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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 3    

By Barry Pittman
1960 Views | 6 Comments | 11/7/2015 11:03:29 PM

I blinked but I couldn’t believe it.  But Ted (a foreign teacher like me) was correct.  Close to our university, attached to the side of the house just outside of a window was a dirty bird cage.  Inside the bird cage was a dog.


“I’ve been watching this dog for the past four years, ever since I arrived here”, Ted advised.  “I’ve never seen it released, it’s going to live its entire life locked in that cage.”


“That’s disgusting!” was my immediate response.  “How can they mistreat an intelligent creature like this!"


“But Barry”, Ted advised, “to many Chinese, this is NOT mistreatment.  This is just how they view animals.”


“But it gets terribly cold here in winter, Ted  - does the dog have to sit outside in the cage even during the freezing winter nights?”


“I’ve never seen the cage moved.  I think they may throw an old towel over the top of it at night time, but that’s about it. But there’s more, look at the other dog on the ground.  It’s tied to a short leash and is NEVER released.  It’ll also spend its entire life just in the one small area of ground.”


I looked down.  Sure enough, there was another pitiful looking dog on a short leash on the ground, below where the caged dog was.  Both animals looked filthy and forlorn.  Their pleading eyes burned into me. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.


Disgusting.  Disgusting.  Disgusting.  These were the words that I kept repeating to Ted, as we deliberated the abysmal treatment of these animals by their cruel, unthinking owners.


I wish I could keep these people for a few days inside a cage, left outside in the cold, to give them time to reflect upon their callous actions.


The above represents one of the DARK aspects of China.  Yes, sadly there are a few. As much as I love the place, I couldn’t abide cruelty to animals by anyone, particularly smart, comprehending creatures such as dogs. It put a downer on my whole day, seeing this.


I should stress however that many Chinese love their animals.  I often see beautifully manicured pooches being walked down the streets by their proud owners.  Many citizens here adore their pets. But obviously, from what I'd seen over my past four visits to the country, many do not.  Dogs seemed to be either treated like royalty with no expense spared – or else abused terribly. There didn’t seem to be any middle ground.  I could only surmise that lower educated Chinese with less money may not have the resources to care for their animals properly.  But if this is the case – why have them in the first place? 


No doubt culture and tradition plays a role here also.  Many Chinese in certain parts of the country still EAT dogs, for Pete’s sake!   For those who are unaware, please refer to one of my earlier blogs:


But enough of this dismaying subject. We can't let the deplorable actions of a few blind us to what beauty and goodness fulsomely flourishes out there in this vast, fascinating continent.


As far as the English teaching goes, I was settling in rather nicely at the university.  The first couple of weeks were eye opening for me, I’d been on a steep learning curve on what to do and what not to do.  The curve however was now mercifully beginning to flatten out, as most of the major difficulties were being slowly sorted.


“Why do you speak more like a British person, not an Australian, Barry?” the Chinese recruitment man had asked me, a few weeks after I’d arrived. 


“Oh, I guess because I don’t particularly like the Aussie accent.  It’s a bit too ocker and nasally for me.”


Well, based on my last eight years here, let me say I find the Aussie teachers are noticeably different to the American ones.  The Aussies are a bit more laid back and casual and you seem to fit the mould.”


I wasn’t sure whether this was necessarily a compliment but I thanked the gentleman in any case.  I think I would’ve preferred it if he’d said the Aussies were generally harder working and more conscientious. But it seemed the opposite was the case!


In fact I was working quite hard here.  Even though the teaching hours themselves were short,  I was spending whole days at a time preparing upcoming lessons.  A minimum of  three hours preparation for every one hour of teaching was normal for me. This was because I had zero experience in the field and possessed scant preparatory material, apart from what Paul Fox had kindly emailed to me.  There were mountains of work for me to do, the more I did though, the more I realised it wasn't enough!  I took a pride in my teaching, not wanting to be just another so so teacher.


The biggest challenge in the teaching was keeping the students continually interested, rather than feeling bored. I could remember back to my university days when some really uninteresting classes had been given by apathetic lecturers with zero personality skills.  I didn’t want to be one of those.


