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, ...

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. ...

TFW you see yourself quoted anonymously in a news article 1

TFW you see yourself quoted anonymously in a news article
This morning, while reviewing news from the cryptocurrency world, one article especially caught my eye, so I read it all the way through. And found myself reading my own words. No, it wasn’t plagiarism, but the writer used a comment I had left days ago at a Steemit.com post verbatim, without using my name or Steemit handle. My feelings were a mixture of pride, surprise — and annoyance. Back in my days as a newspaper reporter, we were expected to contact people whom we would quote in a news article. Since the writer made no attempt to contact me, seeing my words in her article ruffled my feathers a bit. Otherwise, I was quoted accurately and appropriately, so my feathers are now back to normal. The subject of the article at Bitcoin.com was American investment in ICOs (initial coin offerings), which have recently become a very common method for cryptocurrency projects to raise money quickly. If you’re familiar with IPOs (initial public offerings) in corporate finance, the idea is the same: to get a boatload of money to help expand a business. As many ICOs are based abroad, Americans are sometimes blocked from investing in them, because of US taxation ...

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 ...

Chinese regulators may finally permit Bitcoin, Litecoin withdrawals

Chinese regulators may finally permit Bitcoin, Litecoin withdrawals
JISHOU, HUNAN — Word has it that the People’s Bank of China — China’s central bank — will finally allow exchanges to allow users to once again withdraw Bitcoin and Litecoin, possibly next month. Such withdrawals were halted in January as regulators examined the business practices of China’s major cryptocurrency exchanges. The supposed rationale was to limit fraud and criminal activity, but the basic reason was to stem a possible means of capital flight. The ban did not affect withdrawals to Chinese bank accounts, however. It applied specifically only to Bitcoin and Litecoin, the gold and silver of the cryptocurrencies. Other crypto-coins, like Ether and Zcash, were not included in the ban, as I later discovered. