How to Get Notarized Documents for Fuzhou, China (Working as an English Teacher)

If you’ve been hired by a company in Fuzhou, China you need to read this article carefully! 

Welcome! You’ve entered the fray just at the time that the requirements for documents became somewhat more stringent. Lucky you.  

Don’t worry, there are several teachers who have been through this process already and we’ve put our heads together to help you out. This guide will:  

  • Help you juggle terminology like “legalization” and “true original”  
  • Prevent you from freaking out when something goes wrong 
  • Provide useful strategies for negotiating with your local authorities in the US  
  • Act as a checklist for what you may need for your visa for China  

PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Documentation requirements are completely up to the Chinese government and the local authorities in Fuzhou. Their rules may change at any time, without warning. If you have any questions about this process, please consult your HR contact for more information.  

In addition, your personal circumstances may be different to other US teachers who’ve gone before you. Pay close attention to the rules and adapt as you go.  

Before You Start

Just a tiny bit of preaching. This is a complex process with a lot of stressful and expensive steps. Keep in mind these important points:

  • Nobody is specifically out to get you. Bureaucracy just crushes everyone beneath its wheels.
  • Immigrants are required to do all this (and MORE) to come to the USA for a visa. Keep this in mind when politicians spout bullshit about “open borders” and how “easy” it is to get into another country for work.
  • You need to have extra money set aside. This whole process can cost upwards of $1000, especially when you consider that you will have to go in person to the Embassy or a Consulate when you actually apply for the visa.
  • Use good Bureaucratic ninja skills! I wrote about this here. 

Terms that you need to know  

Notarization: the process of going to a State-appointed person who can place a stamp onto a document for you  

Legalization: the full process for each required document, which includes at least four steps  

  1. Obtain the documents needed  
  1. Have a local notary certify the document is true and original 
  1. Obtain a state-level apostille stamp from the secretary of state from your home state   
  1. Send the documents to the Chinese Consulate with jurisdiction over your hometown  

Apostille: official documentation stamp that is used for international immigration  

Consulate: official document and services center in a country that is subject to the government of the embassy of another country  

Embassy: official center for diplomatic relations and services within another country, which is technically a part of the nation that has jurisdiction over it  

First Steps  

There are several ways to obtain a work permit and residency card for Fuzhou. You will most likely follow one of the following two paths, although your circumstances may change what documents you will need and how to process them.  

Inexperienced Teachers  

  • A four-year degree from a University  
  • A clean criminal background check from your local state (NOT FBI Background Check. We’ll explain why in a moment.)  
  • A 120-Hour TEFL at minimum (or the equivalent certificate), preferably from a US-based company for authentication purposes  

Experienced Teachers  

  • A four-year degree from a University  
  • A clean criminal background check from your local state (NOT FBI Background Check. We’ll explain why in a moment.)  
  • One or more letters of recommendation from previous employers (THESE DO NOT NEED TO BE LEGALIZED, but you do need to send them to the HR department in Fuzhou to obtain your work permit)  

Obtain these documents, and follow the specific steps below for the background checks.  

State Background Check  

Every state has an equivalent of the FBI that does investigations within the state. You may want to call them before asking for your background check to ensure that they are able to help you with all the following steps. (Please note that some states refer to this as an arrest record, or by other terms).  

Degree Notarization  

I sincerely hope that you went to school in-state. If not, I apologize to inform you that you may have to drive/fly to your university to obtain the necessary signatures in this case.  

TEFL Certificate  

This is why it’s important to obtain your TEFL in your home country. This document will need to be put through the same treatment as the others. If it is from another country, it may be very difficult indeed to get the legalization done.  

The Problem(?)

The local government of Fuzhou is very strict about the requirements for these documents. You must be very careful with the wording of the documents in order to get through and make it to the plane and to your new life in China.  

The government will reject any document that has the wrong wording on it.  

The government will reject your documents if they are not signed for properly.  

