Sticks & Stones

This is what keeps me going.

The road to China was a bumpy one. I waited so many months after submitting my application to the program that I’d already assumed it wouldn’t be happening by the time the school contacted me. Then I had to wait as if in suspended animation for another two months while all of the work visa paperwork was processed. Once I actually arrived in China I was picked up at the airport and driven to the isolated mountain lair of a 40-something Canadian man who makes the crypt keeper look like Big Bird. I spent my first day here being driven around to pick up whatever accoutrements were deemed necessary by my crazy Western notions of comfort (“2 pillows! don’t you only need one?” the girl asked. “I can survive on 2 pillows. I need about 8.”) I was exhausted but ready to endure.

Fast forward six months and there’s a new teacher in town. He’s a nice older man who e-mailed me a few times asking about the school and how to prepare for his trip. His experiences so far have given me a lot of perspective. Why, you ask? Because they throw into sharp relief the extent to which I was treated like shite by my school. Every new teacher was and has been, up until now. Let’s discuss.

1) Before New Teacher arrived, he had a choice as to in which apartment he’d prefer living. He had my e-mail guidance to avoid aforementioned secluded demon-spawn and take a room in the more conveniently located apartment he’d share with the other male teachers. After he made his choice, the school came to our apartment and cleaned out all of the rooms before his arrival. They went to the one bedroom that had been used as storage for upwards of five years and asked what belonged to us, the current housemates. None of it did, so they chucked it all away. Once the guy had made his choice of room (more choice!) they had a cleaning lady do a once over on it. When I moved in here they sort of begrudgingly dumped me off with my stuff and called it a day.

2) He met the headmaster on his first day. The headmaster took him out to a 25-course lunch. He met all of the staff at the school. I did not see the headmaster until one month into my time here. He came over to a computer where I was trying to help a young woman apply to college and told me that he’d stolen her application essay offline and not to worry about it, she’d be the one who got in trouble if she was caught. Our formal introduction was some months later. The school took me to a KFC on my first day. In all fairness, I do think they picked up the tab for my chicken nuggets. I have still never met anyone at the school aside from the two foreign affairs managers. None of the teachers have.

3) And I thought I was intrepid. My second day here I walked all the way around the Qingdao University campus trying to find the street we’d driven on the day before to get to the main road of the city. I eventually found my way, one sweaty hour later. On New Teacher’s second day here he…well I don’t know exactly what he did (I wasn’t following him so the narrative gets a little less compelling at this point), but he didn’t get lost and he was still well-adjusted at the end of the day.

I realize that I sound bitter, but it’s not that I’m jealous of or even resentful towards this man. It’s just shocking to see with such clarity that I work for such @$$holes. Three teachers have run away from this school this year because they were so unhappy. My roommate was recently physically assaulted by this older guy we live(d) with over a missing coffee cup (i.e. the man is a sociopath). The school didn’t fire the guy, but moved him into his own apartment. The last teacher who left (had to for health issues), was told by the headmaster himself that he was the head of a gang and that he was having people followed.

The administration generally ignores us and seems to act without reason. I’ve gotten most everything I want without much of a fight, but I’ve never asked for a lot and haven’t pushed any buttons the way some other teachers have. I haven’t been upset by the administration’s lack of any sort of managerial abilities or tact in dealing with employees because their actions, or lack thereof, haven’t hurt me directly. Or at least I thought they hadn’t. The thing that really upsets me is the horrible working environment they’ve created, harboring a criminal that we’re all supposed to get along with, showing favor to some teachers and openly disregarding the needs and wants of others, and discouraging proactive teaching (just read from the book). Regardless of this absurd situation I’ve found myself in (keep in mind this is the condensed version – it packs a punch, eh?), I have another five months or so in Qingdao at this school and I’ve got my fingers crossed that the respect they’ve shown for this new teacher will trickle down to those of us who, for whatever reason, haven’t been given the same.

There’s been a lot to appreciate in this experience and there’s a ton that I’m thankful for. But it’s about time I’m the one who feels appreciated.

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3 thoughts on “Sticks & Stones

  1. ❤ I appreciate you and I think what you're doing is amazing. Selfishly I wish you were home but I believe in you and your awesome ability to be Seanzie… in China. I want to say STICK IT TO THE MAN but if I learned anything from being a Cultural Anthropology major it's that in our culture we think the squeaky door gets the oil but in China they think the nail that sticks up gets hammered down… :o(

  2. Pingback: 掰掰 Twenty-Ten! « The S.S. Santiago

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