An Ideal Position
Life is good. My career in elementary education in Canada is now just a fond memory. I think back on the many years of service and I recall the many classed I taught, the different schools I worked at, the countless staff meetings I attended and the many committees I served on. I estimate that the number of faculty members I worked with over the years is in the hundreds and well over a thousand students have called me teacher. Is it any wonder that I can say that I always felt comfortable walking in school corridors?
Sometimes I worked with students at the intermediate level. In Canada, students at that level are youth in their preteen(青春期前的) years as well as teenagers.
When I decided to retire, I knew that the first step in the procedure was to write a letter to my employer, a school board, to resign my position. I postponed mailing the letter. I was reluctant to add the postage to the letter, knowing that once I mailed it, the decision could not be reversed.
Because I was a veteran teacher of many years, I would be eligible to receive a pension. I calculated that the revenue(收入) I would receive each month would be sufficient to sustain my current lifestyle. If I was smart about my spending habits, I might even have a surplus of money. I certainly would not need to pinch every penny. I knew the money would not come to me in the form of a check. Instead, it would be deposited directly into my bank account. I could withdraw cash from my investments if I needed to supplement my income, my credit rating would allow me to be eligible for a loan when some unforeseen(预料不到的) financial crisis a rose. I knew, therefore, that there was no reason to panic, as my future was secure even if inflation increased or a recession occurred. In either case my income would only be minus a few dollars, a fraction of the total amount.
I decided to take the plunge, but waited another fortnight before I mailed the letter. I even paused briefly(简短的,暂时的) with the letter part way into the mail slot(投信口,狭缝) before I thrust the letter into the mailbox. I knew that the simple act of mailing that letter would alter my life.
I looked for clues to determine how striking the changes in my daily life would be. How would I spend my time? In spite of having many long yearly vacations when I could pursue other interests, I had not bothered to make an earnest effort to confine my activities to one particular hobby. Would I find life as a retiree boring? What new adventures might await me? Would I use my time to volunteer at a hospital or maybe work for a local charity? Maybe I would apply for membership in a golf league. Maybe I would donate(捐赠) my time and work with the Better Business Bureau. I night decide to enter local politics and run for a position on town council or I could run for the position of Deputy Mayor of my town, or maybe even consider submitting my name to be a candidate in an election for member of parliament(国会). I would need to campaign and then wait to see if people would vote for me on Election Day at the polls.
In spite of the fact that the possibilities all had merit, I had to admit that I only had a superficial interest in pursuing any of them. In fact, I was indifferent to most of the options. Did I think they might interfere with other commitments(义务,委托) or mean I would have to cancel other appointments? Or was I just too attached to the idea of teaching, feeling that it formed part of my identity?
I examined my emotions about the new direction my life would take. Would retirement add a new dimension to my life and multiply my feeling of satisfaction or would the world apprehension(理解,领悟) be more applicable?
Did I feel guilty about not being gainfully(有利益的) employed when I was qualified and capable? As a certified(被证明的) teacher, did I feel obligated to work in the field of education? Did I feel entitled to sleep in late each day, or would that bother my conscience? Would I simply grow old gracefully or would feel that ridiculous?
My instincts told me that although I would feel grateful for my good health, curiosity about other countries and lifestyles would overtake the desire to spend my time with senior citizens, playing board games, such as chess all day. Wouldn’t I rather learn about other cultures and at the same time be an ambassador for my own country?
I began to inquire about opportunities and whenever I searched the internet for jobs, I always seemed be drawn like a magnet to the category of teaching. It did not take long before I found that there were countless positions available in many countries. Amid the listings I identified several that were for teaching positions in China.
I decided that I would communicate with some of the people offering these positions. I sent e-mails and made phone calls to several prospective(可能的,未来的) employers. The feedback that I got from most of them was that they expected me to bring all the resources necessary. How could I pack enough in my baggage to provide what was needed? I was inclined to look for a situation where books were provided. I wanted to sign a contract for only one semester but found that most positions were for one or two years. I could sympathize with the amount of paper work needed to arrange for a person to accept one of those positions and realized that it was wiser for people to spend a year or two in one location. I attended seminars by companies trying to recruit teachers. I found several companies that captured my interest.
I began to review my options. I asked specific questions about the positions with companies that sincerely interested me. I inquired about how many suitcases I would be allowed to bring and what the living accommodations would be. It was refreshing to realize that there was a big demand for people who could teach English. Several positions seemed superior in their benefits and they sparked my interest even more. I especially wanted to teach students at the secondary or high school level rather than middle school.
I could hardly believe that I was contemplating(盘算,思量) dong this at this age of my life. At times I felt that it was a radical idea but I also realized that I had always had the desire to have this kind of experience but circumstances never seemed quite right. Now they were. I decided to proceed.
