Friday, September 14, 2007

Update from China Feb 3 2005

WARNING: The following update is just a tad longer than the last one, which means its still crazy long! I am maintaining the same Table of Contents, now using cap locks for ease of use:
7) POST SCRIPT\\ To My Brothers and Sisters


Well boys and girls, again it is very overdue for another update! I must apologize for the tardy response; it has been over 2 months since my last update! Some of you must seriously be wondering whether I have fallen off the face of the earth!

I would like to thank everyone for being personally interested in my life and my well-being. It means a lot to have such great friends and loved ones. Life is worthless without you.


Last time I wrote to you, I was still working at Peking University’s School of Software. It feels like a lifetime ago that I was there. The month of December was a very busy one work-wise. It was the last month of the term, which means the usual plethora of final group projects and examinations kept me very busy. Because I worked at PKU for 4 months, by the last month I was accustomed to the workload and got through it without incident. Beyond the classroom, December also held many outings and final dinners with many of my students who were sad to see our classes end. It became a fanfare during the last week of classes as many students brought cameras and wanted to take pictures with me! Alas, a very busy December ended. All the examination marking had to be done before the New Year, and I was lucky to finish it before Christmas.

At the end of the year, there was the usual tiff with PKU, as one comes to expect dealing with Chinese companies and organizations. There was some “miscommunication” on final salary and our move out date. With our experience with the Chinese, we were not surprised and handled the situations amicably.

Moving onto the New Year, I mentioned last update that I had some jobs in the works. Well I definitely did. I am currently working at two companies, and turned down two more job opportunities, with a third job opportunity on the horizon. You can say that I have been particularly busy on the job front.

Let me describe to you the jobs that I am currently doing now. The first company is one that I set up back while I was still teaching at PKU. I knew that I would need a new job in the New Year so I began looking back in November. The company’s name is Executive Communications, and after a wonderful interview process, I was welcomed to join. This company is in the Central Business District of Beijing (the CBD) where all of the major companies are located. It compares to Wall Street in NYC or Bay Street in Toronto. I work in the GE building, where many companies reside. Executive Communications is a training company, focusing on language development. There are two sides to the operations, Mandarin training for foreign expatriates, and English training for local business executives. I am obviously on the latter team.

Besides teaching business English to executives, my involvement with Executive Communications will be more extensive. Before the interview, I happened to overhear a meeting the manager and his marketing team was having about the positioning of the company. When the manager came in to interview me, I mentioned I had overheard their conversation and went on to analyze their business, gave my recommendations and my opinions on the industry. Needless to say he was impressed and we hit it off. I continued with my own ideas for this company and what I felt would be a strategic direction that would bring the firm sustainable success. He agreed with me wholeheartedly. Executive Communications charged me with not only a teaching position but also a consultant position where I will create a new seminar series for them to teach their clients. This project is right up my alley. I will have the opportunity to create, and teach materials that I have a passion for, and hopefully change lives while doing it. The seminar I will create is about increasing personal and business effectiveness in one’s life. Such personal development topics such as Motivation, Proactivity, Effective listening, Conflict management, Vision planning, EQ, Interpersonal problem solving… well you get the idea. I find these topics very exciting and I am even more excited to begin this project. I am already working at Executive Communications, and will continue to work on the seminar series until it is ready to for presentation to the company and its clients.

The second company I am working at is English Language College. It is straight up, a school to teach English. The great thing about this place is that I just walked in one day, and they hired me on the spot. Ha. I just wanted some extra cash on the side. ELC is wonderful because it is so close to my home. It is located in SOHO and that is about a 5-minute walk from where I live. So I could potentially roll out of bed one day and walk into class, teach, make some money, and be back home for lunch! Of course, I wouldn’t do that, it’s just unprofessional! Nevertheless, it truly is convenient. The other plus about this company is that they stress no curriculum. The teachers have all the freedom! Therefore, I am able to walk in every class, do something completely different, and that would be fine. The classes are three hours long, so every time it is just like a three-hour free talk session. Imagine getting paid money to talk? I think that’s just dandy. It works out quite perfectly, as I am able to use materials that I am planning for Executive Communications, and test them on my students at ELC first. So far, it is a complete success. My classes are always full, and students always look forward to my next class.

