You Never Know Where Life Will Take You

Welcome! This is a blog about a girl, who got a job, and moved halfway across the world to teach English. Read and enjoy!

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Stranger in a Strange Land

So, after days of confusion, tears, questions, and lack of sleep, I somehow made it back here faithful readers!

It has been absolutely insane and eye-opening, disappointing and exciting....I think I have completely explored the complete range of emotions I am capable of in these last few days, maybe except fury and loathing (almost though).

I am coming to you from a proxy server - China doesn't want anyone to blog or use ANY social networking sites - I said screw it and paid for some anonymity, because none of the other free proxies wanted to work for me. Here I am again, connection re-established and I'm feeling 10 times better! Once I get internet at my apartment I will almost be back to 100%. Once I get paid and reimbursed then I'll truly feel better. I have at least 6 pages written on my laptop to be posted here and some photos I have to upload to my computer as well. That I hope to get around to in the next couple of days or so.

With love from China, Claire

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Challenge Accepted!

I have accepted the Hangzhou offer! I will be teaching at the TEFL Academy there.

I think these are of the right place...

The deciding factor was this: the school in Wuxi apparently doesn't get the greatest reviews from their employees. They don't get two days in a row off either. Also the school in Hangzhou upped my travel compensation, gave me a week off to go back for a friend's wedding, and will give me any OT I want! This is acceptable.

I'm pretty sure B is the TEFL Academy

I will be leaving next Tuesday! And we are back to square one with me in a tizzy because this is all happening so fast. How I am I going to get everything done?! With magic? I wish. Mary Poppins? Unfortunately, not British enough. Then, I guess it will have to be with a list!

Here you have it:
Top 10 Ten Things Claire Has To Do Before China! (there is a story behind the repetition in the title)
10. Book a flight
9. Call my bank and phone company
8. Apply for Tax exemption thing-y (can't remember the form number)
7. Get an International Driver's permit
6. Party like it's 1999
5. I will meet Draco Malfoy while riding a unicorn and brandishing my lightsaber of awesome
3. Laundry like WHOAH!
2. Pack my life into 3 suitcases (and maybe a box to send over later)
1. ...this is the same answer every time, but it shall remain between Tiffany and myself.

Now, guess which one doesn't belong? Laundry really isn't that important. Just kidding.

Clap for me, future coworkers!

I will admit this post is a little spaz-y, but I'm running on endorphins after a power 6-hour drive to Chicago and back to pick up and pay for my L (travel) visa. Well, time to get things done! Wish me luck!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Frackity Frackin' Frack.

Well I find myself in a pickle. I have to choose between two jobs. Both have their strong points and weak points and truthfully I'd choose Wuxi if I didn't have to wait a month....

Here's the comparison/run-down/whatever:

                     Hangzhou                                    Wuxi                                          
Hrs/wk          30 (25 class)                               40 (25 class)
Salary/mo      6000-6500RMB                        7000-9000RMB
                     ($950 - $1025)                           ($1100 - $1400)
OT/hr            120RMB ($19)                           100RMB ($15) or equal number hours off
Airfare           $1250 at end of contract            $400 after 6 mo, $400 after 12 mo
Housing         Provided or 1000RMB               1500RMB allowance + placement help
Holidays        Paid/5 occurrences/13 days       Paid/8 occurrences/13+ days
Vacation        ???                                             5 days after 7 mo.
Sick Days      3 days                                         3 days
Leave            Now                                            In a month

Pros:                                                    Cons:
1. Better pay                                        1. Leave in a month - - -
2. More established program               2. More hours/week
3. More holidays/vacay
4. Seems like a more interesting program

Pros:                                                    Cons:
1. Leave now +++                               1. Less pay
2. Less hours                                      2. Don't know as much about the program
3. Prettier city                                     3. Don't know if I have vacay time/ raise potential
                                                           4. Might get there and not get the job...

Truthfully, I'm leaning towards Wuxi. Though, that is dependent on the fact that I can cancel my tourist visa - I'm going to call tomorrow and see if this is possible. Can I even do that?

[After some internet research: I now know the visa fee is non-refundable. (insert explicit words here). Though, the bright side is that I might be able to convert my travel visa to a working one and not get charged another $140. If I can call and ask if that is okay, then maybe crisis averted? If not, Hangzhou here I come!]

It's complicated, I was so ready to leave now. I didn't realize that a work visa takes a month. What would I do in that month. I've already said my goodbyes and quit my jobs...I could stay with friends and crawl back to my other jobs or I could move back home and live rent free and get a temp job? I really don't know. Is it weird that going home feels like I'm failing? It's nothing against my family or people that live at home, it's just something I thought I'd never do...If I stay in Indy, I don't have enough money without working a job to pay rent, utilities, etc. I could get a part time job teaching ESL here in Indy through a friend for $15/hr, but only if  that position is still available.

