I wrote this book, “Living in Thailand,” many years ago and sold it at Amazon. This was either my first or second book, so it was rife with error. Just yesterday I read through it and corrected as much as I could and decided to release it here as a free ebook – and online story for anyone to read.
The entire book is here, starting on this page. There is a link at the end of the page to continue the story. I didn’t make the pages really short, so it shouldn’t be very aggravating to keep turning pages. I wanted the pages to load in a reasonable time too.
OK, enjoy it. Feel free to share the link to this page with friends or anyone you think might be interested.
If you would rather get the PDF – MOBI – or EPUB version of this story, I ask that you sign up HERE and the link to download the free ebook will come in an email.
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LIVING IN THAILAND
©2015 Vern Lovic. All rights reserved. Copying, reproduction, printing, or benefiting from this work without the express permission of the author is a crime. Please respect the hard work of this author.
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Over twenty million visitors each year make Thailand their choice for vacation. It’s really a tropical paradise here… it’s not always hot, though Bangkok has been rated as the hottest major city to live in the world because its nighttime temperatures are also quite hot, whereas other hot places in the world cool off more at night. For the first few months here I regularly sweat more than anyone else and sought out air conditioning at every opportunity.
There are so many things to do in Thailand that there really is something for everyone. Thousands of families enjoy coming here, as well as singles in search of something they can’t get at home (or get enough of, maybe).
There seem to be many, many more visitors from Europe here than from America and Canada though I have met people from many countries: Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Austria, England, Ireland, Africa, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Indonesia, Japan, China, India, Italy, Spain, hmm… I’m sure there are more but they aren’t coming to mind right now.
Anyway – there are many expats or “farang” as we’re called, living here. I’m from the U.S.A. and there are plenty of us here. Far too many expats where I am presently. I didn’t come here to be surrounded by other American citizens. I came to getaway!
Some say they came here to get away too, but they’ve brought America with them. They want to see only American movies with the original soundtrack… they won’t see Thai movies. Many expats living here for more than four years can’t even hold a five-minute conversation in Thai if it takes place away from a bar.
The expats I’m teaching with are constantly bringing up the USA and what is going on – what SHOULD be done and what they used to do in the past… They’re always asking me questions about the USA – what I did there, what it was like where I grew up and where I lived… WHO CARES? It’s the past. I want to forget the past, not bring it with me. Sure I had amazing times in the U.S., but I also had some really bad times too. I really didn’t want to spend ANY time thinking about the bad times.
I must get away from this school I’m currently at and go somewhere to teach where either I’m the ONLY farang (foreigner) or there are just a couple and they’re not American or from the UK. Our western personalities, focus and culture were not at all something I wanted to experience more of.
Why Leave the USA?
In the US I fell for the whole “achieve everything” syndrome… and the “world is your oyster” line. When I graduated high school I went to the Air Force and got sent to Oahu, Hawaii. A really nice tour of duty. I stayed there for four years and then went to NYC with a girl I met and married from Canada. She was accepted to a modeling agency in NYC so we moved to New York from Honolulu in 1991. She modeled in Paris, Tokyo, Milan, and other fashion hotspots and I walked the streets as a freelance paparazzi photographer and fashion photographer’s assistant for three years trying to make enough money to pay the bills.
She started out contributing some money for our flat in NYC and our bills. She was making $1,800 – $4,000 USD per day on days she was booked. She was working a lot. The money stopped coming after just two months and I was suddenly left paying for our $800 flat per month, plus all other expenses on a meager salary. Savings quickly was wiped out as I struggled to find work at something I was good at and that I enjoyed.
I had minimal (zero) work skills and didn’t know what interests I really had. I had brought a Canon 35mm camera with me from Hawaii so I began to learn photography and began to have some good (and crazy) experiences in New York. Some of my photos of models were accepted by their modeling agencies and got placed into their portfolios at Ford, Wilhemina, and Zoli!
Paparazzi photography was going OK because I met a Filipino guy named Ted Leyson, who helped me out tremendously. Together we made some money doing it as a team. We had great candid photos of John F. Kennedy, Jr., Jackie Onassis Kennedy, Woody Allen and a host of other celebrities. Sometimes we sold the photos to the newspapers, other times they were of little value to anyone but ourselves on lonely nights as we shared stories about what happened when we took the shots.
