Stickman's Weekly Column September 28th, 2008

Bruce, Lord Of TEFL


Bruce Veldhuisen and I first met in the early days of TEFL International, the teacher training course provider that Bruce set up in Bahn Pe on Thailand's eastern seaboard. Bruce and I have been good friends ever since and try to catch up every few months. We met up a couple of weeks ago and had such an interesting conversation about the English teaching and teacher training industry that I thought it would be nice to interview him again. Truth be told, articles about teaching don't always set the Stickman readership alive, but I think you'll find Bruce's views about the industry and teaching in Thailand interesting, and his frankness refreshing.

Your business is teacher training. Can you tell me a little bit about TEFL International and how it has changed since we first met, what, about 9 years ago?

Well, it’s a looooot bigger! Back then I rarely met people who knew what TEFL International was except for maybe in Thailand where it was becoming well known. Now, no matter where I go, if people are involved in ELT they know TEFL International. We’re almost at 30 teacher training centres worldwide.

How does that compare with CELTA or other course providers?

Well, CELTA have more graduates per year, probably around 9,000 per year now. We’re at around 3,000 and our old partners, Trinity, are lagging well behind at perhaps 2,000. CELTA, I think, have a lot of centres but they’re all disconnected because they’re all franchises. No interconnection, no inter-branch relationships and the same goes with Trinity. They’re just a bunch of individual centres. As far as an integrated organisation that offers teacher training, we are by the far the biggest. In fact I don’t think anyone else is even close!

How big a part of the whole business is the Thailand operation?

Oh, as a country Thailand is still our most popular destination. We have three centres here, more than any other country. All of our centres are pretty popular. I think Chiang Mai was a really good addition especially since we joined as a partnership with Chiang Mai University. I am still very happy with Bahn Pe.

That’s the original, yeah?

That’s the original! Still in the same building!

You’ve got a cool location there, just a few minutes walk to the beach and the pier with boats to Ko Samet. Was that location intentional or accidental?

Intentional. I wanted to find some place that was close enough to Bangkok that you could get there in just a few hours but also be on the beach. That was what I was looking for and I found it in Rayong.

You’re a bit of a personality in Bahn Pe, yeah?

Actually, I don’t think I am a personality in Bahn Pe. I’m an enigma! Everyone knows who I am but not a lot of people ever meet me or interact with me. I don’t go to my school very often. I work mainly from home. I don’t hang around in the bars so the bar scene and the people there never meet me. I spend most of my evenings either at home or playing basketball with my kids. So the basketball players all know me but they wouldn’t have any idea what TEFL International is. And I meet people all the time who have lived in Bahn Pe for years who say, “Oh, you’re Bruce”. It happens every week! I am like this mythical figure that everyone knows about but never sees. Hahaha! Of course all the crazy things posted about me on the internet make me even more mysterious! Hahaha!

You touched on the bar scene. I have to ask you this. Have any of your graduates got themselves in trouble in the local bar scene in Bahn Pe? What about that American guy who ran dodgy websites I sent you years ago?

We have a lot of crazy things happen. A bunch of girls went skinny dipping one night and had their clothes stolen! They were really mad about it and demanded that we get more security. I was wondering where in the world they could go skinny dipping at 3 AM and not put themselves at some risk!

We have our local character, Oliver, who runs a bar near us and he provides a lot of lively entertainment for the trainees.

Why should someone do your course over the more recognised, and generally better respected, CELTA?

My first point would be, generally better respected by whom? By myopic Brits who don’t want to see their monopoly cut in two? You wouldn’t believe the problems we have with the British Council who try every trick in the book in order to say that our course isn’t recognised when it is a competitive course to the CELTA they run at 17 British Council schools around the world! I mean it practically took a law suit before they would recognise our course as being an equivalent to the CELTA. What’s the problem?

I’ll tell you the problem. American English is inferior to British English. American English can sound silly at times with dreadful slang and lazy short cuts on grammar and pronunciation. I'm sorry, but when some Americans speak, they don't sound that clever. Compare that to British English! What do you say to that, as an American?!

