A new bank account, my first HUT paycheck, and a new residence permit

A new bank account, my first HUT paycheck, and a new residence permit
ZHENGZHOU, HENAN — Still busy here, but midterms are now over. My time has been spent marking the exams, and getting a new bank account and finishing the paperwork to get a new residence permit. Marking exams is more fun. OK, I’m exaggerating, but it took most of one Saturday morning to open the bank account, and most of another afternoon to run around getting the paperwork submitted for the residence permit. It all seemed needlessly complicated, but at least the bank account was available for my first paycheck yesterday (YAY!) and for China’s big online shopping day — “Singles Day” — today. THE BANK ACCOUNT Although I already have two Chinese bank accounts, I had to open a new one. To be honest, I’m not entirely clear why, but it seems to have to do with my existing accounts being opened in Hunan, while my employer is in Henan. Even the bank worker was perplexed, as he told my student assistants that there was no need to open a new account, as I already had an account with that bank. After a few phone conversations with our staff assistant, it was decided that, to be on the safe side, ...

Zhengzhou: I hit the ground running

Zhengzhou: I hit the ground running
ZHENGZHOU, HENAN — So, I’ve been a little busy lately. I arrived at the Zhengzhou airport on a Saturday morning (October 14) and began work two days later, right before midterm exams. Another teacher earlier had had to abruptly go home to deal with some paperwork problems, so I took over her classes — 10 in all — and a week later I picked up two more when another teacher had to leave for medical treatment. Two weeks ago, we gave the sophomores their midterm exam (two sections for me) and the freshmen (four sections) got theirs this past week. So, when I have not been in class or preparing for class, I’ve been reading exams. Plus, there was the half-day required for the medical check-up, which was identical to the previous one in May, except that was in Hunan and now I am in Henan, and that’s just the way it’s done, don’t ask questions, and the half-day today for creating a new bank account, even though I already have two Chinese bank accounts in Hunan, but this is Henan, and that’s the way it’s done, don’t ask questions. Anyway, I’m street-legal now, with a new foreign experts certificate, ...

My visa finally came, and I leave Thursday for Zhengzhou, China

My visa finally came, and I leave Thursday for Zhengzhou, China
It’s finally here! Since the July 4 holiday, I had been building up the necessary documentation to apply for a Chinese work (Z) visa. Along the way, as I wrote earlier, I made a couple of mistakes, one of which slowed down the process about a week. But most of the delay was at the hands of government offices — particularly the Chinese embassy in Washington, DC — as they processed those documents. Anyway, that’s all in the past now. I have booked my tickets for Zhengzhou, Henan, China, and leave Thursday. I’ll arrive Saturday and I assume begin teaching classes on Monday. It’s a rerun of my first arriving in Jishou in 2008, when I arrived early on a Sunday and started teaching the very next day. Zhengzhou is the provincial capital of Henan, population 9.2 million — *quite* a bit larger than Jishou. It has its own airport, so transport in and out will be much easier. Judging from this Google map capture (see below), my new university — Henan University of Technology 河南工业大学 — is some distance from central Zhengzhou. HUT was founded in 1956, about two years before Jishou University was. My students will not be ...

In China’s Countryside, Poverty Is a Lifestyle, Not a Choice — Sixth Tone magazine

In China’s Countryside, Poverty Is a Lifestyle, Not a Choice -- Sixth Tone magazine
It’s not often I see stories about Xiangxi, that part of western Hunan where I lived for nine years, so I want to share this one with you. The writer is Deng ChaoChao, who works with impoverished villages in the Chinese countryside, including Mendaicun 们岱村 west of Jishou. I’ve marked it on the Google map above. Writing for Sixth Tone, an online magazine in China, she describes the cooperative ventures her NGO has helped villagers create to augment their meager incomes. She also mentions working with university students on a service project. I wonder if those students are from Jishou University. While I have never visited Mendai, I have visited Paibi, which is not far away as the crow flies. It’s on the northern edge of the map above (labeled Piabixiang). I wrote about that visit last July. I was visiting a school in a town, and not a rural village, though. I won’t reproduce Deng ChaoChao’s article here, for copyright reasons, but here is an excerpt. The village of Mendai is located in an impoverished part of western Hunan, a province in central China. Difficult to reach and suffering from a shortage of farmland and labor, it is also ...

