Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Family Money

Personal Directions

The Doctor's Consultation by Dr. Iain Corness

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Recipes from Rattana

Wine Column

Ask your local US Consul

Family Money: Get real about real estate - Part 1

By Leslie Wright,
Managing director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd.

In the past several months, real estate property has been the buzzword in the financial trade papers, and on the lips of almost every client who’s come to see me.

Indeed, UK property has performed especially well in the past 12 months, and funds invested in property - both in UK and internationally - have also performed well.

An information sheet recently sent to me by a US investment group trumpeted record property starts in the US - despite the general malaise in the stock market; ads appear everywhere for rent-producing residential and commercial properties in UK. What a wonderful alternative bandwagon when it’s a roller-coaster ride in the equity markets!

I admit I waxed enthusiastic last year about property and Traded Endowment Policies funds (‘TEPs’): the market was bullish, and the return enticing - especially compared with equities and cash!

But property prices in UK are starting to peak, and remind me of the situation in 1987-88 (if you can cast your memory back that far) when a similar property bubble had developed in the UK - and burst spectacularly the following year.

Several clients have seen the writing on the wall and wisely (in my opinion) sold their UK properties while the opportunity presented itself, and moved the proceeds offshore into one or another safe-haven investments which will not be affected by a possible property slump, or even the continuing fragile geopolitical situation.

What is my "best advice" based on past experience and gut feeling? Hold onto property funds for the meantime, since these can be switched into bonds, for example, at a moment’s notice if the property market goes sour.

But as to buying a house in UK at this time? Unless you are returning there permanently and have found the dream home you intend to retire into, I would not advocate buying bricks and mortar at this time: the prices are too high.

On the other hand, if you are considering selling a property, now may indeed be a very good time - just before the market peaks.

How about
Thailand?

Despite my having written before (June 2001) on the subject of buying/owning real estate in Thailand, in recent weeks I have again received several enquiries about buying and owning property here, so perhaps it’s time we revisited this thorny topic.

The enquiries I receive have mostly been from middle-aged expatriates who have decided to settle in Thailand with the girl of their dreams that they met last month or the month before, who loves him so much that she’s leaving her place of work polishing a pole in Soi 8 or Pattayaland Soi 2 to settle down in the nice little house she’s found for them somewhere along Jomtien Beach.

Typically, the enquirer wants to find out why the property cannot be held in his own name, and if it’s okay to put it in his girlfriend’s name.

A few potential buyers - mostly ones who have not yet taken the step to move here, but are still "looking into things" from afar - are so naïve that they even ask how they can obtain a mortgage on the property. "Oh dear," I think when I receive these enquiries, "Not another one!"

At the height of the currency crisis in 1997, Thailand agreed with the IMF to liberalise its laws with regard to foreigners owning real estate in Thailand.

The matter was debated in parliament and the press at great length, and the usual jingoistic (some would say xenophobic) statements were aired that if the protectionist laws were amended, we greedy farangs would sweep in and buy up all the land in Thailand and exploit the poor innocent Thais in our typical colonialist fashion.

(I wonder why the fact that Thais or anyone else with money can buy any amount of landed property in the UK or USA is never aired as a counter-argument, and neither the British nor Americans seem terribly worried that their country is going to be taken over by colonising Asians - but that perhaps is another topic for another day.)

Some prospective buyers have heard that the law which used to prohibit Thai spouses from owning property once they married a farang had been changed, and wanted confirmation of this.

The short answer to this is: A foreigner may legally purchase, together with his Thai wife, a house, land or property not exceeding 1 rai which is duly purchased as marital property - that is, the Parties are legally married and documented at the local Amphur.

The purchase must be jointly held and cannot be sold without the other partner’s signature, nor can either force the other out of residence without due compensation. The foreigner’s name will never be on the actual Title Deed, but a Memorandum is attached to it indicating his legal attachment to the owner.

A good time to buy?

