Gulangyu Island, China

bya Gabrielle at 3:40 PM



When I got this card, I was excited because it was my first card from China.  When I read the back of the card, and found out where it had come from, I was even more excited.  Of all of the places in the world that a postcard could have been sent from, this postcard was sent from Xiamen, China, the city I lived in for six months.

Gulangyu is a beautiful little island.  I loved to go there and just walk around because it was quiet – at least once you got off the ferry and ran past the vultures trying to sell you over priced crap.  They loved to try and sell you those annoying magnetic rocks.  It was also quiet because cars are not allowed on the island.  If you want to go anywhere, you either have to walk or take an electric golf cart – which isn’t free.  The island is small, though, so walking isn’t a big deal.

Also, when you are on the island, you sorta feel like you have been transported somewhere in Europe because almost all of the buildings look like the one above – very Victorian.  Why are there Victorian style buildings on a Chinese island?  Well, the island was populated by foreigners for many years following the Treaty of Nanking in 1842.  Most of the buildings were offices and residences of Consulate-Generals.

Guylanyu is particularly famous for its Piano Museum – the only one of its kind in China.  I didn’t visit the museum when I was there, but I’m sure it’s nice.  There are speakers throughout the island that constantly play piano music.  It’s very relaxing.

Another awesome thing about Gulangyu are the trees.  Compared to many other parts of China that I saw, Gulangyu has lots of old trees.  You can sorta see how big they are in the picture.

If you ever find yourself on Gulangyu, I suggest that you either bring some bug spray or leave the island before the sun starts to set.  When I was there I was attacked by the most ferocious mosquitoes.  For a week, I had the biggest, reddest, itchiest mosquito bites that I have ever had in my life.  Mosquitoes don’t normally bother me too much, but man, these were absolutely horrible!

The back of the postcard said the name of the building was Eight Diagram Pagoda, but I don’t think that is right.  For one, the building does not look like a pagoda at all.

If you are visiting Xiamen, you can take the ferry for free to Gulangyu, but when you want to leave, you have to pay one yuan to get back.  Tricky little devils, eh?  You also have the choice to take the ferry, or pay a little extra to take a speed boat.  Unless you are in a huge rush, take the ferry.

Oh, and if you haven’t noticed, I have uploaded all of my postcards.  To see them, click on the photo tab and then click gallery.

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Globe Trotting Maple Extract

bya Gabrielle at 9:50 PM

When Phil and I lived in Fuyang, we really wanted some syrup to go with the pancakes we were trying to make.  Our attempts at making the syrup ourselves never produced Butterworth results.  So, we did the next best thing – we asked my mom to send us a bottle of maple extract to help give our concoction some maple flare.  We didn’t ask for a bottle of syrup because it would have made the box weigh too much and a heavy box sent to China isn’t cheap.  Sending just the syrup probably wouldn’t have cost that much, but our wish list always seemed to grow when we found out someone was going to be sending us some western goodies.  :)

The extract did help with the taste of the syrup, but we could never get the consistency we wanted.  Eventually, we gave up and decided we would just have to wait until we returned back home to get the good stuf.  When it came time to move to Shenyang, we packed it up with all of our other stuff.  We weren’t about to scarifice any of our western goods.

A week after we got to Shenyang, we were told we would be moving again.  Phil and I weren’t particularly pleased that we would be uprooting ourselves again, but we repacked all of our goods up anyway, including our maple extract, and headed to the beautiful city of Xiamen.

In Xiamen, we unpacked everything and refused to pack again unless we were traveling or moving back home.  And for the next three months our maple extract sat quietly on our shelf, unused.  When it came time for us to go back to the States, we offered up all of our western goods to our dear friends, Patty, Eddie, and their daughter Elisa.  We knew they could get some good use out it. Elisa swore it was Christmas when we brought all of our stuff over to them.  :)

Well, up until a few days ago, I would have thought that our maple extract had finally run out of gas and found a permanent home in a landfill in China or some other needy westerner’s cabinet.  Interestingly enough though, neither happened.

