March 1 was my last post. That’s more than 3 months ago and I guess I’m not ready to throw in the towel. Blogging on a regular basis is tough. I used to do it daily but that was mostly bitching. Now I do it about once a week (until now) and that’s more normal. I have stories that aren’t complaints and occasionally I have important things to say. (Important to me anyways).

This post will be in 3 parts. Part one is what I’ve been up to (and Shujie too), part II is a little bit about the “greatest”, Muhammad Ali. Part III is about the U.S. and the thing whose name I won’t repeat.

My well-paying job in Beijing didn’t exactly work out. The money was good but work was like “work”. I didn’t come here to work. I came here to share knowledge and not feel like I had a job. If I wanted a job I could have stayed in Canada and worked I.T. and made big bucks. I didn’t have to come to China to make little money and be annoyed. However you never know how school will go until you go there.

I didn’t think I got along well with the people whose jobs touched mine. I found the principal to be a HUGE liar (“I have no say in who is hired or fired”). Who is he kidding? The vice-principal was useless,. Some of the other teachers in the same department were rude. I know a Chinese teacher has it much harder than a foreign teacher, but I forget things sometimes, and other times I’m never even told. It takes a minute to answer a question, but it maybe takes a little longer to tell me that you’ve told me before, insinuate I’m an idiot, and walk away. You know those things you might have heard about how Chinese respect their elders. It’s a lie. I also think Grade 7’s and 8’s are too young for me.

The course was crap. I taught history and their projects always seemed to be group posters. (Or you had 2 days to teach WWII). Who knows who did the work in the group? What is with these posters? I don’t get it. In fact, I didn’t get the whole program. It’s an IB program (International Baccalaureate) . What is that? Beats me. You can look up how brilliant it is because it teaches students to think, but I always thought any decent teacher helped students to learn how to think. I just don’t think they really cared about what they were delivering as long as the money comes in. These “International” schools in China are big business and if you have money, you can get your dummy kid who doesn’t give a damn into a school. They’re not cheap and this was a pretty school but I learned that a lot of teachers were going to leave at the end of the semester because they had had enough.

I made it to the end of my probation (2 months). I have a big mouth at times. I was happy to be let go but I could have used the money. We lived on the edge of nowhere and I wasn’t having any fun (it’s important to have fun). So I was terminated and I really wasn’t offended and I really didn’t care. There are better places to be annoyed.

We came back to Baoding (had to go somewhere) and Shujie keeps busy. I mostly just sit in the apartment reading or finding things on Netflix to watch (I’m in season 4 of Dexter and I love it). I’m bored beyond belief but this is what I sowed, so I am reaping it.

Shujie seems to find places to go all the time but I really don’t tag along because her friends only speak Chinese and I don’t and there is only so long I can sit there and smile. If she’s happy, that’s good.

We are heading to Toronto in less than 3 weeks to see family, then we’re going to N.Y. for 3 days to see Elana and then we’re going to Kalamazoo because who doesn’t want to go to Kalamazoo. We made a friend a few years ago so it will be nice to see her. She’s put China in her rear-view mirror so we’re happy about that. I can’t wait to blow this pop-stand.

We have jobs for Sept. 1 working at an “International” high school in Nanchang. The money isn’t great but there is a job for both Shujie and I, which is great. They’re thrilled to be hiring a couple so maybe they are smarter than the average bear. It’s high school and I might like it. Shujie will like it because it’s new to her and she wants to learn about running a school so she can build her education empire here in Baoding. She’ll be a home room teacher and teach English to those having problems. When she returns to Baoding to build her empire, it will serve bagels, be a bar, and do schooling. I wish her luck. If you’re going to dream, dream big.

So that’s where we are now. Now on to my next topic.

Muhammad Ali is dead. That is unbelievable to me. I think he first became a part of my consciousness in 1962 when I was 7. I knew nothing about boxing but I knew that Sonny Liston was going to destroy him. There were 2 sure things in my world. My parents loved me and Sonny Liston was going to kill Cassius Clay.

I guess 1 out of 2 isn’t bad. My parents loved me every day but Clay beat Liston. He then declared he was a Black Muslim. I don’t think I even understood that, but it didn’t matter. If he wanted to call himself Howdy Doody that was okay with me and it was none of my business.

Most people have an opinion about boxing. It’s interesting or it’s evil. Why should 2 men try to destroy each other? But the whole idea of Muhammed Ali isn’t about how great a boxer he was (and he was). It was that he did what very few of us would have done. He walked away from millions of dollars, which I doubt few, if any, of us would have done.

