Teaching Abroad

“Teaching Abroad,” future chapter (fragment)

The meetings and discussions I had with Declan and Rapin had effectively scared me into thinking that this was all a mistake, even before I set foot into my first classroom. How on earth could things get so bad in a school? How could this Geoffrey guy barge into a school in another country and then just burrow himself in like a tick? It didn’t make sense to me at all.

Furthermore, why were they telling me all of this? Was I really supposed to be the guy to come in their and dislodge the guy who had overstayed his welcome? Is that what they were driving at? They used me for that purpose at the other job, so it wasn’t a notion that I could discount. Why doesn’t anybody fire anybody in this country? Are you all just that polite?

And why were they so open about what a mess the place was? Hey, man, thanks for taking this job. Everybody’s going to hate you, and the kids probably won’t listen. Is that ok? It had to be an exaggeration. I wasn’t going to let it go down like that.

However, there was just as much of a chance that Rapin and Declan were the bad guys in this situation. After all, they did spend quite a long time trying to tell me how I should feel about other people. It all seemed dodgy to me. But again, I wasn’t going to let it go down like that. If people didn’t like me, I would fix it. If kids didn’t listen to me, I would prove myself to them. I spent every last dime I had to move to this city and keep going on this screwy journey. There was no way I was walking away now.

*****

The day finally came, and after a few grave warnings from Declan, I marched as bravely as I could upstairs to my office. I was in a rather large and mostly empty room with a very nice older Thai woman who introduced herself as Miss Kay, but when I tried to get a read on the environment from her she had nothing to say. I wanted to kick myself for possibly divulging too much in my first hour, but after too long of a bit of silence she told me just to do my best and not worry about anything. Wow. Was she just being nice or was she warning me? I remember thinking that her interjection was a bit foreboding.

A glance at my watch told me that it was time for second period, my first class. I walked down the hallway to find my room, and when I located where I was supposed to be (according to my schedule), I was a bit surprised to see a Thai woman sitting on a computer playing on Facebook. A few kids had gathered around, so I figured the class had ended, or, at the very least, had winded down and maybe I could go in and talk to this teacher briefly before I began.

But as I opened the door I was greeted with words that still echo in my mind: “WHAT ARE YOU DOING? I’M TEACHING!!!”

Exasperated, embarrassed, and confused, I bolted outside and stood there stupidly. My mind couldn’t even produce any thoughts other than holy shit what have I gotten myself into.

A mere two minutes later (though it could have been less than that for all I know), I heard a bell sound, indicating the end of class. The teacher stormed out of the room, scowling at me. She scowled so long and so hard at me that I was worried that she was going to smack into the wall. She held that foul gaze for so long that you could have sworn it was all a joke.

“Teaching Abroad,” Chapter 1

The Arrival

The first thing I did after I said my goodbyes and dropped off my bags was park myself the terminal bar.  I needed a buzz before confronting the unknown.

I ordered a too expensive scotch and water, and drummed up a conversation with the bartender.  I told him I was starting my life over in another country, and he for whatever reason insisted that I listen to some of his poetry.  Just the same, I had no desire to be alone for any stretch of time, so I indulged this weirdo.

When there was about twenty minutes to go, I went and waited by my gate.  My head was spinning just the perfect amount.  I timed it so that I would sober up a bit before drinks were served, then I would start hitting the scotch again.  I would think about life another time.  I would ponder my existence another time.  I had just made an irreversible decision, and it was time to just take that ride.

*****

My clearest memory of the flight to Bangkok was when I had finally sobered up and was beginning wonder what on earth I was doing.  I had little money, next to no clue, and on top of everything else my thesis was unfinished.  Bear in mind that I was still in close contact with the professor who told me to go to Thailand, but a 24 hour flight is plenty of time to sit and deconstruct all of the positive appraisals a person gives you.  In order to try and prepare myself for what was ahead, I decided to look around the plane.  For the most part, I could not get a read on who or what most of the people were, but I noticed a rather chubby blonde girl behind me who was unusually happy and optimistic, a stark contrast to the air of grouchy fatigue that permeated the atmosphere of the plane.

I spoke to her briefly about her plans.  She was in her early 20s, and was a bit like me in that she was looking for a teaching job.  I was impressed by her optimism and idealism, and took a bit of comfort knowing that another serious person was entering the country with the intent of trying to do some good for the world.  She seemed to have a plan and no shortage of motivation, and I remember trying to see if she had heard anything about teaching or any advice she was given.  I don’t remember the particulars, but I do remember our dialogue being cut short by two crusty old men who were sitting directly behind her.

