Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"I am not a poker player... that's not what I do" - ( in my best Ani DiFranco voice)

I can't say "thank you" and not mean it.
It's really hard for me to "fake it til I make it"
It's probably a good thing that I have no idea how to play poker because I bet my face would "show my hand" every time.

I strongly dislike being "fake". I'm not good at it and I hate when I can notice it in other people. Why bother? It's a waste of energy. I'd rather just sit quietly and not talk to you. Or blush and look down at my shoes and run away or flirt back or whatever the "truth" of the moment is. 

Even when it comes to performance-related things. I think at this point, I know myself well enough to know that I would rather dance/sing/do musical improv- than ever do "stage theater" or anything scripted. I like writing ... and I like when I can see people and think "oh , she/he would be perfect as this.. etc. " but for me, I prefer creativity that stems from my own emotions that are already there ...  and/or inspired by the environment around me. 

Scripted stuff just feels fake to me (though I really love writing).

That said, I'm a little... disappointed ( to say it mildly) in my boss here at this point, and I'm having a difficult time hiding it. (So I'm pretty much just avoiding her, only talking to her when necessary).

I've said before that, going forward,  when it comes to finding a school to teach at, I want #1. A school that has been open/up and running for two years or more,  #2. That the school be run by the same principal/administrative staff for that time period and #3. To talk with other teachers currently working or who have just completed a year or two working at the prospective school. 

Best Learning opened in 2009. So when I started, technically it HAD been open for "2 yrs" BUT my branch in Foshan had NOT. ( And everyone will tell you -- don't read school reviews online - because EVERY BRANCH IS DIFFERENT. Just because someone writes a negative or positive review about one school at one FRANCHISE doesn't mean the entire franchise is not worth/worth working at - it will be different from branch to branch it depends on the individual school. So TALK to CURRENT TEACHERS to get a REAL feel of where you will be.)

For me, Best Learning was "old", but our branch at Foshan was very new. This was the first time that my boss Linda Lin (Lin Wei) had ever run an ESL school. There were no "former teachers" to TALK TO because there was not a school branch. Until last April. This was the first time that I had ever taught ESL in China ( or anywhere) ... so we were all "green". 

My boss was sweet and a real "team player" and all at first BUT as time went on, other Chinese staff began to see her true colors. - short tempered. impatient. stubborn. self- centered. She's very cheap ( though I understand when first opening a business, you want to be careful.. I get that). I did not get to see this side ( until now - now that she knows I'm leaving) because I was the "cash cow". Lisa told me this in an email .... a "long time ago", several months ago .... and I see now that she was right. (Although I always kind of knew). I would say about 80% of my boss being nice to me was because I was doing her favors. I was giving her business. ( I HATE THAT IDEA. btw. Be nice to me because you ARE nice. Because we COULD BE friends. Not because I can GIVE YOU something.) Now that this "cash cow" has stopped "giving milk" ( decided to leave). Linda can .... "put me out to pasture" ... or try to grind me into meat ( though she doesn't know this, and don't you tell her but... I am secretly a magical phoenix-cow and I'd come back to life).

She lost all but 3 of her original staff - marketing/reception/teaching assistants- in the first 4 months that Best Learning Foshan was open. They were all Chinese and they all quit.  It's crazy to think that Lisa left so long ago now ( in August). Sometimes it feels like yesterday... I guess that's a good thing? She feels closer? I've seen her since then, so maybe that's why. I was very angry  at Linda to begin with when all the staff started leaving because I felt like I was starting to "make friends" ... and now everyone was leaving. "The new girl was left alone in the classroom." Like everyone had graduated and I was left behind. (though I still had/have my TA Metis - we've "seen it all" together since training in Beijing. She's my partner in crime.)

But now, I'm SO happy for Lisa, that she's happy and working hard and she's got her own apartment. So it really did work out for the best.

