American TESOL Institute Series

Our housing situation was less than ideal when the four of us moved to Bangyai from the Ramkhamhaeng neighborhood of Bangkok.  From our meeting on Saturday with the building’s manager, we arrived with the understanding that 1 one-bedroom was available immediately, one would be available on Friday the 16th, and then a two bedroom would be open up Wednesday the 21st.

Initially, the plan was for the four of us to share the single one bedroom, by some means we still hadn’t figured out, until the second opened up.  As a pleasant surprise, the second one-bedroom was open when we arrived.  So, Bobby and I both signed a 3-month lease.  We had to put down a deposit of 14450 baht (about $500), which included the lessened rent for the rest of the month of December.  We then moved into the 2 apartments; Bobby and I in mine on the eighth floor and Morgan and Megan in Bobby’s on the fifth floor.

Unfortunately, that was the last of the pleasant surprises.  As the week passed Megan and Morgan were asking the building manager repeatedly when they could see the apartment.  The answer changed each time.

The problem seems to have been that each unit in the building has its own owner who rents it out, only deferring to the building manager for handling the actual leases.  She did not have access to the units herself.

The thin path through the kitchen/living room.

So for the next week, the four of us were tightly packed into the 2 nice, but fairly small one-bedrooms.  I was the only one who got to unpack in any real sense.  Bobby had his shirts hanging in my closet so that he could keep them from getting wrinkled, but was otherwise living day to day from the suitcase he had laying next to the futon in my kitchen/living room.

Toward the end of the first week, Craig, another of our ATI classmates came to Bangyai from Bangkok (about an half hour metro bus ride).  Of the eight of us, he was the only one currently not working.  He had initially been given a post at an all-boys school right in the center of Bangkok near Sukhumvit Road.  However, he declined this position for several reasons, but primarily his desire to work with younger kids, which this would not provide, and a near 60-hour work week.

Since then, the placement agent seemed to have given up on any further involvement with Craig and he had been working hard to find positions on his own, both in Bangkok and areas further out.

Come the weekend, Morgan and Megan had still had not seen their 2-bedroom apartment, though were still told Wednesday it would be ready for them.  Craig stayed with Bobby and I until Saturday, when the two of them went back to Bangkok for the night.

Friday had been our first day and orientation at the school.  There we found out, among many other things, the exact kinds of clothes that we had to wear.  Morgan, Megan, and I had very few of any these.  Most I was able to find at stores nearby the apartments.  Morgan and Megan didn’t have such luck, and decided to go to Chatuchak, a massive market near the Mochit area of Bangkok on Sunday morning.

Something that I could not find was shoes.  Apparently, I seem to have bigger feet than anyone in Thailand, taking a US size 13, European size 48.  The largest that any store seemed to be selling was 42.  So, I went to the market with them and found some things, but still no shoes.

My best option, it seemed would be to return to the Khao San area, which is a central area in the city for foreigners.  I did finally find a pair of shoes that fit for 1500 baht.  It was a little more than I had wanted to spend, but didn’t really have many other options.

The other three had been in Bangyai for a while by the time I got back.  Craig had stayed at a hostel in Bangkok so that he could continue his job search on their wifi.  Morgan and Megan had checked once again on their apartment, only to be told they still couldn’t get into it.

So, we awoke Monday morning for the first day of school still in the same situation, including all sharing bathrooms.  This proved difficult for one reason above others:  most buildings in Thailand do not have water heaters.  Electric water heaters for a shower can be bought for around 3000 baht, but neither of our apartments came equipped with them, which resulted in a fairly chilled shower every morning.  Although, Craig, who has showered in both Bobby’s and mine, claims that Bobby’s shower is noticeably colder.

This resulted in Bobby, who had set his alarm for 6:00, a half hour before me, to spend nearly 40 minutes with the shower, most of it deciding if it was worth stepping in to the cold water, he claimed.

Early in the week, Craig returned to Bangyai with all his luggage, which he had been storing at Christy’s (another of our ATI group) apartment in Bangkok. It made sense for him to keep his stuff with us, as we would be there a little bit more permanently while he continued his job search, but his plan to move in semi-indefinitely did not help to ease what was already a cramped living situation.

Still, it was fun to have him around again, and he certainly helped to lighten everyone’s mood.  He made it a point to drop off an application at our school his first full day in Bangyai.  In some of his free time, he asked around at nearby apartment buildings to see if they any open units for the girls to move into sooner.  None seemed to, though.

Come Wednesday the 21st, Craig’s birthday, and the day the girls were supposed to get their 2-bedroom, they still had not seen it.  Since we had not been getting back to the apartments until about 5:30 on workdays, the building’s office was usually shut down, or at least missing the manager who spoke English.  We did find her most nights at the café/hangout out front where many of the building staff and friends ate, drank, and sang karaoke.  This was where Morgan and Megan had been talking with her most nights.

Between a series of spaced out calls and conversations Wednesday, the girls were pushed back and back on the time they could move in, until finally the manager told them it would not be available for them after all.  The tenants, she said, had decided they didn’t want to move out.

So it seemed we would be in the situation a while longer.  Thankfully, none of us were paying for these rooms, as our housing allowance for the school would cover the rental cost, less 500 baht (15 dollars).

The manager did bring up in a conversation to them later that night, past 21:00, that she suddenly had 2 one-bedroom units available.  Where they came from without mention before, none of us know.  When they got to see the first one-bedroom, it was almost identical to mine, instead with a bathroom sink instead of the clothes washer that I had.  The other was not cleaned and she didn’t have a key for it, so with only one, the girls asked her to hold it, but did not want to move just yet.

Thursday after school, they got to see the other apartment and were less than thrilled with it.  Although I never saw it myself, they said it was disgusting and had an awful smell to it, not nearly as nice as Bobby’s, the other, open one, or mine.

Megan, throughout all of this, was becoming immensely agitated with the situation, and the building manager in particular.  She, Bobby and I went to a café in the mall next door to get on the internet for a while, since the internet in our building was sold out of the passwords needed to access its wifi.

Afterward Bobby and Morgan went over to Big C, the Thailand version of Wal-Mart, while Craig, Megan, and I went to a cluster of food stands for dinner.  She and Morgan had made an appointment to see an apartment in the neighboring building at 21:00, at which point, I went to the area in front of the mall where they had a live guitarist singing a mixture of American and Thai songs and a mobile beer tap.  I was able to get the mall’s Internet there and spent good amount of time once I got one of their mini-pitchers, which were a little steep for their size at 150 baht.

When I got back to my apartment around 23:00, the door was ajar and the thin path allowed by the walls of Bobby and Craig’s luggage had widened slightly.  The first thing Craig said when I walked in was, “We’re moving out.”

The place to myself.

Bobby walked in a few seconds later to get the last of his things, visibly in good spirits about finally being able to move his things into the place he had signed a lease for nearly 2 weeks before.

It turned out that when they had come back to our building after looking at the other one, which they were prepared to take, the building manager had miraculously come up with another one-bedroom in the our building.  So, 11 days later, after dealing with some very close quarters, everyone was finally getting unpacked and able to settle a bit.