I took one look at these men and realized a bit of truth about what I was getting into.  They both appeared to be in their 60s, and didn’t seem to have a care in the world.  They both wore tropical shirts with far too many buttons unfastened.  Messy gray chest hair stuck out from their shirts, but it was clear that they wore them with confidence.  They spoke confidently about Thailand to the girl, trying to reassure her that she would be fine.  However, once she asked them why they were there, they balked.  They balked once again when asked where they would be staying, and that was when I knew that I had heard all I needed to hear.

***

About an hour later, my plane touched down.  Following a series of tasks with unloading, retrieving my luggage, and getting my passport stamped, I was let loose inside the airport.  It was quite an airport, too.  Dozens of stores and restaurants filled my small-town eyes and sent my imagination into a topspin.  I was too tired to process what I saw, but I knew that I was impressed.  However, I also knew that I didn’t have the money for any of that crap, regardless of what it was, so I rushed to a currency exchange counter and cashed out what remained of the two hundred dollars that I had taken out at the airport in Minnesota.

When I exited the airport, I had the eerie feeling that everyone was watching me.  I knew I was a rube in this situation and I also knew that I was not going to be able to pass as a non-rube, but I was hoping that I could meet somebody who didn’t have exploitation on their mind, because I was exhausted.  I moved as confidently as I could through the airport and made my way outside.  Almost immediately, a man flagged me down.

Taxi, mistah?” he said, grinning.  I nodded, but I told him I wanted a cigarette first.  He clapped his hands and shouted something in Thai, and before I knew it I had a cigarette in my mouth with him lighting it.  I was immediately reminded of the movie “Kickboxer,” and identified this man as a finder of sorts, one who would coolly try to reassure the unsuspecting tourist that they were an honored guest.  Again, I tried my best to compose myself as if I knew what was going on, but I knew this man could see right through me.

The man seemed to be in a constant state of vigilance.  He kept looking around as I was puffing frantically and waiting for the nicotine buzz to set in.  I was starting to get fidgety just watching him.  He made smoking rather unenjoyable, especially since it was clear that he wanted me to finish up.  So, I threw out my cigarette and was herded into a car.  The finder stuck his hand in my face after I was seated and asked for a tip.  I stuffed a fifty baht note in his hand, trying to play it off like I had money to burn.  He made a few gestures of gratitude, then asked where I was going. I told him the name of the hotel my professor recommended, and he gave instructions to the driver and closed the door.

As I was looking around, I noticed that the taxi was rather nice. Unusually nice. It took about five minutes before I realized that I was in a BMW.  Wait a minute. Was this right?  Was there some kind of mistake?  Knowing what I know now, there was no mistake.  I was a damn rube, and within ten minutes of being in the country I had fallen victim to my first hustle.

Oh, well. I was already in the car.  Not much to do now but pray that I don’t get kidnapped.

*****

The ride ended up costing around $70.  I tried my best to forgive myself of such a blunder as I got out of the car, but I looked up at the ridiculously elegant hotel and realized that I might have already wandered into my second blunder.  I gave the name of the hotel that I thought my professor gave me.  In fact, there were the words, The Atrium, clear as day on the building, yet somehow I got the feeling that there was a mistake.

The notion was confirmed when I got inside.  Right before I left, I had made a reservation on the website that my professor gave me, and the clerk informed me that no such reservation existed.  Furthermore, the rooms were $50 and up per night, not the $18 that were promised on the website. However, I was too tired to go any farther.  I had to eat some food and sleep everything off.  I gave the lady my credit card, which had about $200 available, and I slogged up to my room.

Once inside, I knew I had to acquire food.  I showered and had some coffee, then wandered outside to try and find something resembling nourishment.  I was greeted at the end of the driveway by a man who was holding a laminated flyer. He wore the same grin as the finder-guy at the airport, and as I tried to avoid him he very deftly stepped directly into my path.

Mistah, you want girl?” he hissed.  Holy crap.  Here we go.  I had to look, of course, and sure enough, the dude was holding what was basically a prostitute menu.

How nice, I thought to myself, I can’t wait to write about this one day.

With all the politeness I could muster, I declined the offer and pressed down the street.  I found a microwave meal at a 7-11, and figured I would eat the complimentary fruit in my room along with my meal and then crash for a while.  I took notice of all the fascinating snacks and drinks I had never seen before, but had the wherewithal to know that I had just inadvertently blown far too much money during my first few hours in country and I needed to hold on to what I had until I was rested and could figure things out a little bit.

