Mad prices

Just been reading that in London if you earn the average salary and have a £25,000 deposit you can buy a £100,000 based on 3X Income multiple for your mortgage.

This means anyone on the average salary fortunate to have £25,000 in savings can only afford a £100,000 place in london.

Slight problem with this is that unless you wish to live in a ghetto or a camp site, 100K will get you very little indeed. The average price of property in London is  £348,585.  :disdain:

At that rate it’s going to take me 17.49 years if saving, not that I want to buy a house anyway.. :laugh:


Managed to find some content from 2004 that I thought was long gone through the Wayback @!

This is a website that archives content from the web and stores it as it appeared, based on periodic scans by the archive.  It seems to have omitted the images from my sites but has captured all the text.

from original site in y2k!

from original site in y2k!

I had a server issue and lost lots of entries from late 04, but now I’ve re-inserted them via my SQL directly into the DB behind this blog  – so you’d never know they went missing in the first place!

Also found some really old stuff from 2000 from my first webpage and some Northumberland road stuff that I thought disappeared years ago!

12 northumberland road!

12 northumberland road!

元 v £

It’s just my luck that now I’m working in the UK they value of the Pound to Renminbi has fallen over a third in a little over 3 months. It always used to be around the 15yuan to 1 pound mark, so that 100 yuan was about 7 pounds or so. :clown:

But now 100 yuan is worth less than 10 pounds…I saw a dodgy bureau-de-change in Chinatown offering 8.9 to the pound!! :no:

This makes China suddenly seem that much more expensive! Exporters must be feeling the pinch with this kind of strengthening in RMB – Likewise Chinese salaries don’t seem as poultry as they once did. Personally, I don’t think the Pound will get back to 15 anytime soon, with interest rates here being so low and the economy apparently about to implode… As long as the Yuan is pegged to the US Dollar, and the Pound stays weak against the Dollar this will continue.

Don’t think I’ll be going back to China until the exchange rate gets better! :beatup:

Exchange Rate

Exchange Rate



Olympics Goldfish Trinket

Saw this in the paper this morning – lots of anti-China press on this. I get annoyed reading some of the right-wing rubbish in the papers about China, clearly written by people who have never been there in their life and so nothing about the context of what they are saying.
People here think this is incrediby cruel and selfish as the fish will only have enough oxygen to live for a few hours before suffocating. This is true and it is disturbing that for the Olympic games people are prepared to go so low as to make money from this – but if there is demand for such a product (as there is in china) then business is business.
To most westerners this is an example of the Chinese selling anything to make a quick profit, but people from here do not understand that the Chinese have a different cultural attitude towards animals, and misplace this as thinking the Chinese are cruel to animals.
Having visied the zoo in Changchun quite a few times, I know that almost all westerners would be appaled at the way in which the animals are treated – especially in being made to perform tricks – jump through hoops on fire, ride bikes and even try their hand at roller skates.

The End

So that’s pretty much it! Done. The story is over.
I will be leaving Changchun tomorrow (4th August) and (most probably ) China on the 5th at 13.50. Should get to London at 17.50 UK time.

I almost certainly shall never live in Changchun again, when I return to China it will be elsewhere. Despite what people may think, this is a good city to live In, It is a nice place and I’m certain I shall miss aspects of my life here once I’m back in the UK.

At Changchun Airport

Final photo in at Changchun Airport

Having read through much of my blog in recent weeks, I think that If I had read this before I came to Changchun I probably wouldn’t have come!

I want to say, that there are of course pitfalls to coming here to work, but, by and large it has been a really positive experience. I have enriched myself and have many new life experiences – which If I had never come here – I am certain I would never had the opportunity to have.

Even In bad times, I have never regretted my decision to come here and I think that speaks for Itself.

The experiences have allowed me to develop thoughts on new things and have given me a sense of direction that I previously never had. Furthermore, It has also given me an opportunity to focus my understanding not just of other peoples, but more profoundly of myself. I have adpated to various situations and have been able to solve many problems that have come up in my daily life, this also makes me feel better as a person.

For that I am very happy.

Goodbye Changchun!



This is rather a long entry, over 2,000 words with some pictures of me from over my time here. It marks the beginning of the end of my time here in Changchun – This may take a while to read.

When I first got here in October 2004, I remember landing at the airport, looking out of the window and the first thing I saw was soldiers marching on parade and fighter jets. As the plane taxied in it passed a man in olive green uniform standing to attention and saluting the plane. I thought ‘Oh god what have I let myself in for‘ and I was rathervery cold!  Me in winter gear concerned. – actually the military presence was there since I arrived just after the national day celebrations and due to the fact that the old airport in Changchun is also a military airport, but i didn’t know this.

