July 5, 2018


Day of the Administrative Requirements

July 5, 2018

4:30am – awoke to begin the Day of [s]Ass[/s] [s]Thieving Bureaucracy Masquerading as National Security[/s] Administrative Requirements

6:30am – was standing in line for train tickets…

Now, buying train tickets on Wechat is a godsend, but you still have to line up at a ticket window and show your code, which is fine, except the lady let me get to within one person of being served before she switched her on duty card to off and my train was due in 15 minutes….

6:55am – on another line, got the ticket

7:00am – boarded the slow train…

It would have been the fast train if I’d had time to prepare all this shit, but the secretary who told me I had to go to the capital to get my health certified neglected to [s]make up lies[/s] tell me I had to get the damn thing before the weekend. Fast train: 30 mins; slow train 1 hour, 30 mins.

It was okay. I bought a sleeper ticket, top bunk, and lay down for an hour instead of rubbing shoulders in the cattle cars.

8:40am – woo, back in the provincial capital, I used to live here too, and yep, it still sucks. There’s only two real metropolii in China – Beijing and Shanghai. All the other giant cities are calcifications. They resemble nothing so much as gigantic agglomerations of mould and grout. And on this particular day, the train station is undergoing even more construction, this time to most of the crap out the front… It took me a good ten minutes wandering around to find the taxi rank.

8:50am – still waiting at the taxi rank.

9:30ish – woo, freakin long taxi ride ends in the middle of nowhere, yay! But it’s the correct middle of nowhere aka the dead flat outskirts of the city, and big new building there were Health Exams are performed for international travelers. And good lord, I was not expecting that many people to be in the waiting line. You actually have to take a number. My number was 50. Currently being called was 32.

10:00am – yay me, I’m called, which turned out kind of unhelpful because if you go through this process before 10am, you can pick up the certificate at the end of the day – I have to go back there tomorrow…

10:45am – finished. They drew blood, had me tinkle in a tiny cup, and those were the real tests I suspect because the following EEG, blood pressure, and X-Ray were pretty damn perfunctory. By the way, this time around I’m 181cm tall. I’ve been 183 and 179 in other years.

11:00am – fuck me, how am I getting a taxi in the middle of nowhere?!

I did actually. There was one waiting. This Health Exam place is for everyone and the majority of the customers are Chinese citizens. It gets pretty busy in there apparently. But I didn’t get that taxi immediately. It was waiting for someone. I said fine and started walking and a minute later he was following me honking…

What you’re supposed to do these days as a connected citizen is Wechat again. Built in to the Wechat Wallet are assorted services, like funds exchange, online payments, theatre tickets, and…. Didi, the Chinese service that stomped Uber’s ass. You can hail a ride, either private car or taxi, or just look up bus services… I’m not ready for all that though. You have to turn on Location Services and duh, the killer robots in space can see you then. (Not that they don’t anyway – Thanks Google – but I just don’t like not knowing what all the signals coming off me are being used for elsewhere.)

11:30am – woo, fast train station, I used to use this place a lot when I was coming in and out of the capital as an IELTS examiner, so I know everything about getting… uh, no, I don’t know anymore…

There are automatic ticketing machines. They’re in Chinese, but navigable if you know at least the characters of your towns, but who cares because they don’t work with any form of ID other than a Chinese ID card. So, off I go to stand in line…

12:30pm – two lines later and I’ve been standing in hot rooms with way to many people for literally longer than the train ride itself will take, but I have a ticket. While standing in those lines I had been debating, whip out the Wechat and reserve a ticket now or wait until I get to the head of the queue… and I’d decided not, but I kept checking because I knew there was a 12:40pm train. In fact, as I saw it go from 21 seats free to sold out as I was standing in that line…. Surprisingly though, I ended up with a 12:46pm ticket – the Wechat is good, but it don’t knew everything.

12:35pm – arrive in departure hall, seek out giant computer screen, discover I’m at the wrong end of the hall……

12:46pm – train gets rolling, and I’m aboard. I debate for a while what to do for tomorrow. It’s going to be way, way better to get a ticket back from the capital *before* I go to the capital, but I also don’t know exactly when I’ll be in need of a train tomorrow…

12:56pm – book tomorrow’s ticket to the capital, will think about the return ticket some other time.

