The Miles and Miles of Red Tape for Thai Visas…

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I have written about common questions I get from friends and family about living in Thailand before, and so I thought I would share another one with you today.  A relatively new internet friend from my home state of Alabama and co-host of the The Royal Pains recently emailed to ask me about the difficulty in gaining permanent residency here in Thailand, and also wanted to know if the process was expensive.  So, I was trying to think of the best way to respond to his email and thus, I’m going to write about visas and residency for you here today.

Technically, you will need to have already possessed a on-immigrant Visa for 3 consecutive years before you are allowed to start the process to apply for residency status.  Immigration only accept applications for residency during a very small window of time in December( I think).  Furthermore, they only accept 100 applicants per passport nationality each year, so if say in my case, if enough Americans applied before me then I would be denied.  The cost just for the paper work, taking into account you do get the permit, is around 7 thousand dollars.  However, I will share with you that I’ve only met one person in my 5 years here that has a residency permit, and it took her 30 plus years of being married to a Thai husband and raising 3 grown children.

So, you might be thinking, what are my other options then?  If your heart is still set on residing in Thailand then there are several different types of visa you can consider.  I live and work here on a non-immigrant B visa and hold a work permit which allows me to be employed here in the kingdom and of course pay Thai income tax.  Educators can hold a renewable 1 year working visa, connected to your work permit from the ministry of labor, and a Thai teacher’s license from the ministry of Education.  There are mounds and mounds of paperwork that goes in to be submitted for each bit of paper needed and most schools employ a staff member who has the job of ‘only’ dealing with paperwork issues such as these.  I once tried to get a visa extension myself when i changed jobs, and the monstrously overweight lady cop in her tight brown uniform went out of her way to make me feel like a juvenile delinquent for not having my correct mound of documents.  I even cried that day sitting in the office in front of her.

There are other types of visas that can be obtained for living here long term, but It would be better to visit a website called ThaiVisa to read up on your options.  I always visit daily to interact with other foreigners in Thailand covering a wide range of expat issues like visa stuff, so if your interested please have a look.   The site has descriptions of the full range of visas, costs, trials and tribulations involved in living here on a permanent basis.  It is good to visit the message board on the site as well because the rules and regulations surrounding visas and residency can and do change regularly so it is good to keep abreast by checking the message board.  I say this because, as I’ve written before in my blog, Thailand has gone through between 17 and 20 coups to over throw a current sitting government, with the most recent having been last year.  So depending on who has their hand in the cookie jar at the time, rules and regulations governing the lives of Thailand’s foreign residents are always subject to change.  Some Thai leaders support and encourage the broadening of ideas through globalization, while others are distinctly nationalistic and borderline xenophobic.  However, it can be argued thus that this is the constantly changing face of government in any country around the world.  I sincerely hope that this helps to ease your curiosity, and please feel free to contact me for any information in this regards you might think of because if i don’t know the answer, then I’ll try my best to help you find it elsewhere.  Happy Tuesday to all my readers where ever this finds you!

More Lazy Sundays…

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Well here we are on the last day of my week’s worth of vacation and I’m down to the last hours of holiday freedom. The thought of being jarred awake by a screeching alarm at 6 AM tomorrow is kind of depressing, but such is life right? I always fall into the same sort of routine on vacation and it screws up my internal clock when it comes time to return to work. I fall into a pattern of staying up until 2 or 3 AM and then sleeping till noon every day. I watch tv, surf or chat on the net, or spend time playing computer games till the wee hours of the morning and sleep till lunch the next day. However, that means tonight I will be wide awake till 2 or 3 and be savagely awakened at 6 AM by the mental torture of my alarm. I have a colleague at work who falls into the same sort of vacation routine when we have breaks, so at least I know i’m not alone in the world in regards to strange sleeping patterns. Anyone else?

