Posts Tagged ‘transportation’

Don’t laugh. He might be my neighbor. Chinese dreamin’.


Things are moving. That’s really all I can say. I’ve done everything necessary. I am waiting on my Z-work Visa to come back. I used a visa/passport expeditor service with offices in Houston, the regional Chinese consulate for many southern states. I have already contacted them three times. I had questions on the application and lastly I asked if they had received my documents. The staff was helpful and I don’t anticipate any problems so far. All in all it cost around $260 for the service, shipping included. I hope to be on a plane in the next week or so to Mudanjiang. I’m still not allowing myself to get too high on the journey. I had a hiccup, when I discovered my drivers license had expired on Feb. 5. I took care of it the same day with no problems. I don’t want to jinx the ease of my process just yet. I want to quietly, get my visa/passport back, purchase a plane ticket and board unceremoniously. In the next week or so, I will revisit some grammar modules from my online TESOL course. I will continue to listen to chinesepod and struggle through beginner’s Mandarin. One of my imminent goals is to learn the language. Of course, teaching is the priority, considering it is my first time in an academic setting with children. I will adapt. I have been in contact with my school sporadically since my interview. My school manager emailed me once to confirm I’d received my work permit and letter of invitation. I replied after I sent all of my documents to the passport/visa expeditor. AND now I WAIT. Man, I’m almost there. I’m about to do something no one in my family has done. I remember thinking something similar when I traveled to Belgium and all over the Netherlands, then Paris and Germany. I’m ready to eat with chopsticks, have long conversations about Wu Shu, visit the Shaolin temple and drink the strongest drink they serve with some smiling model featured ladies in tight clothes. Not to sound superficial, but I’m looking forward to enjoying myself in the nightlife. I’m also looking forward to becoming a professional ESL teacher. With that said for balance, I work hard and play hard. I always have. Life is about the story you can tell when it’s over. I will try to write a little something once my visa comes and I get a ticket. …Man, I’m almost there.


Mudanjiang Railstation. Mudanjiang, soon to be my city.

I am only a few weeks out from living, working and arriving in China to teach English. The process has been long and is still not 100 percent certain. I started this journey several months ago. My first choice was to teach in Korea, but I was denied the opportunity. I chose Korea as a starting point for my new career as an ESL teacher mainly because I could teach and save money. South Korea has a low cost of living and pays new ESL teachers some of the highest base salaries in Asia. Once I was denied my opportunity and dealt with several teacher recruiters, agencies and shady individuals, I changed my focus to other countries. Chinese schools were very quick to respond to my resume on the numerous ESL job sites where I posted. Over the past two weeks or so, I’ve been dealing with a school in Heilongjiang Province, Mudanjiang and a second school located in Yinchuan, the capital of Ningxia Province.

MY CHOICE: The school in Mudanjiang seems to be the smaller company. I spoke directly (Skype) with two of three of the school managers and felt good about our interactions. There are three foreigners (one American manager from Arizona and two Canadian teachers) and I would join a staff in an area that is not as Westernized as other school locations. The selling points for me are the small staff, high salary (9,000RMB) per month, and getting my own apartment. I’m 36 and too old and too set in my ways to break in any potential roommate.

The staff in Mudanjiang seemed laid back and easy going. I know I will learn the profession without immediate pressure to perform. The pay is extremely high for anywhere in China and most forums and blogs warn against schools that offer more than 6,000 to 7,000 RMB. I am going with my gut feeling on this one. The city is not one of the popular destination cities like a Beijing, Shanghai or Dalian, so English schools are fewer in this much colder climate.

The city borders Vladistovok, Russia. However, it has a few colleges and several public schools. I will work 25 hours per week with two days off. I was updated by my school manager that my initial application had been submitted and that I would receive the requisite paperwork for my work visa in the next couple of weeks. Even though I signed the contract, this thing won’t feel real until I put together my package for a work visa. I will drink in celebration only at that time. Call me an alcoholic, but I must have a few victory beers before I leave this side of the planet.

MY DISMISSAL: The school in Yinchuan was different from the school in Mudanjiang in every aspect. Lower pay (6,000RMB), although fewer hours and a much larger city. I would have been one of 19 foreign staff with the potential of more newbies arriving just like me. The company is a reputable one, with schools everywhere in China with large student populations.

