Changes, and Life in a Beijing Lock-down

Greetings and felicitations! The first thing my readers will notice (if I have any left, that is), is that I’ve updated the name of the Blog, as well as the structure thereof. I removed several pages, changed a few links, and so on. I also linked a website I am setting up, because I was being repeatedly advised that I needed a “platform” from which to sell my writing.

Well, I know very little about marketing and promotion, but having extra time on my hands as we all do these days, I thought I’d make the effort.

When I originally set up this blog, the only book I had written, or had expected to write, was Medousa. However, I now have another (much smaller) book out, and there are others in process. The first draft of one manuscript has been completed, and awaits proper editing, and its inevitable rewrites, and one is in the research/written fragments stage. So, the actual website I started setting up takes all this into account. I changed the non-functional link on the home page to bring up the website.

And, because I am apparently unable to let things go when finished, I have sent my manuscript of my first novel for a developmental edit. There are numerous small things I want to update and change, and I know there is a certain amount of repetition I wish to excise, and too much “not allowing the reading audience to extrapolate themes themselves,” and so I need to remove a few “sledgehammer passages.” Thank the Nabu’s Iron Stylus that Amazon/KDP publishing will allow me to simply upload a new MS without fuss.

While life has been slowly getting back to normal here in Beijing, I have still not been able to return to work. Fortunately, I am still under contract until July of this year, so I am still receiving my salary. As you may remember, I am a schoolteacher here in China. I have been scripting video lessons for our students, and recording dialogues for their English classes.

Banks were completely shut down for almost a month, then were opened for only one day a week. They are open for regular hours, now, weekdays only. And many of the small shops, mom and pop groceries, and even many eateries, are open now. However, to enter, your temperature is checked to make sure you’ve no fever, you must be wearing a proper mask, and everyone is kept at least two meters apart. Even the riverside park is often full of people milling about and enjoying the sunshine (masked, of course, and discretely keeping their distance from one another).

Yet for all of this, there are also many empty storefronts. Businesses that were unable to weather the storm. And, as I noted above, schools are still closed. Life is far from normal, but neither is it quite so bitter and uncertain as it was at the beginning of the quarantine period.

It saddens and angers me to know that I am safer here in China than I would be at home in the United States. I am afraid for family and friends who must somehow survive this crisis without federal leadership or aid. On the one hand, it is refreshing to see communities from the state level on down coming together (for the most part) to help one another. On the other, I am outraged at the incompetence and malice shown by the elected leaders at the federal level.

It also disappoints me that I can’t be with friends and family at such a time. I had been scheduled to return to the United States in July and August, before the start of the new school year here. I had originally scheduled my flight in December of 2019. I had hoped that America would get a handle on the viral plague like Taiwan or South Korea. Alas, no such luck.

Delta was at least accommodating; while they did not refund my ticket, I have been given credit for the money I spent against a new reservation. I have until September of 2022. With all the faults of the airline industry, I must admit, I’ve always had good customer service from Delta, may Hermes bless those employees.

A friend once posited that one should no attribute to malice what can be attributed to incompetence and stupidity. I posit the corollary that in sufficient quantities, incompetence and stupidity are indistinguishable from malice. And that is where American “leadership” is now.

I will not here belabor the fact that the current administration had dismantled and defunded all the infrastructure meant to protect us in the event of a pandemic such as we are now experiencing, nor yet the fact that the current kakistocrats are using the pandemic as an opportunity to further rob the public coffers. It makes me angry and sad, and I have no power to affect any of it. Except to privately bemoan my fate of not having been born in a civilized country. Or, perhaps more charitably and accurately, to have been born at a time when the parasite class began to dismantle the socioeconomic framework of American democracy simply to enrich themselves.

While I have been relatively happy and Liangxiang High School here in Fangshan District, I will not be returning in the fall. I was informed last month that the municipal funding with which they are able to retain foreign teachers is not being renewed for the upcoming school year, and so I will be moving on. I don’t know exactly where I’ll be in September, but I will either be in Chaoyang District teaching Literature, or I will be in Daxing District teaching History. Of the two, I am hoping for the post in Chaoyang. While it will be a pain in the ass to move from Fangshan, Chaoyang is the “Embassy District” of Beijing, so I will be much closer to the heart of the city, and would have access to far more Western amenities than I do here on the outskirts of the Sixth Ring Road. (I’m dreaming of having a bagel and sitting at a coffee shop to do my writing and editing.)

Although I am a schoolteacher, I actually work for a company which contracts teachers out to local schools. They negotiate contracts for us with public schools, make sure we have legal residence and work papers, and assist us in finding accommodations, and generally look after us. The school pays them, and we, in turn, are paid from those fees. Think of it as akin to an office temp company that pays a living wage. They also make sure taxes are taken from our paychecks, and that we have access to national health services.

For the umpteenth time, I am going to try to make regular updates. And, because of the lockdown and it’s unavoidable economic consequences, I am trying to figure out on Amazon how to offer my books at reduced cost, or free, for as long as I can get away with it.

If you’re still with me at this point, stay tuned!

About Michael Butchin

I was born, according to the official records, in the Year of the Ram, under the Element of Fire, when Johnson ruled the land with a heavy heart; in the Cradle of Liberty, to a family of bohemians. I studied Chinese language and literature at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. I spent some years in Taiwan teaching kindergarten during the day, and ESOL during the evenings. I currently work as a high school ESOL teacher, and am an unlikely martial artist. I have spent much of my life amongst actors, singers, movie stars, beautiful cultists, Taoist immortals, renegade monks, and at least one martial arts tzaddik. I currently reside in Beijing's Dongcheng district
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