I became somewhat obsessed with creating unique photos having seen some of the greatest photographers in the world being exhibited at the galleries in the city. I would head out on the streets on the West Side with a camera hidden under my heavy 1940’s era military officer’s winter coat with one button undone.
I’d have a remote camera shutter cord in my left hand and my hand on a 12-inch bowie knife that I had bought from my sister back in Pennsylvania. I took covert photos of pimps and prostitutes, homeless, and gangs that roamed the city during those early morning hours. I’d return in the morning at 6 a.m. on the subway just as the rest of the population was starting to head out to work. I’d sleep until 5 p.m., wake up, and do it again.
When I wasn’t shooting at night I was shooting celebrities on the streets or at specific events that we knew someone famous would be attending. While shooting paparazzi photos, I learned something about human nature, pissing off the most wealthy and luckiest people in the world. They’re people just like us. Same likes and dislikes. I learned that they’re under the pressure cooker of the world’s eye and they’re on edge. Man, are they on edge.
Following Woody Allen and his female friend around for a couple blocks one time he suddenly turned around and walked straight at me. I was only about ten meters back and I kept taking photos as I walked backward. He was talking to me, but I didn’t hear him at first. I was shocked – he wasn’t supposed to turn around and talk to me. Nobody had done that yet, this was my first real celebrity confrontation!
I put the camera back on my chest, held by the heavy Canon professional strap. I had two more Canon cameras hanging on my side. I was loaded for bear, having black and white Tri-X 400 print film, Kodachrome 64 color slide film and Kodak Ektachrome 200. The best of all worlds and lighting conditions. The newspapers wanted to see black and white. I personally liked black and white the best, but I knew that magazines wanted color slide film, so when possible I shot all kinds of film. Woody was getting all my Tri-X 400 as I didn’t have time to think as he approached.
When he came up to me he got very close, into my “space”. He’s a little guy, but he’s a little guy with a hundred million dollars and the respect of the entire movie viewing world because of his strange, but popular films he starred in and produced.
I’d never been this close to a guy before and not fought him, so I was ready for it. My friend, Ted, was across the street and taking photos, so I knew it could only be good if we actually fought. I was a pretty serious weightlifter in the Air Force and I didn’t have any doubt about who would come out on top so to speak. But, it’s different confronting someone that you don’t know anything about… a world figure.
Was he going to shoot me?
Did he have a bodyguard coming up behind me?
I backed away but he stepped forward again and leaned in close.
He said, “What are you taking my picture for? Who do you work for?”
He had to repeat the questions a few times because I was in fight mode, prepared for anything except calm rational questions. When I could, I responded.
“I don’t work for anyone. You’re Woody Allen, I’m taking your photo because you’re a famous person.”
He looked around for a split second to see if anyone was watching and said, “What if I ripped those cameras off your neck?” He said it in a deep voice for effect I guess. I didn’t believe he was that pissed off, I just figured he was acting.
I said, “I don’t think you’ll do that.”
He asked, “What if I broke those cameras all over the sidewalk here – what would you think about that?” He was acting aggressively and his hands were starting to come up. I was smiling broadly and backing away, wondering to myself, is Woody Allen really going to push me, or something? I was amazed, and it was humorous because I was almost looking forward to beating him for being such an ass.
I said, “You won’t do that.”
He said, “Why wouldn’t I?”
I said, “Because my friend across the street will get all the photos and you’ll be all over every newspaper and magazine in the world.”
He looked across the street and Ted looked up at him just over his 300mm Tamron zoom lens that was homed in on us like a sniper’s weapon. I couldn’t see Ted’s grin, but I knew it was there. He always had this sheepish grin when he was getting great photos, and I could see his eyes were all squinted up like they do when he has that shit-eating grin. I still remember the scene so vividly, like a movie playing in my head.
I was amazingly calm and without emotion, but had a bit of “gotcha” in my voice as I said it to Woody – knowing I’d won this match. I knew it, and he knew it. He stepped back a half-step and looked around again to see if anyone else was watching. He regained his composure, or maybe he had just been acting… who can tell? It’s Woody Allen – he can act, right?
