heart unit at the local krankenhaus. The poor old ducks never experienced such brashness in all of their lives! Khon mai dee were their words the moment he walked out of the interview. I barely contained a smirk.

So, after 110+ applicants we were only left with two who were suitable. They were both hired but what an ordeal it was to get there.

I guess a monthly salary roughly twice the average for a Bangkok teacher, 3 and a half months off paid a year, a return trip home paid every second year, comprehensive medical insurance and a maximum of 15 hours in class a week isn't enough to entice quality candidates…

Given the huge demand for teachers in Thailand at present, most of the 110 who applied have probably secured jobs elsewhere. I'm sure some are doing a sterling job and are quite possibly crack teachers. But some had traits that really didn't bode well for the role of teacher.

But all I can say is that if what we went through trying to find suitable teachers is any indication of the state of English teachers in Thailand today, then it was damning. Absolutely damning. Mr. Scotland’s comments of several years back would appear to hold true now.

I’m a consultant. I’m a web designer. I’m a columnist. Nah mate, I ain’t an English teacher!

WHERE IS THIS PICTURE Competition?

It was Nana Square.

Outside Bangkok…

Last week's pic was taken at the Nana intersection, looking over at the new Nana shopping centre. Incidentally, given the lack of parking in the area, that is one option. Parking in there is available at 20 baht an hour but if you buy anything (even something as small as a pack of chewing gum) and present the receipt, parking is free. I thought more people would have got the pic right – only about 20 odd people got it. This week's pic is outside of Bangkok…and it is NOT in Pattaya either. There are three prizes available this week, one for each of the first three people to email with the correct location of the pic. The first is a 500 baht credit at Tony's Bar in Soi Cowboy. The second prize is a signed copy of Steve Leather's cult novel set in Bangkok's bars, "Private Dancer". The third prize is a beautiful hand-cast, crafted sandstone sculpture offered by BKIThailand – for this prize, you MUST be in Bangkok. Unfortunately, these prizes are only available to people in Thailand now – though you can be either a resident or a tourist. If you would prefer one particular prize over the others, please do not be shy to let me know.

FROM STICKMAN'S EMAIL INBOX

What was in the bottle?

I went to an outdoor bar in Nana and ordered a Singha beer. I received a bottle that did not have any labels on it. I asked the girl who gave it to me if I could exchange the beer with a label on it. She wouldn't do it. So, I took it to the bar and asked the bartender. As you can imagine, he reluctantly replaced it. (Fortunately, it was my first beer of the evening and I noticed it.) I wonder what was in the first bottle?

Bureaucratic Canada!

After living for 3 1/2 years in Thailand (and for 5 1/2 years previously), I relocated to Canada in mid-March. My wife (of two years now – together for over three) twice visited Canada on visitor visas valid for six months – she stayed 3 weeks each time, once in 2003, and again in 2004. During her first visit we celebrated our wedding with a reception of over 100 family and friends since very few could make it to Thailand for our wedding (although my parents and a few others did). My wife was subsequently TWICE refused a visitor visa when I returned to Canada in mid-March, and so I am stuck working in Canada, while my wife is in Thailand with no opportunity to even visit me. Meanwhile, her immigration visa is sitting in a drawer in Singapore (regional immigration centre) because they are currently processing applications received in January! They received my wife’s application only in April, because it had to first go to Canada where I was approved as her sponsor. The Canadian embassy in Bangkok is denying my wife a visitor visa due to Canadian policy, not Thai. Whatever happened to the concept of innocent until proven guilty!? Why would our wives overstay a visitor visa and jeopardize their immigration visa which is in process? Shocking.

A double Coke?

