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Transitions

I crossed the Pacific yet again. It was a last-minute purchase, Shanghai-Seoul-San Francisco on Asiana Airlines. It isn’t the worst airline I suppose. The last days in China left me deflated and exhausted – with a slight chuckle at an especially brutal attack by the gods of irony.

There is no need to discuss why I am once again in California, that much has already been said. However, there was a sting I have not mentioned – one that I wasn’t intended to receive. On the Monday of my last full week in China I was returning from supermarket. The school where I had worked was across the street. The head teacher arranged for a welcoming parade for their wonderful new teacher – she’s American so she has to be perfect and walk on water. The entire school had to stand for her, music playing, Chinese and American flags flying – and they proceeded to march for her. Yes, they had a welcoming parade for her. Seeing that felt like someone tearing off a scab and rubbing salt into the wound. The following weekend I actually saw their angelic, god-like American. I could smell her before I saw her – she’s as averse to bathing as the SNP are to economic reality. She is taller than me, larger than me – all 5’9”, 12.5 stone of me. She has a horrid tattoo and is from South Georgia and speaks with the most hideous southern drawl. She is far worse at the job than I was. Her reputation is as fragrant as she is. But, she is an American, the gift of the gods to the earth, so everything is wonderful now.

There are a few details that the man who arranged this nightmare for me will have to sort through once he arrives in China, but I am largely done with the place. I was accepted into one of Spain’s better training programmes and am set to start in March. As strange as it sounds I rather like this type of work. Even more strangely, I enjoy working with children. Save anything terribly unpleasant happening I should be fully integrated into the working world of Madrid by May at latest.

Since arriving in California things have largely been very pleasant. I was immediately accepted back into the fold of things and will by the end of this week be back to my old habits. I can’t say that I’m especially energetic or happy at the moment, though. I am also not sure I made the right decision in leaving China – despite all evidence supporting my hasty departure from the dragon’s den!

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Categories: General
  1. November 3, 2015 at 6:51 am

    Just deserts for the Chinese perhaps. Glad you can smile again, Christopher.

  2. O Zangado
    November 3, 2015 at 9:25 am

    Chin up! The world is your lobster.

    OZ

  3. O Zangado
    November 3, 2015 at 9:28 am

    Janus – Deserts?

    OZ

  4. November 3, 2015 at 9:59 am

    Yes!! Deserts with one ‘s’ in the middle is correct; pronounced as though there were two (stress on the second syllabub 🙂 )

  5. November 3, 2015 at 10:25 am

    Easy to remember: deserts is wot you deserve! 😏

  6. O Zangado
    November 3, 2015 at 11:31 am

    Thank you both. One is never too old to learn.

    OZ

  7. sheona
    November 3, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    Glad you are safe and sound, Christopher, though sorry that you are now starting to ha’e yer doots.

  8. christinaosborne
    November 3, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    I am at a bit of a loss to understand why you used your German identity in China. Common sense would have dictated that you used your American one. Surely your West Coast American accent was/is far better than the replacement? The slants want to emulate America, not Europe!
    Are you sure that you are not being a victim of your own prejudices?
    I know you don’t like America but not everyone feels the same way. Surely a judicious use of you dual identities would be far more advantageous to you in your globe trotting?
    The boy carried both USA and UK passports and was extremely careful as to which he used where, net result, he was welcome everywhere. On his ‘stans trip the USA passport was left firmly at home! All the visas lined up in his UK one, much more safe and palatable to the natives.

    Suggest you get over your prejudices and start boxing clever with your nationalities to your own personal advantage. Let the China mishap be a serious lesson to you. You have the innate advantage of being able to present yourself as what the recipient want to see, use it for what it is worth to your own advancement. You can always be what you want to be in private!

    I make the assumption that you do carry a USA passport to which you are entitled? That for some bizarre reason you have not refused to get one and only carry an EU one?

    Sorry to sound so minatory but you seem to be doing yourself no favours at the moment!

