China Perspectives

China Perspectives

The Silk Road


Ch. 1. 1. The Tao that can be followed is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.

I thought this clip from the first chapter of the Tao Te Jing (A Chinese book of philosophy that grew into a religion) seemed appropriate to begin this note.  I’ll tell you why later.

On February the 15th I will be moving to China to teach English. Whenever I tell people this I am often asked the same questions. “Don’t you know that’s a Communist country? Haven’t you heard about their poor human rights record?” Yes, I did know that. “They’re planning to take over America, you know.” No, I don’t think so. “Are you’re going to marry a Chinese girl while you’re there?” Not likely. “Do you even speak Chinese? I can say “Hello, I’m an American” but that’s all. At this point they look a bit frustrated and finally ask, “Well, why are you going to China then?” This question is harder to answer but I will try to do so now. I am going to teach and I am going to learn so that I will have more to teach. According to my visa documents I’m going to teach English at the Anshan Teachers College (as a Foreign Expert no less) in Liaoning Province in the northeast. That’s the job, but I plan to do much more.

When I return in twelve to eighteen months I am going to work on my Masters degree in History. Then I will either travel more or go for a Ph.D. From my experiences in China I hope to have gained an understanding of people that I can’t find in textbooks. I hope to transmit this understanding to all I come in contact with, not just of the culture of different peoples but of the value of people and how we must use this if we hope to improve the world. Some tell me this isn’t pos sible, that society is too far gone. It’s easy to get cynical about the future in these uncertain times but somewhere I feel an urgency to try to make a difference. My goal is to equip myself for this work. I have to admit I’m also going for the adventure. Early last year I tried to join the army only to be turned down because of some childhood heath problems. I wanted to join to challenge my self to do something difficult. I wanted to drop out of my comfortable world and do something importan t, something that mattered. In a way China is Plan B with the added bonus that this way I can accomplish so much more. Several friends and family members have asked me if the pay makes it worth it. Here I have to hide a smile at their shocked faces when I tell I’m making around 2000 “people’s dollars” a month, or about $240.00. For a Foreign Expert to travel so far to make so little is beyond reason to most. Sometimes I ex plain about cost of living differences, to others I explain that I want more from life than to produce to earn the satisfaction of consuming. The experience itself is worth more than all the people’s dollars in China. Or all the tea for that matter.

As the day approaches people ask me almost daily if I’m excited or nervous. It’squote s odd but I can’t get excited about the trip. It’s like I’m following a map and I’ve come to a turn. I’ve seen it coming, I know everything’s been leading to this. True, it’s a big change, the biggest I’ve had yet. I expect it to be full of surprises and disappointments, but it’ s simply another stretch of road along my way.




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