Goodbyes

Yesterday was my goodbyes day…starting with saying goodbye to my church family…followed by saying goodbye to Joy and ending with a farewell party with my girls at the café. Today I am feeling shattered, listless and exhausted…a lot of emotion goes into saying goodbye to people you love and will miss.

I have loved being a part of my Thai church even though I don’t understand much of what is being said at times when we don’t have a translator.  This is a special time each week that I spend with the DR staff and their families (both Thai and falung) Joy and our other prevention children, the rescue girls and the girls from the café and salon.  I will miss my Sundays with them.

Sarkay, our DR Country Manager,  with is family.

Sarkay, our DR Country Manager, with is family.

As Joy wasn’t as Barn Mai when I arrived her house dad went back to Hoi Khom and brought her in especially to say goodbye to me.  I knew instantly that she was not feeling well which only made saying goodbye so much harder.  I had had a pendant etched with a favourite photo I have of the two of us together which I gave her as I explained that I was going back to Australia to live.  A friend translated for me so that I know she understood that this was goodbye for a long time and of course that I love her and will miss her.  There were no tears, no real hugs…actually no real reaction at all.  Perhaps that in itself is a reaction I suppose…listless acceptance…  whatever it was it broke my heart.

No smiles today from my darling girl.

No smiles today from my darling girl.

 

Remember I love you

Remember I love you

Carrying this ache I headed into the café to have a pizza and ice-cream cake with the girls…a celebration of our time together. Once the pizza arrived and the girls had the Thai dance music blaring through the café they did what teenagers do…they had fun!!!  It made my day to see them dancing and giggling and stuffing themselves with pizza, behaving like carefree teenagers at a girls night out party.  I can’t begin to imagine how many selfies were taken as everywhere you looked girls were posing for their camera/phones.  To our surprise they presented Stephanie, her husband Jamie and me with a cake while all singing “Happy Birthday”.  It occurred to me that this is the only song they know in English and as they put candles on the cake I guess it made sense in a weird way.  The cake had our names on it and written in Thai “We love you and will miss you.  God bless you every day”.  Yep…I can see the Happy Birthday connection, can’t you???????

Top - ice=cream cake Bottom - the "Birthday" cake

Top – ice=cream cake
Bottom – the “Birthday” cake

 

These girls certainly do like their pizza!!!!!

These girls certainly do like their pizza!!!!!

Standing and looking at this amazing group of young women I was just filled with so much pride in them, in who they are and how much they have grown and matured right before my eyes.  To be loved by them means so much to me and I know I am leaving a small piece of my heart here with each of them. Saying goodbye…was tough.

Camera 360

 

Whilst I feel sadness in these goodbyes there is so much joy in the time between the first hello and this last goodbye that I can’t help but to feel totally blessed.  My thoughts are drawn to home where my uncle and cousins are preparing to say a final goodbye to their daughter and sister. Her husband and children, their wife and mother.  My beautiful cousin Lindyl is in the final stages of her battle with cancer and their goodbyes are so much more painful than mine. I know that they will take great comfort from the joy and love she brought into their lives between their first hellos and last goodbyes.

 

It is time to come home.

 

Love and hugs,

 

Kerrie

 

I will miss…I will not miss…

Right from day one here it occurred to me that on my return home there would be things about my Thai life that I would miss…and within a week or so absolute clarity that there would be those things that I would not miss!!!!  I have found myself time and time again over this last 18 months adding things to these mental lists…it is time now to record them for posterity.

I will miss…

my girls for their smiles, cheekiness, resilience, courage, strength, loyalty and beauty

their hugs, squeezes, teasing and belly fat pinching…signs of their love and affection ( at least that is what I tell myself!!!)

feeling so proud of how well these teenagers have done to reach the standard of professionalism that I expect

Joy- my heart child

the people that have come into my life through Destiny Rescue…especially those that I may never see again

being part of something that changes lives and futures

the sense of freedom I feel when riding Lily (and the cost of filling the tank!!!!)

shopping in the day market and being able to buy chicken and salad for less than $2 or a red pawpaw, 3 mangoes, a pineapple, 6 rambutan and 6 mangostein for $1.50

riding to work early in the morning and counting the number of monks I see walking along the route

lunch at Chivit Thamma Da

my little house

the  general cost of living

my Thai neighbours and the local business people I have come to know and love

the beautiful countryside and hidden gems of northern Thailand

sharing my knowledge of Thailand with friends and family who come to visit

my Thai church family and going to games at Barn Mai on a Sunday afternoon

the bells from the temple a stone’s throw from my house

writing this blog!

