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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Okay, it only feels like that at the moment.  When you live in a prison cell it’s not the most pleasurable experience.  Our apartment is a prison-cell.  A bedroom, bathroom, kitchen (can’t sit there), and a balcony.  It is not suitable for 2 people.  It is not suitable for one spoiled Western person.  I was misled as to the apartment we were getting.  However, we are being paroled.  We are getting a housing allowance and will find our own place with a bedroom or two as well as a living room.  I can hardly wait and we begin looking tomorrow.  With any luck we will find something and be moving on Sunday.  (Things can happen fast here).

The trip here was endless.  It took us about 32 hours door-to-door to get from Toronto to Wuxi (pronounced WOO-SHE).  Plane delay followed by plane delay.  When we got to this jail we couldn’t sleep although we tried.  That was last Friday.  Then Saturday we went to what we were told was the “big” supermarket.  It wasn’t and it was overpriced.  We did things until about 6:30PM and then we crashed until the next morning.

We did more shopping on Sunday and introduced ourselves to our new neighbor who is also teaching where I am.  I learned that he was getting another apartment as he had asked for a change due to the unsuitability of the one they were given.  I woke up then and on Monday morning I called the head office in Beijing and made my request.  I was told that other people had complained and they would do something and to give her some time.  I asked Gerry (the other English teacher) how long it took them to promise him something new and he said a few minutes.  That’s what I figured.  Why do something now when you can try and put it off forever?  So last night (after returning from Beijing—story to follow), I wrote and said they should show me the same courtesy they are showing others and I couldn’t stay much longer in this cell.  First thing this morning (Friday) I received an email giving me the go-ahead to find a place along with a housing allowance.  Why couldn’t they have done that right away?  Because they are Chinese, that’s why.

I had training on Tuesday and Wednesday in Beijing at the office of the company I work for.  They had a bunch of teacher’s there and I learned from some of them that this was crap.  They have some seminars and they are filled with nothing practical and empty promises.  I personally was not impressed.  The hotel where they put us up was a dump (I think they should have tried to make a good impression) and not near the office.  They brought in lunch that I wouldn’t eat but they were kind to order me something from somewhere else that I could tolerate.

You are supposed to write your own course syllabus (I’ve never heard of asking a teacher to do that) and they were going to provide a curriculum (I got it after and it was a bad joke).  I wrote a sarcastic email back and received a decent reply full of what they will do or empty promises.  That remains to be seen.  There were no handouts (handouts of key areas do help), and I’d say overall it was a waste of time.  When they passed around the evaluation paper they did not score well on mine.  How can you bring people to a seminar when they haven’t seen the curriculum or the textbook and expect them to join together their ideas with what you are to do?  You can’t.  One of the questions on the evaluation was to rate the handouts.  I just said, “what handouts”?

While I went to Beijing, Shujie went to Baoding to visit her family and get our stuff ready to ship (once we get our apartment).  So that was good that she was busy.

There will be 5 native English speaking teachers.  I met Gerry who is a 62-year old retired lawyer who lives in California and is entering his 4th year here.  He comes with his Korean wife (married 32 years) and they seem quite nice and I expect we will get along just fine.  At the seminar I met another teacher who had just arrived from Canada.  He will not be my favourite.  He’s full of himself, he’s writing his dissertation on psychology (so why is he teaching here) and goes on and on about things no one gives a damn about.  I haven’t met the other two so we shall see.  The Chinese teachers here that I met seem pleasant and nice and should be easy to work with.

Our first day at school is next Friday and our first day teaching is September 3rd.  I will teach 10-graders “English for Academic Purposes” and I’ve been warned to not expect much.  I will also be teaching Literature to 12th grade students so hopefully they can read.  I’m taking a chance being in a high school, but what is life but a series of chances and wrong decisions?

It’s hot.  The temperature is about 35C every day or higher.  I’m sure one day it will get livable.  When I returned yesterday from Beijing our Internet wasn’t working.  What was the problem?  When we paid they didn’t deposit our money so we were cut off for non-payment.  It was fixed but it’s business as usual here in China.

