Wales

Coronavirus: The council worker Zooming to work from Thailand

Rhodri Francis, pictured with wife Noi, were stranded in Thailand by coronavirus Image copyright Rhodri Francis
Image caption Rhodri Francis, pictured with wife Noi, were stranded in Thailand by coronavirus

Coronavirus has revolutionised work for thousands of people who have discovered they can work from home as effectively as the office.

But Rhodri Francis discovered he could work just as easily in Thailand.

He got stuck there when his family arrived mid-March to attend the Songkran Festival - one of the most important dates in the Buddhist calendar.

"It doesn't make much difference," Mr Francis said.

He works for Cered, Ceredigion Council's Welsh language service, and was unable to return home to Llanilar, near Aberystwyth, because of lockdown.

"Everyone thinks I'm sunbathing beside a palm tree but I work normally," Mr Francis said.

He is in Thailand with wife Noi and daughter Yanisha.

"I might as well be here rather than Llanilar!" Mr Francis said.

"We usually visit Noi's family during the summer but I wanted our daughter, aged nine, to have the opportunity to experience this religious festival before she goes to secondary school.

"This festival is like our Christmas in Thailand.

"When we flew out coronavirus was in the news, although I never thought it would affect us in any way, but things changed overnight.

"Wales was soon on lockdown and the borders of Thailand closed overnight and the festival was cancelled - I was really stranded and slightly panicked."

Image copyright Rhodri Francis
Image caption They arrived mid-March to attend the Buddhist Songkran Festival

The plan had been to return mid-April.

"But we probably will not be able to come back until mid-July," Mr Francis said.

"I don't think I would have been able to contribute a lot more to my job if I was in Llanilar, this lockdown period has transformed life and offered different opportunities."

"Through the medium of the internet I can still join Penparcau's Welsh coffee morning - I meet via them Zoom every Monday morning."

Zoom is a video conferencing app made famous by the pandemic.

"I can still do quizzes and contribute to Cered's social media pages - this time has shown that wherever you are in the world, anything can be achieved."

"Being in Thailand, I've been making quite a few videos that give people a taste of our life here."

Mr Francis was shocked by borders closing.

Now he is pleased his wife and daughter have been able to spend time with family.

"Yanisha is fluent in three languages ​​- Welsh, Thai and English," Mr Francis said.

"This longer than scheduled period in Thailand has given her a chance to speak Thai with Yai and Po (her grandparents) and has given her the opportunity to get to know her cousins.

"She has also had the opportunity to write Thai."

Mr Francis said he has learned to ride a motorcycle and improved his Thai and helped feed the local monks, who are dependent on donations.

Image copyright Rhodri Francis
Image caption Mr Francis found he has been able to work because of video conferencing technology

"When it comes to the pandemic everyone is very wary," Mr Francis said

"A mask must be worn and there is a curfew between 10pm and 5am.

"I think if you break the rules there is a heavy fine or imprisonment."

"In the daytime it is possible to visit friends but everyone uses common sense and is extremely careful - which is perhaps why the number of deaths and cases here are lower."

The festival they came to attend was called off.

"It's a shame that the Songkran Festival was not held but there will be another opportunity in the future," Mr Francis said.

"Yes, the experience has changed me - for the better - and it proves that working for Ceredigion Council in Thailand is possible."

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