Posted by: lklinger2013 | February 10, 2018

A boss who FAVORS neurodiverse people? How is this even possible?

The malicious English coordinator known as Death is gone. There is a new assistant director who… thinks and acts differently.

The new AD, a blunt Scottish man, describes himself as an Augustinian Calvinist. He dislikes self-promoting would-be superstars and favors quiet, socially awkward spectrumish types. Since August, he has been offering opportunities to those who were ignored and mistreated last year. This includes me.

I didn’t trust him at first. When he told me that I had the potential to be an English coordinator, I pointed out every other teacher who was more skilled in something than I was. (He later said that recognizing the talents of others was a coordinator skill and that every time I praised a coworker, I was in fact selling myself.) I told him I had a bad attitude. I told him I was queer (so that certain malicious colleagues couldn’t out me first). Eventually I disclosed my OCD, other anxiety, and spatial learning disability. None of this surprised him. He already knew. In fact, once he had spotted certain signs (about which I quizzed him relentlessly later), he had been prepared for more serious challenges. He had worked with many neurodiverse people before and highly valued their abilities. He insisted that my honesty and refusal to ignore problems was not a bad attitude at all.

He treats me as if I were on the autism spectrum (something I’ve suspected since the 90s). Little things like being allowed to slip out of a noisy, crowded office to grade papers in the library help immensely. Receiving texts saying “I’m here. It’s ok” or “Are you ok?” help even more. We can even joke about my noise sensitivity, habit of repeating questions, and constant need for DATA. He insists that I am easy to work with. He says that I am his coordinator and one of the people he trusts most at school.

In the past five months, I have taken on new tasks and challenges that I never would have thought to ask about last year: developed, wrote, and revised school policies; observed peers in the classroom and gave constructive feedback; evaluated credentials of prospective teachers; officially challenged an ableist remark on an observation feedback form– AND GOT IT REMOVED–; started training new teachers; worked with a colleague to create standards for year 11 and year 12 AP English courses; arranged informal social events for coworkers; challenged inaccuracies in the teacher rating process; improved communication structures at school; selected appropriate teachers to manage school events.

The work environment is still incredibly stressful. There are factions and cliques that resemble a cross between Mean Girls and Game of Thrones. I’m not sure what I will decide to do when my contract ends in July. The AD wants me to stay and take on a leadership role if possible, but he has also offered to write me a reference if I want to work elsewhere. The hour-each-way commute and frequent 6 days workweeks are exhausting. The term ended with nine days of work in a row, mostly pointless activities that could have been completed earlier or by email.

Right now it is winter break. Time to rest, get a new phone that actually holds a charge, figure out how to use AliPay and WeChat Wallet, try some short trips within China, look for some noise-cancelling headphones, and get to know NF, the new USian teacher who will start teaching English next semester… whom I will be training. Also, I need to download reading materials for a teaching unit and staff workshop on disability that I will teach this coming term.

The other day, a friend took me to Dongying to meet a nurse friend of hers at a clinic where I could talk to a doctor about anti-anxiety meds without anyone from work finding out. I left with a prescription for an SSRI and a beta blocker. The stigma about neuropsych differences is intense here.

If this friend had not offered to go with me, I could not have made this trip by myself. I don’t yet know how to travel solo within China, except by taxi or train, and even those can be a struggle. I never know which place will have accessible toilets. I never know whether people will understand my attempts to communicate. Even the simplest task here takes three times longer and often involves yelling (from other people) and lots of extra people. Maybe this week, I’ll contact that Beijing-based travel agency that claims to be able to arrange disability-friendly trips for foreigners.

Anyway, I’ll get back to posting more often.

Posted by: lklinger2013 | June 28, 2017

Counting days until summer vacation

The semester is almost over. I’ve been giving speaking tests to year 11 students and working on my gradebook spreadsheet. Written exams are next week.

The year 12s have already graduated. AFTER GRADUATION, a few who had failed required classes suddenly realized that they needed transcripts for the prestigious schools they planned to attend in the fall. Grade-begging after finals I understand. But after graduation?? That was a new one.

Some context: Any student who passes the Chinese national exams recieves a high school diploma, but only students who pass all required classes recieve a certificate and transcript from the International Center of Unnamed Posh School.