Never heard of this particular scam before. 2 friends were in a Nana bar recently, met 2 dancers and bought 2 lady drinks. Total = 4 drinks. When the bill came and they were charged for 5, one of the guys questioned it. He was told by the service girl that one of the dancers had ordered a "double". Huh? A double cola? I'm not sure, perhaps she WAS drinking some local rot gut. But in addition, the girl who allegedly ordered the "double" was only given 1 chit for the 1 drink bought for her. Just check your bin and beware of "Nana Economics".

The fine souls of Samui.

In 1999, my brother and I were in Samui for a few days. We rented off-road bikes as usual and took a ride around the island. We both drove without shirt so we looked a bit similar. About 10 minute drive from Chaweng I got stuck behind some slow Thai vehicles and my brother got far ahead. I continued driving and after a few minutes a minibus began to honk at me, driving close behind waiving hands and honking. I got a bit nervous, wasn’t so interested to stop in the middle of nowhere, but after a few kms I pulled over and got of the bike with a heavy heartbeat. Then one passenger opened the door and in his hand he held my brothers wallet! The man said that it was another driver without t-shirt driving with me before, I said yes, my brother! The Thai man said: he dropped this wallet about 20 km back, can you give it to him? I thanked them 20 times and offered them compensation but they just smiled and said have a nice day! Since I already was 20 minutes behind my brother I drove back to the bungalow in Chaweng, sat on the porch waiting 2 hours for my him, when he came walking towards my bungalow he didn’t look too happy, and he told me he had lost his wallet and turned back to look for it, driving slowly looking everywhere by the roadside for 30 kms. Do you mean this wallet I asked him, I have never seen a more surprised face before that… By the way, inside the wallet there was 7000 baht!

Kanchanaburi recommendation.

I highly recommend that you go to the Kanchanaburi province and visit the three temples: Wat Ban Tham and Wat Tham Suea and Wat Tham Khao Noi. Two of them compete for space on the same mountain and the third is just down the road. Really they are all together. They are all of completely different architecture: Thai and Chinese and Vietnamese (?) and they all have hill top views of surrounding fields and mountains and river. Steep climbs and wonderfully cool and fun at the top. I have been to Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai twice and I would put the day I spent at these three temples to be just as nice. Friendly monks and no crowds. Take a camera.

Shrimps and the tsunami.

My Thai wife who has lived here in London with me for the last 15 years has decided when we go shopping at the local wing yips (Chinese supermarket) here in Croydon, she will only buy prawns from areas where she thinks the tsunami did not effect, hahaha. So every time she picks a box up, she asks where from! If the box is from say Indonesia, India, Malaysia & so on, she says nope, not from there – the prawns have been eating dead people! So now we have to buy prawns from Vietnam or Africa, or anywhere she thinks is not tsunami effected. How long this is going to go on for, God knows.

Farangs have messed up Thailand.

Well, it is too bad because it is stupid for your guys to come starting the business in Thailand without thinking thoroughly about it first. I think most of you guys who decide to come living in Thailand are just because you want an easy way of life with cheaper living and you all hope to take an advantage from Thai people but we're not as stupid as you think. In fact, we are smarter. Most of us don't really want to welcome you guys here because you all only make our country gone worse because many of the foreigners (of course I mean men) messed up our country by coming here for prostitute. If there is no demand, then the selling can be stopped but since there's always a demand (from people like yourself or maybe your friends) that's why the selling (prostitutes) never stop and it's degraded Thailand, it's degraded Thai women's reputation and quality! It's degraded a woman like me who doesn't have anything to do with it because of the foreigners like you. There are so many trashy foreigners who want to come here so that they can messed around with many prostitutes and have an easy + cheap life, yeah that's the so-called good life for you guys!

There was another fire in Nana Plaza last night with a lot of smoke and that nasty stench that an electrical fire gives off. Loads of fire trucks and police arrived and it's uncertain if every bar in Nana will be able to open tonight. The fire caused Soi Nana to have an electrical blackout late last night. The fire was centred on the right hand side as you walk into Nana Plaza, apparently near the lift on Rainbow One's side. It is believed that it happened some time between 4 AM and 5 AM. Reader Phil Ross kindly sent in these pictures of the mayhem.

