PERSONAL NOTE: I DECIDED to my share my book with my friends and students in mainland China because the book is not available in mainland China. So enjoy each chapter and share it with your friends. steve, usa, december 3, 2018 firstname.lastname@example.org blog – https://getting2knowyou-china.com
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Having flown to mainland China several times as a visiting professor, each successive journey was like driving my car back in USA to the nearest KFC or MacDonald’s for a quick bite, becoming almost a routine. But a journey to China is never the same each time because it is like looking inside a kaleidoscope, with endless new colorful patterns or surprises to fool, entertain and excite one’s imagination. Kaleidoscope comes from an ancient Greek word meaning literally “observation of forms”, and modern China, since the opening up and reforms in early 1980s, continues to change, grow and expand from year to year—like the four seasons, faster than watching your child growing up into a beautiful and smart young adult. Like the ever-changing patterns inside a kaleidoscope, China continues to evolve and develop. And more surprises are on the way.
It was only fifteen years or so ago, Shenzhen was a patch of farms and rice fields. Now it is ranked second to Shanghai or Beijing in terms of population, international trade, high risers or skyscrapers, and job opportunities. It is the place to be for young college graduates or young professionals and investors, seeking wealth, fame and fortune. It is a whole new tourist destination besides the Great Wall of China or Shanghai’s Bund or Waitan, one of the most famous tourist destinations in Shanghai. This is China.
And now look at the miracle of Hainan Island (Hainan literally means “south of the ocean”), located at the southernmost part of China, across the Gulf of Tonkin from Vietnam, once considered a backward place, a place of exile for failed officials, and now becoming one of the hottest places to live, work and visit. Tons of money is pouring into the heavy tourist-oriented development with various international hotel chains establishing world-class resorts on the island. The rich from the north own second homes on the island, to escape the harsh winters. Popular with Russian tourists for decades, it is being promoted as “China’s Hawaii”. Hainan Island is one of China’s new Special Economic Zones, and like all previous economic zones (including the island of Xiamen), it promises and almost guarantees new wealth and prosperity for all the newcomers, entrepreneurs and investors irresistibly drawn to the island. This is China. And with the success of Hainan Island, the Chinese government continues to create more Special Economic Zones…one further example of “socialism with Chinese characteristics”.
One summer, the travel agency offered me the cheapest tickets from Xiamen to Seoul (South Korea) to Seattle by Korean Airlines. This would be my first time flying home
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via Seoul, South Korea. For once I was feeling a little nervous about this arrangement because I remembered reading about the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 from Incheon International Airport, Seoul, South Korea, which had crashed while landing at San Francisco International Airport on July 6, 2013 with 307 people on board, forcing passengers to jump down the emergency inflatable slides to safety resulting in 2 deaths, and 49 seriously injured. To calm my fears I discovered there are two major airlines in South Korea, Korean Airlines and Asiana Airlines, which seemed to have a few aviation mishaps in the recent past. Korean Airlines has a better record.
There was only one problem about the flight: the time available for me to change from one flight to another at Incheon International Airport in South Korea. The travel agency, after checking again with the Korean Airlines, assured me a 50-minute interval or stopover would be ample time to change from one flight to another. I became real anxious when the flight was delayed for about 30 minutes trying to take off from China to South Korea. (I was told not to blame any airline for any delay because the Chinese military, it seems, controls about 80 % of the air space in China). I informed a stewardess immediately of my dilemma—while we were up in the air on the way to South Korea—and she assured me everything would be ok. By the time I arrived at the airport in Seoul, the same stewardess whispered to me that someone would be waiting for me at the terminal.
