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3 May


15 February

It is a nice touch that members of the Thai royal family give out degree certificates to graduates at the universities. Very few countries do that.

Dao invited us to the rehearsal. She had asked us to come to the actual ceremony but the university had the dates muddled and their email to all students gave the date of the rehearsal instead of the actual date. We were told of the error at the last minute but could not change our travel plans.

She had got up at 5am to get her hair styled and her face made up. Thais are always careful about their appearance and Dao is an attractive young lady. Today she looked like a film star. She had called the dummy run “the walking” and I could see why. All the students lined up and walked up to the stage where a stand-in handed out the certificates. This was repeated until they got it absolutely right. Yes, it was a day of much walking.

You bow or curtsy a few metres before approaching the dais just as the previous student is receiving his or her degree. Before being handed the certificate, you bow your head slightly and extend your hand as if to shake hands western style. But you do not actually complete the greeting; you flick your wrist and take the certificate. Walking backwards a few metres, you pause, bow or curtsy again, turn round, and walk off the stage. It takes around 30 seconds per student. All of them will be nervous on the day but honoured that a member of the royal family has made it one they will always remember.

On the day that the degree is conferred, the students’ families and friends join in the celebrations, flowers and gifts are showered on the new graduates, and many photographs are taken with fellow students and teachers.
A pity that we could not see her receiving her award from a royal princess.

Given the problem with her new home and the adjoining factory, I hope she enjoys her day.

2 January

Busy day at Immigration. Not easy to find a parking spot and even more difficult to get a seat.

Rules and regulations are not standardised in Thailand. Each government official interprets them differently. Requirements for documentation at Immigration vary from office to office.

Applies to all organisations. One bank manager will open an account for you; another may say it is not possible for foreigners to have accounts in Thailand unless they have a work permit. My local office has a well deserved reputation for friendliness and trying to help you through the maze of bureaucracy. Not all offices are like that.

They have an on-line system where appointments can be made instead of queuing. My name was called right on time but no one knew which counter to go to. Once seated in front of an officer, we got though the papers quickly. I had made a checklist and there was nothing extra that she wanted. Ten minutes and I was asked to take a seat and wait for my visa extension to be signed off by the big boss.

Chatted to an American to pass away the time and we both agreed the West could learn much from the smooth administration that we were experiencing. But I had spoken too soon.

My name was called and I went to the main counter.

No, there are no papers here. Please take a seat. We will get to you soon.

Twenty minutes later my name was called again. The same thing happened. There was no file to be seen. I explained that my name had been called twice but I still had to go back to my seat. First rule of bureaucracy: never lose your cool. It rarely gets you anywhere, and will get you nowhere in Thailand.

My new American friend and I were wondering what could be happening. It’s never a good idea to challenge or complain. Thais dislike conflict and don’t like losing face. My friend was all for my asking to speak to a manager. I knew that wouldn’t work. The manager would lose face himself if there was some suggestion that his staff were not performing properly. I deliberated on how I was going to handle this.

I gave it another twenty minutes and went up to the counter. I peered over the desks and could see my passport at the bottom of a tall heap of files.

I think that may be mine.

They retrieved it and I was soon on my way. They had been so busy that they had kept placing files on top of an ever-growing stack. When names were called, they were not able to see the hidden files.

The interesting point is that, even after realising what was causing the delays for everyone in the hall, they did not feel confident enough to raise the matter with the big boss and fix the problem.

That would be challenging his authority.


Something different

Next week I’ll post the results of a Thai court battle between a Thai and a foreigner.



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