Money Mechanics

Dec 19, 2010

After my visits to her bar to provide some comfort and support for her latest troubles, Rasamee now sees us as a couple again, albeit one that does not sleep together. I am somewhat more ambivalent about the relationship, but can understand her thinking. After all, we just got through exchanging early Christmas presents, a sure sign something is going on between us.

For my holiday gift to Rasamee, I enclosed the money I’d promised her in a nice card along with a picture of myself. Nothing fancy. Rasamee, however, presented me with a lovely blue and white scarf that she’d knitted over the course of three days. (Accompanying it was a small note in broken English expressing the hope that I’d like it, which touched me almost as much as the scarf itself.) It certainly says something about Rasamee’s affection for me as well as the kind of person she is. It’s almost laughable to try and imagine any of the other bar girls I’ve come across doing something like this.

Some financial good news to report: at long last, I finally have the means to wire funds from my U.S. investments to my Thailand bank account! I’d done some research on how to get this set up once I was over here before I made the big move (See Wiring Money Overseas) and it sounded straightforward enough. But this turned out not to be the case. Because the names on the sending and receiving accounts did not exactly match, I had to journey up to the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok to obtain a signature guarantee so that the good folks back home managing my money (The Vanguard Group) could be sure I was who I claimed to be. Talk about pedantic. This assurance, along with a form containing my Thailand bank account info, was then FedExed to them. About a week afterwards, I was informed via email that the wire transfer option had been created in my customer profile and wasted no time logging on (love the internet!) to try it out. Seeing the money arrive in my account at the Siam Commercial Bank some seventy-two hours later was a both a thrill and a relief — I now had the means to stay here without resorting to panhandling the tourists.

My newfound riches have also allowed me to finally move beyond dribbling out help to Rasamee in one and two thousand baht increments. It can now be handled in larger chunks, especially since here in Thailand a person can, via an ATM, send money from their bank account to someone else’s, even if theirs is at another financial institution. To try out this intriguing feature, yesterday I had Rasamee provide me with her account number so I could do a transfer of five thousand baht from my account to hers. If this works, then I’ll talk with her later this week about her outstanding debts, which I might be able to put a serious dent in. It will be a chance to help someone who, in addition to her bar job, is also working part time at a restaurant across the street. All in an attempt to repay some of her loans (from various friends and family) and help her two children go to college.

All this makes me wonder what, after my generous assistance, Rasamee’s plans might be. Maybe in this country, with so many people having only the means to live day to day, thinking further down the road is not worth the effort. I do know she’d like to be back in her own home, and her close friend Wan’s recent death in the motorbike accident has only added to her distaste for this city. (Rasamee had stayed at Wan’s place the night before, then was at the hospital when she passed away. How many of us ever end up being with someone during their final night on earth?) Yet at the same time, Rasamee is keen to be my official girlfriend once again, a reason to stay here and, perhaps through better behavior, try to make that happen. I remain dubious about our chances.

But first things first. Time to check with my special friend and see if the money made it over.

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