1:30pm – home, sweet smouldering home – or at least the train station version thereof. I head to the taxi rank.

1:35pm – goddamn these taxi drivers, they’re up to their stupid tricks again. Back in the old days they would refuse to meter the rides. The high speed train station in, you guessed it, in the middle of nowhere, so they used to hold travelers hostage essentially. It used to piss me off no end – charging 50 yuan for a 20 yuan ride and so on. That’s how I discovered walking home. The first time I ever walked home from the high speed train station, it took three hours and I almost couldn’t lift my feet by the end. But honestly, it was sufficiently fun compared to the two days IELTS testing I’d have done that had put me on the train that, you know what, I started walking home regularly. I’d arrive back in the burg around 6pm and stroll on down the road with my headphones on, a set of specially prepared walking tunes to listen to and dammit, I liked it.

I’mma do that tomorrow too. I haven’t done that walk in a long while. It’ll be fun. I’m supposed to pick up this health certificate between 3 and 4, so I’ll definitely be arriving back here with the sunset. I’mma walk home.

Because what the taxi drivers are doing these days is rolling up to the taxi rank with their doors locked. They ask where you’re going before they’ll decide to let you on, and they won’t let you on if they can’t find someone else to go that way too.


2:00pm – arrived in the ville, got a large bottle of water, had a large lunch, rice n stuff. I could almost like this place.

2:30pm – call it quits.

This day is over.

And I only spent about seven hundred and fifty freaking yuan.


July 4, 2018

No dude, you’re just the delivery guy

July 4, 2018

  Here’s the deal: don’t come to China.

  You’re thinking about it. Don’t do it.

  For that matter, avoid deals with Chinese entities if you can.

  Because I was thinking just now, it’s not new, this school making me pay for their mistakes. Them allowing me to pay for my right to stay here.

  You’d think that a valued employee who isn’t a citizen would be sponsored by the employer, right? They’d have their expenses paid. It’d be covered by the contract. You wouldn’t be a guest in your own place of employment, would you? No, you’d be an employee.

  But just now I recalled that time years ago one contract renewal time being tremendously pissed off when they said, thanks for signing that, now you just have to pay the visa processing fee….

  That was… ten years ago? How time flies.

  Giant question then, why am I still here? Why have I let this shit go year after year? Why, year after year, have I sunk deeper into the cozy, suffocating, really not soundproofed hole I have here?

  Do you know, I am being displayed by my dean as an example of a Chinese trend. There’s a movement in educational theory here in China to address “creativity” and “autonomy” in education. Now, dude, don’t get any of this wrong, no one’s westernizing anything. This movement, and I don’t even know what it is beyond the mention the dean made of it twice now, but it exists to paper over the lack of these things. It’s going to turn into a “with Chinese characteristics” deal. But it exists. And by happenstance, the rude notions present in these discussions match, to some unknown degree, the rubbish I’ve been going on about for the last, oh, two years now. Tutorials, and that kind of shit. (By which any normal person means the simple recognition that knowledge per se is poopy Cersei in the absence of ability to address knowledge.) Apparently me going on about this kind of thing is what other teachers are supposed to be doing these days as well, going on about making their own teaching more sophisticated than just lecturing.

  Or some such rubbish.

  But anyway, the dean has written an actual report with my name included and sent it off to among other people, the president of the goddamned school. At the same time as I’m anxiously awaiting news of just how fucked I am by the foreign affairs office mishandling of my visas.

  Was I supposed to look after my own visa? I am supposed to look after the fallout of mistaken visa handling.

  So I am valued?

  But this kind nickel and diming is so very par for the course that…

  That don’t come to China, that’s what. You aren’t and won’t be valued here. You’re pretty much just the delivery guy. You have to have your own jar of change.

  That’s a reference to the first job I ever tried to get, way back when I was a teenager, pizza delivery guy. I lasted literally only ten minutes. I didn’t even get passed the meet and greet before I could handle nothing anymore and I turned around and left.