The recruiter was really good. He explained that he and most of the teachers he knew started out in Yinchuan and moved on to other schools. He sold me on the friendliness of the people, Western amenities and the ability to enjoy outdoor activities. These were all appealing to me. Mind you, there was another recruiter from the same company, pitching me my first choice Dalian, as well. So we agreed that the Yinchuan recruiter would pitch my application to schools contingent on my not being hired at a school in Dalian. The company’s schools in Dalian were tallying there overall need numbers and the recruiter was uncertain whether I could get a spot there. I made the executive decision to only deal with the one recruiter and forgo any offers from Dalian, so the Yinchuan recruiter could present my application to schools in a more favorable light. (I edited out previous comments. I realized I made a dick move and will surely face karmic repercussions. I don’t want others to follow my shrewd treatment of a particular recruiter. I removed an email detailing how I committed then reneged on signing a contract he emailed to me. I realize I was in the wrong and had to correct it with this long drawn out explanation days after my original post.)

The bottom line is: I have found a school that I like, people I like and a place I like. For a salary and hours, I like. I look forward to continuing this blog by highlighting my adventures once I reach China with video uploads and regular posts. Hopefully, I chose the right school. If not, I’ll make it mine.

Finally: I want to thank everyone who has “liked” my entries. I really do appreciate you taking time out of your life to read about mine.

I have decided to take my teaching skills to China. No, I don’t know how to speak Mandarin. No, I don’t know how to use chopsticks.









I have LeBron James-sed it for about a month. I have been courted by a few schools in China over the past few weeks. I whittled the choice to two schools, which I spoke about in my last blog post. I received a contract and told my recruiter that I could be in China by February 24. The school is well established and the recruiter was professional. The school has a Facebook page and teacher testimonial videos.

All these things make it the safest pick. However, my gut/instincts/Spidey Sense has been tingling. I am not sure if I’ve made the right decision with this school. I still favor the smaller kindergarten that is in the process of revising their contract to meet my specifications. The difference in pay is about 3,000 rmb (6000 rmb and 9,000 rmb) and I have been speaking directly with the manager/head teacher and co-managers. After agreeing to sign a contract with the more established school (I have not signed a contract.), I felt like a number and not an employee. The school has 19 foreign teachers and who knows how many will join me as new teachers in a much larger school.

The kindergarten would consist of myself two Canadians, two Chinese managers and the guy I’ve been dealing with Keith, who’s an American from Arizona. I know it’s a small operation because I was asked to change my arrival date because it was after opening day. He said it would be hectic and “logistics would be difficult”. I’m fully expecting one of the managers to pick me up from the airport. I have no fear of arriving in China and experiencing culture shock. However, I would like the singular attention of a close knit group willing to show me the way. Half of my reasoning for signing with the more established school, is their ability to outline specifics in the contract and their web presence. But I don’t think that necessarily makes them better. I went to a smaller high school and still have that underdog mentality. I played football and basketball locally. My best friend and I always had to prove ourselves to the bigger local schools on the field of play.

But that’s besides the point. I try to follow my instincts (sometimes to my detriment, especially when it comes to the opposite sex) and something didn’t feel/sit right with me after I received my welcome email from the recruiter. I’m going to think it over one more day and make a choice. I don’t take this life-changing move to China lightly. Ultimately, I’m beholden to no recruiter, school or manager. I have to make the best choice for myself. It’s been a long journey. I recognize my anxieties and warranted and unwarranted concerns. In my Army leadership training,  you’re taught to gather the necessary facts and opinions of experts in the field. You then outline three courses of action. One possible, another possible and an alternate course of action should be presented when planning any movement.

I have done exactly that. As of this writing, I have weighed the characteristics of each school, walked through possible scenarios involving payment of salary, industries in the area and exit strategies. My brain is wired like this unfortunately. I could give presentations on both cities to include population, weather and culture, forum comments on the school and comparable teacher salaries in the area. I’m anal like that. But back to my gut, I get about 85 percent from “gut feelings” and I usually make choices based on that feeling. I’ll use today to weigh the two schools one final time and make a solid decision. I’m almost there, literally less than six to seven weeks away. Let’s do it.

ALMOST THERE. Nice ring.








THEN (A week ago)….I promised to return sooner rather than later. I have updates on the latest in my search for a school home in Asia, China specifically. So, I have bombarded recruiters with the expected documents(rehashed resume, pickled pictures, and covered and smothered cover letter). The reception has been great, a lot of bites. I have begun a process of interviews that began on Saturday and will conclude on Friday. Two of the next few are final interviews. Hopefully, I can speak with and build some kind of rapport with school staff and get a contract in the process. I have talked to recruiters, mostly. Tonight, I spoke to two Chinese school managers, who seemed eager to have me join their staff.

