Saturday, August 20, 2011

All the Deets

Now for the details.

I will be in Qingdao, China ( for two years. I will be able to come back in the summers, but for the most part, China is where I will be during the school season. There is a twelve hour time difference in Qingdao, so add twelve hours to whatever time it is here in the east coast and that’s what time and date it will be in Qingdao. I will be in the future, so if you want to know what it’s like, I can give you a twelve-hour heads up.

Since there is such a large time difference, live communication will be somewhat difficult, I could most likely only talk to people in America during my nighttime, which would be your morning, or the opposite if it’s not a school day. The best way to contact me would be to e-mail me or talk to me over Skype.

But there are rules.

The Chinese government pretty much checks everything sent over the internet, encrypting helps (which I am going to do) but it doesn’t totally prevent it. So if you want to e-mail me, what you can do, for the few days I’m still in the states is you can call me or send me a Facebook message asking me for my e-mail address. The reason I am doing this is because I need to make sure the people that want to contact me are competent individuals. And one of the reason for this is the Chinese government’s restrictions about religion. They have freedom of religion, but they don’t really have freedom to express that religion publicly, i.e. the internet. So when referring to things like prayer, God, the Bible and all things religious you have to use code. Yes, I’m serious. So you might say “Hey Clay, I’ve been talking to my dad about you and he thinks you’re doing great. I’m definitely thinking about you often.” It’s one of those “better safe than sorry” things. Because I can’t just have everyone willy nilly sending me e-mails, because someone would not read this and things might happen. So if you want to e-mail, or to Skype, that’s great, but I need to know.

At this point you might be wondering how I could update this blog if I’ve already talked about God and his will and camp and all that jazz. This is my introductory post on my blog I never really update, and at the end I will link you to the blog I am going to keep up to date when in China. At the moment the commenting is disabled for the same reason as the e-mail thing. For the most part many of you will just observe.

If for some reason you want to snail mail me something, that is totally fine, just send me an e-mail and I can send you back the address along with rules about customs etc.

Now it’s looking like I’ll be leaving on Friday the 26, or Saturday, which means I only have a week or less here in the good ole United States. The Flight is about 24 hours, so I will have a good amount of time to read, watch movies, sit, read and watch movies.

I can’t really think of anything else for today, I guess if you have questions you can post them in the comments area on the blog or on Facebook and I’ll do my best to answer them.

The link to the blog is

Friday, August 19, 2011

Clay is going to China.

There is a question that gets asked often once you have graduated from college. I mean…really often. Oh it can come in many forms, the clear cut “So do you have a job yet?” or the casual “How’s the job market treating you?” and so on. It’s usually met with an answer of “Yeah, this job market is rough” when I tell them that I’m a substitute teacher and have been looking for work. The truth is, the job market is tough, but it really depends on your outlook.

Okay, not really, because when you are interviewed for a job and it went really well but you still didn’t get the job, well, that sucks. It’s also rough, like the job market. But if you look in the right places, and couple that with a copious amount of prayer, sometimes God will land you a crazy job that you never really thought you would get.

Here is the short of it: I got a job to teach classes in English at a school in Qingdao (pronounced Ching-dow [in a Chinese accent if you wish]) China. Yes, China. Yup, that China. If this comes as a shock to you, well, then it is, because it’s pretty much a shock to me as well. Let me explain to you my journey that led me to how I got the job. And it is a journey.

It started way back in October of 2010, during my semester of student teaching at Woodstock High school. I received one of the many “spam” e-mails to my KSU e-mail account and was about to delete it until I read the subject, which read: “Would you like to teach in Japan?” and I said to myself “Yup!” I mean, have you seen some of the wacky crazy stuff that comes out of Japan? You must be thinking at this point: Clay, Japan is not China. (Don’t worry, I know). What they don’t tell you though about the arduous application process to the JET program is that there is a pretty dang small chance that you’re going to get accepted. Thousands of people from all around the world apply every year and they accept only a few. I sent my application in in October, and wouldn’t hear back until February. Once February rolled around I was eagerly awaiting how I might find out whether or not I was going to make it to the interview process. I received a card in the mail with a six digit number on it. My number. I was to go online and look through all the number they “accepted.” If mine was there, I was in. If it wasn’t, well, then I wasn’t. Well, I looked, and sure enough, I wasn’t. I didn’t get it. With hopes of teaching in Japan dashed I continued my “career” of substitute teaching at Cherokee High school.