When Michael Jordan, probably the greatest basketball player ever, had a chance to endorse a candidate to be the Senator from North Carolina and defeat the racist Jesse Helm, Jordan showed his true colours by stating, “Republicans wear running shoes too”. You can do something for your people, or you can count your money. We all saw what was most important to Jordan.

Now the American army wanted to draft Muhammad Ali to fight in Viet Nam. Originally he failed the exam to determine whether he was eligible for the draft. Then they changed the rules and now he was eligible. It seemed like he had 2 choices. He could go fight the Vietnamese or he could go to jail for not killing these people ½ way across the world who had nothing to do with him or his life. Of course, if he chose not to fight he could go to jail and he could pass up millions of dollars in paydays. How many of us would make that choice? Honestly.

“I got nothing against no Viet Cong. No Vietnamese ever called me a nigger.”

“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality.… If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.”

 

“I strongly object to the fact that so many newspapers have given the American public and the world the impression that I have only two alternatives in taking this stand: either I go to jail or go to the Army. There is another alternative and that alternative is justice. If justice prevails, if my Constitutional rights are upheld, I will be forced to go neither to the Army nor jail. In the end I am confident that justice will come my way for the truth must eventually prevail.”

 

Those are the words of a man. A man of beliefs who understands the difference between right and wrong. And to walk away from all that money and the best 3 years of his sporting life is beyond amazing. How many people do you know who would do that? The answer is probably zero.

Sure he had his flaws. He could be cruel and mean and insulting. He fought bums for a payday. He screwed around on his wives. But on the BIG thing, he was a true man who stood up for his beliefs. This, more than anything else amazes me.

It is this one act that made Muhammad Ali truly a great man. It is this one act that has always gotten my respect and made me an Ali fan. Sure, I like boxing, and I thrilled to many of his fights. But nothing was as thrilling as standing up to the government and doing the right thing. As I get older, I appreciate what he did more and more.

In many ways he was what he said, “The Greatest”. He wasn’t the greatest because he was a great boxer; he was the greatest because he was truly a man of his convictions.

The world is truly a little poorer without him.

And now for the one who shall remain nameless. I’m a Canadian, as most people know. Many people think Canadians are Americans Lite. We are different from Americans. Many people around the world hate Americans but very few hate Canadians. I always said that the reason people hate the United States was because they were jealous. The United States was formed on some pretty decent principles (which aren’t always followed), has a good form of government (which doesn’t always work), and most Americans I have always found to be pretty decent people.

Now something has come along that has made Americans (for lack of a better word) insane. In the thirties in Germany many said, “let’s vote for this guy Hitler. He’ll get things done and he doesn’t really mean it about the Jews”. Six million Jews died but he was a good guy to vote for because he would get things done.

Now the Americans have a choice. Many of them are angry about how the government is working but electing an insane lunatic to be President is not the answer. I don’t believe he’s a Hitler, but the whole thing is operating on the same principle.

The one who shall remain nameless is a self-absorbed piece of s shit (and that’s the most positive thing I can say about him). Let’s kick out the Muslims and the Mexicans (maybe it’s the letter “M” that bothers him). Sounds very Hitler like to me.

He campaigns by complaining about judges who are hearing a court case against him because they are Mexican. Geez, I must be stupid but I thought they were American. He is evil and can only bring bad times with him.

But what is saddest of all, are the people who support him. First off, you have the lowlifes who like to hate others because it makes them feel better. They are pathetic. But then it gets worse. It’s okay for Democrats to not like Republican values and vice versa. I thought that’s why there were elections. But people I personally don’t agree with have no balls (man or woman). Paul Ryan (who I am no fan of) was not going to give his support to he who shall remain nameless. Now he is. Oh, he’s not so bad. I heard Hitler wasn’t so bad either. You have all these people who were dead set against this poor excuse for a man say, “We won’t support him”, and one by one they decide “he’s got to be better than any Democrat”. What’s wrong with having principles? If the Republicans hold on to the House and the Senate, it kind of limits what a Democratic President can do. The Supreme Court is there to balance things out. It’s called a system of “checks and balances”, not a system of weak-kneed pour excuses for Human Beings.

I remember when John McCain was someone who you could respect. You might not agree with him, but he was worth listening to. Now he’s just another one of these morons who can’t see beyond being elected. Are you really going to lose your election by standing up for yourself and your principles? If you are going to fold to a group that supports he who shall remain nameless, then maybe you should lose and shouldn’t be running for government.

I see the Bushes (even George W.) are not supporting he who shall remain nameless. Maybe George W. is a little bit better than we all thought. Paul Ryan had a chance to show his balls, but I guess they got caught in his zipper. Chris Christie is a whore just like McCain and the rest of them.

