Time for some serious brainstorming

Today I had to work on a case study for a storage networking company. One of the few gifts God gave me is an ability to write about technology even though I can barely download my own email. But this gift wasn’t in evidence today. I kept struggling, because I kept getting distracted by thoughts of Asia. And I realized just how much I hate what I do.

What on earth am I doing here in Arizona writing about storage area networks, routers and switches, and hardware testing technology when there is literally nothing on this earth that I more detest? I began to feel sick and the copy was swimming around on the screen, making no sense, filling me with a sense of frustration and foreboding. Does this really have to be my life? What the fuck is a storage area network anyway, and who gives a fuck? What happened? How did it come to be that my fucking life is about fucking storage area networks??

I got promoted a few months ago and got a big pay raise. But I can’t even begin to put into words just how empty the feeling is, knowing you are contributing nothing to society, knowing that you are going through the motions, a cog in a huge corporate machine where you are under-utilized, under-appreciated and vastly underpaid (even with the raise).

Jobs are scarce right now in Arizona, at least in my area. But even if they were plentiful, I’d be unhappy right now because “my area” is not the area I ever planned for and is not where I belong. I belong teaching or writing or training. Anything but high technology.

This year is the 20th anniversary of my relationship with my friend, JC. We’ve been through so much, and he has been so patient as I went off to Silicon Valley and then off to Asia, leaving him for years at a time. He is the only reason I am here in America. He has told me if I leave him again it will be the last time, and I can’t blame him. But as I worked on this case study today, I realized I am nearing the breaking point; I really could snap. Not as in suffering a nervous breakdown, but just needing to make a drastic change. Like leaving for Asia. The very thought of leaving JC, even for a short time, is intolerable. But the only thing less tolerable is the thought of continuing on the current course, living from paycheck to paycheck in a job that is wiping out my creativity.

I have to be careful and avoid romanticizing China now that I’m not there anymore. It’s so easy to forget the bad and get nostalgic over some good memories. My last few trips there were absolutely ecstatic, despite all the usual inconveniences and frustrations. But I need to face the reality that life in Beijing was very hard for me on more than one level and I don’t know if I could live there again, if only because I get fearfully depressed by cold weather. I also worry that maybe I’m romaticizing teaching. From what so many commenters here say, being a teacher doesn’t necessarily translate into bliss. Far from it.

So what’s the point of this whiny, self-centered post? Maybe it’s a request for advice from people who teach in Asia to talk about it — Do you love it, would you recommend it, what are its drawbacks and its allure? Based on everything I’ve read, it seems Taiwan would be a perefct destination for me if I ever get the nerve to do something (a big if, I know). So that’s another question: does Taiwan need teachers? If I arrive there with a suitcase and just a couple thousand of dollars, will I be able to find work?

I’m writing this post under bad circumstances. I made a vow to myself never to put up a personal post when I’m feeling truly wretched, as I know strong emotions cloud my writing ability. So forgive me if it doesn’t meet my usual standards for eloquence and grace. I am at rock-bottom today, and I’ve got to act now.

The Discussion: 115 Comments


Today I was looking at this beautiful photography book on China (called “China” by Yann Layma). Not all of the photos in it were of beautiful things, mind you. And all I could think about was, dang, I miss that place, in spite of all the crappy stuff.

Why don’t you take a vacation to Taiwan and see what you think? It’s warm and you can google whatever you want!

Other Peking Ducklings can comment on teaching with far more authority than I can. I think it’s something you are called to do, though. When I taught, I found it sort of scary and draining – which isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy a lot of things about it, but the responsibility and necessity of performing in front of the classroom every day was tough on me (even though at times it was really fun). I think the best teachers get in front of their students and are energized by it, more often than not.

Anyway, good luck on your journey – it’s a big decision, but as I think I said before, consider the risks if you stay.

June 27, 2005 @ 6:08 pm | Comment

Hi Richard, been a long time since i’ve posted. I have since moved back to Australia from being in Asia (China, HK, Taiwan) for almost 7 years.

I worked for asian companies after completing studies at the National Sun Yat Sen University in Kaohsiung (ROC). I also did a fair amount of teaching during off hours as well as in Taiwan you can make up to NT$1000 an hour and in China teaching privately up to RMB$300 an hour.

So there is no question about the money being good and finding private students is really easy, typically people start out at a school where they pay you about RMB$120 – 180 an hour. From there you have parents ask you to tutor their kids and then you go from there.

Teaching in a classroom can be horribly draining, however I found teaching one on one classes quite interesting and rewarding. I am still in contact with some of my students who are now studying in the USA and europe.

On another note, I lived in Shenzhen and for the most part 90% of my students were Korean, not Chinese.

Anyhow a bit of rambling there, if you have any other questions i’d be glad to help out.

June 27, 2005 @ 6:25 pm | Comment

As far as I know they are always looking for English teachers in Taiwan. If I was you I would find out about it here in the US before heading out “with a suitcase” but you would probably be fine either way. Good luck.

June 27, 2005 @ 6:28 pm | Comment

Lisa, I have a feeling I’d fall in love with Taiwan from all I hear. There was a time in Asia where I was supremely happy, and that was in Hong Kong. I loved the food, the weather (I don’t mind humidity so much, as long as I’m not cold), the people, the nightlife, everything. Well, everything but the price. I want to move somewhere where they speak Putonghua but that’s similar in lifestyle to HK. I spent a week in Khaosiung once and adored it, so I think Taiwan makes the most sense for me. And it’s neat enough to Beijing that I can visit the people there who I love.

Sol, it’s been so long!! As in years. Maybe I’ll send you an em,ail later this week; I’d love to get your take on starting off Taiwan.

Pwax, I appreciate it. I’ll need all the luck I can get.

And to everyone, I’m soprry if it gets boring to read about me getting so conflicted, one dayt saying I’m gpoing back, the next day staying I can’t leave. But that’s me right now this minute, conflicted and confused and torn. And this blog reflects me.

June 27, 2005 @ 6:40 pm | Comment

And I’m even more sorry about all the typos. Forgive me.

June 27, 2005 @ 6:48 pm | Comment


Some words of encouragement.

I agree with Other Lisa, teaching definitely is something you have to feel called to do – especially in China. They don’t want foreign teachers here, they want foreign entertainers to make the poor kids laugh for 40 minutes of their pathetically dull lives.

My sister-in-law just finished her college entrance exams and she called my wife for some advice to help her decide on a major. I became furious when I heard my wife telling her to forget about her talents in art and to persue a course of study in international trade because then perhaps they could work together to develop a business sometime down the road.

WTF? Forget about what her talent, something she likes to do?

I made my wife call her sister back and tell her that she was selfishly wrong and that she should go ahead and persue a course of study that will help her to continue developing her natural talents with art and drawing . Otherwise her sister would be just like the vast majority of people in this country, doing something just to make money rather than doing something they love. Chances are that if she continues to develop her natural artistic skills, she will not only be happier later in life, but she will probably make more money doing something that she can put her heart into rather than doing something just for the purpose of making money.

Sorry…I’ll stop ranting and crawl back under my rock now.

(btw, what is the code for using inline links in your comments box?)

June 27, 2005 @ 6:52 pm | Comment

Richard, my friends who have been to Taiwan all love it. The accent puts me off a little but I should just get over that and go see the place myself.

June 27, 2005 @ 6:54 pm | Comment

Oh yuk. I really should stop posting comments when I first wake up in the morning.

I meant pursue, not persue or peruse.

damn dyslexic keyboard πŸ˜›

June 27, 2005 @ 6:55 pm | Comment

Gordon, you can use standard html in the comments to add links. I appreciate the advice — more than you know. Will I look back in 20 years and say, “Oh, if only I had written MORE about storage area networks!”? No, I’ll wonder why I didn’t follow my dreams. The time is now.

June 27, 2005 @ 7:00 pm | Comment

Dear Richard,

I can relate, in many ways, to your current existential crisis, and I shall write you a whopping big essay in order to help stimulate your thoughts on how you might deal with it. I’ll email it to you, rather than to clog up space on your site.