In March (I think) my friend Derek, who teaches Spanish, convinced me to go to a teacher career fair a the KSU career services center. I totally didn’t want to go, but I figured that as a “responsible” adult, and being in the real world, that I should go. So I went, dressed in my sporty sport coat and waded through the multitudes of perspective teachers and their perspective employers. At this point I had really had enough with hearing about Cobb county and Cherokee county and all this school system drama about what is better, about the schools, about pensions yadda yadda. I wasn’t really interested. Until I saw a booth for teaching in China. I said in my mind: “Hey, that’s like teaching in Japan, but in China!” So I walked up to the booth and talked to the girl who was there for about fifteen minutes (no one else was at the booth or in line to be at the booth like every other booth in the building). I was prepared in asking her questions, questions I didn’t know I needed to know the answers to until I looked pretty thoroughly into the Japan thing. I took a flier and when I got home I started the application process to the International Schools in China. ISC, as the name implies, is an international school system with Christian values that teaches, in English, to international (not Chinese) students. This sounded much better than teaching English to Japanese kids. Since the school is Christian (Protestant) based they asked a lot of essay questions in the application, I’m talking like 16 pages in a word document long. So I did that, and in the whole process there were about 7 steps that required time for review between each step. Well, as I gradually climbed the stairs, so did my hope. I prayed about it a lot, asking that God’s will would be done. That I didn’t want to do anything he didn’t want me to do.

Everything was going really well until I got a call from David, the guy at ISC, telling me that they wanted to hire me (sure they did) but they had just filled the position with someone who had finished the application process before I did. Just my luck. I mean, I started it after I saw the booth at the fair, how was I supposed to have done it any faster.

Holstering my semi-bitterness at investing a lot of time, hope and mental energy into two international teaching positions I was pretty down. I continued substitute teaching until summer started. Subbing was good because it gave me many great opportunities to hone in my classroom management skills. It also gave me an in at Cherokee High School. I talked to the principal the day before I left to work at Camp Highland this summer and she told me that there would be at least one job opening for an English teacher. Sweet! I figured that since I was buddies with a few of the English teachers, and that a bunch of the kids claimed to love me, and that I was never late and always came in when they called would give me a good boost above other perspective teachers. So during camp I shaved my man beard off and donned a shirt and tie for my interview. It went really well. I mean, pulled out, I mean, came up with great answers to all the principal’s questions and wasn’t nervous or anything.

Two weeks and three phone calls after the one week I was quoted for receiving word about my interview my mom called me telling me I got a letter in the mail from Cherokee. Great, I’m sure they send all their new teachers letters telling them they got the job. So she opened it over the phone and shared the news we both knew: I didn’t get the job. I prayed that if God didn’t want me to have the job that I wouldn’t get it, but if He did want me to get it, then I would. I just wanted to follow what he wants for my life, even though that can be hard. So this was the third “no” in a row from three places I though in my hopelessly romantic mind that I actually thought I would get hired at.

So I had to share the bad news with all the staff back at camp. That I didn’t get the job.  A bunch of them had prayed for me and for my job, so it was tough to have to break the news. I felt like I was somehow letting them down. They had all told me how great of a teacher I would be. But, at that point, in July, I wasn’t going to be a teacher at all.

I talked with Gavin, one of the full time staff at camp, about interning during the fall. Since I didn’t have anything lined up, except for more subbing probably, I figured I might as well spend time in the mountains being outside and surround myself with other people who love God. So I sat down with him and we worked out the preliminary details of what I would do in the fall.

Three days later, on July 21 I check my phone, which had previously been living in my duffle bag in the “off” mode (Phones do have that by the way) and I had a voicemail. It was David, the guy from ISC. I really wasn’t sure why he was calling, especially so late in the summer. He asked in the message if I had found a job yet and if I was still interested in teaching in China. I still was. To be honest, I felt like God was calling me to teach outside of the US for some time.