I also mentioned I turned down two other job offers. The first was a contract position with a consulting company, who specializes in Management training. Every year they publish a very popular book/directory of all the management training companies here in Beijing. Within it is a report named “The State of the Industry”. I was offered the contract to write this report analyzing the state of the Management Training Industry in China. It presented a truly fascinating opportunity to learn more about an industry for which I have passion. Unfortunately, it would require many hours of research, and it did not pay enough; that is what I told them. They countered my response by doubling the financial compensation. That made it hard to turn down. In the end the contract came at a time when I was too occupied with other tasks, and I had to turn it down. It was heart wrenching to turn down such an opportunity and so much money, but money isn’t everything. If anything is true in China, is that opportunities here abound, and I have no doubt other jobs of that sort will come along in the future.

The second job I turned down was with the Canadian Embassy. Although it paid a lot, and was a full time job, it was not in an area I had a passion for, and did not utilize my greatest skills. My mantra is always to do something you have passion for, and it will make your life full of joy, and worthwhile. I am fundamentally against the idea of working at a job just because it pays well. If it is not a job that brings you joy, no amount of money is worth it.

Finally, I also mentioned I have another job on the horizon. Peking University approached me again and invited me to come back to the university and teach for them next term. They also want me to create standardized materials so they can use for their students each succeeding year. Again, I am still thinking about this opportunity, I can fashion it so it can fit in with my current schedule working for the other two companies, and it is a great addition to my resume. I am still toying with the idea.

Anyways, that gives you almost up to speed with my job situation. I am working two jobs, and may begin a third one in a month. Am I crazy? Maybe. Do I love it? Absolutely. In the coming months I will be putting more time in Executive Communications, as they pay more money and I will begin to concentrate on the seminar I am creating for them. But who knows? China continues to flow with opportunities. If you are open to new ones, they will always be there knocking at your door.


Phew! The work section took a while! Well like I said, the past few months has been pretty work-heavy. But what have I been doing in my free time?? Perhaps I can say that my free time has been heavy too!

I moved! I mentioned it in my last update and it is true! It is a two-bedroom apartment, one for me, and one for my guests that I envision will come to visit me. I moved right into downtown! I couldn’t be more happy with the location! A five-minute walk from the subway station, one minute walk from the bus stop, what more can I ask for? Everyday I wake up, walk outside, and am bombarded with sheets of metal and glass all around me. Skyscrapers as far as the eye can see. And can you imagine, five years ago, this place was still a dirt road? Again, I cannot describe to you just how fast this city is developing.

Woops, going off topic. Sorry, I always go on about how amazing this city is. Anyways, my free time! Let’s start at the beginning shall we? My free time in December was scarce with all the end-of-term duties and events. But I am sure many of you are wondering how I spent Christmas and New Years? Definitely, it was different. This year was the first year I spent the holidays away from my family. Certainly, a lonely time for those separated. I was able to spend Christmas Eve with students, we went out for a nice dinner and to a bar afterwards. I learned many new things from them that day as well. Christmas day I wanted to go to a church service, but there was not any held at a time available for me. At night I went to my friend Barry’s apartment for a Christmas party (yes, Barry returned from England). In between holidays were spent finishing PKU stuff, packing, and signing the lease for my new apartment. I spent New Years Eve moving into my new apartment. Talk about a fresh start for the New Year! My first night at my new apartment was the night I came home from our New Years Dinner and after-party. (We went to an African restaurant, and then a bar after, refer to my picture links for details).

All my free time at the beginning of January was devoted to my apartment. Naturally, one could understand the amount of work it took to customize an apartment to one’s own liking. I did the same thing. I cleaned, bought, redecorated, and cleaned some more, to make the apartment mine. I even went as far as to reupholster the couch. I’m still not done yet, I still have to finish the cushions. Let’s just say it’s an exhaustive process, but I really really really enjoy it. It just feels good to have a place that is yours doesn’t it? Especially knowing you pay for it yourself.