Clients point out to me the amount of building going on around Pattaya as indicative that the economy in Thailand is improving, and now is a good time to "invest" in property in Thailand.

There is indeed a lot of building going on - but sources tell me that the extensive property development along a certain main thoroughfare is mostly owned by one family-owned commercial outfit who are using their spare cash while prices and interest rates are low.

Looking further afield, there are plenty of properties standing vacant, and a number of failed developments.

I am reliably informed that there are many more sellers than buyers, which the ‘Mail Market’ pages of the Pattaya Mail would tend to confirm, week after week.

I also hear a lot of grumbling from businesses which rely on bumper business during High Season that the High Season just ended was not good, and consumer spending generally is down. So where’s the money coming from for these building projects? No-one seems to know.

(To be continued next week)


Personal Directions: Meaning and purpose ... thoughts to share

By Christina Dodd,
founder and managing director of Asia Training Associates

One of the greatest rewards of writing this column is that it puts me in touch with a vast audience of like-minded people - people who share a common thread of striving for performance excellence and people who realize that human emotions are the greatest powers and guiding forces. To this end I have developed a large correspondence base with readers who come from a broad variety of locations and backgrounds. Some are bankers, some lawyers, some housewives, some engineers or farmers, some teachers, some entrepreneurs and ... well the list goes on and on!

From these newfound friends and colleagues I frequently receive small quotes, thoughts and - like the following - essays, which, I feel, should be shared amongst all of you.

Today I have the pleasure of submitting another of John and Melody Andersons’ inspirational essays. I wish to thank Steven Atkins in England for this contribution of John and Melody’s work and hope that in turn this short piece inspires you in the same way that it did me.

If we are prepared to embrace and to find meaning in life, then our life will have purpose and we can actively pursue our understanding of that purpose to our own betterment and fulfillment.

One would have to say that unless life is truly worth living and worth living wholeheartedly, then it is not worth living at all. This is the kind of realization that an individual can run from all of their life and as long as the knowledge of it remains unacknowledged, then the individual can maintain a life of sorts, appropriate to maintaining an identity, but lacking in honesty and in meaning.

Meaning is achieved in life through honesty and only through honesty. Without honesty, meaning cannot truly manifest itself. Without meaning, life is simply an arduous journey of uncertainty and pain to which there seems no point. Not only that, but unless the individual is willing to give themselves over to the acknowledgment of meaning they will be plagued by unpleasantness and by powerlessness indefinitely.

A willingness to find meaning and to exercise trust in this meaning enables the individual to become strong and to embrace greater and greater strength. Meaning also ensures that no matter what the situation, the individual can find strength in that situation and retain their personal power, even when the situation seems to suggest tragedy or disaster. Being able to feel personal power in life depends on the willingness to find meaning in all things. And indeed, finding meaning depends on feeling a sense of personal responsibility.

One cannot find meaning in life yet reflect powerlessness. As soon as one gives in to powerlessness, the individual becomes a victim of life and its cruel lessons, doomed to ride the uncertain roller coaster of change and emotion, forever pursued by hurt, disappointment and fear. One may find a sort of meaning in life without personal power, say if one hands the responsibility for what happens to an outside force, or if one acknowledges meaning intellectually, while denying it emotionally. Both negate true meaning completely and starve the individual of the power to change what occurs and to prosper from the situations that are encountered in life.

Living a life to which there is no point throws the individual on the mercy of chance and randomness and indeed surrenders the individual to the power of accident. Accident and blame are destructive in their implications, for each determines that the individual is completely without the power to change things. Readily applying meaning to a situation arms the individual with the power to ascertain what is to be gained and to then set about the achievement of the purpose. Purpose and meaning are subtly different but inextricably linked.

Purpose doesn’t exist without meaning and vice versa. Purpose is more strongly linked with action. Meaning is more closely aligned with appreciation. We find appreciation in a situation, and we find meaning. We identity purpose in a situation and we identify a direction in which to head. Deny both and we flounder our way through life, the victim of all that is thrown in our path.

