Beijing Diary

More. More, more, and still more. There is yet more about which to complain. If I go on, I will be in danger of repeating myself, just because the flood of complaints to be poured out is of such volume. It might be better if I did not extend my kvetching, then– The backbiting and secret whispers of the Chinese staff against the foreigners, the sanctimony of the principals in charge of us, the platitudes and cliches they offer instead of real solutions to the problems and challenges we face each day, the shifting of blame away from themselves as their own logistics fail, the foreign staff treated as resources rather than educators….

I have one last (I hope) anecdote I will relate before moving on from this hellish place of work:

Just before we took our break for Guo Nian– the Spring Festival, or Lunar New Year– the foreign teachers were called in for a meeting, as we always were on Fridays. The principal in charge of the foreign teachers, himself ethnic Chinese, but Singaporean, conducted the meeting. He warned us that travel outside of Beijing was prohibited because of concerns about the virus, and the extended periods of quarantine that were being enforced not only on people coming into China, but also on those entering Beijing.

He then informed us, smiling, that he would be going back to Singapore to spend the Spring Festival with his family.

Why would he do such a thing? Why would he say such a thing to us? To rub our noses in our own powerlessness? To remind us of our entrapment in China? We have not been able to visit home for the past three years, now. Some of us, while stuck here, have lost family members, including parents. We have not been able to go home to mourn or give comfort. But this evil mendicant cheerfully informs us that he will be with his family while we are warned not to travel outside of the city, even within China– let alone abroad.

These are the kind of people for whom I work. It is my sincerest hope, however, that it will not be for long; The school for which I worked last year in the hutong has reached out to me to ask what my plans for next year are. We are going to discuss working arrangements. The pay there wasn’t stellar; but it was a comfortable life, and I was still able to put money away in savings.

Here’s hoping, eh?

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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