As a first year ESL teacher who had never lived abroad, there was obviously a lot of little things that I didn't know and it just seemed like I was "inconveniencing" her most times I asked for clarification or help with something. I would wait it out a little .... but sometimes ( like recently when getting my plane ticket home) I could NOT ... and had to ask her - every two days or so - to make sure she was going to give me an answer.

Less time = more expensive ( not my problem because she was covering it, but still) flights and ALSO a less likely chance that ANY flights will be available ( my problem, because I had the misfortune of being born without wings and so now, due to this unfortunate deformity, I have to get one to fly home). Luckily we found a flight .... and it's one that I wanted with only a 3.5 hr layover and I've got an aisle seat for both planes ( from Guangzhou to Seoul, Seoul to JFK)... I get into JFK at 11am. 

BUT ... the real "frustration/annoyance/problem-problem"...  is that I might not be getting back my housing deposit because I'm leaving before my contract is up. My housing contract expires on April 24th and I'm leaving on April 1st because my VISA to live/work in China expires on April 3rd and Linda is not extending my visa through the end of the month. 

So, pretty much she's screwing me out of money. I am "softening the blow" for myself a bit by not paying my rent (2500 rmb) for March here now. So that means I'm only screwed out of 2500 RMB. But still that's an extra $400 I could have taken home.

As it stands I'll be coming home with about $2000 ( plus $1,180 tax return money) so I'll be ok for the 2 months that I'm home ( living "rent free" with the parents). But it's just SOOOOOO inconsiderate. She thought that she had a teacher to come to take my place and teach my classes and so she wasn't going to PAY THE EXTRA MONEY extend my visa. Buuuuut KARMA can be a real "B***H because at this point, I'm preeeeetty sure that teacher backed out of the deal ..... so now SHE'S SCREWED. She will have 3 classes CURRENTLY IN SESSION with NO TEACHER teaching them. What will she do? Not my problem. You would think that Linda would want me around to help the new teacher to get adjusted.... but she doesn't think of those kind of "rational, sensible" things. It's all about the money. Unfortunately - for her ( and kind of for me too... but more for her... cause she's the one who will really lose out in the long run).

So, if you are a potential ESL teacher and you are reading this - DO NOT MAKE THE RECKLESS CHOICE TO WORK FOR LINDA LIN (Lin Wei) at BEST LEARNING  in FOSHAN CITY, GUANGDONG PROVINCE, CHINA. 

In general, my year has been GOOD .... really, new experiences, learning and growing, and I'm THANKFUL for the lessons ( and definitely for meeting Lisa) all -in-all but now in hindsight it reminds me a bit of "The Little Princess" story ( remember the movie with Shirley Temple - I think they made a newer version too). It was all "smiles" and "parties" and "agreeable" when Sarah's father was giving the school money .... but once he was thought to be dead, Sarah was stripped of her beautiful clothes, put into black rags and sent to live in the attic with her cockney servant friend Becky. ( FYI:  I would love to have a friend named Becky with a cockney accent... if you're from a rough and tumble section of England and you're reading this, Becky, let's make that happen.)

"You go to grow" as my old voice teacher said once ( about auditions). It's all about growing.... get up and try again... get up and do something different ...  

(Dudes, and yes I KNOW I said that I'd write about Thailand ... and I WILL...talk about "milking a cow" ... this has become more like "beating a dead horse" ... or "crying wolf" you wonder if I ever will write about it ... but I WILL. Other things here have just gotten in the way recently. Thailand is definitely a place that I will return to. I feel like I could never go to Thailand again without doing SOME sort of "community service" in addition to vacationing - animal welfare, environmental welfare, human trafficking issues ...- I feel like I want to give back to Thailand. )

And that's all that I will say for now -- because #1. Starbucks is literally turning off their lights and it's time to go home.  #2. This entry is long enough as it is. #3. I've got two brand new 60 min each video podcasts of The Rachel Maddow Show to watch. Who doesn't have to work til 1:30pm tomorrow and is staying up til 2am? ... this girl!

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