Feeling Truly Grateful

I just transferred $450 to my American account from my Elance total. So far I’ve earned $492 working there, and I still have a bit of work left to finish my second job, when I’ll get another ~$180. And I have only been an active freelancer for two weeks.

Three weeks ago, when I started poking around on freelancing sites to look for job possibilities, I never would have guessed I’d be earning money so quickly. At the time, I also wouldn’t have guessed that I’d getting to do something that, overall, I love. I suspected I’d be drudging through hours of work to support my independence instead of stepping into the nascence of my dream job.

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This week is ending beautifully, but it was definitely off to a rough start. Last Thursday I discovered I’d left my card in an ATM. Machines here give you cash first and card second, so this is not my first time. I felt a bit foolish, but brushed it off and stopped by the bank the next day. But it was closed. I cursed the 4 p.m. start to the banker’s weekend and skimped to make it through to Monday.

Let me say here that my girlfriend did tell me to cancel the card. And if you ever do this, do that. I didn’t.

So when I got a new card on Monday, I discovered that my account had gone from more than 18,000 baht to less than 1000 baht. I’d lost over 17,000 baht in one fell swoop. I rest my head against the ATM bearing the bad news and felt completely discouraged.

The bankers said there was likely nothing they could do about the fraud, but I needed to file a report with the police and fax the report to a head office to even have a chance. A list of charges showed where the 17k had been spent over the last couple days. The f****r had spent most of my money at a club, with a little going to a trick auto store and a gym.

My girl helped me explain everything to the police, but neither of us had much hope. Just on the off chance, though, we decided to speak to the club and gym, in case they had any recollection of the guy.

We struck out with the club managers. They called the waiter who’d accepted the card and he couldn’t remember anything. They printed a copy of the signed receipts (f****r tried to copy my signature!). They wished us luck. They took no responsibility for accepting 10k of my money without checking an idea or comparing a signature.

But one of the waitresses told us to wait for her. We didn’t know what she wanted when she walked us to my scooter, and I was confused when she and my girl were speaking animatedly in Thai. Nin’ta said quickly to me, “We got him!” part way through the conversation, then kept speaking, much to my confusion.

The criminal was actually the waiter who ran my card. The waitress had seen him using it to by extra drinks, said that he had just bought a new part for his Honda and worked out at a gym. We knew who it was.

I rode away feeling like a television detective.

The gym had accepted the card for another month’s membership and had a copy of his Thai ID. A quick call to the club confirmed that it was the waiter. We knew him, had his picture, telephone number, email address — everything. I was shaking with angry excitement.

The police had found similar things, but hadn’t done anything. They promised to get in touch with him the following day.

On Wednesday I went in to collect my money. The only catch is, the boy didn’t pay, it was money from the club owners. Like all clubs here, they operate on the edge of the law, staying open later than is legal, and exist by bribing the police. And the police don’t want me to press charges.

I honestly don’t want to either. If I’d lost that money for good, I’d definitely be upset. It would change my life, tighten my already tight budget, and set me back on paying back college loans and saving for new adventures. But if I press charges, the boy will likely go to a Thai prison for more than 5 years and his life will never be the same.

I also don’t want him to get away with this scot free. He can’t do this again; I don’t want anyone else to suffer from me being too lenient, nor do I want him to feel like it’s okay.

So now I have a conundrum. If anyone out there is reading this, I’d be grateful for ideas.

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