Tuesday, 7 April 2009

New job, new passport and a drunken motorbike accident.

Puncture

Quite an entertaining second week in Trang. First I nearly killed myself when my motorbike's front tyre blew up as I was taking a corner. I rescued the situation but was a shaking wreck for a while after. The puncture cost £1.40 to repair in a cottage-industry garage on Wideskul Soi 7.


Posh Hotels

I went for a beer with Peter to the Wattana Park Hotel (remember the snooker player James Wattana?) in the North of this small city. I was amazed when about 20 gorgeous women got on stage and sang a national song about Thailand. I was equally gob-smacked when Peter expained that all these girls are available for a price! I had to laugh at that. It would be the equivalent of watching 20 whores in England singing 'Abide with me'.

The girls went on to sing individual songs in their own style. We were left wishing we had more money!

School

This is the huge Thai flag at my school. Quite impressive I reckon. A very nationalistic bunch the Thais.

Here's a bunch of bairns doing an outside assembly. This is only about 25% of the total kids here!

I walked past a small classroom with a stage and got a shot of these traditional Thai costumes. I can't wait to see a production later this year.

I signed a contract last week which runs from 1st April 2009 to 31st March 2010. Nice to have employment for the next year given the prevailing economic conditions! I had to have my thumb-print scanned so that I can clock in and out everyday.

The real school year doesn't actually start until 4th May. We have been teaching a 'pre-study' class the last week. During this period we get free lunch which is a bonus. Nice Thai food for free - no complaints here.

When I have not been introducing mathematical concepts like simple linear polynomial equations, I have been producing the course material. Luckily for me Ian got 12 .pdf files from a school in Phuket containing the entire course content for M1, M2 and M3 year groups. They are large documents covering both core and supplementary elements of the cirriculum. Unfortunately, the guys who painstakingly produced these documents put a header on the top of every single page. I couldn't install the correct program to remove the headers automatically so I had to manually remove the previous school's information from 1000+ pages - ball ache.

I appended our own school's info onto each page and made a few other changes - I am now hot-to-trot! I then printed everything (to create hard copies) using two reams of A4 paper! I merely need to photocopy around 30,000 pages over the course of the next school year - but this is easy compared to producing the .pdf documents from scratch, so I'm pleased.

Before I could do any of that I had to sort out my school PC. It was wrecked so I re-loaded Windows, re-activated the network card and USB ports in BIOS, set up my own IP configuration (the School's DHCP isn't working properly) and networked a Laser printer. It was useful to have worked previously in IT. Also 'Californian IT expert' Michael was a great help.

Teacher Steve looking quite smart in his just-out-the-box clothes.

Passport
It finally arrived - the long talked about new passport. I'm £150 lighter but this baby has 44 pages and expires in 2020. I hope I don't fill it before expiry as I don't wanna be splashing out £150 every few years on a shitty little book.

This one has a chip embedded in the hard plastic ID page. Considering Philippine 5yr passports cost 500piso or £7, I think UK 10yr passports are great value at £150 - only a 2,000% mark up. Rip-off Britain?

Mac and elephants

This is Mac, he's a genial Canadian from Vancouver. I enjoy listening to his patter down at Sam's bar. Sam's bar is the one and only Falang bar in Trang. I've spent a bit too much time in it over the last couple of weekends.

I love this photo of Mac drunkenly smiling into the nasal passage of an elephant's trunk - cool or what? Huge elephants roam the streets of Trang under the guidance of their Mahoots. You can buy a little bag of elephant treats to feed them for 20baht - Mac simply couldn't resist this!

It's a little strange when you have to overtake an elephant on your motorbike. Should you slow down like we do in England for horses? Pum mi lu - A divvent knaa like!

Wall Street

This New Yorker works on Wall Street. He had to endure an inordinate amount of blame for the global credit crunch - hehe. He wouldn't divulge how much he's made during this painful recession but you can be sure he was enjoying his holiday here in Thailand. He was actually a very nice guy given his dubious employment. We also suspect he was batting for the other side if you know what I mean.

