“The day my plane landed in Hong Kong in April of 2002, became the day of the birth of my life in China. It had to be akin to returning to the womb more than leaving it, as the intensity of the heat and humidity were beyond that of anything I could remember. The heat’s closeness, brought down in drapes by the water in the air, was exacerbated by another, strange, closeness—the crowds.
Fortunately, I was in my early 20’s, ready for anything, and was only minimally overwhelmed by the climate and crowds. The oddity of everything that was unfolding before me produced interplaying awe and anticipation and the two combined to expand my tolerance for this endless stream of strangeness. Luckily too, as my first night in the country was spent on the uncomfortable bunk bed of a bouncing overnight bus ride!
That jalopy bounced over the empty-night two lane roads of south China. My wide-open window gave me view of the karst mountain ranges of Guangxi province which, on this night, were backed by a rainless sky turned strobe-light. Lightning flashed continuously, transfixing the silhouettes of the mountains, yet, in my constant state of awe, those dark toothy towers were less ominous and more romantic.
Early in the morning the bus arrived in the well-known city of Guilin. Sounds of bamboo branches and their leaves, handmade into brooms by the same street sweepers then sweeping the 4 am streets, greeted me. It was a kind friend who had escorted me the entire way, and it was he that then introduced me to a Chinese friend of his in the apartment he was staying in. The sleepy, dream-like and broken English conversation we then had added just one more element to my first night in China, and to the near-complete confusion of my senses.
This confusion of the senses is to varying degrees part and parcel of venturing to any foreign country and culture. Often an unconscious desire, this fearless confusion can even be the main allure of a venture into the foreign. It is sensually experiencing en masse that which is so foreign and unprecedented that we are inspired simply by being pried-out of our normal way of sensing, thinking, speaking and acting. This type of confusing experience can involuntarily awaken us to the unknown, in life, and in self.”
My name is Alan Abrams and welcome to my website! Within is a personal exploration of China through the subjects of philosophy, education, healthcare and even a bit of business. This is largely an effort to extract and borrow from China’s immensely rich culture useful solutions for problems related to those subjects. This site is also an evolving record of my research, writings, Chinese language studies and my career, of which my CV can be found here.
After a few months of unceasing experience in the state of mind described in the above excerpt from my book I then transitioned into education and teaching. Currently I am teaching in Ji Mei University in the city of Xiamen, China, teaching courses in English as a second language, soft skills as well as traditional Chinese culture (TCC). Alternatively, I venture across the Taiwan Strait a few times a year to participate in bilingual English-Chinese language teacher training workshops for young adults and adults alike. These teaching ventures have also included many around the mainland of China, as well as once upon a big adventure to southern Vietnam. These were all taught solely in Mandarin Chinese of which I speak and read fluently.
In all honesty I did not start this career in education wholeheartedly, yet after a few years, and being around a few amazing teachers in the meantime, I eventually gave it my full focus, as has been the case here in China since 2002. One gem of the treasures of ancient Chinese wisdom that centered my focus on being an educator was: financially poor is tolerable, while poor in purpose is not. Despite the obvious importance of adequate finances it is a sense of meaningful purpose that not only cannot be bought but has been vital for me as an educator.
As a response to the needs of the young adults who have become my students in China, my aim as an educator has been the transmission of attributes that help to forge their fundamentals while honing their distinct skills. This is done to aid them in becoming respectful, purposeful, reliable, effective, creative and unique as they enter and develop upon their career paths. Respect and a meaningful sense of purpose lies a top the list of those attributes, while language and soft skills round out their fundamentals with practical hard skills.
Unorthodoxy clearly defines the development of my career in education as I have had no other training than being right in the thick of it since the very beginning, which not only informs unique points of views and ideas, but very vital experience in the field. It has given me opportunity to develop creatively. Besides my courses taught inside and outside of university, I used over two years of intensive work to co-create an innovative teaching system called Taja T2.
From this effort came an intimate and researched understanding of problems within and solutions to the modern classroom environment, as well as a number of innovative teaching techniques. The innovation is just one more part to my own unorthodox and substantial career development as an educator. The effect of which equals a healthy disruption that is tempered with the hallmarks of TCC: respect and propriety.
Getting out as early as possible in front of problems, is a pillar of my management, leadership and training style. This style of prevention helps the avoidance of crisis, leaving only smaller problems to deal with that are nearly always unavoidable. Within my own family and my classrooms early prevention is part of my style of leadership and training. As a husband and father and family co-leader, seeing situations early, such as a solid ethical education and creation of healthy habits in my child’s later life, begins first now by my own studying and application of ethical and healthy living. An “actions speak louder than words” approach prevents future problems and sets a leading example.
To prevent young adults from missing out on, or negatively hindering, being part of a company team, awareness and practice of respect and soft skills within the classroom is exemplified and emphasized. Engendering the understanding and habit to respectfully interact and communicate with leadership and colleagues first, instead of impulsively reacting or retreating into introversion that are both counterproductive, appropriate response for the sake of the company team moving forward is concentrated on.
And essentially, it all relies on personally embodying what is being transmitted when leading. I am not perfect to say the very least, but I constantly endeavor to improve myself through holistic hard work, and that inevitably inspires my family, students and teams.