It's been quite a while since we've talked, hasn't it? Last I recall, I shared Tristan's wedding and the awkwardness of the school's year end show that I was to participate in, but in the end got voted out of. Apparently, my tinny singing voice didn't have enough pizzazz to wow the officials clamoring for better entertainment (see previous entry).
At least, they didn't lop my head off. That makes me giddy because I can still talk with you, a feat that would have been impossible with a lopped-off head.
By and large, this has been a year of disappointments, personally and globally. On Wednesday, November 9th, I came home from class to find that Donald Trump had won the presidency – not the election. The punch-in-the-gut feeling, the dawning horror of what the Trump administration might entail chased all thoughts of food away. No mean feat considering I had been in the classroom for four hours.
If I were to characterize this year, I'd label it fraught with disillusionment and disappointment, Trump's win included.
Since August I have spent a lot of time focusing on the monumental sense of betrayal I felt (still feel!), dished out by someone I thought was a good friend: Sam. His disclosure of reporting my doings to school officials for the past six years, all while not telling me about this supposed duty of his, leads me to question whether he was ever a friend.... Did he volunteer to help me buy transit tickets and secure hotel accommodations in order to keep tabs on me? All of those texts he sent while I traveled: “Are you There?” “Are you on the train?” “Are you back home?” no longer appear to be from a friend, curious of my travels, but of someone who needs to know exactly where I am and what I am doing.
Sam's friendship is not the only question I have had, these past few months.
I've spent six years describing to you how China is so open, so friendly, so transparent to expats such as myself. Have I been gullible? Guilty of wearing the proverbial rose-colored glasses? Or was it just a case of not delving deep enough into this society and its doings?
This year I've been made painfully aware of just how discriminating China actually is.
Because of our school's insistence at not hiring teachers of color, no matter how qualified, I remained the lone foreign teacher. My workload and class size doubled but my pay remained the same. I can say with authority that the school doesn't want teachers of any other race than white because I personally presented two teachers who earned their Master's Degree in China, and who are currently in teaching positions in Wuhan but looking for a new situation. Eddie and Tanza were both rejected out of hand, not because of any deficient quality on their part but because of the color of their skin, according to Sam.
This was not my first brush with racial discrimination in China.
Upon returning from Germany I was denied accommodations at hotels I had stayed at previously, with no explanation. Later, Sasuke (a former student of mine), equally outraged at the news, searched Baidu, the Chinese search engine, to find official word of that new regulation: it was formulated to allegedly protect foreigners from anything that might happen in second-rate hotels.
I see it as a way to restrict foreigners' movement and travel within China. And here is another:
Expats who do not have a D-visa, the equivalent of a Green Card, are severely limited on banking options and money handling: foreigners can't exchange currency; foreigners can't do wire transfers; foreigners can't open a bank account without invoking their employer, to vouch for them.
You'd think that having a valid working visa and a Foreign Expert's Certificate would imply that I have a job, and that that would be good enough. Not true!
As I no longer trust or wish to be around Sam, I am trying to resolve my money situation on my own. Everywhere I have looked, on the 'Net and while talking with a customer service representative while trying to manage my own account, I find the suggestion that a Chinese person should manage my affairs for me. So far, my sheer determination has proven to be no match for Chinese obstinacy.
All of this and more have left me feeling betrayed and disillusioned. Why bother welcoming expats if they are to be restricted from managing their affairs or exploring the country?
These last few months have given me a singular understanding of how people who live with discrimination feel: frustrated, enraged, impotent, hopeless. I have experienced gender discrimination before – not too many women in the maintenance field. This new perceived slight, again because of something I have no control over, my skin color, serves to highlight what I believe is humanity's greatest ill, so prevalent in this day and age. Especially now, with echoes of white supremacism whispering through American politics.
Makes me wonder if civilization has actually progressed in the last fifty or so years.
Looking ahead, now.
Donald Trump will be sworn in January 20th. On that day, I will have a virtual interview for an online teaching position.
Fearing that I will get short-changed – I'll be leaving the country before my last paycheck is due (and not trusting Sam's word that all funds will be disbursed before I leave), I need to find a different way to earn; one that doesn't involve anything Chinese (except for the students). The company I've applied to is American and they will deposit my pay in a western bank.
Marjorie, my life-long friend, will join the Women's March on Washington the day after inauguration. I am so proud of her! She has had a difficult year. Joining the march is a huge step out of character, but one she makes boldly. I hope and pray she and everyone will be safe.
My conspirators had a difficult year, too. Plagued by health problems and allergies, they've made more trips to doctors' offices than anywhere else, last year. Half of my conspiring team, my bike riding mentor, hasn't been able to ride much. Now they are both doing better, albeit medicated to the gills. Let's all hope that this year brings them renewed vigor and lasting good health.
As for me...
It is sobering to realize that, in six months, I will be jobless and homeless.
I don't yet know what my next step will be. There are a lot of options to consider and, who knows? I might end up someplace I never dreamed of going.
How's that for a spirit of adventure?