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Friday, 30 July 2010

How to get Kidnapped in China - Page 3

Written by Michael Norwood
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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.”

Why it would take three more months to clear this up will forever be a mystery. No doubt there would have been red tape, paper work and phone calls to make, but it was finally resolved when a head from the school took the head of the local police out for dinner and discussed the business over what would have been plenty of food and plenty of rice wine. Later, I would hear many stories from western businessmen in Wuhan about similar scenarios where this is how things eventually get done; One went as far as describing this area as the “wild west” of China.

So finally, a few days before Christmas, I received the best gift ever: my passport back in my possession, no fines, and a fully legal visa. Next to come would be the final hurdle for a kidnap victim: escape.

I had given Xishui and the lifestyle that came with it a chance, even though I knew it wasn’t what I had applied for. Aside from the culture shock, lack of things to do, and the lack of passports, it was the loneliness a life like this brought that meant I had to leave. So about one week after regaining my passport, I handed in my notice.

This should have been a triumphant act, but again, nothing was that simple here. In reality, even though I had decided to leave, there was still a possibility that the school could fine me, and even not agree to let me go. In the “wild west” of China, the school holds all the power.

How to get Kidnapped in China, Huanggang City, English teachers, friendly kidnap, live and teach in China, living and teaching in Xishui, China, Michael NorwoodIt would take almost the full month of notice I had given before I would hear the conclusion, just three days before I intended to leave at the beginning of the holiday for Chinese New Year. Quitting and persuading the school not to fine me will now always be one of my happiest and greatest personal achievements. The school actually told me if I was Chinese they would never have agreed to let me go. Negotiating my release was as enjoyable as it was surprising - a small miracle.

I left China with a very unique experience. I have friends who stayed for much longer, who lived just three hours away in Wuhan, and had fantastic experiences. These friends share many of the same issues and thoughts that I do on the country, along with seeing many of the same positive sides. However, they were able to take a step back when necessary and discuss this entirely different world over drinks and place it in a more manageable position in their mind.

The majority of people teaching in China are happy - seeing and living in a hugely different culture has a lot to offer a person. Even my experience is unforgettable and I believe the heads of the school only created my situation unintentionally and through lack of experience. Most people I speak to report that they are shown great hospitality from their Chinese co-workers, as I was, even if it did come across to me as a friendly form of kidnap.

© Michael Norwood

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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