I can see my year 11s turning into year 12s. One student has been gone for several weeks for who-knows-what-reason. I will be expected to chase this student down to extract missing assignments.

I have booked my flights to visit the U.S. Only 16 days remain until I take a train to Beijing and then fly to the States. (Note to self: minimize electronic devices, books, and food in carry-on bags. Figure out how to entertain myself through 20+ hours traveling while not triggering extra attention from the TSA. Brace for the inevitable invasive crotch pat-down that my deformed hip apparently requires.)

Chingu will be staying at a different animal hospital this time. The previous one, while making polite excuses about renovation, refused to board her again– probably because she hissed and growled at them too much last time.

I have not written much this semester, largely because I am not happy here. The long commute, the six- and sometimes seven- day weeks, the disorganization, the dishonesty, and the blatant devaluing of English classes (despite what the school’s promotional materials claim) are wearing me down.

Posted by: lklinger2013 | March 25, 2017

The art of covering stains with embroidery

Today, I covered a white button-up shirt in snails. There were multiple roundish yellowish stains, so I penciled in a snail shell over each, then added an appropriate quote from Simon & Garfunkel. Before that, I stitched a dragon on another white shirt that had suffered an attack of apple juice.

It’s not only white shirts. Stains show on garments of any solid color except black. In addition to covering or making creative use of stains, embroidery can also cover small holes in a garment.

Eventually, every one of my lighter-than-black shirts will probably sport at least one bit of embroidery. Then, I’ll look quirky rather than like someone who can’t wear a shirt more than 30 seconds without spilling something on it.



Posted by: lklinger2013 | March 25, 2017

Ten things make a post

  1. My wrist is splint-free and seems fine now.
  2. The apartment I moved into in December has some electrical problems and the bathroom briefly floods sometimes when I run the washer, but at least the elevator runs.
  3. There are some new teachers at my school, including an economics teacher from India, a history teacher from New Zealand, and an English teacher from the U.S.
  4. So I finally have a “normal” teaching schedule with only one grade 11 English class, one grade 12 English class, and a uni prep class that I’m co-teaching with the librarian. Only three (well, 2.5) gradebooks. Not four and not eight.
  5. Evil Boss is still lying, gas-lighting, and nit-picking.
  6. Evil Boss has been out of the office for medical reasons lately, but still manages to send petty little emails.
  7. I’m looking at other employment options for next year just in case.
  8. I’ve been going to a local build-your-own-soup place a lot lately. You load up on noodles, veg, tofu, and meat and the ingredient bar, pay at the counter, and they cook it for you in broth. No language skills necessary.
  9. The new apartment is next to a small grocery store with a good produce section and strawberries are in season. Location is the main advantage of this apartment.
  10. After nearly two months of sleeping downstairs after the accident, I finally moved back to my bed upstairs. Buying a new mattress pad helped, as did making a new habit of ALWAYS turning on the bedroom light if I get out of bed in the dark.
Posted by: lklinger2013 | December 31, 2016

Medical update and some left-handed art

This week, I had an MRI on the wrist. Turns out the radius is fractured and the triangular fibrocartilage is torn. That means five more weeks in the splint and no writing with that hand. I made it clear to both doctor and school that I WILL return to work on 1/3 as scheduled. The wrist doesn’t even hurt that much as long as I don’t do anything with it, but the ambiguity about whether or not it was broken was vexing me ferociously.

The hospital has ATM-like machines that allow patients to print their own scans by putting their bar-code stickers under a red light. After printing my scans, I had to look on three floors for a toilet that was not a squatter. I guess I was naïve to expect a hospital to have accessible toilets. It’s not as if disabled people ever go to hospitals anyway.

The most inconvenient thing is having to use the crutch in the wrong hand. Slows me down and throws off my walking rhythm, especially on stairs (which unnerve me these days). Getting anywhere takes longer. So do dressing and washing and preparing food. I can get to important places like Qianfoshan Hospital and Starbucks, though.

The face still hurts, though nothing is bleeding and I can breathe just fine. I use cotton balls to prevent my glasses from hurting the still-healing broken nose.

This week, I managed to grade 50 student final exam essays and will do the grade spreadsheets for the year 12 AP English classes once the other teachers give me the data.