In God’s infinite humor I had received that message on the 23rd (technically) at 2am. A Saturday. That morning I called and the office was closed. So I had to wait till Monday to find out what the heck he was talking about. I told Gavin about the call and how I thought it was God opening a door for me after so many had been closed. I think sometimes we stand for so long at a closed door, the object of our fleshly desires, and try to force it open with hope and longing. But sometimes all it takes is letting that go and walking away, and the second you turn around you hear a creak, look back and the door is wide open with a welcome mat out front. I had literally given up on teaching anything in a school as my Fall job. It was too late.

But it wasn’t. On Monday I called ISC asking for David and the secretary told me he was in a meeting, that he would have to call me back (ahhh more waiting). Monday is the day campers come and our summer staff does this really cool song where I may or may not have performed a rap. I kind of needed to be there for it, so I knew when she told me he would call me back that it would be right before the intro. I was so right, so I told David I would have to call him back. He understood and I got a hold of him a few minutes later.

He told me about another school, near the one I had originally applied to, that was looking to hire a teacher for their high school. I told him I was interested, despite the fact that some of the classes he told me I would be teaching were not in my subject area. But I know that God opened this door, so I had to step through on faith that He will provide, and I know he will.

David forwarded my information to Bonnie, the person at the school that I would be in communication with. David said I might have to fill out their application and might need to do my references again. I knew we were on a time crunch, and the thing about references is that they are people. They are busy and have to take time out of their day to fill out a pretty good sized survey about me. So sometimes that takes time. This kind of made me worry a bit.
Then I got an e-mail from David saying that they would accept the application and references I did for ISC only three months previous. Wahoo! A small victory. I applied for a job three months previous that I didn’t even know existed.

A few days later I got an e-mail from Bonnie saying that she looked over my application materials and that I look like I would be a good fit and that we should have a phone interview. I called her the next day, before our weekly rafting trip down the Middle Ocoee, and had an hour and a half long phone interview in the middle of the Whitewater Express camping area amidst someone playing the electric guitar and multiple people always screaming. It was thoroughly exhausting. Bonnie told me that she didn’t have any qualms about offering me the job and told me I could take a few days to pray and think about it. I told her that God had opened a door and that I had been praying about it for a pretty good while. So when, after our raft trip, I received her e-mail offering me the job, I sent her one right back accepting it. I didn’t talk to my family or anything until after. Woops. But not really.

My mom was sad to be losing “her baby” to another country, but told me that she had been praying that I would get a teaching job in the fall. She did, however, omit the country in which that job would take place.

Since the end of camp, only a few days after I sent Bonnie my e-mail I have been in a constant flurry of filling out paperwork. One thing I didn’t know was that even though I accepted the job that that didn’t mean I was guaranteed the job. The Chinese government has the last say in that matter when I applied for my Visa. You see, they are very picky about what is on a person’s resume and how much teaching experience they have etc. So there was still a chance that I could be denied this position. That would be the ultimate closed door. Something I ardently prayed for, asking God to give me this job only if that is what he wanted me to do.

That is honestly one of the harder prayers I’ve ever prayed. Because it’s Biblical. I shouldn’t ask for what I want all the time, and God doesn’t really owe me anything. I can only ask that my will would align with his and I believe that when our will is in harmony is when He can do his greatest work. So even though I was literally saying “God, if you don’t want me to have this job, then don’t give it to me.” I knew deep down inside this is where He wanted me. I also felt deep inside that I could still not get the job. And after “letting down” all the people at camp I made sure to tell them there was still a chance it wouldn’t happen.

So, for the past two weeks I have been patiently and anxiously awaiting news of whether or not my Visa materials had made it through the three different levels of Chinese government facilities. I am happy to say that I successfully made it through all three and am for sure going to teach in China. I still have some paperwork to submit stateside to finalize my Visa, and it looks like I am going to be leaving on August 29 of this year. Yes, I know that is soon, but that’s just how God worked it out.

The funny thing about working at a camp is that when I told one person about my interview and accepting the job, about thirty more knew within an hour. However, all of their positive encouragement helped with my looming pessimism, realism, or whatever you want to call it. For you, whoever you are in relation to me as you read this, it is probably your first time hearing that I applied to teach in China or that I got accepted or that I am actually going. And part of that was not wanting to tell the world and have to face “letting the world down” like when I didn’t get the job at Cherokee. But now I get to tell you all about my blessed opportunity.