I saw a white paper written by the British government a few years ago and they came to the “shocking conclusion” that England doesn’t actually own English. Again, the poor Brits refuse to recognise the fact that English around the world is just as recognised as the Queen’s English back home and in fact some of us non Brits have real problems understanding some of those accents that originate from the Magic Isles!

So you can understand Bangkok Phil's accent?

I have only met him twice in my life. Both for very short meetings. I know that when you get a Glaswegian I practically need an interpreter.

Back to the earlier question, obviously I think our course has some advantages. Unlike some of my local competitors, my job is not to disparage all the other courses in the hopes that it makes my course look better. I think the CELTA is a good course. I think it has a slightly different focus and I think sometimes they take themselves a bit too seriously. I think our advantages are that we are an inter-connected organisation so that you can get support no matter where you are around the world, unlike other courses where every other course is seen as a competitor.

Obviously in Thailand the fact that you don’t have to take the 4 day Thai language and culture course is a big advantage as well as you get the certificate issued upon completion of the course. I also think we do a better job of preparing teachers to teach large classes which is what most people end up teaching here in Thailand, if not all over Asia.

What’s the deal with the legalities of becoming a legally employed foreign English teacher in Thailand these days?

What day of the week is it?! Hahaha!

The fact is that these rules change so frequently that it is hard to keep up! All I know is that people, no matter what their background, have little difficulty in finding work.

Legal work?

Apparently. Most people get employed legally. According to the new regulations, even if they don’t have a degree, their school can petition the Ministry of Education. The Ministry of Education change the rules so frequently it is hard to keep up. I am really anxious to see how this 60,000 baht required course in education is going to work in Thailand. I don’t think it is ever going to happen.

Some readers won’t know about that. Can you tell us more?

Well apparently, as of next year, all teachers are going to be required to take a course run by the Thai government which teaches all the basics of a bachelors degree in education and that course is going to take several months and is going to cost 60,000 baht which will make Thailand’s rules about teaching English some of the most stringent in the world. Considering the difficulty that Thailand has in recruiting good teachers, it just seems very, very counterproductive. In fact, it almost seems like the Ministry of Education saw how successful certain certificate courses were and they wanted to get in on the action!

What are some of the steps a foreign teacher can take to make the most of their time teaching in Thailand? Or to be successful. Because, let’s face it, plenty of foreigners fail here, even as teachers.

I think people have to look at themselves first. Why are they teaching? Is it because they want to? Is it because they are good at it? Or is it because they cannot think of anything else to do. I mean, let's face it, Stickman, anyone who has been in the teaching scene in Thailand knows that there are some people here teaching English in Thailand who were almost certainly failures at everything they have done in their lives. I mean, what’s the percentage? 10%? 20%? 30%? Higher?! While I know some bright people here who would have been successful at anything they did, I have met far too many who are here because it is their destination of last resort.

You and I have something in common. We both get people talking, we’re both disliked on the Ajarn.com forum, without valid reason I believe, and we have both had episodes online. You know all about my situation. Tell me about yours!

I have at least 5 people ranting about me online!

What? I am small time compared to you!

Some of them are legitimately crazy and some of them simply are angry and have an axe to grind, I believe without good cause. But the danger of the internet is that any idiot can post anything they want and in a week it is on Google. Obviously it is a two-edged sword. People have access to a lot of information and that is a great thing but 20 years ago an idiot didn’t have a forum, a venue to spew their ridiculous opinions or outright lies. Now it is available in a free blog to anyone. I mean, these people who hate me have never met me, have never interacted with me and have absolutely nothing to do with me. But perhaps defaming me online is their 15 minutes of fame? Well, I guess if that is the only thing they can do to make their pathetic lives feel better, more power to them.

And what about the Ajarn forum? Phil who runs Ajarn.com is a friend and one Bangkok webmaster I both like and admire and in all fairness to him the Ajarnforum.net site is not run by him. But what has happened to it? It is becoming an embarrassment to English teaching in Thailand and quite frankly, if it continues on its current path it will soon be a disgrace. Why is it that whenever you or I get online we're jeered like we’re the devil incarnate?!