One of the tools I began to use were a selection of YouTube clips, preferably humorous ones about various aspects of English.  To this end, I was forced to subscribe to a ten dollar per month VPN service (virtual private network).  Such a service allowed access to websites normally blocked by the Great Internet Firewall of China, where significant sites such as Facebook, Google and YouTube were completely obstructed.  Subscribing to a VPN service is almost essential for foreigners living in the country who wishes to visit such sites (many other websites are blocked also).


The teaching hours were embarrassingly short, from 8.20am through to 12 noon, three days per week.  This equated to just eleven hours of actual teaching per week.  I’d have preferred longer hours than this as once in front of a class, I found the work to be both rewarding and stimulating. The Chinese students were all largely polite, demure and followed instructions.  Over ninety per cent were female. I believe teaching in China would be far easier than being in a Western school, where the kids would certainly tend to be more insubordinate and insolent.  A TESOL teacher of course isn’t qualified to teach in a Western school in any case.  No big loss here though. Teaching Western kids held no interest for me, even if I could land a job doing this.


As far as pay goes, I was earning 5000 yuan (RMB) per month, although this fell by fifty per cent for at least two months per year during the longer vacations when no work was performed.  Teachers only receive half pay then.  This is roughly a thousand Aussie dollars or about $250 per week.  Closer to about $200 American dollars per week. It’s not much.  But anyone wanting to make big money certainly wouldn’t be teaching in China.  The rewards of this job lay elsewhere, most of them being esoteric and intangible.


Let me advise though that my teaching pay is at the lower end of the scale.  This is because Leshan University is a government institution and salaries are regulated.  If I switched to a private college, it’d be easy enough to double what I’m earning.  But even then, this would only be about A$500 (US$400) per week, still not much, although of course, free accommodation and cheap cost of living were part of the deal.


“Why on Earth am I here?” I sometimes wondered.  The answer of course, always fell back to Tina.  I simply wanted to be with her. Working near her thus provided me with a great way to obtain long term residency in China, that otherwise was rather strict as far as long term visits are concerned.  Remember, it’s still a Communist country, controlled by an all powerful centralist government of Party members.  A wariness of foreigners persists, although it’s much more liberal in this area than just twenty years ago.


Forgetting about Tina for a moment, there were other reasons why I was here.  I recently turned 61 years of age and now regarded this job as entering semi-retirement.  I had a house back in Australia that was rented out;  I didn't owe anyone any money;  I had very good health.  I felt utterly privileged and fortunate in so many ways. 


This is spoken in the context that my brother’s wife at age 59 has recently contracted lung cancer that’s now insidiously spreading to her bones.  She’s currently undergoing radical radiation and chemotherapy treatment that’s almost killing her.  Some people react adversely to such invasive medical regimens.  My brother is also not in particularly good health, with liver pains, probably the result having been a heavy drinker for most of his younger years.


So every day that I’m able to live healthily and well in China is a blessing.  I was forming many new friends and becoming involved in diverse new experiences.  My mind was also creakily yet inexorably expanding as I researched and taught things I’d always taken for granted, only to realise there was so much more that I’d missed along the way.


I also loved being surrounded by young students.  I loved the atmosphere here at the University.  I love China itself.  It’s so much more enlivening than being enmeshed within the mundane, comfortable mediocrity of my former life. Where the most exciting thing I’d do all day was decide whether to watch the Discovery, History or National Geographic channels on cable TV.


In summary, let me end this article by listing a few current perceptions of China that’ve crossed my mind in the last couple of weeks or so.  Hopefully these may give some added insights for those folk who may be contemplating visiting or even living within the Middle Kingdom.





     1. Most disappointing thing:  witnessing the dog being kept in a birdcage for all its life.


     2.  Strangest thing:  walking down the road and suddenly locking eyes on a beautiful Chinese lady who was staring at me for just a second or two, yet this fleeting moment somehow felt much longer than this.


     3. Most interesting thing:  walking around the streets here, peering into little alleyways and shops that look as if they’ve just come from another time, two hundred years ago.


