Sunday, 13 December 2015

Wandering Misfit: Part 21 ... not with a bang but with a whisper

     As promised today we are going to delve deep into the chaos that is teaching English in a Chinese primary school.

     One of the best stories I remember was the first day I had a new T.A. for the primary school. When I first started teaching there I had a male T.A. who was normally pretty good but the primary school classes just ruined him. This is a man who 6 months later would end up managing one of our satellite schools literally brought to tears on several occasions by an unruly bunch of 11 year old children.

     That's why when I was told I was getting a different T.A. I was both relieved and worried. When they told me it was a T.A. who had literally finished her training only the week before my heart sank.

     When we headed out to classes that Thursday I was determined to be firmer with the class, the last thing I wanted was this young, shy T.A. being so demoralized that she up and quit (a response I really thought possible).

     Before I go on I should maybe admit that within the next 12 months this same T.A. would go on to be one of the best I've ever met. I've only ever seen her raise her voice once in all the time I've known her (but that is a whole other story) and yet she demands respect from her students.

     So in we walked and surprise, surprise the kids were going crazy. As soon as they noticed the change in T.A. they got even louder and their behaviour got worse. At this point I decided to take matters into my own hands and started yelling at the kids to sit down and shut up. As I've said before I am not particularly good at this and to be honest it has never worked for me.

     In this particular class, the first of three every Thursday, there was one girl that pretty much ran the show. She was the real ringleader but catching her doing anything wrong was nearly impossible. She had basically made an art form out of causing chaos and not being implicated when it all went south.

     Now even as I started to get flustered and run out of voice the new T.A. just turned to me and asked if she could have a couple of minutes. Sure I told her knowing that tirades and threats from other T.A.s had completely failed to have any impact in the past.

     Instead of yelling or banging the ruler on the big metal desk she quietly slipped into the rows between the seats heading straight for little miss trouble maker. Apparently in less than five minutes she had already figured the pattern out and was headed straight for it's source.

     As she reached the girl's desk the class started to quieten down, it seems just like me they were waiting to see what was about to happen. So Susan (the T.A.) bends down so her mouth is right beside the girl's ear and she stands there for a couple minutes just whispering to her.

     Even as I watched the girl's face just seemed to crumple in on itself and in less than a minute the girl was sobbing. Not yelling or crying out loud, not even crocodile tears but that slow sob that you know will last for a while.

     Slowly and gently Susan pulled her to her feet and told her to stand in the aisle. After that the class was much more subdued. Don't get me wrong it didn't turn them into little angels but one good look from Susan was enough to quieten them down most of the time.

     After the class (40 minutes later) the rest of the kids went to break but the trouble maker was still in the aisle sobbing. Susan went over and had a chat with her and the girl seemed to brighten up a bit but was far from her usual obnoxious self.

     As we were leaving later on that day I asked Susan what she'd said but she point blank refused to tell me. In fact I never did find out what it was she had whispered in the girl's ear that day. All I know is that from that point on not only did the students learn to respect this shy young lady but the foreign teachers did too.

     Rory McDonald is an online marketer and digital entrepreneur, co-founder of the Online Business Expert and passionate blogger. 

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Wandering Misfit: Part 20 ... the zoo class

     We didn't just do in-house classes we also went out to primary schools and kindergartens. These external schools were often places that teachers felt some measure of dread over. For internal classes we had a class size limit of 18 students which is mostly manageable but for external schools we had classes of up to 50 students which make life a lot harder.

     I will never forget my first primary school class in China. We had classes in a primary school inside the nearby university. Aside from a trip of half an hour each way and a long break between some of the classes the classes themselves often ended up being something of a challenge.

     For about 18 months I was in charge of teaching the 3 grade 5 classes at this school. Now before I go on to talk about some of the things that happened in these classes I need to explain just how bad they were. The grade 5 class had amongst the foreign teachers gained the nickname the "zoo class". I know it seems harsh to draw similarities between a class full of kids and a zoo but it is a good example of how bad these kids could really be.

     Aside from the fact that all of the foreign teachers and T.A.s dreaded these 3 classes there is is the fact that even the headmaster of the school knew that these kids bullied not only other students but teachers too.