I didn’t do anything constructive at all over my vacation, and must confess to spending most of it sprawled out in my little space on my sofa for most of the time. I did manage the gym once, and also made my way down to Grad. school Saturday morning for a meeting with the head about finishing my studies. Hmmmm, What else is going on? It sort of feels like I’ve turned off my brain this past week and now i’m reaching for topics to jump start my my mental facilities. I did get to talk to my parents on the phone last night as we were trying to work out my phone number, plus the relevant international calling codes to get through from there to here in Thailand. We talked a good bit about really exciting news in my family recently, which I had the pleasure of finding out first through Myspace. Just gives you warm fuzzy feelings doesn’t it? Anyways, I discovered my brother and his new wife are expecting a new addition to our family come next September. I was really excited for them when I read the news online and think my little brother will make such a good father when the time comes. My Dad has decided to adopt the name “Paw Paw,” which is very sweet as it was what we called his father when we were little. My Mother will go by “MeeMee,” which is what my brother called his blanket when he was a baby. It is very special and this will be the first grandchild, niece, nephew in our family. It is at times like these I regret not being closer to home, and hope that I can be a small part of the babies life as well when it is born and starts the journey of growing up. Though, I’m not so sure I like the idea of being called Uncle Tom, right? Just doesn’t sound right to me, as It will always carry with it the image of being southern and racist. However, hopefully I’m sure that I’ll end up being that crazy gay Uncle Tom that lives somewhere over in Asia to the next generation of our family, and in that regards I wouldn’t have it any other way! Much love to everyone, and enjoy your Sunday where ever you are.

Where have the Republicans gone???

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Told you i’d be posting a lot more this week.  So I’m sitting here having a bit of marmalade on toast with my coffee and watching CNN.  I’m not sure why, but I only like to sit and watch CNN in the mornings when I’ve just woken up over a bit of breakfast.  Occasionally I might turn it on at night if I’m doing a bit of ironing, but most of the time I seek viewing entertainment elsewhere.  I thought I’d take a stab at politics today, though I’ll be the first to admit that It’s not a topic I enjoy.  I usually avoid talking politics like the plague, as my fear of confrontation is usually to strong to allow healthy discourse on controversial topics.  However, that’s what this is all about, right?  I started this blog to help me find my voice so why not throw a bit of controversy out there.

It is funny yet strange to turn on CNN here in Thailand and the only news stories that are running deal with American politics.  Lately, stories about the presidential race are taking up the majority of air time on news channels here and across Asia.  The CNN we have here originates from Hong Kong and serves the Asian community with their dose of western news.  The first news story to greet me this morning was of course more Hillary and Obama.  Something about someone being accused of plagiarism or something, and even though I was watching….I wasn’t paying close attention.  I was thinking about how that’s all I hear on the news.  It’s a constant loop of Hillary and Obama over and over and over.  It seems like once the primaries are over, that’s It…..we’re done.  The race seems to only be between the 2 Democratic candidates if one watches the news to get their information.  McCain and the rest of the little old men running for the Republican nomination don’t seem to be getting a fraction of the coverage from the media.  Where are the Republicans?  The only Republicans I know these days are like the mean sad little toadies you would see following around the bully at school with their head down laughing with the bully, all the while hoping not to get hit themselves.  Who do they have to look forward too?  McCain?  He is even older than Reagan when he took office at 69.  Do you really think he’s going to be in touch with the current needs and issues.  I know the last thing on earth I would want to do if I reach 70 is take the helm of control and take the responsibility of leadership for America.  Think about it?  Would you want to even take the CEO position at your place of employment at 70?  It just doesn’t sit well with me, though i will be the first to admit I’m a bit biased.

Following the endless stream of Clinton/Obama stories, I got to watch everyone’s favorite leader give an address from Africa.   “W” the train wreck is apparently “touring” Africa at the moment and was giving an address of support for Kosovo declaring independence from Serbia.   They were showing scenes of him hugging native villagers, while looking very casual in his ethnic colored shirt and it made me think.  Seems “W” is getting the most out of his last year as President and making sure to get those long extended exotic vacations out of the way before his term is up.  If your going to do a ‘tour’ of African nations, then might as well do it on the tab of taxpayers, right?  I mean its not like the U.S. is suffering under financial problems, right?  Anyways, I don’t want to ruin the rest of my day with these thoughts of failed administrations so I will close this entry here.  Much love as always and see you very soon!