The long, long wait for a work visa will soon be over

The long, long wait for a work visa will soon be over
DENVER — Today I got the next-to-last document I need to apply for a new Chinese work visa. It’s a big relief, and with luck I’ll be back teaching in China after their October National Holiday. This process began after the July 4 holiday and so far has cost me $566 in postage, FedEx charges, application fees, and visa agency services. But the worst part has been the waiting — waiting to receive the documents I sent out, waiting for the final authentications from two Chinese consular offices, waiting to find out if I’ve crossed my T’s and dotted my I’s in the correct fashion. Mind you, I have enjoyed living with my children all summer, and have enjoyed the longest vacation I’ve ever had from working, but the waiting has been driving me a bit bonkers. So I am glad to see the light at the end of the tunnel. To remind you all how I got in this fix, it started in early June, when I was told by the foreign affairs office of Jishou University that Hunan province had lowered the maximum age for foreign teachers from 64 to 60. Despite the contract we had both signed, ...

Lots of bad news about China and Bitcoin, and good news about new blog

Lots of bad news about China and Bitcoin, and good news about new blog
I have lots of things to catch you all up on, but let me start with the international news items first. This month, China has basically pulled the plug on Chinese citizens’ easy ability to buy or sell Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies. It transpired in stages, long before there was any official policy announced from on high. First, an anonymous writer for the respected financial paper, Caixin, wrote late on a Friday evening that the government was planning to ban Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), which has become a popular (and often abused) method for blockchain projects to quickly raise funds. Prices for digital assets like Bitcoin dropped sharply over the weekend all over China, and to a lesser extent around the world. A few days later, Caixin published another article saying that 60 ICO platforms were being shut down. Further, all ICOs were to be halted immediately, and investors’ funds returned as soon as possible. While those folks were scrambling to comply with the new rules, prices continued to fall. Bitcoin values dropped from the mid-$4,000 range to around $3,000. Then, two major Bitcoin exchanges, OKCoin and ViaBTC, announced they were closing up shop by the end of the month. ...

Abducted Chinese scholar remains missing, family offers $50K reward

Abducted Chinese scholar remains missing, family offers $50K reward
Zhang YingYing, 26, who was abducted June 9 in Champaign, Illinois , remains missing and her worried family has raised the reward for information about her whereabouts to $50,000. A former graduate student, Brendt Christensen, 28, was indicted on July 12 on one charge of kidnapping. He is being held in Urbana pending arraignment, according to the University of Illinois police department. Zhang was a visiting scholar at the University of Illinois/Urbana-Campaign, and was planning to meet a rental agent about an apartment on June 9. She did not show up for the appointment and did not return the agent’s calls. A native of Fujian province, China, she was last seen getting into a car later identified as Christensen’s about 2 pm June 9. Traffic cameras showed her leaning through the passenger side door and talking to the driver, then getting in before the car drove away. Her friends reported the last message they got from her came about a half-hour later. Local police and the FBI were able to locate the car on June 27, and after further investigation arrested Christensen three days later. Her father, aunt and fiancé arrived in Illinois last month. At a news conference Friday, ...

BULLETIN: Chinese dissident writer Liu XiaoBo dies of cancer, age 61

BULLETIN: Chinese dissident writer Liu XiaoBo dies of cancer, age 61
Nobel laureate Liú Xiǎobō 刘晓波, who had been imprisoned in China in 2009 on charges of subversion, has died in a Liaoning hospital at age 61, news media reported today. Liu was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer earlier this year, and released on a medical parole in May. But his condition did not improve, and his health rapidly declined in the last two weeks. Doctors reported his internal organs were shutting down two days ago, but dialysis seemed to improve his condition somewhat. The writer co-authored Charter 08, a pro-democracy manifesto which urged the Chinese Communist Party to abide by the Chinese constitution’s protection of civil rights and political freedom. In 2009 he was arrested on charges of “subversion of state power” and sentenced to 11 years in prison. A year later, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in absentia, as China refused permission for Liu or any member of his family to travel to Oslo to accept the prize. Liu Xia, his wife, has been under house arrest since 2010, despite no formal charges against her. She was allowed to visit her husband in hospital, however. As the government has heavily censored news of Liu and his Nobel ...