The titillating wait for my luggage at the airport, then the walk out of the main door hoping that the person there to meet me was actually there. I remember being terrified about what would happen if he didn’t show up, I couldn’t speak, or read a word of the language, I was a duck out of water.

When I look back at this time I don’t recognise myself, I didn’t know anything about anything. I was eager –fresh-off-the-boat and pretty naïve.

Very soon I have to make a very important decision that will have an impact on my life for the next few years. There are three possible scenarios but I am only really seriously considering one of them at the moment. 1. Do nothing, stay here 2. Stay in China, elsewhere 3. Go back home.

For the last two years, like so many other foreigners here, I have decided to extend my stay here. However I believe the time has come for me to go back -if only temporarily- and buid upon my skills.

Career Advancement.

I believe that I should start to think a little more long-term. I feel that now I am 25, is the best time as if I leave it any longer I will have missed the boat and will be considered too old to train by many. There are some people who have been here too long and have become stuck, pigeon-holed and unable to advance their careers further. I don’t want this to happen to me. I am also well aware that the grass is always greener, I may look back in six months time and regret this decision but I would rather regret doing this than not doing anything at all.

silly smle for my 25th birthdayI can still come back here. The door is always open for me to continue doing what i’m doing. I’ve spent 31 months here and I feel it is probably time to call it a day. I have reached the top of the pile in terms of teaching positions here, I have a very comfortable well paid job, I am treated very well but there is no chance of progression. I am not interested in opening my own school or pursuing any other educational related job, I’ve done enough. The big reason ‘why’, is that I know I can do more, I don’t want to be undervalued all of my life- for I couldn’t imagine how unhappy I would be if I was still here in 10 years doing the same stuff as now.

As any teacher can tell you, once your in it for too long you’re stuck -it’s a job for life.

Most importantly though, the time just feels right, as if a cycle has ended – most of my friends (Chinese and foreign) have left for pastures new and if there is as good a time as any, then it is now.

If there is one thing I come away from China with it is the unequivocal importance of networking and making friends. There is a certain sense of ‘being outside of the loop’ that concerns me, in that If I am working in a big city there are always opportunities that present themselves to those who are actually there. It’s difficult to do this when you are the other side of the world, and to this extent I am missing out. Here teaching is a real lone-wolf profession, you are basically left to your devices, which gives you maximum potential to create your own curriculum but it also means you seldom get the opportunity to network on the job.

So what would make me come back and stay here?

I would stay here if I was in a job that I considered to be able to give me long term opportunities and career prospects and that challenges me. In all my time here I am yet to find this, I do not have the connections in such fields but most importantly I don’t want to be stuck on a Chinese pay scale.

However if anyone is interested in my services give me an email! :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
Unfortunately, I believe what I am looking for is only available outside China, whereby one can be sent out here to work and live whilst still attracting the benefits a western salary brings. I am not overly concerned with money, but if I were to get into a job on a Chinese pay scale it would become very hard to go back home due to long-term financial restraints.

I have done other things in Changchun besides teaching and tutoring such me and my friends!as editorial and publishing work. Even this suffers the same problems, that is, no long term prospects. The only place this can be done in Changchun is working for a foreign company, and basically they are FAW and its associated companies and suppliers. The westerners working for such companies are sent here from their home countries as specialists, and as such the way to get these jobs is to be in a western country and come out here as part of the job. I believe I have an advantage over others in this regard as know the turf, can communicate and the cultural differences are not an issue. Unlike most westerns sent here, I like living here. I know how things operate, I can sort out problems, I am self-sufficient.

As I have said before, Changchun is a nice place but it is not a place to advance your career. This is not just for foreigners but also for Chinese, many (if not all) of my students will seek employment in the big cities after graduation. However, I am happy and content here, and if I were older and more interested in teaching, I would consider staying here for the rest of my days. In China, teaching commands much more respect than it does in the UK and if I were Chinese (where there is room for progression in teaching), I would probably keep my job and stay in the profession for life.

My quality of life is very good, I have free time to do the things I want to do. I can eat some of the best food in the world, every day. I can travel to so many interesting locations, meet people whom have had such different lives from me and study languages and cultures that are unheard of in the west. I expect once I am home, for my quality of life to decrease significantly and the next few years to be tough. I probably won’t like this but as I have said it’s the best place to be in terms of long-term career advancement and I think that is what I must aim for.

On a philosophical note, perhaps this all boils down to what do you want out of life and what are your priorities?

Many people have an idea of where they want to be in the future some even have plans – house, car, married, family etc. I don’t have such plans as I see them as constrictive at present, however I believe it is important to have some sort of goal, or it could become all too easy to drift and get lost. My medium to long term plans, is to be working in China for a foreign company, on expat terms.