  And look at me now, 17 years a delivery guy in China. Oh how I’ve grown.


June 26, 2018

Professional example

June 18, 2018

  Should I follow it, their professional example?

  The FAO looks after me, I look after the students. The FAO tells me just now there’s a situation, you had better look after it yourself. Oh, the situation is directly related to your employability and your rights to reside in China, but you had better look after it yourself. Go to Australia and look after it.

  It’s relevant because two weeks ago I told the sophomores most of them would fail, and I gave them numbers and entirely describable, wholly checkable, objectively meaningful reasons why I could [not] just let them pass like always. (Reasons: owing to the way I score students, lowering the standards even more would literally mean no learning. A high schooler who could read a textbook could come in and pass without any knowledge of the requirements.)

  Anyway, the sophomores had a written test last week. They’re due to have another in three weeks. (For sophomore class 4, that’d be one day before I must exit the country while for sophomore class 1, that’d right on the day I should exit.) The one they completed last week showed significant basic ability, well beyond that they’ve displayed before. They stepped up, in other words, almost en masse. But as far as scores go, most of them still need that second written test to legitimately achieve a passing grade.

  What do I tell them? Yo, a situation came up, go look after yourselves?


June 15, 2018


June 15, 2018

  Long, long ago…

  My passport was due to expire about halfway through last year, so I went and got a new one. Placed an order, paid the money, made an appointment, took an overnight train to the consulate, and got a new passport. Yay.

  When I got back to my place of employ here in Redsville, PRC, I told my employer, yo, new passport homies. The old passport, no longer valid but in my possession anyway, contained my residence permit and shouldn’t that be moved to my new passport?

  In a wise move reserved for the likes of bureaucrats and similar officials, a new residence permit was issued, and was stuck properly into my new passport, and yet no, right? Because rather than issue the right of residency coincident with the length of my contract as my original residence permit had allowed, they proposed an end-of-validity date that would coincide exactly with the end of teaching. My right of residence in China will finish not three months from now when my contract ends, but three weeks from now, on my literal last day of teaching.

  Fine, just renew the fucker, right?

  Well no, because a new law was passed a couple of months back: you can’t renew if you don’t start renewing at least thirty days in advance. And bingo, you guessed it, no one here started the process on time, which, under the new law, means I cannot renew and must instead reapply.

  Reapplying in this case means making a completely new application for work permission. And yo, there’s some other new laws too. I need documents, but more importantly I need documents that have been notarized, legalized, and authenticated. One, a criminal background check issued by the police, legalized by the department for foreign affairs and trade, and then signed off on my some Chinese embassy somewhere. Two, a degree verified as real by the issuing institution, legalized by the department of foreign affairs and trade, and then signed off on by some Chinese embassy somewhere.

  But wait, you cry, or I did anyway, doesn’t a lengthy work history already in China count for something in proving your fitness to work in China?


  Foreign degrees and criminal background checks only.

  Given time, I might have gotten them on time. They’re easy enough to get if you have time and you’re not already in China. It’s just a matter of visiting offices with identification and some supporting documents and then posting stuff.

  But I don’t have time. T minus twenty-six days and counting. The AFP background check alone is supposed to take 15 days, and the service I’m looking into to do all this hasn’t even replied yet to my initial enquiry.

  It might still all work out. There’s a fair chance it won’t. 50/50 on gtfo of the country is not good odds. GTFO of the country is pretty big.

  Why worry, is what you’re wondering. Just take a trip. Come back when it’s done, right?

  But it’s shock, don’t you see? Yeah, the basic problem is relatively straightforward: just travel somewhere, get the documents, come back. But for some reason I’m seeing this as more shattering than that. I believed I was worth something here. But who could say I am when an administrative mistake can push me out of the country? Why doesn’t any of my history here count?

  So I have these extra questions to consider but they’ll probably all be trumped by how I just do have nowhere else to go.

  Relying on China for employment is like being crippled. Every other strength in me has shriveled.


