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Some of you have been wondering if we are making any major changes for our next 6 months here…and we are! After much deliberation (guilt, crying, etc. on my part), we decided to look for opportunities outside of teaching. Our program and school have been really accommodating and we have made significant progress in our classrooms, but teaching young kids a very basic English curriculum has not been our ideal challenge. We will definitely be sad to leave the community of Tangshan and its welcoming people and cheap food, but we are off to experience new adventures in Beijing! (And hope to come back and visit.)

I (Erin) currently have an unpaid position with a two-year old NGO that awards fellowships to young entrepreneurs throughout all of Asia. (If you know anyone who may fit the bill, check out http://www.fyse.org or the Paragon Fellowship.) I am currently doing a lot of research/learning regarding the condition of entrepreneurial challenges and existing support in Asia, and particularly China. It will be my task to create a multi-day mentorship program that pairs young female entrepreneurs with prominent Chinese businesswoman. If all goes well and I am able to receive some funding, the job should turn into a paid position. I’m really excited about this challenge because I think the mission is great, the material is interesting, and there is a lot of room for growth and creativity.

Last week we visited Beijing, and David was offered an excellent position as the foreign liaison for a Chinese company that sends students to study and travel in the US. The salary is very good, as are the benefits, and they have even offered to help us find an apartment located in between our two offices. David has already helped out a family with some concerns regarding studying in the states, and will be trying to secure some new partnerships for the organization.

Overall it seems like being a laowei in Beijing is a very marketable “skill” and we feel very lucky to be Americans here. I’m looking forward to meeting more people and eating different types of food in Beijing, but concerned about the dust storms and worst traffic in the WORLD!

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Hello everyone!  We are officially TEFL certified by Aston Schools as of a few hours ago.  Overall it was not the most exciting process, but we had a good group of people which made it go by a lot quicker.  Besides the actual teaching in the classroom, we really didn’t do anything that was particularly helpful in my opinion, but what can you do.  Even writing about it is making me bored, so lets just talk about some more Chinese culture!

As mentioned before, we are in Jinan, the capital of Shandong province.  It is a city of about 6 million, and we are 2 of a few hundred westerners.  I would like you to imagine a place where 99.9% of the people you see on a daily basis look like you (in terms of skin/hair/facial features), talks like you, acts like you.  How would you react if someone totally new in all of those respects was walking, looking, or talking at you?  What would you do?  Well, the majority of people here stare at you, usually in a non-threatening, out of the corner of their eye kind of way.  They also usually just laugh along with us as we try to act out phrases like “stomach medicine” or “Thousand Buddha Mountain.”  So far I have found China an unbelievably gracious and welcoming place, contrasted with often feeling unwelcome or out of place in many cities in the USA.  It is hard to compare cities in China with the USA because of the total lack of outside people/languages/culture, but just imagine a US city with low amounts of diversity.  Now imagine a bunch of people that know nothing about the country/city/culture/language, coming in and slowing down every process that they are involved in.  The people would be chased out of town!  Contrast that with China, where we are not only welcomed, but almost viewed as celebrities by some people.  It is bizarre but makes the experience a lot easier to handle.

Another thing that really blew my mind was the levels of crime in China.  Crime and fear just don’t exist in the same way as in the USA.  Punishments are draconian in China, as I am sure you are all aware.  Illegal drugs of all kinds are completely forbidden, and the punishments are incredibly severe if caught, and illegal drugs account for the majority of crimes committed in the USA.  I don’t really want to discuss that though.  I want to talk about how people think about crime here.  People just do not worry about things like their safety or their property’s safety the same way as in the USA.  A perfect example is with people’s bikes, houses and cars.  NONE of these are locked.  There are no car alarms.  You will see, no exaggeration, hundreds of un-attended, unlocked bikes in front of stores!  This isn’t a particularly nice area, this in the urban center of a city the size of CHICAGO!  People are just not worried about it at all.  A lot of it has to do with the culture, in large part due to the man I will now discuss.

Confucius, or as the Chinese usually call him, Kung Fu Tzu (this means master teacher in Mandarin), was probably the most influential thinker in Chinese (and perhaps Asian) history.  His teachings are directly or indirectly responsible for so much of the culture here, and to most in the Western world, he was a funny little man that basically spouted fortune cookie-esque wisdom (which is partially accurate).  The closest equivalents in Western culture would be the teaching of Socrates or maybe even Jesus.  How is it possible that us Western folk know so little about him?!  A Chinese person would have absolutely no idea what you were talking about if you said the word Confucius to them, which really surprised me.  He is Kung Fu Tzu, and they don’t recognize his Latin given name.  The first people from the West in China were missionaries, some of whom read about and studied the teachings of Confucius.  They worked to translate the Bible and educate the East with the teachings of our important figures, but they worked equally hard translating and attempting to get the West to read about the East’s most important figures.  I am hoping that this blog can serve you all in the same way that the missionaries did back then.  By living here, embracing this culture, and sharing the thoughts of the East with our readers in the West.  I am going to wrap up this post with a quote from the Master Teacher himself.  Hope you all keep reading, miss you and America, but enjoying our time here.

“Isn’t it a pleasure when you can make practical use of the things you have studied?  Isn’t it a pleasure to have an old friend visit from afar?  Isn’t it a sure sign of a gentleman, that he does not take offense when others fail to recognize his ability?”

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