I did see someone with a sign STEPHEN LING FOLLOW ME. And he rushed me without a single word spoken between us to the flight heading for Seattle. Indeed the flight from Seoul to Seattle was waiting for me, the last passenger to join the crowd. Little did I know that when I arrived at SeaTac International Airport, USA, after 10 or so hours across the vast Pacific Ocean, there was a similar sign awaiting me. STEPHEN LING FOLLOW ME. This time, a different kind of mild shock. Standing near the location for passengers to pick up their luggage, I was told to complete a form to claim my luggage which they told me politely and calmly, “Do not worry, we will send it to your residence when it arrives from Seoul about the same time tomorrow morning. At this moment, your luggage is safe in Seoul. We did not have time to transfer your luggage from one flight to another in Seoul. When it arrives tomorrow, we will send it to your address. We apologize for this inconvenience.” I suppose if I was a shrewd lawyer, I could have sued for some financial compensation for the distress caused by the absence or delay of my luggage! Sadly, I was a college professor, not a shrewd lawyer.
This had never happened to me before and I accepted it politely and calmly without anger or distress. Yes, life is full of surprises. Stress or anger will not solve any problem, this I have learned since living in the United States. They did send my
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luggage to my door the next day, punctually as promised. What an experience, flying with the Korean Airlines. I would do it again.
The school in China would reimburse me for my travels when I returned to the campus the following year. I went through this ritual the beginning of every school year. What irritated me the most each time I went to the International Office to claim my reimbursement was their insistence that I produced the actual copies of all the boarding passes and the tickets. In fact the travel agency in China had already sent them a copy of my flight schedule and the cost of the flight, when I first booked it. That was not enough proof of my return to USA and back to China. They wanted the actual copies of my boarding passes and the used tickets. I must remember, This is China.
The good news was the annual work contract with the school provided ample money for an apartment, the annual costly health check for medical health insurance, and once-a-year two-way tickets between USA (my home) and China (the campus) and the monthly salary for the full-time job as a teacher. I received financial compensation for time spent on certain extracurricular activities involving the students, especially activities that were an extension of their classroom learning and opportunities to broaden their social and cultural experiences. I was invited to be a judge in many contests or competitions, from speech to music, and to drama. And without fail, I would be invited—an honor I will cherish for the rest of my life—to deliver an important speech to the audience and participants and a few distinguished local party members (that is, the local communist party) at the closing of each event. This is China. The challenge: do not repeat what I said the previous event the year before because I did read a short email once from a colleague, a foreign professor who openly accused me, “Don’t you have anything new to say after the performance?”
Because of my presence and participation in various campus activities, many students, inside and outside the Department of English where I taught, came to know me. The other was my monthly TV-style Talk Show on the campus. I started it to expose students to voices of foreigners in our community and an opportunity for students to ask questions of the host (Your’s Sincerely) and the guests, which would later include students who were outstanding and articulate in their mastery of the English language. It is my firm conviction that in order for Chinese students to speak English fluently, they must have the opportunity to listen to those who can speak the language proficiently. Not just from the so-called ‘native speakers’ of the language.
Your’s sincerely was The Host of the Talk Show, providing the opportunity for all students, interested in the mastery of the English language, to learn to express
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themselves in public in English. This was my response to the chorus of voices throughout the campus: We are Chinese, why should I speak English? And therefore many, including my English major students, continue to struggle to speak English in public.
Unbeknown to all my students and friends and colleagues on the campus…my Talk Show was the realization of my dream to be a Talk Show Host since I came to study in the United States. The Tonight Show, hosted by Johnny Carson (JC), got my attention as a college student. It came on late every night around 11:00 PM. And he would have all kinds of guests from different professions to come on his show…and they would have a casual, light, humorous and funny dialogue to entertain, educate and amuse the vast audience across the United States. Some came to talk. Some came to sing. Some came to act. Some came to sell their talents and selves. But all done in good taste. And I honestly believed then, if JC could do it, I could do it, too! And I did…when I hosted my TV-style Talk Show on my campus in China!
China today continues to be a land of milk and honey, and opportunities for anyone with ambition and talent and experiences…President Xi wants you to come to China to help him achieve his China Dream!