I spent my free time after this transition period using my apartment to its fullest, exploring the neighbourhood and the city around me, and entertaining guests. I had a house-warming party, and many people came, including many former students. In addition, my some friends also moved into the same area, so all of us have been busy with house-warming parties, and enjoying our new environment. The latter half of January, I spent my free time entertaining guests. In the past two and a half weeks, I have had four visitors, so it is a non-stop succession of people, which makes my life interesting and full. First was my brother’s friend who came from Harbin (a city up north), who stayed for a week, then my friend Olive dropped by on her way to a conference in Thailand. The third visitor to come was my girlfriend, Carmen, who just left last week. She stayed for a week, taking a vacation from her job in Tokyo, Japan. Finally, I just had another visitor come in, also a friend of a friend, interested to learn more about my experiences here in China.

Each of these visitors wanted to see different things of Beijing, and I was happy to oblige. Some wanted the shopping experience, some wanted the history experience, some wanted the sit-down-coffee experience, and some wanted the ghetto experience. Ha.

My free time in the next two weeks will be very extensive. As Spring Festival descends upon China (many of you know it also as Chinese New Year), the entire nation will come to a perpetual stand still. Both of my companies will close for the holidays, one from the 5th to the 15th, the other until the 21st. Therefore, I have some free time ahead of me. What am I going to do? Well, I will tell you! The travel bug has hit me again. Starting on Feb. 7th, I will fly up to Dalian, one of the most beautiful cities in China. There I will meet my friend Joseph (from Schulich, who is currently living in Shanghai) and three of his friends. We will spend a few days up there with his relatives, before all returning to Beijing. Coming back on the 10th, I will play host to Joseph and his friends, and show them my town. On the 12th however, I will be taking another flight, this time to Japan. I will arrive in Tokyo on the 12th, and there spend Valentines’ Day with Carmen. We will be taking a trip to beautiful Kyoto for a few days. I will return to Beijing on the 17th, where I will begin working at one of my companies, and use the rest of my time with Joseph and Al, who will still be here for another week or so. After Joseph leaves, I will double my energies at work, and really get the ball rolling on some of the projects I need to complete.

So what else am I doing with my free time? Because, there is seriously lots to do here in Beijing. As always, the new art exhibitions and new musicians continue to keep me busy. Keeping up with all of them takes up much time, and is immensely enjoyable. A new Jazz club just opened up!! I am SO excited. Haha.
In addition, I finally joined the local gym last month. Therefore, I spend my mornings at the gym. If I have additional time before work, I recently bought a new Chinese study book, so I will be studying Chinese on my own time, really improving my reading and pronunciation skills. I also made a New Years resolution. Let me share it with you. I decided to begin painting again! More specifically, Chinese brush work. And I will use my extra free time to begin with Chinese character brushwork, and also other styles of Chinese brush work. On top of all of this, the regular palate of reading, journaling, DVDs, and exploring will all be supplemented.
Honestly, I don’t know how I am going to fit all of these activities in, but I will, somehow.


Geez… where to start? I am now in my sixth month here in China. I think the holiday season, living by myself in my apartment, and having my girlfriend visit have all compounded one major condition. Loneliness. Now don’t get scared or all weepy on me. I am not home sick, or dying of loneliness. How could I be, with all these visitors? But I won’t lie, it is tough living in China by yourself. There are always days when you are just tired.

Many people may be wondering why I chose to work in more training companies. I see it as the next step in my education and exposure to China. For the first months here in China, I learned from PKU’s students, the emerging generation that will shape China’s future. They taught me a lot about what to expect with China. Now that I am working at these training companies, I am continuing my education by learning about the mindset of Chinese business people who are currently in the workforce. I feel it is a natural progression from what I learned this past fall, to augment knowing about the future business generation, by comparing and contrasting with the present business generation. So far, it has been very interesting to see the difference actual experience makes in people. This is not isolated only to China, but to the rest of the world. It is very evident that real business experience drastically develops maturity in emotions and thought. The business people I am now teaching are on average very sharp, and very practical. Now what I am trying to figure out is how much of this difference is attributed to practical business experience, and how much is ascribed from their generation’s experience.