Instead, our maple extract jumped on a plane back to the States stashed away in a suitcase – destination Miami – when Patty and her family decided to leave China.  After a short stay there, it decided that it wanted to do some more traveling, and hopped on the next flight to Colombia – the country, not the city where I live.  For the next four weeks our maple extract took in the sights and then decided it wanted to settle down for a spell – somewhere else.  So, off it trotted to the airport and booked passage to Argentina, where for  at this moment in time, it still resides.  At least until Phil and I travel to Argentina next November, pick it up, and bring it back to the States with us.  :)

I don’t know how many miles our little maple extract has traveled, I just know it’s a lot.  Perhaps, there is a section in the Guinness World Records that it would qualify for.

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Once Upon a Time in China Part 7: King For The Day

bya Gabrielle at 2:24 PM

During our May Week vacation in Xiamen, China, Phil and I went to the Taiwanese Folk Village. If you missed the original post about it – you can go here . There are several pictures of the place, but much like the video I am about to show you, many of them have that wretched cloud in the center. Somehow moisture got into my camera. I did everything to dry it out, but Xiamen’s humidity won.

We really had no idea what the show was about, but since the admission to see it was included in our ticket price, we decided to watch it even though we probably wouldn’t understand anything they said. Phil told me that we shouldn’t sit on the front row because we’d be easy targets and probably get asked to participate in something. I wanted a good view, so we sat on the front row anyway.

A few minutes into the show, a man came over to Phil and asked him to participate – in Chinese of course. They tried to get me to go too, but I wanted to stay behind so that I could record it. I laughed so hard that I had I tears streaming down my face.

I really have no idea what important story they were acting out , or why they had Phil drink three shots of liquor.  Phil later said that it reminded him of Everclear. I just thought it was funny, and that you might enjoy watching it. You gotta love China. They think of the craziest ways to amuse people. They really do.

YouTube Preview Image

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Funny Day

bya Gabrielle at 7:00 AM

Yesterday, I wore a skirt to work. It’s not something I do very often. To give you an idea of how often I get all girly, yesterday was the second time since February 13th that I’ve worn something other than pants. So, you can imagine the surprise my boss had when she saw me in one for the first time. (She had been out the last time I wore one). She came into my office to say good morning, but before she could even say that, her eyes got all big, and she said, “You are wearing a skirt?! You mean you have legs?!”

It’s probably silly to you, but it made me laugh.

I had a similar thing happen to me when I walked into my school’s office(WECL) one day wearing a purple dress. The entire staff said, “Wwwoooowwww”, like I had just had a head to two make-over or something. They had never seen my white little legs before either.

Also, yesterday, my mother was nice and gave the three Dennis the Menaces living next door to us each a bag of M&M’s. She did this because they are constantly coming over and asking if we have any snacks or candy. The kids are sweet, they just don’t have any manners. And they most certainly do not understand personal space. We can’t even pull up in our driveway some days without having them swarm our car like vultures. Some days we take bets on whether or not they are going to run over to us when we get home. My brother has started smoking out back so as to avoid them, but because we don’t have a high fence, they can see him back there, too. When they catch a glimpse of him, they hang on the fence and ask him what he is doing or what my cat, Morgan Rose Ireland Yvette DeWitter is doing. They don’t call her that of course. They call her Black Cat.

“Hello, Black Cat! Can we pet your Black Cat? Is your Black Cat mean? Will Black Cat bite us? Is your Black Cat tired? Why is your Black Cat laying down?” The questions never end.

Well, I told my mother that by giving them candy that she was just encouraging them and that it would probably just make them worse. She said she wouldn’t do it very often, but I told her the damage was already done. When we got back from the store a little while later, all three of them came running over to our car.

“Do you have any more M&M’s?”

I looked over at my mother. “I told you so.”

“No, I don’t have any more M&M’s. Sorry,” my mom replied.

My mom and I got out of the car and started walking to our front door. The three of them followed behind us like lost, lonely puppies.

What I heard next both shocked me and made me laugh.

“I wish I was your son,” the little boy said. Like I said, I was shocked. I didn’t know what to say or do, so I laughed. I laughed very loud.

I don’t know who he was talking, me or my mother. I’m guessing my mother, since she was the one to give them the M&M’s in the first place.