     4. Most comical thing:  seeing cars continually flouting the traffic rules, driving all over the road in every direction, even cutting off police vehicles. Yet no one bats an eyelid.  Everything seems normal, no matter how bizarrely or outrageously you act.


     5.  Most challenging thing:  going out by myself into the community and attempting to purchase things in shops where no one has a clue what I want or what I’m trying to convey to them, no matter how loudly I talk!


     6.  Damndest thing:  discovering a new career so late in my life that I really enjoy


    7.  Most rewarding thing:  finishing a teaching session and having students walk up and say, “Thank you, that was a very interesting class!”


    8.  Most frustrating thing: the lack of cable TV combined with slowish internet.


    9.  Most annoying thing:  the proliferation of spicy food here in Sichuan Province (reowned for its spicy cuisine) that the residents enjoy, but unfortunately it just doesn’t sit well with me.  I far prefer simple foods with zero spice.


    10.  Most offputting thing:  Sitting in the rear of a taxi crammed with five people in it, when the Chinese lady sitting in the middle at the rear suddenly grabbed a plastic shopping bag and started vomiting into it, right next to me!  Just what I needed when I was soon to sit down and have my dinner!


    11.   Happiest thing:  Seeing the smile on Tina’s face when I walk into the room.


    12.  Most gratifying thing:  Having the opportunity to do what I'm doing,




I say this sincerely, many people due to either medical, financial or personal reasons, could never in a million years, have the means, the good fortune or the opportunity to do what I'm doing now.  I'm cognisant that I'm a very lucky dude.



To be continued

Copyright owned jointly by Author and CyberCupid Co., Ltd. Breach of copyright will be prosecuted.
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#2015-11-10 14:14:28 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

Barry, this is really quite a remarkable blog. The amount of detail about various things you've encountered in China should fascinate anybody who reads it. Personally though, I am really struggling to get beyond the description of the two dogs and the incredibly pathetic lives they are leading.

As an animal lover my own reaction to that borders on wishing to subject the owner of those dogs to some fairly extreme violence. I am not by nature a violent person at all, but any abuse of innocent animals brings out a severe anger in me that I struggle to set aside. Like you, I feel an overwhelming desire to give the perpetrator an immediate lesson on how it would feel were he/she subjected to the same ill treatment.

My wife today during our ritual walk along the ocean here was describing to me an event that she says is being picked up virally on the Chinese internet that involved a Chinese dog owner who had decided that his once cute puppy had grown into a less than attractive adult dog. The dog being a small breed, this lovely pet owner decided the appropriate thing to do was to crush the little guy to death under his boot, and that's what he did.

In my mind, listening to this event as described by my wife, I could clearly see myself dropping the soulless slimeball into one of those machines used for crushing old cars into little tiny boxes, and watching him very slowly turned in a little square box of mush.

I love your idea of putting the owner whose abuse of his dogs you are witness to in the cage the dog is held captive in, but for me, a few days would not suffice. He needs to spend at least the time in that cage that his dog has suffered.

Without wishing to aid and abet a potentially criminal offense, I cannot help but suggest, perhaps encourage, you go under cover of darkness and release those poor hapless dogs from their prison and take them somewhere where they might find someone to love them, because God knows they have earned it. Just wishful thinking I guess, but were I there with you I would happily assist you.

Moving on briefly from the dogs, to quickly comment on your teaching experience, just let me say I am filled with respect and admiration at the efforts you are going to in order to be a really good teacher. Expats in China owe a real vote of thanks to persons like yourself, who make westerners look good in the eyes of the Chinese with whom they are dealing. This thanks is especially owing because there is an equal but opposite group of westerners who seem to spend most of their waking time making all of us look bad.

And finally, regarding your feelings about living in China, let me echo your own description by simply saying that during my time living in China I felt ALIVE, something that I did not feel for many years before moving to China, and something I have not felt remotely as strongly since. I can't wait to get back there, and I envy you the life you are living there now.

Cheers mate, great read! (rock)

#2015-11-10 16:35:39 by Esq @Esq

You've come along way Barry. It has all come together for you. I suspect you'll make an honest woman out of Tina one of these days. The real reason for my comment though, I love the outfits you and Tina are wearing. I don't believe I can find them here in Los Angeles at Nordstrom s. Be well.

