Woohoo! I finally got my first paycheck here in Thailand. It's the first money in years that I can spend without guilt because I don't have credit cards to pay off anymore. It's really hard to let go of the fear of spending money. I've been conditioned to think of every cent I spend and weigh out all the pros and cons of spending it before I spend it. And that's probably a good habit to be in so I don't get myself in debt again!
The monthly salary day at our school is quite a carnival. The foreigners aren't eligible for direct deposit (the Thai teachers just got it this month) because the principal wants to pay us all directly so that we know exactly where are paycheck is coming from and are grateful for having a job there. Can you say "power trip?" We all have to wait until she calls us down to get paid which can be anytime during the day. Someone will come running up and you have to drop whatever you are doing and rush down to her office, even if you are in the middle of teaching a class. The first time she called us down she changed her mind and said she "wasn't in the mood," whatever that means, so we had to go back up and wait for her to call us again. They say 8 out of 10 times she won't be in the mood so apparently this is normal behavior for pay day. She called us back down about 2 hours later and you have to get in a line and wait until she calls out your number. When she calls your name you have to run in sign some things, wai (a sign of showing respect) and take the envelope with the money in it. Yes, I said an envelope full of money, not a check. We get paid all in cash! Its so crazy! 38,000 baht of pure hard cash (the largest bill is a 1,000). You take your envelope and count it in the office and then turn in the envelope after your done.
Let me just point out that everyone is in the office together and everyone can see exactly how much everyone else gets paid because they put everyone's name and salary on a sheet of paper where you have to sign. Talk about awkward! The hierarchy of pay is pretty consistent but also pretty messed up. There are 3 different "types" of teachers at the school: foreigners, Thais and Phillipinos. The Thais get paid less than the Phillipinos and the Phillipinos get paid less than the foreigners. The foreigners get paid almost 5 times more than the Thai teachers for doing almost the same thing. The foreigners do teach more classes than the Thai teachers in general but I still can't help but feel guilty and embarrassed about it. But there is a lot to be said about supply and demand. The foreigners tend to have a lot more job security because it is much more difficult to replace them than it is the Thai teachers. I have heard that a Thai teacher was fired for eating outside of the cafeteria. ::Sigh:: I could go on and on about the inequality and injustices for hours.
So I'm stuck with this big wad of cash and no bank to put it in. Before I left for Thailand I signed up with Citibank which supposedly has a branch in Bangkok but I haven't seen it yet. I have the address but we are so far away from anything that it would be a full days trip to find the bank. Plus, I found out later that in order to use the bank in Thailand I would have to sign up for a whole different account and then link my American account with my Thai account. If I'm going to go through that much trouble I would rather sign up with a Thai bank that actually has ATMs and branches near me. And readers from my debt blog might be interested to know that everytime you use your credit card or ATM with a foreign currency you are charged a conversion fee of 1-3%. The only credit card that doesn't charge is the Capital One card, which is the one credit card company I don't have an account with! In the meantime, I'm stuck leaving my money under my mattress. :)
Gosh, so much to talk about but I'm running out of internet time. More to come later!