I will not miss…

being so far from my family and friends

struggling to communicate

how hard it is to do everyday things like calling a cab and going to the bank

wet season and riding Lily in storms, rain and hail (and being soaked to my skin!!!!!)

burn off season when I struggle to breathe forcing my asthma to kick in big time

having to buy (and cart on Lily) all of my drinking water

the lack of affordability and availability of Chardonnay!!!! (Actually any white wine would have been a bonus!!)

shopping for clothes and being told “no have big big”

riding in buses…to Mae Sai, Chiang Mai and Pai…bring on the travel sickness medication!!!

the recently imposed anti-western rules and regulations

arrogant western customers at the café who expect a totally “western” experience in Northern Thailand!!!!!

dealing with the never-ending repair and maintenance issues at the café

everything taking so much longer to accomplish

watching teenagers tripling on a scooter in the rain while the driver (probably 15 years old) texts on his/her phone

the sub-culture in Thailand that sees young Hill-tribe girls as a commodity…a source of income…and totally responsible for providing for their family

seeing my girls crushed by the weight of this responsibility

 

In everything I have experienced so far in my life there is no pure joy or pure sorrow…just opportunities to acknowledge the existence both in every situation.  This time in three days I will be on a plane jetting out of Chiang Rai en route to Bangkok and the dreaded overnight flight to Brisbane.  Whilst I will be sad to leave I am also filled with joy at the prospect of being home.  I still have my farewell with the girls  and Joy tomorrow… I may not be so pragmatic after this!!!

 

Love and hugs

Kerrie

 

 

 

Rai…Mai…Pai…Mai…Rai

My dear friend Tracey is back visiting Thailand…to pack up her gear that has been stored at my house…and to help her to decide if her time and talents are best  utilised here or back in Australia.  Selfishly this visit has been timed perfectly for me.  Instead of an eleven day stint in Pattaya visiting another NGO, Tracey bailed after only a couple of days and headed up to Chiang Rai.  Pattaya is one of the worst places in Thailand in terms of the sheer volume of bars and brothels…the seedy and sleazy face of Thailand. An overwhelmed Tracey arrived at my place and breathed a sigh of relief at her sense of homecoming…there is nowhere in Thailand quite like the Rai!!

Her presence has made this transitioning phase of my time here far more bearable.  We have talked a lot (debriefing I guess you could call it)… visited some of our favourite haunts…packed up and given away most of our “stuff”… and just taken off on our scooters exploring, savouring the freedom of riding knowing that this is one of the things we are really really going to miss about living here.

From Rai to Mai….

A girls weekend…a farewell…last hoorah

Tracey realises the motorbike hire company had held on to her passport for the last six days…she didn’t notice it was missing

Tracey leaves her ipad at the café resulting in a mad dash by Hayley our English teacher to get it to her before the bus departs

Kara leaves her kindle on her bus…never to be found

Staying at my favourite boutique hotel

Much laughing…shopping…eating…and a few glasses of wine and mojitos

Chiang Mai Chicks

Chiang Mai Chicks

Great Mexican food in Thailand...who would have thought???

Great Mexican food in Thailand…who would have thought???

From Mai to Pai

Maniac minivan driver…three hours of accelerating and releasing the accelerator so that the van lurched forwards and then backed off.  Combine this with 98klms of the windiest roads you will find, two little girls busting to go to the loo and begging him to stop, and him overtaking everything in sight  on hairpin bends and you might begin to realise how good Pai is to make it worth this trip!!!!

Our hotel in Pai…another great find

Pai…you can’t help but fall in love with this place (I call it the Maleny of Thailand)

Elephant riding…a first for Tracey but I consider myself a veteran!!

