Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Twenty Years in China 

January 10th. Twenty years ago today I flew into Beijing from Los Angeles. The previous summer I had contacted the Oracle office in Singapore and asked them which universities in China they had an affiliation with. They said that they had an affiliation with all the software colleges. Up until they said that, I had not known that China even had software colleges.

China had seen the big IT sectors in Hyderabad and Bangalore where American software companies like Oracle and Microsoft had set up offices to do software engineering at a fraction of what it would cost them in Silicon Valley. China wanted to get in on some of that business, so they set up 35 software colleges to train sofware engineers who could compete in that market.

The timing couldn’t have been better. Up until that time, all I had seen by surfing the Internet was traditional university computer science departments. I don’t know anything about computer science, so I felt like a fish out of water just looking at those university web sites. But I had been teaching at a software college in Arizona for four years, and training online with Scholars.com for a year before that. So I had the kind of experience they were looking for in an environment where few people had experience as software trainers.

Beihang University was a top tier university in China. They did not accept any students who scored below the 98th percentile on the National Entrance Exam. So I was working with very bright people. All my anti-cheating measures I implemented were designed by my Chinese TAs, who didn't like cheating any more than I did. In addition, when I started at Beihang, I was using an online testing system from the University of Hawaii. One of my TAs proposed taking my material and building an in house testing system. At first I sort of brushed the idea aside. But later the University of Hawaii shut down that site, and all the tests I had created were destroyed. Fortunately Titan, my graduate TA, had taken the initiative to copy my tests. Most of them, anyway. I think I maybe had to redo a couple quizzes or something. It would have been much more horrible if he had not taken that initiative in spite of my dismissal. He was right and I was wrong.

1n 2009 I found out that Beihang University an upper age limit of 55 for foreign professors. Since I had come in January of 2004, my contract always ended in the middle of the year, which makes it hard to go directly to another job. But since I was already taking a class at a language school, I was able to get a six month visa from them, which took me to the summer. I then flew to San Francisco and got a one year tourist visa, so that I would not be forced to take the first job that came along. I left the foreign teacher’s dormitory and moved to a village in the western hills of Beijing.

Throughout that following year, I had ample opportunity to climb the liills and seek the face of God.

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