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Zach and Gillian

Zach Ober and Gillian Wu are two of my favorite people here at HIS. I've been wanting to take them out to dinner for quite a while. Finally got that taken care of tonight. They joined Aiyun and I for dinner at a Japanese BBQ near their apartment. Gillian teaches Manadarin and Zach teaches Social Studies in the upper school here at HIS. They're both interesting people with a good heart. Hard not to be that way teaching high school. Yeah, I've taught with some folks that I've thought of as selfish with a bit of a mean streak, but they have been few.


Zach and Gillian met about 11 years ago in Nanjing. Zach was teaching English here in China and Gillian was a teaching assistant. From the way Zach tells it he did next to nothing and Gillian did all the work including planning and grading. He was paid to make parents happy that there was a white dude in the room. More on this concept later...



The Japanese BBQ was awesome. The waitress brought all the stuff and cooked it for us in the center of the table. Salads and rice bowls along with all the small pieces of beef, lamb, chicken, and pork. They also bring lettuce for making wraps with the meats, chunks or garlic, and other small items.


Zach and Gillian moved back to the states and lived in Cleveland for four years where Zach taught in a small private Catholic school finishing up all his teaching certifications. Gillian taught Mandarin during this time. Two years ago they came back to China to teach at Hangzhou International School. Zach describes HIS as the most prestigious school he's worked in. He's teaching middle school social studies here and Gillian teaches Mandarin. It's quite common for International schools to look for married couples to hire as a pair. However, Gillian will be resigning her position next year. I was working under the assumption that she was well paid as a teacher here. That's not the case. I get paid FIVE TIMES more than her. It's common practice for International schools to pay Chinese citizens incredibly low wages. All the custodians, Manadarin teachers, and Chinese citizens that get hired by HIS get paid tiny salaries. My immediate reaction was feeling pissed off. Gillian is a good teacher. She works hard and does whatever she can to help kids. She has all the same responsibilities as any other teacher on campus with duties and advisories. Welcome to non-union labor in China. Apparently Chinese parents care quite a bit about having the white dude in the classroom. Somehow that adds legitimacy to the school, which means the school is incentivized to pay guys like me a lot more. They want their kids to be trained by American teachers to prepare them for American Universities. This is the reality here.



I've had many good times with Zach. He's a regular at my poker games and he's an accomplished drinker. He also has a competitive streak in him. Reminds me a lot of my favorite social studies teacher back home. We did have one rough night. Coming home from a party Zach was smashed beyond recognizable speech. We were in a car riding back home and Zach said something we could understand. He was going to be sick. We stopped the car and got out. He took a few steps and face planted on the sidewalk. Big bruise on the side of his face for days. In the moment it was awful, but we can all look back on it now and laugh.


This past spring I got to hang out with Gillian during our ninth grade China trip to Yunnan. I got to hear her story. She and another Mandarin teacher (Jenny) were the two that were super excited when we visited a traditional Chinese public boarding school and got to witness what their childhood was like. Five days in a boarding school. Go home for the weekends to see your family. It's a typical life for kids that live in more remote areas. I'm the tenth grade level leader this year after serving in the same role for ninth grade last year. Gillian serves as one of my tenth grade advisors again this year. I'm sure we'll head to Inner Mongolia with our class together this year. Looking forward to that trip. She's also a regular when we have ladies poker nights, but she hates losing money. That mixed with her inability to fold is a bad combo. Together with her twin sister Coco they're a fun pair. Both are just super cool. Coco was working in the library last year, but the school paid her very little too. Not enough to make her stay. I guess it's a supply and demand situation. There's no shortage of people looking for work making a better salary than they can make in the general Chinese workplace.


Another fun and memorable evening. Good times in Hangzhou.


Final note of the day. The propaganda in my WeChat channels has taken a turn. Almost all the videos that come through there with regard to Israel and the Palestinians has been interviews explaining the Palestinian perspective. I'll likely write more about this in the coming week. It's a curiousoty of mine that I want to explore more. What does the Chinese government tell there citizens about political events worldwide?

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