“Well, that is very sweet of you,” my mother said.

The two girls then chimed in. “I wish I was your daughter!”

Whether or not they meant it, I don’t know. Perhaps they were trying to pull at my mother’s heart strings in hopes that they would get more candy. When they say that they weren’t getting any, and that we were going inside for the evening, they decided to run back to their house.

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I’m Famous!(Long Overdue)

bya Gabrielle at 1:43 AM

Well, not really, but I can now say that my face graces a website, a few million brochures, a hand full of billboards, and even a few posters. The best part is that none of them are porn related at all!

These pictures are a bit old, but they were a part of a post I started and never finished while I was in China. I thought you guys might get a laugh out of them. In Xiamen, we couldn’t go far without seeing our face somewhere. I kept waiting for a stalker to appear, but the only thing that came close was a random taxi driver that knew exactly where we lived without saying a word.  It totally freaked me out.

If you want to see the website, you can click here.  There is an English version, but the last time I checked, there wasn’t any riveting reading or anything.

A picture of the article that was in the newspaper the day after our pot luck dinner. I made Beanie Weenies, and everyone seemed to enjoy them. One attendee even asked for the recipe, so that she could try making it herself.  I’m in that crowd of people somewhere.  Can you see me?  Oh, instead of taking their food back to a table, all the students and their friends stood around the table the entire time.  It was rather comical, really.

These are two of the brochures that the school would hand out to prospective students.
The small yellow one advertised summer school courses.
The bigger blue one advertised all of the courses offered at the school.

The school purchased several bus stop billboard spaces and slapped our pretty faces on them.  Sometimes we’d be standing there and one of the local people would look at the billboard and then us and then back to the billboard.  They then would point and smile and sometimes laugh.

Same bus stop billboard, but without Phil or myself standing in front of it.

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Beautiful Blossoms

bya Gabrielle at 8:36 PM

If I had the money to buy a little place on Gulangyu, I so would, but I do believe any house on that particular island is completely out of my price range.  I’d have to marry a billionaire first and then have an awesome job that paid in the 6 to 7 figures, too.  It would be a fantastic place to retire or to have a seasonal home.  Any millionaires or billionaires out there want to help make my dreams come true? Just thought I’d ask . . . .

Anyway, the photograph below is one of the trees on Gulangyu.  Phil took a picture of it while we walked around one day. The lighting was just right to make it look like one of those Chinese paintings you see all the time.  Pretty, huh?

Categories: China,Nature,Xiamen
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Naked Baby

bya Gabrielle at 2:22 AM

One of the last times I went to Gulanyu, the island right beside Xiamen, I caught this mother giving her son a bath. I particularly found it cute because she dug a little basin for him. The son did not want anything to do with this bath, however, and kept trying to run from her whenever he got the chance. Every time he’d make a mad dash, the mother would run after him and throw him back in the makeshift tub. As cute as the scene was, I couldn’t help but wonder how clean he was actually getting. I say this because I have walked the beach on Xiamen and Gulangyu and seen the water. Even though this part of the beach wasn’t too bad, I don’t know if I would have made the same decision as this mother. Anyway, I couldn’t help but share. Thought someone out there might enjoy it.

Categories: China,Chinese,Xiamen
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A Cat Fight In My Gmail

bya Gabrielle at 5:49 PM

If you haven’t had the chance to read My Chinese Headache Part 1 and 2, please click here and here. I suppose it’s not completely necessary, but it may make the following emails more humorous if you do.

Phil wanted me to wait until we got home before I posted them just in case the wrong person happened to come across them. He didn’t want to make our lives any more difficult than they were at the time. And I didn’t want to post it until I had the time to explain our reasoning for why we left. Now that we are home, and I finally got around to telling that story, I can now post what is probably the funniest bunch of emails that I have ever received.

There were several more emails than just the three I’m going to let you read, but these were by far the funniest – particularly the two written by Richard Guo(Yuli Guo).   The other one is written by our recruiter, Lea.  Please know that a lot of what Richard says in his emails is hogwash.  The main reason why I’m posting it is because it makes me laugh until my sides hurt.


