OK, so this is officially attempt number three at the blog thing. After a little more than a year in China I’ve re-dedicated myself to collecting my China thoughts and impressions, lest one day I am unable to remember them! I was prompted to try again after hearing a comment another Laowai made last week. He’s been here for quite a while and said something about becoming desensitized after a while, remarking that many of the things that once horrified him no longer make even the slightest impression. I realize this desensitization is happening to me as well, in that something I may have found appalling last year, now may have little to no effect at all. I want to remember those feelings and I hope I’ll be able to accurately transcribe some of my day to day experiences, so that my friends and family around the world will get a bit of the feeling of what it’s like to live and work in China as a foreigner. I hope you’ll find the musings interesting and entertaining.
Bart & Millhouse
Like many Laowai, I teach English in China. The first year I taught at The Webster Foreign Language Institute here in Liuzhou. It was not a bad gig really, except for the fact that I had to work nights and weekends and six days a week! The schedule rotated, so often I would end up working as many as 11 or 12 days in a row. I taught every age group and grade level and it was an eye opening and rewarding experience. I have to say I have a new-found respect for teachers and the profession. Eventually I settled into a semi-routine at Webster and taught mostly Business English classes to corporate employees. Just last week I made the move to Liuzhou Teachers College, where I signed a contract to teach English majors for the next year. Liuzhou Teachers College is located in tiny Shatang town, about 24 kilometers north of my home in Liuzhou. The good news for me is that I only have to work three and a half days a week. I’ll have Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays off as well as Monday mornings. I have an apartment on campus as well as my home in Liuzhou. I won’t have to do much work at night nor will I have to work weekends. I’ll have the regular holiday schedule off, as well as a month in winter and two months off in summer. Hopefully, I’ll be able to use some of that time to travel and continue to develop my photographic skills.
That’s the other thing I do here in China. I take photos and sometimes write about this continuing China adventure. I have been fortunate enough to have had photos published in various magazines, newspapers and websites across the globe, including The Beijing Review, China Today, The World Today, The Jacksonville Times-Union, Guangzhou Ribao, Ha’aretz Daily (Tel Aviv), Jornal de Tarde (Sao Paulo), National Geographic.com, The Danish Institute for Human Rights, and China Digital Times. All the photos featured on the blog have been taken by me. You can see more of my work via my Flickr Photostream by clicking here. I would like to develop my own website eventually but I have recently come to the realization that I am woefully unprepared for the task, so I’ll have to hire someone to do that for me sometime down the road. I’ve also been in discussions with an agent about representation and a book deal but I can’t tell if anything is ever going to come of it all.
It is hard for me to believe that I have been here in The Middle Kingdom for more than a year already. It seems like yesterday when, after a couple of months lamenting, I made the decision to give it a go. On any given day I can find myself frustrated, amused, delighted, amazed, angered and yes, I am still horrified and appalled from time to time, but I have seldom been bored. Frankly the biggest downside, by far, is being separated from my two teenage children. It is impossible to convey how much I miss them. In the end it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. To have the this chance, at my age, to live and work in another country, learn a new language and assimilate into a 5,000 year old culture, well, let’s just say few of us get to do it. It looks like the kids may be able to spend two weeks here with me at Christmas and then perhaps some time next summer as well. I can’t wait to watch as they discover China with their own eyes.
Sometimes I catch myself saying “China is this or that….” and to be more accurate, I should say “Liuzhou is this or that…“. Truth be told, I have had very little opportunity to travel in China so my impressions are mostly from this one area of South China in Guangxi Province. I have been to Guilin and Yangshuo, and Nanning. I made it up to Feng Huang in Hunan Province as well and then to a small Miao village in Guizhou Province. The Guilin and Yangshuo trips were work related so I didn’t get much of a chance to look around. Feng Huang, although very touristy, I can still recommend. The only bad thing about the Feng Huang trip was that it rained for the entire three days I was there! My best trip so far, was when I took the short train ride over to Nanning where I met my friends Michael and Robert and we were able to spend two days together, photographing the people and sights in the Provincial capital. Imagine three large Laowai, an American, a Canadian and a Kiwi, roaming the streets of Nanning, China with cameras. We gathered some crowds!
City Lights – Nanhu Lake – Nanning
So, for now, that’s enough I think. If you’ve read this far please take a moment to leave a comment. It would be nice to hear from some of my friends and family and nice as well to make new friends. Peace!