One bright spot: through experimentation I learned that I can still draw and paint with my left hand. Painting with ink and brush feels good. I’m determined to cough up some designs for the Year of the Fire Rooster. The Chinese word for turkey, huo ji, happens to translate literally as “fire chicken” but it’s probably not the same thing. Nevertheless, I’m tempted… 20161222_14270420161224_21123020161224_214205-1-1




Posted by: lklinger2013 | December 16, 2016

Medical leave is a privilege and also boring

The school called my doctor at the hospital, who told them that I should stay home until January 3rd. (The accident happened on December 2nd.) Someone from human resources sent a text informing me of this.

I am lucky. I have an emergency fund. I kept it here rather than sending it to the States. I have a place to live. There are lots of inexpensive shops and restaurants in my apartment complex. I have a computer and internet access. I have hundreds of e-books. I have Chingu-cat. I have ibuprofen and Ultracet, scar cream, hot water, and a washing machine. I still have my job.

I will probably spend a lot of time at Tandoor Kitchen, the nearby Indian restaurant. The owner, who delivered some food even though he doesn’t normally do that, urged me to come hang out and watch videos there, whether I order anything or not. He said to WeChat him if I need help.

A couple of days ago, having finally found a nail shop without stairs, I had a pedicure, partly because I am not capable of cutting my toenails at this time and partly to cheer me up. I also had a haircut, which got the last of the blood out of my hair.

Yesterday, I went back to the hospital to have the wrist looked at. It was still hurting and I wondered why it was only in a splint when a doctor had told me it was broken. A different doctor looked at the scans and the wrist, said he didn’t see any break, suggested it was probably a torn ligament, and put a pain-killing plaster on the wrist under the splint. He said to return in 2 weeks.

Finding the correct department without speaking any Chinese was challenging. I went to a payment window and showed the woman my medical record booklet, card, and the text from the otolaryngologist. She walked me to the triage section of the surgical outpatient clinic. I paid about $10 for this visit.

Taking this much leave seems excessive, though. My nose and cheek fractures are healing. I can eat, dress, and walk, albeit slowly. The wrist only hurts when I try using it. I can (sort of) write with my left hand. If I take pain meds every four hours, the pain is mostly under control (though standing for even a few minutes hurts). I could teach sitting down.

A lazy part of me is glad to avoid the exams, projects, meetings, and end-of-semester paperwork, though I did tell people to email me anything I could grade. I asked a manager to send me textbooks so I could write exam questions.

I’ve yet to hear from the English coordinator about all this time off. He sent a text on the day I got out of the hospital, and that was probably at someone else’s prompting. Today, he sent my student survey results. My teaching… needs a lot of improvement*. Having a normal schedule would help, but I can’t honestly blame all my deficiencies on that. I need to prepare more, find or create more engaging activities, teach more writing skills, and grade assignments more promptly. And I need help to improve as a teacher. Not a coordinator who micromanages and nags instead of listening and offering useful suggestions.






*If this were self-indulgent fiction, the Noble Injured Teacher would of course be The Best Teacher Ever and students would be crying for the return of said teacher. It’s reality, so the teacher is reasonably competent and conscientious but has considerable room for improvement.




Happy reunion with Chingu on the day I got out of the hospital. She hid upstairs for an hour to make sure the stranger (a coworker) was gone. Poor kitty.


Posted by: lklinger2013 | December 15, 2016

Things to Bring to a Chinese Hospital

  1. Passport
  2. Wallet (with lots of cash, bank cards, and ID cards)
  3. Smartphone with WeChat, good internet access, dictionary app*, charger, and extra battery
  4. Your home address and employer, written in Chinese (save in phone notes)
  5. Samples of any prescription drugs you take regularly. Do your best to explain why you take them.
  6. As much cash as possible; seriously, bring a Ziploc bag full
  7. Extra shirts and shorts if you are above average in size (3/4 sleeve button-up shirts are especially good if you have injuries to arms and face)
  8. List of phrases in Chinese and English so you can point to what you need to say (ask coworker to write it out for you)
  9. Water bottle
  10. Toilet paper (the bathrooms don’t have any)
  11. Your own bowl, spoon, fork, etc. You’ll need to buy a meal card and get food from the canteen or have a friend go get it for you.
  12. Scissors to cut your food into small bits (useful if your mouth is injured)
  13. Sense of humor. You’ll need it.

