Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Story

This is the story you've all been waiting for.  

Why we fled the country:

Actually, "fled" is not really the right word, but it's catchy.  Basically, one of the girls who taught at the school near us got her passport stolen.  We tried everything we could possibly do to locate it, but it was well and thoroughly stolen.  After reviewing the possible courses of action, we discovered that we would have to physically travel to Beijing and go to the American Embassy to get her a passport replacement.

Once we had determined to go, the next step was to contact the school and ask for permission to go to Beijing.  The reason that all 4 of us (my wife and I were planning on accompanying the 2 girls from the other school) needed to go was 4-fold: Michelle had to do the paperwork but doesn't speak any Chinese, Shannon speaks decent Chinese, I speak less Chinese than Shannon but I'm big and intimidating, and Karissa...     ...well, it just wouldn't be right to leave her alone in the middle of China.

Michelle and Karissa talked to their school, and obtained permission to go.  We talked to ours, and they said, "no."  

We said, "Umm... I don't think you understand.  This is an emergency situation.  We need to go."  

"It's not an emergency, and it's not necessary for you to go."

"Yes it is, and yes, it is."


"I'm done talking to you, because you aren't listening to me.  Who else can I talk to?"

"You don't need to talk to anyone else."

"Yes, I do.  It's 9:30 at night, and I'm totally willing to go knock on the door of the Headmaster if necessary.  Maybe then you'll see just how serious this is. Do you understand?"

"Well, the Headmaster is in Changsha, and won't be back for several days."

"I will WALK to Changsha if I have to.  Call him."

"His cell phone isn't working."

"What is his address?  I will go there and ask him myself."

"You don't need to do that, just wait a few days."

"You know what?  I'm done talking to you.  I'll try to find someone with more authority than you."  At which point I hung up the phone, the plastic of which had warped from the steam emanating from my body.

I called someone else, who called the number 2 person in the school, but she said I needed to talk to the number 1.  I was mad.  These people were stalling while time was of the essence. Really, I fumed.  I punched the wall.  Hard.  It dented the plaster.

I continued to make noise.  A lot of noise.  Finally, after the school tried to keep us even longer, I basically said, "We're leaving.  You should give us permission.  Like, yesterday."

Finally, after a several day ordeal, we got permission, and headed to Beijing on a train.  It took 24 hours.  We stood for 18 hours, because there were no seats.

We arrived in Beijing, and talked to the Embassy.  Apparently, trying to keep someone with a tourist visa from leaving the school is illegal.  We were mad enough when it happened, but when we found out that they were acting illegally, we were ticked.  The Embassy said, "You don't have to go back.  You could just leave."  

So, we did.  A week later, we came home.  We had our fill of being jerked around by our school.  The guy in charge of our program (Jacob Harlan) took care of all of the flights for us, and really supported us the whole way.  He will never send teachers to those schools again, and is looking to possibly replace his representative in China.  I don't blame him at all.  Our school was simply dishonest, and I feel bad for our students.

I don't know what rumors may be flying around, but there's the truth.  


p.s.  We are thrilled to be home for Christmas!!