Just to recap, incase you missed all the cool connections. Applying to Japan put in my heart a tangible desire to teach abroad. Subbing strengthened my teaching. Applying to the first job in China got me the second job, both with contact with David and all my application materials. Getting rejected from Cherokee prevented me from signing a contract when this opportunity would have come along. And working at Camp Highland this summer strengthened my walk with Christ more than any time in my life. And if you were a part of that family, I sincerely thank you for being an awesome person this summer and for seeking God over yourselves.

Wow, that was long. Thanks for reading if you did. I am going to post here later some more logistical details of my stay in China. So stay tuned.

Monday, February 28, 2011


Inspiration is a funny thing. It’s this invisible force that can have an immense power over our mind and bodies. The only thing about it is that inspiration can only work if it reaches a critical level that warrants action. I like to think of it as a pot of water that’s on the stove. You can turn the flame on full blast but the water has to slowly come to a boil. But once its shooting bubbles to the surface you can have that same flame keep the water boiling until it all evaporates.

The problem that I encounter sometimes is that the water just gets warm. There’s no boil, so nothing really gets done. I’m sure that has happened to you at one point in your life. You want to do something, but you just don’t have the patience or endurance to allow that flame to bring your ideas to a boil.

The cool thing about inspiration though is that it’s contagious. If my water is boiling at full steam (pun intended) then I can pour some of my water into your pot to help you along. And hey, I still have boiling water left over.

I guess this whole metaphor, which has dragged on, was brought about by me writing my first novel. I stole inspiration from Stephen King’s book On Writing, which I talk about in my second blog post. But I had to get off my butt and write the dang book, which was no easy feat. And if you’ve never written anything you actually care about, because let’s be honest, no one, not even I care about the papers I write for school, then you don’t know what it’s like to have multiple drafts. The thing is with writing, you want it to be perfect for your reader.

One of my friends heard that I had written a novel from another friend, and he wanted to read it. I warned him that it was a rough draft and to not expect greatness. After he was finished reading it he told me that it had inspired him to write something of his own. I don’t know if he will follow it through or not, but the cool thing is is that I inspired him.

Now things get really weird. I inspired him. This inspired me to want to inspire others in the same way. So that’s what I’ll try to do now. Really. If you have something you want to do in life. Something you want to write, paint, sculpt or whatever. Just do it. No one is holding you back. Don’t care what other people think until it’s finished. Don’t let yourself convince yourself out of doing something before you try.

Instead try, and let other’s convince you of how proud they are of your choice.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

New shoes.

I guess if I posted more consistently then I wouldn't have to worry about cramming a whole bunch of nonsense about my life into one agonizingly long post. So I'll give you the run down (yeah that's right Jim Halpert): the Japan thing didn't work out, I graduated, I am doing some subbing, I have been spending an inordinate amount of time with friends.

But let me tell you about my new shoes. I finally gave in. After a few years of looking on curiously from the outside, I purchase for myself a pair of Vibram Five Finger shoes. But before this gets out of hand and I start sounding too much like Antony Sullivan let me tell you why I like them so much.

I think the first thing to note is that VFF allow you to experience the sensation of being barefoot without the hassle of nasty crusty feet. Okay, that might not be how they say it, but it's what they mean. The thing that really drew me to the shoes was the fact that it isn't just another shoe. It is going to change how you walk. How you run. It changes the whole mobile experience by taking humans back to their uninhibited barefoot roots. And I like that.

I wish that all products were like that. A pen that allows me to not have hideous handwriting. A car that would make me forget I was in a car.

But what are the mental and spiritual implications of this? Can we change things in our lives that renew our mind and spirit to remind us what life is really supposed to be like instead of giving into the new fads of thought and religion?

What can I do to make my life more barefoot?

Monday, November 29, 2010

What is the Point?

The whole reason behind the creation of the blog is pretty simple. I am trying to do, or am doing many things at one time. Hence the aspiring something part. As to what I am aspiring to be, well, that can only be found out over time.