You may have to pay up front for multiple rounds of legalization in the case that things go wrong (Companies should compensate you for the cost of the documents).  

They only recently made these changes, and the wording is most likely based on a misunderstanding about how notarization works in the United States. The wording that is required is most likely based on the wording for UK, Canadian, or other English speaking countries’ practices. In these countries, the role of a notary public is much more like a lawyer in the USA. They cannot affix their seal to a document without first authenticating its veracity.  

However, in the US, the notary public CANNOT typically verify that a document is authentic. They simply witness a signature, or administer a legally-binding oath, and then affix their stamp. Typically, US notary public procedures are done on “True Copies” which certify that the original was present and that the notary saw the person who signed it give their oath.  

Unfortunately, this is not adequate for the local government’s requirements. Even if you’ve done a visa for China before, or even a visa for Fuzhou before, the requirements are likely to be different from the previous times.  

In Fuzhou, the documents must have the following wording:  

I have verified that the original document is genuine and I have no reason to doubt that the facts set out therein are true and correct.  

For Fuzhou, the documents MUST NOT have the following wording:  

‘Swearing’ wording can’t appear on the notarization documents  

This is where we get to the possible problem. Your notary public may tell you that they cannot put the correct wording on the documents.

Rejected Examples  

wording1wording2

Approved Examples 

wording3wording4

It may feel like a catch-22, but we’ll get you through it. Follow the steps below for examples of how the wording must be done, and how to finesse your way to success in this epic documentation journey. Let’s start with the criminal record check. 

Criminal History Check (Background Check) Notarization  

You need to obtain a record of your arrests in your state of residence. Please do NOT obtain a national FBI Background Check. If you do, it may be impossible to get the wording required for the notarization. The FBI is notoriously difficult to contact and they are not very flexible about their documentation.  

Here are the steps to obtain a state or local criminal history record:  

  1. Contact the local Bureau of Investigations Identifications Unit. Calling by phone is best.  
  2. Explain that you have a unique situation and need to confirm that they will notarize the ORIGINAL background check BEFORE they return it to you.  
  3. Explain that the Fuzhou government requires specific wording to appear in place of the typical notary public signature witnessing statement.  
  4. Offer to send via email the EXACT wording sent to you from your HR Department.  
  5. Confirm what you must do to obtain the check (fill out application forms, possibly obtain fingerprints from a police station).  
  6. Follow their instructions precisely. Submit all payment and paperwork.  
  7. Wait about one week.  
  8. When your background check arrives, CHECK it very carefully. Scan the document and send it to your HR Department.  

You should be prepared to obtain a new background check and pay once more if your first one does not have the correct wording. In some cases, teachers have been the very first in their home state to request Fuzhou’s required wording.

Be polite, but firm about the wording. Without it, you won’t be able to stay in Fuzhou.  

University Degree Notarization  

  1. Contact Office of the Registrar at your alma mater. Calling by phone is best.  
  2. Explain that you have a unique situation and need to confirm that they will notarize the ORIGINAL DEGREE (either on the front or the back).  
  3. Explain that the Fuzhou government requires specific wording to appear in place of the typical notary public signature witnessing statement. Some universities may not have processed this type of notarization before. You can mention that the United Arab Emirates and South Korea require this type of notarization for teachers in addition to the local Fuzhou government.  
  4. Offer to send via email the EXACT wording sent to you from the HR Department.  
  5. Follow their instructions precisely. Submit all payment and paperwork.  
  6. Most likely, you will have to appear IN PERSON to obtain this notarization.  
  7. Before the notary and registrar official apply their signatures, CHECK the wording one more time against the exact wording sent to you from your company.  
  8. Once you have the notarization on your genuine, original degree you need to scan the degree and send the file to your HR representative.  

Keep in mind once more that you may be the very first person in the history of your university to request this form of notarization! Trailblazing is often fun, but can easily get a little bogged down in the weeds. Stay polite, but be firm about the wording.  