Teaching business professionals also has its other perks. Currently, I am teaching an architect who will join the Olympic committee next month, I am teaching the owner of a business involved in construction around Beijing, and I am also training several members of the executive staff at Marie Claire, China. Each client gives me different insights into different industries and allows me to gain a comprehensive idea of what is happening in China. These contacts will no doubt prove beneficial in the future, and even if they don’t, the opportunity to influence, encourage and motivate these individuals are rewards in themselves. English is only a small part of what I do. Instead, it is much more about building relationships and meeting the real psychological needs of my clients. Each of them is engaging China’s fast-growing economy and society in a different way. Each of them comes into the classroom with different motivations why they must learn English. Yet all are motivated, and my job is more about plugging them into the right motivation than anything else. What a wonderful opportunity. Already, many of my clients have gone abroad, and begun working in places like Sydney, Paris, and Los Angeles. Many have given me their business cards and asked me to keep in touch with them, as they value what I teach them. It is therefore a very exciting time, and all of the things that I do here, I feel are investments for future developments.

Regardless, work is always fluid, and who knows what will happen by the time I send my next update to you. Truly, if you really want it, many opportunities are open to you.

Beyond the business angle, my Chinese continues to progress at a steady pace. Now that I am in the city, I am able to use it everyday, in everyday situations. Most importantly, my closest friends are now my neighbours, so we see each other often and converse in Chinese. Still, I feel like I have reached a plateau in my Chinese learning, and need to create further learning opportunities. That is why I have chosen to concentrate my mornings before work in Chinese study. My work is flexible enough that I can have the mornings off, and work later in the evenings. This is perfect for me, as I can go to the gym and have time to study Chinese. I hope that as I work on my reading and pronunciation skills, my overall Chinese will improve as well.

Other than all the little projects I continue to start and maintain, right now I am just trying to get a balance or some kind of rhythm in my life. A nice set schedule is what I need, so I know what is going to happen tomorrow. This first month has been complete chaos just because I am slowly building my client list, and the companies are slowly giving me more hours, as well as the multitude of visitors coming into town. The first month has been anything but balanced. I hope that after the spring festival, I will be able to establish a steady lifestyle, but knowing China, it may not happen!


Exploring Beijing and the ability to report on new discoveries slowed down significantly in the past two months. The reason is all the time I spent settling into my new surroundings. But this section is not all completely void of material this time; with a new living environment and lifestyle right downtown, I am absorbing and immersing my experience with “Downtown Beijingers”. Everything that comes along with the lifestyle, from cramming onto the most crowded bus you’ve ever seen, to walking 3 blocks, just because it would be faster than taking a taxi.

Living in the city also offers other unique experiences, like seeing the city at night. Usually when I am in the city at night, it is out at a bar, or an area known for its nightlife. Now that I am a resident, every evening exposes me to the other areas of Beijing. I find the most amazing thing thus far about the night times is the complete blackness of the skyline. It is unbelievable, because as the sun sets, you can see an entire horizon of skyscrapers, yet, when the sun goes down, they all disappear. Where do they all go? It then dawned on me (pardon the pun): All the skyscrapers I see during the day are standing, but not in use. All of them, an entire skyline’s worth, are either just completed or in the process of being completed. It is as if an entire new city is ready to be used and inhabited, but waiting for the move-in date. Not one light in any of these buildings is on at night, because no one is in them. Office buildings, new condominiums, apartments and hotels, all ready and waiting to open. I can only imagine what Beijing nighttime skyline will looks like one year from now. I would not be surprised if other huge sectors of city will be black, waiting to be occupied. This will most definitely continue until 2008.

