The Road to China
Good morning, all.
This is Gary Friedman again, recruitment director for One Year Adventure. I'm back in America now, and am interested to hear about how each of you are doing. I did hear some stories about the training program (which commenced just after I left Beijing), and frankly I am interested in hearing your take on that as well. Positive, negative, constructive, whatever...
Many thanks for your time and honest feedback. (I also want to hear about how your teaching experience is going!!!)
how nice of you to take a sudden concern for us after making yourself conveniently unavailable days before we arrived on the other side of the world at your bequest.
i would like to respond to your inquiry, but will preface what i have to say with that it's a good thing you didn't ask us three weeks ago because im sure you would have received many a profanity-laced reply.
first, i am fine thank you. that's the generic response i am teaching my students to say when asked 'how are you.' it could mean anything from 'i'm doing well!' to 'f*** off!'. in this instance, it's a little of both.
for truth be told, were it not for your craigslist posting i would most likely not be in china today, but no thanks to your (dis)organization, it has not been easy. those of us remaing in china like to call your little business the one WEEK adventure. [Blah blah blah blah blah blah.]
i will end my letter to you by saying that I perhaps more than anyone else feel most f****d over by you and bob loren, for in addition to spending several days perfecting my questionaire, it was i - when doubt started to surface by phoenix et all - it was i who told everyone to have faith. i told everyone to trust you, to go with it. perhaps if i had not been so encouraging, some of us would not have had to suffer said ordeal. in fact, two of us returned to the u.s. shortly after, disenchanted and violated by the whole experience. that sucks. i'd say you owe them AT LEAST their air fair. hell, you might even be getting a small-claims summons from them. but either way, that's YOUR karma to deal with.
[Teaching Recruit #1]
Wow. Well, I do appreciate the response. Does everyone else feel the same way?
[Teaching Recruit #2] : Yup!
[Teaching Recruit #3] : Pretty much.
[Teaching Recruit #4] : What he said.
[1 Day later...]
Dear One Year Adventure team,
I had received some mild reports from Brian and Victor early on, but I had no idea that my colleagues had so completely dropped the ball that it would cause this much anger among all of you. It took me this long to respond simply because I did not know how to respond -- I was quite unprepared to learn that things had gone so badly. Let me start with two very, very important statements, and then I will rattle on for a bit longer:
1) I TAKE FULL AND PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR WHAT HAPPENED. You acted boldly based solely on what I had promised you and what I thought my team could deliver. If I had any idea that the "pull" from the schools would not be arranged or that the training experience would have been as bad as you report, I never would have joined the organization and I never would have encouraged anyone to come to China under our program.
2) Because I feel personally responsible for what has happened, I AM OFFERING TO REIMBURSE EACH OF YOU YOUR ROUND-TRIP AIRFARE. (This offer is from ME -- Not from Bob, and not from the business.)
Please keep in mind that none of us (me in particular) ever intended to defraud or misrepresent the program to you. I knew Bob as an outstanding teacher and he was the one who helped me get a job when I landed in Beijing jobless. When we agreed to start an organization that would do things better (yes, that really was the intent!), each of us took on a mission-critical assignment: I was in charge of recruitment, Jack was in charge of marketing to the schools and formalizing the company, and Bob was in charge of fundraising, and logistics and training for the teachers. All three of us had to succeed at our tasks for the organization to work.
It turns out that not all three tasks were accomplished in time. On Feb. 11th we realized it would take longer to set up the company than we originally thought, which meant we could not issue the letter of invitation to get the working visas early (among other things). Bob sent an email to everyone saying this (duplicated below for those of you who claim to never have seen it); what it meant was that we would be making no money from this endeavor this semester, but we would take care of you using the investment fund. Bob was also tasked with arranging dorm rooms and a classroom for training for each of you, which apparently wasn't as easy to arrange as we had thought.
Anyway, I guess a part of me is explaining all this because I feel a need to get a tad bit defensive. None of this matters now; the fact is I did my job and behaved as professionally as I could, and the rest of my team was not able to follow through. I am very upset (probably not nearly as upset as you) about the way things turned out, and as a result I have ceased working for OYA and I have also gutted their website. At the end of the day all we have is our credibility, and I feel as if I have severely crippled mine by representing an organization which, it turns out, could not deliver.
To each of you who went to China based on my word, I wish to make amends for my team's shortcomings by offering to personally reimburse your roundtrip airfare. (This would be in addition to whatever reimbursements you may get from your schools.) It probably cannot compensate for what you went through, but I feel it is the right and just thing to do for those that had taken just a huge leap of faith. Please let me know the amounts and the payment method / address preferred, and I will make it happen.
Former Recruitment Director
And that, my friends, is how our little business venture ended up. It took several weeks of haggling before settlement amounts were agreed upon by all, and then the checks were FedEx'd out.
Someone once said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I think my experience can be used as a good example. Although clearly the demand is there and is not being fulfilled well, I believe I shall stick with less 'bleeding edge' ventures in the future. One thing that I have learned is that, no matter how much you plan and work to achieve that plan, sometimes the universe has other ideas in mind. You never know what the future has in store.
A Happy Ending
I returned to America in March 2004, and here it is July, 2005. Much has happened since then. I still keep in touch by email with some of my students. A business opportunity in Nevada went bust. I wrote a book on the Minolta camera I used to create this weblog, and has received rave reviews. Income from my web-based businesses is picking up, and I'm spending more of my time implementing Constraint Theory (www.ConstraintTheory.org) in software. Life is slowly returning to 'normal', although I'm not sure what that is.
Oh, and remember all those marriage proposals I had turned down while in China, because I was holding out for the 'real thing'? Well, I found her. Her name is Carol, she is a wonderful person and has a kind heart, and we just came back from our honeymoon a few days ago.
My friends tell me that China will be my last great 'hoorah', since being married tends to tie one down and prohibit the kind of free-for-all adventure I had experienced. Frankly, I disagree. Carol has a true spirit of adventure (she and I are planning to visit Nome, Alaska during wintertime for the iditarod race), and besides, there is no greater adventure than being 45 and getting married for the first time.
You never know what the future has in store!
Inner peace to one and all,
July 12, 2005
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