TEFL Certificate Notarization 

  1. Contact the TEFL Certificate issuing authority. Calling by phone is best.  
  1. Explain that you have a unique situation and need to confirm that they will notarize the ORIGINAL CERTIFICATE (either on the front or the back).  
  1. Explain that the Fuzhou government requires specific wording to appear in place of the typical notary public signature witnessing statement.  
  1. Offer to send via email the EXACT wording sent to you from the HR Department.  
  1. Follow their instructions precisely. Submit all payment and paperwork.  
  1. Once you have the notarization on your genuine, original TEFL Certificate you need to scan the document and send the file to the HR representative.  

NOTE: Many TEFL Certificate companies are not based in the United States. If you need to go through the legalization process with a TEFL Certificate from a different country, please note that this ENTIRE process must be completed in that nation. This includes the official stamp from the Chinese Embassy/Consulate. This is likely to be very expensive and a real pain in the mass. Talk closely with the HR Representative from your company about this situation.  

Troubleshooting  

It’s possible that a notary public will tell you that this wording is not possible. There are a few things that you can do to try to work around this problem.  

  • Ask if the word “sworn” can simply be omitted. Check with the HR Department first, but in some cases a “signature witnessing” statement may be a workaround.  
    • In this case, the person who made/issued the document signs a statement about its true and genuine nature in front of the notary public, and the notary witnesses that the signature was done by the person who signed the statement on the date they did so.  
    • Make sure that the person whose signature is witnessed does NOT include any “sworn” language! 
  • Ask if the wording could be changed to “I certify that this is the original” on the notary public statement. “I affirm that this is the true original” may also work. Think of synonyms for the word “swear.”  
  • Appear in person at the office whenever possible. Negotiation in person is often more effective than over email or on the phone.  
  • Everyone hates to be “that guy,” but you may have to ask to speak to a manager. Go up the chain of command at your local Bureau of Investigations if necessary.  
  • Contact your local State and Congressional representatives’ offices and ask them for assistance. This may take a long time, but in dire need it might be worth a shot.

Me No English

“Me no English,” states the girl with enough grammar to ape Tarzan. She does this in spite of speaking full sentences and writing them in her book. I’ve heard her say fluent and complete ones before. She and the others use this as a joke.

“I’m not asking you to speak English,” I growl. “I’m asking you to repeat. I say, you say.”

That’s one of my teaching mantras. I use it in every single class. At least five times a class. Approximately once every seven minutes. All day long. Every weekday since the 17th of September 2017.

“Me no…”

“Nope. I say, you say. May….”

“Me…”

“No. Say. Say. May…” Pointing to my mouth. Counting on my fingers.

This girl is eleven. She’s been in English classes for 2.5 years. Today’s lesson is about future tense. Or was. It is 16:07 and class ends at 16:10. I took her notebook off her at 15:35. It’s taken 32 minutes to get through the bullshit this class has been putting me through. Incessantly talking. Frustrating meanness. A total lack of respect. It’s not that they can’t do what I’m asking them to. I’ve seen it happen.

“Let’s help her out, guys.”

Half the class had to come up and ask me nicely to return their stuff. I took it because at the start of class, I wrote the list of supplies needed for English class. I’ve been writing it on the board for the whole month of December, after a kid tried to get out of taking the English semester test by claiming he didn’t know he needed a pencil. The list reads:

YOU NEED:
– A pencil
-Your English Book (closed)

I added the ‘your,’ the ‘English,’ and the ‘(closed)’ due to students claiming that the instructions were too ambiguous. Given that my students still repeatedly interrupt classes to say, “What’s your name?” after having me in their school every single day for the whole semester, I believe that they might just forget that I exist when I step out of the room and go to my next lesson. After all, they say that six month old babies think you die when you leave the room. Maybe my fifth graders have arrested development.

