I done got me a job, and you never gonna guess what I do!
Somehow, some way, I’m now a ‘foreign expert’ in China, and
appointed the Senior Editor of Beijing Review, China’s only national news
magazine published in English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish
editions. Yes, yes, I know I am especially unqualified for and uniquely
unable to perform such a professional task, but what the hell, I’m gonna
do my best and spread American (as opposed to English) as far and wide as
Last Friday was my first day on the job, and so far, I can tell that I
am in for the time of my life (again). First, I wandered down the halls of
the old and not so recently painted building we call home. Looking in each
office that I could, I saw scenes that reminded me of offices everywhere,
offices in Russian, and office scenes I’m sure only exist in China.
Of course, there were the required computers, calendars, pictures, and
people you’d find in Boston, Berlin, or Beijing. Everyone looking like
they are working hard or hardly working, as the morning rolled on. Like
Russia, the smell of tea and the sounds of non-professional conversations
floated down the halls with me, reminding me that I am living in yet
another socialistic state, where good living is more important that good
working. Oh, and for those who think Russia’s governmental system isn’t
still socialist, visit your nearest Russian consulate!
Unlike anywhere else in the world, I believe, there were obvious signs
this is China. Beyond the Chinese signs, little things like the
tea strainer over the sink for waste tea leaves, and the big comfortable
Lazy-Boy chairs in each office (I haven’t figured that one out yet), were
constant references to the unique culture I’m now living in.
My two bosses, Mr. Peng (pronounced ‘pong’) and Mr. Wang were
very eager for me to start, giving me an office to myself (yes!), a
computer, and a pile of work within minutes. The editing is a challenge
for non-English major like me. I have over twenty years of practice with
English, and two years of entertaining ya’ll, so I know how the language
sounds, but confronted by an odd rule, like I was today, I’m a little
hesitant to set down a change.
I was editing a piece on Tibet that had what I felt were systematic
errors in punctuation. First of all, I learned, read, and though that when
three items were grouped together, as I just did at the beginning of this
sentence, there should be a comma after ‘read.’ Apparently not
in China. Also, like I just did at the end of the last sentence, a period,
or full stop as they call it, is inside the quotations. Again, not in
China. Hmmm. This is gonna be a challenge!
Though the pay is low (don’t ask!) I love the benefits. Some, like my
lunch today, are priceless. I was taken out for a massive meal with all
kinds of tasty Chinese dishes and I have two bags of leftovers to prove
it! Others, like the swank apartment I am getting in a ‘foreigner
compound,’ have their ups and downs depending on the day and hour.
From what I hear, I’ll be in line for official trips around China, where
my main task will be to eat and drink my way into history with the locals.
After two years of training in Russia, I think I can do that. Finally,
when my name appears on the masthead, watch out!, for I will be swelling
with pride at finally escaping the hell of the accounting back office, and
diving into the dodgy existence of professional journalism after four
years of trying.
Now all I got left is the hardest part, the work!