Fluctuation Situation

Trip Start Aug 19, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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My apartment

Flag of China  , Shandong Sheng,
Friday, August 24, 2012

One thing that's certain while moving to China is that nothing is certain.  I woke up on my last day in Nanjing with a sample lesson ready and headed off to the Ameson HQ to present it, get feedback, and otherwise finalize plans for my new life in Yixing.  When I got to the office the bomb dropped almost immediately; Yixing no longer wanted an Econ course and so my position was simply gone.  Now normally this kind of thing would not happen in the West, as the school would have determined whether or not they wanted a teacher before they planned to receive one.  Not here.  But my fears were assuaged in that I would in fact be teaching some where in China with the same salary etc. etc.  I was intrigued therefore when the two options that were presented to me were both better than the original.  Keep in mind this is not always the case.  Some fellow teachers have lost the great posting in order to assume a less prestigious, less comfortable one; I just happened to be happily on the other side of the coin.

I am a History and Political Science major and I was not happy about the fact that they had assumed I would be teaching Econ when I had been told months in advance I would be doing World History.  This little snafu turned out to be my solution, not my problem.  I was given one option to teach Econ in a similar setting, and another option to teach American Studies and Human Geography in a bigger town with nicer facilities.  In my former arrangement I would have been living in a dormitory setting on campus miles out of town where cabs don't like to go because they don't like dealing with foreigners.  As I write this I am sitting in a three bedroom apartment with bathroom (kinda) and kitchen, which is just across from the school building, and only blocks from a huge, modern shopping center.  

The choice was a no brainer, but in typical Chinese fashion I was kept sweating until the end of the day, when I found out that I would in fact be going to Jinan teaching social studies type courses.  I was so relieved, but that wasn't the end of the road, I had to press, and press hard to get the staff to get me a train ticket for the next day so that I could travel with the other teacher's destined for Jinan.  In the end, my flexibility and dogged persistence paid off.  Normally I tend to be rather rigid and not very persistent, because of my Mid-Western attitudes.  In this case however, by being willing to negotiate and then constantly staying on top of the staff until it was done, I gained a much better living situation and classes which I am more suited to teaching.

This situation caused me to think quite a bit about why it is that Chinese people in general seem to delay things or just ignore you and I believe that it comes to their concept of face.  If they tell you something and it turns out they're wrong, they of course would lose face, so it's much better to simply delay the response until the outcome is certain.  There is also definitely a component in our western minds that emphasizes planning much more than people do here, and in a way that is related to face as well in the sense that once a plan is made, by the time it is carried out it may no longer be suitable for all involved, so plans are never concrete lest some one be left out.

In any case, a full day of pulling out my hair, thinking about what a dumb idea it was to come here was followed by another day of rough travel which landed me in my new digs.  Enter once again the oddity of culture clash.  When we were given out rooms, one of my fellow teachers was appalled to find that his bathroom did not have a sink, meaning that he would have had to brush his teeth in the kitchen.  He was so upset by this that he and his girl friend immediately set to work on me to get me to switch apartments with him.   When moving to my new friend's momentary apartment I was at once set upon again; this time by a Chinese teacher decrying her cramped quarters and insisting she be allowed to share my larger apartment.  It was a domino effect, and I was only saved by the Principle's unwillingness to consent.   My will to fight was sapped; defunct.

After this crazy situation, I find myself slightly jealous of the first guy, who now has my preferred apartment because I thought he'd be living with his girl friend, and enormously grateful that I don't have a tiny little Chinese lady sharing my apartment while  I walk around in boxers.  In the day since arriving I've made the place a bit more hospitable, taken most of the applicances out of the boxes, and rearranged some furniture.  I also made the mistake of trying to plug in my AMERICAN BOUGHT XBOX with what I thought was a converter but was in fact just a plug adapter, and completely fried the power supply.  I really hope it was just the power supply, because I'm told I can get a new one at one of the big electronic markets around larger cities for about Y150.

Yesterday, just before going Frankenstein on my XBOX, I was at just such a market, getting a phone.  Now there are three types of electronics in China, real, fake, and fake fake.  Real items like iPhones and XBOX's are crazy expensive and you really are better off bring them from the States.  Fake items are made here but are of quality and worth the money.  Not as much as real items, and not as good, but worth while as long as they're somewhat cheaper.  Once you reach the lower floors of the markets and people are trying to sell you iPhones and HTC's for Y400 ($80) then you've hit the fake fake zone, and the stuff it nothing more than cosmetic.  People, mostly younger people, really do buy these items just to have them in their pockets, pull them out once and awhile, and look like they've got something great.  They are utterly worthless and a total waste of money. 

I bought a candy bar style Lenovo cell phone without many frills for Y180, and a sim card for Y50 which came with the number.  In some places you have to buy a number and minutes separately, this lady happened to be a one stop shop.  I also had a Chinese friend there with me to negotiate and ask about pricing and options on the phone plan.  I would absolutely recommend against buying a phone without some one with you who has at least passable Chinese, and never ever get pressured into buying something.  If you don't want it just walk away, no apologies, don't let them draw you back. There are 1.3 billion fish in the sea over here, and some hard work looking for the right deal will always pay off.

I'm totally content for right now, today we had our first real business meeting and while the site principle is kind of odd, she's very businesslike.  There was a Western guy here from Texas last year who totally screwed everything up for us this year.  He was a pretty terrible example of the things you should not do when you're a guest in some one else's country, whether you're paid to be there or not.  Considering this, she was obviously laying it on think that she expects a lot and that there will be (can be) consequences for not doing your job.  I'm ok with this oversight, at least for now, because it will keep me on the straight and narrow and not let me start being lazy, or worse, having too much fun.  Soooo, all in all, I'm really happy to have landed here, to have the subjects I do, and to have a nice big apartment that is on the sixth floor of a building without an elevator.  I wanted to lose weight here in China anyhow.
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Neide on

Love your blog. Fantastic job feeling your way through this new culture!
Love you lots~

Sam on

Your desk needs a plant

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