#2015-11-11 16:58:30 by Barry1 @Barry1


" I love the outfits you and Tina are wearing"

Thanks for your good wishes, Esq.

As for the outfits, Tina buys most of her clothing online, much of it from the USA. So there's every chance the outfits you mentioned were purchased from your home town, even if they were made in China originally.

As a side note, let me say the outfits many of the Chinese ladies wear here is often high class, much better than the casual, ill fitting clobber many Westerners wear!

#2015-11-11 17:06:44 by Barry1 @Barry1


"during my time living in China I felt ALIVE"

Thanks for your good wishes, John.

In one way, I'm sorry I mentioned the poor dogs in my blog article, as their sad plight put a somewhat negative spin on my whole article, which was intended to be an upbeat one. But yet the story needed to be told, people need to be reminded of the callousness out there in some quarters, one cannot stick one's head in the sand and pretend that everything's sweetness and light in the world.

I spoke to Ted about possibly releasing the animals after darkness but he was aghast at this, saying the penalty for doing such a thing - trespassing and stealing - would be significant, much more so than a penalty for cruelty to animals that their owners might face. He said a judge here might not even agree that there was cruelty involved.

In any case, Ted and I are visiting the animals regularly and throwing them some scraps of food. As much as it despresses me every time I see them, the happiness on their faces when they see us more than compensates for this.

#2015-11-12 14:50:07 by paulfox1 @paulfox1

Good post mate - well done! I agree with most of the things on your list, but I must echo Johns words re the dogs. I too have seen the way they are treated here and it's horrible to see but maybe the dogs simply get used to it ?

It's the same as a multitude of other things in China that us westerners wish would 'change', but they're not going to and we are too small in number to make any difference.

It's interesting to note what you said about us foreign teachers though. I work in a middle school so my students are between the ages of 15 and 18, and at least HALF of them just don't want to be in school at all.
Some have extremely terrible English ability and it makes me wonder how the hell they ever got into the International Dept of our school.................Oh.....I just remembered.......Daddy has a deep pocket.....!

Who you know; How much money you have; What you can do for other people; are the 3 most important things in China
You are 100% correct when you say that a wariness of foreigners exists. One Australian teacher in this city has just been deported by the Provincial government. Her 'crime'.......teaching!
Despite her being here for several years, married to a Chinese husband etc, the government threw her out because she only has a Marriage Visa and that doesn't entitle you to WORK
She has been teaching here for years and it seems that a 'blind-eye' has been turned in the past, but this time she has been told in no uncertain terms that she is being made an 'example of'
How DARE she come here, marry a Chinese dude and then teach VERY DARE she ? (That's 100% sarcasm by the way lol)

Sometimes the government does things that beggar belief. Poor girl obviously didn't know enough 'people' or have enough money to get herself out of the predicament she was in
It just goes to show......China may be screaming out for foreign teachers, but unless you toe-the-line, you're out !

#2015-11-13 21:01:48 by Barry1 @Barry1


"One Australian teacher in this city has just been deported by the Provincial government. Her 'crime'.......teaching!"

This is a shocking state of affairs for the hapless teacher - not to mention her husband. Paul. It makes one wonder what caused the "blind eye" that had been cast her way to suddenly become one with 20/20 vision!

In other words, I wonder what she had done to apparently annoy the local police, who must've raided the place wherever she'd been teaching. I'm sure there'd be more to this story than meets the eye.

It makes one think who will be next?

I have heard also that teachers in China every five years need to leave the country for at least one year. One foreign teacher I work with here in now one quarter of the way through his fifth year working here and is quite concerned about this. He's spoken to the university management about it but has been told that yes, there's a good chance he WILL need to leave at the end of his five years, even though if the university had their way, he'd stay forever.

This begs the question - why would the Chinese authorities be forcing the most experienced teachers OUT of their country? My friend is now talking about going to Taiwan to work. It seems like quite a stupid rule to me.

Cheers Paul.(beer)

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