When I was a young man, in the time between completing my undergraduate and beginning my masters degree, and again in the time between completing my masters degree and beginning my doctorate, I took time off to work, to get out of the library and to see what the world was like. During both of these periods I went tree planting along the west coast of Canada. This was a rough, mud-caked job, and my co workers were mostly hairy French Canadians. We lived in our own tents, and spent our days stumbling up and down grim mountainsides, through bracken and bramble, and in some cases through napalmed landscape. It was a great adventure, sure, but at the same time it was a very difficult way of life. We would work for ten days straight and then have one day off. During the ten days working we could not shower or change clothes: our hands and feet were calloused and blistered; our bodies welted and swollen with every sort of insect bite. Sometimes bears stole our food from under our pillows while we slept.
Although I am happy to have had this experience when I was young, I really wish that I had taught English in China instead. As far as developing skills that might have been of use for my future, tree planting gave me preparation only for a job involving manual labour. As for dealing with people, or preparing and presenting ideas, it did nothing. Also, it was an awfully hard and lonely life. People who come to teach English in China have a laid back life teaching only 18 or so 40 minute periods per week, and they can use their free time to meet new people or to better themselves in some way.
I have been in Beijing for eight years, and I love it here. Admittedly, it does not have the natural beauty of Ireland, or Canada, but the people here are wonderful. Furthermore, every day I am faced with the shock of the new: everyday I see something that I have never seen, or even imagined seeing before.
Of course, it is a big step into the unknown to come to China: this is part of the enticement, of course, but it should also be a reason for hesitation. It is very possible for a teacher to step into a nightmare scenario here, to be cheated, used, stranded or coerced. This, however, will never happen at Aihua. To any teachers who come to work at Aihua, I give my word of honour that we will abide by the terms of our contract.
Furthermore, while you are with us I will consider your well being to be my primary responsibility: I will not hold your hand every step of the way, as finding your way through a strange new world is the most interesting part, but if, god forbid, something happens, the school, and all of our people, will be ready to support you.