House of Many Faces

Posted by in Book Cover Design, Publishing

Chinese colours…


Teach English and travel the world! Yeah we’ve all seen the adverts but what is the reality? Usually treading with extreme caution. This one has been difficult to birth due to my business with the blog, nevertheless two years late it is finally time to unleash this latest instalment of my peripatetic life on the world.

Written over several years in China and South East Asia, House of Many Faces, continues on from 2012’s Year Amid Winter. Having survived Istanbul, a move to Bangkok is thwarted by a natural disaster! Hence the move to the middle kingdom.

Airport rep: Where are you going?

Me: China.

Airport rep: China?

Me: Yeah, you know… Panda’s and stuff.

There I discover Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and a load of other curiosities both frustrating and fascinating which may be of use to any budding teacher or expat considering a move east. Let’s delve a little deeper, here’s an excerpt from the train journey to Beijing…

The train is more pokey than I imagine and the top bunk has little room to manoeuvre for me alone never mind any baggage. This is the beginning of many steep learning curves China would throw at me. My compartment mates are two Chinese Americans who are also the first of many to exude a generosity that my fellow countrymen can only dream of. 

Most of the trains inhabitants carry the kind of cheap pot noodles in round cartons that back in the UK you assume the Chinese wouldn’t touch with a barge pole, so it’s an eye opener to see they do embrace them with great abundance. 

There is some hot water in a silver furnace and a small table with three beds on either side; a bottom bunk – the most expensive, the middle one and mine, the top, the cheapest and most difficult to get into. I am near the ceiling and have trouble bending my body to place my bags which are being passed up to me by one of the others. 

There is no info on the train as to our location or the route we will take. I ask several times if the buildings outside are neighbouring Shenzhen but am told “no, still Hong Kong, China is big” they say. I can only agree as I expected HK to be a blip but it’s still going by outside a good 45 minutes into the journey. 

We do stop in Shenzhen but there’s not much to see before nightfall and the vast array of neon that calls Guangzhou home. It too stretches some considerable distance. A huge five storey plus building turns out to be nothing more than a fish restaurant and the night I spend trying to sleep is lost to periodic glimpses of villages outside with the excitement of a child at Christmas not quite believing that it’s the real China before me. 

It’s no secret I am a big fan of Shenzhen but the book also covers an ill fated move to Fuzhou, seeing Xiamen and travelling to Taipei where things don’t improve much but this is not a gloomy book it is a bit like life, a journey, some things don’t work out. Above all I hope it highlights what expat life is like in China.

And so it began… a life on the isle of limbo land. Quite why the Chinese are so bothered about Taiwan remains unclear; is it merely pride and territory? The wealth generated or the fact the departing emigres heisted a lot of artefacts from the mainland? 

There was a lot of uncertainty to grasp on this lost island. Why was it so bloody hard to find work and what was it with Asia and onward or return tickets! Some of those things are rooted in freedom and some in politics. The American’s are halting China marching into Taiwan, therefore the Taiwanese prefer American teachers, so my work was limited and my free time was vast, if a little stilted on the financial side. 

‘it never stops raining, it don’t make much sense’


Following Taiwan is Manila in the Philippines, then Guangzhou where I lived for many years. Further excursions to Phnom Penh and the epic journey from HCMC to Hanoi on the reunification line is also covered. Here’s another excerpt…

We set off and almost immediately traverse several sets of level crossings, seeing the lights of bikes and shops dazzle through the drops of windowpane rain means the night is less than dark. We cut up close and personal through communities. Many lives momentarily seen and gone forever. Some are preparing food, some are watching tv, some are dancing, some are staring back at the train and some are naked!

Dining car is carriage 1 a long walk from 9. Stewards periodically come round with shouts of cafe! Other carts include sweet corn and the kind of congee seen in China. Eventually this is expanded to rice and pork or chicken and soy sauce whether you want it or not. The train is bouncing around which makes sleep, getting to and using the urine perfumed toilet rather difficult. Only if you were having sex would this frenetic motion be an added bonus.


House of Many Faces comes in two versions (both electronic, pdf or epub). Standard book (red cover) of 24 chapters, and DELUXE version (grey cover) with additional material (25 chapters and Getting the House in Order – making of the book), imagery and graphic elements – see the screenshots above. Come inside…

Buy House of Many Faces here
*please note the imagery is only in the DELUXE version of the book.

China, welcome to the future!


Thanks for reading here, should you be interested in my work; principally writing, photography, and teaching, check out the MEDIA page, and/or the UNIVERSITY page for my teaching ethos. 

Meanwhile, stay tuned with things here at Kulture Kiosk via THE ATLAS or on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram where you can see some of my photos from around the world.

Playlist and Photo Credits to follow…

Honey Sweating – Polytown
Steppin’ Into Asia – Ryuichi Sakamoto
One Night in Bangkok – Murray Head
Take That to the Bank – Shalamar
Fresh News – Jean Michel Jarre
China – Huang Chung
Asian River – Brian Eno
Night in Shanghai – Jean Michel Jarre
Wishful Thinking – China Crisis
My Vision – Jakatta
Hot Summer – FX
Frosty the Snowman – Cocteau Twins
The Doctor – Dobbie Brothers
Lies (Tourist Mix) – CHVRCHES
Tai Shan – RUSH
Cambodia – Kim Wilde
Hello Like Before – Shirley Bassey

Photo Credits: Design and Imagery by KH