When you run for President, you run to represent certain beliefs. It seems to me that he who shall remain nameless is running on his own personal agenda. It’s not to make America “great again”. Everyone who runs says that. It’s so he can have all the toys to play with.

When all this started most people thought it was a joke that he who shall remain nameless was running. No way could he win the nomination. I guess they thought that about Hitler too. Guess what? You were all wrong. The joke that was him, was us. Let’s beat up the people who don’t agree with him. Maybe he can start his own Gestapo. It looks like there are a lot of people out there auditioning for the job of Himmler. Don’t kid yourself; nothing is so awful that it can’t happen.

I’m ashamed to have believed in the United States. There are too many evil people there. There are still plenty of good people, but there are just a bit too many evil people for my taste. And yes, if you have no balls, you are evil. John McCain is evil. He’s like Michael Jordon. Even Arizonans have their own haters and we must pander to them. Shame on you!

I’m sickened by what is happening and I would never have believed it. Stupid me. Hitler gave the world a great lesson but it seems it didn’t quite take. I’m not saying that he who shall remain nameless is just like Hitler, but the idea and lack of principles are the same.

So I’m back.

 

harper face

First things first. This is a picture of my gorgeous granddaughter Harper. You can’t judge a book by it’s cover. She’s not dolled up and she looks insane. Wait, maybe you can partially judge a book by it’s cover. Leah (my daughter) was the funniest person I ever knew. When she was a kid she had me in stiches. She could make up the craziest things and I loved watching her. It’s almost spooky how much Harper is like her mother. Leah hasn’t been crazy for a while and she didn’t teach Harper to be crazy, but Harper is a riot. She’s loving, she’s thoughtful, she’s funny, she’s creative, and that’s just a bit.

Our trip was a HUGE success. It was the best money I ever spent. Leah and I have sort have been on the outs for a while and I thought I better go to Austin to try and help fix things up. You can’t really fix things when you are so far apart. It was wonderful. We all got along. I didn’t nag Leah (or at least I hope I didn’t). I gave her space and wasn’t demanding. Leah washed my clothes without complaining (except that I always had laundry which is the same complaint that Shujie has). I met Leah’s new significant other and both Shujie and I were quite delighted. I think the relationship has helped put Leah in a good place. She has Harper and now she has two. I’m thrilled by it.

Harper made asparagus the first night eating at Leah’s, she set the table, and she washed the dishes. That’s at the age of six. I hope Leah enjoys it while it lasts because I’m sure it won’t be forever. Harper called me Martin and called Shujie, Shujie. She remembered Shujie’s name much more easily than mine. I agree with Leah’s reasoning on that: we all called Shujie by her name, but Leah would call me Dad. I don’t mind what she calls me as long as she treats me like family, which she did.

We ate, we bowled, we watched Leah in her skeeball league, and we ate, and we met some of her friends (wonderful people), and then we ate. It took us almost 3 hours to find our hotel from the airport but after that it was no problem. We took a break in the middle of the visit to give Leah some time off and we went to Dallas to see the usual sites. Texas Schoolbook Depository—check. Perot museum of Science and Technology—check. NHL hockey with the Dallas Stars—check. IHOP—check. Denny’s—check. Einstein bagels—check.

All in all it was a fabulous time. Wanting to be a world traveler like me, and having family who I love all over the world is quite the dilemma but cannot really be solved to everyone’s satisfaction. And no one wants to visit China. I don’t get it.

From Austin we went to Florida to see my Mom and her significant other. It was great to see her but my goodness, it’s so boring down there.   I liked being warmer than in China and I liked seeing my mom, but that’s it.

We came back to Beijing and started moving into the “cubbyhole” apartment at the school. We got here Friday, Shujie went back to Baoding on Saturday to get more stuff, her son drove here on Sunday to drop it off, and then Shujie went back to Baoding. It should be a few more days until she comes for good.

We are literally in the middle of nowhere. I heard Beijing and I thought lots to do and see. It’s 35 km. to the center of the city but we can take the subway. We went to the local Walmart in the small town shopping on Friday night. I hated it. The school runs trips to better places on the weekend so we’ll check them out.

I am just sitting in classes this week and next week I begin teaching. I will teach Grade 7 and Grade 8 history. Grade 7 is Chinese history so let’s get the Canadian to teach Chinese history in China. You figure it out because I can’t. The people I’ve met so far seem fine (on a “hi, how are you” basis) so we will reserve judgment on students, teachers, staff, and all else for a couple of weeks.