“What is it that we have to say, in order to get our things back?”

This student is the fifteenth in line. I’ve repeated the line with every last one of them. I’ve sent people to the back of the line to contemplate their sins for being a jerk and/or picking their nose while they politely asked for their book.

I took the books because I waited for five minutes for my students to comply with the instructions that do not change and have always been the instructions. That’s the limit. I watch the clocks and count the seconds. I punctuate the moments with points for those who are doing as I ask (In this class, there was but one. One, out of 35, who was ready for class after five minutes of waiting.). Once it reaches five minutes, I start to take books.

I put them on the teacher’s desk, and there they stay until I call the students up to ask me politely for their things back. In this class, I’ve created a pile of rulers, notebooks, vietnamese language homework, several open English books, pens, leaking fountain pens, and a book about no-bake desserts.

I pointed out that even the first graders don’t normally have this much of a failure-to-comply-with-basic-instructions mountain. The line to receive the stuff stretched all the way to the back of the room, the final ten minutes of a 35-minute class in which we did exactly zero of the work they are supposed to complete filled with repetitive, immediately-forgotten, false politeness. The last notebook sat in my hands for two minutes, with me repeatedly threatening to eat it (no titters, usually gold material for primary students).

Only when I opened my backpack and put the notebook inside did the eleven-year-old girl race forward, shouting in Vietnamese, “HEY! THAT’S MINE!!!!!!!”

In this class two weeks ago, I rapped my own knuckle on the board so hard trying to emphasise that I was not asking them to generate the words from the ether so much as read the things off the board in a zombified tone. My left ring finger cracked open. I bled. My students laughed at that. It was probably the first time they actually laughed at something I did all month. Haha. Look at that idiot bleed.

“Me n…”

“Let’s all help her, yes? May…….” The class joins in, or rather the few who noticed that I’m asking them to help a girl out.

“May…..” She repeats.

Counting on my fingers to indicate the second word. The two best students in the class chime in with, “I…..”

“I….”

Counting three fingers. Third word.

“Have….”

“Have…”

Fourth finger.

“My….”

“Me….”  I let it slide, this minor mistake. Let this girl’s English persona be from England or something. That’s what I tell myself.

I have to prompt about three times with my face contorted and pulling my own finger for comedic effect, emphasizing how much a want them to just god damnit say the fucking next shit-arsed word in this sentence of only six words total. The class has wandered in the 20 seconds since we began chanting “May I have my…” I wonder what they chat about constantly. Probably, “Remember how her knuckle bled? huhuhuhuihuh, Yeah that was the best….”

“Book…” Relief. Thank you, one kid paying attention. Thank you, 2% of the class.

“Pook…”

Close enough. It’s a notebook but close the fuck enough. 16:09.

“Please.”

“Piss.”

I pass it over, feigning relief.

“That was easy, no? See, you can speak English! You can!”

Under my black blazer, my shirt is soaked through with the perspiration of a six-word question.

With that, the giant drum rings out and the students instantly start running out the door.

TEFL For Newbs: Teaching Writing

Basic, Important, But Tricky Topics in TEFL Grammar and Usage (2016 Edition)

by Coleen Monroe-Knight, M.A. Linguistics (UCL)
<–That is the very first time I’ve used my master’s letters! Wheeeee!

In this series for new TEFL teachers abroad who have no previous experience with prescriptive grammar and usage other than that time in Language Arts class in 1997:

 

Phrasal Verbs
Parts of Speech
Punctuation
Conjugation
Teaching Writing 

Coming SOON!

Supplementary (non-grammar) 

How to do an Open Door class and not lose your mind

Classroom Management For Newbs

Today’s topic: Teaching Writing

In my summer course on writing last year, I described the written word thus:

Writing is the only way we can communicate directly with both our ancestors and our descendants.