I’m going to go this much trouble, despite the nonesense that you wrote in one of the posts below – I’m referring to the post in which you (a)seriously simplify and distort my arguments about the nature of the Iraqi insurgency, and my qualified support for it (which you have the annoying habit of doing repeatedly), and (b) depsite the fact that you have threatened to censor me (yet again) because of a mild criticism that I have made about this website – a criticism, which, if you read carefully, also acknowledges the strengths of this website. I stand by my argument that this is a hate site by the way, in that the vast majority of articles you post focus on the negatives.

I also find it extremely annoying how you, and FSNo.9, always try to marginalise me by painting me out to be anti-American. This is silly nonesense. For starters, I have, at times, elsewhere on this very website, praised certain American foreign policies – I even offered my support for the Bush administration’s current foreign policy initiatives on the Taiwan issue! I do NOT automatically oppose all American foreign policy simply because it’s American! That aside, I work for an American company! If I was really inherently anti-American, as you say I am, then why would I work for an American company? I have cousins who live in America, my parents regularly host American visitors (friends of their from San Diego), and I myself have many American friends – and I am a regular consumer of American culture. I listen to jazz, I enjoy some American films, and I read a lot of American literature. Some of the most important academics in the world – whose writings have influenced me greatly – have been produced by American writers – Marshall Burman, Frederic Jameson, David Harvey, Gore Vidal. How can anybody seriously try to dismiss me as anti-American? It’s pathetic!

Anyhow, despite my anger at your last post, I shall proceed to write you an essay! Be patient, it will take me a while though. I actually have some thoughts about the type of existential crisis that you are currently faced with, in fact, I was pondering this very topic for much of last night, over a very good bottle of bordeaux.

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

June 27, 2005 @ 7:09 pm | Comment

Thanks Mark. I really appreciate it.

Please try to keep your comments on the topic of the particular thread, or else put them in the open thread. Thanks again and I look forward to your email.

June 27, 2005 @ 7:11 pm | Comment

**Sticks head out from under his rock and says:**


Fear not, I have called the WHAaaaaaambulance. Just keep crying so they can find you.

**scurries back under his rock.**

June 27, 2005 @ 7:15 pm | Comment

Richard, It’s gettin’ hot here too.Phoenix has some good Mexican vittles.Just remember,”Wherever you go ,there you are” You can’t run away from yourself.I have tried.Don’t work.China HAS been the GREATEST experience of my life.The good.the bad and the ugly.Good luck.”This too shall pass.”

June 27, 2005 @ 7:44 pm | Comment

I know you can’t run away from yourself, and if I run, it’s because if I don’t change my career direction now it’ll soon be too late. It is the hollowness of my job and my lack of contribution to humanity that’s been getting me so down. When I’m home on the weekends away from work I feel reborn, as relaxed as I felt in Hong Kong, where I was at my happiest. Ad then, Monday comes along and the dread is impossible to describe. I really have to end it. Runnihng to Asia isn’t the answer. Running to Asia and finding work that makes me feel whole might, however, be the answer.

June 27, 2005 @ 7:56 pm | Comment

BTW,Slim.I happen to have first hand,ear,nose AND throat experience.I’m a specialist.Why DO they call you Slim?

June 27, 2005 @ 8:11 pm | Comment

Life sucks if you don’t like your work.So change it.

June 27, 2005 @ 8:18 pm | Comment

Thing is, I’ve wanted to teach for years. Teaching in Asia sounds like it woud meet several of my needs, especially being close to China, and allowing me to make my blog better. (And this blog is a big part of my life.)

June 27, 2005 @ 8:21 pm | Comment

Living here would certainly give you more perspective.Like anything else you gotta live it.

June 27, 2005 @ 8:24 pm | Comment

Part of it is Phoenix. Gun shows and rodeos. Eating Slim Jims and grits and pasting Confederate flag bumper stickers on your car. That’s fine if you like it. But it sure isn’t me.

June 27, 2005 @ 8:27 pm | Comment

Gordon’s right about people generally not wanting foreign teachers so much as foreign mascots — if you do decide to go for a teaching job, try to get as much info as you can about it, preferably from people who’ve had the same position at the same place in the past. And unless you have the patience of a saint, don’t teach kids. Trust me on this one.

(Of course, I’m talking about the mainland here — Taiwan may well be totally different vis-a-vis the waijiao position. You could try emailing Wayne at ‘a better tomorrow,’ as he’d probably be more helpful.)

June 27, 2005 @ 8:34 pm | Comment

Thanks Brendan. I would hope my Master’s degree and experience would help me get a foot in the door to teach at a higher level than elementary school. I sure hope so!!

June 27, 2005 @ 8:39 pm | Comment


If you’re thinking of teaching in asia and especially China, you really need to email me.


June 27, 2005 @ 8:46 pm | Comment

Richard, I really emphathise with your current crisis, because I’ve been dwelling on whether to return to Asia or not. Now that I’ve finished my PhD, I’m searching for some kind of future. To be honest, I love Sydney and want to stay here … but my work is mostly slave work, and massively underpaid when you consider the number of hours I do. My fear is similar to something KLS expressed in another thread … if you go to Asia, it’s essentially “dead time” as far as any career in the west is concerned. I also know that I could find reasonably good money in Asia, and enjoy it, for now. But then I think about this: what about if I stay there for a long time, and then at age 50 I want to come back here? What on earth would I do? I just want to share these things with you as a note of caution, because the very nature of this thread means that it is filled with people who are most likely to tell you “**** it all. Go back to Asia.” I realise that you’re unhappy with what you’re doing now. I can also see that that relationship is very important to you. Is there not something else you could do, other than dropping it all and heading back overseas, that would enable you to be both happy with your vocation, and happy in your relationship?

Oh, reply to MAJ. I agree that it’s pathetic that you believe yourself to be not anti-American. I guess it makes it morally easier for you to take American money, as you say you do. I doubt very much you tell your American employers that you think Iraqis are right to kill American troops in Iraq. The fact that you read American authors who are savagely critical of American society doesn’t really prove you to be a friend to America … quite the opposite. And your “some of my best friends are Americans” … well, think about the normal contexts in which people make those kind of statements. What you remind me of, very strongly, are the South Koreans and their feelings about Japan. Many of them have been to Japan, and even have Japanese friends. But they still hate Japan and the Japanese. I guess the only real difference is that they’re at least honest enough to admit it, rather than resorting to sophistry. Still, as I said, I guess it makes it easier for you to live with yourself, so no worries. Whatever works for you.

June 27, 2005 @ 8:51 pm | Comment

ASU needs an associate who specializes in ESL….

American English and Culture Program
#8305 – Faculty Associate
Faculty Associate to teach English as a second language.

100% FTE
7/15/2005, if not filled, then weekly thereafter until search is closed.

(480) 965-2371

June 27, 2005 @ 9:01 pm | Comment

Dear Filthy Stinking No.9.,

Your claim that I think it is right for Iraqis to kill Americans is an outrageous distortion of my arguments regarding the insurgency. I suggest you read back over my arguments, very very carefully, before you choose to defame me in this way.

And all of my colleagues at ACT Shanghai are aware of my views regarding the insurgency, and the Iraqi war. They are also aware of my support for the Bush administration’s foreign policy on Taiwan. Some of them agree with my views, others don’t.

I reject your silly views about me being inherently anti-American. Period. If you want to think otherwise, then fine. That’s your decision. But those who bother to read my comments on the pages of Peking Duck more carefully will no better.

Mark Anthony Jones

June 27, 2005 @ 9:11 pm | Comment

MAJ … the very fact that you think the majority of readers here will agree with you, and not me, on this point … well, it just goes to prove what I was saying. You’re not living in the real world. You’ve created this interesting little fictional world in your head, in which everything you say is true. Of course, you’re not alone, and you can find plenty of American authors and websites to reinforce this psychosis. All I can say is that I’m just glad that your kind of views are no longer dangerous. I can sit back and consider it bizarre, but I doubt it will have any real impact on anything. Thank god the age as passed when there were governments who subscribed to similar views, and people died because of it. No wait … there is still one. Perhaps you should try working for the North Koreans? It would require a lot less sophistry about how you don’t hate America.