     Before I took over the class they had been given to one of my predecessors. They had been given to him specifically because it was believed he could "scare them into behaving well". Now no foreign teacher I know ever used any form of physical or verbal abuse but obviously some teachers are stricter and more intimidating than others.

     When I first started I was definitely not a strict or intimidating teacher. In fact I was accused many times in my first few months of being too soft, so this class was going to be a major challenge for me.

     Needless to say I have some pretty bad stories from these classes. At the time they seemed to be some kind of nightmare but now I come to think back on it some of them seem pretty funny.

     Tomorrow I'll share some of the weird stuff that went on at this particular primary school.

     Rory McDonald is an online marketer and digital entrepreneur, co-founder of the Online Business Expert and passionate blogger. 

Friday, 11 December 2015

Wandering Misfit: Part 19 ... and the list goes on

     It isn't only the locals that choose strange and unusual English names. Even amongst foreign teachers I have seen some odd choices when giving out names to students.

     The first one that comes to mind was a class I took over from someone else. When the class was brand new it had started with 11 children. For some reason, presumably known only to themselves, the foreign teacher in question had decided to give all of the students names beginning with T. This meant that for the boys for example there was Tom, Tommy, Tim, Ted and Tony. While the girls were called Tina, Tessa, Trudy, Tania, Tami and Tiffany. Altogether it made for a rather confusing situation.

     Other classes I have taught or at least covered for others included ones where all of the students were named after characters from a specific tv show and ones where the kids were named after places.

     Overall it really doesn't make a big difference after all they will most likely go on to choose new names for themselves as they get older if they continue with learning English. Somewhere in my mind though it just made me slightly uncomfortable both handing out new names because I was too lazy to learn their real names and also making the sole judgement call on what that name would be.

     By the time I was a year in I had gotten to the point where I simply refused to do it and made the T.A., kids or parent come up with names. Usually this worked pretty well, they often chose names that sounded as close to the poor kid's actual name as they could. Sometimes however it went badly wrong with kids choosing names like sheep and parents going for names like Ilex (pronounced Aleth according to the paretns involved by the way).

     All in all names to me ended up being something I tried to avoid after all it is hard remembering 100+ names when you only see the kids once a week without adding the strange and unusual to the mix. Personally I've never been good with names but I can't count the amount of times I have called a student by the wrong name so I always tried to make it as simple for myself as possible.

     Rory McDonald is an online marketer and digital entrepreneur, co-founder of the Online Business Expert and passionate blogger. 

Thursday, 10 December 2015

17 things that can make you a great Home Based Entrepreneur

1. Do what you enjoy.

     The whole reason why people are moving in droves to quit the cubicle and become their own boss is that many have started to realize their own happiness is important. When setting out to build your own business it is vital that you love what you do, not only will it make it much easier for you to stay focused but it also means that when you sell you can be genuine. In the new digital economy this ability to love your business and your product really makes you stand out from the crowd.

2. Take what you do seriously.

     Just because you can run your new business from your living room while still wearing your pajamas doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take it seriously. One of the greatest pitfalls for those who have the courage to make the change is forgetting that above all to be successful you have to want it and you have to work hard for it. This is especially hard in the first few months, after the ball starts rolling things do start to get easier but never let yourself get complacent.

3. Manage your money.

     We’ve said it before but this is a point that needs to be repeated. When working from home you need to be aware of where your cash is going and where it is coming from. You can build a business with no money but the results are going to be slow and spotty. Knowing whereand when to use your advertising budget can really make or break your business. Also pay attention to spending some of your money on education, after all the more you know the more you can do.

4. Education makes the difference.

     Like it or not if you are going tobe successful online you are going to need to go back to school. Learning and education online comes in many forms and can be very flexible but no matter the style learning new tricks is the real key to longevity for your business. The best option is to find a community of professionals and get help from those in the know. This may seem expensive but the question you need to be asking is how much is my time worth?

5. Ask for the sale.

     Many people find the hardest thing about marketing online is that even if you have complete faith in your product it can be hard to make the sale. Being pushy is bad but most people spend their time online in a kind of daze and need to be reminded that if you like what you see maybe you should buy it. Often times people also fail to sell simply because they haven’t told their would-be client what to do and how to buy. The moral be honest, be firm and tell people exactly what you want them to do.