I hope Shujie finds something to do. I worry but she says she can handle everything. I think she needs to think more about herself. We really are in Nowheresville. Who knows what the future holds? And how many times have I written that.

It’s March. The Semester finishes July 14th and then we’ll go to Canada for about 4 weeks. Elana should be living in NY by then so we would like to go visit and see the big city.

The school has a dress code (no jeans, etc.) but today I saw a teacher in jeans. I asked him about it and he said it’s against the rules but no one has said anything to him. I think I will dip my toe in those waters next week.

So hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work I go. I would really like to be in a different country but no one wants me. I’m old (or so I’m told). There’s always Tomorrow and you can be your bottom dollar that Tomorrow is only a day away.

Chinese puzzle:

  1. A game where you have to solve the problem of fitting many different pieces together especially boxes inside other boxes.
  2. A situation that is complicated and difficult to understand.

3..An intricate or ingenious puzzle.

So what happens when everyday life becomes a Chinese puzzle? Do you throw up your hands and concede the match? Some do. Do you fight and try to solve it? Some do. Do you ignore and present an override? That might be the answer.

Such is life in China, a series of Chinese puzzles.

I haven’t written in a long time. November 21 to be exact. Some of the few of you who read what I write might have thought I was dead. Perhaps you were right. I was facing a dilemma and choosing not to face it. The school business was nowhere near what I expected. I expected a variety of students who would flock to learn with a foreign teacher. I was wrong. Mr. Foreigner wants to be paid more than Mr. Chinglish and a lot of these pathetic Chinese parents don’t want the best for their kids, they want the cheapest. Why should I charge the same as someone with poor pronunciation and a weak ability to put together sentences?

It wasn’t going well. Chinese people appear to want something for nothing. Guess what? I’m not giving something for nothing so I’ve been job hunting. I was told that 60 was the cutoff age but it’s China and every province has their own rules. It might help if they enforced National Rules, but I guess that would require some work.

Sometimes Shujie would say it’s not working and other times she’d say, “give it time”. I just heard the 2 minute warning and it said, “get out of town”. Boading has some advantages for Shujie such as being close to her mom and close friend. Although I often tease her about taking off to see them, I know it’s good.

I on the other hibernate in our apartment and read books. It’s kind of cold outside and this is a boring place. I like that Shujie has family and friends to visit but she tells me it’s no big deal. We’re different and there are some things beyond my understanding and I accept that.

I wasn’t depressed, just bored.  I was under the impression it was almost impossible to be hired once you hit 60.

I had to travel to Changsha to do a demo for a man who thinks he’s brilliant but I don’t trust. He has a “system” to teach English and I don’t have much faith in systems. While we were there he watched my demo for 3 minutes and declared me fine. He told Shujie that he really wanted hire her (to help run things) and I was the excess baggage he would take. Am I hurt? I think you have to respect someone for their words to hurt you. I don’t trust him.

I gave him a deadline to have a contract with me, and he missed it. I don’t care. So now we’ll see how much Mr. Bigshot wants Shujie. He can hire her without me. She can work in his office in Beijing or from home. I don’t think anything will come of it and I hope I’m wrong. However, if I’m right, I don’t think Shujie will be crushed because she really doesn’t trust him either.

There was another school that was interviewing. It was an IB school (International Baccalaureate) whatever that is but it sounds good. They teach many courses in English and they pay more than any job I’ve had in China I would be teaching History (my version) and it’s a 5 day a week job. Living in Beijing means the occasional decent restaurant and the occasional decent Bloody Mary. It’s like a suburb of ½ million people about 35 km. from downtown Beijing. We are not too far from the Subway so if we want to hit the big city, it should be no big deal.

Shujie says now that she wouldn’t mind tutoring younger kids in English. I think she would do a great job. I think she should call this jerk about this phantom job (my opinion) and as usual, make out for herself. I feel bad but I make much more money so in a way you have to go where the money is.

I accepted the job to begin when we return from the U.S. We leave for Austin on Feb. 4 and return Feb. 25. We are psyched. We’ll see Leah and my granddaughter Harper in Austin, and then we’ll go to West Palm Beach in Florida to see my mother and her boyfriend. My mom has her moments and she can be grouchy but she’s a good mother and if I can’t deal with the occasional grouchiness then I’m a worse son than I thought I was.

I have all these food cravings that I know will disappear once my plane touches down. I’ve lost weight because I usually eat one meal a day and don’t snack. I find I have the same low energy level I’ve always had but I do seem to come alive in the classroom.

I’ll be teaching grade 7 and 8’s and I would have thought that wouldn’t work for me, but when I did my demo in Shenyang to Grade 7’s, it was fun. I’m good in some ways and can relate to students at their level. I never talk down to them or treat them like idiots. Now that I’m in an expensive private school some spoiled brats may suffer my subtle wraith.

