Not all travel adventures are pleasant experiences. On my first trip to China, I met with some young Australians having horrendous experiences. These young people had gone to China, on their first overseas trip, to teach English, and instead, were virtually kept captive by unscrupulous Australian school managers.
Caroline was already in Huai’an (pronounced Why-an) when I arrived there, along with five other Australian and two Canadian teachers. All had been approached by an Australian company to teach English in China. All told the same story, of having been duped into believing that things were different than they were.
In Caroline’s case, she had just finished her Diploma in Childhood Studies, when she was approached by the China Australia Education Centre (CAEC). They praised her highly, and told her she had been selected by her TAFE College teacher for referral to CAEC, because of her high achievements.
Such practices are not TAFE’s policy, and later investigations found that CAEC had blatantly lied to Caroline about the referral. It appears that the principal of CAEC actually illegally obtained the information from an education database he had access to as a professor at a major Australian university.CAEC’s modus operandi is to target people it believes are vulnerable, such as inexperienced teachers, or teachers suffering crisis. In my case, I was unable to teach temporarily, following a nervous breakdown in 2002. CAEC approached me in 2003, offering the opportunity to teach in China, and making all sorts of great promises. Because of my situation, I thought a break in China would be good. I was wrong.
Caroline also fell for these con artists, as did many others from several western countries. When I first met Caroline in Huai’an, she was devastated. Her room was unheated and had no hot water, even though it was snowing most of the time outside. She told me of being locked in an isolated part of the empty student’s quarters, and unable to enter or leave the building after 9.00 pm.
I assisted the Australians contact the Australian consulate in Shanghai, some five hours away. they were totally indifferent, and stated that we had gotten ourselves into the mess, and were on our own. It was only after I contacted a colleague from the Sydney Morning Herald, who was based in Beijing, that the consulate felt embarrassed and pressured enough to actually act.
By this stage, the Chinese police had taken the passports of Caroline and several other Australians, claiming their visas had expired. Another Australian and myself refused point blank to hand over our passports, and the police in Huai’an did not push the point. I wasn’t so lucky later in the year in Guangzhou.
The Chinese police were rough on the Australians (The Canadian consulate immediately came to the aid of the two Canadians, so they didn’t cop it as rough). They “interviewed” Caroline, a naive 23 year old straight out of college, for seven hours, yelling at her and telling her she would go to jail in China if she did not pay a “fine”. Caroline was in tears all through the “interview”, and near hysterical by the time she was allowed to leave. She locked herself in her room for three days, telling me later she was crying all the time.
After about a week, they got their passports back, but only after a lot of intervention from the foreign correspondent in Beijing. The consulate did only the bare minimum, and even then only at the urging of the China based journalist. Caroline and three of the other Australians got themselves out of China as quick as they could. I waited until they were gone, then I went home myself.
Westerners travelling to China, or any country for that matter, should be aware that people do take advantage of the indifferent attitudes of foreign authorities. In the case of CAEC, it was quite clear that the principal of CAEC brought the westerners there as “victims” for the Chinese immigration police, and he was also making huge amounts of money from the schools, at the expense of the westerners he brought there.
Dave’s ESL Cafe, a sight for foreign teachers all over the world, will reveal similar stories from China and similarly governed countries, of teachers whose travel dreams have been shattered by greed-driven principals who run companies like CAEC. But bear in mind that most westerners have mostly positive experiences travelling and working overseas, including in China.
There were many positive aspects to Huai’an for me, which I might cover another time. Most of the ads listed on this and other sites are genuine. However, the traveller should take care when choosing a potential employer, if you are intending to teach overseas (despite possible problems, I and most others would strongly recommend such travel). Some of the great experiences were greatly marred by the actions of the parasites that run schools such as CAEC.
http://www.worldtravelx.com/china-huaian-bad-times/ March 31st 2008 20:25