One of the most popular bar owners of all, Ricky of Diamond A Gogo, in Pattaya, was arrested this week and charged with working without a work permit. A contingent of police entered Soi Diamond, paid perfunctory visits to Carousel Gogo and Super Model (no problems at those all-showing establishments) and then made a bee-line for Diamond A Gogo and actually asked for Ricky by name. They caught him SHAKING HANDS WITH A CUSTOMER and jailed him. He explained that he shakes hands with many friends but the police did not buy it. The gesture (shaking hands) was seen as playing host. After spending a couple of nights in the monkey house, Ricky managed to get himself out, and escaped with a fine. There is no need for anyone working in the Kingdom without a work permit to start fretting and think that squads of Immigration officers will be knocking on doors, demanding to see the little blue book. It is clear that someone made a complaint about Ricky and that the boys in brown were then obligated to follow up on it. Ricky's bar has been booming, getting good press everywhere and no doubt someone feels that Ricky's success should be curtailed. Ricky felt that the police treated him fairly and with respect and was grateful that the problem was sorted out satisfactorily.

Since Rainbow 1 re-opened just a week and a bit ago, it is the Rainbow bars which seem to be dominating at Nana. Once upon a time G Spot was the best, and then for a while it was Hollywood Strip. After that, and for quite some time, it was Angelwitch, which remains very popular of course, but I think investors in the Rainbow bars would be the happiest folks at the moment – those bars are doing a great trade. Rainbow 3 is said to be the next bar in the group to be refurbished.

The smaller of the two Hollywoods in Nana is very quiet these days. There are only a few girls dancing at any one time, and therefore very few customers. The newly appointed manager of Hollywood Strip is currently visiting America (who employs someone and then lets them take a holiday straight away when the bar is doing very poorly?). Upon his return, he will certainly have his work cut out. This bar is a shadow of its former self and faces a tough uphill battle.

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of Electric Blue Patpong. There were all sorts of freebies, but once again, I found out just two days beforehand, not a chance to tell you all about it. Some of you bar owners need a kick up the rear end to get info to me on time!

The two most recently redecorated bars in Cowboy are Deja Vu Bar and Midnite bar. Some work has been done on Midnite to, in the new owner's words, "make it cleaner" and it will have a total new look on the outside. At same time they will be working to open the second floor of Midnite. Let's just hope the bars themselves are better than the web sites – Midnite and D ejavu.

Down at the Pong, work is progressing at a rapid pace on the new hotel between sois 1 & 2. The owners have opened a second bar in the section to the rear of the live music style bar that opened a few weeks ago. The new bar is close to where the restaurant will be and is a sit down style that is quieter than the front bar.

The owners on the hotel have installed several large lights that project various shapes and colours on to the freshly painted white outside wall of Super Star and across the alley onto both sois 1 & 2. I hope the owners have good legal representation as the lights are VERY bright and a person under the influence of sprits may find themselves flashed by these lights and think they are being abducted by alien life forms!



On Soi Cowboy piping has been installed that sprays the fronts of several bars near Tilac Bar with a fine mist of water that the locals seem to think brings down the temperature of the air. Is this what you want to stay cool or would you prefer to enter the bars with clothing dry and enjoy the air-con?

Speaking of Tilac Bar, a person entering Black & White Bar may find themselves shaking their heads thinking they have entered Tilac Bar by mistake as the interior of Black & White is a copy of Tilac, up to and including the water filled tubes with plastic fish bobbing up and down inside. Even the cloth covering the booths is the same design.

In Suzie Wong's you will find MANY dancers who really do love to dance and it shows in the enthusiasm of their moves. You know what they say, good on the dance floor equals good in bed….