I work 5 days a week, Monday to Friday, which is okay. We get a free apartment on campus. We get health coverage. The apartment is too small but maybe I can get Shujie to stop telling me how expensive everything is and to actually look online and see what things cost. She is the expert (maven) of all and it’s hard to tell her she isn’t.

Will this work out? Who knows? The contract is until July 1 of 2017, which is good. I thought the hiring age in China was 60 max. but yesterday I heard it’s 62. I don’t think anyone knows. I need a special Z visa but the school is willing to wait until I return from Canada in the summer for it and we’ll just keep quiet for it for now. It might work out and it might be fun teaching history.

Shujie may come up with something. This whole new adventure starts the end of February when we return fro the U.S. I’m looking forward to it and I hope Shujie finds something good that respects her ability and doesn’t penalize her for being over women’s retirement age in China (50).

Every day is something new. We look forward to leaving for Austin in 8 days and all the things Leah has been planning for us. If she gives up photography she can be a party planner,

I look forward to the salary and I look forward to being in front of a class entertaining them. I look forward to teaching a subject other than English. It should be interesting.

And yes, they teach piano and horseback riding.  (www.huijia.com/english).

Check it out.  Maybe you want to send someone there.  I think it’s about $35,000US a year.  I’m sure it’s a bargain at any price.  (See, no change, still the same attitude.)

horses

 

 

October 2nd and it’s now November 22??????? WTF? Why haven’t I written? There have been many times when I’ve felt like it, but I never seem to make it to the computer to share my valuable (and not so valuable) thoughts with y’all. I could try to analyze this but you know what? Who cares? Does anyone you know care? Hell, even they don’t even care. My life sucks, my attitude sucks, my sucking sucks, and I’m tired of Chinese people.

I think it’s always good to get out of town a year before your “due date”. Looks like I’ve blown it again. The train left and I wasn’t on it. I am actually starting to hate my life and the only one I have to blame is me. I guess I can point a finger or two at Shujie, but when all is said and done, the culprit is me.

I hate my job and hate just isn’t quite strong enough a word. Opening a school was one dumbass idea. I’m pleasant and friendly and I’ve gotten Shujie to come in and teach with me, with some of the younger kids. The parents don’t like that. They’re paying “big bucks” for the foreigner and that’s the important thing. It’s not what they learn but if they have a foreign teacher.

I like most of the kids; I just don’t want to be their teacher. They’re too young. I have no discipline (it’s not my strong suit) so having her in class helps and they like her. But to hell with the kids, lets make the parents happy. Some of them are nice people but clueless.

I’m tired of people coming in to “check you out”. That would be fine except they know before they come that they’re not paying the money. The occasional one tells the truth (it’s too expensive) and that’s fine. And then there are those who say, “my daughter says it’s too expensive”. This is coming from a mother who is sending her daughter to Toronto for high school and University. Did I miss something? Am I not from Toronto? What do they want? They want FREE but guess what stupid, it’s not free. It’s better you spend thousands and thousands of dollars on your kid whose English is lacking than spend a couple of thousand dollars learning English and culture from someone from there.

Some come to see you for an “interview” to see if the kid likes me. Guess what, I know what I sound like here, but fuck them all, the kids like me. They tell Shujie, “we’ll call you” but leave out the part that goes, “when pigs fly”. Why is lying the national hobby here? (That was a rhetorical question). What’s wrong with saying, “you’re too expensive” or “we can’t afford you”. That is a reasonable excuse. I am so sick of them of the liars.

Shujie (the marketing director) is useless. She assured me that this would be no problem. I think I mentioned this but her idea of marketing is to sit in her friend’s tea shoppe hanging out. Almost every day. We really can’t discuss this because it will lead to a fight and she’s basically happy here with her mother and her best friend. I sit in the apartment most of the time because I have no friends here and no desire to learn Chinese. I don’t think I like Chinese people. They’re loud. Too loud. There are some nice ones who are kind and honest, but I would say more than 50% of them closely resemble the scum that rings the bathtub.

Do I sound bitter? I think so. I hate it here, I hate that at 60 I’m ‘over the hill’ and can’t really get a job. I went to a primary school last week to talk about a job (they need a good foreigner) but I only want to work mornings. They are going to check out what they can do. They asked me to do a short demo with Grade 6 students and it went very well. I can do that demo blindfolded. Kids like me. I don’t know why. Maybe I’m nicer than I think I am. Life is a circle of mysteries.