6. Remember the customer.

     Nowadays the old maxim that it is all about the customer is more accurate than ever. With the growth of social media word of mouth and person to person endorsements have become the best way to build a client base. Make sure you spend time designing products or services that really offer value to your clients and make it clear that you care. Don’t treat customers as numbers just because you don’t have to look them in the eyes.

7. Self-promote.

     Always remember there is a lot of competition out there and it is only going to get harder. When you are buried under a thousand other websites and blogs selling products similar to yours make sure you keep telling people why you are the best. Be careful not to attack or belittle your competition and try not to be arrogant or obnoxious, just take what you know to be true and get your message out there at every opportunity.

8. Always be positive.

     If you don’t believe how can you ask anyone else to? People want to be able to trust you the best way to build trust is to make sure you are not only honest but that you are upbeat and that when clients ask you questions you have a clear and concise answer. Procrastination and beating around the bush is the best way to scare of potential customers.

9. Know your customers.

     It is often said in digital marketing that your perfect customer is someone just like you, but this isn’t always true. No matter what you want to promote understand who is going to be paying for it and why. For example just because you think your product is for single men it doesn’t mean the people who buy it most might are those same single men. Many people buy things online for others, either as gifts or because the person who is going to end up using the product or service isn’t sure how to do it.

10. Discover your options.

     It can be easy to say you just want to put yourself and your product in front of as many people as possible but most of the time that simply doesn’t make for good ROI. Find out where and howyou can advertise, find out where your clients are looking and try to match the two together. Even if Facebook seems like a great way to get in front of people you may find just as much success (with a smaller budget) using other advertising platforms. Again this comes down to making sure you are educated.

11. Don’t go it alone.

     When you first start out you will probably be flying solo, it is important during this stage to do everything yourself to get a good feel for how it works. Obviously there are going to be things you find you dread but the idea is that once you understand the process you can start outsourcing some of this to others (sites like are great for this). More important than finding someone to do the work you dislike is to find mentors and peers to keep you motivated and point you in the right direction if you get stuck. Going it alone can make life hard and growth slow.

12. Ask an expert.

     Already we have talked a lot about getting help and getting an education but we are going to say it again just to make sure. When looking to try something new it is easy to spend vast amounts of time and money trying to get the system to work. A far better use of that time and money is finding someone who knows exactly how it works (often by learning the hard way) to help you out. There are several good communities where experts offer their time to help you out just like this and we will be recommending one of our favourites later on.

13. Never Stop investing in yourself.

     The world moves quickly and the digital world moves even quicker. It is really important that you keep up to date on new techniques, new platforms and new information. Again this all comes down to staying educated. We all know that most big companies and top business people spend millions each year bringing in experts to coach them and help their business stay on top, so how do you think you will get to their level if you don’t learn something new every day?

14. Communicate.

     It can seem like a hassle answering every email and dealing with every query and once you have it under control it is one of the first things most people delegate away. Don’t underestimate the importance of good communication though. Answering a question today might not get you a sale today but a reputation for great support will definitely get you more sales in the long run. Remember treat every email or question like your business depends on it, after all it just might.

15. Design your workspace.

     Working from home is a joy. It means more time with your family, your pets or on the beach but it is important to remember that by working from home you are also making your home your office. Try to plan when you are going to be working on your business so you can avoid distractions. Setting goals keeps you on task even if it is something as simple as “I must finish this article before I go and make another cup of tea”. Another important tip is keeping your chosen workspace clean and tidy a cluttered desk really does lead to a cluttered mind.

16. Take a break.

     It can be very tempting to turn into a workaholic when you don’t have an 8 hour work day set out for you but it is a temptation you must learn to resist. You do need to be putting in sufficient time an effort in to get the outcome you want but there comes a point where you hit the law of diminishing returns. Aside from the risk of burning yourself out or treading water there is also the fact that presumably you made the choice to work from home because you wanted to have more freedom to enjoy your life. So don’t forget to take time out and stop to smell the proverbial roses.

