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Guan Ya - A Second Opinion
Shenyang, Liaoning China Ė I recently read a submission placed on Daveís by a former employee of Guan Ya Education Group and was appalled by the single mindedness of itís content. I know everyone is entitled to their own opinion and in all fairness I do believe the experiences as stated in Jeff Baltzarís summary are true to him. I do not, however, like the way his summary was presented in such a way that the reader is made to feel that Jeffís experience is the only possible experience available in Shenyang or in Guan Ya.

I have been a teacher at Guan Ya for about 9 months and to this day I havenít had a problem I couldnít deal with or felt the need to rant about. The living conditions in my apartment and the apartments Iíver had the pleasure to see are more than adequate. The first day I arrived in China I was met at the airport and couriered to my new home by two friendly and knowledgeable Guan Ya staff members. At first sight the living conditions in China seemed to me to be a little less than desirable but as is the case with any new apartment, a little elbow grease and rearranging quickly improved the situation. I donít know how everyone feels about moving into a new place but personally I always feel the need to clean. My place is now quite homey and comfortable and as for the smells, mattresses, and heating/cooling equipment, what can I say itís free!!!!!! My mattress is harder than my mattress back home but my posture has improved and my back feels fine. I adjusted. The smells that find their way into the apartment are not pleasant but are manageable. My apartment is noted to be one of the hottest in the summer. I have only experienced the hot months of August, September 2003 and April, May 2004. So far, no complaints. I have one A/C unit in my bedroom and when itís cranked, itís cold.

I think itís important to remember that when we are traveling to China we are actually leaving our home countries and entering a life and culture where things are unavoidably DIFFERENT. Living standards are lower, infrastructure is not as advanced as that of Western or Developed countries. China is in fact a Developing country and I think the Chinese people and government are doing an incredible job considering the affects of the previous 50 or more years. Everything seems different in China from relationships, health concerns, and etiquette to lifestyle/pace, and food just to name a few. Personally I was surprised how quickly things became familiar to me. As with everything in life people get back what they put in.

I donít want to go on and on but I feel I should address the attacks that were made towards the people who work for Guan Ya (many of whom I consider friends) and against the company itself. A lot of what I read in Jeffís submission might be true, concerns with paychecks and the ďrun aroundĒ at the office. True, that is to say, when looked upon with prejudice eyes and an ignorant mind. I have never personally felt these inequalities mentioned by Jeff. As with the aforementioned issues, itís helpful to note that situations, rules and regulations concerning business practices are also subject to cultural differences. Iím not saying that pay should be withheld (which as far as I know has never happened) but sometimes the system here works a little differently than we might be used to. What I have experienced is that you give a little and you take a little. We get free accommodations, free phone and internet access, transportation fees included in our monthly salary and a more than one occasion paid for by Guan Ya (Christmas party, Thanksgiving party, foreigners nights out, etc.) The school and people have always been good to me and Iím inclined to believe itís because Iíve always been good to them. Jeff mentions something about giving 150%, what he fails to realize is that if your asking for 250% then it feels as though your getting the short end of the stick.

As for the city itself, ya, itís dirty. Forth most polluted city in the world. The winters are usually hazy due to the use of coal as an energy source. So far the spring and summer have been absolutely beautiful. The city is bustling with markets and restaurants. Parks are available for public use around the city, some more enjoyable than others but all pleasing to pass through. 

I really just wanted to show the other end of the spectrum and to make it clear that the opinions expressed by one person donít represent those of the entire foreign community. Itís what you make of it and if you expect everything to be handed to you on a silver platter then donít bother coming. Why do you want to teach English in a foreign country? To experience another culture, to broaden your horizons, to open your mind or to b*tch and complain. If anyone has comments concerning my statements or would like to ask me any questions, please feel free to contact me. 

Ryan Smith
Shenyang, Liaoning
China
ryansmith_eslteacher@hotmail.com