Richard Constable

Last Christmas

A foreign teacher's Christmas in Thailand


An old geezer who is a veteran EFL teacher in his forties was informing me that this year the Thais have really upped the ante on the Xmas street decorations - right along the thoroughfare. According to him, it seems that they're now letting rip as they've bin a bit somber for the last year or so.  

In as much to say, I mean the street with the German-sounding name that runs straight through the main part of the city, the one which the Bangkok Sky Train whizzes up and down. The other night, I took it from the suburban populous of On Nut to the urban exclusiveness of Siam with me Thai squeeze and I was telling her it's not far short of London it really ain't! 

Thousands of iridescent lights, luminous colors, red, gold and green ave bin tangled and bound, displayed, wrapped and hung around, Japanese, Korean and Chinese food shops, Thai restaurants, modern malls' canopies, and rooftops - condominiums, apartment blocks, and office towers' windows' slots. Twisted creatively about Christmas fur trees, MacDonald's arches, outlets of KFC's, public park hedges, fairies' knees, double doors of department stores, ethnic elves and much more - 'everything but the kitchen sink.'

The first class Central World Plaza, they've done their bit, the one they had to rebuild after the original was torched by the political activists 'the Reds' back in the day - it looks like a 'Winter Wonderland'! Of course, she ad to stop for a photo shot, blimey we've had more photos taken than Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Homeward bound, she started to hold me hand tightly, it gotta her in the mood it did, I really made a fuss of her when I got er back to the room. Well, not much different to what I do every night as she's absolutely stunning, I mean I'd had my fair share of hotties before I came out ere but nothing to touch her, she's pure hardcore. Now, all me mates back in the UK having seen her all dolled up on me Facebook wanna come out ere too. 

As you would have guessed as it's Winter we've bin going through a bit of cold spell it's bin around twenty degrees Celsius. Where I come from that's sunbathing on Southend beach weather, we don't wait for the third weekend in June. Anyhow, you'll never believe it, these ave bin swanning about rigged up like their in Alaska, coats, scarves and woolly hats. As a result, she wouldn't take a shower for four days, finally comes home in the middle of the afternoon it's warmer to ave one - still hasn't washed her barnet fair though.

Needless to say, I'd met her on the social network she'd bin seeing some other geezer at the time, an Iranian - she blew him off as soon as I arrived in 'Big Bad Bangers,' a nickname for Bangkok. Since then I've transformed her as she used to be a little bit geeky as she'd a Korean hair-do, but I gotta to have a bob - it's bin a real triumph. We've bin getting on like an house on fire me and her. Great, good, indifferent, bad, an almost Armageddon - the agony and the ecstasy as they say. Good conversation though it's in moronic English, lots of laughs, punch-ups, sometimes with her welding a knife! I couldn't tell you to what extent the Thais are drama queens, you wouldn't want me to shatter your illusions of the peaceful and harmonious 'Land of the Smiles.'

Another reason, I came out here was to be an EFL teacher, yet due to the fact that I aven't got a uni degree I couldn't get a job working directly for a school, hence I teamed up with an agent and work indirectly for one. Having said that I still ad a few options on a number of schools before deciding upon Sister Sledges', apparently down to the fact that Thailand has lost a lot of its teachers to Vietnam and loads more to China. As I understand it, it's something to do with piss poor salaries - the EFL teachers' rates of pay haven't gone up in decades. 

Sister Sledges' Convent School bang smack in the center of the city in Silom Road, Bangkok, for all that discreetly tucked away down Soi 8. Basically, the convent is like a trip back in time to better days, the students are well brought up nice young ladies from middle-class families. It has a relatively long tradition as it was founded in 1906, consequently many of the present day students' mothers and grandmas studied ere. In spite of that, the fees don't cost the parents two parts of their anatomy nevertheless about an undred grand a year whereas compared to the stratospheric international schools' five undred grand plus - it ain't a lot. In actual fact, many of em ave got enough wonga to send their daughters to one of those posh schools if they like. 