June 27, 2005 @ 9:17 pm | Comment

FSN9, you are cracking me up.

I’ve tried this tact with my friend Mark before. I mean, the proof of the pudding is in the cake, isn’t it? Mark espouses Marxism, which is his right. But when you look at the “cake,” all you see is an endless record of failure, each instance more bloody and destructive than the last. For all its inherent sins, capitalism works better. Period. End of story. No?

June 27, 2005 @ 9:21 pm | Comment

Dear Richard,

Yes, I agree with you, capitalism is historically progressive. Marx himself argued that. What you call communism intrigues me though. If you are referring to bureaucratic state capitalism (what some like to call Stalinism or Maoism) then of course, capitalism is far better. i have never argued otherwise!!!!

Both you and Filthy Stinking No.9 are always trying to stir me up, it seems, by putting words in my mouth, by distorting my views, by taking sentences of mine out of context, etc. By claiming that I hold views that I don’t hold. It’s mind boggling, but also very frustratingly annoying!

All I can hope for is that other readers will actually read what I have to say with care, and assess the strengths and weaknesses of my views based on what I actually do say, rather than on the twisted, over-simplified spin that people like Richard and Filthy Stinking No.9 always seems to want to put on me.

Thanks guys, for your gentlemanly behaviour!

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

June 27, 2005 @ 9:33 pm | Comment

Dear Richard and Stinking Filthy No.9.,

One more thing! I was delighted this morning when I read the response of a woman from Guangzhou to the debate that I had with Conrad yesterday on the “China more popular among our allies” thread. People like Anne, I think her name is, are the sort of readers I write for – people like Anne are able to read what I actually say, evaluate it, weight it up against alternative and opposing views, and deliver a verdict. She was critical of some of my arguments, but she didn’t dismiss me as being anti-American, nor did she try to marginalise my views by trivialising me, by labelling me a “communist” or whatever. She engaged in the arguments themselves, and assess them according to the strength of the evidence used.

I hope more readers could be like her – constructive in their criticisms, and balanced and fair in their assessments.

I don’t think I’m being unreasonable in asking for that, am I?

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

June 27, 2005 @ 9:41 pm | Comment

Believe it or not Mark, I try to be fair with you. You’re very smart and have a facile mind. Please note, as far as your politics go, virtually no one here on my hate site has supported you. Like me, they say they enjoy your participation, but then they (referring to Laowai, Conrad, Sam, Lisa and just about everyone else except for Bingfeng) all say when it comes to politics, your arguments are out of some strange time warp, from another period, quaint but ungrounded in present-day reality. I mean really, MAJ, no one takes Chomsky seriously anymore, no matter how much you defend him — and please, do not, repeat, DO NOT reiterate your defence of Noam, which you did for Conrad a mere 24 hours ago -we are all familiar with it and to the best of my knowledge, we have all rejected it. Now, that doesn’t necessarily make you wrong. There is no mob rule here. But you do have to admit your arguments exist in a bit of a vacuum, and went out of fashion some decades ago. No?

June 27, 2005 @ 9:41 pm | Comment

Well gee, of course you’re praising Ann, because she agreed with you, or at least with a wee bit of what you were saying. Which leads to the question we’ve asked many times before — why don’t you write a blog? I think you could win yourself quite an audience.

Now, can we get back onto the topic? Any teachers have input for me on teaching in Asia?

June 27, 2005 @ 9:44 pm | Comment

Dear Richard,

Firstly, I very rarely ever use Chomsky to help support my views, and your argument that he is out of fashion is nonsense.

At any rate, I admit (I know only all too well) that I am pretty much a lone voice on this website, but doesn’t mean that my views are not valid, or that my views are somehow wrong, or unanchored from present-day reality.

Most of my sources are actually derived from mainstream sources, which you should be aware of if you read my arguments carefully enough.

Besides, half the reason why I bother to contribute to this website is because I enjoy playing the role of Devil’s Advocate – I enjoy taking views (which in my circles are not normally seen as extreme, though which I know are usually seen as radical by the majority of contributors to this site) I enjoying taking an “extreme” position, and then pushing it as far as possible, to test its strength, to test its validity. This only works of course, if there are others who are prepared to seriously engage with my arguments – which is rare, but it does happen on this site sometimes – like with the Pomfret discussions of last November, or like with the insurgency debate – or even with the debate that I just had with Conrad. When this happens, when real debate occurs, then that’s when I learn. Sometimes I have to modify my own views as an end result, usually, I find (not trying to sound too arrogant) but usually I find that my position, rather than being weakened, is strengthened, even when the majority of Peking Duck readers think otherwise.

Mark Anthony Jones

June 27, 2005 @ 9:55 pm | Comment

Dear Richard- in regards to teaching, aloow me to suggest the following:

The JET program in Japan is worthwhile, but avoid the privately run chain schools, like NOVA.

Likewise, I recommend EPIK (English Program in Korea) – though once again, avoid the private training centres – Hogwans, they’re called.

In China, I recommend teaching a university foundations program, if you want one of th ebetter paid positions, and if you want to feel as though you are contributing something more measurable, more useful, to the welfare of your students.

Many universities are also enjoyable and satisfying places to teach at, if you’re happy to accept a lower salary. But once again, avoid the privately owned training centres, like English First and new Oriental – unless you want to feel as though you are a mere commodity, a wage slave.

Mark Anthony Jones

June 27, 2005 @ 10:01 pm | Comment

I would just point to your saying ” The very thought of leaving JC, even for a short time, is intolerable” and reckon that even if taiwan were perfection on a stick it couldn’t make up for losing that relationship for good.

you said yourself that you had issues living in beijing, and I’ll hazard a guess that they weren’t just about the weather. think of that, then add to it being freshly alone…

would china be good for you? no amount of speculation can tell. but remember there are lots of ways to change your life that don’t involve crossing the planet. and that do involve keeping jc. they might not be easy or obvious, but there’s always a way.

no matter how right for you it is, work can never make you feel whole. nothing external can. only you, inside, can do that.

and now that I’ve butt my nose into your love life and your inner workings I think I’ll go make some lunch.

June 27, 2005 @ 10:14 pm | Comment

Echo, You are my muse!

June 27, 2005 @ 10:24 pm | Comment

ooh ooh, does that mean I get to wear gauzy stuff and float around in midair? sweeeeet

June 27, 2005 @ 10:27 pm | Comment

I listen to too much Tori Amos.

June 27, 2005 @ 10:27 pm | Comment

You don’t have to wear anything at all! SWEEEEEEEEETER!

June 27, 2005 @ 10:29 pm | Comment

roflmao, oh the assumptions people make

June 27, 2005 @ 10:44 pm | Comment

Richard, do you think JC would consider Taiwan, or is Phoenix pretty much the place?

And as others have said, is there some way for you to change the work part of your life and finding job satisfactino without going to Asia? In other words, is there some compromise that the two of you could come to?

I totally understand the wanting to go to Asia though. It’s very odd (and I worry about myself, really) but I find that I’m very comfortable in China when I go back. I’m not sure how I’d react over the long haul, but I do like being there. A lot. And the thing is, if you want to teach, well, you can always get a job in China or Taiwan. Always. It’s like the Golden Escape ticket.

Can’t you talk to JC about Taiwan? Just to try it for a little bit?

June 27, 2005 @ 10:47 pm | Comment

Echo,You aren’t a dude are yee?Yuck! I ain’t no gay.I like football.I’m what you would call a “Metrosexual”

June 27, 2005 @ 11:05 pm | Comment

Richard, is your relationship with jc such that he’ll just not ever leave phoenix? If so, is there anything else you could do and stay in Phoenix?

