TB in China, Update on Ray

Ray Mahoney lost his job and home in Guiyang due to a surprise diagnosis of Tuberculosis. Here is his update on what happened to him:

NOTE: His background post is here: Background

For an update on my tuberculosis, the public health department doctor I met with in October in Phoenix, AZ said he thought it was about a 25% probability I had tuberculosis.  There was definitely an anomaly in my lungs that looked liked TB, but with the various skin, sputum and blood tests all being negative for TB, he said it could be another bacteria causing it.  Fortunately it seemed that whatever it was did respond to the TB drugs, so he kept me on them.  My six month course of first four TB drugs, that dropped down to two after a couple of months (the two that were stopped were good at dealing with the TB bacteria that had developed drug resistance, but one was bad for the liver and the other bad for the eyes).  My TB medicine therapy will be complete in mid January.
Interestingly, in Phoenix a person came out to my home twice a week to give me these TB medicines and observe that I swallowed them.  Expensive administratively, but they said that in the big picture it was better than having patients stop taking the meds, which would be harmful to them personally and to society at large.  Compliance.
Two extensions of my original work visa in Guiyang was all I could get (the first extension was given when the paperwork hadn’t been completed by a new employer there, and the second was given as I was doing the TB therapy), so in August I went to Hong Kong to get a tourist visa.  Though the US consulate in Chengdu had recommended me not getting on the plane in July when the Guiyang immigration office was trying to get me out of China because of tuberculosis, by August the consulate said I could do air travel again after looking at my health records and the fact that I had started taking the TB medicines (patients are no longer contagious after about 10 days of taking the meds).  By August, too, the immigration office doctor also gave me a Chinese health check document that said it was okay for me to work in China again
As for my work, I’m now a teacher in northeast China at the Harbin Institute of Petroleum.  So instead of doing 12-15 year old middle school kids like I did for two years in Guiyang, I’m back to doing 18-22 year old college students.  Gosh, they’re tall here. Especially after Guizhou.  Interestingly, the petroleum majors’ English is better than the English majors.  It took higher scores on the college entrance test to get into the petroleum department than into English.
It was kinda a shocker to me in late August when I found it quite hard to find a job in Harbin (I was following a friend who is in college here).  But then, I was on a tourist visa, had the TB thing, had a teacher’s certificate but not a TESOL degree, and was old—57 years old.  Importantly, too, there were changes in policy: To change that tourist visa back to a work visa I had to return to my home country and apply for it from there.  Unfortunately a trip down to Hong Kong to change an L tourist visa to the Z work visa doesn’t work now.  So I had to spend the money on a trip back to the US.  It was a nice chance to spend time with my parents in Phoenix.  But my students in Harbin had me only for the beginning of the semester in September and early October, and then for a couple of weeks in December at the end of the semester.
What I thought would take six weeks at the most to get the visa stretched to seven weeks, and the return date for the cheap ticket I bought couldn’t, it turned out, be changed to a later one (bad China Southern Airlines).  So a friend bought me (then broke) a ticket back to China.  In fact, I almost couldn’t even get the work visa again because my employer in Guiyang during my second year of employment had put me into one of the schools they managed that didn’t have the right to employ a foreign teacher.  Such illegal employment is now supposed to make it impossible for foreign teachers to ever get the work visa again.
Anyway, everything has worked out and I’ve done a semester at this college and am on their paycheck (well, direct deposit) for the winter vacation. I’ve got my new passport (I had to renew it after ten years), and my work visa and residence permit should all be done by mid January.  My stuff in Guiyang is secure thanks to your [Jack Porter’s] efforts and financing, and yesterday I paid back rent for my place in Shanghai.  The day after tomorrow I leave for a January-February stay in Shanghai—the dorms in Harbin are totally empty during the school’s long winter vacation (from yesterday the room got much colder, and they’d charge me if I stayed the whole winter break here).
Unfortunately with the crackdown on foreign teacher’s employment, I can’t work for any other schools during this two month vacation, or do any part-time teaching at a school once the new semester begins.  Whether they’d catch me and expel me for paid private tutorial classes at a student’s home is unsure.  So I’ll have to make due with the 7,000 per month (6,880 after taxes) I get each month.
But much of my energy now is going into learning Chinese. I hope to pass the HSK-6 this June—I’ve failed on this test twice  🙁   .  And, thinking ahead for when I hit my 60s and may find it hard to find work as an English teacher in China (though maybe I could still work as a teacher in Taiwan), I may use this better Chinese to do something else here in China (business?) or in the US (work in an NGO dealing with China?, teach Chinese in an American K-12 school?).  I could also be a social studies teacher again in the US, or in an international school abroad.  Or maybe I could go somewhere in South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh—my Master’s degree concentration was in South Asia and in 1991 I did three months each of language study in Varansi / Banaras, India and Lahore, Pakistan).