We are waiting to hear back from them. I think they won’t be able to beat the age thing (and I think if you really want to you can), or they won’t cough up the money, or any other excuse. I’m not going to them begging for a job, I’m just looking for something to do. I mean, who really wants classes of 63 students? You do? Then please, come here.

Maybe we’ll hear the no tomorrow (Monday) or maybe they will never call back because they are Chinese and the best way to say “no” is to ignore someone.

I am looking online for jobs and have my standards dropped. One was in Costa Rica (I’ve made it to the 2nd round) and it pays $600 a month. As my friend Jan says (and she’s right), money isn’t everything. I’ve also made the 2nd round in India. Yes India! A country I’ve never wanted to visit and just the thought of it makes me want to gag. Billions of people love Indian food. Not me who doesn’t like anything. But I’d go. I need to do something and I enjoy entertaining (and sometimes teaching) classes. However, the shoe would then move to the other foot. What about Shujie? Not only is she jobless, but she can’t talk to anyone in Chinese. Well, no one has offered me a job yet so we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. But India???? That rings of desperation to me.

The weather is starting to get cold here. These are Celsius but this week the high is supposed to be below zero. That’s to ensure that except for my 45 second walk outside to our “school”, I’m going nowhere. I guess I’m a real “Nowhere Man”.

I try to think of what I can do to end this endless cycle of depression but I don’t know. I’d like to teach University but I’m too old. I’m not really old, in fact I’m much younger than many “younger” teachers. So what. It’s the number on your passport where it says, “birthdate”, that counts. I really have no ideas. Having my own school with just a few customers who are primary students doesn’t exactly float my boat. If I was making money hands over fist I think I could live with it. But this is one cheap, lying town full of bags of shit. (I have to stop being so nice). You might think that me writing things like that gives people the wrong idea, but I am so nice in front of other people. I just don’t work for free. No one does. However, these ridiculous excuses for people seem to expect that. I have to vent at times.

I hate my life at the moment. However, tomorrow is another day. We are going to Texas and Florida in February to visit my youngest and my granddaughter in Austin, and then to Florida to see my mom. I can’t wait to eat something different. Oh, and I want to see these people too.

Que Sera Sera. I keep saying that to myself. It doesn’t help but so what. Nothing helps. I am just sinking deeper into a funk and that’s not good. But what choice do I have and I just keep plugging away waiting for the tide to change. It has to, doesn’t it?

October 1st is National Day in China. What does that mean? I don’t know. In 1949 the Communist Party declared that there would be a National Day every October 1st. There is a one-week holiday that goes with that (called Golden Week). Kids don’t go to school and some people don’t work. Because this is China and there is nothing more important than money here, many do work. Sometimes I feel like Alice after she fell down the rabbit hole.

Business. Why, oh why, did I allow myself to get into this? The bulk of our customers will be primary school children which I hate teaching. They are cute (most of them), but you can’t have a conversation with them. We now have 4 students with a couple more probably on their way. Since it is a holiday this week, no one wants to commit to next week. God forbid you should do something in advance here. If you do something 5 minutes in advance here, then you’re in a hurry. Rabbit Hole!

I did my three free classes at the middle school and they were all a big success. However, the lying scumbag of a principal doesn’t want to spend any money for me to come in and do this once a week. I won’t do it for free. The teacher’s think it’s great and the principal thinks it’s great, but he thinks it’s not all about money. I guess he works for free. What a lying ass. He led us to believe that if the “test” classes were a success we were “in like Flint”. Liar. He never had any intention of hiring me. And to top all that off, we didn’t get any customers out of that.

We went into another Middle School and had a chat with the Principal. At least this guy was honest. “I have no money for this” he told us. I can respect that. But he wants it so his idea was for me to come in twice a week for the Grade 7 classes (a total of about 500 students) and do 2 lectures. There would be to 250 students at a time. He doesn’t want to offer something to some students and not to others (I understand that) but there are so many that don’t care. After careful consideration I turned that down. I know he said he had no money but I think he was going to pay from his own pocket. Now he wants to do this after regular school hours so those not interested will go home and we will have manageable numbers to work with. I don’t want to do this “after hours” because it interferes with us if we get business. Shujie thinks we should since this principal is a well-respected man in town and it will help us to get customers. What do I know? I’m a stranger here on this planet China. I’ll do it.