Small, small lives. It baffles me as well. I mean, no matter what I say or what I do on that forum all I get is grief and it’s just ridiculous. Regardless of whether Phil owns that forum or not, he should be far more responsible for how people are treated. It is not just us, Mr. Stickman. I have read posts on other forums where people have gone to Ajarn and asked a legitimate question only to be belittled by poster after poster after poster. It’s like these people are so angry. I just don’t get it. Life is too short which is why I have visited that site 3 times in the last 6 months.

This is a big problem on a lot of Thailand forums, it seems. What do you think the Thais would make of English teachers, if they could understand the full meaning of everything that is said on that forum?

Hahaha! I’d say that we would probably be booking our flights right now because all of us would be out of the country within a month!

Let’s not stuff around. I think the English teaching industry in Thailand is one big have and that many teachers are here for less than altruistic reasons. English teachers are to Expatdom what backpackers are to travel – they have an over-inflated opinion of themselves. The unenviable reputation that English teachers in Thailand have is, in my opinion, totally deserved. What say you, Bruce, Lord of TEFL?

I can't say this without making it sound very commercial but that is what I like about our short term teaching programs in Thailand. The people who join these programs are bright, interested and they’re going to be successful in their lives. They want to see Thailand, experience its culture and not exploit it. They come and they want to spend 6 months or a year and then they’re going to do the sensible thing and get on with their lives. Let’s face it, teaching English in Thailand obviously doesn’t pay very well and unless you have outside sources of income or have put money away before you come, you really cannot survive here long term.

Other countries are very different. You can go and be a professional and earn a decent salary, you can make good money, you can get married, raise kids and save for retirement. It is far more difficult here unless you look at teaching English as a stepping stone to other sources of income. The people you mentioned such as Bangkok Phil have a nice little earner in Ajarn.com. You earn money from Stickman. I earn money from TESOL certificate courses.

Is it bad or wrong to earn 30,000 baht a month? No, but let’s face it, you’re never going to get ahead with that kind of income. If you’re older, if you’re retired or if you’re coming here because you need something to do once you have finished your “real” career, great. If you are coming here to experience something amazing before you start your “real” career, great. But people who are here year after year after year getting the same income and moving from school to school and from job to job probably aren’t the kind of people who are going to be successful back home. The people who take these short projects, even though a lot of people say they are inexperienced and under-qualified, most of them are bright, well-educated and enthusiastic and I would rather have a bright, educated and enthusiastic teacher than a Patpong burnout any day!

OK, enough negativity. What are the good things about teaching and the teaching industry in Thailand?

If you love to teach, Thailand is a great place and I would say roughly 20 – 30% of the people who take our course really find that they love teaching. Are there naughty Mattayom students? Sure! But I think if you compared them to high school students in the West well, hey, we don’t have metal detectors at the door. I have lived in Thailand for 12 years and I think it is an amazing place. I love it here. And I think most people who visit love it here as well. And the great thing about teaching is that you get to experience Thailand in a very real way. You’ll be invited to weddings and funerals. You’ll interact with real Thais, not tourist touts. You’ll see the way that the country really works, the good, the bad and the ugly and I can’t help but think that that will broaden the horizons of anyone.

Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was taken at the Silom Road end of Patpong soi 2. It was too easy and heaps of people got it right. This week's picture will be easy for those who know Bangkok, difficult for those who don't! The first person to email me with the correct location of the picture wins a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod, the British Fish And Chips restaurant. The second person to get it right wins a free jug of margarita, valued at 840 baht from Charley Brown's, a popular Tex-Mex restaurant, offering authentic cuisine and delicious margaritas. Charley Brown's is located in the small sub-soi off Sukhumvit Soi 11. The third prize is offered by ThailandFriends.com, an online dating community that boasts over 50,000 members, hosts live events in and around Thailand and allows basic members to send 5 messages a day for free. The prize offered is one month premium membership which adds more to the ThailandFriends' experience with unlimited messaging, detailed member searches, 24 profile pictures, and a whole lot more.

Terms and conditions: The Oh My Cod prize MUST be claimed within 14 days. The Charley Brown's prize MUST be claimed within 7 days. Prizes are not transferable. Prize winners cannot claim more than one prize per month. The ThailandFriends prize must be claimed within one week.

FROM STICK'S INBOX (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick.) Preference may be given to emails which refer to the previous week's column.