*For those who menstruate, period tracker apps are useful for when the doctor is taking your medical history.

Posted by: lklinger2013 | December 12, 2016

A Brief Stay in A Chinese Hospital

     Two days after moving into the new place, I had a serious accident and ended up in Qianfoshan Hospital for a week. At about 2am, I got up in the dark to use the toilet. Not yet accustomed to the new layout, I fell down the stairs, landing on my nose and right wrist. I did not lose consciousness. There was blood everywhere.

     Somehow, I managed to call KF (the assistant director who hired me) on WeChat. He called an ambulance. He and A (a Chinese calculus teacher who often translates for the foreign teachers) came too. While waiting, I pulled on leggings and threw a few things into my bag: phone, charger, passport, medications, wallet, glasses. The bleeding continued. I sat at the table holding a towel over my nose and hyperventilating. Chingu sniffed at me. I was terrified. Also wondered whether an ambulance was too much. Maybe I *could* find  taxi by myself… at 2:30am… in the dark… while bleeding profusely and unable to see clearly or hold my phone well enough to scroll through for a photo of a hospital address.

     The paramedics wrapped my head, covering my eyes. KF put a hand on my shoulder so I knew he was there. That helped tremendously. A small part of my mind noted that at least I had a solid excuse to skip the faculty meeting on Monday.

     ER admission took forever. Chinese hospitals require payment in advance. Also, the wrist and face were different departments. (The EMTs and other people kept grabbing my wrist until KF loudly repeated my frantic requests to put a splint on it. Yes, the CT scan* showed a small break.) I remembered my bank card. I knew my address and door code and preexisting conditions. I had samples of my Rx meds. I even knew where the cat food was. In the operating room (KF reinforced my demand for general not local anesthesia when the doctor tried to convince me to let them do local), I guessed my weight in kilograms (not bad for a frightened and profusely bleeding English major from the U.S.). KF tells me that after the four-hour surgery, I turned and asked him whether we were still waiting for the operation to start.

     They put me in a room. I refused to use a bedpan so Z (a human resources person who came later) helped me use the toilet. She also helped me hire a carer, since Chinese hospital nurses don’t bring food or help with personal care. She helped until the carer arrived. When S (the school director) visited, I told her that Z deserved a couple of flex days for this.

     The carer, Jong, helped me eat. She put money on my hospital meal card and bough food at the canteen. She cut open the little bags of yogurt that were all I could eat at first. She brought millet porridge and steamed eggs, a roasted sweet potato, a sandwich (cut into bits) and sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves. She raised and lowered the bed, helped me change shirts, brought me to the payment window when necessary, and called the nurses when something was wrong. Hospital patients without family nearby have to hire helpers or they won’t eat.

     The hospital kept asking for more and more money. That bag of emergency cash in my underwear drawer quite  possibly saved my life, or at least my face. I had nearly a month’s salary in there. The hospital doesn’t have Bank of China ATMs and they share their credit card swiping machines with another building, so I am glad I had cash. Sometimes in an emergency ONLY cash will do.

     Jong, spoke no English. Z wrote out some key words and phrases in Chinese and English. Otherwise, I used the Pleco Chinese-English dictionary app and an online translator. The nurses used translator apps.

     I picked up some Chinese, to the delight and amusement of my roommates. I learned how to say, “I want an apple/book/water” and “THAT HURTS”. I also mastered “ok” and “there’s none left”.

     I had to learn to talk about pain. There was a lot of it. The nurses were not proficient in the insertion of needles. I have three bruises on my left arm from their clumsy attempts. It should not take five tries to find a vein. When I’ve donated blood or done employment health checks, the phlebotomist always got it in one or two tries. One of the nurses said via phone app that it was because I am fat. I called her on that bullshit. She later apologized for calling me fat. That’s not the point. People of ALL sizes need and deserve good medical care.