I guess the one last thing I will include in the Living section for this update will have to be the weather. IT IS COLD! Ok, I know most of you reading are laughing aloud, or scoffing at me, because you survived yet another Toronto winter. Yes, I sympathize with you, with the -30 degree weather, I really shouldn’t complain at all. Beijing’s winter this year wasn’t that cold. The coldest it got here was I think only -20 Celsius. However, I still have to stipulate that IT IS COLD! I think because Beijing is in a mountainous area, it feels very cold. Beijing is virtually in a valley surrounded on all sides by mountains, so all the wind and air currents that come in from the sea are trapped in the valley that is Beijing. Add into the equation the DRYEST air you have felt… it is cold sometimes. It is always windy, so that is what gets you. In China, everybody wears long johns (long underwear) because it is so cold, and everyone wears long jackets, because it is so windy. As a Canadian I refuse to wear long johns, as I never wore them in Canada, and I am not about to start wearing them in Beijing, where it is temperature-wise warmer that Toronto. I am embarrassed to admit though, that there are several occasions where you would find me wearing two layers of pants, just because it is too damn cold. It also does not help that no one here owns a car, since cars are so expensive. So walking everyday in the cold weather really gets you down, especially days when you are stranded outside for two hours because you cannot hail a cab because they are all taken because it is a weekend or rush hour… sorry… just venting. It’s just cold. And I’m bitter. Carmen just visited me here in Beijing. Next time you see her, just ask her what she thinks of Beijing’s cold weather. She will corroborate my sentiments. In fact, all she could say while she was here was how cold it was!


Its still kind of strange to think that I actually Live in Beijing. This is my life, and it is still strangely eerie. This will be my sixth month here, it seems very short, but I feel like I have been here for much longer. I think it is because I learned so much in the past few months, not just about China, but about life and also new things about myself. It is truly special living a challenging life, and challenging one’s self.

I challenge all of you, if you are not doing anything right now that challenges you, puts you out of your comfort zone, find something and do it. You will be surprised how easily you can adjust, and how far you can push yourself. You will then be rewarded with a sense of accomplishment, an improved self-confidence, and new skills that you may never have known were possible for you. I encourage you to go for it! You do not need to live in another country to exceed your own expectations!

Anyways, hopefully I will be able to send updates more often, so they do not have to be so long every time I send them! But alas, I doubt that is likely to happen because the coming few months after my trips to Dalian, Tokyo and Kyoto will be pure work. I hope to work hard the next few months and make some serious dough, because moving into this apartment really set me back some. Also, it will be great to just get in the swing of things here, and really make a good rhythm for myself! Knowing Beijing though, you never know what will happen. Maybe my next update will bring something different, new and a complete surprise!

In fact, I am quite sure there will be a surprise next update…

With all my love and passion,


PS. If anyone would like to mail me anything, my new mailing address here in Beijing is:
Room 407, No.4 building, Guang Hui Nan Li, Chaoyang district, Beijing, China. 100021
北京市朝阳区光辉南里4号楼4单元407, 100021

POST SCRIPT\\ To My Brothers and Sisters:

The following is again written for those who are interested in my spiritual well-being and the spiritual well-being of China.

Blessings to you, my fellow spiritual warriors! Where can I start? Actually, not much has happened in the past couple of months. Christmas was obviously not a very festive time, and there was no one with whom I could celebrate the birth of Jesus. However, the holidays provided more opportunities to talk to students and friends about Jesus and Christianity.

You never know when a conversation about beliefs and an opportunity to share one’s faith can come up. I shared the good news in random places. In my office, in restaurants, in bars… China is really eager to talk about spiritual matters, and matters of personal beliefs. It is very different from North America, and what we are used to. However, it is encouraging and truly inspiring to find so many people interested and open to talk about spiritual matters. It is quite refreshing.

Because of this openness, God has really put it into my heart the past few months to start a Bible study with these searching and infant Christians. I posed this idea to some of the students who I had conversations before about Christianity, and they are very excited at the idea of learning more. I don’t know how the timing and location will go, or even whether this Bible study will happen, but I know that God is in control and if He wants this Bible study to be a success, the work will be by His hands. I am just happy to be of service to Him. I am thinking the Bible study can be every Sunday, in my apartment. The students can come into town on Sunday afternoon; spend the day learning more about Jesus, and having a good time of fellowship. It would be such blessing to fill this home with God’s ministry.