Does ASU (or anywhere else in the Phoenix area) have any classes in the dialect of chinese spoken in taiwan? If so you could learn the local lingo better and brush up on chinese in general. Hell maybe even get fin aid/student loans if you never finished a bachelors or wanna do a masters in chinese.

Then you could perhaps see where you are, and have a bit more breathing room in the mean time to figure things out, while still immersing yourself more in things chinese.

Is your urge/desire to move to asia really a masked way of wanting to ask jc to be more flexible, and you’re frustrated that he won’t more with/for you? Can you both coast for a while without your accursed corporate income?

Just some thoughs, all the best,


June 27, 2005 @ 11:11 pm | Comment

Dunno if this will help, but Joseph Campbell said:
“Don’t spend the first 50 years of your life climbing the ladder, only to find out at age 50 that you’ve propped it against the wrong wall.”

June 27, 2005 @ 11:19 pm | Comment

Some quick comments:

1) Richard: It’s never too late to change your career, family and child obligations being a possible caveat. But it does become more difficult with time.

2) With regards to time spent in Asia being blank on your CV, it depends what you’re doing and what you seek to do afterwards.

3) I don’t think you can make a career teaching English out here unless it’s at a university in one of a very few places. But that’s just top-of-my head opinion based on what I’ve heard from people who have done it. I have no direct experience.

4) Filthy: You don’t necessarily have to go back to the US after spending time out here. And, frankly, I think the longer you’re out here, the less likely you are to go back.

5) Richard (again): If the Mandarin aspect isn’t important to you, there is plenty of Asia that isn’t China or Taiwan. Some of it is nice.

6) Be really clear about what you want. Then, be willing to take the risk to get it once you figure it out. I have been where you are. Whatever else, don’t stay where you are doing what you are. You will end up shooting yourself or an alcoholic. Or both.

7) MAJ: I like Chomsky as well, although I do filter what he writes as it varies in credibility. But I thought he hit his peak some years ago.

June 27, 2005 @ 11:33 pm | Comment

Oh yeah, one other thought (thanks for reminding me, Ivan). Work isn’t life, so be where you want to be first. Sort the rest out later. As a good friend of mine once pointed out, no one at the point of death ever said, “should have spent…more…time…at…the…office…”

June 27, 2005 @ 11:36 pm | Comment


I feel for you Buddy. For what it’s worth I’m also going through some serious soul searching myself right now and it sucks.

I wouldn’t presume to give you advice, but I do wish you good luck.

June 27, 2005 @ 11:43 pm | Comment

Conrad,You got your soul back from the shoppe?

June 27, 2005 @ 11:45 pm | Comment

What Will said!

June 28, 2005 @ 12:21 am | Comment


June 28, 2005 @ 12:41 am | Comment

Yeah, pretty much.

June 28, 2005 @ 12:56 am | Comment

LOL! Thanks for that, Other Lisa. But AM has a point. I *can* say some pretty inane stuff sometimes.

The funny thing is…I don’t know Richard beyond what he chooses to project into this blog, and I’m not actually qualified to help him wrestle with this extremely large and personal issue (although I sympathize). Probably none of us are.

Richard, just remember, advice from blog commenters is worth what you paid for it!

June 28, 2005 @ 1:07 am | Comment

Lisa have you met Will? “Love is in the air” It’s soooo romantic.

June 28, 2005 @ 1:14 am | Comment

Hey, AM, I cited you on the thread above. Not sure what that means for our future….

June 28, 2005 @ 1:21 am | Comment

Lisa, you get around.You go girl!

June 28, 2005 @ 1:29 am | Comment

Me either, but I’m married and, consequently, off limits to *both* of you. Heavy Internet debate is as sexy as its gonna get. (I’m sure hearts are breaking.)

June 28, 2005 @ 1:30 am | Comment

Marriage is such an abstract document.It can be interpreted so many ways.Like ……..The Constitution.

June 28, 2005 @ 1:36 am | Comment

Yes, but a frying pan being swung at my face can be interpreted in just one, highly literal way.

June 28, 2005 @ 1:39 am | Comment

Sounds like my Sichuan wife.They don’t fart around.

June 28, 2005 @ 1:41 am | Comment

BTW,Lisa are you a vegetarian?

June 28, 2005 @ 1:44 am | Comment

Singaporean – half Hakka, half Cantonese by extraction (for an extra dose of fiery temper), and a fitness buff with the shoulders and arms to work up really good bat-speed. I behave.

Of course this isn’t really helping Richard much, unless he considers finding an Asian bride part of the larger life-puzzle he is facing…

June 28, 2005 @ 1:46 am | Comment

My wife that is; not Lisa.

June 28, 2005 @ 1:46 am | Comment

As my wife says” The foreigner is changeable.” Yeah, I am partially castrated myself. All for the better thou.She does’nt take any of my B.S.

June 28, 2005 @ 1:49 am | Comment

I’m sorry about all my spelling/grammar errors.I have forgotten about 20% of my native language living here.And I teach the kiddies.Pretty scary.The longer I’m here the worse my oral English gets.I am an Oral English teacher.Good thing I’m really just a monkey/advertisement/pogo the clown.

June 28, 2005 @ 1:54 am | Comment

Cantonese have bad tempers?

June 28, 2005 @ 2:07 am | Comment

Richard. My two cents. I believe that Taiwan would fit you well. During my last 5 or 6 trips I met a few U.S. expats of 50 or so who greatly enjoy life there. (Usually my acquaintances are limited to Taiwanese or Vietnamese) My wife’s favourite city remains Hong Kong, and I’ve never met any unhappy expats there, although one Aussie was homesick for Singapore. She considers Taiwan too insular, but it is handily accessible to the rest of Asia. Macao might be interesting, even if Portuguese has all but disappeared, but I find Shanghai too much like Manhatten. The wife is now leaning on me to retire in Nha Trang or Hue. I love both, but old Vietnamese and Montagnard ghosts keep staring over my shoulder to chide me for trafficking with the enemy. (Even Chomsky had to admit that there was a Hue massacre. The perps now live in Hue’s better sections.) I’ve never seen Laos on the ground, but have heard that it is well worth the visit for those who like out of the way places.

So, what’s the purpose of all this? Just this friend. They’ll be dropping you in the ground much sooner than any of us are planning for. Or worse, you’ll be staring out the window of some care facility with drool hanging off your chin and a vacant stare in your eyes. If being back in Asia is on your list of things to do before you die, or Nurse Chratchet changes your depends, don’t presume that you can put it off. The bone-man cometh, and he has all our addresses.

Just for the record. Whilst Mark Anthony and I disagree on much, and I find his support for the Sunni terrorists sadly misplaced, I do not judge him to be anti-American.

June 28, 2005 @ 2:33 am | Comment


If your job is killing you, you’ve gotta get out. You work shit jobs in call centers and other diabolical places when you’re a student, not for a satisfying career.

Secondly, you’re obviously still living in Asia or you wouldn’t write about the place every day and spend so much time on it. It’s your passion, and in my opinion you are one of the most intelligent writers on China. You could easily replace most of the mediocre journalists across China on your own. if you decided to go that way. Your main weakness is a tendency to underestimate your own expertise in the field.

Having lived/spend time in Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Taipei and several other places on the mainland, I think Taipei is the pick of the lot (the other Taiwan cities are really forgettable). Taipei is international, confident, has a strong history, surrounded by beautiful hills and forests, the people I worked with I had some of my most enjoyable experiences with in Asia, and I’d go as far to say Taiwan is everything China wants to be.


June 28, 2005 @ 4:16 am | Comment

Conrad’s post above could have been written by me…

I feel for you Buddy. For what it’s worth I’m also going through some serious soul searching myself right now and it sucks.

I wouldn’t presume to give you advice, but I do wish you good luck.

Thanks for saving me the trouble!

