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Barry from Australia is a questioning soul who looks at social issues from an alternative point of view and instead of asking, “Why?”, he asks “Why not?” He’s convinced that many of his previous incarnations were spent in China. He feels drawn to the people there; attracted by their rich culture and way of life. If given one wish from God, he’d reply, “I want everyone on Earth to be the same colour, speak the same language, and treat each other as they themselves would like to be treated.”
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Teaching in China, A Greenhorn's Perspective - Part 1    

By Barry Pittman
3506 Views | 23 Comments | 9/11/2015 9:55:28 PM

The room seemed tidy enough.  Sparse but not too bad, except for a layer of dust on the floor.  Tina and I entered it cautiously, bags in hand.

This was my new dormitory in Leshan University in Sichuan Province, the place where I was to stay for a while as an English teacher, a position that quite curiously under the circumstances, I had absolutely nil experience in.

I had arrived in China around midnight the previous evening, after a rather exhausting seventeen hour journey from Brisbane to Chengdu. It had taken several hours longer than normal to arrive here as my China Southern flight from Brisbane had been an hour late leaving there, dooming me immediately to a missed connection in Guangzhou, from where I had to fly to Chengdu.

Oh joy”, I contemplated ruefully as I sat on the aircraft, knowing I wouldn’t be meeting Tina in Chengdu later that day at the prearranged time that we’d planned.   I had no mobile phone to contact her when I finally arrived in Guangzhou to inform her of developments, as Western cell phone sim cards of course didn’t work in China.

Upon landing in Guangzhou, I asked a couple of people if they would kindly allow me to use their mobile phone.  One young lady agreed to send a text to Tina, the trouble being that as I later learnt, Tina never received this message.  I can only assume the lady had inadvertently entered an incorrect number on her mobile, before hitting the “Send” button.

So when I finally arrived late that night in Chengdu, after catching a red eye special from Guangzhou, Tina was nowhere to be found.  I was standing there alone wondering what had happened.  Welcome to China.

Once again, I accosted one or two people, asking if I could kindly use their phone.  Tina was delighted to learn that I’d finally made it to Chengdu.  After waiting fruitlessly for me at the airport some time earlier, she’d given up and returned to her hotel, awaiting my call.

After finally meeting each other, we slept in the hotel at Chengdu, holding each other closely throughout the night.  I was understandably nervous about what lay ahead; Tina was also a little uncertain of the events in our lives that soon would inexorably unfold.  Despite my fatigue, it was wonderful to be together with her again.  It’d been a full year since we’d seen each other.  We’d endlessly chatted via QQ webcam just about every night for the past twelve months.  But conversing over the net simply wasn’t the same as being in the flesh together, one  body pressed tightly against the other.

This trip was an important one.  It was where Tina and I were to finally decide our future together.  Both of us were divorcees and thus were hesitant about committing permanently to someone again, unless we were sure.  The idea was that if I spent some time working in China, this would allow Tina and I far more time to make the right decision. Teaching English was about the only job I was able to do here.  So I found a position available in the nearest university to her home town, which happened to be in Leshan, an hour's bus drive away from Tina in Shawan.  Months of preparation, planning and correspondence had passed between the university and myself -  inluding medical check ups and all sorts of things -  culminating in this day.

Would my working in China prove to be a benefit  - or a bane  -  to our relationship?  Would I fit in to the new teaching position?  Would the students like me? These and a thousand other questions ceaselessly assaulted my senses as I lay close beside Tina, trying to disguise my conflicted mind.

Sleep Barry, sleep”.

Tina must’ve sensed a deep seated agitation within me. She whispered some comforting words after we had made love to each other and soon we both nodded off together, still clutching each other tightly like the two long lost romantics that up till this night we’d most certainly been.  I slept deeply, feeling somehow released from a mighty burden, at last back to where I strangely believed that I truly belonged, in a land so different, so distant  -  from my own.

A driver from the university met us at our hotel early the next morning.  We settled in to the one hour journey south to Leshan.  Finally we arrived at the university that was bustling with young people and multitudes of cars in the streets around it.  Seeing the happy faces and laughter from the students reminded me of my days in another lifetime, when I had been like them, a brash student full of unashamedly high hopes, dreams and optimism for the future.

Oh, to be their age again, yet possessed of the knowledge that I know now.

Suddenly a young lady by the name of Angel introduced herself to us.   She was a twenty-one year old year three student who was to be my voluntary helper during the settling in period.  Greeting Tina and I with a wide smile, she seemed quite affable.  Her English was good, exhibiting a curious yet endearing mixture of both British and American twangs.  Obviously her English had been learnt from a variety of differing sources.

