Before we went off on this teaching expedition I had read a few different blog posts and articles that I had found online relating to horror stories. These people went to other countries to teach and everything they had been told was a lie, they hated the school, and then they had to try and leave. If they told anyone they would be immediately stopped and all plans halted and even if they didn’t the threats would start to come once they had made their escape. I had even heard stories where some of the threats we actually legit and the people had trouble with immigration. When I was reading these all I could think of was “yeah, whatever. That won’t happen to us. It’s Thailand” but boooooy was I ever wrong. It’s safe to say that the last few weeks in Thailand were definitely an adventure for us.
When we came on this trip, we were told quite a few lies. Mainly about the teaching course and how the placements would work. We were told that you only had to teach for a few hours a day (which is true) and that you could pick your location (definitely false, kind of). Yes you only had to teach for a few hours a day, but you were required to stay at the school for the full day and not get paid for this extra time. You also had no say in where you were going if you stuck with the placement the TEFL program gave you. When we found out where we were placed we started to do research into it. There was NOTHING there. We had decided that we would go in and talk to the TEFL program and tell them that we didn’t want to go to Chaiyaphum. They ended up convincing…pressuring us to go. We talked to the guy at the school, were told there was a theatre and a gym and had all of our fears reassured. Even after this though, I always had a weird feeling in my gut telling me it was a bad decision Let me tell you, ALWAYS trust what your gut is telling you. If we had, we would have never been faced with this debacle in the first place. In the last post, we had just gotten to Chaiyaphum and everything seemed fine and dandy…and then we started to settle in.
Everything always seems alright when you first get to a place. Everything is new and exciting and then it hits you, your stuck in this town for the next three months. We kept convincing ourselves that we were happy and that being in a small town would do us good. We would have a lot of chill out time, work out a lot, and just rest. Anyone that knows us though knows that we can’t just “chill out”. We have to constantly be on the go at all times and can’t just be cooped up in our rooms. At first the little things seemed just trivial and funny but the longer they kept happening the worse it became. We couldn’t go out after dark because the stray dogs turned into some weird unknown creature that would attack when the sun went down (we dubbed them vampire goats), we were constantly being charged more for food at the market since we were foreigners, we would try to speak Thai and they would laugh at us and walk away, people would always know what you were doing and where you were going. We even tried to go to the gym one day and were constantly stared and getting our photos taken by people trying to act inconspicuous. Why they would want our photos in a non-aircon gym is beyond me though. You literally sweat from places you didn’t even know possible.
Our first weekend in Chaiyaphum we went to Bangkok for Canada day. We met up with some of our friends who had done the program with us and two of them were explaining how much their jobs sucked. We told them that ours was awesome and even though our town sucked, we would be able to get used to it. As the weekend went on though, I soon
realized how wrong we were. Not only were we a 5 hour bus ride away from Bangkok, but as soon as we got back, the feeling of unease and dread that I kept trying to push aside was back with a vengeance. I tried to push it away until I actually sat down and thought: I’m in a different country, I came here to enjoy myself, why am I hating my life here? I finally voiced my concerns to Tessa and luckily (as per usual) she was on the same page I was. We decided that we didn’t even want to wait until the end of the month and that we needed to get out as soon as we could. So we did what every mature adult does and faked sick. Since we’re always together it was pretty plausible that we picked up a bug from the street vendors though so it worked like a charm. We ran home and quickly hatched up a plan to leave. We called our friend to talk in Thai to our landlords to try and get our deposits back, which they agreed too (but actually tricked us), did our laundry, bought bus tickets(which apparently the bus station told the school every time we did), and went home and packed.
Long story short, by the time we got to the bus station in the morning (we booked a 9 am bus to make sure that everyone was in school by that time) our landlords had screwed us out of our deposit, the school had found out, and we were getting threatened about calls to immigration and our own embassy. To say it was the most stressful 20 minutes of my life is a bit of an understatement. I wore my black hoodie and tried to be as inconspicuous as a I could (well as inconspicuous as a pale foreigner carrying a backpack running through town can look) while we were heading to the bus station and when we got there, we hid in the seats that the building was blocking from street view. In those 20 minutes, we were told that the school knew we were running and that we had to get out ASAP. Kind of hard to do when everyone is in cahoots with the school and you still have to wait for the bus. The immigration threats started coming and we were expecting someone from the school to pull up to the bus station and try to stop us with the cops they had paid off to arrest us. THANKFULLY the bus showed up, we got on, and headed on our way to Bangkok. They realized we weren’t coming back and the immigration threats turned into them telling the school head that someone in my family had died (one of the only ways you could break your contract). I think they realized that we wouldn’t be bullied into coming back and that if they did call immigration on us, they would be in a hell of a lot more trouble than we would.
So that’s the story of how we became runaway fugitives in Thailand! Movie coming soon…