June 5, 2018

Making students fail

June 5, 2018

  This question, again? It happens every year, ffs. The sophomores spend their days eking out an existence as toadstools on their four-year rest stop between the bloody nose the gaokao gave them and their glorious resurrection into “the society” and boom, surprise, they’re sucking ass at writing case study discussions as week 18 steadily approaches.

  Week 18 is the last of the semester. It’s when foreign teachers give students exams and where real teacher write exams because the real exams take place in week 19 or 20, depending on how much “study” time the students will be given. I, obviously, do neither. I give final grades based on score received every three weeks in writing exercises and they all get added up at the end together with “participation”

  Traditionally, “participation” was just given to the students. It’s too hard to measure and I only really care about whether the students acquire the four skills method or not. They can be said to have learned the method if by week 18 they can gain… well, the number of points they had to gain has changed each year. In the beginning it was 40.

  Each case study is scored in four categories, and each category includes a “satisfactory” score (meaning: expression was suitable to the category, may have contained errors of fact). The “satisfactory” or “C” score is worth 2 points. So, four categories, four times “satisfactory”, and 8 points per case study means satisfactory progress. Five case studies, 40 points.

  The first few years I did that it freaked everyone out. As week 18 approached, students were able to say they didn’t think they could get 40. I was able to say keep trying, but then I usually had to either stick to my guns (ha!) or adjust the scores. Since in the end I have never known the real meaning of what I teach here, I would take the path of least resistance. I adjusted scores. Usually just by adding 5 points to everyone. I’d also alert the expected failures and offer them rewrite opportunities in week 18. They’d rewrite and get up to the lowered expectation level and everyone would in the end pass.

  Two years ago I said fine, better not keep insisting on an unrealistic expectation. I lowered the requirement per case study from CCCC to CCCD. That actually mirrored the progress of the students since the four categories (represented from left to right in the scores) get progressively harder to master. Starting at the left with “Knowledge”, the C is stupendously easy to obtain: just write an intro to the concept being used in the case study. Literally, just copy the definition from the textbook. But way over on the right with “Evaluation”, that’s a sophisticated skill that requires bringing together all the other aspects you’ve written about in the first three categories, and most students opt out, writing some general knowledge claims instead. That is, they don’t write an evaluation of the particular case but instead write the general suggestions for such problems that they can find in the textbook, which is to say, the write more “knowledge” rather than actual evaluative discussion.

  Well anyway, last year, owing to the same kind of crisis two years ago, I said fine, the standard will be CCDD, and that’s the standard I’ve used this year too.

  Now, thing is, the current crop of sophomores are not reaching that standard. There are few factors: regular classes usually start writing in week 3 but I was screwing around with tutorial style lessons rather than lecture format this year so I didn’t fall back onto lectures until about week 5. The sophomores missed one writing opportunity. And had the disruption of a failed teaching style for the first few weeks. And are in larger than usual classes. And keep hearing from other teachers that they’re not doing as well as previous years’ students….

  Anyway, the sophomores this semester are averaging CDDD scores, and that means literally no learning. Anyone with a pen, some paper, and the textbook can produce a “discussion” worth CDDD. The textbook will literally ask them to write down the knowledge, then it will lead them through questions that need some description of the case, some analysis of something, some judgment about something. And indeed, most of the information they need will already be in the case story. They don’t even need to think about it. So, any halfwit can write something worth a score of “too simple or too shallow”.

  So, the sophomores are performing below the already lowered standards and if I lower the standards more to let them pass this time too, then they literally can learn nothing of what I want them to learn and still pass.

  Every year I say “you’re all going to fail” and every year I lower the standards because who even knows why I am teaching critical expression to English majors, but this year if I lower the standards again I am expecting to teach literally nothing.

  I’ll tell them all this today. Then tomorrow I’ll tell all this to the dean. The students still have two writing cases to complete and 5 weeks of classes. Maybe this time I’ll get lucky and will, with justification and a righteous heart, strike a mighty blow with my Sword of Fail. I might yet cut down half the crop. In a way I hope it is a large number of failures. Then someone would surely have to take notice, right?

  I actually supposed to give some kind of lecture in about two weeks too, something about teaching methods…..

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