Whether or not anyone besides myself follows this blog is actually irrelevant. It would be cool if they did, don't get me wrong, but for the most part I am using this as a kind of e-journal that other people can read if they want to get a feel of what is going on in my life. I mean, have you ever had someone ask you "How's life going for you?" or from someone you haven't talked to in a few years: "What have you been up to?" Well wouldn't life be a lot easier if they just secretly stalked me and read this blog? Yes. Yes it would. But if they don't then that is cool too.

So, what have I been up to? Well let's see. I think I'll just make me a list and possibly elaborate upon what's been going on.

  • My college major is Secondary English Education. That means I want to teach High School English classes.
  • I am almost done with student teaching. I have one week left with my 130 juniors.
  • I will graduate from college on December 14.
  • I applied for an overseas teaching position in Japan. ("You did WHAT?!" Keep reading)
  • I am applying for a teaching job locally as well.
  • I have written a young adult novel and am working on getting it published.
  • I've written a short story too, and might start back on an older one soon.
  • I can juggle
  • I'm really kind of just kidding about the juggling thing. I can juggle, but that "skill" doesn't warrant being on this list of autobiographical factoids.
  • I really don't know what my future holds. But God does, and He seems like He's got His head on straight, so I'll try and do what He wants me to do. 
So here is where I will answer your "What?!" questions. I received an e-mail from some random education professor on campus, one whose e-mails I frequently deleted because they were annoying. But this one said "Want to teach in Japan" and I said "Yes!" but no one heard me. As it turns out you can't just yell at your monitor and expect to be teaching in Japan. So I filled out the arduous application. I would be assisting a teacher in teaching the English language to students who could be elementary age all the way up to high school. Do I know Japanese? Nope. But you don't have to to apply. If they like what they see in my application they will ask for an interview. I'll find that out in February. If that happens, and goes well, you can plan on not seeing me in person for at least a year starting in July of 2011. If that doesn't happen, and I don't get the call I'll be okay with that. Will I be disappointed? Yeah, I will be. But like I said, the man upstairs knows way more than I'll ever know, and He's got my back. So wish me luck with that endeavor.

"You wrote a novel?" Yeah, I did. I started writing it in Septemberish of 2010. It was inspired from a monologue piece I wrote for my "Teaching Writing to Adolescents" class I took at Kennesaw State. It turns out that what I wrote was a horrible monologue, but it was a pretty cool piece of narrative. After reading Stephen King's novel, entitled On Writing, I found out that if I could write at least 1,000 words per night then I could easily write a normal length novel in a few months. So, inspired by the first line of that monologue: "My blood is the cure." I started writing. I wrote every night (except when I went backpacking) and 64 days later I had written my first draft topping out at around 94,000 words, or 220 page word document (12 point font 1.5 spaced). I know, I was impressed too. I didn't think I could do it either. And the cool thing is, some people tell me it's kind of good. So I've sent off a query letter to a literary agent to see about representing me in the brutal publishing market. I expect to get rejected, but that is the nature of getting something published. I read somewhere that one in twelve agents will like what you're selling them. I'd rather be pleasantly surprised than crestfallen. I'm optimistic, but not to the point where I'm not realistic.

If you think these things are out of the ordinary you are wrong. They aren't. My transient motivation was what was really out of the ordinary. I guarantee you that if you got off Facebook and all the video games you play and stopped watching television that you too could write a novel if you so chose. It is in the choosing that decides the fate of what we do. And if you are suddenly inspired to write, go buy On Writing and read the section entitled "On Writing" (the rest of the book is primarily an autobiographical journey through Stephen Kings life and his affinity for writing, which is interesting, but not as pertinent to writing as the aforementioned section). If you are inspired to teach overseas or to apply for that job you've always wanted, then go do that. You have to stop making excuses. Aspire to be something.

Now off to grade some essays. By the way, it seems like the only time I get things done is when I am procrastinating doing something I want to do less. In this case, I would rather make this first long post than grade those essays. But now that I'm done with this, it's off to that.

If you like what you read and want to follow me than please do, more followers might motivate me to keep up with this ;)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

First Post

When I have something worth writing about, and someone to read it then I will get on it.