Just received word that my oldest and dearest friend, Brother Mouzone, has cancer.
Category Archives: adventure misadventure passport black man Hong Kong Japan Macau South Korea People’s Republic of China (Taiwan) Brunei Cambodia Indonesia Laos Malaysia Phillipines Singapore Thailand Vietnam
I’ve been emailing resumes and cover letters like a fiend. For the most part, I’ve gotten ZERO replies, but 2 or three of my contacts were courteous enough to let me know that they had selected a different candidate.
This morning, I received a reply from “the best foreign language and international studies university in China” (wikipedia). They want to interview me via SKYPE next week. I am extremely happy just to have gotten this far in the screening process.
I’ll post updates as events develop and will probably do another podcast episode.
Final Note: Should any of you Old China Hands have advice or insights, please let me know! Thanks in advance.
Brother Mouzone recently had a serious health scare. He underwent emergency surgery and was laid up for a while recovering. Happily, it appears that the doctors caught it in time, but he does have to check in every three months.
Sadly, however, he and his wife have split up. Worse, given the dismal employment prospects here, he’s leaving the state to seek his fortune elsewhere. We’ve known each other over 20 years. I don’t have many friends, and so his relocation has definitely impacted me.
Keep your friends close, people.
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Part 2: If you think the figurine above is shocking, read what Ato had to deal with at his new school:
“And so it begins…
I’ve been fortunate enough to spend the first two weeks of this semester at a school that’s been refurbished within the last couple years or so, which means the facilities are up to date and I feel like I’m working in the 21st century; the school actually has ELECTRIC heaters and not the fuel powered ones that require the class to have a container of gas in the corner spewing out fumes, making me dizzy.
The kids seem pretty nice so far, but that’s because they’re still getting used to their new grades; I give it two weeks before they’re straight disrespecting me.
Now when I say “the kids don’t seem that bad” I should mention two of my ninensei classes I walked in and said ‘Good Morning everyone!’ to be met by “F*ck you!” from some of the students, prompting me to give a 10-minute lecture on why you can say that in Japan (because people don’t beat the sh*t out of strangers) versus why you can’t say that anywhere in the States. Some of the kids didn’t believe me, so I suggested they don’t try saying it to me in the safety of the classroom, but to a random foreigner walking on the street if they want to see what happens – I hope some of them DO try it! Dealing with this kind of childish behavior from the kids is one thing, but what about when it comes from adults?
I’m standing in the staff room surrounded by teachers like a bunch of giggling schoolgirls around a new puppy and one of the older ladies asks the inevitable: ‘Can I touch your hair?’ I can understand asking the question but don’t have your hand stretched out in my f*cking face like I’m already gonna say yes. I pushed her hand away, stopped smiling, looked at her in the eyes and said no. The look on her face you would swear I just slapped her. No wonder I have kids running up to md when my back is turned, pulling my hair and running away – this is where they learn it from.
Today is ‘Fit Test’ day so I don’t teach – just spend the whole day walking amongst the kids educatin’ them on real sh*t that matters, so they don’t get themselves killed when they meet foreigners out in the real world:
Japanese Teacher: ‘Will you be taking part in the Fit Test?’
Ato: ‘No, I have injuries. (True)’
Japanese Teacher: ‘Oh..We will be disappointed..we know you can jump high and run fast..’
Ato: ‘Really? How’s that?’
Japanese Teacher: ‘..because you are..er..from the Caribe..(big, stupid, ignorant grin)
Ato: ‘Sorry to disappoint you.’
Basically, because I’m black, all the teachers (including the ‘smart’ ones that have studied and worked abroad, assume that because I’m black I can jump high and run oh so fast. While that may be true in my case, I’m not taking part in their Fitness Test just to satisfy their curiousity. There will be no jump-ato-how-high today. Sorry! Watch reruns of the Olympics.”
I’ve experienced similar types of blissful ignorance from plenty of Americans who DAMN sure should have known better. Generally speaking, I don’t try to educate them anymore. I assume that any grown ADULT who indulges his or her inner racist deserves whatever happens – be it losing talented staff, lawsuits or an old-fashioned beat down. Hey, if I can take the time and trouble to educate myself and make the effort to at least be cognizant of my interactions, so should they. Am I wrong?
Men are supposed to take risks. Educated, calculated and measured risks, certainly, but risks nonetheless. Avoiding risk and running from the unknown are NOT the hallmarks of a leader or an achiever. Risk avoidance merely means accepting complete defeat without even trying.
Such thoughts occupy my mind because what I am planning could be described as risky if not reckless. I plan to leave the safety and comfort of home, travel to a foreign land, live among the natives, eat their food and learn their language. I know that employment will be challenge, just as I know that it’s a virtual certainty that the people I will meet will have a distorted and negative view of me courtesy of the filth, propaganda and outright lies that media and government incessantly publish.
I’m going anyway. In my estimation, there is little that could happen to me overseas that I don’t already face right here at home.
Besides, I’ve had the privilege of working with too many refugees and immigrants who faced TRULY dangerous risks merely to go on living. Every so often, I encounter a former student or client. For the most part they are doing well. MANY are doing extraordinarily well. Many of these young men came to this country straight from the refugee camps, spoke very little English, had NO local family and had little familiarity with cold weather or American cuisine. Most of those same young men have now earned their first degree and have moved on to advanced studies or started businesses and jobs. Most of them are “non-American” looking, speak with “strange” accents and have “funny names”.
They didn’t give up. They didn’t quit. They took risks. They persevered. Hell if THEY can do it, why shouldn’t I?
Like this guy…
Panama here I come!!!!
Well its not quite that simple.
I am still battling one thing… my own fear.
On one hand I am on course to do something that I have wanted to do for years. This decision marks the beginning of a new adventure, a new lifestyle and possibly a new career (professional blogger). I am very excited about all of those things. But, there are many things about this excursion that make me very uncertain. First of all, I have not saved nearly as much money as I should have. In addition to that, I am going somewhere that is completely new and strange to me. I do not know anyone there and I don’t speak Spanish. I do have relatives there but I do not know them. So for now, I feel as though I have no family there and will be very far away from the family that I have known all of my life and love
I have also heard about the violence and poverty in certain areas of the country. When I think about the violence I have to think about my mother and my big brother. My mother came to America and was murdered right here in the good ole USA, as was my big brother and several other people close to me. And currently poverty in the US is worse than ever. Therefore, I can not use the fear of violence and poverty dissuade me. I take comfort in the stories I hear from people who said their fathers and grandfathers came to America with $7 to their names and became very successful. Maybe one day my kids will sit around in a mansion and tell my grandkids the same thing about me.
Ultimately I pray that this journey is going to provide an enlightening experience for me that will bring me closer to my mother by learning about her country. In addition to that, I want to have some damn fun. I want the beach, the sunshine, the women, the culture, the nightlife, the Art and whatever else I can squeeze out of Panama. And I plan to share as much of it as I can with you.
And I am not going to let a small thing like fear keep me from that.
Peace & Love,
I agree. In fact, let me be emphatic;
I live literally within sight and walking distance of a major airport with several daily international flights. While shopping at the local Safeway, every so often I’ll come across of a group of stewardesses from JAL, KLA or one of the other Asian airlines. Apparently, they have just enough time between flights to come by and pick up some goodies.
I am SO tempted to ask one of them to stuff me in a flight bag and fly me out with them on their next departure…