As with much in life, neither purpose, nor meaning can be created or made manifest without the recognition of contrasting values. Without an awareness of the value of the absence of these things, or the knowledge of a vision, the individual cannot commit to a decision between one option and another. In other words, if there is no value for purpose and meaning in life and if instead, there is more value in powerlessness and blame, until the individual is willing to acknowledge existing values, nothing can change.

It is the acknowledgment of existing values and moreover, the preparedness to move on from this point that determines whether an individual can advance and make more of life. Without a willingness to acknowledge value in the status quo, and a preparedness to embrace other greater options, there is no opportunity for choice and without choice, one must be satisfied with the norm - one must be satisfied with living a life without purpose and without meaning.

A realization of value and a commitment to the value of living a meaningful life provides a constant source of inspiration for wanting and having more. It allows the individual to achieve in greater and greater degrees, the ultimate end being a direction of quality and enhancement in every area of life.

This is, I feel, a powerful and very valuable article and I hope that you also feel the same. Thank you once again to Steven Atkins and to John and Melody Anderson for their insights.

The thoughts expressed by John and Melody are part of the program subjects that we use. Our goal is to build on the positive and extinguish the negative. This is the only way to approach life and to therefore have Meaning and Purpose.

If you wish to talk further on matters of personal and self development, or on matters that concern your business, the effectiveness and needs of your staff, then please contact me at Asia Training Associates - email: christina. [email protected]

For details on our programs and Asia Training Associates, please visit our website: www.asiatrainingassociates.com

Until next time ... Have a Great Week!


The Doctor's Consultation by Dr. Iain Corness: Well I’ll be plasty’d! The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Cosmetic Surgery

by Dr. Iain Corness

Many women, and a significant number of men, have contemplated plastic (cosmetic) surgery. Right from the outset, let me state that mucking around with your face and body should only be done by experts in the field. An "expert" is a doctor who has specialist qualifications in plastic and reconstructive surgery and does nothing but that type of work every day, not the clinic on the corner that does everything from coughs and sneezes and venereal diseases and the odd boob job as well! So let us have a look at what can be done, what it is called and how long it takes.

Rhinoplasty is functional re-modelling of the nose and is carried out to correct malformations and developmental abnormalities. These procedures can usually be done under local anaesthetic, in most instances, and will take 1 to 11/2 hours in surgery. The important word here is ‘functional’. It is no good having a super looking nose that you can’t breathe through!

Blepharoplasty is excision of superfluous skin from the upper or lower eye lids. This can be done under local anaesthesia with surgery taking around one hour.

Face Lifts. There are many types of this (depending on how far your face has fallen)! It can range from the full Face Lift to just removal of "Crow’s Feet" for example. Major procedures can take up to 5 hours in surgery and require a general anaesthetic and an inpatient stay of up to 4 days. Minor procedures are done under local and you may be able to return home on the same day. Correction of acne scars by Laser Dermabrasion is included in this list.

Lip Surgery, both thickening or thinning of protruberant lips can be done as an out-patient procedure. This takes up to 2 hours and is performed under local anaesthesia.

Mammoplasty - increasing or decreasing the size of the breasts can take up to 4 hours in surgery and requires general anaesthesia and an in-patient stay of up to 4 days. These days, saline implants are generally used, though the ‘dangers’ with silicone implants were more imagined than real. Minor procedures to reduce the size of areolae or nipples can be done under local and an in-patient stay is not necessary. For many women these operations can give them a new lease on life, ending many years of embarrassment and psychological trauma.

Liposuction. This is a relatively new form of cosmetic surgery where fat cells are "sucked" away from the tissues under the skin and requires general anaesthesia and an in-patient stay of one night.