As I was walking back to the hotel, I was once again cornered by the man with the menu.  I had seen him from a distance eyeing me, but I was absolutely certain that he would remember the answer that I had given him five minutes ago.

Apparently, he did not.

Once again the menu was thrust in my face.  I pushed it away.  I was angry this time.  I don’t remember what I said, but a combination of fatigue and frustration emboldened me to the point where I uttered a few ugly words and shoved past him.

As I trudged up the driveway back to the hotel, I let out a rather loud stream of curses and oaths.

Welcome to Bangkok, Pete, I said said to myself morosely.

“Teaching Abroad,” Chapter 9

Another Dickhead Expat

Author’s Note:  I wrestled with the idea of composing this chapter and mentioning this person at all.  However, I remembered that this guy actually told me that he would write about me one day, so that fact alone was the deciding vote in favor of this chapter.  It may be excluded one day.  Maybe the editors will say it is too much.  Maybe I will grow up a little more and finally drop it.  Either way, I will make this my first standalone chapter in order to ensure it can be cleanly omitted, and I will change the name as well just in case.  He seems like the kind of person who would sue me.

Regardless, let’s talk about Tommy, another dickhead expat.

*****

I met Tommy at the very beginning of my time at iStudy.  He was a guy that didn’t seem to socialize with anybody else.  However, he sent me an email once offering to help me get integrated, so I thought it was a good sign.  I asked him in person one day how to better help the kids because it seemed like these classes that were being offered were hardly classes at all.  Here was his response:

You don’t.  You can’t.  You want to make a difference?  Go outside and pick up trash.”  He then proceeded to tell me a story about a man who was almost stabbed by his girlfriend.  His insinuations throughout this entirely unrelated story were that I was a hapless person who wasn’t tough enough for Bangkok, and that my idealism was going to get me hurt.

And that’s when I knew all I needed to know about Tommy.

Except I didn’t.  At all.  Information began to be filtered to me a little at a time.  I was there to replace Tommy.  He was an asshole who had overstayed his welcome, and judging by how he stomped around the place it was clear he thought he was the Alpha dog and was going to try to intimidate me into leaving.  Twice before I had guys threaten to get physical with me on the interview runs, so it was something I was a little used to.  My attitude was this:  I work here, homeslice.  If you’re so broke that you’re having to get up at six in the morning, ride two or three different trains, and basically work for a buck-fifty an hour, I doubt you can afford the five thousand baht fine for public affray.  Just sayin’.

As it turned out, Tommy was at one time the golden child of iStudy.  He was the one at all the summer camps, he was the one at all the interviews, he was everywhere.  He was the go-to guy for new clients, he was the first pick for activities, and he was well-liked among the staff.  Li still thought he could do no wrong.  Nim told me she never liked the dude.  She said he was full of crap and acted like a child any time he didn’t get what he wanted.  Furthermore, she was happy I was there to replace him, and she was going to do everything in her power to bump him out and give me all of his clients.

*****

The story of Tommy’s downfall is as follows.

Somewhere along the way Tommy struck up a romantic relationship with a Japanese woman, and when he went to go meet her parents a lot of bad things went down.  First, the parents didn’t approve.  Second, he somehow lost his passport.  He frantically called iStudy asking for a very large sum of money, and the boss actually helped him.  After all, he was a trusted member of the school, and his sob story was moving enough for them to act quickly.

When he returned to work, however, a few people noticed a change in his behavior.  Maybe the rejection got to him or something, because he began to be short with everyone, including clients.  I was later told by one of his clients that he would simply throw a worksheet in front of her and never say a word for the duration of the session.  All of the staff with the exception of Li ended up wanting him gone, so they were looking for somebody to take over for him.

Then one day came the straw that broke the camel’s back.  A student spilled water on Tommy’s laptop, and he demanded that the laptop be replaced.  He still owed a thousand dollars or so for the bailout in Japan that he never bothered to explain (a hard sum of money to earn back with the exchange rate being what it was), so it was a pretty brash move.

And the boss replaced his laptop.  She actually did it.  She took pity on this guy even though he had become a capricious train wreck who barked at everyone and abused his clients.  But it wasn’t good enough for Tommy.  He wanted a MacBook.  He was insulted by the cheap laptop that was purchased from a pawn shop, and demanded the same model from the management.

But that was enough for the boss.