NOW…..I have whittled down the search for a job in China to two schools. One of the jobs is a well established chain in a city with a large expat population. The other is a smaller city in a cold climate with higher pay for less hours per week. I interview with the former tonight and at this point undecided on a location. Both locations/jobs have yet to send me a contract for review, although one of the jobs has a pretty standard pay rate within their family of schools. I plan on making a decision by the end of the week as to which school I’d like to be a part of as a new teacher. I don’t know how to feel about it just yet. It is still an idea/dream with no paperwork at this point to me.

The first school, even though I know I’m just a number for the recruiter, seems like the safe bet. Standard housing, decent salary and about 19 foreigners on staff in a city that is small, but has a Starbucks, KFC and Pizza Hutt. The other is very small with less than fifty foreigners in the entire city. I know no matter where I end up I’ll be immersed in Chinese culture. I plan on learning the language. Yes, I plan on learning one of the most difficult languages to learn in the world. I think the more I’m forced to communicate in broken Chinese the better off I will be. Learning Chinese was never on my bucket list. I know basic Spanish, but so does the average Taco Bell employee.

I’ve detailed this journey up to this point and plan to continue writing upon my arrival in the Chinese mainland so to speak. Like many journeys, the impetus was a breakup. A year and a half ago, I wasn’t very hopeful of a future without my girlfriend and her daughter. It’s been a long time since I’ve had something to look forward to. I want it all now. I want to visit the Buddhist temples, hiking trails and caves. I want to go skiing. (Yeah, I said it. I’m still a black man.) I want to study mixed martial arts. I want to drink and be merry with my co-teachers and other expats. I want to eat the food and listen to the music. (Well, at least to say I did listen to Chinese music.) The process has been a long one, but not really in the sheer audacity of  the task. I’m trying to pick up and move to a foreign land to do a new job without knowing the Native tongue. It’s party time. The journey continues….

Alright, I’m back to it.

The procrastination has ended and I’m blogging again. Here’s the latest update in my journey to become an ESL teacher. I’m still at home. I’m still in the States having dreams of getting on a flight to Asia. I’m still a few steps away and the frustration is beginning to set in. I submitted fingerprints for an FBI background investigation several months ago. About two weeks ago, I contacted my local FBI field office to inquire about my case and was given a number to a CJIS customer service hub. A representative told me that my fingerprints were rejected because they were not readable. She told me to resubmit another set of fingerprints and that I wouldn’t have to pay a fee for resubmittal. She also told me a rejection letter would be sent in the next two weeks. Well, two weeks later, I didn’t receive a letter. I called today and was told I could resubmit if I included a letter stating my original case number and it would be processed. So I waited two weeks for a letter that never came and am just now finding out I could have resubmitted fingerprints two weeks ago. Great. So now I start the process again. Glad I called. Lesson learned. I’m going to stay on top of this thing better next time. While that part of the process slowed and stymied, other pieces of the puzzle have been successful. The splash of good news is that I received my TESOL certification in the mail on Saturday. I highly recommend International TESOL and TEFL Corporation (ITT) 100 hour online certification course. It was very thorough and I feel I know a lot more as far as what’s required of me as an ESL professional. I also had two copies of my bachelor’s degree notarized and submitted to the State Department for apostille last week. Hopefully, these documents will come back fairly quickly. My goal is to never become stagnant in this process. I want documents coming in while documents are going out. Keeping to this line of thinking, I contacted a source from my education reporting days to write a letter of recommendation. He came through with several signed copies of a letter I prefabricated for his signature. So now I have four quality letters of recommendation from education professionals  to add to the arsenal. My source is a former superintendent and current school board president of the county. Just to keep tally, my status in this journey stands at 1) completion of 100 hour TESOL certification course 2) four letters of recommendation 3) and a renewed passport. So, I’ve made some progress. I’ve been calling around to find a way to avoid using a fingerprinting agency to get prints. It is proving to be an expense I want to avoid. Twenty to thirty bucks per page is not breaking the bank, but free is always better. I talked to a  local sheriff’s department and the campus police at the University of Alabama who said they wouldn’t charge a dime if I brought my own print sheets. Excellent and will do. So that’s my goal for the week. Get prints, submit prints and wait for the State Department and FBI to process my documents. AND get updates every week during the process this time. I’m going to make it to Korea, China, Thailand or some parts in between before the end of the year. God willing.