Mojitos for $2!!!!

Great food…quaint little shops…friendly people

The novice and the pro

The novice and the pro

Feeling at home in the Thai version of Maleny

Feeling at home in the Thai version of Maleny

From Pai to Mai

SAME MINIVAN DRIVER!!!!!!  A guy throwing up in the back of the van…overtook FIVE vehicles in one go on a blind corner…arrived in Chiang Mai feeling exhausted but grateful to be alive!!

Back in our little hotel…last minute shopping for gifts to bring home…

Looking at rescheduling our flights again as my next little grandson is wanting to arrive before time…

Tracey job hunting…and losing things she has bought

Rompo Boutique Hotel Chiang Mai...my favourite place to stay!

Rompo Boutique Hotel Chiang Mai…my favourite place to stay!

From Mai to Rai

Arrived home last night and will go in for my last day at the café today.  Providing I can alter my flights again I will leave this place that has been my home for the last 18 months on Tuesday night.  In some ways I am thankful for this part of my journey not to be protracted…it may be easier for all of us to “rip the bandaid off” and make a quicker exit than I had planned.

My farewell with the girls is on Sunday night straight after I say goodbye to Joy…a tough day!  That this has been an experience of a lifetime goes without saying and I am just so thankful to have had this opportunity to sew into the lives of my girls and Joy as they have sewn into mine and feeling blessed to have company in these last days here and on the trip home.

 

Love and hugs

K

 

 

 

Replacing

In some ways my life for the last three and a half years has been a series of replacements.  I have replaced married life with single life…living in Biloela with living in Maleny…living in Australia with living in Thailand.  As I prepare to head home it occurs to me that I am replacing my life here in Thailand with a familiar and yet unknown life back in Australia.

Last week we were able to employ a full-time Thai Café Manager and so I am replaced…yet again!!! Aie is just lovely.  She is 45, speaks English very well and has a gentle but bubbly personality (uncommon in Thai people I have found).  These last few days she has been in training with me and taking the time to get to know the girls.  That she has a sixteen year old daughter of her own is an added bonus!!!!

The girls tell me "Aie not same same Kerrie very beautiful and skinny skinny" You just can't have everything!!!!

The girls tell me “Aie not same same Kerrie very beautiful and skinny skinny” You just can’t have everything!!!!

With a maximum of five weeks until I leave there is still plenty to achieve.  My friend Tracey is back visiting in Thailand and we will catch up on the 8th August in Chiang Mai and Pai before she comes to spend a couple of weeks here with me.  I have Aie’s training to complete and to write the training program lesson plans and trainee workbook for all of the roles in the café.  I am working on planning and setting up scholarships/financial support for my girls to go to school… at this stage Mo and Gunya for 2015 but maybe also Pansar, Numtarn and Tey.  Then of course there is also the packing up of my life and memories and trying to fathom how to condense that to 20kgs of checked baggage and 10kgs of hand luggage!!!!!

I know that there are some things in life that cannot be replaced…all relationship-based of course around the foundation of family and friends.  Adding to my list will be the girls at the café and Joy who join the list of irreplaceable people in my life.  The following is one of my favourite pieces…

A   R E AS O N   A   S E A S O N   O R   A   L I F E T I M E

People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.  When you figure out which it is, you know exactly what to do.

When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed outwardly or inwardly.  They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally, or spiritually.  They may seem like a godsend, and they are.  They are there for the reason you need them to be.  Then, without any wrong doing on your part or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.  Sometimes they die.  Sometimes they walk away.  Sometimes they act up or out and force you to take a stand.  What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled;  their work is done.  The prayer you sent up has been answered and it is now time to move on.

When people come into your life for a SEASON, it is because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn.  They may bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh.  They may teach you something you have never done.  They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.  Believe it!  It is real!  But, only for a season.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons; those things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation.  Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person/people (anyway);  and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.  It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.

I truly believe that my girls came for a reason…a season and a lifetime!