Making tough decisions is just part of life and I just have to get used to that fact, sometimes I look for guidance, advice, suggestions from others, but that does not change the issue that I am the one who must ultimately decide what to do. Sometimes I wish I had a time machine so I could try out all the different alternatives and choose the most appealing outcome, but that would be too easy and would take away the element of surprise that makes life worth living.

旅途本身就是收获 The Journey is the Reward

My dishevelled lookFor me there is something uniquely challenging about living abroad that is difficult to put into words and almost impossible for those never have done so to imagine. In many ways I like being out of the country and away from the things that annoy me back home. Many aspects of the culture and way of doing things I can much more relate to than here than in the UK. There is no such thing as a perfect place; everywhere has its ups and downs, its similarities and contrasts. Therefore it’s not surprising that I’m now feeling a certain amount of trepidation about going home, whereas when I came to China I never felt like this, Infact, I felt the opposite.

I’m also concerned that I may be going back to a place that I dislike and will find it difficult to relate to people, but I believe we all adapt, and that will only be a matter of time before things become ‘normal’ again. Life in the UK –for want of a better word – may be ‘boring’, that things will become a question of routine, ordered and straightforward

Overall, I will say that being here is, and has been, the most inspiring, eye-opening and interesting time of my whole life. I cannot emphasise enough how many new things I have picked up, how much I have learnt about different civilisations and cultures and how much I have improved myself as a better person. I have a lifetimes worth of experiences, memories and stories to tell. I have discovered new parts to myself that I thought I didn’t have within me.

My confidence has improved a lot since coming to China, If you can live here alone then you can do pretty much anything, indeed I’m sure things back home will seem so easy and simplistic in comparison. One of the more advantageous things is that this has allowed me to become a bit of a ‘china expert’ on so many things here and I’m sure this will stand me in good stead for future dealings, especially when I work out here again.

I am acutely aware that I have been very fortunate to be able to experience this; indeed most Chinese do not have the luxury of being able to live and work in another country. It is one of those injustices of life that the colour of a passport makes so much difference.
Those that do have such chances should grasp them.

Before I came here I was cynical about going to another country to live ‘Why should I go there?’ I said to myself ‘What can I learn from being there?’ and of course, the answer is a great deal. I can understand those who do not have the ability, whether it be physically, monetarily or politically to stay in another place but people who never leave their own country –but have ability to do so – I believe are failing to give themselves the best possible chance in life to improve themselves.

This may sound difficult believe to some, but I assure you that if you want to broaden your mind and improve yourself as a person, then coming and living in a place like Changchun can only help. It is at times, too easy to emphasize the cultural differences, in some respects things seem the opposite to the west- where white is the worn at a funeral, lilles are given at weddings, where north east is east north and where people row boats backwards, but actually, a great deal of things are pretty much the same here as they are in the west.

It is with great sadness and a certain degree of apprehension that I’ll say goodbye tome at north korean border near dandong Changchun (for the time being!) for when work/live in China in the not too distant future, it probably won’t be in Changchun, though I will always have a friendly holiday destination even if I only get to visit here once a year. I will always feel a part of me is here, rather like a second home and I have so many people to thank for making my stay here worthwhile. I have many good friends from here and I shall miss them dearly, it is the closing of a chapter in my life.

I thank all those that have spent the time to read what I have written and manage to decipher the poor spelling and grammar. There have been many ups and downs, but I only hope that you enjoyed reading the web log’s material as much as I did writing it.


I shall continue to post on this blog until late July/early August when I shall be leaving.


It’s funny what you stumble upon when surfing the web. Yesterday I was checking out a few Chinese websites and found this. Coincidently only last week I learnt the characters for this 破产 pochan (bankrupt) but I didn’t expect to find a story quite as interesting as this.

Sources: Readingchina CDT (proxy) Zhaomu Yulung
Jilin University is crying for help from whom? Zhao Mu Jilin university is in financial crisis. It cried for help a few days ago. A few days ago, the finance office of the Jilin University put up a notice on campus internet: “Notice: A consultative conference on the solution to the financial difficulties of the Jilin University ”

“Since 2005, the Jilin University has paid loan interest as high as 150 million to 170 million each year. The university increasingly suffers from expenditure over revenue. The debt is mainly used in two areas. The first one is infrastructure. Another one is salary. We have increased salary to the high level.” From the annual interest payment as high as 150 million to 170 million yuan, one can estimate the huge amount of loan (it is estimated 3 billion yuan). The crazy loan is for infrastructure and raising salary.

Are the banks, who went so crazy that they lent such a huge amount of money to the Jilin University, really brave enough to force the university to apply for bankruptcy through legal procedure? Would the court close down this university and liquidate its asset? Would the banks sell the campus by auction to get back their huge amount of money? Ah… ah. I can prove to Minister of Education Zhou Ji and the supporters of “bankruptcy” theory that this possibility does not exist at all. And I strongly believe that our great state-owned bank will write off most debts of colleges. Despite without complete statistics, this huge debt already reaches as high as 400 billion yuan.