Taking us to my dorm room, Angel soon left Tina and I alone together to settle in.  Phew, it had been a long journey in more ways than one to finally get here.

The room was old with a somewhat musty feel to it.   Enough for Tina to exclaim, “Oh Barry, a little dirty!  I must do some cleaning here right now.  Especially the bed, I must bring some clean bedding from Shawan to cover it up!”

Shawan was Tina’s home town, located about an hour’s bus drive away.  As we inspected the room, it did appear a little less sparkling than I’d expected.  It wasn’t bad, but certainly no special effort had been made to make it bright and instantly welcoming in readiness for the next guests  Nearly everything needed a wipe down.

“I don’t mind things being old, but at least one would’ve thought they’d be clean!” I grumbled to Tina.

“Oh no!”  The words involuntarily slipped out from my mouth.  I stood there, having opened the bathroom door and gazed at what lay before me.  A squat toilet.

For those folks who haven’t read my earlier articles, I’m not a particular fan of squat toilets.  I don’t like them much.  In fact, I hate them.

“Barry, in your future writings, may I please advise that you back off a little in your negative comments about squat toilets.  Many of the Chinese ladies who read your articles are to varying degrees, somewhat offended by your criticisms, believing your unflattering words about the toilets are in fact an insult not just to their culture, but to Mother China as a whole”.

Now I won’t divulge who had given me this well meaning recommendation, but suffice to say it was someone of considerable influence on this website.  Thus it is of some genuine concern to me that sadly I must  – yet again  -  address the issue of squat toilets.

For a long time, I’d been an unabashed critic of these toilets.  I had laughed about them; made jokes about them; felt sympathy for those hapless Westerners who had to use them.  Yet suddenly, I was to be forced to actually live with one on a continuing basis, close up and personal..  The excruciating irony of the situation didn’t escape me. This proved to me that the law of karma was a concrete reality.  I was now to be punished long term for having been previously so cavalier and derisive of these things.

In my defence, let me explain the situation a little more fully, in the hope that those critics reading this will hopefully judge me a little less harshly on this issue.  I know however, it must be boring for many CLM readers to once again read about squatters. 

“This guy needs to get a life.  All he ever seems to talk about is toilets!”

For the record, to put my views into perspective, let me say that I possess rather gummy knees that don’t bend properly.  I cannot squat very well.  In fact, I cannot squat at all.  So whilst it may be technically correct to advise that “When in Rome, do as the Romans do!”, in my case at least, I had medical grounds to support my opinionated views here.

Yet the dilemma is that these were private, personal concerns.  How could I say to the university management that the apartment wasn’t suitable for me simply because of the toilet?   I would be too embarrassed to dare suggest such a thing.  Many would consider this a mere triviality.  But to those who judgmentally suggest this, I bet they have pedestal toilets in their homes or if they don’t, their knees aren’t gummy and painful like mine to bend.

But enough of this complaining.  I’ve determined to confront and conquer this issue. I’m sure that in the end, things will work out fine. I’m made of sterner stuff than to let a stupid grievance about a toilet become too all encompassing.  I will adapt to the situation and defeat it, like any good trooper – or English teacher - in a foreign land would do.

Of more concern to me at this moment was the teaching.  I had no experience and no real clue of what to do or how to do it.  I felt quite apprehensive about the whole thing.  What would happen if I froze in front of the class or ran out of things to say?  What would happen if I proved to be a bad teacher, without the patience, communicative abilities and tolerance required?

An insistent clutch of inner demons kept throwing niggling doubts up, causing me to wonder what on Earth was I doing here, so far outside of my routine life, my secure comfort zone of living.  I had abandoned my home, my job and my family to live in a strange and alien land, full of many forces that I sensed were well out of my control.  I knew some very confronting and disturbing times were to be met.

Would I be up for the many challenges that lay inevitably ahead, like a pack of menacing sharks lurking forebodingly in a vast stretch of water that  soon had to be swum across?

To be continued

Copyright owned jointly by Author and CyberCupid Co., Ltd. Breach of copyright will be prosecuted.
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#2015-09-13 05:27:17 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot


Barry, you are back with a vengeance, much I am sure to your readers' delight, and to mine since I number myself among your readers happily. You've done a few things in this blog, some good and some, well, maybe not good, that surprise me a little and I am going to list them here in order of importance from least important to most important.