 

Love and hugs,

 

Kerrie

 

 

Cultural Immersion…Lahu Style

I had hoped to visit Pansar’s village for Chinese New Year, however commitments at the café prevented me from participating in what, from all accounts, is one of the best festival/celebrations in Thailand.  Determined to make sure that I get to experience as many aspects of this country as I can before I leave, I arranged to visit Pansar’s family home outside Tertai last weekend.  Our HR Manager Beth, who also shares a close bond with Pansar joined me.

To set the scene you need perhaps some background….about Beth.  American, tiny,drop-dead gorgeous, vivacious, energetic, loud,funny, generous…and a TOTAL city-slicker. So with Beth in tow we headed into the hills to spend a weekend in a Hill Tribe village.  I think the first challenge for the American was the local bus to Mae Chan.  Whilst we were fortunate to actually get seats a further 34 people crammed into the aisles and doorways.  I suppose when you pay 70 cents for a one hour bus ride you can’t complain when you get what you paid for!

The next leg was on a songtaew, not really any more comfortable than the first part of our trip but made a little more uncomfortable by the winding road that we climbed.  When Beth, who is a very friendly gal, caught the eye of the soldiers at one of the four checkpoints we went through, I must admit that I was a little nervous.  They bantered back and forth in English and as the driver pulled off the soldier called to her “I love you”.  Now that is what I call making an impression!!!

The US could use Beth as a secret weapon to undermine the Thai military!!!

The US could use Beth as a secret weapon to undermine the Thai military!!!

Pansar’s family home sits outside the village and consists of several houses and outbuildings.  Her grandparents, her uncle’s family and her family live in close proximity along with several groups of family friends.  Sort of extended family meets commune type of thing.  Pansar’s grandparents and parents were away working at their farm about 10 minutes ride away and so Pansar settled us in and introduced us to those of her family who were around and set about playing the perfect hostess.  By Hill Tribe standards (and what I have seen in other villages) Pansar’s family are very comfortable.  Their houses are made of cement, with solid roofs, electricity and in parts…running water.  The set up is very functional but also kept immaculately clean.  The area also includes a creek, pig sty, chook house, corn field & vege garden, fruit trees, storage houses, bathroom, outdoor kitchen and eating area and an indoor kitchen.  I would think all told quite lavish compared to others.

Watching Beth’s face as preparation for dinner that night began was worth millions.  Pansar’s family raise black chickens which have black meat and watching Pansar’s aunty kill the chicken by placing a small cut in it’s throat and catching the initial blood flow in a cup to be used for…it didn’t bear thinking about.  Finally the chicken stopped moving and then for the first time in her 37 years Beth witness the plucking of a chook.  I told the story of how my grandmother and I raised 24 day old chickens that we killed and plucked for my wedding feast.  Pansar didn’t understand why we chopped their heads off…such a waste…the head is good to eat!!!

Aunty pluck chook

aunty burn feathers

When Pansar’s family arrived back from the farm her father brought a delicacy for us which Pansar promptly began to prepare…FROGS.  Not big green ones but small dark ones which Pansar gutted and cleaned then washed in cold water, hot water and cold water again.  Although I have eaten frogs legs I admit to being a bit nervous about eating whole frogs…and as I watched Pansar cook them… my nervousness grew.

 

Pansar preparing tonight's delicacy!!!

Pansar preparing tonight’s delicacy!!!

Testing the heat of the wok.  Yep it's hot enough!!

Testing the heat of the wok. Yep it’s hot enough!!

 

The finished dish.  Arooy maak maak

The finished dish. Arooy maak maak

Dinner that night was fried frogs, live maggoty things, rice and black chicken…YUM!!!  Actually the frogs were pretty good but Pansar’s dad kept putting more of everything on my plate…I finally convinced him though that one maggoty thing was one too many for me…consequently I think I ate most of the frogs!!!! Pansar’s little brother Bas ( youngest in family, only boy and  spoiled by everyone) had the honour of eating the chook’s head…now watching that was a real test for my frog-filled belly I can tell you!

It pays to be the youngest and only son????

It pays to be the youngest and only son????