17. Follow-up!

     So you’ve made a sale and the money is sitting nicely in your bank account. Job over right? Far from it, one of the biggest money spinners in the online game is repeat or ongoing custom. Once someone has bought from you they are far, far more likely to do so again so it is vital that you follow up. Send them an email asking if there is anything else you can do for them, keep in touch about new products and offers and provide ongoing help and assistance if it is required. Any good marketer will tell you that hooking a new customer is far more expensive and time consuming than marketing to an already happy client.

So we've discussed some of the things that great home based entrepreneurs do and one of the biggest takeaways is education and community. While there are many good communities on the internet that help you learn how to become a great digital marketer our favourite by far is the Six Figure Mentors. We've worked with these guys for 3 years now and they have given us the best training and the best advice we've ever had about online marketing so head on over and watch the videos and see why we chose them to be our Product of Choice for this article.

Wandering Misfit: Part 18 ... the student formerly known as Lucy

     Staying with names I was reminded writing the last post of a great student I had who had a terrible time with her name.

     I took over a class from the previous senior teacher and one of the girls really disliked me for replacing him. The kids in the class were in their early teens and so were just starting to get a little angsty. When I took over the class the girl's English name was Lucy. A little plain but overall pretty much okay.

     After 3 weeks of refusing to speak to me Lucy finally calmed down and decided that maybe i wasn't all that bad. She decided though that now she was old enough to pick a name for herself and that now she had a new teacher it was the perfect time.

     The name she settled on was Candy. Now I tried really hard not to groan or to discourage her after all she had only just decided to stop sulking in the corner and talk during class.

      The very next week though she came storming into class, walked right up to me and yelled "I hate you" right in my face. Not sure yet what exactly I had done to receive this kind of venom I waited to see what would come next. The T.A. looking a little worried went off to talk to Candy. Sitting in the corner chatting the T.A. suddenly started to laugh.

     At this point I was feeling a little hard done by and out of the loop so I set the other kids on a writing task and headed over to see what was up. It turns out that Lucy/Candy was upset because I didn't tell her that Candy was  stupid name. Apparently my instinct the week before had been dead wrong.

     At this point Lucy vowed once more to change her name but this time she said she would do her research first.

     Next week eventually rolled around and in walked Lucy. "So what is your new name?", I asked. "I thinked a long time and I want my name to be Reborn because that is what I am", was the answer. Turns out that when she said she was going to do research she really meant she was going to use a dictionary.

     Thinking back on the result of her last odd name choice i tried to explain that maybe she was being a tiny bit too literal, but she wasn't having any of it.

     From that point on she became to all but herself "the student formerly known as Lucy". As far as I know she still calls herself Reborn and no-one else in the class ever got the Prince reference.

     Rory McDonald is an online marketer and digital entrepreneur, co-founder of the Online Business Expert and passionate blogger. 

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Wandering Misfit: Part 17 ... what's in a name?

     I know that I have been jumping around a bit lately and not really following any sort of order. I gets hard to write in any kind of sequence, every time I tell a little bit of the story I get caught up in memories it brings back and tend to get sidetracked.

     Because of that I am going to just try and stick to a single theme for each post from now on and avoid the issue of when things happened altogether.

     Today I wanted to talk about names. I said before that the T.A.s all had English names tomake it easier on us foreigners. For the same reason every time a new student came into the school they were also given an English name if they hadn't already chosen one.

     A lot of the time parents would choose English style names for their kids. Unfortunately this often ended up creating some pretty cringe worthy names. I remember one poor 6 year old boy I had whose mother decided his name should be Seven. Yep, she called her kid a number, should have seen the look on the poor kids face every time someone asked "What's your name and how old are you?".

     Some other strange names came into the mix. Because almost all characters in Chinese are made up of a consonant followed by one or more vowels names that end in a vowel sound are very popular. At one point I had 2 Cindys, 2 Lilys and a Candy all in the same class.

     Aside from names ending in y or a vowel certain other names are incredibly popular too. For a while I had 7 different students named Angel in only 11 classes (about 100 or so kids). Summer, Sunshine and other similar names are a perennial favourite for girls too.