Yuli Guo(Richard)

To: Phil, Lea, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Sent: Monday, August 20, 2007

Subject: RE: More problems, sorry to bother you.

I have no problem in helping you guys if you ask for my help. But I do have a problem with Lea Walkers who copys the ways blacks were sold in South Carolina before 1865 sells American teachers to China to make evil profits. Her evil ways of doing the business is that she always sell the teachers twice, remember that last year, Tim, the teacher taught in the same place as you did, was sold by Mrs. Walker twice. She charged us for 1000 usd first, then she sold Tim to another school and charged that school again. She made 2000 usd by selling one teacher, which equals

more than 4 months’salary of Tim.  When the teachers she sold in China having difficulties she never gives real help but sending an email to fool both teachers and Jessica about the whole situation. Teachers were not told by Mrs. Walker that how much they were sold. Teachers were also never told that because she cheated the host school which makes the teachers she sent over in a difficult situation. On the surface it seems your contract has no connection with Mrs. Walker’s evil doing, but it closed connected with each other. Phillip and Gabe, don’t worry and no thanks, , we will help both of you go home but always remember that it is Mrs. Walker’s evil way of doing the business that put you guys in a such difficult situation. I do hope you can go to the authority concerned in China and disclose Mrs. Walker’s evil behavior.

Richard Guo

From: Lea
To: Richard, Phil, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Sent: Mon, 20 Aug 2007
Subject: Re: More problems, sorry to bother you.

Guo Yuli:
You are the only evil in the whole process: You breached your contract with our center at the very beginning, and then again and again; and now you are breaching your contract with our teachers. If you didn’t want to pay our recruitment fee, you didn’t have to sign the recruitment contract with us. According to our contract, when you use our teachers for summer, you should pay our center $400/each. You had used 4 of our teachers for this summer, but you told me that you did not need summer teachers, and you did not pay us at all. Look at the attached contract to see how many terms you have been breaching!!! How much money you owe our center? We know why all your business associates and your teachers are sick of you! You are one of the lowest characters that I have ever been dealing with!!! Your SAFEA Certificate should be revoked for all your evil dealings! You don’t have a clue what honesty and credibility mean!
It is a basic Chinese government policy that you use a foreign teacher for one semester, you pay a one-way international airfare and domestic transportation; If they work for you for two semesters, the host school/employer should pay for their round-trip international airfare and the transportation to and from the school. By buying our teachers’ return flights, you are just fulfill your basic responsibilities to our teachers, not a favor from you. Even on our contract, it specifies that you are responsible for our teachers’ international airfare! You are doing yourself a great favor by not going to arbitration so that you can save yourself a breaching penalty of 100,000 Yuan.
If you slander me one more time, you’ll hear from our Attorney in China for all your evil dealings. If you don’t buy our teachers’ return flights before Aug. 30, 2007, I’ll make sure to get your SAFEA Certificate revoked! If you keep being a liar and defaulter, your business is to go down the hill…
My advice to you: Being honest is the best policy!

From: Yuli Guo(Richard)
To: Lea, Phil, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Aug 21, 2007
Subject: RE: More problems, sorry to bother you.

Hey Mrs. Walker,
Too bad, you are not very smart in answering my questions. You faild  to grasp the central point of what I said. I am telling you again what you have been doing is morally wrong. Because you sold Americans teachers the same way as  Black Americans were sold in South Carolina before 1865. From your letter we can all see that you were mad  at  Phillip and Gabe as you were unable to collect your evil money as Phillip and Gabe taught the summer program. They are free Americans. You don’t own them, right? They can do what they want to do. They wanted to teach the summer program, we gave them the opportunity to do so. We freed them from your evil slavery, haha…
If you have the guts, you really should take the case to the Supreme Court of US, not your Henan bloody “lawyer”( remember,I talked to him before and he sounded like a Henan farmer, not a really lawyer, double check it before you pay him, he may do the same as you have been doing to the teachers). 
Oh, by the way, no one told me that you also own SAFEA. We got the SAFEA Certificate more than 15 earlier ago, I wonder why SAFEA forget to ask your permit. You really should ask SAFEA to pay you 1000 usd for failing to ask your approval on the matter. But, I don’t think the Henan lawyer can help you get the 1000 usd from SAFEA.