June 28, 2005 @ 5:53 am | Comment

Dear Lirelou,

Thank you most sincerely for what you just said above – I really do appreciate the fact that you, more than anybody, being a Vietnamese veteran, can understand and appreciate the fact that I am not in any way inherently anti-American, despite my qualified support for the Iraqi insurgency – and I do stress, as I have always done, the word “qualified” here.

I most certainly DO NOT want to see Americans die in Iraq, no more than I want to see Iraqis or anybody else die. I admire the fact that you, unlike some others, can disagree with my views about the insurgency without feeling the need to label me anti-American. As I said, I really do appreciate that, I appreciate you saying so so openly on this site, because it is definitely very annoying and frustrating for me, not to mention down right insulting, that others do, and that they persist in tagging me as such.

You and I, despite our differences in opinion on some issues, also share some common ground, and at the end of the day, it is what brings people together that matters, not what separates them apart.

I second your advice to Richard – your reference to One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest is most appropriate! A great, quintessentially American novel, and one which I first studied as a high school student when I was 14 years old, and which I myself have taught many times since – it often appears on the HSC list, you know.

Actually, I have already offered Richard my advice on how to handle his existential crisis – and in line with Lao Zi’s views, as outlined in the Dao de jing, and that is to simply follow your heart. The Way is to follow your heart – that’s the literal translation, if you use the ancient characters for “de jing”.

If you follow your heart, you can never really go wrong.

I have to say this though – you really ought not to continue viewing the Vietnamese as the “enemy” – former foes, who normally have more in common than they do otherwise, often make the best friends. Look at the mutual respect and friendship that now exists between ANZACS and the Turks, for example. I’m sure Lirelou, that on your travels back to Vietnam, you must have met former Viet Cong fighters, and have shaken their hands! Right? Like the Australian Vietnam Vet Terry Burstall did, when he met his former foes at Long Tan.

People forgive and forget, do they not? The ghosts of the past can be tamed, yeah?

Best regards Lirelou.

Mark Anthony Jones

June 28, 2005 @ 6:53 am | Comment


Very interested in your quoting laozi. Please supply support. I’d always translated Daodejing like they translate yijing – where ‘jing’ is “book” and daode is virtue. also I think following your heart is a bit of a gloss-over. Laozi wasn’t that much of a tree-hugger. Just my two cents.

June 28, 2005 @ 7:32 am | Comment

Richard, I can’t advise anyone trying to choose between career/happiness and a great relationship. That kind of horrible dilemma requires an intimate knowledge of the situation, maybe only you and your heart can make that call.

However, I’ll pitch in about teaching. I really love my teaching job. I work as a freelance teacher, but in fact virtually all my work is for a single private training center. If you can find a good one, this can be a nice way to go.

Unlike teaching at a university, you will never need to correct homework, or design and administer tests. You never need worry about students cheating. Your life is not hooked to an academic calendar or even a weekly schedule. You can largely choose what kind of students to teach (from little children to busines execs). This kind of teaching is great if your favorite part of teaching is the classroom interaction. It also leaves you enough free time to study Chinese, spend time on some other business endeavors, or … manage blog forums! πŸ˜‰

I don’t worry so much about “dead time” on a resume. Just by living in China, speaking Chinese, and meeting lots of people, you encounter a wide array of unexpected alternate opportunities that, in my opinion, more than offset time or experience lost on a traditional career path.

The quality of my Shanghai life (e.g. apartment, etc) is roughly comparable to my previous life as an IT professional in San Francisco, and I work a hell of a lot less hours (I average about 20/week), However, an important thing to keep in mind: this avenue is more suitable to someone really planning to spend some time here, as the currency looses so much value when you leave the country.

Of course, teaching also has that advantage of belonging to that category of jobs like nursing or firefighting: you will never, ever loose sleep over the question of the value of your work to society. I mention that only because it means a lot to me, and it seems to mean a lot to you, too.

Are there any other half-way alternatives? Could you do any kind of China-related business consulting or even ESL teaching in Phoenix?

How about working in the kitchen of local Chinese restaurant? Maybe that would cure your China homesickness? πŸ™‚

I don’t mean to make light, I really wish you good luck with a tough personal decision.

June 28, 2005 @ 7:34 am | Comment

should say “book of The Way and Virtue” sorry.

June 28, 2005 @ 7:35 am | Comment

Richard, what do you like to do? What sustains you? As in, if you could picture a cycle of activity that you could repeat over and over again in a 24 hours period for months on end, what would it be? Don’t worry about location for the moment – I think you can do anything anywhere, really, but just focus on what it is that you want, without too many particulars. You’re unhappy for a reason, and the reason isn’t the place, but the emotions that the place inspires. so what emotions are missing, and what do you want to feel? What activity or lifestyle will make you feel that way? Now where can you do that, and how can you get there sooner rather than later?

I’m not sure I should be dishing out advice on this, considering I’m in much the situation you are in. I’ve decided that I want to get up in the morning and feel motivated – something I severely lack now. I’m not sure what makes me feel this way, honestly, so I’m going to explore for the next 4 years or so (until I hit 30 or 31) and then decide. Anyway, I haven’t found the answer either, and feel pretty stuck too.

June 28, 2005 @ 7:53 am | Comment

Dear Laowai,

There are many ways of interpreting the Dao de jing, which is one of the book’s m ost enduring beauties. I have several translations at home in Australia, but the one which I relate to the most what translated by a Singaporean professor, who uses the ancient, what he argues is the original character used for jing is heart. Dao, most translations I know of, is generally translated as the “Way” – meaning the “nature of things”.

Take a look at Book 6:

“Empty your mind of all thoughts.
Let your heart be at peace.
Watch the turmoil of beings,
but contemplate their return.

Each separate being in the universe
returns to the common source.
Returning to the source is serenity.

If you don’t realize the source,
you stumble in confusion and sorrow.
When you realize where you come from,
you naturally become tolerant,
disinterested, amused,
kindhearted as a grandmother,
dignified as a king.
Immersed in the wonder of the Dao,
you can deal with whatever life brings you,
and when death comes, you are ready.”

Here, “the wonder of the Dao” is the way of nature – which is to foloow your heart – if you follow your heart, you can “deal with whatever life brings you.”

The translation of the Dao de jing as the Book of Virtue, somteimes translated as The Way is to be virtuous – is in fact a latter translation. The Way, over time, came to reflect the morals and cultural values of the day – hence the Dao (the Way) for Confucius had certain moral implications – it was associated with concepts of virtue. To translate Dao as virtue, I believe, is not really in the spirit of the book – it is an incorrect transliteration. To appreciate the original intent of the author, one has to go right back to the earliest possible translations, and to carefully decipher the meanings inherent in the original characters. If you do this, you will appreciate that the more accurate translation is indeed, the Way is to follow your heart. Once you accept this, then the entire book makes much more sense!

I wish I could remember the exact name of the publisher and translator – as I said, my copy is back in Australia. You can buy it here in China at many bookstores though – I bought my copy in Nanjing.

I will try to track it down here in Shenzhen, and then I will be able to supply you with the exact characters, etc.

Mark Anthony Jones

June 28, 2005 @ 7:57 am | Comment

Dear Laowai,

I’m so sorry about all of the terrible typing errors in my comment above! I just returned from a banquet, and I’m afraid I am rather inebriated on baijiu!

Please forgive me!

Mark Anthony Jones

June 28, 2005 @ 8:04 am | Comment

Mark, my apologies. I was kind of baiting. Go to my site for some other thoughts – still very much in progress.

Basically, I think a lot of english translations miss a lot. If you read even just the mainstream translations from Ancient Chinese to modern chinese, they have very different flavours than if you read the english translations. I’ve thought of trying to write a big ole’ book on this, but don’t have the time right now.

I guess where I’d dispute you with the quote you cited is that you can’t “follow your heart” if your heart is at peace. Remember the imagery of the DDJ: the empty space is the usefulness, the virtue. In following our hearts, to some extent we assert ourselves, fill the cup, cut its virtue off by smashing its potential, thus, “the way that can be spoken of is not the true way.”