     Boys tend to have a wider array of "acceptable" names but that doesn't stop names like Tom and Harry dominating. Boys are also not immune from the stranger names that evolve, with names like Tiger, Putin and Severus all amongst my former students.

     Even the T.A.s come up with the occasional weird moniker, you'd think their knowledge of English would help them know better. Names such as Purple ("because it's my favourite colour") and Coco spring to mind for the girls. Meanwhile the male staff seemed determined to be ridiculed by the foreign teachers picking such wonders as Chicken and Panda.

     Overall names and naming were a great past-time and source of amusement for us. That's not to say that some foreign teachers didn't give out some weird names of their own.

   Rory McDonald is an online marketer and digital entrepreneur, co-founder of the Online Business Expert and passionate blogger. 

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Wandering Misfit: Part 16 ... the good

     Okay so I've been on a little bit of a downer in the last couple of episodes, but honestly there have been some great moments to my time in China.

     Obviously at the top of that list is meeting my beautiful wife, but there are others too. Having days where students thank you sincerely for what you've taught. Getting three years in and suddenly realising that you are just chatting with kids that started off not even knowing colour words. All of these things have been hallelujah moments for me.

     Even the little things can make your day. I had one class of very young kids, who I am sure I will talk much more about soon, where every week the parents would bring food for a mini picnic after class. This class was my last for the week and finished up at 8 or 8:30 on a Monday by which point I was usually pretty much over it all. Having the mothers come in with cakes and ice-cream and settle down for another half hour of just drawing and having fun made my week every single time.

     It wasn't until I left my first teaching job in Dongying after just over 3 years that I realised just how attached I had become to some of these kids. Despite being their teacher and only seeing most of them once a week I really felt like I was leaving friends. Of course some students I definitely didn't miss but there is always going to be a few like that.

     For the most part though by the time I left Dongying I found it really hard to go. All of the staff both foreign and local were great and of my 10 permanent classes I really enjoyed 6 or 7 every week with only one that I always dreaded.

     I think here it is also important to talk about the change China made in me. Before I got out there I was a bit of a procrastinator and I hated being the one that had to make the decisions. I was so bad I couldn't even pick from a menu in a restaurant. After nearly five years of being "the boss" in the classroom I feel like I have emerged from that mindset with a whole new attitude for life.

     Rory McDonald is an online marketer and digital entrepreneur, co-founder of the Online Business Expert and passionate blogger.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Wandering Misfit: Part 15 ... a shock to the system

     The rest of my classes that first Saturday were not nearly as bad but I still found myself drained and stressed by the end of it. Even after coming from working longer hours I had never been so mentally and physically tired. I have worked as a labourer and as a community staff worker both of which can get pretty intense but apparently running around after little kids still took a greater toll.

     Admittedly as time went on I found myself less stressed and less tired by classes and the job became in some ways the easiest I had ever had, but for those first few weeks it was tough. One of the biggest issues even as I became more comfortable was simply keeping up with what was going on in the classroom. When you have up to 18 little kids all running around and you are supposed to keep them all entertained and active for 90 minutes it can get to be a headache.

     Now the T.A.s were always a great help but all of our classes especially our younger ones were supposed to be based on TPR (total physical response) methods. That means that the kids need to be running, dancing, singing and playing games along with the simple act of learning a new language.

     It is also, to begin with at least, be very frustrating when no one (including the T.A.) understands what you are saying or what you want them to do. Simple games can take forever to set up and demonstrate and when that happens kids get bored fast. Bored kids tend to do things you'd rather they didn't and on it goes.

     I feel like I am making this all sound pretty terrible but honestly it really did have it's bright moments and tomorrow I'll try and find a few of those gems rather than go on complaining about how tough it all is :)

      Rory McDonald is an online marketer and digital entrepreneur, co-founder of the Online Business Expert and passionate blogger.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Wandering Misfit: Part 14 ... enter the children

     So Saturday morning rolled around. We taught most of our classes across the weekend because most of our students had to go to normal schools during the week. My very first class at 8 o'clock was a group of 12 3 and 4 year olds.

