I finished my work in Changde, and because of the impossibility of becoming either a normal citizen, or getting recognition for the things I was doing well, I was not tempted to stay on.
So, just this once, I'll be collecting a Job Seeekers' cheque (no need to explain what that's a euphemism for) before I go back to China and tackle the Job Market there.
People back home often describe those of us who go to China to find work as brave, adventurous, idealistic. My decision to come to China was none of thse things. Before I tell this story, I will make the disclaimer that it is not a sad one. I've had more than my share of great memories and experiences during the course of events described, and although I will have an enormous challenge in starting a new life in Shenzhen next month, I've never been so optimistic about the future.
Leaving the British Isles was and is a no-brainer. I came back from America in October 2005 and immediately started my Masters in Creative and Critical Writing. As soon as I started I knew I would struggle to find a job on Graduation.
The summer of 2006 had a lot of good points: the time and space to write 'Beyond the Wings' my first completed book; a part-time cleaning job that gave me enough beer money to watch the World Cup; one of the most fruitful periods of reading I've ever had; a revival of my guitar-playing that had lain dormant since I'd worked 80 hours a week in America the previous summer, etc...
But that summer ended with me getting screwed in a Nigerian e-bay fraud, an episode which made a nonsense of the claim that my door-to-door selling experience would make me worldly and savvy.
I came back home from University in September, prepared to do whatever it took to start making my own way in the world, but I ended up doing a simple office job that I only got because of my family connections.
Altogether, despite sending my CV to hundreds of different companies, institutions, and agencies: between returning from America in October 2005 and going to China in May 2007, I landed 2 job interviews, one was for a job of less than £15,000 a year, which I didn't get, and one was for an investment job which didn't involve a salary.
One question that's frequently asked in job-interviews is "where do you see yourself in ten years' time?" It's a question that I can't answer truthfully, yet neither do I know which lie I should tell. I'm a believer in letting fate do its worst; taking on the challenges that are thrown at us; and doing one's best at whatever challenges come our way. I'm really not interested in 5 or 10 years plans. Giving an honest opinion as to where I'll be in 10 years would not impress any prudent employer.
Of course I have goals: to get recognition for the Chinese songs I write; to perform them on television; to get a regular literary job; to complete an Interpreters' exam in Chinese. But none of these things crossed my worried mind back in 2006. You should also appreciate that your goals will change. Within a short space of time last year, I went from being determined to get a girlfriend, to being determined to avoid getting a girlfriend.
In August, I intend to hit Shenzhen, Southern China, live in the cheapest hotel I can find, and spend every day cold-approaching schools, offering to give demo lessons and throwing my CV around. It's precarious, draining, and sometimes degrading. But I wouldn't have it any other way.