So I’m here in Baoding. It could be worse, but it could be better. We have an apartment (it’s not bad), the city is about 2 million (not bad), and Shujie’s mom is about a 10-minute walk away which is nice for her.
When I arrived here they had a flyer made for our school. Shujie’s friend’s employee made it and it was butt ugly. I appreciate the effort but I didn’t need to be able to read Chinese to recognize ugliness. Shujie had business cards made for our “English Training Sentre”. Obviously those went in the garbage. Haste makes waste. It’s everyone’s fault. I should have asked for anything to be sent to me to proofread what I could, but I didn’t and no one asked me. So we learned. I have to be involved in any advertising. I write copy in English and Shujie translates it. Sometimes she changes things because we’re in China and what sounds good in North America doesn’t necessarily sound good in Chinese.
Shujie and I redid the flyer and it looks good (I think). Once our phone is hooked up and we’re sure they gave us the right number, we’ll get them printed. They came to hook up the phone yesterday but it appears the modem we had bought didn’t work. Welcome to China. Shujie is out getting a new modem and we’ll try again today.
I admit I’m getting a little tired (forget tired but sick) of China. We bought a new sim card for my phone and it didn’t work so we asked for our money back. No way, no soup (or money) for you. This is how you do business here? To hell with you. I took a pair of scissors and I cut the cord between their bank POS machine and the keypad where the customer enters their PIN number. I was angry, but smiling. It seems they caught me on camera (like I care) and were hassling Shujie. She didn’t do anything wrong. They called the police and when they came I had Shujie tell them I was calling the Canadian Embassy and getting them involved. After a few minutes one of the policemen told Shujie to just leave. So we left. Shuie says what I did was wrong and technically she’s right, however, the other option was to just let them keep our money with no consequences. Therefore the bottom line is we lost about $10 and they will pay more to get their machine fixed, plus they were out of order for the rest of the day. I felt good. You can spit on the Chinese and they yell and scream and accept it. Not me. Don’t fuck with me. I may be old and small but you deal fair with me or I’ll get you.
I saw this “luxurious” office that Shujie got us for free. By the time I got here it wasn’t free anymore but about $500 a month. I hated it. It was nice but quite inappropriate. It had a huge conference room (too big to have a class) and a small office (good for 1 on 1 classes). I said, “forget it” and Shujie agreed. The problem when you’re in a hurry you leave yourself open to bad decisions. Shujie’s friend offered us an almost empty apartment that she uses occasionally for her business and she would give it to us to use for free (very nice of her). After looking around I said no. There were things that couldn’t be moved or touched and I didn’t want the responsibility.
We looked at a couple of offices. They were wrong for a school and too much money. Since there is no zoning here we found an apartment we can use as a school. It’s a new apartment and it’s next to ours. So we will start out there and if all goes well, we can move. I have no idea how we get customers but I guess we will manage. I want lots of classes so I don’t have to teach. I want to train the teachers and monitor the classes, as well as spending some time with each class.
Our investor has an advertisement expert who is helping us (I hear) for nothing. It appears that we are selling me. It’s the Chinese way. They will want to buy me (seven farthings or so) and become English mavens. I don’t want to lie too much. I offer them no pressure, a relaxed atmosphere, laughter, and a chance to be themselves and I feel that will help them learn. It’s a different way to do things, but if they way they did things here was so good, why would they need so many English training schools?
Our classrooms will not have desks or rows. We bought round tables and that’s where the students will fit, looking at each other. I want them interacting with each other. We will limit class sizes to 8 (or maybe 6) and offer private and semi-private classes. We won’t have classes by age, but by ability. If you are a bright 10 year old you might be in a class with 13 year olds. On the other hand if you’re an idiot 10-year-old maybe I’ll throw you into a class of 7 year olds. If that doesn’t motivate you, nothing will.
I have a goal besides putting food on the table and a roof over our heads and that’s to go to Austin in February to visit Leah and Harper. It’s been too long. I need money but hopefully it will work out. The Chinese New Year is February 8 so schools close down for a few weeks around then. I want to go so bad I can almost taste it. I want to go to England too but it’s been too long since I’ve seen Leah and Harper doesn’t know me. We need some serious bonding time.
So we wait. Shujie goes out and vis
its or whatever. I do basically nothing. I’m sure (and hoping) all this changes soon. Que Sera Sera.
We bought a lot of things online (cheaper) along with some things we can’t get in the supermarket (salsa, cheddar cheese, nacho chips). I don’t exactly have the best diet here but at the moment the thought of meat turns my stomach.
So life goes on. I hope I can keep my sanity or someone gives me a million dollars (which doesn’t buy as much as it used to but I’ll manage). The never-ending adventure.
Here are some pics. First the apartment.
Now the flyers.