EMAIL OF THE WEEK Don't get involved!

Unfortunately no matter how much good Samaritan blood flows through your veins, a Westerner MUST keep far away from accidents in Thailand involving locals and mind their own business. Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam are far worse than Thailand. Anybody who has done time in South-East Asia would have come across numerous serious accidents in their travels. A few years back in Phnom Penh I was getting the chain on my dirt bike repaired by one of the zillions of greasy mechanics that line the side of the highway. Whilst chilling out, drinking some of the local Ankor beer, an accident took place right before my eyes whereby a young school girl was knocked off her push bike by a lunatic Cambodian moped rider with aggressive riding technique. The young girl was concussed, battered and bruised whilst the culprit high tailed it and fled the scene. I crossed the busy highway to render assistance and scooped the girl up and carried her to safety. The bleeding girl clearly needed a few stitches and I would need a taxi to get her to medical help. Cars are few and far between in Cambodia and hailing a taxi was not an easy task. By this stage a large group of onlookers had gathered and was surveying the scene. At the service station a few feet away a Toyota Landcruiser pulled up and out stepped a Cambodian woman who worked for the UN together with her American friend who was a Christian missionary who had traveled to Cambodia to convert all the heathen Buddhists over to Christianity. The Cambodian woman walked over and assessed the situation and told me to quickly bundle the girl into the 4 wheel drive to take her to the hospital. On our way to the hospital I thanked the couple for helping and she very sternly told me that they were not helping the girl but were helping me. I enquired how so? They explained to me that the crowd gathering was very restless and had formed the opinion that obviously I was to blame for the girl’s condition. Some of the males were getting ready to mount an assault on me in retaliation. And when these Cambodians start fighting they don’t stop until the opponent is lying completely lifeless. When I travel around SE Asia I enjoy my experiences very much but I feel I am merely an observer to what happens. DO NOT GET INVOLVED.

Don't play the good Samaritan!

If the reactions of the driver and other Thais present surprised you in the accident you witnessed, it did not surprise me. Not trying to be a know-it-all, but it is exactly as I would have expected. I also agree 100% that you were wise to stay clear of involvement in that scene! Something similar happened to me once. I saw 2 Thai men fighting while out for a morning jog in Jomtien. They were really going at it good and had even drawn a small crowd of onlookers. About 200 meters down the road, I ran into a cop. Trying to explain the matter to him so that he could do his job and intercede and break up the fight, he quickly asked me if I was the one who was fighting or started the fight, and looked at me as if he wanted to arrest me! He would certainly have been interested in that. When I made it clear to him that it was 2 Thai men, the look on his face became entirely disinterested, and he proceeded to walk in the opposite direction!

Roadside madness!

I have seen a few “hit and run” accidents here but none quite as bad as the one you observed. My first encounter when fresh off the plane was on Petchaburi Road near my condo. I came to the assistance to a rider of a motorcycle taxi that was hit by a black late model Benz that just sped off. When a passing cop arrived he wanted me to pay for the guy to get medical treatment. Luckily an honest shop owner came out and told the cop what had happened so he let me off.


The ultimate Thai dating site with ladies from all over Thailand!

Fleeing the scene.

Fleeing the scene of an accident is probably one of the hardest things for foreigners to comprehend about Thai people. It certainly was for me, at first anyway. In America, as in many other countries I'm sure, it's unthinkable to flee the scene, unless you're prepared to risk serious legal consequences. But consider this. Suppose a drunken motorcyclist without a helmet driving at high speed at night with his lights off runs a red light, crashes into your car and kills himself. You are completely blameless. In America his insurance or your insurance would pay the bills. You will have to make a statement to the police, do some paperwork, and sacrifice some of your time. Since you're innocent, that's it. If the exact same accident happens in Thailand, *YOU* are screwed. Why? Because you are alive and he's dead! Never mind that it was not your fault. Never mind that you have insurance. Somebody died from an impact with your vehicle while you were at the wheel – so you have to pay compensation to the family of the deceased. On top of whatever the insurance company pays them. There may be a little donation required for the boys in brown too. The fact that it wasn't your fault is irrelevant. You pay and that's that. And for Thais we're talking about possibly several months salary or more. I'm not suggesting this is moral grounds for fleeing the scene of an accident. But as long as innocent drivers are going to be punished for the mistakes of others, don't look for this custom to disappear any time soon. Of course, the above does not apply if you drive a Mercedes.

