Sunday, September 11, 2011

Visa Trip to Hong Kong

Bob the Frink and JJ always used to joke that I have the gift of being able to charm anyone into doing what I want using my Chinese. I used that this last week, I discovered that the Chinese visa officer was Chinese and not Hong Kong (meaning she speaks non accented fluent Chinese) and used it to my advatnage. When I went to Hong Kong to get my visa the lady had an exchange that went something like this:

(English / Chinese)
[China] "You're missing a form"
[Wildling King] "Oh really? What is it?"
[China] "It's a blue form. Do you have a blue form?"
[Wildling King] "I don't have anything blue, what is the name of it?"
[China] "It's the Workers Expert Approval Permission of Foreign Working Permissory Certification for Foreign Workers Permission Form."
[Wildling King] "I don't know that, do you mean the (switch to Chinese) working permit"
[China] "Yes, the working permit"
[Wildling King] "No, I don't have one of those. I was told I don't need it."
[China]"You don't need it? Are you sure?"
[Wildling King] "Yes, it's strange really. I got my Z visa and worker's permit with no problem the last 2 years, but this year they said I was too young. Isn't that silly? Will in any case, they said with my new company I just need an F visa, so I don't even NEED the worker's permit."
[China]"Is that right?"
[Wildling King]"Yes, I don't need it."
[China] "Are you sure?"
[Wildling King] "Yes."
[China] "Well okay then" *stamps documents and proceeds to approve my passport* "Come back tomorrow to pick it up! Thank you."

I walked away thinking, "Did that really work? Did I just tell the visa officer what the rules were for getting a visa and tell her what she could accept?". It was unreal hilarious in retrospect. I checked the rules, and I was right about not needing it for an F Visa, but that doesn't change how hilarious it was when she looked at me full of self-doubt and said "Oh is that right? Oh okay *stamp stamp*, come back tomorrow!"

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Now in Ningbo

I have changed cities. No longer am I in scenic Hangzhou, and with a change of residence I feel it is appropriate to start to try and update this again.

I am now in Ningbo, a city to the east of Hangzhou and the south of Shanghai. It makes a triangle of distance the likes of San Antonio, Austin and Houston.

Our new apartment is much bigger than our old, an increase from ~45 square meters to almost 80 square meters. We were trying to find a one bedroom, one living room, one kitchen, one bathroom place like our previous apartment, but those types of apartment are uncommon in the area of Ningbo we are living in. We ultimately settled on a 2 bedroom apartment with fantastic renovations rather than a duplex, and the new place is fantastic. Here is the video we took when we were still moving in, hopefully I'll remember to film a new updated one in the next few days.

House Tour

Ningbo itself is a city zoned for economic development, and the district we are in is the newly developed Yinzhou District. As a result, everything is very big and westernized rather than the traditional cramped style you see in most Chinese cities. Downtown Ningbo is still cramped, but the district we live in is much more spacious. We have a big western style mall right near us, and I can't wait until Harry Potter comes to China so I can go see it on the huge IMAX theater in the mall. One difference Ningbo has that Hangzhou doesn't are the giant tricycle taxis. Old men on giant three wheeled bikes (tricycles) ride around looking for customers to taxi about; it's pretty fantastic. We've got some videos of our first trips around the neighborhood on these tricycles. We have our motorbikes here now, so we sadly don't ride on these anymore.

Neighborhood Tour 1
Neighborhood Tour 2
Neighborhood Tour 3

The new job is very rewarding, though the office is far too professional for me to feel comfortable doing anything foolish yet. I'd like to stand up and reenact the Will Ferrell "I am a strong man! I dare any of you to take a run at me!", but I strongly doubt that any of my coworkers would run in to fight me with a trident.

Our office is located in a giant building known as the 广播贸易中心 (Guangbo Maoyi Zhongxin - English name to come later). On our first day in Ningbo we came to see the building, and on our surprise there was an office space on the first floor that was in the process of being renovated. Since we went on a Saturday there was no one there, just the half finished work and power tools laying out. As we gazed in the windows at the work in progress, we noticed something odd. Amidst the power tools strewn about ran a gaggle of geese. There must have been 8 or 9 geese just running loose and unsupervised around the office space. I haven't seen the geese since that day, which only raises more questions.

I'm sorry this first update isn't entertaining. Now that I have all the informational crap out of the way I can start detailing entertaining aspects of life in China again.

Anyone wanting to text me can add me on What's App (+86 18852837725). I have super unending internet on my phone, so I'll be happy to text and send you picture texts over What's App all day long if you add me and talk to me.

Finally, as you can see we have an extra bedroom with a full size bed, so anyone wanting to come visit is welcome. When we signed up for our new phone contracts we got a 12 pack of Sprite/Coke/Beer with every 100 RMB spent. That room currently houses our collection of Sprite and Coke, but we are willing to let you share a bed with it as long as you don't spoon it. No spooning the Sprite! Hopefully by the time you come I'll have completed my collection of lightsaber chopsticks, and between that and my lightsaber umbrella we'll never need to leave the house. We can just stay inside battling like Jedi and drinking free soda all day. Exciting? Any takers? Tricycle rides? Late night roast lamb on a stick? My gym has foosball and ping pong tables. There's spicy roast duck across the street.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Open House Week . . .