Across the street where shows were being performed, the mamasan reports that the boys in brown have reverted to form and have told the bars to cut out the shows. The shows are still being performed but they are not on a regular schedule. The curtain boys look around and when the coast is clear give the ok and the shows go on. But if there are cops floating around the shows are off.

It would seem that some of the boys in brown from the Immigration Department have put in for a bit of OT, and where else could they serve their duties than in the car park out front of the Nana Hotel. On Friday night at around 7 PM, a number of the boys in brown were stationed outside the Nana Hotel CHECKING PASSPORTS. They didn't cross the road and enter the Plaza itself….but I KNOW they would have hit the jackpot had they….. Actually, if they really wanted to score, I reckon they should have crossed over Sukhumvit into Soi 3 and hassled that lot. I notice a lot of people give the immigration police a hard time, and think it unfair that they ask people to show their passport but frankly, if no-one or very few people overstayed, they would not have to do these checks. Remember, when you deal with the Thai police, remain calm and be POLITE. Even if you are in the wrong, be polite! Politeness goes a LONG way in Thailand and such politeness might just help you in your moment of bother.

The problems faced by local writers seem to have been put to rest on the heels of the publisher of "Money Number One" having sent a letter of apology and promising to pull the book from circulation (but it remains available at bookstores everywhere). It seems that a well-connected expat bamboozled a Thai reporter (who speaks little English) to write a scathing article about the book's author. But the expat was under the misimpression that the author was, in fact, Duncan Stern using a pen name. Not true. They don't even look alike. In fact the only thing they have in common is that half of Pattaya keeps calling each of them "hansum man".

Recent closing times at Nana are all over the show. They had slipped back to 1:30 AM or so but there have been a few nights this past week where it has been 1 AM sharp. You simply can't guarantee that the bars will be open beyond 1:00 AM and anything beyond that has to be considered a bonus. But perhaps this is not so bad. Swanky night spot Mystique has been closed by the boys in brown at midnight a few nights recently. What's that all about?!

A special for all of you poorly paid English teachers out there. Villa has Blue Ice beer on sale for 14 baht each. A case of 24 goes for 338 baht. Haven't tried it myself.

Have you seen lower Sukhumvit at 2AM lately? It's a zoo! There are little restaurants and bars set up continuously from about Soi 7 to Soi 15. Three times as many as there were a few months back. I was shocked at what has spilled out onto the streets after the bars have closed. Also, lots of Thai guys near Nana hotel saying "I take you to bar still open." SURELY it would be better to allow bars to remain open later and keep all of the riff raff off the streets?

From Phuket where we don't get enough news reports, Rio's, the newish bar below Rock Hard A Gogo on Patong's busiest corner at the top of Soi Bangla, and now managed by the famous, or should that be infamous, Anton. Whichever, he has recruited masses of attractive ladies who may be excused, and the place is buzzing in contrast to other gloomy Bangla bars. Anton has improved the music and also adopted a discount card system so regulars get 20% discount on food and drinks – except for lady drinks. Why don't other bars do this? It would work for sure! Don't some of you bar owners realise that a lot of locals simply want a place to drink and barfining is not always top of the list. He has also installed free wi-fi access in there too. From all accounts, business is very good.

Expat novelist Dean Barrett will be signing copies of "The Gogo Dancer Who Stole My Viagra & Other Poetic Tragedies Of Thailand" at the Texas Lone Star Saloon, Washington Square, Saturday 18th June, from 2:30 to 4:00 PM. He'll have past titles available as well and books will be sold at a discount. Free lunch begins at 3:00 PM. And of course the lovely Lone Star ladies, always sweet, always virginal, will be in attendance (those are Dean's words, not mine!)

A couple of years back a piece was run in this column about an English gentleman who wanted to make a Thai ghost movie and who was looking for capital. The insertion was successful and he managed to secure financing through another reader. The film is now finished and it is playing at festivals worldwide. It was the only Thai film selected at the New York Asian Film Festival, won two awards at a German festival, and has international sales offers. To say it's going okay would be something of an understatement! You can check out the website for the movie at Pbar.

