Deciding to move to China and teach ESL was a daunting experience to say the least. At the time, I didn’t know anyone who had even visited China. I don’t think even one family or friends was supportive. One family member told me with a glint of pity in her voice, “I hope you find what you are looking for Mr. Jackson…”.
It’s been pretty well documented that most Americans don’t even have a passport. The number is growing but the year I came to China, less than one third of the population had a valid passport. So getting information about moving to a third tier city in China was difficult to say the least.
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
The university that I was going to teach at sent aggressively Photoshopped images along with a curiously dubious email from another foreign teacher. It’s funny because I never suspected that the photos had been Photoshopped. It never occurred to me that anyone would do that….don’t worry…my naïveté gets worse…
Searching the internet was no real help. Many of the articles that I came across were about racism in China. Coming to think about it, I don’t remember coming across any really positive articles about a black American’s experience in China. This fact, along with the only other reoccurring theme that I kept coming across (pollution), never really fazed me. I was born and raised in the South. The Deep South. I grew up around pickup trucks with shotgun racks and rebel flags. I once had a Bible teacher what would end every class with the refrain “Anyone got any smart remarks or ‘Polack’ jokes?” I’ve always just been resigned to the fact that some people are racist. Full stop. No judgment, just an observation. It’s never really bothered me, and the majority of people don’t suffer from this mental disorder, so I’ve never felt that it has effected my daily life in any overtly meaningful way…. some would consider this another example of my naïveté. I digress.
Nevertheless, with the help of my favorite cousin in the entire world, I secured a buddy pass at the last minute and was lucky enough to fly business class to Beijing.
Seven years later, I’m still here. It’s been an amazing experience of self-discovery, and learning. All while making my way through a gauntlet of learning a new culture and navigating my way around a new language. In it all, I’ve met real friends and been exposed to things that I would never have been if I stayed on the soul sucking existence that was The Cubicle Farm.