There is something here they call “student apartments”. Where I come from they call it “day care”. These are places that take the primary kids for lunch and feed them and let them hang out after school until their parents come and get them. Shujie and one of these places made an arrangement where I would hold classes there. It’s in another area of town (a rich area) so I was game. We were under the impression that they would try and get us customers so we had new posters made up and new flyers. We couldn’t trust them. They didn’t want to do anything except collect money. We should get all the students and they’ll give us the classrooms. We ended up breaking up over that. Shujie is pleased. She’s changing the phone number on all the flyers (there are 2 phone numbers, one for Shujie and one for this place). She’s changing their phone number so it’s a wrong number. We met a few parents while pimping for clients and they seemed interested. They didn’t want to come to us as we are too far (a 10 minute car ride) and they didn’t want to go to a classroom in a “student apartment”. Shujie will call next week and if they can get 3 kids together I will make a house call if they want. Anything for a yuan (dollar).

We had an adult come in a couple of days ago to talk to us about taking classes. I’d love to have adults. He wants to advance in his company and to do so he needs to know English. He knows next to nothing and he would have to work like a dog to learn things. It’s harder when you get older to begin to learn a new language. I won’t lie and tell people in 3 months you’ll know this and in a year you’ll know that. I just tell them that if they work hard they will keep getting better. Shujie doesn’t think he’ll come back but if he’s serious about learning, he will come back. It’s hard to find an adult foreigner who teaches adults.

I can get primary students because we can hand out flyers to the parents and talk to them. The middle school students don’t really have their parents pick them up so they are harder to get. High school is impossible since their typical day is from 7:30AM until 10PM. We will try and get adults. Shujie wants to put an ad on a bus shelter. It’s expensive but she thinks it’s worth the money. We’re thinking about it. I hate this. I wish I were in Kurdistan.

The wedding. It came and it went. The people start arriving around 10:30 in the morning (it’s a luncheon) and we ate about 12. As soon as they stuff the food down their throats they’re out of there. When you walk in the door there is a table to the right and a table to the left. Depending whether you are there from the groom’s side or the bride’s side, you give your gift (cash) to the matching table. Then the money takers are supposed to give the gifts and a list of how much everyone gave to the wedding couple. Qi Ji’s (Shujie’s son) father took all the money before Qi Ji could get it. He paid the wedding expenses that had to be paid and kept the rest. I don’t know what happens now since they haven’t sorted it out yet. My idea if he doesn’t get the money from his lowlife of a father is he gets his father-in-law involved. After all, the father didn’t just steal from Qi Ji, he also stole from the bride. Ah, China.

I insisted to Shujie that we pay for the photographer. Shujie didn’t want to and Qi Ji didn’t want us to as we have no money and are starting a business. I said to hell with that, it’s family. Qi Ji took the money since he can’t say no to me or argue with me (he doesn’t speak English) so I felt better. He should know that his father does not represent the men of the world. If it were up to me I’d get a big stick and break his legs. What a piece of dirt he is.

I was the best-dressed person at the wedding. It’s the first time in my life I’ve been the best-dressed person anywhere. I was the only man wearing a suit and tie. Qi Ji had a suit but no tie. Shujie’s brother had a tie, but no suit. The bride’s father had blue jeans. Go figure. I love my gray Beatles looking suit (only with lapels). I felt good being the only decently dressed person there.

I will leave you with a few wedding photos. I can’t think of what else is new except there must be some kind of way out of this place. However I can’t find the joker or the thief to tell me.

Is this the right room?

Is this the right room?

Shujie's younger brother (nice man) and his wife

Shujie’s younger brother (nice man) and his wife

Shujie's mother, older brother, and his wife

Shujie’s mother, older brother, and his wife

Shujie's mom and her 2 daughter-in-laws

Shujie’s mom and her 2 daughter-in-laws

Best dressed man and 2 babes

Best dressed man and 2 babes

Best dressed man and 1 babe (baby)

Best dressed man and 1 babe (baby)

Shujie, her best friend, the babes, and the best dressed man

Shujie, her best friend, the babes, and the best dressed man

Bride and groom going to his execution #1

Bride and groom going to his execution #1

Bride and groom going to his execution #2

Bride and groom going to his execution #2

Bride and groom with the groom pledging to be executed

Bride and groom with the groom pledging to be executed

Wedding couple and the father of the bride

Wedding couple and the father of the bride

The 2 best dressed people

The 2 best dressed people

The two best dressed people

The two best dressed people

Boy, not even a month since my last post. I guess I might have some news. As Shujie says, starting a business is like being a farmer. You must plant the seeds and they will sprout. I hope she’s right.

Flyers are meant to be thrown in the garbage. We’ve hung out outside Primary schools (where the parents come to pick up their kids). We hand out flyers and Shujie talks to the few that seem interested. But as we all know, talk is cheap. No one is calling. They like the look of me and they claim they want spoken English for their kids (since they don’t really get that in school), but they lie like rugs.

