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This was last year in Thailand when I joined a private school – Assumption college as a teacher for a year. Then it was again this year.
In America taking an AIDS/HIV test is a serious issue. It’s something to debate with yourself about for a while before going and doing it. In college I had about 3 speakers that came to speak to different classes of mine about having AIDS, getting AIDS and avoiding AIDS. There were some local places to get tested for free and many of us – though we didn’t think we were at risk, started to believe – holy hell, anyone gets this, we should get checked! So, I went to the first clinic and got tested – this was about 1993 maybe. I filled out a questionairre… are you homosexual? did you share needles with someone recently? Did you have sex with a person that was known to have carried the HIV virus or have full-blown AIDS?
My answer to all the questions was in the negative. When I gave it to them – they didn’t believe and explained how serious it was that I tell the truth and that everything was anonymous… and whatnot. I insisted – it was true, all of it. Why lie? I didn’t know anyone in there.
I agreed to go because this was an anonymous test- recorded only by number, never name. They called me in a week to go back and get the results. All negative. Of course, I didn’t know why I went. But, the issue was still in my mind. I was checked two more times over the next 10 years.
Fast forward to Thailand. I accept the job with this school. Teach with them for I don’t know, 4 months maybe. A lady shows up with AIA insurance. She asks us to fill out these health questionairres. This woman, the English program coordinator, tells us we get extra insurance for a small part of our paycheck each month. We all fill them out, thinking, more insurance the better. We think it’s another blow-off like the first health check we did to get the positions – which must be government mandated.
That consisted of – go to the hospital and get a certificate of health. I went, told the nurse what I needed. She took my passport. Wrote up 2 copies of a statement of health. I paid 10 baht for each I think. I left in 10 minutes.
This health check was not so lame.
They took us TO the hospital in the school van. We had our completed health screening paperwork all filled out. They gave us MORE at the hospital. We filled that out. We needed to give a piss test. We gave that. We needed to see the doctor. As we did and as the doc is asking me questions about my health history – some nurse says open your mouth – we’re going to do your AIDS test. I said what? THEN the English program coordinator said – oh yes, they have to do this for everyone that gets this insurance.
Well, if you’ve heard anything about the AIDS tests in Thailand then you heard what I heard. If you are found to test “+” positive they will put you on a plane back to your home country. I’m not sure if they can mark your passport with HIV+ on it – or what, but I have heard they will not let you work here or live here because you will likely or may become, a burden to Thai society. They ship you back – you pay of course.
So initially I agree… thinking – ahh, what’s the difference – I’ve been relatively safe… Then I start thinking some more as this lady is grinding the inside of my cheek like a CHEESE GRATER to make it bleed and get the right cheek cells for the test. I DID have unprotected sex with a girl that I THOUGHT wasn’t a bar girl – and then I found out later – she was. I could be HIV positive for all I know. The AIDS / HIV rate is high in Thailand – especially among bar girls.
I’m getting pissed off that there was NO NOTICE given for this at all, and it’s coming on quick. Finally I tell her to stop, she was ripping my cheek apart after more than a minute of this nuttiness. She had enough blood and carnage for the test, she said.
I answered the doctor’s questions – pissed off still but keeping it all inside rather well.
I go back outside to sit with everyone else – nobody had a clue they were going to get tested for AIDS either!
What a farking country man.
Then, they’re handing me more paperwork – please fill out the name of the person you want to receive your health benefits – like if you die or are incapacitated. I fill out my girlfriend’s name and phone and address. She is Thai. They return my paper to ask that I fill in my mother and father’s name. I tell them, I don’t WAN’T the money to go to my mother and father – back in America. I’m thinking that these clowns won’t make any effort to contact them and tell them I have insurance money that is due my parents in case I die anyway! WHY WOULD THEY?
They ask me nicely again, trying to get me to go along with their shite plan… I refuse. They say, OK, we’ll put your “mother and father” on the paper later. I said, “WHAT? Listen… I’m done with you idiots and the way you handle things. I don’t want the extra insurance. I have extra money if I get into an accident. I could give a shite that you’re going to give me a little extra to cover things. YOU NEED to tell people what is going on before it goes on. You obviously don’t have the slightest idea how to go about working WITH westerners. I don’t want the insurance, refund my 900 baht I gave you earlier.”
Yeah, I was amped up. What a jackass set up. I’m still angry as I think about it. They refunded the money and nothing was said after that. My co-workers went along with the whole deal though they were also not happy.
THEN, at this government school I’m at – I was asked to fill out this health insurance paper for extra AIA insurance. THIS IS END OF JANUARY! I’ve been teaching there since MAY 2006! They’ve been taking money out of my check monthly FOR this insurance. Now they want the form filled out and they said I’d need to go to the hospital for an AIDS test! HA! I said, “Mai pen rai, kup”. They said, oh everyone gets it, it’s great. I said, “Mai pen rai, kup. I don’t want. I don’t need. Thank you, but I don’t want it.”
The AIA girl I was talking with went in to tell the director of the English program that I wasn’t playing according to the stupid plan.
This woman came out – Uhm, can I talk to you for a minute.
She tried to explain how much it will help and that it’s such a good thing. I refused. She tried again. I refused. “I don’t want. Thank you.”
She tried again. “I don’t want, thank you. Nothing more to say… Are you finished?”
“Ok, bye now…” and I exited.
There’s a gay teacher in our office that is SWEATING THIS big time. Apparently nobody told him there was AIDS test and he went and got blindsided. He got hit before me and so I didn’t have a chance to warn him.
Such is life as a teacher in Thailand. Not everything is this bad, with an issue like AIDS at the heart of it. But, rest assured that this complete ignorance about giving someone an explanation about what is to take place BEFORE it farking happens – will continue as long as they are Thai… forever I guess. It’s a basic Thai behavior – tell everyone at last minute – and they’ll probably go along with it.
Thais’ go along with anything – they don’t resist or make waves. They acquiesce and probably don’t keep score.
I still keep score and it pisses me up one leg and down the other sometimes.
But, I’m still here smiling… :)
If you’re considering teaching in Thailand don’t miss the:
ULTIMATE Guide to Teaching English in Thailand
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