It was not long after I joined Philips in Southampton that I was asked to join their marketing guy in Japan to do some technical presentations to customers there, including Sanyo, Sony, Hitachi, Sharp; the usual players. After the first trip the travel rules meant that I could fly business class on the airline of my choice. Those trips were then extended to include, Korea (so not all good), Singapore and Taiwan. It was during one of these trips I met Ploy, a case of being in the right place at the right time.
But Philips were in trouble, even then, and despite us getting interest from all the visits there were bigger things afoot, (including a ridiculous demand from on high that we were not to support any customer that wanted to support DVD-R/RW which technically we could), and things started to tighten up. The business travel was the first to go and the appeal of all those long haul flights waned somewhat. Sharing taxis to the airport came next and then they appointed a third party travel bureau instead of our friendly in-house girl, and they would put you on any flight, as long as it was the cheapest. No more Singapore air or ANA for me.
Prompted by this and many other things we moved to Singapore to work for another section of Philips. But although we both loved Singapore, (me more than Ploy, it has to be said), it was clear that the disease was spreading and my group were not long for the chopping block.
But then I was head hunted. Yes, I am going to say it again. Two companies, both in silicon valley wanted me, so we both spent a week there, looking around, attending interviews until one made an offer the day after the interview, with a salary more than four times what I was earning in Singapore. We saw ourselves with a nice house near Monterey, looking out over the Pacific Ocean. It was not to be. First we had just missed the annual lottery for green cards so rather than wait a year it was suggested we could work for a small subsidiary in Canada. Fine, I thought; I had been to Vancouver and I really liked it. A little cold maybe, but we can cope.
The first four months went really well and I even went back to Philips in Singapore to explain our new IC design to them. I got bonuses but that obscene salary was tempered by the ridiculous tax. And the very high cost of living diminished it further. And it was cold. But I enjoyed the work and was invited to participate in some forward planning think tank, so I felt valued.
But then the rumours started. Our division was to be sold off. The parent company wanted to focus on hard disc drive controllers. We were an anachronism. And it didn't help that management didn't have a clue about consumer electronics, especially as it was our market. We had the products, but no-one to believe in them or sell them. Eventually we were bought, by a company that was a second or third or fourth generation offshoot of some other failed company. This was not going to turn out well. And for all sorts of reasons I had real personality issues with my new managers. My previous manager, now made redundant, had a PhD in electronics; my new one an MBA. Then the final straw, HR organised a team building event for us.
So we chose to leave and start SingMai but having our permanent residency refused forced us to make a decision we wanted to make anyway - to leave Canada. And I can't count the number of times we have said to each other, when times get a little tough, that at least we are not still in Canada.
So those Philips share options turned to dust (the current share value is less than half the stock option value), the bonuses are gone, the obscene salary has gone, the business class trips are gone. But we are happy here and each day the planned move to Singapore becomes more remote.
We were eating out for dinner a couple of days ago when Ploy got a telephone call. There is a meeting she explained, with the Poo Yai Baan (village head). But you had a meeting yesterday, I questioned. Yes, it's another one, I should go. The meal had just arrived so I was left to finish what I could and order a couple more beers whilst I waited for Ploy to return, which she did an hour or so later. There is a team of residents being formed she said, and they wanted me. Two local boys had been caught sniffing glue and the locals were worried and so police and some others were at the meeting to advise what to look for and how to deal with it better.
This is all very laudable but why do these problems have to happen just as we arrive here. Yes there is a drug culture in Thailand as there is in any country, (funnily enough I had watched the DVD of Traffic just the day before so I was an expert), but in our area it is hidden and people are invariably well behaved aside from playing appalling music very loudly from time to time. So why couldn't these teenagers wait another ten years or so until we have enough money to buy our boat or island. Why whenever we move anywhere is it always a watershed moment, the passing of an era.
To make matters worse Ploy said the police wanted us to pay for a box to put outside our house. They would, in return for 500 baht/month, then regularly check our house and put the report in that box to confirm their watchfulness. Fuck that, was my initial thought although my statement was a tad more restrained. Isn't it their job anyway, I asked. And in any case, I am here all day, every day so why do we need them. I have never ever seen a policeman on this estate in our 2.5 years of living here. If you want someone else to watch the house then how about Pee Daeng, she is retired, lives a couple of doors away and will do a much better job. Ploy had that look in her eye, the one where she wants me to shut the fuck up, wishes she had never mentioned it, and wants me to drink up so we can go home.
I had that thought that Ploy had already agreed to this because of peer pressure and in fact the whole meeting was not about helping prevent a drug culture growing locally but a chance for the police to increase their Christmas fund. We won't mention it again as we each know the rules but Ploy must be wondering what to do with the box she has probably already been given. I, being an engineer, already have many ideas, but it will require our watchful policeman to pass by for me to enact them.
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