1. Important only to me, and not very important to me in the large scale, you have once again managed to introduce your good friend, the squat toilet, to your avid readers. I was so hoping that private issue in your life was now "out of sight, out of mind". Of course, if that is the only source of relief you have in your own home, it can hardly be out of your site and your mind, but I had so hoped it would be so for us.

I admit that you have introduced it so cleverly in this blog that it is impossible not to take pity on you, and even I am hoping to read someday that the problem has been resolved. However, in the interest of maybe avoiding weekly moments of actually having to visualize you in the agonizing (for us readers) act of taking a dump, I would like to offer some advice that might help you out.

If you haven't already looked into it, I have seen adult versions of the little potty seats for infants that are placed over their potty so they can sit above it and poop into it, and I have seen them for sale in China. Damned if I remember where but if it wasn't Walmart, then it likely was a large French based chain of home improvement stores that is in most major Chinese cities. It is much like a Home Depot in Canada or the USA, not sure what the equivalent is in Aus. Chengdu might have one.

I want to say it was named B&Q but that seems to coincidental that it would contain the same letters as the favourite cooking utensil of every Australian I have ever met (except one - that would be you) but I am confident it is 2 letters surrounding an ampersand and the first letter is B.

However, if you can't find one retail, then find the baby version and a good carpenter, and you could have one made very quickly and pretty cheap too. Up where you are a decent carpenter is probably found on every block. Tina must know a few.

2. Pretty important, on a couple of levels. Much to my surprise, for the first time that I can recall, you slipped up and accidentally used Tina's real name in this blog.

My first thought was how much fun it would be to not only leave it in, but to draw everyone's attention t it by commenting here: "Barry, who is _____?" Wouldn't we all of had fun with that? However, my conscience and my concerns for Tina got the better of me and I changed it for you.

My second thought was that you obviously do not see your Chinese love as being named "Tina" and think of her in her real name. That cannot be easy when you are writing about her as Tina so much, but it is, in my opinion, truly lovely. It warmed my heart realizing that the person you write about so frequently, and so admiringly, in your blogs, is just a public persona created for us, but that you get to go home and share your life with a real person who remains your own private harbour for your soul. Tina belongs to all of us, in a sense, but your Chinese love belongs only to you. I like it better that way, especially for you.

3. Damned Important to me and I think to all members of CLM and ALM. It would be very hard to find a blog in all the blogs written here that is any more relevant to meeting, dating and succeeding to secure your true life mate through internet dating than what you have written here.

Google won't see it that way. A dating site is supposed to be about dating, so what the hell are we doing publishing blogs about travel to China, and travel within China, and finding employment in China, and life in China, etc. But we think it is unbelievably relevant. How does a responsible couple such as you and Tina move forward and explore your love for each other without one of you moving to the other's country.

This blog touches on the very heart of succeeding in developing a life long relationship, and the importance of doing it right, and that is to first find the person who seems to be the one, and then put in the effort to ensure he or she is. And in the case of going to her in China, it gives some pretty specific examples of both how to do it, but why you must do it.

Any member of CLM or ALM who doesn't read this blog is missing out big time.

Cheers to you Barry, what a great way to return. (beer)(clap) I can't wait for more.(rock)

#2015-09-13 05:49:28 by Macchap @Macchap

Barry, many thanks for sharing with us a new episode of your life. I am very much interested in the learn about the process that has taken place that eventually have lead to pack your bags and move to China... to teach English. Wishing you - and your students - all the success. May they be eager and patient.

#2015-09-13 10:51:35 by Nekko @Nekko


Great reading Barry. I enjoyed the squat toilet dilemma. Listen to John and modify the toilet or get new knees. Which one is easier?

When you run out of things to say in the classroom there is always poetry and singing.

This will be Banjo Patterson poetry time. " There was movement at the station.........etc.
can be changed to " there was movement and I was forced again to squat...............etc.(rofl)

Barry, write poetry about this and be polite the Mother China.

Keep us posted about this development.


#2015-09-13 13:50:31 by melcyan @melcyan

Despite what you often try to tell CLM readers you do a lot of preparation, planning and hard work. You are setting the foundation for a great relationship with Tina. You fully deserve your success.

#2015-09-13 18:39:13 by Megi1179 @Megi1179


You made a rational choice, and Tina is smart, she chooses to keep working in China. Compared with China, it's much more difficult to find a job in Australia.