Road of Death.

Where I live and just outside my house I see around 6 dead people per year and guess what? They die in a traffic accidents. The worst one was not near my house but on the same road near Rangsit. I didn't see the accident myself but I saw the aftermath. I saw half a body. I couldn't see the other half because it had been mauled by a truck. I know many ways of reducing traffic deaths on my road. Just cutting the grass on the side of my soi would enable you to see the motorcycle drivers, driving down the main road when you leave the soi and would probably save many lives. Actually I told people what they should do. The answer was: A farang shouldn't tell Thai people what to do and if I wouldn't keep my mouth shut they would beat me up! I could very easily with a little cost reduce the road deaths to zero on "my" part of the road.

The unanswered call for help.

I was coming back from the beaches in a hired taxi when the driver put a wheel off onto the median strip, lost control, flipping the car onto its side before it righted onto its wheels. Amazingly neither the driver or I were seriously injured – just some cuts and bruising. But the memory that remained with me was of sitting stunned in a car that was a total write-off, on the very broad median strip, needing some assistance for the injuries. Plenty of people would have witnessed the accident and hundreds more carloads would have seen us stranded in the car. For all they knew, we could have been injured to the point where some quick intervention would have meant the difference between life and death. Do you think one of them stopped? Nope, not one. I don't think I'm romanticising the west when I say that in our countries plenty of drivers would have stopped and gone over to see if they could help the injured. I would. So why do Thais not help in circumstances like mine or the motorcycle rider you mentioned? Is it because in corrupt nations people fear being potentially drawn into contact with authorities? Is it the cultural tendency to let things be as they are because Buddha wills it? Or is it that Thai people – when it comes down to it – really don't give a damn about people outside their own families? Not sure myself, but whatever it is, it reflects very poorly on a population that otherwise has some good qualities.

Those vaccine scars.

You mentioned the prominent vaccine scars of country girls in Mrs. Stick's column this week. One probable reason: according to my country-girl wife, when she got her vaccines as a child, the same needle was used for the whole village!


Traditionally held in May, that is after Songkran, the marker for the long slow season, Cobra Gold always provides a nice boost to the Pattaya economy. Next year however will be a little different with Cobra Gold due to be held at the start of one of the busiest periods, February. So, for holidaymakers and horn dogs in town then, you're going to have the young, handsome and horny US military to compete with for the women….and guess what, you're gonna lose the girl! Actually, in Pattaya you never lose the girl, only your place in queue.

Cowboy was closed at 1 AM at least one night this week although the reason as to why remains unclear. The closing time seems to be 2 AM most of the time, as per Nana.

Now I wouldn't recommend the naughty boys go shopping there but comments from a Pattaya based friend that there has been a big improvement on the Beach Road with many pretty girls in attendance does seem to be somewhat true. Still, there remain some real dragons amongst their number too!

When did Singha beer change its alcohol content to 5%? There I was, sitting with a mate who was in town for the first time telling him all about Bangkok and warning him to be a little careful of the local beer, pointing out that at 6.5% the alcohol content of Singha was higher than what he was used to at home. He points at what clearly says "5% alcohol content" on the label in English and looks at me like I am a complete plonker, wondering if I was talking out of a hole in my butt!

The B team is being trained to do the shows at Raw Hide. I question the suitability of some of them for the role, with a few who could politely be described as rather well-rounded.

I don't like to be negative, but I am not confident that the crowds will be flocking to the soon to be opened Champagne Charlies which can be found on the main Sukhumvit Road, next to the Exchange Tower, you know the big building on the south east corner of the Asoke intersection. Maybe soi 33 would have been better? We shall see…

You would think with things so quiet that the bars would be full of beauties but for some strange reason which I have never been able to work out, the exact opposite is true. In fact many bars seem desperate to take on girls and are in fact hiring lasses that I think it would be fair to say they would never have taken on a few years back.