Maids and Movies…

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It’s Monday morning just before lunch and i’m sitting here at home getting ready to enjoy my week of vacation. I think the best perk (there aren’t many) about being a teacher is the amount of vacation time you get a year. Now I know that there are some people in the world that think that teachers have an easy life, and that we get to much time off from work…blah, blah, blah! I’ve heard it before and I promise you that we fully earn the vacation time we get. It takes weeks of planning and spending 8 hours a day with a room full of 5 year olds keeping them happy, entertained, and learning all at the same time. Then on top of that add the work politics I’ve had to deal with lately, and you’ll understand why I haven’t shaved or showered but that’s what vacations are all about, right?

Anyways, I’m not planning on going anywhere this week special and will probably spend my time sleeping late, going to the gym, and playing WOW. I kind of wish i could go away, but I need to save my money in case there is a repeat of last month’s disaster at work. However, I promised i wouldn’t go into that so on a different note, I finally have broken down and hired a maid. It reminds me of when i was a little boy and on occasion I’d ask my mother to iron a shirt or something and what would she say…”What am I, the Maid or something?” I used to tell my Mom when i was growing up that I would have a maid some day to iron my clothes, clean my room, and do my chores. Well Mom…and i know your reading this…She’s cleaning the kitchen as we speak. I would never think of having a maid living in the U.S. but this is Thailand and it’s not uncommon. Most of the families with kids at our school have live in maids, nannies, and cooks to help out. So, I talked to my assistant at school and she new someone right away that would be good for the job…so I thought, why not?

Yes, yes…maybe I’m just lazy but it’s not like I spend all my free time laying on the couch, watching soaps, and eating Bon bons. I wash and iron the clothes, wash dishes, make the bed, and tidy up as much as i can. I think things just get dirtier here in Thailand than at home. Yeah…that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Finally, last night we had dinner at the Sizzler and went to a movie. Believe it or not, the Sizzler is considered classy eating to Thais. I know, as I was surprised when i first moved here as well and someone wanted to take me on a date to have a nice dinner there. We then went to see the movie “27 Dresses,” which has just released in theaters here in Thailand. I hadn’t actually heard much about this film before hand, and so I didn’t know what to expect going into it. However, I did hear that It was written by the same writer that adapted The Devil Wears Prada for the big screen so my hopes were up as to potential quality. I don’t think that it will be winning any Oscars but It was an cute way to spend a Sunday night with someone special. I’m not going to give you a full review however, because the New York Times did a far better job than I could hope, so go have a read for yourself.  So on that note I will bid  you a good week.  Will probably blog a few times this week, so make sure you check back for updates often!  Much love to all and enjoy…

The Concept of Love…

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Happy Valentine’s Day to one and all out there!  I’ve just gotten home and thought I’d reflect on this syrupy sweet day in which we celebrate our concept of love once openly once a year.  Growing up in the US, I can remember as a child in elementary school how much I enjoyed Valentine’s Day as we would make those little Valentine boxes or pouches to hang in the front of the classroom.   Then of course you’d go with Mom to the grocery store, K-mart,  Wal-mart…whatever….to chose the little pack of cards  you wanted to give your classmates.  Then you’d go home and write to Jason, Chris, Mark, or Debbie on the front of the little white envelopes and write your name on the card inside 20 or 30 times.  Then the big V-day arrived and we’d go up one by one to put everyone’s card into their pouch.  I remember how much I enjoyed tearing into each little card and there were always a couple of candy/cards thrown in for good measure, right?  I just loved the whole tradition as a child, so I made the best of the day with my students here as well.  We made cards for them to take home to whoever, and then we made some cute little heart shaped necklaces from pipe cleaners and beads to take home as well.  It was a cute and relaxing day, and i think the little ones enjoyed it.

