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Friday, 30 July 2010

How to get Kidnapped in China - Page 2

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“We aren’t going to Huanggang City.”

This is apparently how a kidnapping can begin.

The first time I suspected something was wrong was when I heard this sentence, approximately 10 minutes after leaving Wuhan airport, Hubei province, Mid-East China.

The decision I made to teach in China was a snap one, and I had no idea then that it would end up in what can only be described as “friendly kidnap.”

The first stage of the kidnap was underway. Perhaps it was a British approach, but not wanting to immediately quit meant the only action to be taken was to get on with it and try and enjoy the experience, while complaining only to people who were in no position to do anything to help.

The teaching was what made this experience worthwhile. It wasn‘t easy - resources were blackboard and chalk only, and the teaching environment could be described in one word: cramped.

How to get Kidnapped in China, Huanggang City, English teachers, friendly kidnap, live and teach in China, living and teaching in Xishui, China, Michael Norwood60 students of varying levels were in each class. Their desks were cramped as well: lift up the lid of the desk and it was full of books. The same with the top of the desk - trying to see students over their pile of books was sometimes impossible. The students’ time-table could also be described as cramped: They have school six and a half days a week for 15 hours a day. This means there are almost two common types of students. Some are very tired and try to sleep, while others are trying to film you with their phones or take photos.

For the first month all students were the latter – taking photos and filming - until, the novelty wore off for a few and tiredness kicked in again. For others - the majority - the novelty never wore off. Almost seen as a celebrity instead of a teacher, one boy asked me to write my name in his book. All of a sudden, 59 more books were pushed under my nose and I realized I was giving out signatures.

It would be a few months before the second part of the kidnap would become clear to me. The first stage was to be taken somewhere against your will. This makes the next stage of kidnap obvious: make it impossible to leave. And that’s what happened.

Arriving one morning to a lesson, after almost three months living and teaching in Xishui, my students informed me that I didn’t have lessons, and that I was actually free for a whole week. It took a while for this news to become believable.

As the outside of the school filled with buses to take students to their respective homes in the outlying country, the reality sunk in. Only very briefly was this lack of communication both confusing and frustrating, as instead, excitement and scheming set in, and a holiday to Beijing was formed. This excitement lasted for about 15 hours - the time it takes to get to the hostel in Beijing and for my last bit of blissful obliviousness to evaporate.

Upon trying to check-in to the hostel, the news that the receptionist gave was that there was no valid visa in my passport. Having previously seen a “foreign expert” certificate myself, I took this as a mistake. However, after speaking to the school, it became apparent that this was no mistake. No visa meant no hostel. It was possible more action should have been taken by the receptionist towards me. They were kind enough not only to let me off, but, after several hours of negotiating, make a room available for one night, provided if anyone asked, complete denial was the only response.

Eventually I returned to Xishui and sheepishly handed back the passport to the school so they could finish the working visa process. This would be the last time I would hold my passport for three more months. Second stage of kidnap complete. No passport meant I couldn’t travel anywhere in or out of China. Just to make things worse, the local police wanted to impose a fine of 20,000 RMB, about £2000 at the time. It was like being asked to put up my own ransom money.

(Page 2 of 3)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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