This is part two of a four-part series about my experience finding a job, and teaching English in China. For part one click here.
Surprisingly, I slept like a baby, and was woken by the putrid smell of the mattress, where my face was squished and my mouth wide open. I braved the shower and layered my new thermal underwear under my jeans and jacket, before making my way down to the subway station where I would meet the representative from Expertise.
She took me to their office, and we began what could loosely be called “training”. There was just two of us-me, and an American called Michael, who was eighteen and enjoying his first trip away from home.
Our trainer was a Chinese woman named Anita, and she spent most of the time flirting with Michael and giggling. While most of training is a blur, I distinctly remember her making us learn children’s songs, and then perform them for her entertainment, before making our own flashcards for our interviews.
The Canadian who originally interviewed me wasn’t in the office, and I quickly realized that he was used as the white face of the company, to put foreigners at ease, and was pretty much the only foreigner connected with the head office.
On the third day, two women around my age walked in-a Canadian named Brigette, and a Brit called Hollie. Brigette headed straight for Anita, and I immediately turned my eavesdropping ears on. It turns out that Expertise hadn’t paid the correct bribe or something, and her school had been raided (the police had shown up and checked all the foreign workers passports and visas), so she had been hauled into an interrogation.
If you get caught without the right visa in China, you have to lie your ass off and be damn convincing. Luckily Brigette was a pro, and even played the “do you know who my dad is?” card. Eventually she was allowed to leave, but depending on how the police feel, foreigners are usually fined, imprisoned, or deported.
I spoke to Anita about the apartment, telling her it was pretty much unliveable. On the Expertise website it states:
“Apartments are clean, fully-furnished, and modern, with Western-style amenities, including a bedroom, living space, and kitchen. Some living spaces are shared with another foreign teacher, while others receive individual housing. Imagine the ease and security of being able to move into your apartment as soon as you have completed your teaching training in Beijing. Our housing helps you to make the smooth transition to your new life in urban China.”
What. A. Joke.
Anita told me that I would just be there temporarily while I did my interviews, and I would then be placed in an apartment close to my work.
After three days of “training” I had my first interview.
Remember how I said I was on the last subway station on the West side of Beijing? Well this school was a further bus ride West from that. It took the phrase “middle of nowhere” to a whole new level.
The school was desperate for teachers, and I soon found out why. They had just been raided, and five of their foreign staff had been deported. They offered me the job, I declined, and told Expertise I wanted to be located more centrally.
In just five days, I had become someone who wasn’t taking any crap. While I felt bad making “demands”, every foreigner I had talked to had advised me to play hardball with the company, or end up regretting it later.
I moved out of the apartment, and onto Hollie and Brigettes couch. After a couple of days I was given an opportunity to interview at a school in the business district. I took a look at the apartment first, which was directly across the road, clean, and had an American, non-smoking roommate. The school had just two foreign teachers, him, and an American girl who had just gone home.
I did the interview, and thought it went well. The school then spent three days deliberating, and instructed Expertise to not let me interview anywhere else until they made up their minds. I was furious.
I was then told I hadn’t got the job. Basically, the school was looking for an American girl, and they didn’t like my accent. While I fit their “image” (white, blonde, female), they felt that the parents wouldn’t be able to understand me. The most infuriating part was that Expertise knew the school wanted an American, and sent me on the interview anyway, and then refused to let me interview anywhere else while the school deliberated.
Finally I had had enough. I messaged the school, and told them I was moving back to Thailand. I wasn’t, but I had been told that they would make my life hell if they knew I was staying. They responded by sending a bunch of borderline-abusive messages, and threatened to cancel my visa and report me to the PSB (immigration).
I immediately made an appointment with the New Zealand Embassy for some advice, and was robbed while waiting for my appointment in Starbucks. I had hit a new low, and was now homeless, unemployed, and completely broke.