Then it was off to Siam Paragon to buy  my Valentine his present and you’d have thought it was the mad day before Christmas rush again.  There were sooooo many people there carrying over sized stuffed animals, bouquets of flowers, chocolates, and all the other cutesy stuff that you wouldn’t want were it not Valentine’s Day.  The Thais really, really, really get into the whole spirit of Valentine’s Day and why not i guess, right?  I was thinking I was going to write about my concept of love for today, so bear with me as I explore this train of thought here for you.  I honestly think I learned to love from my family.  I have the good fortune of coming from a very caring and loving family, where warm hugs and kisses where never in short supply when we were growing up.  Sure we had arguments, and there were certainly rough patches through the years as i grew to be a man, but their love was always unconditional.  My Mom and Dad still flirt with each other to this day after all their many years together, and I see their love as an example of what I always assumed I’d find myself.  It is like that with all my family members and I have learned to appreciate this fact as I get older.  Then of course there were the endless stream of Disney movies i watched, and no matter the trouble or fabulous villan, there was always a happy ending because Prince Charming was always there in the end to save the day.

However, I learned as I grew up that not everyone has the same concept of love as I do.  Sometimes people don’t grow up in loving homes, and sometimes there can be enough heart break to make a person lose faith in the capacity of others to love or love them.  Also, I think love can be very culturally based because I have learned the word “love” can be used quite easily here in Thailand.  Is love simple?  Is love only as complicated as we make?  I’ve had boyfriends here over the years, and there have been some similarities in the way they professed their love for me.  In the west, or in at least where I’m from, your lover/partner/husband/wife…whatever….was number one in your life when you made a commitment to each other.  Partner, family, work, friends….or something along those lines are how I approach love and priorities in my life.  However, It is not so here.  I have noticed that the priorities seem to line up with family first, work second, friends, and then partner last or partner on equal grounds with friends.  It has been that way with each love interest i’ve had here over the years and I have had to learn to adapt my concept of love and personal priorities as time has gone by.  I hope that made some kind of sense, and you didn’t pause to scratch your head when you read through it.

So, I’ll close here and wish everyone lots of love out there, whether you want it or not!  I have the privilege of loving so many of you out there in so many ways, and I’m happy to get the chance today to say so.  Give yourself a hug from me, and now I must finish writing out this card I bought earlier and go get ready to have my own little Valentine dinner with my guy tonight.  Love and hugs to you and of course…talk to you again soon!

Hangover and Cardio Thoughts…

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So, I wasn’t going to blog tonight but i’m feeling a bit bored what with World of Warcraft down for its usual Tuesday maintenance stuff (I know, I know….don’t cringe). This is going to be one of those random chain of thoughts sort of blog posts, so if your looking for a witty focused perspective on some random topic then stop reading and I’ll catch you next time.

I had a whirlwind weekend last Friday and Saturday as another one of my old friends from Brisbane,Australia was in town. Therefore, I naturally felt obligated to make sure I spent the weekend making sure his vacation was as fun as possible. Unfortunately, for my liver and lungs it consisted of two nights of smoking and drinking in bars as that’s the sort of entertainment this particular friend prefers. Not that i resisted a whole lot though! We had a really fun weekend though, but I’ve discovered that i’m just not able to keep up with the partying like I used too. I’ve learned from experience in recent times that anything more than a night of light drinks leads to a day of suffering on the sofa under a comforter.

Yet another thing i’m starting to learn about the unkindness of age is that it seems to be getting easier to pick up those extra pounds/kilos and harder to work them off again. I’m still doing the same sort of cardio at the gym that i’ve always done, but it just doesn’t seem to be working anymore. I don’t think I eat anymore than i used too, but the same level of cardio just doesn’t seem to do it anymore. Furthermore, It doesn’t help that here in Thailand anytime you add a kilo or two everyone lets you know verbally that they notice as well. I think if the secretary at work pats me on the stomach and calls me fat in Thai one more time this week I’m going to strangle her with the mouse cord from her little computer. I tell the Thai people in my life often that, in fact, I would be considered relatively in shape in the west but such comments are often met with laughter and stares of disbelief. I heard a podcaster refer to themselves as a little “juicy” on their last podcast of theirs I listened too and it reminded me of what my father always says at home. We like folks to be a little on the ‘”fluffy” side, as skin and bones aren’t attractive where i come from.

Anyway back to my train of thought. I don’t know but lately I’m just not feeling motivated. I’m under a lot of stress at the moment with work and my studies that I think it is starting to affect my sense of well being. I’m not sleeping well and i’ve been a little more irritable than i should be with the students thus far this week. I guess it is fortunate that we’ve got a mid-term break next week so i’m going to try and “recharge my batteries,” so to speak. Was that random enough for you? Oh, and Valentine’s Day is of course this week so I’ll probably be writing some of my thoughts about this holiday later, so make sure and check back. Hope you have a good one where ever you are and where ever this finds you!