My advice to you: find some better way and moral way to make money.

Richard Guo

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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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My Chinese Headache Part 1

bya Gabrielle at 12:09 PM

Since it seems like it is going to take longer than I anticipated, I am going to go ahead and post what I have written thus far. I am going to try to finish the second part of this story in the next few days or so. Alright, well, enjoy!

A month or so ago, I was sitting in front of the office computer passing the time away waiting for Phil to be done teaching when Belinda, my local boss, approached me. I knew what she was going to ask long before she opened her mouth. I knew because it was about that time when questions needed to be answered. It was time to see who was going to stay on board for next semester and who was going to be jumping ship and swimming home. I already had my answer, even though it had been difficult one to make. I was just waiting for her to ask.

“Gabe, will you be staying for next semester?” Belinda asked.

“Yes, I will, but Phil won’t.”

“Oh, why?

“Cause he needs to find a computer job either here in China or back home in the States. That is what he studied in school.”

“How long will you be staying?”

“Just one more semester. Maybe more. I don’t know. I’ll make that decision later.”

“Just one?”

“Just one.”

And that was that. She told me that she would get the contract from Beijing soon and off she walked on her two inch heals to her corner office.

Several weeks passed before I got the contract. I wasn’t surprised. Things in China rarely happen quickly when you want them to. It is quiet the opposite when the Chinese want something done – at least from my experiences. I told Belinda that I would have to read over it and make sure that it was OK. There was no way I was going to sign it immediately. I’ve been in China too long to know better.

The contract that she gave me was more or less an identical copy of the first one I had been given for the spring semester. Basically, it was very vague and didn’t protect me in the slightest. This didn’t come as a big surprise or anything. They give all of the teachers the same standard governmental contract. Well, since I had worked under it in the previous semester, I knew of the many flaws and problems it could and would give me. This is why Phil decided to write an amendment to my contract, so that when he left me to go back to America, I wouldn’t be left defenseless.

The amendment ended up being two and half pages long when Phil was done writing it, the same length as the original contract. I want to clarify that the amendment wasn’t asking for anything special. Its soul purpose was to explain in fine detail what my duties as a teacher were, what was to be expected of me, and the school. I didn’t want there to be anyway that anyone could interpret the contract in any other way than the way it should. We sat down and talked to Belinda about this, and she didn’t seem to have any problems with it beside the part that said the school would provide me a safe if I had a roommate. She thought they were expensive even though we tried to tell her we found a small one at Carrefour for 99 RMB. Since it wasn’t that big of a deal, we took it out. Belinda then told us that she would have to ask Richard, our main boss, if this amendment was OK to sign.

A few more days past and we waited. And then we waited some more. Belinda was having a hard time getting a hold of Richard. He supposedly had gone off on some sort of business trip or else he was trying to hide because he knew we needed his approval. He has a tendency to do things like that. Finally, Belinda came to us and said with a rather large frown upon her face, “Richard says that it is impossible because all teachers get the same lame contract so that he has every opportunity to screw them eight ways to Sunday.”

Ok, ok, that is not what she really said, but that is what she meant to say, I know it. What she really said was this, “Richard says that it is impossible. He said that all teachers get the same contract.”

My response was,” Nothing is impossible and you need to let Richard understand that I will not sign a contract that I don’t feel comfortable with. We can either reach an agreement, or I just won’t sign.”

It was then that we decided to talk to Richard ourselves. Looking back on it now, I think I should have decided to leave right then and there. There is no reason we ever should have had to argue over the amendment with anyone to the extent that we did. It was written in a very fair and reasonable manner and any half decent person would have realized that and signed it without hesitation. The problem is that we were not dealing with a half decent man and a part of me really A) wanted to stay and B) thought we could eventually work something out with him. I guess a year in China hadn’t taught me everything I needed to know yet because like I said, looking back on it now, I would never had put myself through the hassle. It wasn’t worth it. Not even in the slightest.

Flash forward a day or so. I was back in the office sitting in front of the computer wasting time as I waited for Phil to be done with teaching again when Belinda poked her head around the corner. She was holding her cell phone in her hand.

