“Tai Hu” is Chinese for “Great Lake”. It is a large lake in north-western Zhejiang Province and south-western Jiangsu Province. To the north is Suzhou, a place which in the past was known as the “Venice of the East” due to its many beautiful canals, merchant culture and fabulous wealth. The emphasis is “on the past” as the canals have largely been filled in and, other than for what has become in effect a motley collection of tourist traps, the grand houses and gardens of the past have been levelled to make room for generic neo-Stalinist concrete blocks. T0 the south is Huzhou, a city with just as rich a past as Suzhou but none of the glamour and fame.
Today the Huzhou manager visited me unannounced. The principal of the primary school ordered my transfer and replacement with a teacher currently in southern Zhejiang Province. The order was not a dismissal nor was it based on character or ability. Most students and teachers have mentioned that they simply thought that I was in the wrong position although they recognised that I was sincere in my efforts. The Huzhou manager offered me a choice of schools — high schools an universities — located throughout China and hinted that a pay rise would be acceptable to the company as a manner of apology for the inconvenience caused.
I gave them an ultimatum. They could send me to any of the following places:
- Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
- Taitung, Taiwan.
- Tainan, Taiwan.
- Hong Kong
Should none of these locations be remotely possible I requested that my contract be paid out in full to the end of the original year and arrangements for my repatriation to Europe be made. They offered me anywhere, anything else in China — anywhere from Jilin in the frozen norths of Manchuria to Zhuhai or Shenzhen, the last towns on the former Sino-Lusitanian and Anglo-Chinese frontiers respectively. I re-iterated my conditions: Taiwan, Hong Kong or Japan. I will not be subjected to this degree of back-biting, back-stabbing, defamation and general incompetence with impunity.