The Sugarbaker in Me…

Hello everyone!  I just wanted to make a quick post because i came across this little collection of videos on youtube  a while back and thought i’d share.   Designing Women aired on CBS from 1986 until 1993.  If you are an American of my generation or definitely if your from the south in the U.S. you are already familiar with this sitcom and the 4 women it centers around.  The show comically followed the lives of 4 women operating an interior design firm called Sugarbakers in Atlanta, Georgia.  I watched the show weekly and grew up with Charlene, Mary Jo, Julia and Suzzane laughing with and at them throughout my teen years.  My mother used to call me Suzzane Sugarbaker’s long lost twin brother as the similarities between her personality and mine was often a mirror…even to this day.  We used to watch the program together, but my mother lost interest because they’d become “to political,” which was mom code for saying they had become to liberal.  However, I became all the more attached to the show and it helped in my teen years when i struggled with my identity as a maturing southern gay liberal.  It helped to know i wasn’t the only one out there.  So anyways, enjoy the clip and will speak to everyone later in the week!

How’s Your Chinese???

lanternesque.jpgSo sorry that I haven’t had a chance to post in a while, but quite frankly haven’t been in the mood at all.  I’ve been through a pretty rough time at work, and I’ve been pretty down about it for the past week.  Soooooo….Wasn’t feeling creative at all and want to only give my readers my best.  I’m pretty sure I’ve said it before, but not going to go into work stuff here cause i want this to be a creative outlet as opposed to vent for my professional frustrations.  So??  How is your Chinese?  Unless you live under a rock, (and I know some places in the States qualify) you should know that today is Chinese New Year.  The Chinese calendar is based on lunar cycles as opposed to the solar calendar we follow in western countries.  Therefore, the date they celebrate can change year to year according to the lunar cycles of the given year.  Bangkok has been decked out in red for the past few weeks leading up to today, and I must admit i find the red lanterns beautiful.  Fireworks cracked and boomed across the city yesterday.  Thailand has a significant Chinese Thai population like other south east Asian countries and these people generally make up the ruling class.  The Chinese Thai are usually the business owners, government officials, movie/television personalities and high society types.   Yesterday morning I passed through what seemed like a constant aromatic haze of incense hovering over elaborate offerings of food to ancestors in front every other shop house on my way to work.  We even had a Chinese Dragon dance troop come to the school the other day to put on a performance for the kids.  More incense drifted through the air across the school accompanied by the rhythm of loud beating drums, performers, and a dragon dancing to give gifts of lucky oranges.  It made for quite an experience in honor of the ever increasing importance of this holiday.  But…How’s your Chinese?  Now i know some of you might be thinking, “Why do i care?”  Well, China is quickly becoming or is already an economic force to be reckoned with in this century.  They are working very hard to sheer up and strengthen their infrastructure to support their booming industry sector.  How does that affect you?  Next time your in Target or Wal-mart, turn over the piece of merchandise your looking at and see where it was made?  Getting the picture?  Furthermore, China is the 4th largest country in the world but more importantly is their population size.  Their are between 1.3 an 1.5 billion Chinese working hard to make their country strong and competitive, giving their country the highest population size on the planet.  Think about that and how that could affect the face of global politics in our lifetime.  Finally, I read an article in one of the Bangkok Newspapers recently about China.  Did you know that Chinese has already been made the official language of organizations such as the World Health Organization, World Bank, UNESCO, and there is a proposal just passed recently to do so with the World Tourism Organization.  My own uncle relatively recently traveled to China to tour factories for his company.  I remember talking to him about how just one visit changed his perspective on things and how so many Americans take the lives they now lead for granted.  So if you don’t think this doesn’t affect you then you might be in for a big surprise in the not so distant future.   So, have an orange for good luck and go out and try some Dim Sum.  In the spirit of prosperity and good fortune I want to wish all my friends and family a very very Happy Chinese New Year.  Until next time….take care!