So it is open house week, and I was (key word) planned to give 2 open house classes. This means that parents get to come watch my class. This isn't really too big a deal since I've already given many of these classes at a part time job. I obviously put more planning into this class since it is my primary job, but instead of being nervous like the other teachers I was full of confidence.

The day before the most important of the 2 classes I was told that instead of getting half of the oldest kids (11 kids) I would be getting the entire group put together. The principal told me that those kids didn't have open class with a foreign teacher last year, and that since this is the last year before graduating to elementary school I would do all the oldest kids together in one class. I took it in stride, and didn't even complain when she decided to the same thing with the other age groups (meaning the 2 classes I WAS planned turned into 3 classes). My attitude really caught her off guard, she expected I would try to get out of doing it or complain about the extra work. I think I bought myself some points without even realizing it.

I approached this class pretty seriously, I felt like if I did a good job of winning the parents over it could mean not only immediate bonuses but a good impression that can pay off later down the road. The admittance of kids into my kindergarten is, after all, based on the parents' notoriety in Hangzhou and ability to improve the reputation of our kindergarten. I suspect there is also a lot of behind the scenes money to make sure a child is admitted, but I didn't say that. In any case, knowing this means I am always looking for ways to build relationships with the parents.

The class was this morning, and I must say it went perfectly. It must have been the best class or one of the best I have ever given. Absolutely nailed it, and when I heard that the parents thought I was amazing I wasn't surprised. I even thought I was amazing, I never thought it would go so well. I feel so great right now, I only fear that this confidence will lead me to be too overconfident when I give the younger children's open house classes tomorrow and friday.

In other news, I think I'm part of some odd practical joke. Two weeks ago the cover a part of my motorbike went missing. It is a small 6 inch by 6 inch plastic covering that covers what I'm told by several repair places is an unimportant engine component. This particular cover is different from average models. I went to 5 different places that told me that the stock pieces they had wouldn't fit, and that I would need to order one. I ordered it, waited 3 days, then got it installed. It was fairly inexpensive, only about 2.50 American. Today the cover is missing again (after it being in place for 7 days). I am very confused as to why there seems to be a thief of inexpensive unimportant motorbike engine piece covers in our neighborhood.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Traveling with a chicken

I realized the other day I hadn't posted anything here in awhile. In
fact, I hadn't really let anyone know I as alive for a short time. I
got a bit busy.

Everything is still going smoothly. I go to work and I love it. I know
I need to eventually find another job, but I enjoy this so much I will
be sad when I have to leave.

I went to visit Zoey's family last weekend. I took a number of pictures
from our excursions there, and I have about 100 new stories from the
trip alone. The best involves me somehow ending up with a chicken that
I had to take with me back to Hangzhou for Zoey's brother. Chris Marco begin_of_the_skype_highlighting end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Chicken Delivery, that is what I was playing.

The chicken actually came in handy several times on the way home. And
by came in handy, I mean entertained me. At one point in the bus
station there was a Chinese Christian evangelical woman going from aisle
to aisle giving a rehearsed speech on Christianity and damning everyone
to hell if they didn't convert. She noticed me and got all excited. I
was teaching Zoey how to do the Rubik's Cube in Chinese, and she pointed
at me and said I was an example of how Jesus can help people, and that I
had been able to learn Chinese because of my faith. I was a bit
offended in general by being used as some type of prop to condemn
everyone around me, so I decided to have some fun. I spoke up that it
was indeed because of my faith that I was able to learn Chinese, but
that the chicken I had just bought was Buddhist. Despite my best
efforts, I was unable to convert my chicken and was very sad. I asked
her for her help in converting my chicken, but she instead got very
upset and stormed off.

After we arrived in Hangzhou, I had to take my chicken and my suitcase
to line up for a taxi cab. There were several beggars walking through
the line hassling people to give them money. Every time one approached
I told them in a very concerned voice to, "Please leave. My chicken is
very easily upset and having a stranger so close really makes him
nervous." The response from the 3 beggars that came up to me in the 10
minute waiting span was all the same: marvel at my Chinese, look at my
chicken, then realize they had met someone entirely insane and walk away.

To top it off, in line in front of us were 3 very American looking
tourists. Seeing a Chinese person with a chicken would be novelty, but
seeing a white guy with a chicken was something they weren't quite
prepared for. They kept staring at me, and obviously wanted to say
something, but I guess they couldn't quite figure out what.

