An end of the year report, and a thank you

The lake and clock tower of Henan University of Technology

ZHENGZHOU, HENAN — We are about an hour from the start of 2018 here, and I’m taking a few minutes to recap the year before I get ready for the ball to drop (figuratively speaking).

First of all, someone donated $30 in Bitcoin to the website today, anonymously as I have no idea who sent it. Whoever it is, many, many thanks!

Here’s a quick recap of 2017, which has been one helluva year, for many reasons.

In January and February, I spent a month touring Japan. Two weeks of that was spent with my son, and we had a ball! If I could afford it, I could spend a month just in Tokyo and never run out of things to do, see or eat!

March through June were business as usual, teaching Business English students at Jishou University. It was year nine for me, and I fully intended to stay another year at least. But, reality beat that idea down.

Unbeknownst to me and (apparently) my foreign affairs officers, Hunan province had lowered the maximum working age for foreign teachers from 64 to 60, meaning that I was unable to remain in Hunan as a teacher. Worse yet, as my visa expired June 30 and we learned of the change on June 2, I had only four weeks to get my affairs in order and leave China.

I quickly posted my resume on Dave’s ESL Cafe and within days received several job offers from universities in China. Most I found I was ineligible for, because most of China’s provinces had passed the same age limitations as Hunan. But, Henan has not lowered its top age from 65, so that’s where I ended up.

[Rumor has it among the expat teaching community that a 58-year-old teacher somewhere in eastern China had up and died suddenly, sending local officialdom into panic mode. That supposedly prompted the central government to recommend capping the eligible age at 60. Whether all this is true, I can’t say, but This Is China and it sure sounds plausible.]

Because I had to jet out of China so quickly, I had no time to move my work permit and teaching license from Hunan to Henan. To teach at Henan University of Technology, I would have to re-apply for a Z visa, which turned out to be more of a hassle than it was in 2008. There were several times when I thought I should just forget the whole “teach in China” thing, and explore other options. But, I had already promised I would come, had already signed a preliminary contract, and still had personal belongings in storage. After three and a half months of slogging through the necessary paperwork (mostly waiting for paperwork to arrive, truth be told), I got my new Z visa and within days was flying yet again toward China.

Within a couple of days, I was back in the saddle, teaching two sophomore sections and three (later four) freshman sections of English as Second Language, taking over for two other teachers who had had to suddenly leave. There was more paperwork to be done to secure my work permit and resident permit, but that was all finished last week when I received my shiny new res permit affixed to my passport.

My classes had their final exams two weeks ago, and I finished reading them on Friday. Some clerical matters remain, but the deadline for teachers is Jan. 13, so no pressure there.

I’ll be traveling after that, but as of yet I have not decided on a destination. But, I do need to be in Hunan around Feb. 22 to attend a former student’s wedding. I’m planning to drop by Jishou, since it’s only a couple of hours away by train.

Here’s to a New Year! May 2018 be kinder to us all than 2017 was! Xin nian kuaile 新年快乐!See you on the flipside!

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Also published on Medium.

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