Chinese Nobel laureate Liu XiaoBo in critical condition

Chinese Nobel laureate Liu XiaoBo in critical condition
Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liú Xiǎobō 刘晓波 is in critical condition in a Chinese hospital, the South China Morning Post reported today. A medical team is on standby to resuscitate him if necessary. Liu, 61, was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and released from prison on medical parole in May. One of the principal authors of Charter 08, a pro-democracy manifesto, Liu was arrested and convicted in 2009 on charges of subverting state power. In 2010 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Chinese government had ignored international appeals for his release until his health deteriorated earlier this year. Since May Liu has been treated in a hospital in Shenyang, Liaoning province. His condition rapidly worsened last week. Two foreign doctors recommended he be flown to an overseas hospital for more aggressive treatments, but his Chinese doctors claim he is too weak to be moved. This quote from the South China Morning Post suggests it is the government that has advised against moving Liu, however. Asked on Monday if Liu would be allowed to go overseas for treatment, Reuters reported that foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said: “China hopes relevant countries will respect China’s sovereignty and ...

Chinese Nobel winner to be freed from prison for cancer treatment

Chinese Nobel winner to be freed from prison for cancer treatment
JISHOU, HUNAN — Eight years after being jailed for alleged political crimes, Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner Liú Xiǎobō 刘晓波 will be released on medical parole, the South China Morning Post reports. Liu, 61, has terminal liver cancer, his lawyer told the Post. He is being treated outside the prison in Shenyang, Liaoning province. As one of the authors of the pro-democracy Charter 08 Manifesto, Liu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, for “his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.” According to Wikipedia, Liu is the first Chinese citizen to be awarded a Nobel Prize of any kind while residing in China. One might assume that China would be proud, but the government has taken care to censor the news of Liu’s award and his incarceration. China’s government has not acknowledged the prize, other than to advise international delegates in 2010 to boycott the award ceremony or face “consequences.” Until Liu’s diagnosis in May, Beijing had refused international appeals to release him. His wife, Liú Xiá 刘霞, has also been under house arrest. Liu was arrested and tried in 2009 on charges of subversion of state power.

A birthday surprise — because it’s not my birthday

A birthday surprise -- because it's not my birthday
JISHOU, HUNAN — On Friday I told my freshmen that I would not be returning to teach them English in the fall. By way of explanation, I said I was now 61, one year over the mandatory “retirement” age for foreign teachers here. Well, I guess some of my students took that to mean I had just had a birthday, so two of them today went to a DIY cake shop and made me a small birthday cake (photo above). My birthday is in January, but no matter! They were showing their affection and care for me, so I just went along with it. Charissa and Jackie (pictured below) arrived after dinner with the cake, candles, paper plates and forks. They sang “Happy Birthday,” I made a wish, and blew out the candles. Though the decoration was a bit over the top, the cake tasted great, and it was a very nice surprise. The freshmen are now in some kind of special classes — I suspect a test run of some computer-based learning system. So, my last classes with them were a week ago. I’m an evaluator of their progress in the special classes, so I still will see them ...

Big news: some bad, some good 1

Big news: some bad, some good
JISHOU, HUNAN — I’ve been quiet here for the last two weeks, because I have been very, very busy, and not just for the usual end-of-the-term onslaught of activities. I learned on June 2 that I had “aged out” of my job here in Hunan, and would need to leave China no later than June 30. That’s the bad news — a forced separation from this place and the people I’ve grown to love. While I can still visit, I can no longer teach in Jishou on a work visa, because in April Hunan province enacted a new rule — 60 is the maximum age for a work visa. I’m now 61. Now for the good news. Within a few days of posting my resume on Dave’s ESL Café I was offered a job at the Henan University of Technology in Zhengzhou. There, the maximum age is 64 (I asked several times to be sure), so conceivably I can work there another three years if I like — or as long as the province or the city doesn’t abruptly change the rules to screw over the foreigners again. In fact, several English language schools in China sent me offers, but ...
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