Anyway, richard , this thread is about you, so I’ll stop. I think Mark’s advice is well put, as I elaborated above – it is, by and largely, about following your heart – what do you want to feel, and how can you put yourself in a position that will make you feel that way?

June 28, 2005 @ 8:05 am | Comment

Mark, again, sorry for baiting. go to my site if you want to discuss it more.

June 28, 2005 @ 8:06 am | Comment

Dear Laowai,

I am certainly very interested in exploring the meaning of the Dao de jing with you, and I promise I will indeed do just that, but give me a few days or more. I need to track down that particular translation that I mentioned above – by the Singaporean academic. I guess I related to it more than any other translation that I have read, because of its simplicity of intent: the Way to live your life is to follow your heart. It seems to make so much sense, rather than to live your life according to virtue – which seems so Confucian in spirit. And I guess I relate much more to Daoism than I do to Confucianism. Daoism, well, my preferred reading of it anyway, compliments by appreciation and endorsement of Zen Buddhism, and of Sartre’s Marxist existentialism – all of which, I think, are philosophically consistent with one another. But more about that some other time – perhaps on the pages of your own werbsite, as you suggest.

I’m a little intoxicated right now, my mind certainly not as pure as water, so I shall have to end it here for now.

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

June 28, 2005 @ 8:14 am | Comment

I feel for you, being in a similar situation myself.

Two things I’m asking myself now:

1) What would I do if I didn’t have to worry about money?

2) What would I do if I had only another year to live?

This helps me a bit, although the decision I’ll have to make in a few months will still be painful.

June 28, 2005 @ 9:38 am | Comment

Dear Richard,
Of the places I ***visited, I’d never seen a city more bleached of character or history than Taipei. Of the times I visited BJ, I’d never seen a blue sky. Of the reasons for expatriates working in Asia, I’d only heard a good one, “We Chinese are the white men of Aisa.” The last, probably does not apply to you.
If you felt lost, and hit a low spot now, your low will be ten-fold lower in Asia. Find meaning in what you do and where you are. My experience with Corporate life says you can find a small niche and work your influence. “If I can make the lives of those people working for me better, that would be a meaningful goal.” That sustained me for 18 years.
Running is not the answer. Good luck
Buddy, and best wishes.

June 28, 2005 @ 9:53 am | Comment

Yow. Don’t contend with Hakka women. They are the Texans of China. No better friend, no worse enemy.

Nice to see you, Lirelou.

Richard, I think you’re wrong about Chomsky….he’s extremely popular in some quarters. Full of shit, but popular. Shame that he poisons the little good research and history with so much outright distortion that he’s lost credibility.

Now, on topic: Lirelou is right…time passes quickly. Do what you love. I mean, try to keep a buffer against starvation, but do what you love. Now. You’ve got no guarantee of even being alive next week. Taiwan sounds interesting from the other posters, and the Mainland has pitfalls and opportunities I’ll be happy to discuss offline. It can be hell, or you can be the king. I’m the king, at least when my wife’s not home.

June 28, 2005 @ 10:02 am | Comment

Wow, I’m a little overwhelmed (no, a lot overwhelmed). There are so many questions people have asked me in this thread and so many great suggestions. Let me try to deal with them in one comment if possible.

I would consider this “running away” if it were a split-second decision simply to get me out of my current job. This has been percolating now for six months. If I do it, I want to think of it as following my bliss, as opposed to fleeing my present life. As I said above, I now dread the thought of looking back at my life when the long game’s over and seeing that it was mostly about storage area networks.

I almost never write about my domestic situation, but I’m going to make an exception now. My friend JC loves the house and the garden, and spends almost all his time working on it. I hate it. I want to rent and let the maintenance people trim the bushes and clean the swimming pool. We don’t own a house; the house owns us. He works for a mega-corporation and oversees a team based partly in India, Malaysia and China. Almost every night after dinner he goes into a phone meeting despite having worked 10 hours already. These management calls go on for hours, and since the team is based in Asia, they take place late at night or very early in the morning. He is always miserable, but they have him right where they want him: he can’t give up his stock options and his sabbatical, the carrots they hold out to keep you enslaved. He won’t consider leaving the house; the house is his life.

The love is as strong as ever, and even stronger. But sometimes we have to make very painful choices. I want him to come with me, and I hope if I show him I am really serious about this he will. But things can’t keep going the way they are, with both of us exhausted and miserable because of our jobs all the time. And I don’t have the stock options; my future only promises more of the same misery, without the rewards.

My absolute, total dream job? That’s simple. I’d want to be a news reporter, which was my job before I got into PR. I love it despite the poor pay. That’s really why I have this blog, to continue being a bit of a journalist. I just worry that journalists are a dime a dozen and half of them are laid off and looking for work. I have no faith that I’d find a job in Taiwan or elsewhere as a journalist, especially if I don’t read or write Chinese.

Second choice would be teaching at the university level. I am very entertaining, and my English skills are pretty strong; I worked for three years as a copyeditor. And I have a master’s in journalism as well as my TESL certificate. I can teach English, beginner German, English lit, history and, most of all, classical music.

I do not want to have anything to do with technology if possible. I want to excise it from my life. It was a mistake, a terrible rut I need to get out of. And I don’t have much time.

Will, I’d like to hear where else in Asia you think I should consider. I’m open to all suggestions. Taiwan seems perfect because of its location, climate and infrastructure.

Sam, would I like Shenzhen? I’ve heard all sorts of grim stories about crime and rip-off artists there, but I’d be interested – because it’s warm.

I can’t thank everyone enough for their help here. I’m still absorbing all the suggestions, and will keep you posted about my decision.

June 28, 2005 @ 12:21 pm | Comment

Is there something going around? I’m relocating back to the US after more than 2 and 1/2 years in Urumqi – like Richard and Conrad, I’m going through some soul searching and taking stock and all that sorta thing too.

Definitely, if you hate your job, quit. In fact, if you can use that corporate paycheck to float yourself for a bit, maybe you should just quit and THEN try and figure out whats next. Its a luxury, I know, but maybe your mood will improve when you have no job and it will give you a bit more perspective. A vacation does the same thing, but with the dread of returning to work hanging over your head.

Work isn’t life. Relationships, as I’ve been reminded by my own recent heavy personal s**t, certainly mean alot more. Perhaps you could take a play from Will’s wifes book and hit JC with a frying pan, only to wake up in a nice apartment in Taiwan? Ah, if only it could be that easy.

Teaching – Slim makes it sound nice, but I haven’t had such a rosy view. Then again, I taught in a public university in the boonies. I disagree with the firefighting comparison, learning English is often simply a bureaucratic hurdle out here – maybe Slim teaches something more crucial, like CPR. It depends on the school, the students, the colleagues and most importantly whether you derive personal satisfaction from it. Sometimes I did, other times I didn’t. Lisa said a teacher should be someone energized by being up there in front, and I definitely could and did – but sometimes that energy was more general, the energy that comes when you want to get something done and you rise to the challenge, rather than the energy that comes to you when you feel you’re following your calling. Both are a rush, but different kinds.

But this is coming from someone who feels drained from teaching, and who has been living abroad in Xinjiang for nearly 3 years, which is way above average for expats out there. I had tons of students saying goodbye, giving me gifts, telling me that while there were times they felt I was a “big mouth” who sometimes seemed ill-prepared for the lesson, but that I was also the most honest, most direct and got them thinking about things they never had before. It’s a bit like being a performer; sometimes you get applause, sometimes you get the hook, and you have to be able to take that kinda judgment from people who only knew you for 16 one hour lessons.

So now I’m going the other direction, back to the US, and I’m wondering what I’m going to do. I’m getting lost in Europe for a month first, mixing in some academic stuff as well to look at my options for grad school. I need a break from teaching – I prefer writing, I believe, as far as trying to tell people my ideas and communicate.