Autologous fat injections. In these procedures, the patient’s own fat cells are used to rectify problem areas where lack of sub-cutaneous tissue produces "sagging" or premature aging. Local anaesthesia is possible for most regions (cheeks, forehead, temples, chin) but major procedures around the hips require general anaesthesia and an inpatient stay for up to 2 days.

Surgical excision of fatty apron or scars. This is not as easy as it may sound and normally requires general anaesthesia and an in-patient stay of up to 4 days.

Punch graft hair transplants. This is a lengthy procedure (5 hours) but is carried out under local anaesthesia. 500 punch grafts will fill in an area 9 cm x 9 cm and a 2 day spell as an in-patient is necessary.

So there you are - now you know what to ask for - but please do ask the specialists in the field.


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,

Have you noticed all the "work" that has been done in our cities recently? I move around a lot with my job and the traffic is just hopeless everywhere in Thailand these days, not just in Bangkok. In Chiang Mai there appears to be endless work going on tearing up the footpaths and putting them back down again. Then tear them up again, and so on. In Pattaya they are not happy with just the footpaths, they tear up the whole road, lay concrete, produce instant traffic jams and then move on to the next road. In Jomtien they tore up the footpath, laid bricks, then built another pavement and then laid another concrete pathway as well and then erected ornamental lights every five metres. Not satisfied with that, they then put in more lights, making more traffic snarls. Is this part of a national plot, or just national madness?

Traffic Jam Johnny

Dear Traffic Jam Johnny,

I doubt if it is part of a national traffic scam or an orchestrated plot, but it is one way to cut down the road toll. Stationary cars can’t run over pedestrians. It also keeps the concrete industry very healthy, and the road construction business is having a boom time. Not that anyone in the decision making offices have any interests in road construction, bricks, electric light poles or concrete. I did inquire about the two types of lights along Jomtien Beach for you - seems the first ones blew too many light globes. You might have to find an alternative transport system. Have you considered investing in a helicopter?

Dear Hillary,

Just as I was preparing to put brush to canvas of your imaginary likeness based on the sketch I sent you, I suddenly had a flash - what if my imaginary Hillary was nothing like the real one? I decided then to do a few contrasting alternative Hillary’s of which the examples are enclosed. Of course, I would never dream of asking you for clues to your mystery identity but must use my creative powers to construct a Hillary based on your witty and eloquent responses to your letters. The only personal info that I am aware of - that you have given out - is the champagne and chocolate business. We don’t know if you like Frisbee, mountain bikes, tofu and vegetables; and I must agree you probably would not have as much reader input if you craved granola bars and carrot juice instead. Please feel free to use any of the pictures of my art in your column, or in your upcoming book, of which I would like X number of copies.

Dickens 44

Dear Dickens 44,

Thank you again for the lovely sketches, wondering which one is me. But Petal, not number 4, Kevin the half-wombat! From your sketch I can’t even see what the other half of him looks like. Has Kevin been impersonating me again? If he has, I’ll sue his ass off, you tell him from me, Petal!

Now as far as my likes and dislikes are concerned (and you are the first one to ever ask about my deep and innermost needs, bless you) Frisbees - No, mountain bikes - No, tofu and vegetables - are you kidding, granola bars and carrot juice - are you trying to poison me? Stick with the champagne and chocolates, dear Dickens 44. What more does one need in this life, other than perhaps someone who really "cares" like you, Dickens 44.

Trying to be objective and look at the remaining three sketches (the ones without that dreadful Kevin the half-wombat), I must say I would prefer to be thought of as number 3, I just love that Gallic chapeau, but please erase the tattoos as I do not have one mark on my otherwise perfect body. Oh you are a one - you’ve got me talking about my body already, and we hardly know each other! But please remember that Hillary is as you imagine - and expectation always exceeds realization. Except in the case of Kevin the half-wombat, disgusting creature that he is. I think I’ll have to go and wash my hands after just touching the sketch. Smelly horrible beast! If you’re going to go for a half anything, a Minotaur would be much better.