“It’s Richard,” she said. “He wants to talk to you.” She turned and started walking down the hallway to her office. She wanted me to follow.

My heart fluttered and the quiet and still butterflies in my tummy awoke and started to jump around like mammoth bunnies. I was alone, and I hated that. I hate talking to Richard by myself because he is a bully and a manipulator. You would think knowing that little bit of information would help me immensely and it does, but I really don’t like dealing with his manipulating ass over the phone. He comes off a lot more tough over the phone and very rarely can you win an argument with him, but in person he almost nearly folds. I took a deep breath and said hello while silently praying that Phil would somehow figure out where I was and save me from this asshole.

Our conversation started out nice enough, but it took all of three minutes before we started to argue. We weren’t yelling at each other or anything, and that was nice, but God, I had to try so hard not to. There were many times I wanted to jump up and down on Belinda’s desk and yell every dirty word in every language I could think of at him, but I restrained myself, barely. He didn’t like my amendment idea at all and he really, really didn’t like the idea that I wanted to make sure that the current contract agreement about my airfare being paid in full whenever it was that I decided to go home for good would continue on with my new contract. That was why we came to WECL in the first place. Our old school in Fuyang only agreed to pay up to 5,000 RMB for a flight home and so our recruiter was forced to find us a school that wouldn’t mind paying for the full cost.

At this point, I really wish that I could just hit a play button so that you could hear everything that was said in the next three hours. That would make this much more simple. There is just so much to say and I have no where to begin. The only thing I can do is sum it up, I guess, or else this particular blog will end up being a mile long.

For the first hour or so, I argued with him alone. He started by saying he didn’t have time to argue because he was so busy and that I should just go ahead and sign it and that we could talk about the details later. I think I laughed hysterically when he said that – or least I did in my head. He must have thought I was a complete idiot. Finally, he relented and we started going through the amendment one point at a time. For the rest of the hour we’d played tennis or perhaps I should say badminton, since I’m here in China. Someone is almost always playing it in the street. Anyway, he’d serve a ridiculous bird of a reason why he couldn’t do something at me, then I would immediately smack the bird back into his court and tell him that he could and why. There were a few things that he was OK with like the part that said if I were to have a roommate that the person would be a girl and . . . well, I think that was the only part in which he agreed.

As much as I like to argue, I actually didn’t argue that much with Richard. For those of you who know me well, I know that that comes as a great shock to you. :) When he said no about something, I tried two or three different ways to convince him that it was crucial to have or I wouldn’t sign. When that didn’t work, I just stopped arguing that particular part all together telling him I would think about removing it but that I probably wouldn’t. Richard didn’t want to compromise at all. He just wanted me to go ahead and give up and sign his supposed governmental contract. I say supposed because I don’t think it followed many if any of the government standards. If it didn’t protect me, he didn’t care. And that is how it went for an hour or so. Nothing was solved and I was no nearer to signing than I was before. Sometime toward the end of our fruitless argument, Phil showed up. It didn’t take him very long to figure out that I was frustrated and pissed and that the conversation was going absolutely no where. At this point, my conversation was done with Richard. In fact, I haven’t spoken to him since. It was Phil’s turn to argue.

Phil took the phone from me and preceded to have almost the exact same conversation that I had just had with Richard. The only difference was that Phil was being much more of hard ass and wasn’t budging at all about anything and was not afraid to call Richard out on everything illegal or wrong that he had tried to pull with us or with anyone – which happens to be a whole freaking lot. This probably wasn’t the smartest move to make at the time, but Phil was just being honest. He was probably getting more enjoyment out of the situation than he should, too, but that is because Phil likes to argue even more than I do. They argued for about two hours like this. I could hear the anger in Phil’s voice rising, and it wasn’t excessively hard to hear Richard’s voice belting out of the ear piece. After two hours though, nothing was solved. We were still at the predicament that had brought us here. Richard wasn’t going to change the contract and I wasn’t going to sign. Phil hung up and the ulcers in my stomach started to grow. I could smell trouble.