All in all, I pretty much enjoyed the attention me and my chicken got.
I have to admit I was a bit sad to turn him over to Zoey's brother. He
in turn was not exactly happy to receive the chicken, I'm 99% certain he
has no idea how to kill and prepare it.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Push ups in the Park

Last weekend we had an outing to a park near the West Lake with my part
time kindergarten. The park itself was absolutely beautiful, it seemed
like everything had just started blossoming that day. While we were
there I spent a lot of time playing with kids, and near the end of our
day I saw one kid doing situps with his moms help. I noticed that his
form was a bit strange, so I started trying to help him correct it.
Afterwards, I started teaching him how to do pushups. He thought
pushups were great fun, and wanted to sit on my back while I did them.
This lead to kids lining up to sit on my back while I did pushups, and
ultimately ended up with them sitting 2 at a time then 3 and then 4. By
the time I got to 4 a large crowd had gathered to watch. We eventually
got up to 6 5 year olds sitting on my from ankle to shoulder. I
personally wasn't sure if I was able to lift the weight, but when I
noticed that there were literally over a hundred Chinese people with
cameras ready I found the adrenaline needed to get up off the ground. I
did three pushups while cameras clicked and onlookers gasped, then
collapsed and said I was done. It was a pretty intense feeling, and
also hilarious in retrospect.

Keeping with the workout theme of this blog post, my gym has started
playing Iron Maiden nonstop. One of the trainers discovered them and
replaced all of the computers music with Iron Maiden, so no one at the
front desk has any alternative but to play the Iron Maiden collection
nonstop. It is pretty much a dream come true as far as gym music goes.
I'm certain Dan would be shocked and proud, and maybe even JJ would,
too. I'm not sure about JJ though... I mean after all he didn't even go
to their live concert with us.

In unrelated news, JJ will probably be mailing me a pipe bomb as a
result of bringing that back up. Mom, please don't give him my
address. Also, speaking of mail, I bought gifts and brought back/sent
back things for JJ, Glorias, Kate, Anitas. If you haven't received
anything in the mail from my mom leave a comment here. May have
forgotten to mail them out.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Job Fair

The high for today was predicted at 22, but when the sun came up it got
all the way to 31.4. That's a pretty big miss on the forecasting
front. It felt like an oven today in jeans and a t-shirt, but at least
the wind is still blowing cool air. The weather will soon devolve into
warm winds with hot weather, and then in the dead of summer become hot
weather with no wind at all. I'm not looking forward to that.

I hit the job fair on tuesday. It was a good overall experience. You
know how you sometimes when you're driving in the car singing along to a
song you get the feeling that everyone is staring at you even though you
know deep down that no one cares? Well I had that feeling at the job
fair, and it was because everyone was actually staring at me. I
wandered through a bunch of chemical companies and other companies that
were guaranteed to not have any opportunities, and out of nowhere heard
and English commercial being played. Turns out Best Buy China had
somehow been stuck in between two petroleum companies. They just
happened to be in the neighborhood for a translator, and I went ahead
and signed up. They were looking to recruit a Chinese person, so I
don't expect much feedback, but I'll be sure to follow up regardless.
You never know. The best part was that I had to decide what my salary
should be. I calculated how much I was making now, added a bit, and
then wrote that number down. The guy checking my application stopped at
the salary part, and asked me if the figure I had written was what I
wanted monthly or yearly. I said yearly, a bit shocked, and he shrugged
and kept looking. At that moment I felt very stupid - I felt definitely
should have written a bigger number down. I also got a few applications
in to other companies, though they were all applications and resumes
given to some recruiter with a promise to take it to the right
interested party. I was a 'special situation' (as each person reminded
me as I talked with them), and they would have to pass my resume along
to the right individual. All in all it was a good experience to go to
my first Chinese job fair, I'll definitely be better prepared for the
next one.

Next week: Easter preparation begins!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring Football

The weather has gotten warmer in the last few days, and I've started wearing shorts despite the outcries from coworkers. They are paranoid of the cold, and I am yelled at constantly for not wearing more. They are in down jackets and multiple layers, I am in only shorts and a t-shirt.

I took advantage of the good weather to bring my football to the kindergarten for some fun. The kids were insanely interested, and I gave an informal class in the afternoon where I started teaching the older kids how to play. I don't know if you have ever taught six year olds about football, but the result is that you catapult from being 'that amazingly cool teacher' into 'oh wow I wish I wasn't six and new enough curse words to express how amazingly cool this teacher is' status. I also learned that the girls at this age kick ass, and are totally dominating the boys in football. Girls, at least in China at my kindergarten, are much better at working as a team and thinking together at the age of six.

I have also been having fun recently with cooking. I've reasearched a bunch of recipes online, and I have been working with Zoey and a few other friends to make a few different meals a week. I discovered last night the trick to making the legendary green beans. I can now make some awesome dishes, but my pride is definitely the green beans. I don't have the taste quite right, but the texture (the hardest part) has been perfected.

I just got done with a big marathon of work. I didn't get a weekend last week, I was busy playing tour guide and translator for our visiting foreigners. As a result, by the time this is posted I will have long been asleep, and I plan to sleep for 16 hours. I am excited.