After dinner we finally hit the showers.  Actually I went first and coped well with the facilities that were available (remember I was brought up in the bush and we had limited facilities for most of my early life).  Beth went next…and was back within a minute.  “Ummmm Kerrie where is the shower head?” Response “There isn’t one” I am guilty of laughing at my friend’s expense…terrible I know but totally unavoidable.  She looked as horrified as she did when she watched the chicken being killed!!!!  Shock…Horror!!!  I finally relented and explained that you used the dipper in the trough of cold water and just dumped it on yourself.  I think the squat toilet AND the lack of a shower combined was perhaps a little too much to take in all at once.  Wow did she get an education!

We had a bedroom to ourselves and a fan so the night was very comfortable and we were well rested for our second day.  It was decided that we would go to the farm and see Pansar’s grandmother who stays up there for four or five nights at a time.  After a breakfast of rice and chicken we jumped onto the back of scooters and were ferried to the base of the hills that are farmed by the locals. We then had a 10 minute walk through some of the most spectacular countryside…steep slopes terraced by hand ready for rice to be planted, corn and pumpkins and other vegetables growing in every available spot, bamboo shacks, buffalo working the fields…magnificent!!!

 

Rapid fire from a slingshot nearly bags us a bird.

Rapid fire from a slingshot nearly bags us a bird.

Meeting grandma at the farm

Meeting grandma at the farm

Pansar’s family grow tea to sell and rice for the family (and catch frogs).  The “house” at the farm is no more than a lean-to with a thatched bamboo roof, open on all sides with a raised floor which is for sleeping and resting and sitting.  Pansar’s grandma is gorgeous and along with her dad, asked us many questions and told us about their lives.  None of Pansar’s family speak English and she is my best English speaker at the café so the role of interpreter was not that difficult.  At one point grandma asked Pansar which of the two of us (Beth and me) was the mother to her and which was the sister.  Not surprisingly she pointed to me as the mother and Pansar’s grandma then touched her heart with her hand…yep that said it all!!

family at farm

My delight in the day was heightened when I had the opportunity to spend time with one of my girls who left the café last year.  Mon was a favourite with all of the DR staff and is a real sweetie.  She lives just up the road from Pansar so it was such a blessing to see her again and check on how she is doing.  Napa (one of my current girls) was also attending a wedding in the village so she popped in as well…quite a Destiny Café reunion!

Reunited with my beautiful Mon

Reunited with my beautiful Mon

After copious cups of green tea served in bamboo stem cups we headed back down the mountain to the village for a day spent teasing Pansar’s younger brother and cousins, trying to communicate with her family and generally hanging out with Pansar, Mon and Napa.  With the constant flow of family and friends that exists at Pansar’s home I don’t think we made much of a difference except that other villagers would walk past the front gate to get a look at the falungs that were staying with the family (I think a first in the village).

Arriving back from the farm. Can't believe the big fat falung fitted on the back!

Arriving back from the farm. Can’t believe the big fat falung fitted on the back!

 

Dinner that night was Muu Gutargh ( pork barbeque) and one of my favourites.  I managed to avoid the liver and other unrecognisable things and thoroughly enjoyed the vegetables, noodles and pork  taking care to avoid the very spicy dipping sauces that the family enjoy.  “Showering” that night caused less of a reaction although I did stop to wonder how the family managed during December when the temperature drops to almost zero.  No hot running water in that bathroom!!!!

We had agreed to travel back to Chiang Rai with Napa on Monday which allowed Pansar to spend the whole of her little brother’s fourth birthday with him.  Forgetting to take something for travel sickness was an omission I sorely regret making the trip back tedious to say the least.  Apart from that though I have to say this was an absolutely amazing experience that I will treasure for as long as I have my memory.  I am hoarding these memories and experiences to me like a squirrel gathers and stores nuts…knowing that I am going to bring them out and examine them often in the years to come.

 

Modelling traditional Lahu dress

Modelling traditional Lahu dress

I did say she was gorgeous...even as a Lahu

I did say she was gorgeous…even as a Lahu

How blessed am I!!!!!

 

Love and hugs

K

Breaking the news and feeling hog-tied

I don’t know too many people who aren’t in some way wary of change.  I know I certainly take comfort from the familiar and whilst I have learned to accept change and even embrace it at times, I am not one for change just for the sake of change….if you get my drift.

