SURAT THANI — A Russian man stranded in rural Thailand is working and teaching English at a temple in exchange for food and lodging.
After finding his journey home disrupted by the pandemic, 25-year-old Russian identified as Ivan found accommodation at Wat Pattanaram Phra Aram Luang, where he teaches the novices English, and helps the monks cook and clean.
“Ivan is well-mannered, kind, and industrious. He wouldn’t accept money from us,” abbot Phra Khru Pisan Pattananukit said. “He wanted to work, but I was afraid it would be illegal, so I let him stay in the wat and teach English to the novices.”
Ivan, an engineering student in Russia, has been living at the temple since March 26. He was vacationing at Koh Samui in March when the pandemic hit, and then crossed over to the Surat Thani mainland to try to return home. He attempted to cross the border into Songkhla to extend his visa, but the borders were closed.
Ivan sleeps in the monks’ quarters and eats with them. Other than the English lessons, he helps the novices pick up trash around the temple, carries around supplies, and cooks in the kitchen to make food donations for those affected by COVID-19.
According to TASS, more than 20,000 Russian nationals were stranded in Thailand in the wake of the coronavirus, largely due to cancelled flights. As of April 20, there are about 3,000 more stranded in the kingdom, waiting to get on repatriation flights.
“He always asks if there’s anything he can help out with. He’s so greng jai that he doesn’t want to just sit still,” the abbot said. “I don’t know when he can go home, so he can just keep staying here.”