Beyond the Bible study I envision, I am happy to share that now that I am in town, I can regularly go to church on Sundays. I am attending BICF, Beijing International Christian Fellowship. It is an interdenominational church, and the style is one that is conductive to worship. Going to their church service, I can only rejoice at the opportunity of communal worship. In previous updates, I mentioned how necessary it is to have solitude here in Beijing, and that I found it enjoyable and necessary. I still fully agree. However, I can also stipulate that after months of being spiritually alone, it is the most wonderful and overwhelming feeling to be back among believers. I could not help but tear-up with emotion at the first experience of singing and praising God aloud with others again. Their service is all right, but more than enough to feed me. In addition, they have many small groups with different focuses. I am thinking of joining one, if God permits. Perhaps also I can serve in the church. I will continue to pray and see what God has in store for me. It is quite a relief and a source of strength to have a church here in the city that I can attend. God answers prayers.

My last update was the first time I included a special section for spiritual matters directed to Christian readers. To my surprise and delight, many non-Christians who were equally concerned about the spiritual health of me as well as the Chinese nation also read this section. I am really glad this section struck a chord with so many people, because it truly is the most important section to me. There is nothing else as important as the spiritual well-being of other people. And for a nation who for an entire generation, was sheltered from any form of spiritual thought, the need to share one’s belief system is even more dire. What I witness today, and this is corroborated by my experiences in numerable classroom discussions, is the complete abandonment or ignorance of life choices through a spiritually influenced moral code. To many it is a foreign idea that spiritual belief systems are relevant to their lives. A number believe spiritual matters should be attended only after the nation as a whole reaches a state of material security. I still cannot believe what I hear. Some Chinese honestly believe that their own spiritual mortality comes second to the nation’s development. These same people live on the premise that majority rules, and the majority is what defines right. It is no wonder we see such an obsession here with horoscopes, palm reading, and any type of fortune telling. It is even more not surprising to see the multitude of Chinese who feel lost, confused, frustrated and scared with the world around them. No one is offering them any answers to the most fundamental issues of their own selves. The only answer offered (believe in the government) is rejected, and the only thing left for them to believe in is material accumulation; just as the television coaxes them to do.

Of course, I am making a case for merely one type of individual, and all societies have this type. However, I cannot stress how much of a problem this is becoming with a large percentage of the middle class Chinese.

Ok I got off track again. What I wanted to say was that I am happy so many of you are reading this very special and crucial section. I wanted to share with you all that God has been reaffirming my being in China. After the last update, I had several individuals email me back and encourage me to continue exploring the spiritual side of China. But what is more, I had several individuals who began asking me questions about my spirituality. Many read my last update and had questions, wonderful questions, about Jesus, Christianity, and why I believe. I cannot express to you the elation I feel, knowing that I am touching people’s lives half way across the world, not just here in China. I never imagined that God would use me here in China to reach people back in North America. God really works in mysterious ways. After spending years side by side with some of these individuals, only after we separate and I am here, do we finally begin to converse and share about spiritual matters. Isn’t how God works awesome? God really reaffirmed to me that I am following His Will here by allowing me to serve Him even through email. How wonderful it is for us to have a God who works in such mysterious, yet such revealed ways!

Pray that God will continue to reveal Himself to me, and that He can give me strength as I continue to settle into this new environment and lifestyle here in downtown Beijing. Pray that he will continue to use me as He sees fit, whether it be leading a small group, having an email correspondence ministry, or just being a member of a community of believers. Thank Him for the blessings He has given to me, like my two great friends here in China, Dean and Kelly, who I know for sure, are sent by God to look after me here. And thank Him because He truly is Sovereign. Sovereign in my life, yours, and the entire world.

Thank you for being my spiritual family. Blessings to you in all your endeavours and dreams.


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