Submit your own Great Escape

Lisa Smith

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved back home to the state of Oregon in America last July.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I worked in Thailand for three years, six months in Ayutthaya and two and half years in Bangkok.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I began to panic after series of friends left throughout the years, returning to grad school, and began to question the likelihood of my becoming inert and growing older next to droves of seventy year old skirt-chasing falangs in Bangkok. I felt convinced that staying there would somehow inhibit the development of my career. I planned to attend grad school, and eventually return to Asia and secure a position at an international school hopefully somewhere near the beach. I also felt a pang for western civilization, and thinking egregiously that I would find it here in Portland, Oregon, I quit my job that I actually really liked and purchased a ticket.

Q4. What are the advantages of working where you are now compared to Thailand?

I have a comparable teaching schedule. I am paid for prep, overtime, etc, however, the amount I am taxed exceeds this perk. I work for a private institute and teach a few more hours than in Bangkok, yet my take home salary is about the same. The buying power of this take home salary is quite different, and I am definitely feeling the pinch. In Bangkok, I was willing to teach after my regular schedule to line my pockets nicely; this is much less of an option here, unfortunately. Additionally, I cannot afford the healthcare package offered by my company, so I am uninsured. I also do not have an annual bonus, nor paid vacation. My former employer in Bkk was actually more tech savvy than my current employer, which is shocking. America is also obsessed with everything politically correct, so there is a lack of hilarity in the teachers' room. This has inadvertently become a list of disadvantages.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Shopping! Fetishism of commodity certainly went far with me, and I now have hard time parting with that hard earned salary. I have certainly become more frugal! I also miss the weather, the nightlife, the proximity to the beach and nature, and the raw excitement of Bangkok. Things were as rough transitioning into life here, as Portland is currently the most depressing city in the USA, according to Business Week, with something like 290 bleak, sun deprived days. I also miss Thai students, who are irrefutably good natured and a joy to work with, as well as gossip, current events, etc. Luckily, I have Thai students here in Oregon who keep me up to date on all things Thai, and whose extended family provides me with enough ya ma muang and gang gai ped med ma muang. I miss the choral "ooooois!" as well. I also miss the gay club scene, which is fun for everyone!

Q6. Would you advise a new teacher to seek work in Thailand or where you are now?

I love my job, working with international students from every walk of life. This has given me the opportunity to stay connected with Thais and Koreans, two groups I have enjoyed working with immensely, as well as other ethnic groups such as Libyans, Saudis, Japanese, Chinese, Italians, etc. I am an attractive young woman, and after years of benefitting from Thai suai discrimination, I was actually a bit miffed to be marginalized with other, less attractive teachers. Isn't that terrible? Honestly, though, I do miss the daily compliments! I would advise anyone with reasonable sensibilities to spend a year here. For some, the temptations lead to downfall. I will never forget out and about one night with friends, seeing British yaabaa junkie begging outside of a 7-11 in Nana, living on a broken down card board box. That sort of scene always scared me. I am not sure why, however, as homelessness and drug addiction are equally rampant here in America.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

I have developed a new found respect for the Thai way, which sometimes frustrated me while living there. There is something ultimately reassuring about Thai sensibility; there is always a sense of well being. I am planning to return once I have completed a graduate program, so long as I can get that ideal position.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

As a recommendation for heavier set women, you'd better have thick skin or at least a quick comeback. I have seen the toughest of size 12 female professionals crumble after months of enduring "uan" and "pompoei" despite being attractive. This was hard for me, and after living in Thailand for three years, I went from a size 5 to a 0. I guess this could be an emerging market for get thin quick schemes!

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