MY EXPERIENCE WITH OWEN BUCKLAND
-- He said my salary would be at least 5000, then he said my salary would be 4500.
-- He said he would pay the train fare for the interview, but he didn't.
-- He said he would pay me for February, but he didn’t.
-- He said he would give me a TESOL certificate, but he didn't.
-- He said he would pay the shipping for vocabulary cards I loaned to the VET program, but he didn't.
-- He agreed to store my teaching books, then he took them out of storage and gave them back to me.
-- He said he would send me to America and pay my recruiting expenses, but he didn't do either.
-- He said snail mail is a great way to network, then he said snail mail is ridiculous.
So he was already in the habit of breaking promises and reversing himself.
-- This was my third company provided apartment and none of them had a kitchen, even though the contract specifies a kitchen and even specifies a fridge and a microwave.
-- I had to buy my own heater, rice cooker, lamp, extension cord, etc, even a mouse for my office computer.
-- He wanted me to contribute to the Buckland Facebook page, but he wouldn't pay for a VPN, even after he told me to use a free VPN and I informed him all the free VPNs are blocked.
-- His Chinese course teacher agreed to tutor me a few hours a week in her free time, but then he told her she couldn't tutor me unless I enrolled in his Chinese course.
So maybe I should have seen it coming.
-- I was living in an apartment with a bathroom that leaked from the floor, the toilet, and the sink.
-- The AC didn't work.
-- The Internet wasn't connected.
-- I couldn't close the front door because it was jammed.
-- I couldn't stand in front of the bathroom mirror because the water heater was in the way.
-- The walls were severely stained. The bedroom and the bathroom were extremely ill lit.
There was no mistaking it. Once enthusiastically welcomed as a member of the Buckland family, I had been downgraded to second class citizen.
800 yuan on a scooter because I was supposed to be based in Yangshuo.
500 yuan on international shipping because I couldn’t carry my paintings and books all over China.
300 yuan on appliances because my rooms in Yangshuo were not fully furnished.
600 yuan because of problems on the trip to Shandong.
200 on taxis when I got sick.
300 to keep my apartment warm when I got sick.
150 because I wasn’t reimbursed for shipping the vocabulary flash cards.
150 because I wasn’t reimbursed for interview train fare.
300 because I wasn’t reimbursed for recruiting postage.
All of this is in addition to the money my relatives spent getting me back to China and the 4500 I wasn’t paid for February.
-- No fridge.
-- No microwave.
-- Chronic Internet problems.
-- Major computer installation problems.
-- Broken hot plate.
-- No dining room table.
-- No chair and lamp for the computer desk.
-- No iron.
-- No bathroom exhaust fan.
As if an omen of things to come, the day I moved in, the electricity went off because the subcontracting agency didn’t add money to the electricity card. This was in the middle of the night in fierce cold weather.
Owen Buckland changed my mind about leaving China. Like a lot of other foreign teachers, I had chronic visa problems because of bad FAOs. Visa problems cost a lot of money to fix. After enough visa problems, I concluded China just wasn't working for me financially. So I was on my way out of China.
But at the last minute, Owen invited me to an interview. He saw on my resume that I had extensive teaching, travel, writing, and recruiting experience. He also saw 80 pages of detailed, well organized lesson notes. He was excited. He wanted me to recruit, train, develop curriculum, write promotional material, and substitute teach.
I was his wonder boy for a few months. But he turned on me. His attitude toward me became to scathing, he was visibly uncomfortable being in the same room with me. He was so eager to get rid of me, he wanted me to move literally the next day.
Now I was living in a dump and relieved of administrative duties. Without ever being given an opportunity to prove myself. Soon I would be farmed out to another agency and exiled to the other side of China. Later, I would be disfranchised and told to sign an contract with the other agency.
While working with this subcontracted agency, my school had me riding a bicycle in cold weather 4 times a day 7 hours a week. The classrooms had broken windows and a cold breeze blew on my while I taught. Of course, I got sick as a dog. Vicious coughing and sneezing. My cold lingered for weeks. Owen refused to intervene.
In over 10 years of traveling 3 continents, I had been in some tight spots. But I had never called my father to say, "Get me out of here." The situation was that bad when I determined to leave China. So when he flew me home and I told him I was going to use the money he loaned me to return to China, he said, "What I am supposed to do if you have more problems in China?" Based on the interview with Owen, I told him I had a job that would solve the problems I had been having in China. Turns out I had a job that would get me into more trouble. Indeed, a job that would disappear.
When I asked Owen, "Which one of us is going to break the news to my father that he wasted his money on return airfare to China," he said, "That's not my problem." When he hinted he would renege on my administrative position, I emailed him to say, "After dealing with foreigners for 20 years, you still haven't learned that you can't break your promises." When he met with me in person to make it official, he threw some vague accusations and trumped up charges at me. When I tried to defend myself, he ended the conversation and got up and walked out of the restaurant.