I am still alive and well in Thailand, believe it or not. It has become rather difficult for me to maintain much of an online presence without having my own computer; the majority or local internet cafes are either too expensive or their computers’ USB drives are disabled. I like to use portable apps on my thumb drives for a variety of reasons and no longer attempt to do any work if those aren’t working. The further I get behind on emails, etc., the more I dread even making the attempt to catch up. My current budget prevents me from spending hours online doing so at this time…
However, I will attempt a status update with this blog post to head off any worried emails particularly given that the world media is once again focused on Thailand.
Although Bangkok is currently inundated, the flooding has been occurring throughout the nation for much, much longer. However, when the capitol becomes submerged, it does affect those of us in Phuket as well as elsewhere. Most notably, the shelves of local supermarkets and minimarts are empty of such essentials as bottled water and the few food items I tend to buy at these places, namely loaves of bread and frozen dinners.
Much more significantly than my lack of ability to make a sandwich or have a microwaved dinner is that the situation is Bangkok is making it increasingly difficult for me to stay in Thailand legally. While I submitted my paperwork to obtain a new work permit way back at the beginning of September, the wheels of bureaucratic progress move slowly in the Kingdom. I’m now waiting on one piece of paper from the Labor Ministry out of the huge packet I will need to submit to the Thai Consulate in Penang as a requirement for the Non-Immigrant (B) visa. Actually, the letter is printed and stamped but the one bureaucrat authorized to sign it is in Bangkok and nobody will make a move without him. The last of my three straight tourist visas allowed by Thailand expired at the end of September so since then I’ve been required to cross the border into Malaysia every two weeks. My other option is that I could fly back to Thailand after this border crossing and obtain thirty days of cover each time but this costs much more than the route I’ve been traveling by land.
Officially, there is supposed to be no limit to the number of back-to-back 15-day visas on arrival but — as with all forms of bureaucracy in Thailand — that is left up to the discretion of the individual agents. I found that out the hard way last week when, entering Thailand for the third time in just over one month, the official in Padang Besar checkpoint told me I had too many stamps. Even after I’d explained that the paperwork for my work permit was being processed he seemed very reluctant to give me that Thailand entry stamp. I wonder what I could have done if I if they would have denied me entry!
Meanwhile, I’m on extended holiday while waiting to return to work. I had no idea that I wouldn’t have any income during the month of October, assuming that my English lessons would resume at the beginning of Term 2 along with the remainder of my school. The latest word is that I’ll return to work sometime “next month.” This means that I’ve had to stretch my savings and September payroll until the middle of December. I immediately set aside cash for my November and December rent/utility payments as well as my projected budget for the Penang trip once my paperwork packet is complete. That left just over sixty baht for me to live on each day — food, local transportation, internet, etc. comes out of that. It’s difficult but I’m getting by. I can starve myself for a couple of days and then use two or three days’ expenses on something like a used book or school supplies… The difficulty lies in not knowing how many additional border runs I’ll have to do before my paperwork is ready; each one costs 626 baht if I don’t eat during the journey. It’s even more stressful now that I see the possibility that I may even be prevented from re-entering Thailand!
As with everything these days, I do try to make the most of the situation and maintain a good attitude about everything. After all, 2012 has got to me a better year for me. Right?