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?