Steve Tainton

I finally made it

Snapshots of my first month in Thailand

“Ch… Ch… Ch… Changes”
-David Bowie

Growing up I always had the distinct impression that roosters sounded the crack of dawn. This notion must have been inculcated through various Mother Goose stories, Fairy Tales and other exposure to books for children because I certainly never lived anywhere near a farm or any other lieu where chickens reside. It would appear that I was slightly mislead, or perhaps it is that the roosters in rural Isaan are quite different from those in whatever Germanic country from which sprung forth such stories including sunup respecting cocks. I cry foul (yes I know in the past I have promised to avoid lowbrow puns, but I simply can’t help myself) because upon my arrival in Thailand I sojourned for several days in a small, avian riddled village where I was awaken at the not so holy hour of four in the am by the cocks’ cock-a-doodlings. This was a marked change from living in Japan where I was usually awaken at the not so holy hour of two am by the throaty groan of my neighbor’s Harley Davidson. I don’t necessarily prefer one to the other, but as they say, “A change is as good as a vacation,” so I’ll welcome the cacophony of the foul fowl to that of the foul neighbor.

And so I am now in Thailand.

Saying goodbye to Japan wasn’t really so difficult. The hardest part was sitting in stupor through endless evening drinks held in my honor. I do believe that the farewell process has thoroughly pickled my liver and may have done as much for several other vital organs. I suppose the biggest blow has yet to be felt, though on the fifteenth of next month my bank account will be lonelier for my absence from Nippon. Nonetheless, this period of transformation is a welcome one. I suppose anyone having embarked on an ESL career overseas has done so, at least partly, out of a desire for change – a change of lifestyle, climate, salary (hardly ever for the better), etc. And so, rather than pithering on this month about something related to teaching, instead I am going to give the reader a series of mental snapshots from the last month of my life, a pastiche, if you will, of all that is strange, wonderful, frustrating and stimulating about arriving in a new land to start a new life. So get ready to swallow your yawns like you were teaching a post-lunch private lesson to an uninterested high-school student… here is my slide show.
Let’s start with this one, the moment I landed at Don Muang airport and officially changed my status from Gaijin to Farang. Notice the naively enthusiastic smile.

This is a good one. I’m sitting on White Sands Beach in Koh Chang. Remark my disgruntled look as I wave off the hundredth vendor of the day.
A picture of me on the ferry back from Koh Chang to Trat. Nothing special until you consider that at the same moment the other side of Thailand was being devastated by a Tsunami. Guess Koh Chang wasn’t such a bad choice after all.
It’s 9am and I am drinking Lao Khao (rice whiskey) with the Isaan villagers. After all, I don’t want to offend anyone by not conforming to local customs.
It’s 2pm in the afternoon of the same day. “Passed out” might apply more than the frequently used “napping”.
This one is special. It’s my girlfriend bribing a member or the local constabulary after running a red light. He claimed he wanted to make a donation to a temple. How could we say no?
Another good one with a law enforcement official. This time we’re being stopped for my lack of helmet while riding a motorcycle. It was stolen the previous day. If you look closely, you’ll see the officer is smiling at the naïve farang as he forgives the offence.
We are on a roll. In this one I am bribing the police after getting stopped for speeding. The officer has told me in English that I am “handsome”. Maybe that’s why we were able to talk him down from five hundred to two hundred baht.
Sorry, that’s all with the boys in brown. This isn’t bad. It’s me handing over a large sum of money as a down payment on my new car, a Honda Jazz. Jazzy.
In this one you see the look of horror on my face when I check my account balance after purchasing the car.
Here I am at my first job interview in Thailand. Note the suit jacket. It was really hot that day too.
Here’s another one at the school. Can you see the perplexed look on my face when the school administrator explains my schedule and wage? I wish I had audio on this, maybe then I could make sense of it.
Ew, this is my first class! Very different from Japan. Look at the high school girl talking on her phone. It’s just like I read about on
This one is funny now, but believe me, after driving from Khon Kaen to Bangkok for five hours I did not want to be swerving in and out of drunks at 1:30am on Khao San Road looking for a place to stay.
This one was a real lowlight. I have just scraped my new car in a parking lot. The other driver says “mai pen rai” in case I have forgotten that I am now in Thailand.
This dude here is my landlord. He’s swell. He dropped off a leaking tank of propane in my kitchen, but, once again, “mai pen rai”.
Check out the Pali writing on the hood of my new car. It has been blessed to the tune of five hundred baht. We can now take off the plastic seat covers and drive at break-neck speed. Buddha be blessed.
I know a picture of the Big C department store isn’t that exciting, but since coming to Khon Kaen I have been dragged there on a daily basis by my girlfriend, so I thought I would take a picture for posterity.
Here’s one of me and the girlfriend having lunch with a guy from the motor vehicle department. We are paying and he is going to help my girlfriend pass her driving exam. He looks quite full, doesn’t he?
This one is only an hour later. As you may tell from the look on my girlfriend’s face, the test didn’t go so well. You’ll also see our satiated government official looking embarrassed. Turns out, he couldn’t really help. Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch?
Well, I think I have done my best to help you get a good night’s rest. I promise that next month you won’t have to sit through any more of my boring pictures. I will be back to bore you with teaching related material (or maybe some nasty jabs at school administrators who continue to postpone my classes). In any case, until then drive safely and keep a five note tucked under the visor in case you should happen upon any donations to the local wat, impromptu blessings or other vehicular unpleasantries.


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