Hot Seat

Mario Toscano

We're chatting to expats who live and work in Thailand about the pandemic situation here. Mario has been in Thailand for over 20 years and after working for a long time in the sporting goods field, has now semi-retired.

Q

Could you introduce yourself (where are you from? how long have you lived in Thailand? and what do you do for a living?)

A

I am an American. I’ve been involved in the sporting goods market for over 40 years (I’ve worked on everything from product development, to sourcing and production, to business development and product distribution.) Now due to a health issue and the pandemic I am semi-retired. I have lived in Thailand for a little over 20 years now.  

Q

In general, how do you think Thailand has handled the pandemic up to now?

A

In the beginning Thailand was doing well as a result of taking strong action right away, plus they had a little bit of luck (imagine if all the tourism centered around Chinese New Year had happened)  Some of the restrictions they put in place have been over the top but you can’t argue with the results. But now it seems the cat has gotten loose and they’re running from crisis to crisis. Samut Sakon, then Thonglor, now it’s prisons. What will be next? Meanwhile, they didn’t formulate and execute a strong strategy to vaccinate the population.  My fear is they’re spending too much time on working out a vaccination plan and are taking their eyes of the mitigation tasks. It seems they can play checkers but not chess, which requires thinking three or four moves ahead.

Q

If you were put in charge right now, what would be the first rules or things you would change?

A

I couldn’t manage the job but I would put Narongsak Osatanakorn in charge! (Chiang Rai governor who led the cave rescue) He was decisive and more importantly, he communicated well with the press and the public. I think it’s fair to say that any trust people had has been lost. This is due to a failure to communicate a future strategy with the citizens. They’ve done a good job of sharing data and explaining where we are today (statistics) but whenever they talk about future plans they mess it up by announcing half baked plans and issuing contradictory statements.

Q

Let’s talk about you personally. What is the most regrettable thing that the pandemic has robbed you of or changed about your life?

A

It affected my ability to travel, to work, and to maintain my fitness program. But I was hit with a double whammy.  At the same time that the pandemic struck I also developed health issues.  So for me it’s hard to put all the blame on the pandemic.  In a way, maybe it was good timing.  If I had to be laid up with a back problem, now’s as good a time as any because there’s not as much activity going on.

Q

From a work point of view, how has your situation changed (if indeed it has) and has there been any significant financial impact?

A

I was doing consulting work which requires traveling around Asia.  That’s impossible now so my income has taken a giant hit.

Q

Has the pandemic had any positive impacts on your life?

A

I love that there is no traffic, that you can get a taxi quite easily, that the shops and restaurants (when open) are generally not crowded.  I’m not sure I will be able to adjust if and when things return to “normal”.

Q

When do you predict the world will return to some sort of normality and we will be able to travel abroad and maybe get to remove these damn face-masks, etc?  

A

Unless something unexpected happens, such as a flood of vaccines becoming available and a population willing to get inoculated, then I can’t see things returning until Q1 2022.  I hope and wish we can save the tourism high season (Q4) but that doesn’t look realistic at the moment.  

Q

Things started to go pear-shaped in March 2020. Over the past year or so, has your enthusiasm for living in Thailand increased or diminished?

A

No change.  We’ve been going back and forth about moving to the USA at some time in the future but even the pandemic has not made us shorten the timeline.  Not yet, anyways.

Q

When we get to the light at the end of this long tunnel, have you promised yourself to make lifestyle changes or do some things differently?

A

I’m looking forward to being able to travel domestically. There’s a lot of Thailand that I still haven’t seen. And then after that, perhaps I’ll be able to make a few more international trips to reconnect with some good friends.

Q

For someone who doesn’t know how to get through the days and is perhaps suffering mentally, what would be your advice?  

A

If someone is really in distress, I would recommend connecting with a friend you can meet up with for a coffee or at least call on a daily or weekly basis.  Even if the friend is in another country, it can help. Get out of the house!  At least take a walk around the neighborhood. Better yet, find a temple you’ve never been to or go check out a new section of the city.  Try to plan it out and avoid the hottest part of the day.

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