Nearly ten years, every school term (it's about 4months a term in China), I had 3 or 4 new colleagues from America, Australia, England, Canada, Holland, and some other countries, only a black woman teacher from America could keep her job for more than three years. It didn't mean other teachers were not good. Once I said to my colleagues at dinner, "You only spend two or three minutes preparing the PPT and play a game the whole lesson, I spend more than three hours preparing the PPT and teach difficult language points in one lesson; you have 4 lessons each week, I have 18 lessons each week, but you make nearly twice as much as me. It's unfair!" They laughed.

Teaching in China is not difficult for you guys from western. If you would like to listen to the feedback from students, it's much better. You will be great and popular, Barry :)

#2015-09-13 23:23:04 by paulfox1 @paulfox1

@Barry1 and @Johnabbot

This is an excellent blog on many levels

Firstly, it was only a few months ago that I was in the same place as Barry as far as teaching goes
I found that just being 'Me' and being 'natural' is what works best and in 8 months I have gone from being a 'novice' into being one of the most sought-after teachers in my city with job offers coming out of my ears.......

I'm not 'bragging' by any means, just stating the fact that Barry has nothing to worry about

As for John's comments (especially about Google)....SURELY this is a modern-day 'fairy-tale' where the 'prince' gives up his 'castle' in order to be with the one he loves....Just PERFECT dating-site material
After all, isn't Barry and Tina's story just what CLM is all about?

If anyone believes that Barry's story is 'soppy' in any way, then please get a LIFE....

I have been with him the whole way..... Perhaps he'll want to KILL me for telling what I'm about to tell you but I feel it's important....

Despite me and Barry both being Australian, we have never met in person. We e-mail each other regularly, chat on wechat and qq and I know a blow-by-blow account of what this guy has been agonising over for the last 12 months

I have helped him, encouraged him, sent him tips and tricks and lesson-plans in order to do my best to make him feel comfortable with his decision

Barry has given up EVERYTHING to start his new life in China - at the age of 60 !
Instead of sitting back and relaxing and getting ready for his pension, he has taken on a new life, a new beginning, and it's NOT been easy for him.

He fell in love with Tina and she fell in love with him.... end-of-story....
Sometimes we need to accept that age is just a 'number' and that happiness should be the number #1 priority in the heart of every human being

For the members here at CLM, whether you are a man or woman, please take heed at what Barry and Tina are doing
LEARN by their example....
REALISE that true love is POSSIBLE and that it knows no bounds

I have a very large Gin and Tonic in my hand right now, and from the bottom of my heart I want to toast Barry and Tina
You have come a long way my friends. Long may it continue and I sincerely wish you both a very happy life together!
May your story be an ode to all of us.....PROOF that anything is possible......

Cheers, my good friend.....

I'm here if and when you need me.....(y)

#2015-09-14 01:51:57 by melcyan @melcyan

You are an experienced user of QQ. Why didn't you use QQ to contact Tina immediately prior to leaving Brisbane or as soon as you arrived in China?

#2015-09-14 04:00:49 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

@PaulFox1 and @Barry1 @Megi1179

Great comments by both Paul and Meg, with which I couldn't agree more. Barry, you put your heart and soul into everything you do from what I can tell, and I don't believe it is remotely possible that you won't be a damned fine and highly successful teacher of English in China. Teaching as a highly rewarding experience and in many ways I envy you. Stop worrying and go enjoy.

#2015-09-14 06:44:18 by Barry1 @Barry1


Thanks so much for your comments, John.

I will follow up on the suggestion you've made re the toilet issue.

You also said,

"It would be very hard to find a blog in all the blogs written here that is any more relevant to meeting, dating and succeeding to secure your true life mate through internet dating than what you have written here."

This is the primary purpose of my writing. To help and hopefully guide and encourage others to follow in my footsteps. I try to write in an entertaining way, but generally behind my often rather flippant words is a hard core message.

As for the teaching, it's a huge challenge for me but you're correct when you mentioned that I do try my best with anything I undertake, particularly when it involves young people. We older and more mature adults have an important responsibility to them in all facets of the learning process et al, so I'm treating this job very seriously.

#2015-09-14 06:50:37 by Barry1 @Barry1


"I am very much interested in the learn about the process that has taken place that eventually have lead to pack your bags and move to China... to teach English"

Thanks for the good wishes,Maccap.

In answer to your question about the background to my move to China, I'll describe it a little more in forthcoming articles. Otherwise I've written a whole series of articles about the China trip that preceded this one, where the germ of the idea grew. In case you missed it, the very first article in this series can be seen here:

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