He then directed me, “Ok, here take a picture now because the woman I’m with is getting scared.”
I said, “I don’t think I’m scaring her, she can’t be afraid of me.”
He said, “Yes, she is scared that you are following us. Just take a picture now.”
I said, “I don’t want a picture of you standing here – I want a spontaneous picture.” He said, “Well you aren’t going to get that. Why don’t you just take a picture here? What kind of picture do you want?”
I said, “I want a spontaneous picture like you tripping over a curb or something I can sell. I don’t know what’s going to happen to make a great picture, but I want a unique picture.”
He said, “You’re not going to get that picture, please, the lady is afraid, can you just take a picture here and stop following us?”
When he said please, at this point I started to feel bad for him. I started to understand at that moment that it must be hell to be a celebrity that is stalked by people like me and that privacy and confidentiality must be something that doesn’t really exist for him and for other superstar celebrities.
I said, “OK, let me change lenses.”
He stood there and waited as I dug deep into my photo bag and replaced my 35mm lens with my really sharp 85mm F/1.8 lens that was the pride of my collection.
I focused on his eyes, hiding behind his army green fishing cap and his thick glasses. The photo is quite awesome if I say so myself, his beard stubble is clearly visible and sharp.
I kept my promise and didn’t bother him anymore. Ted hadn’t promised anything, and so he followed him for another thirty minutes. Apparently, this woman was a mistress of Woody’s while he was married to Mia Farrow. Hence the reason he didn’t want photos of them together.
Life in NYC was exciting. Many times it was so exciting I couldn’t believe what was happening. I saw people robbed and chased down by angry bystanders and beaten. I arrived just as ambulance personnel took away an old man’s body and head (separated) because he pushed his wife out of the way of a city bus, but the bus hit him and ran over his neck, separating his head from his body. I took photos of the pool of blood and the glasses as well as the back of the wife’s head as she sat in the police cruiser facing away from the scene. She was in total shock, understandably.
I saw profoundly mentally disturbed people because I took thousands of photos of the homeless there. I took photos of a man that told me he was Jesus Christ once as he stood outside of a famous cathedral down by the Village. Years later I found his photo in a newspaper as a murderer. He had pushed a woman in front of a subway train and killed her.
((Will add photo as I find it on another disk))
The most vivid scene in my mind even today, some twenty plus years later took place during a walk in Central Park about seven in the morning. I had been to McDonald’s to get breakfast and I was looking forward to eating it. I am always starving in the morning and I eat a big meal. I had pancakes, sausage and two Egg McMuffins in a bag. It was cold that morning, very cold – in the teens, Fahrenheit. I was approaching a man that seemed to be drunk.
He was standing up and swaying back and forth. As I got closer I saw that he was in his shorts. I was reaching for my camera but as I was getting closer I could see through the fog that his pants were actually down around his ankles and he was standing in his underwear. I began to hear him stammering at this time too. His teeth were chattering and he was trying to speak but I think he was either too drunk, too cold or too mentally disturbed to form sentences.
When I got right up close to him I could see that he had a mass of snot hanging from his nose – three feet in length. Just a massive hanging bunch of snot swaying back and forth as he tried to decide to pull up his pants first and cover his nakedness or do something about the snot that must have come out in a sneeze or as a result of a wicked head-cold.
I didn’t think – there was no thought process that took place, but I put the bag down on a bench near him and told him – “Here is breakfast, take it OK?” No human being seeing this guy on that morning could avoid doing the same. If I hadn’t food I’d have gone to buy some immediately. He looked at me with these crazy eyes and tears falling out of his eyes and all over his face, the meter-long snot still clinging to and swinging from his nose, lips and chin like thick sticky egg-white.
I didn’t eat that morning and I couldn’t get that guy’s image out of my mind for weeks.
Anyway, so living in New York City was like that. Fantastic and sick things happened too often for my taste.
Overall, – to go from the jaw-dropping natural beauty of Hawaii to living between 2nd and 3rd avenue and East 78th Street, New York City, was the definition of pure hell. To go from bodyboarding every day in three to six-foot surf and sucking down beer funnels, to sucking in automobile exhaust for twelve hours per day isn’t something I’d recommend as an upgrade.
