Plans are these: i leave here on April 4 for Singapore and shall be there five weeks. I return on May 10, wind up affairs and then make the final exit on June 4. So from now on it’s more Singapore than Bangkok.
The five weeks in S’pore will be spent at Nanyang where i’m giving a course in English. The school has granted me official leave and although it’s five weeks away from the job it is in reality only an absence of fourteen teaching days as it coincides with Easter holidays so from the school’s point of view it’s not so bad. Naturally it’s leave without pay but i’ll make up for it by the better money in S’pore; in fact i gain.
Two years ago to the month i began the process of packing up and shipping out of Kuwait; now once more i’m beginning to be surrounded by boxes and bags and labels and lists. It’s a major pain but it’s self-inflicted so i can’t complain, but anyone who’s moved, and that’s virtually all of us at one time or other, will sympathise.
The february trip to S’pore was enjoyable and i made valuable contacts in the job arena, among them the Director of Nanyang who offered me the five-week stint. He may offer me a permanent post after this but i’m not sure i want it, i’d prefer to join one of the independent schools or one of the internationals. I’m keeping options open and shall explore the market while i’m there for the five weeks.
Today, a letter from Steven in Kuwait. Mail out of there is slowish, i see from the postmark it took two weeks to get here. Steven’s fine and says Kuwait’s made real recovery since liberation but points out that systems are sluggish and most people indecisive when it comes to making important decisions. The beaches remain off limits and the weekend crowds in the city are much smaller than before. At the end of february there was a four-day holiday to celebrate the first anniversary of liberation but it was a boring affair, little to do but sleep.
This coming Sunday, 22nd, is general election day in Thailand and in these final days before polling there’s a frenzy of activity with all thirteen parties chasing votes as fast as they can. Although he isn’t seeking a seat in parliament, General Suchinda, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, is tipped as the next Prime Minister. He and the army are waiting till the voting’s over before deciding their next move and if he accepts the post of PM the general will resign his military command and contest a special by-election in which he’s sure to gain the seat. This is Thailand or in short, TiT.
A few weeks back, a candidate was challenged by a reporter who accused him of openly buying votes. ‘What’s wrong with that?’ he retorted. ‘At least it guarantees a full turn-out on polling day.’
The logic’s impeccable, the politics stink.
Summer has arrived with a vengeance and the temperature has soared. Humidity’s high, too, so it’s miserable weather all round and everyone has headcolds and coughs. I heard on the BBC that schools in Mexico City have been ordered to close and 50% of the private cars have been taken off the roads because pollution is four times higher than the acceptable limit. The Governor of Bangkok, an honest man, should take note as this city is now three times above the limit, and the muck everyone coughs up every day doesn’t bear thinking about. I’ll be glad to be away for april as it’s even hotter than march.
Our school’s moving to a new campus miles and miles out of town in the sticks and the directors are busy raising money for the outfitting of the new buildings. We had a slave auction last week where some students and teachers allowed their names to be put forward and the rest bid for them. Once bought, the slave had to obey the wishes of his or her temporary owner and carry out tasks such as bearing satchels, fetching food and drinks from the cafeteria and even walking on all fours. Several owners dressed their slaves up and one boy bought by a syndicate of three girls was converted to a French poodle for the day and led around on a pink leash. The girls who bought him don’t like him – no one likes him, he’s a stuck-up little prick (just like his father) – so it was their way of getting even. His classmates set him up beautifully: two boys – with possible futures in politics i’d say – promised him that if he went forward they’d buy him and dress him up as Napoleon for the day and that it seems appealed to his vanity. When the time came the boys made a few deliberately low bids and the three girls easily claimed him. The whole thing was great fun and the humiliation of lapdog on rope instead of emperor in regal attire took a few edges off Master Wonderful. I was auctioneer and in two hours auctioned off eight teachers and twenty-five students for 40,000 baht (a thousand quid) that’ll go toward paying for blinds for the classroom windows. All the buying was done by the kids and quite a few of them had more money than sense. The highest price paid was 7,000 baht for a boy from Grade 6, quite extravagant when you consider he was slave for only a day but all in a good cause.
Dozens of other activities are planned for the next few months: bake sales, concerts, raffles, a soccer tournament, a badminton tournament and an international fair.
This weekend i’ll keep a low profile as people go to the polls. The sale of alcohol has been banned for thirty hours, starting at 6:00pm tomorrow so the city’s bars and clubs will be dark. The ban is aimed at keeping the level of violence down; i hope there won’t be any violence at all but things are pretty tense. Some believe that if the army imposes its will after the election people will react negatively and say enough is enough and there may be clashes between students and troops like there were in 1974 when a lot of people died on the streets, thirty-three on one afternoon alone. It was bloody and nasty and no one wants a repeat.