I do believe that’s true. Chinese students were very open to the idea, to be honest. They can read some of the earliest writing on the planet, with ease, due to the fact that they read both traditional and simplified Chinese characters. Through writing, one can hear the voice of someone who’s been dead for more than five hundred years. Through writing, it might be possible to have someone hear your own voice in another five hundred.

All that gloriousness aside, teaching writing is hard. It can be tedious, embarrassing, confusing, or downright angering for all involved if it’s done incorrectly. The worst course I took in college was an upper-level essay writing class. Three hours on Wednesdays, from 3-6pm. We spent more than three months beating Oedipus Rex to death, writing exactly one complete essay in that time. Someone started bringing a flask eventually. It didn’t help, but we liked to think the Jack Daniels would numb us to the sheer pointlessness of a class we all needed to graduate.

As a teacher, I never want to inflict that level of bullshit on my students.

In five years of teaching, I have gleaned certain tactics for teaching writing. This is simply an overview, but for a new TEFL/ESL teacher there are about five things you really need to keep in mind. Firstly:

Make it fun. 

Students learning about how to write a news article? Have them draw situations from a hat with ridiculous ideas to incorporate. Play a story game where they can only read one sentence at a time and then have to make a short story out of it. Create inkblots with paints and have them write a stream of consciousness about what they see.

Give them space. 

Teenagers, surprisingly, don’t like to feel on the spot or exposed. If you have them write a journal, be clear about whether you will be reading it or not. Tell them in advance about whether you will be doing peer-editing. Anonymise the drafts and let them have the opportunity to out themselves as the author if they so choose. Writing practice is writing practice, and just encouraging them to make it a habit without constant teacher checking can work really well at that age.

Emphasise the Process 

In my high-level classes, we write an essay every week. Every week. Every. Week.

As much as that horrible writing class in college was a pain in the arse, I can never unlearn the various steps by steps that our instructor insisted upon. This can be very difficult, if you’ve got exactly one hour per week with your students and they have 11 million hours of homework to complete each week. Find ways to give them the time to complete a full draft IN CLASS. If you assign it as homework, they simply won’t do it.

Remember that you are one of many teachers that your students see every week, and that most of the time additional English classes are not a priority compared to state testing. Be consistent, and make it so that a student who misses class can come into the process at any point.

Organisation > Style (At Least At First) 

Learn what style is most important for the tests your students are likely to take (i.e. TOEFL, Cambridge, etc.) and focus on helping students remember the formula for the type of essay that they need to write. Work hard on thesis statements! I describe them as a type of map for writing, which lays out the three arguments which will be supported in the body paragraphs. I draw an ‘Essay Candy’ on the board, with an inverted pyramid for the Introduction, a rectangle for the Body, and a triangle for the Conclusion.

Put a timer for two minutes on, and tell the students to make a basic plan for their writing during that time. They should make brief notes including their opinion (if needed), and a couple basic arguments. You can turn this into a game, too. Make sure that they understand that answering the prompt is most important!

For some students, sentence structure is the most important thing. Work hard on incorporating activities with unscrambling and making paragraphs, building into the essay structure.

Make Students Edit 

As much as possible, make students edit. Make them edit fake essays that you wrote on the same topic, pretending that it is from a student in the class. Make them edit alone. Make them edit in groups. Make a game out of correcting sentences on the board from their own essays/stories. Give rewards for catching mistakes in your own writing.

This should be something that you do every time you see them. Make it a routine. One thing that worked quite well is to make the students write one thing they will change from last week’s writing at the top of the page, before beginning their new writing for the week. This helps to prevent you writing, “Commas are not full stops!” fifteen weeks in a row on their paper, only to see:

I like eating ice cream, it is nice, i like it,

For the sixteenth time. Thereby saving you from stabbing yourself in the eye with your marking pen.


This is an overview. Teaching writing takes much of the same in terms of getting good at it. Practice a lot. Do it all the time. Make yourself write more, as you make your students do so. This year in China I had my own language notebook where I would write the same essays as my students in Italian, French, or Spanish.