Regarding the upcoming book - have you been peeking over my shoulder, Dickens 44? Don’t deny everything and spoil our relationship. When it is printed, I will personally autograph one copy just for you. After you have purchased it of course. Agony aunts have to live too, you know, and the champagne is getting expensive.


Camera Class: Wounded Cameras

When you fall over and cut your knee, you should know how to render first aid. When you fall over and injure your camera, it’s about the same. However, avoiding falling over is probably the most important lesson. It is always better to have a fence at the top of the cliff, rather than an ambulance at the bottom! So let’s begin by thinking about all the disasters, how you can avoid them and what to do if the ultimate disaster does occur.

The first, and often the most common, is dropping the camera. Cameras are very complex devices full of electronic trickery and mechanical movements. The shutter on even the cheapest camera can open and close in 1/500th of a second. It doesn’t take much to knock the delicate shutter around. The camera is also a lightproof box, dropping it and distorting the case will soon let light in.

So what should be done beforehand? First is to have a decent padded camera bag. I recently purchased one which cost over 1000 baht - but it will keep the camera safe in the situation of it falling out of the car or slipping from the shoulder. Throw that silly leather case as far as you can, or feed it to a giraffe.

Another important point - always loop the camera strap around your neck. OK, so now you have the camera hanging on the strap around your neck, what can go wrong here? Well the strap can slip or the eyelet rings can break, and the whole lot hits the floor unless you have lightning reflexes. Answer? Check and make sure that everything is correctly attached and not worn. Replace regularly.

So it did hit the floor, what now? Turn it on. Is it still electrically OK? If no power, take the batteries out and then put them back in - they may just be jolted out of position. Unscrew the lens and put it back on. Look through the viewfinder - if it looks normal, then try to take several shots at different shutter speeds and apertures and rush to the closest 1 hour processor. Pray a lot. You may be lucky.

After dropping, the next disaster is water. Cameras are not like children, you cannot "drown proof" them. They stay drowned. In the rain you must take precautions. A plastic bag wrapped around the camera with just the end of the lens poking through, and held on with rubber bands is the way to "safe photography". Even then, as soon as possible you should take the camera inside and dry the outside of the case thoroughly. Take the lens off and dry carefully around the lens mount too, making sure you do not touch the mirror. Take the batteries out and thoroughly dry the battery compartment and the contacts. Batteries and moisture do not go well together.

Now we should think about the great shots you can get on board speedboats and similar situations. Resist the temptation to take your good camera - you can buy a waterproof Kodak for very little money and you can relax with peace of mind. Or even one of the disposable ones. Do not take your good one!

So what do you do when you drop the whole lot in the drink? If it is a modern electronic camera you have probably just lost your investment - especially if it is salt water you drop it into. One camera technician’s advice was, "Leave it there!" However, you can try flushing the camera in running tap water for at least an hour, then drying it and taking it to the repair shop. An audience with the Pope would be a good move as well.

Drowning the camera in fresh water is not quite so bad, but you have to pull it apart as much as you can and then dry it out as thoroughly as you can - a hair dryer set on "No Heat" can help, but again your chances are slim.

The message is first aid is possible, but prevention is much better!


Recipes from Rattana: Tuna Cheese Stuffed Potatoes

This is a favourite in most families and the stuffing is very simple, being available from the supermarket shelves. Unfortunately this is not a quick dish to prepare, as it requires some time in the oven, so is one that you should plan for, rather than a spur of the moment decision.

Ingredients serves 4

Potatoes 4 large

Tinned Tuna 1 medium

Onion, finely chopped 1 medium

Green pepper 1 small

Cheddar cheese grated 50 gms

Milk 125 mls

Butter 2 tbspns

Salt 1 tbspn

Cooking Method

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees.

Wash potatoes well, rub all over with salt and bake for one hour in the oven.

Drain the liquid from the tuna and mash with a fork.