If only you were allowed to take photos in gogo bars. There was a classic scene in Baccarra this week as one of EF English First's teachers had a seat at the bar, upstairs in Baccarra. Nothing wrong with that at all. English teachers work hard and should be entitled to enjoy a beer wherever they please. But what made the scene so comical was that he was doing some of his paperwork there, right in the bar, with the EF English First logo all over it! He was sitting right next to me and a pal at the stage and while enjoying his drink he was filling out the school's student progress reports. It was amusing watching him fill them out, looking for inspiration as to what to write, and seemingly getting it from the lovelies in their birthday suit directly in front of him!

I notice that while it is not busy per se, Pattaya's Beergarden is slowly picking up and there are more customers enjoying this pleasant spot, especially late afternoon and early evening. Everyone seems to agree that it is a GREAT venue to watch the sun go down – and the food is surprisingly good too. Oh, and if you have some work to do or emails to catch up on, free wireless internet is available.

An Aussie buddy was feeling a little frisky and after a few lagers decided to pay the barfine for one of the lovelies performing the lesbian show at Sheba's – and Stickmanites all know what goes on in that show! So my Aussie pal gets her back to his condo and things start to get rather spicy. But even though she was the star of the lesbian show, guess what she wouldn't allow him to do? You'd be right!

If you don't have a mobile phone, don't hope to be able to make a telephone call from Siam Paragon. The most thorough of searches reveals that there are in fact no pay phones in Siam Paragon. I guess those without a mobile just aren't Paragon's target market.

I have real concerns about some Soi Cowboy bars and the ongoing phenomenon of underage girls. I have mentioned this over and over again but frankly, nobody is listening. Some readers have even had the audacity to tell me to shut up. How can I? I have a conscience. These are children for God's sake! A good friend was in one of the big, popular FARANG-OWNED bars in Cowboy the other night and quite fancied a girl and was planning to pay her bar fine. He ordered her a drink and made the usual small talk. He enquired as to her age to which she replied 18. He asked her whether she was going on 18 or going 19 and she said she was 18. He asked for her date of birth and she said December 2533 (1990) meaning she was under age. Thoughts of paying bar went out his mind and he was soon out the door. In Thailand many young people say their age that they will be on their next birthday, not their actual age at that point in time – so when a lady in a bar says she is 18, she quite possibly means that she is 18 on her next birthday, so she is 17 now and therefore underage! That's how easy one can get caught out in this country. Some of these Cowboy bars are a disgrace when it comes to employing young girls.

A lot of visitors to Thailand look forward to the opportunity to buy the latest DVD movies, TV series, computer games and what not as all are available in their bootleg form on the streets and in various shopping centres at bargain basement prices. There's a misconception that in these parts the best pirates produce the material. That is not true at all. The pirates simply download it from the internet, burn it on to DVDs and then sell it brazenly. The point is that if you want these movies, TV series or whatever, you too can get them online. Now don't go emailing me asking me where to get them because I would prefer not to get involved. But wherever you are in the world, all of this stuff can be had.

For a while now I have been hearing this Thai phrase and I could not for the life of me work out what it meant – ฟันแล้วก็ทิ้ง (fun laew gaw ting). I kept hearing it from Thai women, regular Thai women, not bargirls, who it seemed were less than keen on Western men. The first part (ฟัน) could have meant "teeth" or "dream" and the second part mean throw out or discard so I thought it meant something like the Western guy dreams of the Thai women and then discards her. But that didn't really make sense. It has taken me weeks to work it out and I've finally got it. English and Thai have been mixed together. The "fun" part is actually the English word "fun" and the rest is Thai. So it means that many Thai women are sick and tired of Western guys having fun with them i.e. sleeping with them, only to immediately discard them. I notice more and more phrases in Thai have some roots in English with a word or two of English thrown in and the rest in Thai.

The Thais love to give the Burmese grief about pretty much everything and seldom will you hear positive words about the Burmese, or their country, from a Thai. But if the report of a friend who visited Myanmar recently is anything to go by, it seems the way passport control is handled over Thailand's Western-most border is so much better than within Thailand. At the border point you do not fill out any forms but simply give your passport to the officer who scans it on a computer which checks your nationality and no doubt various other details and prints out a receipt which is stapled into your passport – and that is your visa. If only things were that easy in Thailand!