Don’t know if this now rambling post about how I feel similiar helps – I’m not trying to sway you off teaching, just saying it can be really tough trying to make it meaningful to you, because different people think teaching is important for different reasons and you’re constantly trying to think about how its important to you and important to each student and how to connect the two, and that tires the hell outta ya. Finding your personal style as a teacher is crucial to enjoying it and extremely rewarding but also tough – I admire those who can do it more consistently and better than I.

June 28, 2005 @ 12:45 pm | Comment

Richard, a comment.

Based on the teaching I’ve done, which isn’t as extensive as many of the people here, but is still decent – I’ve taught martial arts, ecology, wilderness survival, biology, herbology and english – I’d STRONGLY suggest you teach something that isn’t “indespensible” but instead is something that people want to learn from a deep seated interest, so they come. English is a drag, even if people are motivated, it usually isn’t for the reasons that make teachers (like me at least) feel overjoyed. English lit? Classical music? Journalism? great! things that aren’t going to make your students a lot of money, necessarily, but will surely attract students that want to be there for the content of the subject. My sister is a medievalist – a professor at a NYC university, and she’s the one that made me think about this – she teaches first year english, and it sucks for her – but she also teaches upper level chaucer courses, and really likes those. If what you teach is just a requirement to get somewhere else than you might not enjoy teaching it so much.

I’m sure there are lots of counterpoints, but just a thought to help you on your way to bliss.

Also – wouldn’t it be really convenient for JC to move to Asia if his business is all there? find him a nice house in Taiwan with a garden and let him go wild. Would make any subsequent airfare to the on-the-job sites cheaper.

June 28, 2005 @ 1:33 pm | Comment

Plus, just put it to him this way: You’re not losing the house! You’re gaining humidity!

sorry. But arizona sure is dry.

June 28, 2005 @ 1:36 pm | Comment

Laowai, thanks for the great comment and suggestion. I met JC for lunch a few minutes ago, and he was so upset about his own job he was practically in tears. He actually said he’ll allow me to look for jobs in Taiwan for him. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

June 28, 2005 @ 2:26 pm | Comment


If he does business stuff, Mercer HR has an office there: http://www.mercerhr.com/mercerlocation/detail.jhtml?idContent=1046925

Mckinsey in taibei: http://mckinsey.com/aboutus/locations/global/


Management consulting is probably right up his alley from what you’ve said.

June 28, 2005 @ 2:54 pm | Comment

I’d think maybe JC’s own company might have some ideas, given that they’re doing business in Asia. Maybe he could do some kind of consulting for them in Taiwan. That way he’d have more independence but could take advantage of contacts he already has.

June 28, 2005 @ 3:27 pm | Comment

Lisa, I agree completely. For the very first time, today, he actually seemed willing to consider it. His life is hell and he knows it — they have him on the corporate treadmill and he’s too scared to get off. Just what these big companies want.

June 28, 2005 @ 3:31 pm | Comment

Richard, SZ is warm but sticky. It’s also a bit work-obsessed and culture-less, to name two downside issues. You might be more well-suited to HK. Why don’t you e-me if you haven’t already.

June 28, 2005 @ 5:10 pm | Comment

Sam, I did already, and am waiting forlornly at my computer for your reply.

June 28, 2005 @ 5:38 pm | Comment

Richard – does it have to be putonghua speaking? How good is your Chinese? How long would it take to get to that level in another language? Cause Japan is fricking amazing. If you like nature. I’m sure Thailand and so forth are less developed and more natural, but man, 1.5 hours from tokyo, beautiful hiking, shrines to buddha or some shinto stuff hidden in every mountainside, and AMAZING, amazing cuisine. Doesn’t have as much of the personal charm of China, until you get closer to the people, but the nature struck a huge chord with me. I mean, if you don’t speak the language and you’re in Hong Kong might as well also consider being in Japan. I’ve spent years kind of disliking Japan on an ideological level, for various reasons, but one visit there changed everything.

If anyone wants to go to a nice little national park and an incredible bed and breakfast 1.5 hours outside of tokyo, send me an email.

June 28, 2005 @ 5:47 pm | Comment

Mark Anthony,
I don’t view “Vietnamese” as the enemy. The Vietnamese are a people. My old enemy, I know personally and intimately. Two brothers-in-law were VC combatants, and their female cousin was a member of the infrastructure. Some were mere draftees, and others were idealists. But I also know the sewer rats among them. The scumbag, rat-faced little murderers who showed up in the village with people’s names on their lists. Those who targeted the teachers, health workers, and honest public servants for the purpose of sewing terror and making the government unworkable. I have nothing against sitting down and drinking a beer with former combatants, but I don’t fool myself. Among the heroes of many battles, and the opportunistic “475” communists, are the political assassins who murdered the very best of a generation, and took Vietnam down to the level of the poorest countries in the world. All in the name of “lebensraum” and the unification of “die Volk”. Hmm, I wonder how Ho Chi Minh’s speech about the “Greater Viet Nam” translated into German?

June 28, 2005 @ 6:36 pm | Comment

Dear Richard,

The “Special Delights” entertainment centre that I mentioned to you sure is a little paradise, but those kinds of places are everywhere in China. They aren’t unique to Shenzhen.

I don’t know if you read Shenzhen Kitsch I and III (I don’t think I sent you part II) but if you read those I don’t think you would describe Shenzhen as a “paradise”. It’s consumer-oriented, it’s face painted by a commodity aesthetic. ie. it’s quite kitsch!

It’s also very humid, but no more humid than Shanghai, and Shanghai is actually hotter as this time of the year. Shanghai has colder winters, and its hot humid summer doesn’t last as long as Shenzhen’s.

I much prefer Shanghai actually. But Shenzhen does have some good points. You can pick up two television stations from Hong Kong here – Pearl and ATV World – both of which show some pretty decent programs – good documentaries, etc. It has its fair share of crap too – like some of these so-called reality TV shows: like the Search for America’s Next Supermodel, Survivor, The Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, ad nauseum.

Shenzhen is also a mere 30 to 40 minutes away from downtown Kowloon by train. And a mere hour by bus from Guangzhou. You can get a ferry across to Zhuhai, or to Macau as well.

If you like beaches, Shenzhen has a few decent ones – they seem reasonably clean, but they’re also a little too commercialised for my liking (refer to my Pencheng Village travelogue).

Sam from Shenzhen is right about the city lacking in historical sites – the late Qing village on Dapeng Peninsula, near all the beaches, is about the only preserved site that I know of.

Shenzhen has one so-called Irish pub (McCawley’s – which is actually a Scottish name) that serves imported Guinnesss on tap – straight from the St James Gate Brewery in Dublin. It’s my watering hole here, as I love a good pint of Guinness!

Mark Anthony Jones

June 28, 2005 @ 6:51 pm | Comment

It’s “das Volk.”

June 28, 2005 @ 6:51 pm | Comment

davesgone china wrote:

>> “Teaching – Slim makes it sound nice, but I haven’t had such a rosy view. Then again, I taught in a public university in the boonies. I disagree with the firefighting comparison, learning English is often simply a bureaucratic hurdle out here – maybe Slim teaches something more crucial, like CPR. ”

Ha, I love the idea of teaching English-language CPR! πŸ™‚

Seriously, dave, my hat’s off to guys like you. I would last one week in the kind of teaching you do.

Here in Shanghai, most of my students belong to two groups. The first is young professionals who need English for work, and are highly motivated to improve it, at least motivated enough to shell out of their own pocket for lessons during their free time.

The second are young people preparing to study abroad. Some of them are much less motivated (Dad’s decision and money), but many really do take their classtime seriously, and it’s fun to work with mainlanders who are about to spend some serious time on my Home Planet.

Also, I alawys look for ways to make classtime more enjoyable for them AND me. If we are both enjoying it, well, it just doesn’t seem so much like work.

I never forgot an important lesson from one of my music teachers, a lesson which applies to any kind of performance art (including teaching): if you are bored and just going through the motions, your audience will pick up on it immediately.

Dave, if you are no longer excited by Xinjiang, why don’t you try some other options? Maybe you can find a teaching niche elsewhere that is more to your liking.

