Transitions – out of China, into Oz

Here is a note to mark the end of twelve years in East Asia (China 1998–2000, South Korea 2000–2007, China 2007–2010). Well, I was indeed thrown out of China on the cue of turn­ing 65, regard­less of being awarded a PhD a few months before. My employ­ers in a joint Chi­nese-Aus­tralian ven­ture were inef­fec­tive (inert?) on this mat­ter in chang­ing the mind of China’s all-pow­er­ful and murky Pub­lic Secu­rity Burea. My stu­dents, at least, were indig­nant.  These links to a farewell note from one class, and from one stu­dent, can put this more elo­quently than I can. Here is a link to my farewell speech to the Mid­dle King­dom, which actu­ally never got made thanks to clever oblit­er­a­tion by a KTV party. In vain I made three short, shaky videos to prove that I wasn’t entirely decrepit: one in my class­room, Teach­ing is Fun; on a speech to grad­u­at­ing stu­dents, The Jour­ney of a Pas­sion­ate Skep­tic; one of me run­ning, Born 1945 and Still Run­ning Strong. Naive of course – no bureau­crat is inter­ested in actual real­ity. 

For the Chi­nese bureau­cratic machine a per­son is, by def­i­n­i­tion, ready to die at 65, so I have to do my 7 km runs and lift weights in Aus­tralia again. Now the Aus­tralian bureau­cratic machine pays me an auto­matic A$350 a week age pen­sion (which would be very nice in China) on con­di­tion that I don’t leave Aus­tralia for two years and don’t make any money (i.e. tax reduces the means-tested pen­sion). If I’d been, say, an unem­ployed alco­holic wife beater in a Syd­ney slum for years there would be no  prob­lem in pay­ing me the pen­sion any­where on earth. How­ever, I’ve wickedly been an expa­tri­ate, train­ing stu­dents to come to Aus­tralia and pay fees of $20,000 or so a year (all up, $16 bil­lion a year for Aus­tralia in that busi­ness). There­fore I must be grounded unless I go to a high cost “pen­sion rec­i­p­ro­ca­tion coun­try” like Japan or Amer­ica or Ger­many, all of whom nat­u­rally want work visas which would pre­sum­ably can­cel the pen­sion …. China, Hong Kong, Tai­wan, Viet­nam etc don’t qual­ify. What a mad world.

Aus­tralia is not such a bad place after all. Other peo­ple will kill to get here. The trou­ble is, even a basic apart­ment costs around A$350 a week any­where in this coun­try; then there’s the small mat­ter of eat­ing. Hmm. What I’ve done for now is to rent a room in a share house in Bris­bane. Had to decon­t­a­m­i­nate it by remov­ing all the owner’s prayers to her god, pasted about the walls, but she’s a good old stick. Unfor­tu­nately the house is for sale. I bought a small van to move stuff up from my mother’s house in Syd­ney. When all the drama is over, I can set­tle down to writ­ing a few books (some of the money mak­ing kind hope­fully). Still learn­ing Chi­nese, but that’s just being per­verse. Fancy get­ting that silly PhD. It’s only good for a punch on the nose in this tatty role of being a silly old bug­ger in Oz. Ce la vie as they say in the movies. Why can’t we just push the reset but­ton and start over again?

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