Call me negative, or call me a scaremonger, but I really do think BIG cracks are starting to appear in Thailand Ltd. The country is getting more and more negative publicity through the internet with visitors simply not prepared to stay quiet about service failures, disappointments and scams. More and more foreigners are saying enough is enough. From double pricing to genuine safety concerns to inherent corruption to service failures, Thailand is going to have to pull its socks up if it wants to compete in the 21st century. One area where the country has rated fairly well in the past has been its (private) healthcare service and booming medical tourism. Well, I hate to say it but the cracks are starting to appear there too. Here are a couple of current, ongoing threads on Thailand's two best expat forums, Thai360.com and PattayaSecrets.com which highlight users' concerns with medical care in Thailand. Some of the entries are scary!

Quote of the week from a friend who is in Thailand for the first time. "There are a lot of really weird white guys here in Bangkok! "

From arguably Australia's best newspaper, The Age, comes more on the story of Harry Nicolaides who is being held in a Thai jail pending charges of lese majeste.

It might not be Thailand related but this story just highlights the true gap between human development in East and West. Could it happen in Thailand?

For Thai women, how to tell farang hubby you want a divorce!

Ask Mrs. Stick

Mrs. Stick is happy to answer any questions regarding inter-racial relationships as well as cultural peculiarities that may be confusing or baffling you.

Question 1: For my son's birthday party, I just wanted to serve cake, ice cream and some beverages, but my wife insisted on preparing all kinds of Thai food for the adults. She said that Thai people expect the "whole nine yards", even at a children's party. When getting ready for bed my wife then proceeded to tell me that she didn't want to have a birthday party next year because of all the work! Well I said, if you had listened to me it wouldn't have been so much work! This after all was only a party for small children! I'd be curious to hear what Mrs. Stick says on the subject!

Mrs. Stick says: When we entertain for a special occasion we like to do the best we can. Even if it is a casual event like a children's birthday party, we want to make the best impression for all of our friends, family and neighbours. You know, our guests will look at everything and comment on everything and gossip about it so we try to do it as good as we can.

Question 2: Have you seen or know of a gay marriage that was transferable to USA or Europe I have been with a katoey man for over 3 years and we would like to get married and be free to travel from Thailand to USA. We would rather not complete the operation. Therefore what is the law on man on Man marriage?

Mrs. Stick says: It is not possible for gay couples to marry in Thailand. When it comes to ladyboys, they remain legally classified as men making legal marriage to another man impossible.

Question 3: Based perhaps on rather weak, circumstantial evidence, I became suspicious that my girlfriend was cheating on me, and her insistent denial didn’t help, since cheating is never admitted unless caught in the act. Then I took her to a temple and asked her to swear in front of Buddha. She swore as follows: “Lord Buddha, let my father, my mother, my son, my sisters and myself die a horrible death if I am lying, and let them never come to life again, so they will suffer eternal terrible torments in hell if this is not true. I swear that I never cheated on (my name), that I never had sex with (the suspect’s name) or with any other guy since I met (my name). And I swear that I love (my name) and that my heart is only for him.” She comes from a very decent Isaan family; her father was a monk before leaving the temple and marrying her mother. Both of her parents were school teachers, and she and her sisters all have college degree. Do you think possible (probable?) that a devout Buddhist like her might have made such a promise in front of Buddha and yet being false?

Mrs. Stick says: If she is a devout Buddhist then I think she would not make this promise and lie about it. But if she is not really that serious about her religion then she might. You know her. Is she really genuine about her religion? I know many of my friends are not. Some are, but not many.

It's the holiday time for me and this coming week there may be some interruptions to the site's usual service. In fact this week's column was somewhat rushed and I did not get out and about nearly as much as usual, hence there is far less news than usual. It was also published very early, before 9 AM as I'm off travelling this week. Readers' stories may not be updated every day this coming week although I will do my level best to find an internet connection wherever I happen to be and publish stories every day. Next week's column will be on time, that much is certain! Have a great week!



Your Bangkok commentator,
Not much time to work on column this week 6/10
Stick