The thing is they want their bricks and mortar to be Thai in personality as well as in character not, Asian/American. As well as, the Convent's students always come running into me classroom to be the first in order to grab the seats nearest the front, with beaming smiles on their faces and eager to learn English from where I teach at me whiteboard. Twenty-seven learners in a traditional classroom with wooden chairs and desks; they split the classes in two for the English programs. Every time I ask a question a dozen hands shoot up in an instant, they're attentive to my every word. 

Just the other day, I asked the students about their weekend, one sez her and er family went to Hua Hin on the South coast to their bungalow at the resort. Oh, that's pucker I sez you've got your own gaffe by the sea and it's on a resort. Then she tells me without any pretension that her family owns the resort. They are like that, very grounded, money nothing to be ashamed of still nothing to brag about either - a wonderful bunch! They say I'm their hero; the way that I stand - like Superman - I can't think what they mean. In contrast, it's all a million miles from Peckham, the public housing estate I grew up on and the state school that I attended.

What is more, Sister Sledges' claims to be a Catholic school though we've got about 5,000 students all of about 99 percent of these are Buddhist. One day last week all the Thai teachers ave dressed up as Santa, we've all gone out into the playground - lots of photos, a few tacky gifts, stopped short of a tom bowler they don't give much away the Catholic Church. Therefore, they've all had a dollop of fun otherwise nontraditional Xmas fare, sushi, and green Rosy Lee; tea! Let em ave it the Thai people, they love a good festival to celebrate and it's bin a while.

Incidentally, I commute here on me moped, its a long old track from On Nut and you have to keep your wits about you 101 percent of the time. Moreover, you ave to be prepared for every eventuality, like being undertaken; that's overtaken on the inside or carelessly driven jam jars; cars reserving at you the wrong way down one-way streets. Further, bygone buses being driven flat right out meandering in and out of both lanes down a dual carriageway while leaving plumes of jet black exhaust smoke in their trail that make it almost impossible to breath let alone see. Not to mention fifty-odd-year-old would-be boy racers driving like they're insane and thinking that they're kings of the road. Besides those first time drivers unaccompanied and occasionally in brand spanking new Mercs, plus totally illegal underage kids driving to school - you name it! On top of that, you won't be astounded to learn that they've got the highest mortality rates on their roads per capita than any other country in the whole world, cause thousands die in road accidents here, every year, so now the government is trying to do something about it with a campaign. Well, here's hoping!

Come to think it I've bin out ere now for about seven months, I used to work as a security guard at a branch of W.H.Smith in London. The funny thing was when I nabbed somebody for lifting something from the shop if it was an immigrant they'd own up. 'Alright guv, it's a fair cop, you caught me out, red-handed." or 'Turn me in, it's what I deserve.' On the other hand, if it was a Brit they'd be like, 'Oh, fuck you mate, you've spoilt my day!' or 'Oh cum on, you always were a fair guy Eddie. Could you turn a blind eye, just the once? I'd really appreciate it!' I'm thinking you thieving bastard you're bang to rights and I'm gonna do my bloody job. Do I miss it? Yeah, like a good boot in the old orchestras' stalls!

In the first place, we've gone back to Central World Plaza on Christmas Day; she loves it - thinks it's high-so; high society. All eyes are on us the blue-eyed fair-haired farang; foreign teacher and the supermodel-like Southern Thai accountant. I'll tell you something, the green-eyed monster is alive and well and living in Bangkok and if looks could kill. Between the Thai geezers that are attracted to her and the Thai gals that I catch the eye of - an andsome westerner - leave it out! I'm no Chris Hemsworth or more like an ATM card with no credit limits as they see me.

To be honest, I can't say I'm not chuffed with all the attention and they can be mouthwatering, especially some the toms' tidbits, the living dolls. Memorizing mince pies, dulcet features, immaculate forms, milky white thighs, white-clean girls - they've ad some kind of skin treatment. They're totally pampered, indulged by their butch counterparts and they've probably bi-curious! Yeahhh, what can you say? Just catering for one gal and all er needs and wants is a demanding enough job - I'll stick with Toey.  