     One night, the pain pump needle was bent and nobody would listen when I told them that the pain meds weren’t working. On the last night, as nurses fumbled with yet another malfunctioning IV, I yelled and thrashed and demanded that they TAKE IT OUT. It hurt so much and I couldn’t take it anymore. I refused to “calm down” until they took it out. No more chances. No more tries. They talked to the doctor and brought me some antibiotic PILLS instead. The final morning after stitch removal they wanted to inject “one more” syringe of painkiller. I said NO! I DO NOT CONSENT! They begged to try ONCE. Said it was already paid for, no refund. I allowed ONE try. That’s when the one nurse apologized for calling me fat.

     Pain control was also an issue during the nasal endoscopy. The spray anesthesia didn’t work enough. I said quite loudly, mid-scope, I CAN STILL FEEL PAIN. So Dr .Wang (the surgeon) gave me more until it worked. It is a bad combination to be sensitive to pain and insensitive to drugs.

     Later, Dr. Wang, all smiles, asked whether I’d lost weight in the hospital. Said I should really lose weight. Really. THAT’S your priority? Mine is healing enough to move and eat without pain.

     There are still stitches in my mouth and nasal passages. Half my nose, my upper lip, and part of my scalp are numb. Dr.Wang said the feeling will return in 6 months or a year. He said the internal sutures will dissolve. The attending, Dr.Fu, removed the external ones. That hurt.

     I have been surprisingly well supported throughout this ordeal. Coworkers brought ramen, yogurt, KFC, a pillow, bottled lattes, and gossip. One slipped me some codeine, which I didn’t use but held like a security blanket in case of complete pain med failure. KF sent a phone charger via S (school director). He later sent scar cream, a flashlight, a nightlight, gauze, and a fork. T bought cat food. M fed Chingu and brought some clothes and the computer from home. And sleeping pills (which didn’t do much, but were better than the completely ineffective yet painful sedative injection). J and L, my co-teachers, came on the last day with cards from students and big bags of bananas and dragon fruit. KF and P (another English teacher) shared tips for scar treatment. KF also had tips for one-handed functioning.

        I expect to return to work next Monday. This week, I am to rest. Both doctors Fu and Wang said that I should take a month off since I can’t use my wrist but I can’t afford that. I’m not really supposed to wear glasses on my broken face, but sometimes I need to see, so I’m using a cotton ball to pad them.

     Mr. Mehta from Tandoor Restaurant delivered tandoori chicken and butter naan and salad on Saturday night. He doesn’t normally deliver but KF asked. He also told me to WeChat him if I needed help and said I am not alone.      

     On Saturday, a few hours after suture removal, I was discharged. Jong helped with paperwork. M carried my bags. I walked awkwardly, crutch in the wrong hand. At the apartment, M carried clothes and bedding downstairs. She fetched me a McNugget meal and an iced latte. Chingu remained upstairs until over an hour after M had left.

     Yesterday, I got a green pedicure at D&L, a one-floor place near my new flat. The owner plied me with sunflower seeds, herbal tea, and Wi-Fi while she finished with the previous client. Cost was 80 RMB. I will be back. She was so careful with my injuries. AND she had a western toilet.

         This week, I read The Eyre Affair and Lost in a Good Book. Now I’m reading Lords and Ladies.

     Tomorrow, I can finally take a shower.

     My bruised right knee and shin hurt. So do wrist, shoulders, ears, eyes, hip, and face. Not all at once. They mix and match like a dance. My face is still swollen and I have two black eyes. I walk like I’m 90. The thought of narrow stairs frightens me. The numb places itch. I can breathe through my nose, though. And smell. And eat.

     I’m sleeping downstairs. The couch is much more comfortable than the bed anyway. KF said he thought we should get some guys to bring my dresser downstairs.

     The school insurance will pay for 80% of the hospital costs, not including Jong’s  services (170RMB/day). I was in a better position to pay for medical care than many local people. I had savings. Privilege.

       I can now put on a shirt, and jeans easily enough. Shoes are… difficult. I am wearing the thoroughly broken-in brown DMs. Three-quarter sleeve shirts are ideal when one has a splinted forearm. Soon I will need to do laundry. I dare not climb apartment stairs yet, so it’s ask a coworker or schlep to cleaners.  I need a bag that goes over my shoulder. The left hand is for the crutch and right wrist cannot take weight, though its fingers can move just fine. My shoulders are tired and bruised (right) but adequate.

