Forgot the Sunset

Can’t believe I forgot to upload the photo of the sunset at Wat Pho and include it in my previous entry about the afternoon trip to Bangkok temple.

Have gone ahead and added it into that entry, but for those of you who already read the entry, I will include the picture here so you can enjoy it. Shot by an iPhone 4s – pretty impressive, no?

 

Afternoon Trip to the Temples

We have had a steady stream of visitors over the last few weeks, with more to come before year’s end. I took an afternoon to accompany one of our guests to the old part of the city, Rattanakosin Island. When I have guests, I try to show them more than just the typical tourist’s view of the city, even when going to see the popular tourist sights.

To be a good host, you have to know just how much excitement your guests can handle. In this case, I figured Jordan could handle a ride down the city streets on the back of a motorcycle taxi. Maybe I should have set expectations ahead of time, as I think he was a bit shocked when we first set off.

After a ride on the Khlong Saen Saeb canal boat and a connection to a tuk-tuk, we arrived at the Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha. This is the must-see tourist site, the most important temple in Thailand and one of the most spectacular examples of the overwhelming decoration of Thai religious architecture. But it is tourist high season and the complex was flooded with tour groups.

I tried to work around the outside of the complex, looking for angles and vantage points that were free of tourists and that allowed for greater appreciation of the ornate beauty of the temple. This shot, taken on the side of the main hall which houses the Emerald Buddha, shows a worker applying a new coat of paint to the base of the building. The paint was a brilliant shade of red and the man worked with slow, methodical strokes of his brush. His activity seemed almost meditative.

A short walk away is Wat Pho, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. This is another popular tourist spot, but most tourists just walk into the main hall with its huge image of the reclining Buddha, and then leave. The temple complex, which predates the founding of Bangkok, is much larger than one might think and is worth exploring.

In the back section of the temple is a large Buddha image hall that I find more impressive than the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. As we were sitting there, admiring the detail, an older monk arrived. He prayed in silence for several minutes and then after the grandfather clock struck 5:00, he flipped a switch, illuminating the statues. Other monks had trickled in and they began their evening prayers, beautiful chants in the Pali language that echoed off the mural-covered walls.

As the sun set into the muddy horizon, we wandered around the rest of the nearly-deserted temple complex. A white cat napped beneath the legs of an old statue of a Chinese lion. A few tourists wandered by, looking for the massage school located on the temple grounds. It was a very different experience than the one you get in the usual rush to see the sights. Hopefully, it was memorable.

TG Business Class to Chiang Mai

For our trip to Chiang Mai for the wedding, the grooms thanked us for Tawn’s help with the maids of honor’s dresses by flying us on THAI Airways business class. Of course, a 55-minute flight hardly needs business class, but it was a nice treat!

Our plane, an ancient Airbus A300-600. Despite its age, the plane was clean and in good condition. Before departure, we were able to relax at the Royal Orchid Lounge in the domestic terminal. They offer comfortable seats and a range of snacks and beverages.

The interior of the plane, which is used mostly for domestic routes and near-regional routes, is a bit of a throwback to a bygone era of decoration. The seats are equivalent of domestic (US) first class, comfortable but without a lot of extra leg room. Of course, it is perfectly comfortable for such a short flight.

Tawn settles in for his flight, complete with a pink pillow, hot towel service, and a selection of pre-departure beverages. Pretty impressive for such a short flight!

Despite the flight’s brevity, they actually serve a snack service, complete with crisp white linens, real silverware, and porcelain dishes. On the flight north, there was a poached chicken breast with a green apple salad.

The dessert was a sweet sticky rice covered with coconut cream, fruit, and black beans. In addition to a variety of herbal drinks, coffee and tea service were provided. The pacing of the service was relaxed and we didn’t feel rushed at all.

On the southbound flight, we were served cold chicken larb patties – chopped chicken with Thai spices, and fresh vegetables. The dessert was a coconut pudding with fresh fruits. Very tasty.

Our plane parked at the gate in Chiang Mai. Service both ways was very attentive and friendly. If I ever have the means, I’ll make business class my regular choice when flying!

The Axe Unexpectedly Falls

My blog is honest. The things you read here are accurate representations of real things I have experienced. My blog is also incomplete. I am circumspect about many details of my life, especially about my work. As I have written before, my blog originated as a way to keep friends and family informed about my experiences when I moved to Thailand more than seven years ago. I would normally not share the following type of news in this forum, but it seems the best way to bring people who are close to me up to speed.

For almost thirteen years, I have been an employee of Company R and the company it purchased a few years ago, Company I. A few months before moving to Thailand in October 2005, my manager unexpectedly asked whether my responsibilities could be shifted in such a way so that I could continue working for a few months as my replacement was found. We agreed that writing and updating training materials (instructor’s guides, online presentations, and collatoral) was a part of my job that had received less attention than it needed and would be suitable for remote work.

This short-term arrangement began well and eventually the fact that I was working 8,000 miles away from the head office was a non-issue. In fact, the ability to alternate days and nights with my colleagues because a benefit and my performance appraisals have glowed ever since. I regularly receive very positive feedback from all levels of the organization and have often been told that I am invaluable.

Two and a half weeks ago, I was invited to a “strategy” conference call with my boss, her boss, and the HR director for our division. Based on the attendees, I wasn’t surprised at the news that was delivered, even though it was completely unexpected.

My job is being eliminated in favor of a new position at our training headquarters in suburban Atlanta. I was given 90 days’ notice of the move (the new position is mine if I want it) and 30 days to choose whether to accept the offer. If I do not, I will be out of a job in mid-February.

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My work experience with Company I has been very good, especially the people with whom I’ve worked closely over the years. Our acquisition by Company R has been positive and I actually feel better about the company’s future now than I did before the acquisition. There are a lot of elements of our division’s business that carry my fingerprints and I have a deep sense of ownership of the work I’ve done and the materials I’ve created that are used by more than 8,000 employees every day.

That said, after evaluating all the relevant information, I chose not to move to Atlanta. Doing so would mean leaving Tawn behind and ending our marriage* – something that isn’t an acceptable option.

I suppose it would be normal to feel angry or upset, but I appreciate that Company R gave me 90 days’ notice instead of the usual 30 and will also pay me 16 weeks of severance pay, which should cushion the blow.

One reason I’m not upset is that for the past couple of years I have realized that I’ve been enjoying the flexibility and ease of my work arrangement while not progressing in my professional development and my earning. In fact, thanks to the weakening dollar, my salary has dropped more than 25% in real terms since I moved here.

An initial inspection of my options and networking with friends here in Bangkok confirms that I should be able to find a position that will match my current salary or, with some extra effort, increases my compensation. Of course, that will come at the price of a regular office job and the hours that go with it! 

In any case, that’s the news. A big change but also a tremendous opportunity. I don’t know if I will provide very much detail of the job hunt but may provide an update or two as appropriate.

 

*Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, a US federal law that denies me the right to sponsor my husband for immigration because we are of the same sex.

Bangkok by Train, Boat, Bus, and Tuk-Tuk

A few weeks ago, I was visited by a quartet of friends, several of whom are transportation geeks… er, enthusiasts. Reprising a transportation-themed tour I led two years ago, I took my guests on a six-hour excursion around the metropolis. This time, the number of modes of transportation increased from seven to ten: Thong Lor red bus, Khlong Saen Saeb canal boat, taxi, third-class heavy rail, non-air conditioned city bus, Chao Phraya express boat, ferry, tuk-tuk, Bus Rapid Transit, and Skytrain.

I hope you enjoyed the journey!