*****

Tommy would send me emails about how I was going to mess up the school.  An apology email would normally follow about a day or two later, but I actually never began to reply until much later.  I could tell this guy was spiralling; there was no need to kick a man when he was down.  I began to realize there was no way he was leaving without trying his very hardest to pull one last stunt with me.  I wasn’t sure what it would be, but I knew something was coming.

And it did.

One day as a joke, I labeled the top shelf of the storage closet with my name.  The joke was that everyone in the office was too short to reach it anyways.  About a week later, I noticed my name was crossed out.  I thought Li had done it as a playful jab.  We joked with each other a lot, so it seemed like something she would do.  As such, I changed the label.  The next day my name was crossed out again, and on the shelf was a scrap of paper with the words “How old are you?” written on it.

Yep.  Here we go, I thought.

So I confronted the dickhead.  I was worried that he was unstable, but I honestly wanted to know why the hell I rubbed him the wrong way.  Americans should not be treating each other this way in another country, first of all, but I also wanted to hear the words come out of his mouth:  you took my spot.

When I asked him what the problem was, he simply replied that I was new and that I don’t “get a shelf.”  I calmly informed him that the labels were a joke and that they had nothing to do with him.  He replied that he didn’t care and repeated his earlier argument.  I informed him that I am having a hard enough time right now and that the last thing I need is a problem with another American, so can we just agree to disagree?

Sure, but you don’t get a shelf.  Look, I don’t have time for this.  I have to go.”  And then, he rushed out of the school.  I didn’t realize at the time that this would be the last time I ever saw him.  I think if I knew this, the ensuing events might have been taken with a grain of salt.

Because that unstable dickhead proceeded to write me a HUGE letter that evening.  He complained about coffee mug rings in one of the classrooms.  He called me an overweight racist.  He promised me that I would ruin the school.  He told me I didn’t belong in Thailand.  He bitched about me throwing stuff away.  At the heart of it all, I knew what he was saying.  He was just another broken soul with nowhere to go (because why didn’t he contact friends or family when he got into trouble in Japan?).  It was looking like this happened to a lot of people out here.

But then he closed the letter with something rather absurd:  “I’m far more diabolical than you think.”

What was that thing Tywin Lannister said about a king who has to say he is the king?  

Anyways…

This time I wrote something back.  I asked him what happened in Japan.  I asked him why he needed to leave so quickly.  I asked him what his problem was.  He responded minutes later, literally (Gmail shows the times of delivery), with another load of gibberish.  Honestly, I think homeboy might have had a drinking problem in addition to a rage / people / life in general problem.  He mostly repeated himself, but the first line once again was so absurd.  He basically said he was about to apologize, but now I deserved another tirade.  I actually didn’t read it all, and I didn’t read any of his emails from that day forward (sorry to disappoint you, mate).  I could see the previews and part of the opening line, but that was it.  The guy had jumped the rails, and I had better things to do.

I hated that a person made me feel this way.  I hated that a stranger hated me.  I hated that a fellow American was screwing up the image of my country for everyone.  It explained so much about how I was treated in certain places, including Frowny Pants Lo at the front desk.  Why were there so many miserable expats here?

Oh, and he proceeded to write emails to me for the next six months.  They would always be followed by an apology a day or two later.  Like I said, I got the gist of the emails in the previews, but I finally figured out to just have Gmail automatically delete them.

He even tried to contact me on Facebook.  I got a lengthy apology letter from him one day when I got on my Facebook page, and I just had to marvel at his persistence.  By that point I had almost gotten to where I had forgotten the whole thing, so it made me a extremely angry.  I blocked him, of course, and a few days later I was contacted under a fake name with another apology.  DUDE.  COME ON.

*****

There was one important question that I had throughout all of this:  if this guy was such a pain, why keep him?  Why starve him out?  Why not just fire him?  I showed the boss some of the emails he sent me.  I told Nim about the closet issue.  I asked again and again why they wouldn’t just fire the dude.  I never got an answer.  They never had anything to say.  Was it because of his good track record, or was everybody just that opposed to confrontation in this country?

Honestly, I was sure I didn’t want to know the answer to that question.

But the emails and the messages eventually stopped, and that chapter finally ended.  Nim told me he actually buzzed through iStudy some time later and acted like it was a cheerful reunion.  He told the girls he was part of a theater group and tried to sell everyone tickets.  Li bought a ticket, and as it turned out there was no show.  It was either canceled or didn’t exist… who knows, who cares.  What a complicated little man.  I sure hope he’s alright.  Maybe he died.