  9. November 3, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    I am not following your conversations for a long time, but from a rather listening perspective it all sounds as though others judge you differently than you see yourself. It might be worthwhile thinking about these differences in more detail. I did a ‘self-examination’ that lasted a year after my retirement last october and I feel much better for it now.

    CO – I as well try to ‘change my identity’ depending where I am, as I can come across as anglophile or german, that helps certainly even depending where you are in Spain, let alone England or Germany.

  10. November 3, 2015 at 6:36 pm

    Janus, OZ, Sheona: thank you. She’ll be right. I’m still in a slight state of shock but slowly getting my nerves– and senses! back.

    CO: I didn’t use a German passport in China, CO. I had to fly to the US, find a place to stay for months and may more than twice as much for the bloody visa and then have the thing posted from the UK to California and finally to Germany! And I do not have a West Coast accent — my pathetic attempt at imitating one left one of my California-born friends slightly confused. She couldn’t even pick up for the first 5 minutes that I was trying to speak in one and then wasn’t entirely certain that I wasn’t mocking her! I say three words and people know I’m from Europe. I do not carry myself like an American, either. Americans know I’m European, Europeans know I’m European and even the Chinese after a few minutes,especially those who have met people from a number of Western countries, pick up on the fact that I’m from Europe within a few minutes — if not by accent certainly by demeanour. I won’t insult anyone’s intelligence — best not to fool yourself into thinking my skills in the art of deception are better than they are!

    There was no lesson for me to learn in respect to the China mishap. I was ordered to transfer because the head teacher and the president of the HR company that hired me can’t stand the sight — or the sound — of each other. I was simply the easiest target, the most convenient scapegoat. Shunting me aside was an easy way to create chaos for the HR company. He assumed — correctly — that I could easily find another job in China. I had at least 10 offers within a week. Another point could be scored and life would carry on. No one expected me to plan a return to Europe!

  11. November 3, 2015 at 6:40 pm

    FoE: I’m painfully self-aware and analytical to the point of neurosis. Being honest is the only thing that is really viable — I don’t have to say everything, and knowing what to emphasise is a crucial skill but blatantly lying carries more risks than possible benefits.

  12. christinaosborne
    November 3, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    Ah, explains a lot.
    Why can’t you pass for an American?
    You grew up there and surely went to school there?
    You are multi lingual and must make an effort to improve your accent when in any country where you know the lingo, couldn’t you try for the next few months to try to do an American accent?
    And technically you are half American, your father’s half?!
    Have you spent too much time being European at the expense of the other half.
    I’m not trying to be difficult with this, I just fail to understand why you cannot pass when you have spent most of your life (to my understanding) in the USA.
    I think frauoh gets my drift from her comment above.

    I never fool myself, being the world’s worst at integrating anywhere ‘foreign’ I don’t try! Just get more British by the decade! Shout louder at the wogs syndrome. Would have been in my element in the British Raj!
    Pity no Empire left!!!
    But it strikes me you should be able to pass if you actually wanted to.

  13. November 3, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    Christopher, what I meant had nothing to do with lying, deception or honesty, just with different viewpoints, beliefs and priorities of the people you have dealings with….yes, I guess if you cannot convince your customers you are worse off in this world and a bit of luck to be in the right place at the right time comes with it, or sometimes not. I would as well better move on, if I were in your position. New opportunities are better than hanging around, where your heart is not anymore.

  14. November 3, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    CO: the USA generally bores me to tears. It is expensive, over-rated and bloody impossible to do very much in! From the start I had no real interest in it and saw no need to “blend in” with people I generally dislike. Huns annoy, but at least they have substance. As for my father’s half — I’m not entirely sure he hasn’t died of an overdose or recreated Judy Garland’s demise by drinking himself to death. He’s not the best example!
    Americans have used tactics violent and psychological to try to force me to integrate and have failed utterly. My lack of integration is a badge of honour. I have a fundamentally antagonistic relationship with the US — I even preferred being in China!