In the second place, we go into a superb little buffet restaurant on the fifth floor, Gustosos' seats about fifty, central sets of stainless steel food warmers - all you can eat for 595 baht including soft drinks - that's about 14 nicker. In London on Christmas Day times it by ten and you won't be far wrong - knock you back 140 sheets that would. Gustosos' manager's wearing a vibrant purple outfit informs me, "Thailand no have Snow," so now I know and the spread looks pearler I can't wait to tuck-in. Spare ribs in barbecue sauce, chicken fillets in mushroom sauce, parma ham an prawn salad, pizza, some spuds an plenty of veg an to crown it all off my old favorite - crepes suzette and creme brûlée. Not only-but, she's photoed the lot for her Facebook and she seems appy though she's disgusted by how much I ate - I can't say I blame her. I've asked er if she's going to eat anything else and she sez to me, "I can no eat when I see your face!" she's a real charmer.

When all's bin said and done, no surprises she wants to do some shopping next, well it is Christmas and I did promise her, and yet little does she realize she'll be paying it all back in kind or am I the one who's being naive. Undeniably, Tony and Teoy are to get some retail therapy as me old dear used to say. Of course, Thai is a precise tonal language so I ave to be careful ow I sez er nickname, cause any word can ave more than one meaning dependin on ow yer say it. Actually, Toey can also mean pony and trap; 'crap' in Thai, which she's none to fond of, and if I say 'Toy' when there are foreigners within earshot they might think I'm referring to her as me plaything - it wouldn't be right.

Coincidentally, she's after a new par-ty dress for New Year's as we're comin back ere next Sunday for the countdown - in an odd way that's your whole life really, a countdown. Over the PA system, they've bin playing George Michael's 'Last Christmas' - is she still brown bread? Nah, I must admit, I did love Georgie boy - he was a world class entertainer, wasn't he? 

In the end, having made her choice she makes er exit from the fitting room but hang fire Geronimo she still needs my approval. It's a bright red strapless woolen crouched job that should keep it all warm for me, and leaves little to the imagination. What can I say? Marks out of ten, eleven!

The very next day, Boxing Day, I've gone AWOL I'm off with me China plates; mates, the co-teachers to Asoke, Soi Cowboy. The neon side road with bar girlies, bad geezers and enough battle-cruisers; boozers to sink the Bismarck. I'd only gone there to ave just the one which I should know at the age of twenty-six is an age old mistake. The next morning I've woken up on a colleague's sofa at around five o'clock feeling the worst for wear and with 17 missed calls from Teoy on me dog and bone; phone. Thinking that she wouldn't appreciate a 5am call from her drunken, dickhead of a boyfriend

I jumped in a sherbet dab; taxi cab and told the driver to "Go On-Nut and not to spare the orses!" A breathtaking twenty odd minutes down-the-line having paid forty baht for the highway, the yellow and green Toyota Alias' cab's meter says eighty baht; I've handed the driver a red one hundred baht note. Then the cab driver in English, "Sorry, no change!' so I snatch the note back and sez, "Gin kao!" for food - which other than greetings and thanks is the only Thai phrase I know. Almost instantaneously, the cab driver stuffs twenty baht into my creased shirt's top left-hand pocket and simultaneously snatches the hundred baht note back out of my right hand! Seems he had the right change after all. As I'm making my way out of the cab he shouts, "Kee neoy!" which I found later translates to 'Shit is sticky,' someone who money sticks to.  

Ultimately, there I was at me room door preparing meself for a sea of slings and arrows. Gently not only-but carefully pushing the key into the lock when I hears this muffled groaning sound, four explanations ave whammed through my mind by the time I've unlocked it. The first was that she's sobbing because she thinks she's lost her ATM; yours truly - break er heart that would. The second was that she's standing behind the door with a meat cleaver - it wouldn't be the first time. The third was that she's played her dog and bone and the night away at the RCA a well-known club venue and she's still pissed - every girls' night. The fourth and most nerve jarringly worst of all was that she's in there making a fuss of another geezer! 

Come what may, on entering our thirty meter unit room and slappin on the light. Woh! False alarm, Toey's old dear's curled up, snoring and snuggled up beside Toey, the pair of em prostrate on the hard tiled floor, absurdly alongside the comfy double bed. Accordingly, I begin rubbing me forehead to the back of my skull, back and forth frantically while making a right mess of me barnet - I'ddd completely forgotten that her old mum was coming down from Narathiwat for the festivities! 



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