     At this point I had never really had anything to do with little kids so I really had no idea what I was doing. In they come with their parents. The first few are not too bad they are pretty fidgety but they are pretty young after all. As the next few start to come in though one of the new arrivals starts to cry. Now I don't know about you but even after years of dealing with it I still have trouble with crying children, especially when their parents are sitting in the back of the room watching what I am going to do about it.

     Thankfully instead of the usual complement of a single T.A. I had 3 that morning for exactly that reason. Very quickly though all 3 of my T.A.s were tied up with one issue or another. It is amazing how one crying child very quickly leads to a whole class of them.

     By now I was simply sitting in a tiny little baby chair up the front of the class waiting and wishing I was pretty much anywhere else. I remember thinking "at least it can't get much worse". You know what they say about thinking things like that though. Right in the middle of the crying and running around screaming Summer walked into the class.

     Summer as I said before was a pretty strict and severe kind of person even though she was small she was also pretty tough. I'm not sure what I expected but whatever it was what actually happened wasn't it. Summer took one good look at what was happening, came to the front of the class and stood next to me. The next thing I know she is bellowing orders to the kids to sit down and behave. She started so suddenly and so loudly I have to admit even I jumped a little.

     Amazingly all of the kids but one simply stopped. They stopped running around, they stopped screaming and they stopped crying. Slowly but surely all but the original crying girl came and sat in front of Summer and I. From the look on many of their faces I think they were at that point pretty much as surprised as I was.

     I've never had a class begin as badly as that since and as much as I felt uncomfortable on that first day I am glad it happened because it taught me a lot about how to handle these kids, things I would keep using for the next 5 years. Don't get me wrong though there was no epiphany here just the start of a very long, very steep learning curve.

     Rory McDonald is an online marketer and digital entrepreneur, co-founder of the Online Business Expert and passionate blogger.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Wandering Misfit: Part 13 ... whole new kids

     So after a couple of weeks of sitting through some of the dullest training I've ever had I was finally deemed ready to be let loose on actual students. I was honestly pretty nervous about this bit because I had never really had much to do with kids and have to say that I had never really liked kids much.

     Unfortunately for me I was given a whole schedule worth of new classes. Later on I would come to see this as a massive advantage, having the opportunity to really make these classes my own, but to start with it was a seriously daunting situation.

     Most of the students I ended up with were under 10 years old and a whole lot of them had never even seen a real live foreigner never mind been in an English class. I even ended up with some students who had never been in school full stop. My youngest was just 2 years old when I started with them.

     Another thing to remember is that none of these children spoke any English at all. It was not like they had a basic knowledge and needed some help. My entire schedule was based on students who knew absolutely no English at all.

     Rory McDonald is an online marketer and digital entrepreneur, co-founder of the Online Business Expert and passionate blogger.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Wandering Misfit: Part 12 ... careful what you wish for

     So at this point I really want to point out that I never had any intention of going to China to find a girlfriend never mind a wife. I will be honest I know a few people that have gone over there with exactly that aim in mind. A word to the wise though, if that is your plan China probably isn't where you want to go, at least not Northern China. Most of the girls (women) I know in Shandong and the North are for example pretty traditional in their outlook.

     When I say traditional I mean even to the point that having a date with a guy without a chaperon is pretty much one step away from an engagement. I know this mainly because I, usually with my wife, have been forced to be the chaperon for what usually turns out to be a pretty cringe-worthy dinner.

     My "courtship" with my wife was a little less painful than most from what I've seen but I am lucky she has pretty open-minded parents and is herself very open to new ideas and is not tied too strongly to traditions. At some point though I will no doubt write an episode about my wedding which may have been the most bizarre and scariest day of my life.

     So, anyway, if you are going to get involved with a girl from China don't say I didn't warn you.

     What amazed me most about the way Tony asked me was that he was completely blase about the whole thing. Apparently I needed to be married before I was 30 (that being the point of no return) and seeing as I was in China I might as well find a girlfriend. It wasn't until much later that that eventuality came to pass but again that is a story for another time.

     Apologies for digressing we will get back to the story proper next episode.

      Rory McDonald is an online marketer and digital entrepreneur, co-founder of the Online Business Expert and passionate blogger.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Wandering Misfit: Part 11 ... a strangely prophetic conversation

     So Darcy was pretty cool but the training definitely wasn't. I know that my experience at this point was pretty limited but I really wanted to get into the nitty-gritty. What I faced instead were two full weeks of being talked at and watching other people teach.

