Sunday, December 31, 2017

Oh, The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

It was during my TEFL training that I got the news about Tom Petty's death, which just adds more poignancy to that song as it's been playing repeatedly in my head these past few weeks.

Life is short, and when something you want is right in front of you, coming your way, but still just out of reach... yes, the waiting is the hardest part.

I thought I'd be celebrating the arrival of 2018 in China.

But you know what they say about the best-laid plans of mice and men. So yesterday, when I thought I'd be eating lunch in my new China town, I was eating lunch in L.A.'s Chinatown instead. (Dim Sum at Tian's... good stuff.)

Unfortunately, too many people have scammed the Chinese government by using teaching as a pretense to get a work visa, entering the country, then doing something else. So China has taken measures to stop the scammers by being a lot stricter in its application process. I don't blame them for doing it -- it's an appropriate response to a serious problem -- but it does make things a lot more difficult for those of us with pure intentions.

One bad apple may not
spoil the whole bunch,
but a lot of bad apples
have made it a lot more
difficult to work in China!
So, despite Donny's best
wishes, I'm not there yet.
That's why I'm still here in Los Angeles. What I'd hoped would be a smooth process has been filled with stops and starts. Sometimes, I've had to retrace my steps and redo things that needed to be fixed. Crazy little things that shouldn't have gone wrong, did. (Like the Department of Justice sending me a letter that was missing the required signature. Or USC mistakenly giving me a copy of somebody else's notary-stamped transcript instead of mine.)

And the waiting has been hard. Very hard. Consuming my thoughts and paralyzing my motivation to get anything other than my visa completed. That, of course, has made the task of packing up my house more difficult, which only adds to the stress and frustration.

But there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel.

My flight out to China has been rescheduled for January 18, and if all goes well -- knock on wood -- I'll be "all systems go" with (hopefully) a week to spare.

Please keep your fingers crossed for me. Because this waiting... well, it's hard!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Ni hao!

There's a question I've gotten a lot in these last 33 years: "Do you plan to stay in L.A. the rest of your life?" Every time, I've answered, "It would take something extraordinary to make me leave."

Well, something extraordinary has happened. And I'm leaving.

I've seen a lot of America, and there was no other American city that could have lured me away. But I've had a deep-seated desire to live abroad if the situation was right. In fact, during my first trip to London, I applied for a radio programming job at the BBC!

While I was in China with my father this summer, the perfect opportunity presented itself.

During our first full day on the ground in China, tour guide Terry told us that Chinese schools have been hiring Americans as English teachers like crazy, since English is pretty much the official language of business worldwide, and China is striving to overcome those language barriers.

Over the next two weeks, I spoke with a lot of natives, and they all told me the same thing: Today's young Chinese people all want to learn how to speak better English. And they all thought I'd make a great English teacher. Hmmmm... could they be right? It was a tantalizing thought.

After I got home, I took some time to ponder the idea, then enrolled at the International TEFL Academy in Chicago. Two weeks after graduation, I had a contract in hand from Liangfeng High School in Zhangjiagang, Jiangsu, China.

As I've told many people in the last several weeks, I've reached the point in my life and career where I don't want to be a replaceable cog in somebody else's money-making machine. I want to be able to do some good in the world, and if I can become one of those teachers who inspires students to go on to do great things, I will have done some good.

So, the adventure begins. I fly out on December 26. Ironically enough, four months to the day from that Facebook post. Exactly 33-1/3 years in Los Angeles will come to an end that day. Yes, a record. Now, we'll see if I can make it to 45 in China!