I'm going to sleep on it tonight and see what tomorrow brings....if I can sleep at all. I'm so indecisive. Is it funny that I thought there was going to be a clear winner?

Time Difference

The time difference between China and the US just hit me like a hammer. Mainly, because I realized I missed my interview last night.

When I scheduled the interview with Wuxi Training Center, she said the 8th or 9th were good dates. I thought she meant the 8th or 9th US time. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I was prepared for an interview tonight, when in fact it was last night. You know how China is approximately 12 hours ahead, well that also puts them a day ahead as well. That is where I made a big fat boo-boo.

My potential employer sent me an email expressing her confusion as to why I wasn't online. I sent her back an equally confused email stating that I thought it was tonight. Luckily, I was able to reschedule, but now I will always remember exactly what kind of time difference there is between these two places.

Let this be a lesson to you all. If there is something important going on, say, November 22nd at 7:15pm, that means that I will be contacting you in China on November 23rd at 7:15am. Awesome.

Click to enlarge!

Also,if you have problems with time math, I give you the internet:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Traveling is always full of's nice because I'm going to be so busy over the next two weeks that I won't be able to think too much about leaving everyone and everything behind. Trying to look on the bright side...

I've run into a little problem, but first I must give you some back story. When I traveled to Greece earlier this year, I misplaced my passport. I started getting my stuff together for the trip a few weeks before and discovered it "missing". I panicked and thought I had lost it - I even scheduled an immediate trip to Chicago to rush order a new one. I tore my room apart the night before in one last hopeless attempted to make sure the dang thing wasn't there and low and behold I found it. In an effort to allude any would be passport thieves, I put my small little blue book in an empty Pirates of the Caribbean CD case. It was such a good hiding spot that I even fooled myself.

After that I made an effort to put it in an obvious, yet safe I bought this little safe. It was cute and I figured I could hide it easily. In hindsight, probably should have bought something maybe a bit bulkier, so that a potential felon had a bit more trouble than just picking it up and walking off with this little guy.

It's travel size for your thieving pleasure!

Unfortunately, during the move to my new place I lost the keys. Here I am now, a day away from going to get my travel visa and my passport taunts me from inside a little black box. First, I tried a hammer to pry it open with no success.

Probably shouldn't have done this at 7am.

Then I used the internet to learn to pick locks. Unfortunately, I lacked the basic component: paper clips. I tried multiple things: safety pins, nails, scissors, but none led me to the desired outcome.

A potato?! Is this real?

Anyway, it seemed too complicated to begin a life of crime and lock-picking, so I settled for something more cathartic. I threw it off my roof.

Think ridiculous!

Didn't work. A friend of mine suggested hammering a screwdriver into the lock to bust it open, so I thought I'd try that next. I went downstairs to retrieve it from the yard and in a fit of frustration and caveman-like urges, I threw it onto the rocks at a closer angle. Low and behold - SUCCESS!


So that is how to open a safe. Tune in next time to see me fit all of my worldly possessions into 3 suitcases and a backpack!

Monday, October 3, 2011

I Got a Job...Yay?!

I always knew I wanted to travel. I just never thought I'd end up in China....I wanted somewhere in Asia for sure, but always in the back of my mind Americanized mind China has been full of dog kebabs, communism, and bad drivers. I don't know why I secretly thought this - I have met some wonderful people from that country that have never tried dog (that they know of) and are perfectly good drivers.

Thankfully, I am not a baby...
I've been in a kind of weird limbo lately. I've been working odd jobs and pondering my direction in life, trying to put off becoming an adult with, God forbid, responsibility. I'm a horrible procrastinator (so I hope this blog pans out - just a heads up), so after taking a TEFL/TESOL certification course via Oxford Seminars I conveniently ignored activating my placement services til about a week ago. I think I was just frickin' scared. Then I realized that I was going to have to 'man up' and change my own situation, because no one else was going to do it for me. Also, my ceiling fell in, winter is coming (which is not a good time for me), and I knew something had to change. It did and now it's all happening so fast. I submitted my papers on Tuesday, received a reply on Friday, interview and job on Sunday night. I'm getting my visa and plane ticket on Thursday and could be gone by next Friday. Bing, bang, boom!

The ceiling: Before
The ceiling: After

I am extremely lucky, but still paranoia is starting to set in. I can't help but think that I'm going to end up abducted and sold the sex slave industry or arrested for some ridiculous reason by the Chinese government. I feel like I should have more sense and realize the worst situation I could find myself in is some freak occurrence where I don't have a job. My mind is really good at over exaggerating. The thing is that I'm buying a one way ticket, so this is it! I'm doing it. It's happening.

I'm in it for the long haul.

I'm definitely going to miss everything familiar: people, places, everything being in English, etc. And I'll miss shopping. They have such cute clothes over there - for people that are size 0! Gah, but I guess that's going to be my life for the next year: getting used to differences in culture, daily life, language, food, EVERYTHING.

Well, maybe not everything is different.

I am so excited!!!