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 ...

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, ...

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 ...

This term’s schedule

This term's schedule
JISHOU, HUNAN — Rather than blather on about Bitcoins and Ripple, this post is about teaching — y’know, my job. Last term, I had 10 sessions of teaching the freshmen and sophomores, plus a biweekly session with five Ph.D. candidates needing practice in speaking English. Each session is 100 minutes long, including a 10-minute break. This term I have only eight sessions, because another teacher (actually, the associate dean of the college) has taken the two sophomore Listening Comprehension sections. Whether this has anything to do with nine of those 75 students failing my final exam last fall, I cannot say, but the lighter course load is a nice relief. So, this term I meet the two sophomore sections on Mondays for Oral English. The end of the week is much busier, with Listening Comp with the three freshmen sections on Thursdays, and Oral English the day after. Each term, I settle into a new work routine. Saturdays and Tuesdays are what I call goof-off days, meaning I use them for non-teaching activities, like laundry or writing on this blog. Sundays and Wednesdays are class-prep days. I give the freshmen a listening quiz each week, so that means I have ...

Cherry blossom time

Cherry blossom time
JISHOU, HUNAN — These are from two weeks ago, when the blossoms were just coming out. Sorry for the delay. (Taken with with my cellphone.) ——— Tipjars:

Epilogue to my Bitcoin dilemma: I got my money back

Epilogue to my Bitcoin dilemma: I got my money back
JISHOU, HUNAN — So, after three telephone calls and four chat sessions on Huobi’s customer service chat window, I finally got my 500 yuan ($73) deposit back two weeks after I sent it. All is well now. I won’t bother you with all the details, but bank-to-bank transfers in China are persnickety affairs. The sender has to specify the exact bank branch at which the recipient opened his or her account. And my branch at the university is a sub-branch of another branch, so the system was not allowing the transfer to go through. Or something. Anyway, I got my money back. I am still unable to bind my bank card at Huobi without a national ID number, so obtaining Bitcoin using Huobi or BTCChina, despite my previous relationships with them, is impossible for the foreseeable future. In education news, I am spending this weekend recreating my lesson plans and syllabi for courses I taught in 2014-15 to submit to the college. Why, you ask? Well, the college needs to get accreditation (if that’s what it’s called here) from the provincial education bureau. To get it, each instructor has to provide detailed lesson plans and syllabi for courses taught in ...

Living your dream sometimes has unforeseen consequences

Living your dream sometimes has unforeseen consequences
JISHOU, HUNAN — Here’s a bittersweet anecdote from the world of teaching. Last week, I was looking for a TED talk about careers to show my students and found one by a dynamic guy named Scott Dinsmore, who founded an organization called Live Your Legend. Since TED speakers talk a mile a minute, courtesy of the 18-minute time limit, I included the English subtitles to help with their comprehension. The freshmen liked it, so this morning I shared it with the sophomores. During the break, I decided to visit Dinsmore’s website to check it out. Since China blocks YouTube and Vimeo, we couldn’t see the video on the main page in class. When I watched it after coming back to my flat, I got an unpleasant surprise. Scott Dinsmore was killed in a rockslide on Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in 2015. Everyone else in the climbing party, including his wife, survived. He was 33. Now, if TED had bothered to note Dinsmore had died, I might have chosen a different video. As it is, I should tell my students that living your dream sometimes has unfortunate consequences, but that they should never hesitate to take risks. His message, which is ...

A teacher grades Donald Trump’s remarks about Black History Month, gives speech an F 1

A teacher grades Donald Trump's remarks about Black History Month, gives speech an F
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN — Donald Trump (R-Blowhard) made some remarks Wednesday about Black History Month and (the bust of) Martin Luther King Jr. that have left many puzzled. For one thing, Trump appeared to believe Frederick Douglass (at left) was still alive, though he died 122 years ago. Less puzzling was the extent to which Trump took the opportunity to talk about himself and his campaign. In a speech of less than 800 words, he managed to address the topic of Black History Month and notable African-Americans less than half the time. To demonstrate what I mean, I’ve highlighted in red anything pertinent to the subject of Black History Month and struck out anything relating to Trump and his campaign and election. If this had been a homework assignment for a class of mine, I would have failed it, and required the student to rewrite it. It barely addresses the topic at hand, and the general tone is so casual and flip that it would lead one to believe the speaker not only knows very little about black history but that he doesn’t even care to. In my professional judgment, Trump barely spent five minutes preparing this talk. “Just a few ...

Winter holiday is here, and I’m in Japan! 4

Winter holiday is here, and I'm in Japan!
TOKYO, JAPAN — This year’s winter escapade is not to a warm, sunny location like Malaysia, but to the more wintry Japan — a joint effort by my son and me. He had some comp time available, and wanted to visit me in Jishou, but as I had planned to travel outside China during the Spring Festival, we settled on two weeks in Japan. Fun fact: this year, the Chinese New Year falls on my birthday. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which day that is. I gave my exams on Dec. 30, and spent the rest of the week reading them and calculating grades for my 150 students. I discovered two disturbing things: at least two of my sophomores had cheated on their exam and hardly any of the sophs had improved their listening comprehension marks over the last three terms. The cheaters flunked their exams, and the term. They will need to take a new test next term. I also get to read their classmates the riot act, as I suspect those two were just the unlucky ones who got caught. The sophomores’ failure to improve their skills much since they were freshmen is a bigger ...
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