My Chinese Headache Part 2

bya Gabrielle at 6:35 AM

Okay, I know that it has taken me a long time to get the rest of this story down, but I guess late is better than never.  I’m not going to go into as much detail as I did last time because then I’ll never get this done, but I’ll at least cover the basics.

To sum up the story, my school, or rather, the president of my school lied and tried to get away with it.  The president, Richard – Yuli Guo, thought that he could push Phil and I around and get us to pay our own way home.  He thought that we would not fight for what was our legal right.  Apparently, he has pushed a lot of people around since he became the president of WECL and has gotten what he wanted more times than not.  I think that he thought we were young and stupid, but he underestimated us.

This is what happened in a nut shell.

The school tried to feed us the cock and bull story that there weren’t any tickets left, but the truth of the matter was that Richard just didn’t want to pay what the tickets cost.  They had known well in advance that we were going home.  They just waited until the last minute like they usually do with all other important things.  Once we found this out, we pulled out our contracts and read what was clearly stated on our contract.  Our contracts read in plain English that the school was required to pay our one way international ticket home.  Richard played dumb at this point and asked to have us fax a copy to him.  The funny part is that he personally signed and sent a copy of the original to me and Phil when we decided to teach a semester for him.

We sent him a copy of the contract as he asked and about a day later he told us that he wasn’t responsible.  He said that we should read the contract more carefully before we continued to harass him about paying for our tickets.  Well, we didn’t stop harassing him and that didn’t make him happy at all.  We started doing research to figure out how to get him to pay what he was supposed to.  We also saw at the bottom of our contract a beautiful statement that said if either of the parties broke the contract that between 10,000 and 100,000 yuan was to paid to the other party.  Whether we were going to get that if he didn’t pay for our tickets we didn’t know, but we were going to use it as a backup plan if need be.

For several days, Phil talked to Richard on the phone and argued with him that it was his responsibility to get us home.  At one point he said OK that he’d take care of it, but after talking to our support staff we found he had told them a completely different story.  He had no intention in paying for our tickets.   Richard knew that our visa was going to expire soon and that we would have to leave before that happened.  I think that he was hoping that we would get scared and fly home on our on dime.  Thankfully, our support staff was trying to figure out how to get an extension for us or a possible L visa if it came to staying longer.  We weren’t going to leave until we found out someone else had forked over the cash for our plane tickets.

At another point he said he would pay the cost of what our tickets would have cost if we had left in September because that is when they are cheaper or he would give us 5,000 yuan each.  Either way it wouldn’t cover the cost of what the tickets cost now.  So, we told him no and that we were only going to accept the full amount. 

As all of this was going down, we decided to contact the person who had originally sent us to China and ask her for help.  She gave us the contact information for a woman at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing and told us good luck. We sent the lady at the Ministry an email and hoped for the best.  When we didn’t hear from her we contacted our agency again and asked if she could do anything else to help us out.  She then decided to send the lady at the Ministry an email herself.  The email she sent was also sent to Richard.  We weren’t expecting her to do that.  You can only imagine what her email caused. 

Bright and early the next morning our phone rang.  It was Richard and he wanted to talk to Phil.  For the next 30 minutes or so Richard let Phil have it for involving our agency and the Ministry in our problem.  I didn’t have to ask Phil what was going on because I could hear Richard perfectly.  The man was mad. Fuming mad.  Smoke was seeping from our cell phone.  He screamed at Phil that he was trying his best to find us our tickets and a whole bunch of bull crapity crap.  Although, it could be possible that as soon as he got that email he sent Joe, his lacky, out to find us tickets even if it meant he had to rip it out of some poor dead man’s hands.  I seriously doubt that though. 

For the next few days we called and harassed Richard trying to figure out when he was going to have our tickets, and eventually he stopped taking our calls.  Apparently, we were starting to annoy him.  We then had to direct all of our inquires to our support staff – which didn’t know a whole lot and couldn’t get real answers from him either.  I was starting to get nervous at this point in time because it was just a week or so until our visa expired.  I was just hoping that Richard would somehow come through and give us what we deserved. 

It wasn’t too long(a day or so) after this that we got a call from Joe telling us to go to the school.  He had faxed over our a copy of our e-tickets and wanted us to make sure that we were okay.  We ran to the school and ripped the piece of paper from the fax machine.  All of the information on it was alright so we called him back and gave him the okay to actually purchase them.  We saved the numbers and later confirmed them with United.  They were legit, thank God.  Richard bought us tickets that would fly us from Beijing to D.C and then on to Columbia.  I guess the Ministry possibly getting involved in our problem and the possibility of having to pay us 10,000 – 100,000 yuan – made him search a little harder for the supposedly non-existence plane tickets.

After we were done celebrating that we were going home, the thought of how we were going to get to Beijing crossed our mind.  Richard had mentioned that we would have to take a train from Xiamen and that the school would pay for it.  We thought it would be a good idea to go double check with the school and make sure.  For those of you who don’t know, Xiamen is 33 hours away from Beijing and 33 hours on a Chinese train is a long time, especially if you are in anything other than a soft seat.  Well, when we told the school they knew nothing about our train trip to Beijing.  Our support staff called Richard to find out what was going on and what they had to tell us wasn’t at all amusing.  Richard wanted us to take a 33 hour train ride with all of luggage to Beijing on a hard seat.  I think we hit the floor. 

The bad part was that there was no way we were going to be able to get him to upgrade us to a soft seat.  Richard was responsible for getting us to Beijing, but no where was there written down how he was supposed to get us there.  Thankfully, we were able to convince him to give us what he would pay for the train tickets toward whatever other transportation we chose. So, we each got a whopping 250 yuan credit each.

After some research, we found that the only way we could fly to Beijing from Xiamen with all of our luggage was by buying a first class ticket which would cost us 2350 yuan each.  The thought of dragging our luggage behind us all the way to Beijing didn’t seem fun at all.  We’d done that from Fuyang to Beijing and that freaking sucked more than you can think it did.  Desperate to get home as soon and as painlessly as we could, we decided to fork up the money for the first class ticket to Beijing.  What else were we going to spend that money on?  Even if we took it back to the states and had it converted, it wouldn’t be that much in American money.

The last difficult decision we had to make was how to get to the airport.  The school wasn’t offering to take us, so we had to think of a way to cart all of our suitcases to the main road at 5:00 o’clock in the morning to catch two taxis.  The one thing I’ve learned from coming to a foreign country for a year is to bring as little as humanly possible.  If I had known that before I had flown to China, I wouldn’t have brought three suitcases and a backpack stuffed full of crap. 

The night before we left Xiamen, we got a call from one of the support staff.  She told us that the school had arranged for two taxis to come and take us to the airport.  This made me happy.  It meant I was only going to have to tug all of my suitcases halfway to the main road.  Come that morning though there were no taxis like we were promised and we had to drag our suitcases to the main road anyway.

Two hours later we flying out of Xiamen and we thought all of problems were behind us.  Oh, how I wish that were true.

After waiting 8 hours at our terminal at the Beijing airport, they finally called us to board the plane.  As we handed over our boarding passes we were asked to step aside. I thought we were getting the random search, but it didn’t turn to be that easy or cheap.  The woman before us informed that no matter what we were told by a United Airlines spoke person had said, we were allowed to take only one carry-on and that we would either have to A) throw one away or B) pay $142.00 each to have one of them checked.  We couldn’t quite throw away the stuff in either one of our bags, so after arguing with one another for 15 minutes I handed over my credit card.

16 hours later I was back in Columbia.

It’s going to be a good long while before I head back to China.  Man has yet to invent an Advil pill big enough.

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