Last week it was brought home to me again about how much my girls dislike and therefore react to change.  In their defence though this is a BIG change for them …it stands to reason then that their response was proportional!!!!!

My girls had dropped the ball big time last Monday morning…not like them anymore to do this…messed up orders… delayed service.  They were not on their “A Game” that was for sure.  It was obvious to me that they had sensed that something was wrong, especially as I had not been into the office of the café…just sitting out the front like a regular customer whenever I came in.

Unfortunately it took me until the Tuesday afternoon to arrange for a translator to come so that I could meet with the girls and explain the immediate plan for the café and moving forward.  I had envisioned being with my girls full-time and unencumbered until the day I flew back to Australia.  It was really tough then to tell them that I am officially not the Café Manager anymore and the potential risks involved to myself and to DR if I were to be caught working in the café without a work permit.  We talked at length about how the café would run until such time as a Thai Café Manager is employed.  We talked about how important it was for them to not use my name if someone came into the café and asked to speak to the manager.  We talked about when I would be leaving and when Stephanie would be leaving as her work permit expires mid-August. We talked about the Labour Department and how they control the foreigners that work in Thailand.  We talked about how even volunteers who don’t get paid still come under their laws and rules.

We talked…and then we cried.

And then we talked some more…

One asked if I thought the government would change it’s mind.  Another commented “Kerrie who will do my head in everyday everyday when you go home Australia”  (There are some questions I just can’t answer) “You go Australia girls not work in café.  All  girls go home.”

One thing that they all worry about is the thought of having a Thai Café Manager.  The girls talked about how loved they felt around all of the falungs in DR and especially by our café team.  Words like safe, special, loved, cared for …were all used to describe what they had become used to.  They have all had experiences with Thai nationals that have left them with reservations about how they will be treated. This I can certainly understand and try to relate to.

Gone were my cheeky, smiling girls….happy to tease and make jokes (especially at my expense) replaced with very sad, tense and serious young women.  Did this affect their work? Absolutely!!!!  This episode has set us back, the girls confusion and fears of change seem to have undone much of what we have achieved.  I pray that they will pick the ball back up quickly and that all will not be lost.

And so to my next challenge…reassuring the girls that all will be well, that everything changes and that change can be a really positive thing.  In a sense they are feeling that we are abandoning them, which is certainly not the case.  It is hard to explain that I will keep in touch and that I plan to come back to Thailand to visit when I can…and for them to believe that these promises will be kept.  I know I can keep them focussed and positive when I am right here in the café with them.  It is when I am restricted to short visits each day that my ability to maintain a calming influence has been diminished.

We are awaiting news (due yesterday) which will indicate  the Labour Department’s intentions regarding DR volunteers.  At best I will be able to spend more time in the café but not be “seen to be” the café manager.  At worst will be a continuation of the current situation where I come in briefly and play the role of customer eager for good coffee, wifi and air con while surreptitiously organising and running the show on the low down.  Working from home is rapidly loosing its appeal (to be frank it sucks)…I miss being with the girls and being on the spot to deal with issues as they arise.

 

Feeling frustrated and hog-tied!

 

Love and hugs

Kerrie .

 

 

 

 

 

Shut in…and shut out

This last week started in a typical “it could only happen to Kerrie” fashion.  I decided to try the fluid tablets that mum gave as my hands and feet are swelling badly in this incredible heat, so needless to say I was making frequent trips to the loo.  On one such occasion a lady happened to knock on the door (which wasn’t properly closed for some reason) and then walked away when she realised it was occupied.  I pushed the door closed properly…finished what I set out to do and then tried to leave. I do have to point out a few things at this juncture…(a) the ladies toilet at the café is a small fully enclosed single room and (b) Thai fittings & fixtures can be of questionable quality and therefore do not have the life expectancy of those that we are used to.  So…..trying to leave…not a happening thing.  The spring loaded mechanism in the door handle had basically fallen apart effectively trapping me in this little tomb-like room.

