an end, and a beginning

After 11 years living and teaching in China, I’m calling it quits. My dog and I have a reservation on a flight from Hong Kong to Chicago on Friday, June 30. Yes, I’m returning to my home country – even with Trump in office, even with the unpredictable job market, even with all my misgivings about making the move. I’ve stayed on in China for an extra year, after mandatory retirement from my last teaching job, to give me time to reflect on what I really want from my life, and to research the international job market for teachers. It’s been a pleasant year, living in an isolated, semi-rural environment, making occasional weekend trips to Hong Kong, and working out religiously at a local gym. The end result: I’ve decided to re-invent myself. Again.

For a couple of months now I’ve felt stuck between two cultures. I’m in a no-man’s-land, neither fully in China nor in America. I’m returning to the USA with no job and no place to live. I’ve had second, and third, thoughts about spending my savings to start a new life rather than investing it in a retirement account. I vacillate between terror and optimism, thinking of the opportunities I will have in  my native culture but then enumerating the things I will miss about China.

I have always taken risks. At age 50, I began a new career as a teacher, after 25 years of working in nonprofit arts organizations. I moved to a country about which I knew virtually nothing, and learned to teach as I went along. I managed to pick up a second masters degree in teaching academic English, taught at three universities, worked for the British Council as an IELTS examiner, and did occasional private tutoring. Now, I feel as if I’m getting ready to jump off a new cliff.

I’ve been planning how to make the landing as soft as possible. First, the dog and I will need a home. Then, I’ll need work. My plan is to create my own job as a freelance private tutor in English and academic writing. I will look for other teaching jobs, and have one possibility as an advisor for Chinese students studying in Chicago.

I plan to work on my writing and photography skills. I hope to be able to take courses in bookbinding and papermaking, things I have wanted to pursue for about 20 years. I am even open to office jobs, or working in the nonprofit arts field again. The possibilities for a new life are numerous, but it also be the first time in 20 years that I’ve been unemployed. At age 61 that’s a frightening prospect.

I will continue this blog, although my writing will take new directions. I haven’t lived in Chicago since the early 1980s, so adjusting to the city and the American culture will be a handful. Wish me luck.



  1. Jody Jackson

    Oh my goodness Roger! I wish you all the best! If you ever want to revisit Los Angeles, I have a comfortable guest suite and you (as well as your dog) are welcome.

    Safe travels!


  2. Rodney porteous

    Rodger, Thank you for your blog,very informative!

    I’m looking for advice and thank for any you can provide.

    I am 50 years old and I hold a BA from an accredited university, I also have held a long position incorporate America managing over three million in assest for clients and intend arraign a teal (or some variety soon. I’m very comfortable with adapting to china based on my trial travel. I lived for two years in Germany, I have visited Ireland, Holland, France, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Croatia, India,Cambodia and china. I’m very comfortable in foreign countries,

    I have read that one you hit 50 it is very difficult to find work. Any advice or suggestions?

    1. Post

      I am leaving China since the job market virtually evaporated once I turned 60. You can still work in some provinces of China after age 60, but not in the most desirable or high-paying positions. After 60 I was able to obtain a teaching job here that paid less than US $10,000 a year, so that gives you some idea. I am moving to the USA, where age discrimination will pose a problem in my profession. My only advice is to be tenacious, and don’t give up. If possible, create your own freelance career, or be willing to live on your savings while searching for employment in a new country. Best wishes.

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