“Teaching Abroad,” Chapter 11

I’m Turkish”

 

Within a few days of completing my M.A., Nim and I drove down to a language center that promised education visas.  This alone already made the operation sound shady, but I was quite surprised to see what looked like a rather large school with many teachers and quite a lot of students.  It was far bigger than iStudy, and it also had English lessons for Thai.  I couldn’t help but be impressed, because this looked more like what an actual language center should be.

And you’re damn right I asked if they were hiring.

Nim talked the representative down quite a bit for a year’s worth of lessons, so the next step was to do the border run to Laos and get the proper stamps on my passport.  This process was slightly different from the runs to Cambodia as it was a longer trip with a few extra steps, but a visa run to end all visa runs sounded just fine to me.

The day of the visa run came, and much to my surprise there was my old friend John and, to a lesser extent, Cliff.  They were getting tired of tired of the monthly runs as well, and I considered myself quite lucky to have two familiar faces traveling with me.  I had never once gone on a run without these guys, and the more I thought about it the more I realized that it was best to have a small group just in case.  Just in case what, you ask?  Well…

I took a look around the gathering group.  There were far more people gathering than we would see on our runs to Cambodia.  I met a few friendly people, like a really short guy from Australia and a Russian hippie.  I was actually quite relaxed when I looked around.  It had always been my experience that the tone of the visa run was completely dependent upon the group.  If there were assholes in the group, the run tended to be rotten.  If everybody got along, the run would be no problem and you would often have a memorable time.  Since the run to Laos was a two day affair and not a mere 12 hours, I felt that it was tantamount to make friends quickly and try to keep this run friendly.

And that’s when I saw him.  In the corner of my eye I noticed a guy who had brought with him three rather large bottles of beer.  He was pounding his beers quickly, and I was hoping that one of the tour directors would send him on his way.  As you might imagine, intoxication is against the rules on a visa run.  Of course, I’d seen plenty of people come on a run to Cambodia fresh off of a night of partying, so the odds were not good that anybody would say anything to this guy.

Surprisingly enough, one of the drivers did confront him.  The guy was super dismissive, though.  He kept waving the driver off, repeating mai bpen rai (no problem) and turning his head as if to make the driver disappear from his sight.  The driver was losing this battle, even though he held all the cards.  It was both infuriating and disheartening.  But I knew the score.  At the end of the day, it’s all about money.

However, the thing that pissed me off the most of about that scene was the fact that the guy drinking the beers knew he could get away with it.  He knew that Thai people don’t even like to disagree in the first place, and he also knew that everything is negotiable.  This is the kind of expat that screws everything up for everyone else.  This is the kind of expat who bullies the Thai and acts like a little baby when they don’t get their way, just like our dear friend Tommy.

As luck would have it, I was stuck in the van with this guy.  He was every bit as belligerent as I thought he would be.  For starters, he interrupted conversations to interject his own opinion.  The rest of us knew he was drunk, so we did our best to play it off.  However, the dude just wouldn’t quit.  A few people tried to tell him to shut up and it would work for a while, but in ten or fifteen minutes he would be right back at it.

The last straw for me was when he started picking on a young and tragically unattractive Canadian girl.  She was so sweet to the guy in spite of his belligerence, and he just kept going making ugly remarks about her.  Finally, when he was satisfied, he told everyone to shut up so he could sleep.  I began talking to the person in front of me, so he decided to turn on music on his phone and play it at an obnoxious volume.  I finally had enough.

HEY MAN.  YOU WANNA CALM THE FUCK DOWN, OR AM I GONNA HAVE TO BREAK YOUR FUCKING NECK?”

He didn’t even turn around.  He just said “Break my neck, huh?” and then passed out.

I was a little shocked at my audacity.  I honestly didn’t mean to threaten the guy.  That’s just not my style.  The Russian hippie even turned around and shook his head with disapproval.  Why are you shaking your head at me, man?  You’re sitting right next to that piece of crap.  Still, I had achieved silence.  There was still a chance that the dude would be a little more agreeable once he slept it off.

Which was good, because I got a look at him when we made a pit stop, and he was a lot bigger and meaner-looking than I remembered.  He was disoriented when I passed by him, so there was no recognition, be he looked tough as nails and I was a little worried.

But we arrived in Laos with no further incident.  It was an overnight trip, around 10 or 12 hours, so the sun was just coming up when we arrived at the border.  The border was just opening, so we had to wait in line to submit our passports and wait to be picked up and transported to our hotel.  I saw the drunk dude looking rested and a little more jovial, so I took a chance to go and talk with him.  I apologized for shouting, and he looked me up and down and walked away.  I had a feeling that this was not good.