You would think that my yelling and bashing on the door would be heard for miles… but no.  From this bathroom I can hear almost every word spoken in the kitchen but the sound waves don’t travel in the opposite direction apparently!!!!!!  Totally oblivious to my plight, Stephanie (Kitchen Manager) and the girls kept on prepping for the day.  Not that I was panicking but it was really HOT in there and I was not comfortable at all.  Luckily for me the lady who had tried to walk in on me before came back…thankfully she REALLY needed to go.  Startled no doubt by the banshee  in the toilet she went and got the girls who then went and got Stephanie.

Using knives to try to jiggle the catch was taking way too long for my liking.  In the end we broke the doorknob out of the door (they also don’t make doors as solidly as we do) and managed to disengage the catch.  One freed Café Manager, one stuffed door and lock and one bathroom out of order until it could be replaced!!!!!

The girls only comment was “Next time Kerrie say she go Australia we lock in bathroom so she no go”.  Nah not falling for that!!!!  Although I am not claustrophobic I don’t really like feeling trapped (I know it is control freak thing…I get it)

Well that was my being shut in experience and now it seems as if there is a chance that I will be shut out.

I am not sure how much of what is happening in Thailand is in the Australian news…I know the coup was reported on and curfews and riots and such.  Returning to Thailand there really wasn’t much evidence of any changes on the surface apart form some extra checkpoints and security measures but everything else seemed “same same”.  I have talked before I think about the face of Thailand as “The Land of a Thousand Smiles”, well marketed and in some respects very true.  I have also talked about the sub-culture as being far removed from this image.

An issue that DR has been having is with work permits which are required by any foreigner working (even unpaid) in Thailand.  Obviously, and understandably, these work permits limit the impact on the local labour market by foreign employees.  The International Office of DR is based in Thailand and so consequently we do have quite a number of foreigners working here.  My work permit expired before I left for my last visit home but I was confident that I could get it renewed for my remaining time here or that I could maybe fly under the radar and be OK until I can hand over to a Thai Café Manager.  That may have been the case except for two recent changes here.  The first is that we have a new head of the Labour Department in Chiang Rai and, whilst we had a good working relationship with the previous guy, this one seems determined to make things as difficult for us as possible which could be because secondly….Australia and the US have withdrawn aid to Thailand in the wake of the coup and so they will make things difficult for expats in Thailand in retaliation.  This week the US Government  downgraded Thailand to the lowest level in the US State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report.  It joins countries like Malaysia, Gambia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Syria.  There will possibly/probably be sanctions placed by the US on Thailand (and knowing how we like to play “Follow the US Leader”) ultimately Australia may well follow up with this action.

For more info please go to -:

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/jun/20/thailand-qatar-downgraded-human-trafficking-report

or

http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/topic/736234-thailand-downgraded-to-be-amongst-worst-human-trafficking-centres/?utm_source=newsletter-20140621-0812&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news

Within DR we are working hard to plan strategically for change.  Regardless of our thoughts or perspectives ultimately we will have to comply with the Labour laws.  We have had people who have already been issued a work permit had their applications to renew denied and some new applications denied as well.    Anyone without a current permit is not able to be working in any of our facilities in Thailand.  Given the nature of the head of the Labour Department I am certain that they will be checking.  Our Leadership Team meets tomorrow to look at options and our plan of attack moving forward.

So where does this leave me….

We had already decided to hire a Thai Café Manager to replace me so this will solve one problem.  Until this happens I am not to be seen “working” at the café.  My plan is to work from home writing training programs for the café which can then be translated into Thai.  There are other policy and procedure type documents that I can update and refine as well.  I will go to the café for lunch each day (with a book) and then check on the girls and make sure everything is running as smoothly as possible.  We will ensure that we always have someone (Thai or Falung) in the café in case the girls need help and I am always only a phone call or email away.  The hardest thing will be telling the girls that I am not officially the Café Manager anymore and that if they are asked by someone to see the manager that they have to say that we are waiting for a new one to be employed.

There really is never a dull moment here…just the perfect place for me!!!!!

 

Love and hugs,

Kerrie

JP Laptop

My friend JP from Maleny donated a laptop for my girls to use when they are not at work. Like all of us they love getting presents!!!!  Thank you maak maak JP

 

 

 

 

 

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