My last post wasn’t exactly all sunshine and smiles so ’tis with heavy heart that I follow it up with more tales of woe…
One of our regular pleasures in Surat is the fortnightly pub quiz at Bigg’s Bar, a chance for farang from rival schools to congregate, challenge each others’ capacity for useless trivia and generally blow off steam after a hard day’s teaching (although why it’s still scheduled on a school night is beyond me…). Every Thursday we dutifully gather, borrowed ballpoints in hand, ready to do battle in the arena of movie themes, Asian geography, cocktail recipes and sexual positions, to name but a few of the rounds we’ve seen to date. I love quiz nights, even though I hardly interact with anyone outside my team, usually due too tiredness, I find it soothing to get my grey matter latched onto something outwith the sphere of the finer points of the English language.
So it was in good spirits that I left Biggs last night, arm-in-arm with Em and pleasantly surprised at a second place finish (along with John and Becky), much better than the previous quiz’s fourth-place disgrace. We got home but no sooner were the lights out than it clicked – where’s my whisky? You see I’d taken along my bottle of 18 year old Bunnahabhain to help lubricate the gears and pulleys inside my skull. It obviously hadn’t done anything to help my memory though so it was back on with the shorts and a thankfully short walk back to Biggs (literally a couple of minutes away).
When I stepped out the front door I definitely did not expect to see a Thai guy standing in my driveway, talking on his mobile and looking like a rabbit caught in headlights. Before I could say a word he started blurting out in broken English, “You teacher Surat Thani yes? You teacher? Live Surat?”. Well yes I am, not that it’s any of your business, but I’m a polite kinda guy so I tried to make head or tail of what he was attempting to communicate. Suddenly the word “hospital” started making the odd appearance in his sentences and I started to get concerned, but then he lapsed back into full-on Thai and I had to just chuck him the old “Mai kao jai”. He apologised, said he would phone someone, got back on his mobile and went to sit on his bike; I shrugged, walked off to Biggs and was back within 5 minutes.
He was gone. The door to my house was open.
I sidestepped past the collection of motorbikes and tried the handle – still locked but sitting open. What the fuck? A quick scan downstairs revealed that the TV, DVD player and cable box lay undisturbed and there had been no valuables lying around before I went to bed. So far so good. Opened the bedroom door – no-one seemed to have stolen Em so that’s fine, it looked like we might just have gotten away with it.
Until I got a text from roommate Sandy – “Someone’s stolen my Mac and DS from my room”. Fuck
After a quick chat I ran through everything in my head. The guy must have been casing the flat and about to make his move when I came out. Despite there being three bikes parked in the driveway he still decided to try his luck and managed to hit the jackpot. In the cold light of morning we discovered that he’d wrestled a pane of glass from the window by the door, carefully laid it down on the bin, forced through the wire mosquito mesh inside and opened the door from the inside. Motherfucker. And he managed to do this, get upstairs, get into Sandy’s room, take his pick and leave without Em, Kelsey or Jeeheon hearing a thing – consider that the walls in our flat are like paper and you can hear a pin drop in an adjoining room.
Realising that someone can do this, freely stroll around your domicile while you’re blissfully exploring some dreamscape or other is a little chilling to say the least. The old cliche of feeling violated is completely true. However the violation is dwarfed by the anger I feel when I think that Em was in that room by herself while I was retrieving my few drams of scotch. That makes my thirsty for blood.
The worst thing is that this isn’t the first time. Just a few weeks ago the same happened at Em’s, only an even creepier scenario. Both her and her flatmate’s rooms open onto the living room. We were in hers, he was working in the living room and went into his bedroom for two minutes to get some things. By the time he got back to the living room his laptop was gone, along with his hard drive bearing his movies, music and the inevitable irreplaceable collection of photographs from a months-long sojourn on the other side of the world. Em herself had a laptop and camera stolen last year. People have iPods taken, passports, bikes, it happens a lot. In fact it’s almost as hard to find some who hasn’t been taken advantage of in this manner.
I suppose it would be easy in this scenario to get paranoid – the Thais are all out to get us farang! They think we’re filthy rich and want to take us for every penny! Run away! But the reason it looks like that is because we tend to hang out in farang circles, therefore the gossip that reaches our ears tends to be farang-centric. A few conversations with people hanging on the fringes of the ex-pat circle has revealed that this is actually a minor epidemic at the moment, affecting Thai and farang alike, rich and poor. Sometimes I forget that the wealth inequality is ridiculous – masses of poor working class people struggling to get by with an almost non-existent middle class bridging the gap between them and a massively wealthy elite. In reality this sort of thing should not come as a surprise, it’s more or less inevitable given the situation. It’s just a shame when the realisation tarnishes your enjoyment of this pseudo-paradise.
So what to do? Well we’ll tell the police but that’ll be next to useless. We’ll get the window fixed but it can be easily opened again. Me? I’m going MacGuyver. I’m buying two lengths of electrical wire, trailing it from the mains to the metal window frame through which our visitor made his appearance, I’m getting some popcorn and cola and I’m sitting back in the dark tonight, just waiting for the return match.
Barbecued burgling bastard anyone? Bring a napkin…