Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It Is Raining!

If it is true that April showers bring May flowers, what do March showers bring? And, if the goodness I’m being showered with in March manifests itself in wealth and material goods, what can I expect for April, May and June?

While I make this play on words with regard to my good fortune, let me take a moment to express my concern over the droughts in Texas. For the little bit of rain that has fallen on my old stomping grounds, I have to admit I am concerned about environmental resources (water tables dropping, unhealthy bacteria in local water sources, food prices soaring, electrical rates skyrocketing, rolling brownouts and possible blackouts) as well as the health and well-being of all my friends living there. Take care, you guys! You are in my thoughts and prayers. I hope that rain will soon come your way.

Let me mention as well the people of Japan. I have been remiss in writing about the double-hitter tragedy they suffered with the earthquake and the tsunami. I will soon remedy that. For now I’ll just say that I cannot consider my good fortune without thinking of their devastation. Indeed, there but for the grace of all that is good and powerful and right, go I. Go we… right?

Now, let’s get on with these showers of mine.

The first bit of fortune came at the beginning of the month when the school made good on their promise to deliver a new television, complete with Internet TV connection (see ‘Building Guanxi entry). This new TV is a flatscreen, top of the line, 32-inch model to complement my living room. Not only do I get all of the Chinese channels but I also get movie channels, music channels, special interest channels, the channel that broadcasts in English and other features. It will even pause, TIVO-like, while I watch a movie so I can get up and get a snack or a cup of tea. It is really much more TV than I anticipated or dreamed of.

As I write this, an old Jackie Chan movie is playing to keep me company. Now nice to hear people speak within these four walls!

The next bit of luck came with the renewal of my contract. It is still a bit early in the year to renew contracts; according to my current contract we weren’t supposed to renew until closer to June. Never mind that, let’s just sign and get done with it! I got a 200Yuan a month raise and an option to renew after Year Two. According to Sam, not many teachers get raises, and even fewer are offered a third year. He avers that the faculty really likes me, and the students consistently report the quality and content of my classes as high, thus the administrators are very interested in keeping me here. I don’t have the first problem with that; I am glad to have a measure of job security.

My third bit of chance comes in the form of a promise: a new apartment in September. Not that I’m complaining about this apartment; it does have its advantages: large rooms, no stairs to climb, no need for air conditioning in the summer (but a desperate need for heat in the winter!). Besides, who am I to complain? I have a place to live; there are some that don’t.

I am looking forward to the new apartment though. This complex is being built solely for the teachers of this school and will be offered for sale at a reduced price. I do not have to buy mine; it is a part of my contract. I don’t have any particulars about the new apartment, so the anticipation is akin to a child waiting for Christmas. What I can certainly look forward to is an environment more conducive to socialization, because…

Sam told me that, since my performance in the New Year show last December (see The Year End Parties) and the teachers have realized that I am open and friendly, many have expressed curiosity about how I live, why I want to work among them and why I abandoned life in America. They are also being much more friendly as we pass each other on campus: smiling and nodding, even speaking a few words occasionally. Perhaps, should we become neighbors, some of their curiosity can be assuaged by my inviting them over. What do you think? I think I’m looking forward to it!

The forth blessing comes in the form of my restored good health. I can’t tell you how relieved I am to no longer feel run down and miserable. I think sunshine and the temperatures warming up have something to do with my good feelings, but feeling physically well and not waking up in the middle of the night, wondering if I’m dying a tortuous death plays the bigger part in it all. There’s nothing like feeling good!

The last bit of joy comes in the shape of a job offer. My friend Carrie Ann told me that recently, they had five teachers out and not enough subs to cover. The administrators and even Carrie Ann herself, the librarian, had to cover a class. Would I consider applying at the school she works at as a substitute teacher? This is at Mapleleaf International School, where the curriculum is taught exclusively in English, and the pay is $100 a day.

I went for my interview last Friday. It wasn’t really an interview, at that. I simply talked with Ewan, one of the directors, who referred me to Darrell, the Head Administrator. I had met Darrell before at the Wuhan Christmas pageant. He remembered me and did not feel the need to interview me; he just welcomed me to his staff. Now have the opportunity to expand my teaching experience at one of the most expensive and prestigious schools in Wuhan. I am ‘fourth sub’, meaning that all of the other substitutes would be called before I am but that suits me fine.

You know, it has not been easy being here, sometimes. But you will never hear me say that I do not have it good. Better than a lot of folks, even. I have great friends, a gravy job, a place to live, money in the bank and a future to look forward to. But this month, with all of these blessings raining down on me, I state positively that coming here has been one of the best moves I’ve ever made.

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