There may be a Bloody Mary waiting for me in some bar tonight.  I’m going out with Gerry and Susanne (his wife) for dinner.  They say they know a Western pub not too far away so I’m game for that.  I could use a drink.

I will have more to say once we are settled and the festivities (school year) begins.  Getting out of this cell can only be positive, can’t it?

It’s actually “California here I come”, but California has 4 syllables  while Wuxi only has two so I had to say Wuxi twice.  Wuxi is pronounced “Woo-She”.  So lets open up with a song.

The deed is done.  After much stress, aggravation, and just downright incompetence we are evacuating Canada this Thursday, August 15th to return to the land of mistruths, incompetence, and “hurry up ad wait’.  So why go back there?  I guess I must be a glutton for punishment.

We are settling in Wuxi, which is close to Suzhou (a nice place) and about 90 minutes by bus from Shanghai.  Wuxi does have a bar that serves good Bloody Mary’s and cheeseburgers so it can’t be all bad.  It’s reasonably clean and one of the better places to live in China.

It’s about 2 hours from Jurong (which was our first Chinese home) so we will get to see Wang Jin once more and we are very happy about that.  She is still my favorite non-family member I’ve met in China.  Her thoughtfulness and kindness will never be forgotten.  If she wasn’t just 33, married, with a child, and I was physically attracted to her, she would be the bee’s knees.  As she is, she’s great and having friends is often times more valuable than having lovers and paramours.

I will be working at a high school with an “International Program”.  All that means is the students learn a lot in English in hopes they can get into University in the West.  These schools are for the rich (I think fees are in the $80K per year range) and they are sprouting like weeds in the new Chinese economy.  I don’t think there is much of a middle-class.  There are the rich and the poor.

I will be teaching English and Literature.  I like variety so that’s good.  I think they have also made me head teacher for the English teachers (I run meetings I think).  It will look good on a resume.

They told me that training was in Wuxi from August 20 to 22nd.  Today they told me it’s in Beijing on those same dates and would I rather just fly to Beijing and do it.  No, I said.  I want to get settled and adjust to the time change before I have to think.  Then she (head of HR) orders me a ticket for August 22nd (so I miss training) because prices are cheaper after the 20th.  I looked for myself and they are not cheaper.  I got a cheaper flight on the 15th so I booked my own.  They should have booked this last Thursday night (our time) because I had my visa but as usual they don’t do anything unless you put a firecracker under their butts.  So I booked the tickets and they’ll reimburse me.  So I can go to training and we can get out of here and get settled down.

I’ve been so stressed this summer (Shujie too) that I constantly ask myself why am I returning to China.  I could have had a job in Iraq or Afghanistan which would have been much more interesting and when I got annoyed, it would be a new annoyance.  As far as I can see with my limited knowledge, China is doomed to remain a 3rd world country no matter how much money people embezzle or are bribed with.  They just don’t have a work ethic (they work long hours and accomplish little), they are bogged down in paperwork, and they don’t realize it’s not the hours that you work, but the quality of the work.  And they also go for the cheapest.  There are so many Chinese that need jobs so that if you don’t want Job X for $200 a month, who cares, there are thousands of others who will take that job.  It’s actually quite sad and maybe I’ll run for office.  Oh wait, I can’t.  There are no elections.

So two days to go before blastoff.  My mother has been away for 10 days on some European cruise with her live-in, so good for her.  I’d like to see her again but on the other hand, I don’t like goodbyes.  I love my family but as I’ve often said, seeing them a lot in 2 months isn’t the same as seeing them once a week or 2 weeks.

The big plan for this year is to go to either Australia or New Zealand for our winter holidays since it’s a lot cheaper to fly from China.  We could never do this from Canada.  We are also toying with the idea of buying a car (Chinese model).  If the traffic in Wuxi isn’t insane, we just might do it.

Who knows what the future will hold but we’re keeping our fingers crossed.  As long as they leave me alone and the kids make an effort, I’ll be okay.  I better be okay because Shujie is sick of moving and I’ve promised to at least finish this year.