This only scratches the surface, and like I said, I wish that I had some way of telling you what exactly was said over the phone to Richard because it would surely make this post that more exciting. If you have read any of my previous posts about Richard Guo, that may give you some idea of what we were dealing with. If not, just imagine the most vile person you think you’ve ever met, multiply that by say one million, and you’ll have something that resembles Richard in your imagination. The real thing is much worse. Trust me on that.

So, more or less, I was left with a decision. I could either stay in Xiamen with a contract I didn’t agree with/trust or go home. Even though I liked Xiamen and WECL I had to weigh both options carefully. If I stayed, Richard or someone beneath him would probably find a way screw me especially after the fiasco mentioned above. If I went home, I would have to go back to my normal Western life and look for a job and what not and all those other things that I would become responsible for again. The decision was much more difficult to make than I thought it would be, but thankfully I had several days to think it over before I had to sit before Belinda and report.

As I said in my last post, I reached the decision that it was probably best that I go home and that is what I told Belinda. I was nervous as a twit walking into her office and sitting on her plush sofa. I hated that I had to tell her that I was changing my mind, but I think she understood why I had to make that decision. Belinda doesn’t like Richard either and she knows as well as I what kind of man he is. Why she ever decided to be his business partner is beyond me. Hopefully, one day she will abandon him and start her own school. Perhaps then I could teach for her. Our meeting went surprising well. There were only a few instances that she tried to convince me to stay, telling me that she thought everything would be OK. I wanted to say sure, no problem, sign me up, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t sign a contract based on one person’s hope.

It was then that the subject of tickets home were first mentioned. We informed her that we would need the school to organize our tickets for us, but that we weren’t sure exactly sure of the date yet. At this point, we were intending to travel and thinking about acquiring an L visa so that we could stay a bit longer. Neither one of us was in any hurry to get home. We told her that we would have to count our cash and look at a calendar, but that we would get back to her tomorrow. She said no problem, and we took off to our apartment. We were mostly all smiles then. Even though things hadn’t worked out with my new contract and Richard, at least we were going home and the school was taking care of it. Or so we thought.

After looking at our finances and discussing whether or not it would be worth it to get an L visa and stay a little longer, we decided against it. We didn’t feel like going through the hassle of applying and possibly being denied for whatever reason and having to find a cheap place to stay for how many days that we would be staying extra. It just seemed easier to get going. It made the most sense.

The next morning we came back to the school and told Moon, the head of the office staff, that we wanted to leave on the 30th of August, the day our visa expired. Yeah, it was cutting it close, but it would give us the most time to see and do everything that interested us in and around Xiamen. She said she would start looking for tickets and get back to us soon. She asked if Richard was going to pay, and we told her yes, he told us that he would. Plus, it was written in our contract that he had to.

Through our experiences in China, we decided that it would be best to go back to the school the next morning and double check on the status of our tickets home. Surprisingly, Moon had been able to find tickets for us – sort of. Apparently, like many things in China, buying plane tickets is an entirely different beast. Moon said that the agency always says that the international tickets are sold out and that in order to have a chance to get them, you have to apply for them. You have to give them all of your information like passport number, where you are going, and why. It didn’t make much sense to me. The tickets that she was applying for weren’t the best in the world, but they would get us home after a 11 hour layover in Seoul, South Korea and some what of a quick stop in DC. So, we had to wait another day to find out whether or not and when we would be going home.

Like a broken record, we woke up bright and early and went back to the school the next morning to find out if our application had been approved. The look on Moon’s face told us the whole story before she had time to open her mouth.

“There are no tickets available.”

We argued with her for awhile trying to explain that there were tickets available because we had seen them on the internet via Expedia and Travelocity. We even printed them out and showed her the flight numbers and the cost. Her eye brows raised at how much the tickets were going for. They were expensive – something like $1200 each. Phil and I tried to help by finding other agencies that sold international tickets and gave Moon all the numbers. She called them and they all told her the same thing. There were no tickets.

. . . .

Until I sit down and finish this story, you’ll have to use your imagination. Soon I will be uploading a lot more pictures that I didn’t post while I was in China. I just have to get them from Phil. Also, Phil should be finishing the new location of my blog soon. It is very impressive.

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