     If you have never had to sit through 90 minutes of watching someone else teach five year olds to say colour words in English then yo just can't understand how unbelievably boring it can be. Honestly staring at a wall for an hour and a half is probably a better option. Trying to keep still and quiet makes it even worse because every little move causes a dozen heads to turn and stare at you breaking the flow of the class.

     During these two weeks I went with Tony to various apartments and shopped for bedding and all the other little necessities of life. I really don't remember most of that time, to be honest it is all a kind of blur. One little thing I do remember vividly though, isn't it odd how little bits stick in your mind, is one of the times I went out shopping with Tony.

     Wandering through a loud, crowded shopping area called DongDu, with music blaring so loud from some shops the speakers were crackling, Tony suddenly turns to me and asks me "Rory, are you married?". Not really knowing where this was going I shrugged and said no. "How old are you?" was the next question. 25 I answered, still mystified. "You should think about getting married", he said. Being a little shocked I just kept walking. "You know Chinese girls are good, they are good cooks and are good wives", Tony continued.

     At the time I was pretty pissed with him not only for messing around in my personal life but also for the way he talked about Chinese girls. Turns out though I did end up marrying a Chinese woman, so despite the sexist remark he turned out to be right in the long run...

      Rory McDonald is an online marketer and digital entrepreneur, co-founder of the Online Business Expert and passionate blogger.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Wander Misfit: Part 10 ... the local team

     After my conference with Summer it was time for a more formal meet and greet. So off Tony and I went to meet the T.A.s (local Chinese teachers) and the teacher who was going to be giving me my training.

     Meeting the T.A.s was an interesting situation to be in, some of them regarded me as just another nuisance while others seemed pretty excited about chatting. At that point all of our T.A.s were women (although they preferred to be called girls) with most of them only a year or two out of university. For the most part their majors were in English although some of them must surely have just scraped in with a pass.

     One thing that immediately hit me about them was that they used English names, either names they had chosen or names given to them by former teachers. The use of English names rather than their actual Chinese names in fact was so prevalent that even after 3 years I knew only a handful of them by their real names. They also tended to use their English names when chatting with each other even when the rest of the sentence was in Chinese.

     After a flurry of questions about where I was from, how old I was and whether I was married or had kids I settled down to trying to work out who was who. Trying to explain that I have dual nationality was an interesting task. All in all though I was pleasantly surprised by how open and friendly the girls were, especially compared to Summer and Tony.

     The next stop was a visit to Darcy. As one of the two senior teachers he would be giving me my ongoing training. I am not even today quite sure how to describe Darcy. Instead I feel it might be best just to tell you my initial impressions and work from there. Darcy was (and still is I presume) a real Australian. What I mean by that is that he had carried both his accent and his love of Aus deep into the heart of China.

     The one big thing that hit me almost instantly about him though was the speed at which he spoke. Later I realised that the slowness was a trait developed by talking to children in their second language for a long time. At the moment I met him though it just seemed to make conversations mildly irritating as I waited for him to finish.

     Rory McDonald is an online marketer and digital entrepreneur, co-founder of the Online Business Expert and passionate blogger.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Wandering Misfit: Part 9 ... talking terms

     Sitting in Summer's rather cramped little office I was not really sure what to expect. I thought maybe we'd talk pay or that we'd talk work, at this point I had taught but that had been as a flight instructor mainly to rich old men not kids. Instead the conversation started with a warning.

     Don't go to bars, don't drink too much and don't do anything bad in front of the parents or kids. It seemed like she was trying hard to cover a long list of problems that had come up with foreigners, and often by the sound of it. I was a little put off by this. I'd never been a heavy drinker and nowadays I am one step from being teetotal,and some of the things I was being explicitly told not to do were things which honestly had never crossed my mind.

     After assuring Summer on multiple occasions that I would act like a good boy we came to "the contract". You see all foreign teachers in China, and most of the local ones at training schools like Shane, are required to sign a contract. To be honest the system usually works pretty well, but the do tend to hold you over a barrel when it comes to the fine print.