Satellite dishes

Standby for some geek trivia. Can you see the angle of the satellite dish? Newcastle's latitude is 55degN. Trang's is 8degN. Geosynchronous satellites orbit the Earth's equator therefore you must aim your dish to a point about 36000km above the Earth's equator. This means dishes in the UK are almost parallel to a house's wall whereas in Southern Thailand dishes aim almost straight up as above. A similar thing for solar panels.

Bang Bar

Last week I met Ian and some other lads at the Bang Bar. Trang is full of bars like this. Quiet little bars swamped in jungle vegetation. Locals relax in these places drinking beer, tea or coffee. They are great places for a quiet weekday pint. I love being surrounded by all the exotic plants.

Soi Dogs

A soi is a small side street and they are infested with dogs. The noticeable thing about these bitches is that they all have huge saggy teets. In my apartment block there are two small annoying yappy dogs - they 'dee ma heed in man' and I feel like strangling them sometimes (like the Philippine roosters).

Swimming

Near my apartment is a big sports stadium. I went swimming there in the olympic sized outdoor swimming pool (wai nam). It's really good value at 20 baht. You can also watch the locals jogging/walking around the running track, playing basketball, football or badminton.

Crash and Date

Monday just gone was another Thai national holiday. There seems to be loads of these one day holidays which suits me:) I got drunk in Sam's bar and stupidly attempted to drive my motorbike to the local disco. Needless to say I fell off! Luckily I was going very slow and incurred only a few minor injuries (although they still hurt). I went to the disco and realised I had blood dripping down my arm. I had one mouthful of expensive Heineken and promptly left. I then got lost on the way home. I finally got to my room and passed out. I woke in the morning with a very bloody bed sheet and a very sore elbow.

I met Pat on Saturday night and we arranged to go for a meal on Monday. We met last night and seemed to get on very well. She's a nice lass. She's 31 originally from Bangkok and works as a designer for a furniture export firm. She writes English user manuals and got transferred to Trang a couple of years ago. I'll keep you posted on any developments.

Visa stuff

Apparently I need a NonB immigrant visa to work here legally. I went to the hospital today to get a medical check so that I can get a work permit to facilitate this. I am sick of medical checks this year! This was my third. The good news was that this one was free and only took a few minutes - the doctor merely glanced at me before signing the form!

I was then asked for my bank details and I handed over my UK account details. The staff laughed at me and told me to go and get a Thai bank account so that they can pay me. I rushed to Kasikorn bank and opened an account today. I had to pay 300baht for an ATM card but at least I will get paid.

Family in Thailand?
There's a new English teacher starting here in May. I met him briefly and discovered that not only is he from Cramlington (originally from Ashington), he is 38 and shares the same surname as me! Could he be my brother? Is there something my Dad isn't telling me? What are the chances of meeting a similarly aged bloke from your home town with the same surname? There can't be that many Hepples in Asia.

He's been in Trang for years and speaks Thai fluently so perhaps he can teach me a thing or two. I can't wait to discuss Northumberland things with him.

Shearer

How could I not mention this? Another return of another Messiah! Another home defeat. I am struggling to keep up with the soap opera that is NUFC. I have real fear that this year could be doomsday.

I also noticed how this news broke on April Fool's Day - is that a significant sign?

Haway the Lads!

Nang long - Sit down
Ta - Eyes
Jamook - Nose

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    My heads being dun in. It's being dunched rotton by this schizophrenia. Hepple man, I had sleep dep, and it's like the day after, it's like a 5 day beer bender in "Shemalescock", the bar next to "DubiousHygiene" in Hoogook, Malaysia, or something. And my carers are abusive. BTW, I have no money to reach Malaysia. As you are to save me with some "wiiiicked" maths and some saucy lunch or narcotic grown locally.

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