“It’s only fair,” I’d say to them.

You will, if you are consistent, see improvements in your students’ writing. It takes time, but it is the most important academic skill you could impart to them.

How you do teach writing in ESL? What problems have you encountered? 

TEFL For Newbs: Parts Of Speech

This is the second in the series I’ve started for new TEFL teachers. It can be hard to know what will come up in terms of grammar and usage when starting out, and this is meant as a crash course from a now-experienced teacher (with a master’s in Linguistics to boot!).

For the full posts on all subjects, click here. 

For the summary of all topics covered in this guide, best consumed immediately before class when you’re crapping it over how to teach something you weren’t aware was even a thing in your native language, click here (will be live shortly).

Today’s topic: Parts of Speech

Okay, so you’ve realised that grammar is a thing and that your new job as a TEFL teacher requires you to know something about it. Good start! But you won’t get far unless you are able to label the parts of the sentences that you use in daily speech and especially in writing. The parts of speech are a foundation for all the other skills you need as a teacher in an ESL classroom.

I made it a goal to teach my elementary and middle school level students the parts of speech in every lesson. For the past few months, at some point in the lesson I choose a nice colour and write “Parts of Speech” on the board. Under it, I write the following:

  • Noun – a person, a place, or a thing
  • Verb- an action
  • Adjective- describes a noun
  • Adverb – describes a verb (-ly)

That’s basically all you need to know about the parts of speech as well. You don’t need to know about how they interact syntactically or the theoretical implications of a silent pronoun and inflectional interference on theta roles (all that convoluted and largely inaccurate M.A. linguistics jazz) to effectively teach this.

If necessary, you can add more complicated parts of speech:

  • Prepositions: Where?
  • Pronouns – not name (Coleen –> she)
  • Articles – a, an, the

Write each word in a different colour if possible to emphasise that they are not the same. After a few weeks, all but the youngest students should be able to tell you the names of the parts of speech and their basic functions. When eliciting the words, give examples for each.

Teacher: What’s a Noun?

Students: ?

Teacher (pointing to trash can): Oh, look! A noun! (Pointing to a chair) Oh, look! A noun! (Pointing to self) Oh, look! A noun!

Reward them for guessing! Students will be able to give more examples, and often will have a good understanding of the concept in their native language.

Grammar is heavily weighted in Korea, China, and many other parts of the world for the purposes of multiple-choice tests, but most of my students throughout even the highest levels are unable to talk about basic grammar in English.

This is why teaching them the names for the parts of speech in English is so important. Many students end up studying English in a multi-lingual environment at some point in their lives, where the only common language is English. They need to be able to talk about grammar questions using the correct terms, and they cannot and truly should not rely on their L1 in that context. If students are bored or act like this isn’t an important lesson, you can always tell them this.

Once they have a working knowledge of the parts of speech, make sure that you reinforce this knowledge by using them in the lessons. I often put sentences on the board and ask the students a string of questions: “Where is the verb? Where is the adjectives? How many nouns?”

Dont be afraid to do this with relatively low-level students. Even with the youngest, this simple grammar lesson sticks. The key is to be consistent and do it every time you see them. Don’t give a huge amount of details or long-winded explanations of what any of the parts of speech are.

A key skill that most new TEFL teachers lack is the ability to ‘grade’ their language to make things easily understood at any level. A good motto is this: say more in fewer, simpler words.

Look at the examples below:

Low-level, elementary class: “Verb? Hmmmmmmm, oh! Running, jumping, swimming, fighting” Act out the actions and then say, “Oh, okay! Actions!” 

Mid-level, elementary class: “What’s a noun?” Remind them with the trash can point. “A……” And wait for them to answer you with “person.” As they get more comfortable, ask for the full simplified definition (“a person, a place, a thing”). Reward guessing. 

High-level, middle to high school class: “Who can give me an example of a verb? Okay, good…now can your conjugate it in present tense, please?” 

