Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Homeless in China?

It happened.

For six hours, my wife and I were homeless in China .

In September 2008, I accepted a teaching positive at a university in the city of Changsha. So, after giving our landlord the keys to our apartment in Shenzhen, we boarded a train and headed northwest to the capital of Hunan Province.

The moment we arrived, I knew we were in deep, deep, deep trouble...

First, our sponsor told us their may be a slight problem getting our work visa paperwork processed (i.e. green card). However, I could teach until they figured out what to do (i.e. against Chinese Law).

I said,
"No problem."
"Tomorrow's a new day."
"Let's go see the campus and the apartment."

To make a long story short, when our sponsor showed us the apartment, my wife nearly died. It was bad. Let's put it this way, compared to this University apartment, my tents in Mogadishu and Baghdad were the Hilton.

Basically, this alcoholic BRIT had lived in this apartment for over a year and had never cleaned it. Heck, according to my sponsor, he barely made it to class. Anyhow, after dragging my wife around China, there wasn't a prayers chance in hell we'd live in that apartment.

So, we said our goodbyes and walked away from the school...

At that moment, as we were trying to wave down a taxi, we were indeed homeless.

Plan B

Before leaving Shenzhen, I had received an offer from another school in another city. After more than a dozen phone calls, we decided to board another train and head north.

Anybody that knows anything about traveling in China, it's nearly impossible to get train tickets on the same day you want to travel.

Fast Forward
So, after standing in line for 3 hours with five thousand other people wanting to leave Changsha, I finally made it to the ticket window:

"Mayo." (the Chinese word for NO)
 Blah. Blah. Blah.

At that moment, ALL the train tickets out of Changsha were sold out for the next ten days. Getting back on the phone with a different head hunter in Shanghai, she says to me, "there's a high school in Changsha that has an opening."

"You're telling me there's a school in this city? The city I'm standing in right now? Making twice the money for half the hours?" "In Changsha?"
"This city?"

 "Have the school pick us up right now!"

I know it sounds crazy, but by allowing ourselves to become homeless, I ended up teaching at one of the top ten high schools in China.

By allowing ourselves to become homeless,
we received our Green Cards and a nice apartment.
And yes, making twice the money working half the hours.

True Story.


Short video of Electric Powered Double-Decker Buses, Hong Kong, S.A.R. (July 2009).
Photo of student produced motivational blackboard in Peter's classroom (February 2009).