Remove potatoes from oven and cut into halves. With a spoon, carefully scoop out the majority of the potato, leaving the skins intact. Mash the scooped potato with milk and butter, stir in the seafood, onion and pepper and return to the potato skins.

Return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes, then sprinkle the cheese over the tops and bake on high until cheese melts.

Serve immediately.


Wine Column: Katnook: Fermenting for flavours

By Ranjith Chandrasiri

If you’ve ever had the chance to taste wine (grape juice) before it has been fermented, you know it doesn’t taste anything like wine. It tastes like, well, grape juice. So where do all those fruit, spice, vanilla and other flavours come from? Do winemakers put them in? Can they actually add different flavours to make wine taste a certain way?

Emmanuel Cruse (right), the owner and general manager of prestigious Château D’Issan in Bordeaux recently met with Ranjith in Margaux to talk about flavours of wine.

First, let’s look at fruit flavours in wine. If winemakers don’t add other fruits to wine (and they don’t), then where do these fruit flavours come from?

A (wine) grape is a unique fruit in that it contains natural chemical compounds that are also found in other fruits and vegetables. Fermentation, a simple chemical reaction, releases these compounds, so we smell and taste these same aromas and flavours in the finished wine. For example, the strong black pepper aroma and flavour of California zinfandel (red, of course) comes from the same compound that gives black pepper its spicy kick. And the tangy apple flavour found in most chardonnays comes primarily from malic acid, the tart acid found in apples.

Everything that a winemaker does in producing his wine affects the taste of the wine in one way or another. The taste of the wine involves the wine’s aroma, body, texture, length and so on and not just its flavour.

Producing wine actually involves two separate steps: the growing of the grapes, called viticulture and the making of the wine, called vinification. Sometimes both steps are performed by the same company, as with estate bottled wines, and sometimes the two steps are completely separate. Some large wineries, for example, contract with hundreds of grape growers. These growers don’t make wine; they just grow grapes and sell their grapes to whatever the wine company that offers them the highest price.

The vinification end of wine producing falls into two parts: fermentation - the period when the grape juice turns into wine and maturation - the period following fermentation when the wine settles down, smoothes its rough edges and gets ready to meet the world. Depending on the type of wine being made, the whole process could take up to three months or a few years.

Fermentation

Once the juice has been pressed from the grape, winemakers place it in a fermentation container (stainless steel tank, barrel, etc.). At this point they can either let the wild yeast (that came in on the grapes) do the fermentation or they can add cultured yeast. Different yeast strains create different flavours in wine. In chardonnay, for example, one strain may produce more tropical fruit flavours while another may impart more citrusy flavours. So winemakers can choose a cultured yeast strain that gives them the flavour profiles they want in the finished wine. Or they can let Mother Nature do her thing and work with the flavours that she comes up with.

Secondary
Fermentation

Secondary fermentation, also called malolactic fermentation (ML), usually produces flavours of butter and/or butterscotch. To make ML happen, the winemaker adds a strain of lactic bacteria to the wine, which converts the harsher malic acid - the main acid in apples to lactic acid - the acid found in dairy products. So, it’s basically a conversion of a tart acid to a soft, creamy acid. A chemical by-product of this process is diacetyl, the component of butter that makes it smell and taste like butter. So, if the winemakers want a softer wine with buttery characteristics - a chardonnay, for example - they put the wine through malolactic fermentation.

Lees Contact

Once fermentation is over and the sugar has turned into alcohol and other by-products, the yeast cells die (their food source is gone) or become dormant and fall to the bottom of the barrel. When the white wines were left on their yeast sediment called lees, for an extended period of time, pleasant yeasty, pastry-like flavours develop in the wine.

Oak Aging

Oak barrels, depending on their age, oak type and toast level, contribute certain flavours to the wine. For example, oak can impart clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, caramel, chocolate, coffee, vanilla and, of course, oak flavours. So winemakers will do what they call barrel trials to determine which type of oak barrels can best produce the flavours they want in their finished wine.