If you have any desire to check out Shanghai and its teaching scene), please look me up!

June 28, 2005 @ 6:51 pm | Comment

Dear Lirelou,

O.K. It seems as though I misread you. Sorry about that.

Point taken!

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

June 28, 2005 @ 6:53 pm | Comment

Slim, can you get me a job at your school? πŸ™‚

June 28, 2005 @ 6:57 pm | Comment

Like so many others here, I , too am in the process of re-evaluating my options.

I really do like living in Shanghai (4.5 years so far), and I love my job. However, I want to make sure there isn’t a place even better for me.

In particular, I’m interested in:
– Qingdao
– Shenzhen
– Taipei

Those of you with first-hand experience in these places, please keep up the coments. Richard is not the only one benefitting! Thanks!

June 28, 2005 @ 6:57 pm | Comment

>> “For the very first time, today, he actually seemed willing to consider it.”

Richard, that’s great news! Maybe after all, you will get to have your cake and eat it, too. πŸ™‚

Gee, I was hoping to meet you this fall when I visit my mom in Phoenix. Maybe I will have to wait until I visit Taipei. πŸ™‚

Good luck!

June 28, 2005 @ 7:01 pm | Comment

Dear Shanghai Slim,

I live in Shenzhen, so if you are interested in my impressions of Shenzhen, I’d be happy to share them with you.

I have been to Qingdao, only once, for a week, nut I left with a very favourable impression. It certainly has a lot more character than Shenzhen – the beaches there are very pretty (especially Beach No.6), and a lot of the architecture there dates back to the time of the German Concession – some beautiful Bavarian architecture! The parks there are nice too.

Mark Anthony Jones

June 28, 2005 @ 7:04 pm | Comment

Slim, nothing’s written in stone yet. Far from it. But God, I hope I can bring him around. He looked right on the verge at lunch today; these huge semiconductor companies are famous for grinding their managers into pulp.

June 28, 2005 @ 7:06 pm | Comment

Laowai, about whether it has to be Putonghua speaking — no, not necessarily, but I’d prefer it. I’ve gotten to the poiint where I can hold a basic conversation (very basic – I’m self-taught) and it is one of my dreams to become at least semi-fluent. Japan intimidates me with its prices and its lack of English speakers. Thailand would be a dream, but I was under the impressiopn that finding a job there would be next to impossible. Any other suggestions?

June 28, 2005 @ 7:13 pm | Comment

The idea that most people in Shenzhen don’t speak putonghua is nonesense! Twenty years ago Shenzhen was little more than a small town. Now it is full of highrises, with a large population in the millions. Most of the people who live here come from Hunan and Sichuan provinces – hence the reason why there are so many Hunanese and Sichuanense restaurants all over the city. In fact, people come from all over China to live and work in Shenzhen. They come from as far away as Harbin even. My fiancee cannot speak Cantonese, but she walked straight into a really good job with a German company, and all of the staff are putonghua speakers. She never has any problems communicating here.

You are more likely to hear Cantonese being used on the streets in Canton (Guangzhou) than here in Shenzhen – not surprisingly, of course!

Mark Anthony Jones

June 28, 2005 @ 7:21 pm | Comment

hmmm. I’m NOT plugging Japan, I swear, and share your desire to get to China (which is why I’m going there in six months….) but, that being said, if you’re making yen, the prices aren’t an issue. Anyway, even making pounds the prices aren’t really an issue. Japan has the ridiculously priced, but also the very reasonably priced.

My girlfriend’s mom and friends don’t speak English, as such, but you’d be amazed how much of a conversation you can have when they use English nouns and unconjugated verbs and japanese articles. Anyway, Japanese is easier to learn than Chinese – pronounciation is a dream and the grammar isn’t hard – with my 1 semester of linguistics I’ll guess how to say things a lot in japanese with my girlfriend and I’m usually right. If you love China, I understand completely. But Japan might be easier to get to than you think – better internationalised job prospects, I’d bet. And I think it would be really comfortable to live there – as I said, the countryside is so clean and beautiful. I’ve never seen anything like it outside of the U.S.

June 28, 2005 @ 7:24 pm | Comment

Mark, not sure where you got the impression that someone said they didn’t speak putonghua. I’d only said that a friend from Xi’an didn’t like it because there was a lot more non-putonghua floating around than Xi’an, and she didn’t like it. Question of tolerance, not absolute magnitude.

June 28, 2005 @ 7:26 pm | Comment

Damn, so many choices. I’m getting even more confused.

June 28, 2005 @ 7:28 pm | Comment

At least you’re letting yourself entertain the ideas – that’s the most important thing, you know. Giving yourself the freedom to create your own future and not resign yourself to your fate in something you don’t like.

June 28, 2005 @ 7:29 pm | Comment

Dear Laowai,

In one of your comments on the new open thread, you said quite explicitly that your friend from Xian complained that “no one likes to speak putonghua” – the ket words being “no one”. That’s how I got the impression that someone had claimed that putonghua was not commonly used in Shenzhen. Most people in Shenzhen cannot speak Cantonese – they speak putonghua.

mark Anthony Jones

June 28, 2005 @ 7:36 pm | Comment

Richard wrote:
“Slim, can you get me a job at your school? :-)”

The only question would be what day you wanted to start. πŸ™‚

Re Shenzhen, one of my best friends is from Henan, and now lives in Shenzhen. He tells me that putonghua is by far the primary language of the city. He loves it there.

MAJ, yes I would love to hear anything else you have to say about Shenzhen, thank you very much!

June 28, 2005 @ 7:37 pm | Comment

gotcha. hope I cleared it up. That she was complaining it was meant to indicate it was somewhat a hyperbolic statement.

June 28, 2005 @ 7:38 pm | Comment

Richard, that’s great news about jc being more flexible!!!

Seeing as how it looks like he already telecommutes a bunch with folks in Asia, if there’s any intersection of places you’d like and that he can transfer either directly to for work, or telecommute for work, he’d in any event be much, much closer.

You really wanna bail from the Phoenix real estate market before the bubble bursts anyway, no? πŸ™‚

Like several posters said, there are a number of places in Asia where he can have gardens and good telecom where you could teach whatever.

Good luck and of course keep us all posted.

June 28, 2005 @ 9:19 pm | Comment

David, I bought my house in 1990 for $71,900. Today it’s valued above a quarter of a million. The one smart investment of my entire life. Now, if only I can convince JC to sell!! I’m still gloomy – he loves this house, maybe even more than he loves me. But it seems he’s at least willing to listen.

June 28, 2005 @ 9:28 pm | Comment

taipei is beautiful and people are nice. it’s thousands of worlds away from shanghai, where i am also currently living at the moment.
qingdao is nice too. i studied at qingdao university, and really enjoyed the city, people are pretty cool, life is a lot cheaper than shanghai, and beer is especially cheap. as far as jobs, i don’t think you are gonna get much besides English teaching in Qingdao, unless you are really lucky. Many more opportunities in Taipei for more substantial jobs with futures.

June 28, 2005 @ 9:31 pm | Comment

I don’t really know what I could add to everyone else’s thoughtful suggestions – I’m in much the same boat myself.

For all the complaints I make about living here, I can’t wait to finish the next degree I plan on pursuing in the States so that I can return to China. With my wife being a native Chinese and the last 5 years of my education being focused on China, it just makes sense to live here.

I’d be content living somehwere in the mountains, such as the place I just visited. I like places where the people are down-to-earth and know how to respect eachother. More than likely though, I will probably go to someplace like Shanghai were I can still live in China with access to the remote places that I so love to spend my time and still find a touch of home when I want.

Good luck on sorting things out.

June 29, 2005 @ 7:08 pm | Comment

Having dropped everything and come to China with only a vague plan to “do some teaching and learn the language”, I can’t help feeling at times that I should’ve been a little more patient while making my decision. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about accepting a call it’s this: sometimes it’s better to resist, only in order to get your head level and way up most of the options before doing anything.

June 30, 2005 @ 3:49 am | Comment

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