For the love of your sanity, don’t say the last one to most classes! They will give a look like you just transformed into a grammar alien and pointed a death ray between their eyes. The key is not to overwhelm the students with too much information that they don’t need.

Great activities can be found all over the Internet for teaching and cementing parts of speech in English. In my experience, two work the best.

The first is a colouring sheet with a ‘Paint by Numbers’ scheme based on words and their part of speech. This works really well for getting students to work together and makes a nice project to show parents, too! Just be aware that some English words can play many roles in a sentence. For example:

Dream 

A dream : Noun form 

To dream: verb form 

dream job: adjective form

This is a good opportunity to remind your students that English grammar is not a precise science and that ‘rules’ they learn in their school may or may not actually hold up in real life. The ambiguity may cause their little heads to temporarily explode, but I promise it’s better for them in the long run (“WHAT DO YOU MEAN, THERE ISN’T A RIGHT ANSWER???” Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”).

The sencond activity is to make simple sentences and cut them up. Have the students unscramble them in teams and race to write them correctly on the board. The winning team has to label the words with the parts of speech, or the other team can steal the point.

There you have it. The basics of parts of speech for TEFL. Send me your questions and comments, and let me know what other topics you newb teachers need covered. I’m happy to add more to this crash course!

Next time: Punctuation

 

How I’m Really Feeling

Things are hard. They’ve been hard for a long time.

I work, hard. I was sick this week for days on end, the culmination of several weeks of clinging colds and illnesses that were only vaguely there. Then Monday night. The worst cramps I’ve suffered since I had to go home from school in Mr. Lemke’s 8th Grade Maths class, coupled with a fever and aches. I laid awake all night next to my husband (I sound so grown up!), and worried until dawn that maybe it wasn’t just a cold. Maybe it was PID, or meningitis. Or pneumonia. Or some other thing I could die of.

Needless to say, it was a cold. I’m recovering. My fever broke on Tuesday night.

And so here it is. I’m 28 now, and I’ve been having some hard times. I think it’s fairly safe to say that I am not alone in this. I’ve sure been listening to enough old Mumford and Sons (not that new, Coldplay-ripoff junk) to convince myself. You are not alone in this. You are not alone in this.

Yes, it’s been a long time and a hard one for my ‘Millennial’ generation. I commented this morning that I never felt the true weight of songs like ‘Don’t Stop Believin” and ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ until I started working so damn hard. This is the first week since I moved to China that I didn’t work more than 40 hours. Considering that I was slated to go to yet another unpaid training for five hours this morning, I count having a cold as a minor victory.

But this is the way it is. And I’m kind of freaking out about it, if I’m honest.

My laptop is broken. My earphones are broken (third time since arriving in April). I can’t seem to feed myself and my husband enough with the precious little time outside work left to me each day. I can’t keep our house sparkling clean. I have to commute about an hour to work and an hour home. I live in a city of 25-35 million (depending on who you ask). All my clothes have holes in them. We don’t really have many friends in Shanghai, nearly seven months in. The people that I tried genuinely to escape from the US have followed me here and force me to reign myself in daily, and to play my cards close to my chest. Play ’em close, Coleen….that’s what’s gotten you this far.

I have a paltry raise for the large increase in work from being in a ‘senior’ position. Nevermind that I am much more junior to most folks in my office, having been here less than a year. But this is the way for my generation, and for my brother, too.

Be generally competent, and they’ll make you a manager in four months or less.

It’s fine. We’re plotting our escape. Something amazing and radical. Something that the other teachers at our schools will never be able to understand, but which just might make them a little jealous.

And for now, I can cold brew my morning coffee and filter it myself. I sound like such a hipster, but I’m genuinely trying not to spend more than £6 on a bag of instant Nescafe shite. It might be milder, and hopefully it’ll be stronger. One of many tiny sacrifices for this life on the road.