Weekly Local Biography

  John Moore

John Moore came to Chiang Mai on holiday in 1987 and within an hour vowed to himself that he would one day live here. He had checked into a nice guesthouse and unpacked. Then he decided to go out and walk around the market place to see what was in the neighborhood. He simply fell in love with the friendly people and smiling faces, the open-air market, the culture and the amazing food. He was successful in his field, agricultural finance, and he had no idea what lay ahead of him before he could achieve his dream. There was bad and there was good, and as I talk to him I can see how he weathered the bad and pursued the good. It will embarrass him to read this, because John is not a pretentious man, but he is a tribute to the human spirit, to our ability to adapt and persevere.

Like many people in England, John left school at 16 to take his first job. University was not an option, so he joined a bank. At first, he was assigned the usual tasks of a new employee – run the errands, deliver messages, and make coffee. He looked around and decided that he didn’t want to be making coffee for very long, so he became the worst coffee maker in the bank. “Do you like your coffee weak, sir?” Hmmm, add at least three spoonfuls to that cup! “Black?” Ah, there goes the box of sugar. He was quickly promoted to cashier.

By the age of 19 he was the number one cashier in the bank, and learned so quickly that he began to ask about taking exams that would allow him to be promoted again. But at 19, he was six years too young. He would have to wait until he was 25 for further opportunities, and that seemed far too far away. So he left the bank and took a position with local government for a few years until a career job opened up. A small agricultural finance company offered him a position and he accepted it.

He spent the next 17 years growing with the company, which went from a staff of five to over 280 sales people. John says that the positive feelings and the team spirit among the employees were felt throughout the company. He felt good about what they were all doing together. Then the company attracted the attention of Barclay’s bank, which purchased it, and that feeling was lost. The big name was prestigious, but the old company spirit flailed. John moved to a finance position with a huge multinational corporation, Transamerica, and within nine months was made redundant, laid off. It was a shock he couldn’t fathom. His successful career in finance simply disappeared.

So his life, which had been quite nice, now became quite difficult. To his amazement he found that, at 38, he was “too old” for most positions that interested him. Human resource people actually told him that they were looking for younger people but people who had John’s work experience. Impossible, of course, but true at that time. John made a few return trips to Thailand, and on one of them learned that a guesthouse was up for sale. He had no experience in guesthouse management, but asked his aunt to take a chance with him and loan him the money. Five thousand pounds was forthcoming, and John was in business.

He met Dang, and she joined him in running the guesthouse. They were the only employees. They booked and received, cooked and cleaned, painted and plumbed, changed the sheets and towels, bought the food at the market. They did it all with creativity and good humor. To solve the lack of a bartender, they simply put a pen and pad on the bar. Guests fixed their own drinks and charged themselves. They lost one Coke. Guests became family. One Frenchman borrowed the kitchen on a regular basis to prepare food. Some came only once, but most returned over and over again. John and Dang were working 24/7. They loved the guests, they loved having a business, but they had no life other than the guesthouse. They sold the guesthouse and went to England. Surely jobs were better now. They married and had a beautiful little girl. John worked every job he could get, but jobs still weren’t easy to find and he had to work all the time just to get by. Dang and the baby came back to Thailand. Living here was less expensive. John found a steady job driving mini-cabs in England. He went back and forth between Thailand and England. He wasn’t happy separated from his family, they weren’t happy without him, but he had a job.

As a young man he played football and squash. Then he injured his back and couldn’t play anymore. He was getting out of shape just driving the mini-cab, and searched around for something athletic he could do without injuring his back again. He discovered archery. It improved his back muscles and strengthened his chest and shoulders. He was 49 years old and had found a new challenge, something that he did very, very well. “You can’t give up on life”, he says. He practiced and practiced. He won tournaments. He took classes and exams and became a coach. It slowly occurred to him that this could be it; maybe he had found a new career.

With a little money and a lot of hope, he came back to Thailand and rejoined his family. They opened Chiang Mai Bow on the Mae Rim Highway across from Green Valley Golf Club. He began teaching for several international schools. He took students, Thai and western, groups and individuals. He says, “I adore teaching students to shoot”. I watched his students at a tournament. Do you know they really do shoot apples off of the heads of straw dummies? And they can hit balloons that are waving in the wind? John Moore has come home.