Two Weeks

March 16, 2017

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Juggling has never been one of my talents. I’m good with one ball in the air. Not three, not five. One. So if I try to put more balls in the air than I can deal with, inevitably, some get dropped. Hence my 15-day hiatus from posting here in my blog.

(Narrator’s voice): “When we last left Bob, he was still looking for work, bribing traffic cops, and about to go out on a date. How did he do? Let’s peek in and find out.”

My job search has borne some fruit. In a rather indirect way, I might add. A few weeks ago, I walked to a government school on the west edge of the old part of the city in Chiang Mai. The woman whom I met at the first building seemed interested in talking to me about my plans, and made a couple of calls to the English Department and made them come down and bring me up to talk with them. I was surprised that she would bother to put forth that kind of effort, but I didn’t complain. Everything seemed to be going well, until I was asked, “Where is your degree?’

The short answer is, “I don’t have one/” I wasn’t afforded the opportunity to go to college or university when I was younger. I do have lots and lots of life experience, and I have been trained quite extensively on how to teach English, but that wasn’t what they needed. In order for me to work for that school, I would have to produce a bachelor’s degree in something. Didn’t matter what it was- I could have majored in tying neckties- they required it to hire me as a teacher. I was given the apologetic smile and shrug, and I understood, but it didn’t stop the wind from being taken out of my sails. I thanked them for their time and said goodbye. But on my way out, one of the students told me that I needed to stop back down at the office where I previously had been waiting, because I had left some materials there. When I returned to pick up the extra copies of my certificate and CV, the lady who had tried to help me inquired about my plans. I thanked her for her assistance, but told her that I probably wouldn’t be considered due to my lack of degree. She opined that it was a stupid rule, and asked me if she could help somehow. I told her that if she had contacts with other educators or managers at different schools, that I would appreciate her pointing me in the right direction.

Two days later, this woman, who has a PhD in education, called me and put me on the phone with a guy from Slovenia, who is the head of the foreign teachers at a local school outside of Chiang Mai city. He told me to come and talk with him, and that my lack of a degree would not keep me from getting hired at his school. So at this point, I have visited the school twice, been introduced to the students and also the upper echelons of the staff, including the director of the school. I have a mini-demonstration and interview scheduled for tomorrow at 8:30am!

The reason for my interview being scheduled so early is because last week, I was called by the local YMCA to come in for an interview right away. So desperate were they for someone to teach their summer English camp this week, that I was basically sat down and told, “You start Monday, please let us know what you intend to teach and what activities you wish to do with the children.” So, this week, I began working as a teacher and I’m getting paid for it. My class starts at 10am and I teach for two hours in the morning, and two more after a lunch break, ending my day at 3pm.

To top that off, the lady with the doctorate called me again last week to ask me if I would be willing to do a weekend training seminar outside of town this weekend. I didn’t know much information about it, but I said that I would anyway. Hell, it’s an opportunity. I was told that, along with a partner, I would be training about 30 primary school teachers from a remote district 180 kilometers from here on how to teach English to their pupils. I’m really not qualified to do this, but she needed someone, and I wanted the exposure. Then I found out that the 30 teachers were actually going to be 150 teachers, and I almost shit myself. My partner and I have one six-hour day on Saturday to train these teachers to an impossible standard, and then watch and give commentary Sunday as they demonstrate what they learned from us. In order for us to get up there, we leave tomorrow (Friday) at 4:30 pm. So, I have an interview in the early morning, rush back to teach my final summer camp class, then rush back with my lesson plans and weekend clothing (all on my motorcycle) about 18 kilometers from here so we can start the 3-hour trip north for the training seminar. I am exhausted just thinking about it. As the Thai people say, “Mai pen rai.” (“Whatever”, or “that’s life”)

One of my friends who reads this blog chastised me a bit for leaving him hanging on the date story. I haven’t really talked much about my love life in this blog. But for the sake of honesty, I’ll share some of that.

My girlfriend back in the States and I broke up a few months before I left for Thailand. It was a mutual decision, and even though it was not painless, we remain on friendly terms. We were simply in two different places in our lives, and it just wasn’t going to work out being on the other side of the planet. I wish her nothing but happiness and success in her future.

I have said for a long time that I do not desire to marry again, or even be in a relationship for a period of time. I really want to focus on myself and things that I wish to accomplish, without distraction. I have a standing arrangement with a close friend back in the Chicago area that if she hears that I have a girlfriend in the next couple of years, she can buy a ticket to Thailand and come punch me in the face. However, I have a very difficult time in practice being alone. So, when the coffee girl smiled at me, and we subsequently began having daily conversations which ended with her asking me out, I was of course very pleased with that.

May is a beautiful woman and is very easy to like. That night, I met her at the rooftop bar of the mall where she had her coffee stand, and we talked and got to know each other a bit more. She is 35, divorced, with two young daughters. And she is looking for someone to marry. Red flag! Danger! Will Robinson! Shields up! Right?

But there was something about May that made me still want to see where things would go. We went out several times over the course of the past two weeks, and I found myself really being drawn to her. The way she looked at me. The way she held me tight as she sat on the back of my motorbike when we went out. The way she treats everyone so kindly. I found myself at odds within as I struggled with my goals versus wanting to be with her. In the end, it just didn’t work out. She wants to be married sooner than later, and I’m not about to rush into anything again. We ended our brief relationship last night.

While I know it was the right decision -not just for myself, but for both of us- I can’t help but feel badly about it. We chose to part as friends, but I really don’t know if I can handle seeing her again for a while. It was beautiful while it lasted, and I don’t regret trying, but breaking up hurts a bit. Even if it was only for a fortnight.

Stand down, Wendi. My face will stay intact for a bit longer.

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