Barrel fermented or barrel aged?

The term barrel-fermented means that the unfermented juice went into barrels (almost always oak) and changed into wine there. The term barrel-aged usually means that the already fermented wine went into barrels and stayed there for a maturation period of a few months or a couple of years. Barrel fermentation applies mainly to white wines and here is why you might care to know whether a white wine is barrel-fermented or just barrel-aged. Wines that were fermented in barrels actually end up tasting less oaky than wines that were simply aged in barrels, even though they might have spent more time in oak.

Knowing how and where the flavours come from can help you understand why you might like a particular wine and it can even influence your wine buying decisions.

Ranjith Chandrasiri is the resident manager of Royal Cliff Grand and President of the Royal Cliff Wine Club, Royal Cliff Beach Resort, Pattaya, Thailand. Email: [email protected] or [email protected]

Website: http://www.royal cliff.com/rcwineclub.htm


Ask your local US Consul

Dear Consul,

How can I get a job at the Consulate?

- In need of beer money, of course!

Dear Masochist,

I suspect there are easier ways to achieve your goals. Like high-wire diving, for example. Or shark wrangling. Ever consider a career in shark wrangling?

Of course, I’m kidding, mostly. Working at the Consulate can be supremely fulfilling and sublimely inspiring. And I don’t say that because I’m contractually obligated to do so, although I’m pretty sure that I am.

The problem is, despite the occasional apparent public perception that we have an army of workers whose job it is to answer the phone, and another phalanx dedicated solely to the recovery of errant social security checks, the truth is that we’re a very small operation up here. How small? I’d tell you, but then I’d have to (etc., etc.)...so just trust me. And, of course, Consulate jobs are SO good that people don’t give them up easily or often (or something like that). In any event, openings are rare.

But, assuming you’ve spotted a vacancy - and, as luck would have it, there’s one to be spotted in the Chiang Mai News right now - the next question is, where does your passport say you’re from? Certain jobs, such as managerial/officer positions, White Chedi maintenance, etc., can only be held by U.S. citizens.

If you’re interested in one of those types of jobs - and you’d have to be really interested - the application procedure involves joining the Foreign Service, which, in turn, involves a year-long in-depth process, with, ultimately, a minuscule chance of being assigned to Chiang Mai and a very large chance of being assigned to Mexico City. If your need for beer money is such that it would drive you to contemplate sitting behind a desk in Moldova two years from now, then you just might be Foreign Service material! No, that’s not how I meant to end that sentence. What I was going to say is that you can get the whole scoop, and even sign up for the next entrance exam (to be held in April, 2004) at http://careers.state.gov

Most of the other jobs, the more specialized ones (such as the current vacancy, for a media relations person), are open to both Thai and U.S. citizens, but be warned that each listing generates as many as a hundred applications. Be realistic about your qualifications, review the instructions carefully, and put together the best package that you can.

You didn’t ask, though people do, about volunteering or interning at the Consulate or Embassy. The short answer is that we wish this were possible, but security regulations preclude it.

There IS an internship program administered by the Department, geared towards students, and information is available on the careers.state.gov page, under the "student programs" link. Note that with these programs too, it isn’t possible to apply only for a particular geographic location. For college students who want to get a career taste, though, these programs are excellent, and also a good way to acquire the necessary skills and confidence for taking the entrance exam.

Closer to home, U.S. citizens are always invited to become Chiang Mai "wardens" - the unfortunate name given to the selfless folks who work with the consular section in getting information to (and from) the broader community. The position will net you only merit, however - no beer money involved.

Perhaps in the next life,

The Consul

Have a question about visas, passports, travel to the United States, services for American citizens, or related issues? Ask the Consul. Send your e-mail to [email protected] with "ask the consul" in the subject line. If your question isn’t selected, you can get an answer by calling the Consulate at 053-252-629, from 8 to 4.