According to an article in one of the newspapers this week, the going rate for a buffalo is 15,000 – 20,000 baht. So if she tells you the family kwai has taken a turn and she wants 40K or more, she's pulling your leg!

A big welcome goes out to MyThaiFiancee, the newest sponsor of the column. I had not heard about them until they contacted me recently but they are an interesting organization and I know the services they offer will appeal to many readers. They specialize in obtaining visas for Thai women going to the USA, and the UK. They claim to have had more successful fiancée and marriage visa applications to the USA from Thailand than all the other Thailand based immigration attorneys and visa service companies and all USA based immigration attorneys and visa service companies COMBINED. What is perhaps most interesting is that they have a 100% success rate. If you really want to get your teeruk to the West, it would appear that these are the people you need.

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. It has to be said that Mrs. Stick is not your stereotypical Thai woman. She is not Buddhist and she is not shy to criticise things about her own country and culture, although having said that, she remains proud to be Thai. Mr. Stick will try and answer the questions which Mrs. Stick is not so sure about. Just one thing to consider. Mrs. Stick is a middle class woman from a middle class background and with all due respect to her, Thai people in one class do not always know what is going on in another class. She'll do her best to answer all questions but remember, she'll be looking at it from a middle class point of view!

Question 1: My Thai girlfriend wants me to go up country to Korat next week to visit her father. My question is – is Korat safe? I've been to Bangkok, Pattaya and all the usual tourist hot spots many times, but I'm finding the thought of this upcountry visit a little daunting. I just don't fancy a beating or anything like that off the Thai guys because a young farang is with one of their ladies.

Mrs. Stick says: If Bangkok feels safe to you, then you can lead your life 100 times more riskier in Korat and still not have any concern. Things to be aware of in Korat is that it is more conservative than Bangkok. You should behave yourself and not touch your girlfriend or show affection in public, like you can do in Bangkok. Really, there is NOTHING to be worried about in Korat. It's REALLY safe. You might find a lot of people looking at you and you'll always have 100 sets of eyes on you. People might say things to you that you may not understand but believe me, nothing harmful will be said, nor will anything harmful happen. A lot of people will think that your lady is a hooker. But this is not something to be concerned about in terms of safety. If you behave well, people will admire you and you will give them a good impression about farangs and Thais together in relationships. This will be good for both her and you. Just be careful that you do not end up falling in love with Korat like my husband!

Question 2: I have been dating this woman for over two years. In the past we had some problems with her old boyfriend still hanging around in the background. Could you please give me some advice as to the signs that another man is in the picture. Example suddenly closing the phone while you're calling and having it off the entire night.

Mr. Stick says: I think I am better qualified to answer this question than the Mrs. Any action which seems that it is "less than plausible" is cause for concern and anything where things don't seem right is worth looking into a bit more. Thais do not turn their mobile phones off. They leave them on in cinemas and they live them on when they go to sleep. The only time they turn them off is seemingly when they wish to avoid calls from one of their girlfriends or boyfriends. Quite simply, being hung up on and being unable to reach your loved one on the phone is a major red flag. I assume you are outside of Thailand and she is in the Kingdom.

Incidentally, let me add this. One of the issues with guys who want to hook up with a Thai woman is distance. You can send them as much money as you want, but Thai women just don't like being alone – it really is a foreign concept to them. This is a BIG reason many farang / Thai relationships go bad. You need to either move to Thailand or move her to the West QUICKLY!

I am extremely grateful to Claymore and Mr. Write who made significant contributions with news for this week's column. We had a nasty bug go through our workplace this week and I was struck down by a cold, hence the lack of Bangkok news. If it wasn't for these two guys, there would have been precious little news at all.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Thanks go out to Bkk Grasshopper. Special thanks go out to Claymore and Mr. Write.


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