I made an oral agreement with a company. I read their written contracts, clause by clause; to be sure nothing had been omitted from the oral agreement. In spite of wanting the clause about staying two years to be deleted, I signed the legal contract after a few minor changes were made and initialed in the margin.
There were many details to consider. After choosing the company that I wanted to work for, I still had to take a long time look at my circumstances. I decided that I would sell my car, put my personal belongings in storage and rent my house. A lot of time and effort was required to make all the arrangements. I decided to tackle(解决) one aspect at a time.
The first thing I targeted was to sell my car. As a matter of principle, I felt that the value of the car would depreciate(贬值,跌价) over the time I was out of the country. The sensible strategy was to sell it. Fortunately, my niece wanted to buy the car.
I made a list of things to take with me. I was advised to take auxiliary light. I packed battery-operated flashlights to be used to case of power failure. I included a waterproof jacket in case I needed to walk to school in the rain.
I needed to sort my belongings. I had to decide what to save and what to pitch out. For example, I decided I no longer needed my typewriter, as I only used my computer for word processing now, so I decided to give it away.
I made many lists and developed a cold as a way to catalogue my possessions. As I packed items in cardboard boxes, I made a list regarding the contents on the outside of each box. I packed dishes in towels to protect them. Many times I had to undo a box because I forgot to list the contents. When I finally snapped the lid of a box shut, I sealed it with transparent tape and checked to be sure that it would not loosen. I also included another tag, which gave each box a number because all cardboard boxes look identical. I was careful not to abbreviate(缩写) the names of items in the lists lest that would mislead me as to the contents. I continued with this method, which also created an index of items. It seemed the rational way to coordinate and organize things. I remarked many times during this phase of my preparations that I had not realized I had so much gear.
At times I had to laugh at myself. My activities seemed like they would make a good script for a comedy. Maybe I should write a play about what I was doing and copyright it. It certainly would be good for a few scenes on a soap opera.
On the spur of the moment I decided to loan my sofa and my rug to my niece who was moving to a larger home. That would mean a few less things to put into storage.
I fulfilled my obligation to provide proof of good health. I had a chest x-ray taken. I had a complete physical examination. I had dental check up. Because my health reports all indicated I was in excellent health, all of the health care professionals I visited encouraged me to pursue my adventure.
I renewed my passport, my proof of identity as a Canadian citizen. I knew that once I arrived in China I would also be registered with the Canadian Embassy.
My family’s reaction when I told them about my plans was as expected. Although they sanctioned my idea and supported me the endeavor(努力,尽力), they were sad to think that I would be half way across the world for such a long time. The frown on my grandson’s face told me that the situation would be especially difficult for him and that he might feel neglected by me.
Although I could scarcely argue with the comments of my family about their feelings, for their sake I talked about the time away from home as if it was just a few short days. I would be backing home before they knew it. They suggested that I come back after one year for the summer and then return for the second year. I agreed to this plan.
Five years ago, would I have thought that this was in the realm of possibility? I doubt that I would have. But here I am in China, in my second year of living in this amazingly progressive civilization, and I can honestly say that I have never once regretted my decision to teach in China. I must also admit that I have learned far more from my students than they have learned from me. I admire their thirst for knowledge and they seem to thrive on challenges. They never seen tempted to take a short cut, always working hard and giving a supreme effort. Their tolerance for their English teacher’s lack of familiarity with Chinese customs has been appreciated. They always are positive in their attitudes toward me and have helped me whenever they could. At times they have insisted on doing things for me that was capable of doing myself. It has become a habit to surrender to their wishes to assist. One student in particular always takes on the job of carrying my packages, saying that it is his pleasure to be my porter.
When I started to plan this adventure I had only a vague idea of what the country of china would be like. I could recognize their flag but was not even familiar with their national anthem(国歌). My comprehension of the customs of the country was very limited I felt almost ashamed at how little I knew. I did not know if they used the metric or the imperial(英制的) system of measurement. Would I buy fluids such as milk and soda in quarts or liters? Would I need to learn the Chinese word for gram or for inch? Indeed I had never heard the word ‘jin’ before.
I knew little about the food I would be eating. Would dairy products such as skim milk and cheese and yoghurt(酸酪) be available? Would I eat only rice and noodles or would the variety of foods be endless? May be I would be enjoying a rack of lean pork ribs as a delicious treat.
I was unaware that there were so many dialects in the Chinese language. I had no idea how I would communicate but when I arrived in china, I soon found myself having a limited dialogue with Chinese people. They would try to speak a few words of English and I would attempt a few words in Chinese. However, I resorted to sign language more than words.
How much I have learned! It has been a wonderful, rewarding experience and the one comment that comes to my mind is “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!”
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