We have 2 students or maybe 3. One is on the fence. We had our first class yesterday and I had 2 8 year-olds and a 6 year-old. The 6 year-old is very shy and doesn’t speak. However, she pays close attention so I can only believe something is getting through. The mother will decide today whether to keep her kid in. The mother is getting on my nerves with her waffling so I really don’t care.

Here is a pic of our little get-together yesterday:

1st class

I’m tired of handing out flyers. As I said, we really only cane do it at primary schools as that’s where the parents go to get their kids. Middle school and High school kids can take themselves home. However, I had a plan which Shujie ensured me was impossible and as usual she was wrong. The schools have guards and gates so not just anyone can go in. I felt I could go in. I just announce myself as a Canadian who wants to see the principal. We went to one school on Friday and we got in and had a nice chat with the principal. He brought in his English department. What we’re offering is oral English classes (for a small fee) along with permission to hand out flyers (but not do any sales pitch). They wanted 3 free classes (one for grade 7, one for grade 8, and one for grade 9) and then they would decide. We agreed. There are about 50 kids in a class so it will be a little much. What a country. Too many people and ridiculous class sizes. However, I hit it off with the teachers and they seem pleased with me coming in and not as a threat. Public schools cannot hire foreign teachers but they wouldn’t be hiring me. They’d be hiring Shujie as a consultant and I never get any money. It’s not the job so much as the opportunity to get to these kids so maybe they like me and tell their parents that this is the English Academy they want to go to

I do two of my free classes tomorrow and the 3rd one on Wednesday. I’m sure it will work out. Kids like me (I know, it sounds weird). I’m not worried. We will hit other middle schools and high schools with the same offer. I hope it’s not a problem for them. As for Universities we will lurk in halls and go to English Corner (an hour or two at night where students go to speak English). And we will keep giving out flyers.

I thought we had a good one but I think I’m too wordy. I’ve now decided that we should emphasize that Shujie is from Boading and we’ve come here to be in my wife’s hometown. It makes me seem like a nice guy and I sound safe for little kids. I don’t speak Chinese is another spelling point because it means “English Only”. And the 3rd main feature, believe it or not, is that I’m Jewish. Shujie tells everyone I’m Jewish because Chinese people love Jewish people. It’s weird to me, but hey, whatever works.

“Have a Jew from Canada Teach Your Kids”. What a slogan.

I’ve set the ridiculous target of 500 students (aim high) so we’ll see. It will go in fits and starts I’m sure and patience is the key. My main problem is I don’t want this job. I could run a school but I don’t want to teach little kids. How do I keep getting myself into these messes?

The office is shaping up but there are still things we need. . I bought some Play Doh and boy, I still love that stuff. We will have to go to Beijing to buy some stuff (like flash cards) that I won’t buy online sight unseen. We can’t go this week because the big wedding (Shujie’s son) is next Saturday. I keep asking Shujie questions and she doesn’t seem to know much. It’s so much different from the West. They hire an M.C. (but ours is free because she’s a good friend of Shujie’s), Shujie has no idea if Qi Ji (her son) has ordered his suit yet, and the mothers don’t go out and buy new outfits. There are enough strange things that will make this all very interesting for me.

We had dinner last night with the future in-laws and it was fine. I realized another big advantage of not speaking Chinese. People like you. You can’t put your foot in your mouth and every time you say a word in Chinese they think it’s the funniest thing they’ve ever heard. I think even if I knew Chinese I’d be better off pretending I didn’t.

As to the actual plan for next Saturday I hear it’s very interesting but I won’t find out until next Saturday. The concept of advanced planning is very strange to the Chinese. I just hope all works out.

Shujie has to get 7 cars for the day of the wedding. Why? I don’t know and I can’t get an explanation. As I said, it should be very interesting.

Shujie’s friend had given us her ebike to use, but it was too small and I was fed up with riding on it with Shujie. We bought one this week and I love it. It cost about $500 and goes about 40km. before it needs a charge. It makes more sense than a car here.  Here is our baby:

ebike

So that’s it. Sales go on and hopefully this will be a good week. Stay positive Martin before you go postal.

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.

Front Hall

Front Hall

Main Bedroom

Main Bedroom

Living Room

Living Room

Balcony

Balcony

2nd Bedroom

2nd Bedroom

Kitchen

Kitchen

Hall or area where we stick the fridge

Hall or area where we stick the fridge

Bathroom

Bathroom

Desk

Desk

Now the flyers.

bad flyer page 1

Ugly Flyer

Ugly Flyer

advert4

Better Flyer

Better Flyer