     Looking through the contract a few odd things caught my eye, mainly provisions for what happens if I quit or get fired. Overall though it looked like a reasonable document. I work for a year with them and get ¥7,000RMB a month (roughly £700 or $1,100) in pay on the 15th of every month. A pretty simple bargain. As far as hours go I teach 20 hours a week and do 5 hours of office time to prep for lessons. 20 hours a week sounds cushy after all I'd pulled 50 or 60 hour weeks before. 

     It wasn't until later that I found out just how intense and tiring those 20 hours could be and how badly the were spread out across the week.

     Rory McDonald is an online marketer and digital entrepreneur, co-founder of the Online Business Expert and passionate blogger.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Wandering Misfit: Part 8 ... meet the Boss

     The "boys" as someone affectionately called them were a strange bunch. A mix of nationalities and ages with people from Ireland, the US, UK, South Africa, Australia and even Zimbabwe. Altogether with me included there were 14 of us.

     Even though Dongying is as I said before a fishing village transformed only in the last decade or two into a city it had at the time the biggest Shane English school in China. The secret was oil. During the 80's oil was discovered nearby and since then the area has become the second largest oil field in China and as such bee catapulted into mega rich status.

     Villagers made rich is a pretty good description of the place actually and like all the locals who have flooded the city in recent years the foreigners too have come seeking riches and a good time. Even though I was going to be working with these guys and I had just had dinner with them Tony forbade me from going out on the town with them. When I asked him why he didn't seem too inclined to answer just telling me I "needed sleep".

     So after a brief round of hellos it was back off to my lonely little hotel room and an early start planned for the morning. The next day was going to be a big one with a talk from the manager, shopping for basic necessities with Tony and a tour of the school and city.

     After what turned out to be a surprisingly good sleep I headed out the next morning to meet my new, and so far rather mysterious, boss. So across the main road we went (a scary challenge for a novice) and into a rather nondescript building on the other side. The building we entered looked old but as I was to find out it wasn't really it seems buildings in Dongying just start to look old the second they are built.

     Up 4 flights of stairs and through a weird metal door into a tiny office space crammed with boxes and paper we went. Here in amongst all of the flashcards, books and cassettes (yes real honest to god cassettes) was Summer my manager. Summer turned out to be a short, petite middle aged woman with as I now recall the strongest grip I have ever felt.

      Rory McDonald is an online marketer and digital entrepreneur, co-founder of the Online Business Expert and passionate blogger.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Wandering Misfit: Part 7 ... enter the other misfits

     I am still, to this day, not really sure what I was expecting when it came time to meet my fellow wanderers and misfits. I think somewhere I had the impression of them as people who just wanted to do something different. That maybe they would be tied together by the bond of choosing uncertainty and adventure over calm certainty.

     In some ways I was disappointed but in others I was pleasantly surprised. Nowhere to be seen, at least in that initial meeting, was the drive to see the world differently I had in some naive way hoped for. Instead what I found was a general joyous abandon. Also at this first dinner I saw some of the gluing together of people who under other circumstances would not have given each other the time of day.

     An odd bunch indeed. It is strange to recount that this was less than 5 years ago, but even so recently China was a different place, especially in a backwater like Dongying. This was before Chairman Xi came and started his war on corruption, before the real drive began to make it more difficult for foreigners to enter the country. I say that it has become more difficult because it has but perhaps suggesting that it has been made that way is wrong. Instead I should say that all of the little loopholes have been closed and all the blind eyes turned now stare unblinking.

     Going back to that I myself had at this time not come into the country on a work visa but instead a tourist one. Admittedly I never worked illegally on that visa but to be honest you aren't supposed to, and can't now, have these visas changed over in country. There was a brief stage where people would duck off to Hong Kong or even Thailand to get it changed but even that now has gone by the wayside as in a later tale I am sure I will complain bitterly about.

     I digress however. This veritable mix of humanity sitting before me were to be my new colleagues, friends and only "real" contact with the world for the foreseeable future.

      Rory McDonald is an online marketer and digital entrepreneur, co-founder of the Online Business Expert and passionate blogger.