    No, I really couldn’t pass as an American — no more than you could. With time I only grow more European, an odd Anglo-German hybrid. That is what suits me best, that is what matches my personality. I’m far too old and set in my ways to be anything else. Quite frankly I do better with Japanese, Taiwanese, Koreans and Hong Kongers than Americans and I get on much better with Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders and Britons than Americans. The only people I’ve had as little interest in as Americans are the Irish of the Southern 26 Counties.

    My linguistic skills are not as wondrous as they’re made out to be. I get by reasonably well in Japanese, although I have a slightly guttural Germanic accent. I do reasonably well with Latin-based languages, yet, I have a notable Germanic accent when I speak. The only language I do not sound terribly Germanic when I speak is German. I speak it with a British accent. My efforts at speaking Danish and Swedish have met with questions concerning the exact location of my origins in England.

    FoE: there are many opportunities. I was sad to leave China, but there was no way I could have retained even a scrap of dignity had I remained. I might well return — on a German passport, with all terms clearly understood and agreed upon and written in advance. To quote Shakespeare, “This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day.Thou canst not then be false to any man”.

  15. christinaosborne
    November 3, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    Well California may be that expensive, but here in the NW our prices are roughly 60% of the UK currently. I couldn’t believe the prices there, God know how ordinary people live these days, very badly I would have thought.

    Good luck with Spain, perhaps they will be more civilised to a Germanic type!
    Still think you should be looking at international outfits, (UN, charities etc) for a job rather than teaching, especially as you write so well.

  16. sheona
    November 3, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    Sometimes I think that the best nationality to be is Scottish. It seems to be welcome everywhere, even if only with inane questions about the Loch Ness monster, and is better received than English.

  17. November 4, 2015 at 12:24 am

    CO: California is disgustingly expensive. It’s not much different than the UK. Wages are generally higher than the average the hovel festering on Canada’s southern flank so it isn’t as horrid as it seems. Still, having spent time in Denmark and Australia the UK doesn’t seem that bad in comparison!

    I quite enjoy teaching. I will not be rich but there will always be employment. After accreditation and a few years experience job offers come in from around the world. I’m very, very particular about where I live and what I do. I am similarly particular concerning where I travel. Thus, international outfits are virtually impossible as I refuse to go to the miserable places they tend to be based — NYC, for example, or Switzerland.

  18. November 4, 2015 at 12:25 am

    CO: Scots are seen as being less over-bearing than the English. Clearly they’ve never seen the SNP. Canadians, New Zealanders and Aussies are also generally well-received.

  19. November 4, 2015 at 7:39 am

    Backside alert! The English are best, as every fule know….😬

  20. November 4, 2015 at 11:03 am

  21. Boadicea
    November 4, 2015 at 11:09 am

    I”ve followed this with interest – since at one time I was tempted to try teaching in China. Never got around to it.

    I see Christopher you have referred to my favourite Shakespearean quotation. I use my Australian / British passports for ease of travel – but I could not under any circumstances ‘pretend’ to be other than I am, which is still really English – so I have a great deal of sympathy with your position Christopher…

    … and also support Janus’s comment!

  22. Boadicea
    November 4, 2015 at 11:15 am

    Well how about that, while I was writing my comment, Bearsy found the song to express Backside’s opinion exactly!

  23. November 4, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    Yes I agree and can say as a non-english born, that I am very glad to be married with one….

  24. November 4, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    Thank you, Bearsy!

    Janus: of course!

    Boadicea: teaching in China can be a good experience and it can be highly profitable. It requires a great deal of patience and willingness to tolerate inordinate levels of incompetence. I was simply unwilling to be pushed or thrown around. Most people have to take one or two rough transfers before the dust settles. My experience was unusually bad, although not unheard of.

    I generally use my German passport for all travel and only use a US one for entering/exiting the USA as that is the law. It’s far easier that way. I don’t really like Germany and have precious little in common with most Germans, even less vis-a-vis the US and Americans but that’s the hand I was dealt. I am happy enough to have been able to carve a niche for myself in the UK, Australia, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

    FoE: it could be worse, you could have been Belgian!

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