Two weeks ago, I failed to celebrate an anniversary. It took me days to realise, under grilling by a taxi driver, that I had lived in Thailand continuously for thirty-five full years as of the 12th of May. (My first stay, as a reporter for Le Monde diplomatique, was in mid-1972, during the halcyon days of the Vietnam war and marshals at the trough helm.)
According to officialdom I’m still a ‘non-re’ here, short for ‘non-resident’, believe it or not. Mind you, that’s better than the previous ‘non-imm’ stamped in our passports: the term was confusing, given that the only non-immigrants in a country are by definition the natives. And non-resident we have become more than ever, it seems, since an underworked Immigration started insisting on treating us as potential criminals by demanding that, yearly visa notwithstanding, we prove every three months that we still live at the same address!
Anyway, two days from now, for the thirty-sixth year then, I’ll be renewing my yearly visa and labour permit – this time again on the strength of casual employment as a consultant by the Thai ministry of culture. The thing will involve only a few grams of paper (compared to the kilos of documents I had to produce each year as an employee in a Thai company) and hefty taxi fares. And with luck, not too much pain from intensive walking. Thinking of which…
Tomorrow, to please the benighted Labour Department, I’ll go once again to Siriraj hospital to get some doctor who doesn’t know me from Adam* certify that I’m ‘not an individual of unsound mind or mentally retarded’, do ‘not have tuberculosis at a dangerous stage, elephantiasis showing symptoms repugnant to society, highly punishable drug addiction, chronic alcoholism or third-degree syphilis’ (source: ‘Tor Thor 5 – Tor Ayu Bai Anuyat Tham Ngan’ §5). Never mind modern diseases such as AIDS or Alzheimer.
* The doctors that know me there are experts and do not waste time handling such inanities.
Shall I bring along my newly acquired iPad?
Lately this contraption had changed my life, along with the streaming of Giro stages on the net (ending tonight with Balocco indigestion): I’m ransacking sundry websites offering hoary or new-fangled fiction for free. I’ve stocked up on Vernon Sullivan, Herlock Sholmes and Arlene Supine, and re-read with glee, fifty plus years later, L’Étranger de Camus, not to mention generous helpings of contemporary stuff that only transit the Kindle slot the time it takes to find them rubbishy and ditch them. But I’ll talk about this some other time. What with the washing and the ironing, I’ve done more than enough this weekend.