After checking in at the border, we were taken to a hotel.  We were free to relax for the rest of the day, so I hung out in the lobby with John, Cliff, and a few more people that I had met while we were checking in.  During our evening meal I casually mentioned that I had not been able find any weed since arriving in Thailand, to which a young African American woman replied by wordlessly reaching into a pack of cigarettes and producing a perfectly-rolled joint.  Cliff immediately signed himself up for smoking it with me, but I honestly didn’t mind.  We waited for the sun to go down, and then we headed out.

Cliff prattled endlessly while we walked down the ill-lit streets of Vientiane.  I couldn’t make out a word because I was too busy wondering if I was going to get my ass kicked the next day.  It was hard to concentrate and it was hard to enjoy my buzz.  Between Cliff running his mouth and the threat of imminent danger, the weed only seemed to complicate things in my mind.  I needed a distraction.

When we returned to the hotel, I watched Battlestar Galactica  with Cliff for as long as I could stand, then I copped out and told him I was sleepy.  I wasn’t going to waste this marijuana buzz.  I still had a few good hours left in me, so I gave Nim a quick call before watching Spongebob for a few hours before passing out.

*****

All that was left the next day was to go through one more processing step at the border.  Just like the runs to Cambodia, an agent took care off the bulk of the work for us, and we did not have to wait at the immigration office for our paperwork to be processed.  I awoke with a dirty buzz from a fitful, stoned sleep, so I copped a menthol cigarette from one of my fellow travellers and sat down to breakfast.  It seemed like all was right with the world; all we had to do was collect our passports, get them stamped one more time, and head out.

That’s when a rather large figure stood over me.

The guy was so stocky that he actually blocked out the sun.  I’m not even kidding.  Maybe it was just my imagination, but the world became significantly darker the moment he walked up behind me.

Then, he spoke.  

You have two choices:  public humiliation or physical pain.”  Him saying this would have been humorous if I did not suspect that he would follow through.

Still, my impulse to be a smart ass kicked in:  “Are those really my only choices?”

He was not impressed.  “Apologize to me!  NOW!”  I tried to stand up and he put a single hand on my shoulder and forced me back into my seat.  I was surrounded by my fellow travelers, but it was clear there would be no help from any of them.  

Resigned to my fate, I spoke.  “Look, man.  You were being a dick, but I’m sorry for yelling at you.”

He then motioned for me to stand.  Reluctantly, I arose from my seat.  He extended his hand, so I accepted.  He shook vigorously for a few seconds, then he pulled me in and hugged me.  Then, hand still on my shoulder, he said:  “I’m Turkish.  I forgive you.”

He said some other nonsense about not being such a tough guy, then he walked off.  After a few strained moments, one of the other people at the table finally spoke:  

I could’ve taken him.”

I just shook my head and walked away.

*****

Drunk dude was, dare I say, helpful and polite on the ride back to Thailand.  There were some passengers who had a few concerns about when we were getting back and what to do with their visas, and he listened attentively and sometimes offered helpful input.  It was a strange contrast to how he had been acting since the beginning.  He held doors, he helped moved the seats in the van forward so other people could get out, and he even purchased a few extra snacks and offered them to the passengers.  Most of them weren’t having it, of course, but I think we all knew to take it for what it was worth.

But it wasn’t long before his evil side popped up again.  Apparently he hung out with the Russian hippie that night after we arrived in Laos, and he was showing drunk dude the photos he had taken of their night out.  I didn’t hear the exact words that were said, but I clearly could see drunk dude demand that the Russian hippie erase all of the photos of him.  I couldn’t help but wonder why he was so adamant about this.  The Russian hippie looked scared and upset all at the same time, too, as if he could not comprehend this sudden change.  Maybe the dude was wanted somewhere, maybe in Turkey.  I wish I knew his name.  I’d be more than happy to help Turkey locate their lost son.

Like all things, the rotten visa run to Laos came to an end.  However, this time I couldn’t shake off the things that happened.  Living in Thailand was beginning to seem more and more unsafe.  If the Thai weren’t willing to shoo off potential troublemakers, then what recourse would I have?  Nobody would fire Tommy, and now this situation with the drunk guy made me think that this all was a little more dangerous than I had previously suspected.  I told Nim about the incident, and she didn’t have much to say, either.

Still, I smoked a joint in Laos with a man named Cliff Pitchfork, then we watched Battlestar Galactica.  That story alone makes it all worth it, right?