Hot Seat

Mark Bright

We're chatting to expats who live and work in Thailand about the pandemic situation here. Mark has lived in Thailand for well over 10 years and is a stay-at-home dad, caring for two children.

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’m from Southend-on-Sea in the UK. I lived and worked in London for various engineering and maintenance companies providing hard services to financial institutions. In 2008, at 43 years old, I sold my place in Putney and bought a ticket to Thailand. I met my wife at Khon Kaen University in 2010 and we have two daughters aged 4 and 2. For the last four and a bit years, I’ve been a stay at home dad. The wife works for one of the Thai banks.

Q

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

A

We have homes in Udon Thani and Bueng Kan. Currently we are in Bueng Kan due to the wife’s work.

From my perspective the major disruption are the school closures. Our eldest daughter went through the schools online learning during the first outbreak the previous May. It was difficult for us and luckily it only lasted a couple of months. It is also worth mentioning during the first outbreak the province closed all roads excluding essential travel. This seemed to stop any infections up here. However, this time no such road blocks exist.

Other than cancelling our holiday there has been limited disruption here. Sure the bars are closed and face masks are used especially in the bigger stores. But we are still eating out on a regular basis and not much has changed in that respect. Udon Thani having more cases has seen near empty stores and and an eerily quiet Central Shopping Mall. The playgrounds are shut and so is our pool.

These are all reasonable precautions with numbers of infections up here relatively stable. I like the system where the provincial governor has near total authority in implementing local lock downs and restrictions. But they really should have cancelled the Thai Songkran holiday and restricted all travel.

Q
If you were put in charge of things right now, what would be the first rules or things you would change?
A
It’s all about the vaccine now. They need to import/produce as much as they can and ship it out to the provinces where it’s needed.
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
My mother died In 2017 without meeting our first daughter. However, thankfully I managed to make it back to the UK in time to see her pass away. My father who’s 81 had prostate cancer that’s currently is in remission. We want to visit him so he can see the children. But this whole covid situation has delayed the trip and realistically we are looking at 2023. So it’s really robbing us of family time and I feel once your parents are gone, you really are on your own. There’s nobody who can replace their loving words and actions.
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 haven’t worked since 2008. My income comes from UK property which I rent out. So far, long stay tenants are easy to find in the UK and I’ve haven’t felt any financial impact due to the virus. Ironically, as the UK has reduced infections the exchange rate is looking much more positive.

From my wife’s point of view there has been a reduction in bonuses and benefit payments from her bank this year. However, they are expanding operations in Udon Thani, so it looks like we will be relocating again.
Q

Has the pandemic had any positive impacts on your life?

A

Looking after and entertaining two children all day is really challenging. While I’m absolutely flaked at the end of each day, I do love the bond I’m building with the children.

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
2023 I hope we will be back to normal and traveling without overbearing restrictions. Since I’ve been wearing masks and using hand gel I’ve not had any colds etc. Also the poor air pollution makes using masks a necessity sometimes. Therefore, I am happy to continue this practice of masking up and using hand gel for the foreseeable future.
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 decreased?
A
Since 2020 every country has been having a difficult time in containing the virus, with the UK suffering worse than others. Thailand will catch up with the vaccines by the end of the year. So I hope domestic travel will be possible and relatively risk free. Cost of living is what keeps us here along with the wife’s work. However, I feel a good private school here would be better than a mediocre school in the UK. Sure there are good schools in the UK but we could never afford to buy a place within its catchment area.

Also there is the matter of employment if we lived in the UK. The wife’s experience and qualifications would not be recognised within the financial services sector. In addition, as I’ve been unemployed for 13 years it would be damn difficult to re-enter the workforce again. The virus has made it even more challenging to relocate even if we had wanted to. I am positive about Thailand’s future and more importantly our children’s future within Thailand.
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 sure if we lived in Bangkok or a tourist area, things would be very different. But up here I’m not feeling any covid fatigue. So no changes planned.

Q
For someone who doesn’t know how to get through the days and is perhaps suffering mentally, what would be your advice?
A
I really think we’ve had it easy where we live. Maybe it’s different if you were going out socializing all the time. Anyhow, I’ve always found some DIY to be very rewarding. Whether it’s painting, cutting the grass or designing a solar energy system. Keeping mentally and physically active certainly helps alleviate any anxiety.

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