The debt is apparently as high as 4 billion yuan (250million pounds) just to see how big a figure that is:


So the biggest university in China is out of money. Jilin University is a mammoth of an institution, I’m told there’s more than 50,000 students here and according to some it’s one of the best universities in China . It’s got to be one of the most federated universities in the world, It has so many departments, colleges, associated colleges, campuses, branches, sister schools, feeder schools, the list goes on…

To be honest it doesn’t surprise me and in some ways it’s no wonder the cash has run out. As it happens I do a lot of work here myself and can confirm that the article is true, there were posters up over the campus saying as much. My initial selfish thought was that I hope this doesn’t have an impact on my salary but then I remembered something. Going back a few weeks, a certain university bigwig (name withheld for obvious reasons) thought it would be amusing to bugger around over my holiday pay i.e reneging on the contract (nothing changes!) it now occurs to me now that he/she perhaps had prior knowledge of what was to come This is another story in itself, will write about it another day.

I asked some of my students about this and the reaction was typically assuaged. All of them said things like ‘this is a problem all over china‘ ‘many universities have such problems‘ and ‘the university will get enough money‘, which of course is true, but for me, misses the point.
When I pressed about ‘where will the money come from?’ they said the government will pay for it, which is probably what will happen. There’s huge face value here, bail the university out far exceeds the potential economic losses involved in fixing up the bad debts. There’s also recent historical government precidents of bailouts of industries over stridden with debt.

I was surprised that very few were concerned about the fate of their education but not so shocked that (for obvious reasons) nobody asked whether those in charge should be sacked or prosecuted!
I resisted the urge to ask ‘but this university is one of the few directly run by the central government – the Ministry of Education in Beijing’. (Of course all the better universities in China are all under the control of the Ministry!)
‘Therefore this is a government problem!’ Imagine a university in the UK under the direct control of the Department for Education announcing that it’s university has run out of money because it took on too much debt and now is unable to service the repayments! It would be a scandal, heads would roll. There has been some coverage of it here but very little in the mainstreem media and of course it’s always ‘a China problem’ nobody ever takes the flack or considers the deeper reasons behind such things.

So more money arrives, people get on with their jobs, end of story.

What has happened at Jida is just a small example of how many organisations operate here and is probably a warning for the future.
People may ask (actually they probably wont!) ‘how did this happen?‘ and even though I’m not privy to the politics of this, for what it’s worth, there are probably two principle factors at work.

Firstly, an absolute lack of financial competence. People in important, powerful positions of responsibility who you wouldn’t trust to run a tap. The only reason they have the job is because they’re the uncles 2nd cousin to the president of the school ‘关系’ – Of course this happens everywhere but here it is king. This is coupled with a serious lack of a ‘business way of thinking‘, money doesn’t grow on trees anymore – this isn’t helped by constant state bailouts and easy access to capital from friendly bank managers.
There’s no real financial transparency and accountability here, many tell me this is because ‘发展中国家’ ‘China is a developing country’. That’s as well as maybe but it cant keep on being like this forever, there comes a point, when things must change and move on. When people will be able to ask – Where does the money go and what is is it spent on? Can anybody show me detailed breakdowns of where every single fen is spent?
Sometimes, It’s not diffficult to see where some of the money is used , anyone who has been to the south campus at Jida will tell you how nice and modern it is – there has been a lot of money spent there on new buildings and infrastructure. It’s nice compared to western campuses and in Changchun that really is saying something.

However there are other more disturbing questions about where some of the money goes. Here there exists a culture of embezzlement and backhanders that is historical, cultural and constantly perpetuated through inadequate checks and balances and a lack of the rule of law. I also truly believe that many people who have access or ‘operate’ the accounts think they can simply print more money when they need it and use the organisation as their own piggy bank – acting with total impunity. Which, of course, they can.
The thing is everybody else knows this goes on, but understandably, is too frightened/disaffected/uninterested to say so.
I’m sure this kind of malpractice goes on in the west too but the difference is here they don’t try to hide what they are doing, it’s open and to an extent accepted. Infact I think some people strive to get into the high managerial positions – through patronage- if only so they can do exactly this themselves and In many ways I don’t blame them.


I’m still alive.

I haven’t been abducted by aliens or struck down by bird flu. The more mundane truth is a combination of being constricted from logging in and editing this by greater powers and that I’ve been too lazy to mess around changing servers.

Anyhow, I’m back online and back in Changchun and just about to start the 5th week of the semester. Once I’ve finished sifting through the 754 (mostly spam) comments, I’ll write more! 🙂