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Archive for December, 2009

Troubles @ Kai En

Posted by Peder on 28 December 2009

During my years in Shanghai I worked at a prominent English school called the Kai En English Training Center (凯恩英语培训中心).  At the time it was a model school in the city and across China.  It exemplified a successful joint venture between domestic and foreign owners, it utilized a highly-effective teaching model which was new in the Chinese market and it had begun to franchise across the city.  When I worked there, two schools operated at full capacity.  As recently as a couple years ago the same could be said of five locations.

But the good times have not lasted.  Pressures from the other language companies (notably English First, I’ve read) and the global recession have cut into Kai En’s profit margins.  The strong management upon which the school and brand grew splintered as the Shanghai-famous Ken Carroll became involved in ChinesePod and Praxis Language.

Unfortunately the bottom fell off Kai En earlier this month, making for a rough holiday season for a beleaguered faculty, administration and support staff.  The company had been under financial duress for some time (perhaps more than a year), but had been able to stay afloat.  Searches for additional investors panned and the ownership closed the doors and fled the country in a matter of days.  All employees were owed some amount of back wages, and the local employees had gone the longest without pay.

Photo: Kai En

Here are the sources I used:

  1. The initial collapse, as captured by Shanghaiist. (Their source at Shanghai Daily is closed to subscribers, but I read it last week and it’s pretty much just the B&W facts on the matter: Owners bailed and took everyone’s money.)
  2. A teacher’s open letter on the situation, also from Shanghaiist
  3. A longer update posted on Shanghaiist. This one is good because it includes commentary from a long-standing teacher, Kris Fedorak. His perspective is particularly illuminating. (Unrelated observation: We must have missed each other in the faculty lounge by mere months.)

This is truly a sad post for me.  My relationships with Kai En, Ken, Brian and Steve were never perfect, but over subsequent years I learned that they had treated me and my colleagues in a respectful, straight-forward manner.  Ken and I had fun conversations about language acquisition theory.  Brian and I debated the merits of pop music as lesson material and whether or not U2 was the greatest band ever.  Steve was part of an historic Chinese New Year’s party that happened to coincide with my 23rd birthday.  In those years the school was a dependable, trustworthy employer with a strong product, loyal students and a prominent position in the Shanghai scene.  It’s sad to see how far this has all fallen.

Here are some pictures I have with other Kai En faculty.

Zach and Angelina were my roommates as well

Cassandra was a Senior Teacher

Phil was a branch manager, here shown with his fiance, Amy

Posted in China | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

New Mixes

Posted by Peder on 7 December 2009

I’ve had some fun lately putting together some new music mixes. What do you think of them?

Zombieland
I started this mix after seeing the movie. It’s a collection of the best of what I listened to in the fall of 2009. Links go to the song’s Last.FM page.

  1. The Born Ruffians – I Need a Life
  2. The Avett Brothers – Kick Drum Heart
  3. Cloud Cult – Journey of the Featherless
  4. The Envy Corps – Rhinemaidens
  5. The Tough Alliance – Something Special
  6. Glas Vegas – Go Square Go
  7. The Magnetic Fields – California Girls
  8. David Byrne and Brian Eno – Strange Overtones
  9. My Morning Jacket – Dancefloors
  10. The Last Shadow Puppets – Age of the Understatement
  11. The Dodos – Fables
  12. Julian Casablancas – 4 Chords of the Apocalypse

Update: I replaced songs 6 and 7 with Raphael Saadiq’s Never Give You Up and Elbow’s An Audience with the Pope, respectively. No knock on the previous songs, I just like the inclusion of these artists.

Slow Ride to the Digital Age
I started this mix a couple years ago when a friend asked for some recommendations for low-fi and downtempo electronic music. I’ve recently updated it.

  1. Radiohead – Palo Alto
  2. The Notwist – Pick Up the Phone
  3. Lali Puna – Bi-Pet
  4. Yazoo (or Yaz) – Mr Blue
  5. Datarock – Computer Camp Love
  6. The Notwist – One With the Freaks
  7. Hot Chip – The Warning
  8. Imogen Heap – Hide and Seek
  9. Q Lazzarus – Goodbye Horses
  10. The xx – Islands
  11. Boards of Canada – Dayvan Cowboy
  12. Air – Alone in Kyoto

Posted in Music, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »