Monthly Archives: June 2013



One day you make a decision.  It’s pretty firm, almost etched in stone.  I think we’ve all had that experience.  And then in the blink of an eye (or maybe more thought) ,things change.  So my last post just a couple of days ago may be out of date already and I haven’t even left China yet.  Welcome to the Stress Express.

It really looked like Beijing University.  It had a lot to recommend it.  I was happy with the decision and so was Shujie.  Some of the things they are asking for from me for my “foreign experts certificate” (needed for visa) range from the stupid to the stupid.  A medical form filled out at a hospital?  Not in Canada.  You go to the doctor and they do the required tests and fill out the form.  Take it or leave it.  They keep asking for things for Shujie’s visa and I keep telling them she is a Chinese citizen.  I’d be more impressed if the vice-dean of the English department read the email and understood English.  I am not impressed.

While all this is going on we return to what I called the “no-go” in my previous post.  That was a job in Beijing.  Who wants to live in Beijing?  Who wants to be at the school 40 hours a week?  Who thinks that when I send them my transcript they will verify that it’s real?  Welcome to China.

They offered me the job.  On the plus side the job is not really a high school.  The school is a special program for high school graduates for a final preparation before they head to one of 7 Universities in the U.S.  Why seven?  That is because this group has a working relationship with them.  No SAT, no ACT, just the test they give and it’s accepted by their partners that include Northeastern University and Baylor (to name just 2).  So these are not jerkwater schools.  Baylor is a big bucks, well-respected private University deep in the heart of Texas.  (Waco to be exact).  So the kids are 18 and not jerky little high school kids.  That’s a plus.

Shujie is in love with the money.  We’d be able to save some serious money (ha ha, it’s me).  I can see myself finally visiting Australia and New Zealand and Japan.  I am trying to look at what would be the positives here as opposed to a University.

The University is about 20 teaching hours a week and you can leave.  You have an apartment on campus.  You can walk to your classes.  The students are older and possibly more mature.  You can possibly socialize with some of them.  I would be living in the “foreigners ghetto” which would be an apartment for foreign teachers.  The money isn’t bad for China.  If I look at my hours worked (and I don’t get paid for any holidays), I’d be earning about $15,000 a year take home pay.  I wouldn’t be working in the summer (nor getting paid) and I’d have the huge winter vacation which is anywhere from one to two months.  Chances are I’d be left alone to my own devices.  It sounds good.  Plus it is in Zhuhai, which is near Hong Kong and is warm and beautiful.  However, there is only accident insurance that pays up to $1700.  That’s not good if I get run over by a car and am in traction for 6 months.  I would only see each class once every week or once every two weeks.  I don’t like that.  I like to see them more because it makes it easier to get to know each other and build relationships.

Now for this non-high school.  I guess it’s a prep school for University.  It’s in Beijing, population of about 23 million people, filled with pollution.  The hours are longer although the classroom hours remain the same.  I would have to work together with others on lesson plans and tests.  (This is not my strong suit).  The money is twice as good ($33,000 after taxes) plus a housing allowance.  There are 8 weeks holidays a year.  I will be able to go out sometimes to some degenerate Western restaurants (Outback, here I come).  I could probably easily find some food I would like.  Shujie says she could find something but she always says that.  The money appeals to her.  They do have real medical insurance (I don’t know the details) but based on it and everything else, I believe they provide top-notch quality insurance.  I will see the same students here multiple times a week, which is good, but there will be no out-of-class friendships.

What appeals to me?  Right now if you read what I wrote, the decision is easy.  Go to the University in Zhuhai.  The life is more enjoyable and relaxing.  I’m left alone.  The money is pretty good (even at half of the other job).    If I get run over by a car, I will die rather than be in traction for 6 months.  The air is clean.  We are near mountains and the water.  It’s close to Hong Kong and Macau (for those who love gambling).  I’d love to go there.

Now, what are the positives about Beijing?  It’s a terrible place to live.  It’s polluted and there are too many damn people.  I don’t want to be at the school 40 hours of which 20 hours will be spent twiddling my thumbs.  I will have to work with others who may see that I really don’t know the technical details of teaching.  Right now, I just make it up as I go along and it’s works.  They probably want something that appears more professional.

Okay, it still looks like I’m crazy to be even thinking about it.  The one BIG thing it offers me is a (supposedly) professional environment where I might actually learn something about teaching.  It might teach me discipline.  It might teach an old dog new tricks.  It might teach me how to collaborate.  I could be working with professionals.  (You never know, I’m a fake who they think is a professional).  The people at their head office seem helpful and make me feel like they really want me.  The other school sounds like they couldn’t care less about me as a person (and we all want to be loved).  So basically it comes down to two things.  Do I want to fake it and have an easy year or do I want to work harder, earn twice as much, and possibly learn some things about teaching.

So as of right now I’m leaning towards Beijing even with all it’s negatives.  Shujie is happy with the idea (but she is also happy about Zhuhai).  Another Beijing positive is that it’s only a little more than an hour away from Baoding (her home town) so she could visit her mother and son quite easily.  Also her younger brother (who she is close with) is moving to Beijing at the end of August.  It’s not living on campus where I will make more friends, but we won’t be totally alone.

It’s funny but one of the reasons I came here was to avoid work.  I admit I love the short hours and the lack of formal structure.  Some teachers spend hours on lesson plans but I don’t.  I go into class with an idea of my objective and an idea of how to run the class, but I’m ready to change in a moment’s notice if my idea isn’t working and the students are bored.  So I’m not stuck to this detailed lesson plan.  I think somewhere between the detailed lesson plan, and my ability to change horses in mid-stream lies the best approach.

However, it’s only Sunday.  Things could change tomorrow.  I just applied for a high-school job that pays $44,000 a year but I told them they have to move fast.  Who knows.  As I said, things can change pretty fast here.

So that’s the story for today.  Maybe there will be a new story tomorrow.  Maybe there will be a new story next week.  I’ll keep you posted.  My life is a soap opera.  It’s been a soap opera for years, but at least now it doesn’t involve women (thank goodness).