Last week I started to hear rumors of a English teaching job in a city called Pure Water, which is about a 16 hour bus ride from where I currently live. With all the recent frustration at work, between my American work mate not getting his visa and having to let my Uyghur work mate go, I was ready to throw in the towel and give up on the whole idea of being a business women. I kept joking “Maybe I should just move down there and teach English instead, it would be a lot less of a headache”. Eventually some of my friends suggested I at least talk to the school and find out a few more particulars of the job.
I called the head of the school’s English department a guy named Allan and was pleasantly surprised to hear that he was up in the capital city, but just for another day. I tried suggesting several times and location, but he was very busy while in town and we were unable to work out an opportunity to chat. He told me on the phone they were very excited to have English teacher and if I would send him my résumé they would start to draw up the contract. Whoa- that was moving too fast for me, I hadn’t agree to anything yet, I still had a lot of question and wanted to meet them and see the school first. I suggested my making a trip there in hopes of talking to him and the school’s leaders.
One of my Uyghur friends heard talking to the guy on the phone and got rather mad, “You shouldn’t have to pay for your bus ticket to go down there. If they really need an English teacher the school should be offering to fly you down for an interview. It’s a government school after all and they have money”. “While I still haven’t actually promised to take the job, so I will buy my own ticket, that way I don’t feel any obligation toward them”.
16 hours on the bus… and no one to meet me at the station. I went to my friend’s house who lives in that town – they were the ones who had told me about the job in the first place. Mid Monday afternoon my friend took me over and introduced me to the staff of the English department and Allan in particular. The head teacher was quick to say they could process my paperwork and have me ready to start class by the beginning of September. “I have a few questions first” I said. They all seemed pretty simple, like how will the classes be scheduled, when is winter vacation starts, and what is the salary. For each question Allan simply replied “you will have to ask my leader that”. This unproductive conversation went on for over 20min before I was being ushered upstairs to meet the leader. The lights were all off in the hallway as we approached the office door, and sure enough our knock went unanswered. “It appears the leader is not here right now , so I will show you the apartment. There is a local teacher living there right now, but we will make him leave before you come.”
The apartment was fully furnished with table chairs, bed, coach, hot water heater, fridge, washing machine and tv. As I walked around and mentally checked things off my “must- have- list” Allan continued to dial the Leader’s number. “You will have to meet the leader tomorrow,” he finally admitted rather dejectedly. “I leave tomorrow afternoon, so can I make an appointment to see him in the morning?”I asked hopefully. “Yes, I will call you in the morning when he gets in” Allan promised.
The next morning it was ten a.m. and I still hadn’t heard from the school. I decided to head over there anyway and try to remind them of my presence in town. The gate guard stopped me in front of the school demanding to know who I was going to visit. I gave her Allan’s name and his position in the English department only to be informed that he was currently not at the school. I tried calling him, the gate guard rang his number… a teacher who overheard our dilemma also gave him a call, but all with the same result – his phone was power off. I sat at the gate of the school for half an hour chatting and waiting for him to come back. Eventually I gave up and told the guard lady to have Allan give me a call the second he returned to the school.
Hours went by and still there was no phone call. Eventually my friend called the English teacher one more time before I left. This time his phone was on, and he had a hundred and one excuses explaining how the leader had been called away to an important meeting and his phone was out of money. All of it seemed like the Asian backhanded indirect communication style that never says ‘no’ outright. They said they wanted and needed a teacher but their actions were communicating anything but. It seemed that maybe they didn’t need a teacher that badly after all. For some reason after making a 32 hour round trip tour to see his school I left without even know what the job’s salary was per month.
I really do want to move down south... but this didn't seem like the best situation, so I will keep plugging away and trying to get my business off the ground.