     When I return to work, I will need a lot of help. I can’t carry anything, not even (or especially) a meal tray. Certainly not stacks of books. Can’t write well either. Or run for the bus. I’d like to talk more with KF about how to manage with mobility impairment and injury. He had really good ideas.

*While in the CT scan, I tried to calm down by pretending I was Dr. Strange going through a dimensional portal. When Dr. Fu removed stitches, I thought about the Igors and Igorinas in Discworld novels. Sometimes escapism is necessary.

Posted by: lklinger2013 | November 6, 2016

Ten things make a post

  1. I  mailed off my absentee ballot a few days ago.
  2. This job takes up more time than any of my previous overseas teaching jobs. The 1.5 hour (each way) commute has something to do with this. So does the quaint Chinese custom of having school on the Sunday after a holiday to make up for lost time.
  3. I am still “covering” the classes of the new  American teacher who the administration finally admits is not coming. They say that they have interviewed other candidates and that someone might be coming in December (at the end of the semester).
  4. One of the British English teachers left. The other A-level English teachers had to absorb his courseload. I worry about what will happen if we lose another teacher.
  5. Micromanagement and erratic behavior on the part of the English coordinator have driven at least one other English teacher close to quitting. Example: he accidentally left someone off the English department’s email list, sent out some important information to everyone on the list, and then sent me a furious email when I forwarded the important email to the person who needed it. He informed me that it was UNETHICAL to share an email with anyone who was not on the recipient list, even after I explained that I had ONLY shared it with a member of my own department who needed the information. In subsequent emails, he falsely accused another member of the administration of “fishing for information” about the English department and said in so many words that in order to trust us English teachers, he needed to know that our primary loyalty was to him.
  6. Besides the fact that I signed a two-year contract and a one-year lease, what keeps me here is the quality of the students. They are the brightest I have ever taught anywhere. They talk about neurotransmitters, quantum physics, world history, and and cultural differences. It is a pleasure to watch them grapple and play with ideas.
  7. I have scarcely drawn or painted at all since coming to China. I wish I could find a class. On the other hand, I often wonder what is the point of creating an art at all. Does anyone even want it?
  8. Once in class, a student said that the Jews deserved to die in the Holocaust because they had ruined the German economy. I told him that first, you NEVER say that millions of people deserve to die like that and second, that’s my family he’s talking about. I didn’t lose my temper. At his age, I said plenty of heartless and ignorant things. I probably still do, especially when under the influence of white privilege. This student often talks flippantly about killing, bombing, and stealing and so on, but he needs to learn that there are some things you Just. Don’t. Say. (At this point, another student, obviously doing damage control, quickly started talking about a Jewish athlete he’d read about recently.) I think he got the point because later he talked about Albert Einstein emigrating to the U.S. to escape the Nazis.
  9. Another time, a fat student stood up to give a short presentation (students take turns giving  a 3-5 minute presentation at the beginning of every class). He asked his classmates what he should talk about and a tall skinny boy said, “losing weight!” I told him not to say such things. Soon, another student suggested computer games as a topic, and that’s what the first student presented about. I do not allow personal attacks in my class.
  10. I’m becoming friends with the school librarian. A few weeks ago, she and I went to a Korean coffee shop called Maan. It even has patbingsu and fruit waffles.
Posted by: lklinger2013 | October 5, 2016

Still alive and twitching

This week, there are no classes due to the Chinese national holiday. Aside from sleeping late and reading, I’ve not done much. The other day, I went to Carrefour for the first time. In front of the store itself was an art vendor, who sold me the first painting paper I’ve bought in China. It’s time to get back to painting. I have hardly painted at all here. Haven’t felt like it. Painting seemed pointless, partly because I doubted whether I had any original ideas and partly because I didn’t think anyone would want to look at anything I painted. I am still lonely here.

I’m thinking about those Asian longhorn beetles that are called sky cows in Korean and Mandarin Chinese. I’m also thinking about red-eared sliders and other invasive species. As a native speaking English teacher in China, I am an invader. I teach Chinese high school students who plan to go study in the U.S. and Canada, invaders in the other direction. I want to paint something with at least two invasive species in it, a sort of fusion reflecting my training in traditional East Asian brush painting with my own (Western) ideas. I don’t want to do any more copying.

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