After three years of rarely being ‘home’ in NYC with me, I found out that my wife was less than faithful to me with a famous French photographer (in France) and so I moved from New York City to Pittsburgh where I grew up, to stay with my family for seven months to save money for going to college in Florida. I know what you’re thinking – moving from NYC to Pittsburgh had to be yet another “low”… and yes, in a way it was – but it enabled me to relax and get over my failed marriage… and get back into running and cycling. I entered a lot of running and bicycle races and re-started my addiction for serious exercise during this time.
I went to Miami for a year of school and then up to Tampa, Florida to finish my degrees. I really loved Tampa and the Clearwater – St. Petersburg area. The Tampa area has incredible fishing, the traffic is not too horrendous, and has jobs-a-plenty. There were many things to do with hundreds of beaches close by and Orlando in the center of the state, just ninety minutes from Tampa.
Working in the Mental Health Field in the USA
I’ve always flipped around from job to job. I did many things, never satisfied in one career field. In college in Florida, I got both BA and MA degrees in psychology. I was part of something similar to the “Big Brother” program for kids, but the kids I worked with had been victims of serious psychological and sexual abuse. I did that for almost three years and found it to be very rewarding, as well as terribly disturbing.
Later I worked with adults and teens with severe mental illnesses like paranoid schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, nymphomania, multiple personality disorder and things like that. Really fun stuff.
Two highlights of working in the mental health field were both when I was working in “supervised apartments” at a place in Tampa, Florida. “Supervised apartments” is a place where adults with profound mental challenges are in an apartment program. They are supposed to have us monitor their medicine so we can ensure they’re taking it as directed by the psychiatrists. Many times the residents “cheeked” their meds and came up with other ways to fool the staff into thinking they had swallowed it.
When they didn’t take their medications some of them became quite crazy. I worked the night shift – 11 p.m. until 7 a.m. I remember half falling asleep watching a movie on television… during the time I was asleep I had a dream that one of the residents was standing over me with a knife as I slept and was about to plunge it into my chest. I woke up with a VERY loud scream and all the residents came to see what had happened! The guy in my dream was a resident sleeping upstairs at the time who had killed his landlord and his wife with a hatchet and then set their home on fire about six years prior.
Another time I was reading a book at about 3 a.m. in the office. All the sudden a large sofa chair came flying through the window! A resident was having hallucinations in which his television was telling him to go hurt the staff. I was the staff that night.
So anyway – I tired of the mental health field – not because it wasn’t any fun – on the contrary – it was the most interesting work I’ve ever done! But, it was very depressing to be counseling these people with profound disturbances and not having them get any better…. even after years of it. I kind of burnt out, figuring that I’m not helping “enough” to stay with the career.
Then I got my real estate license and worked with Century 21. That was fun and I had some small success but I really didn’t have enough money saved to continue it and so I went into the computer field. I took a job as a technician fixing computers with GTE in Tampa. I then began to get more excited about internet marketing and started building web sites and advertisements as well as selling things on eBay like ‘fat burners’ and body-building supplements. That too went OK, but I was still looking for something else.
I began to market myself as a search engine optimization expert. I was hired by companies to optimize their internet marketing efforts and get them on the right track. I had some fun with this – but the whole notion of living in the USA and making more and more money to survive began to grate on my nerves… I moved back to Hawaii for two years and was an internet marketing manager there for a property management firm. This too was ‘OK’, but I was starting to think I really needed to get away from America and truly relax… see how others in third world countries lived… or at least second world.
It would all depend on how my son’s mother was going to be. She was always running from me and taking my son with her. This year was to prove no different.
I moved back to Florida where my son was and my ex-girlfriend promptly told me she was moving to California with my son. I was heartbroken again and decided that life in the USA was too much to handle. I knew I’d be a mental case if I kept struggling to live there day after day.
I knew I was going away – far away to forget as much as possible. I wasn’t sure where yet. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do when I did reach another country.
There were these personal reasons for leaving – wanting to separate from my ex-girlfriend and the relationship problems that she caused by promising my son would be close to me one day and then the next day telling me about moving to California or China. But, there were other reasons too – perhaps even more compelling.
I decided to make the big jump and change my entire life by moving to another country.
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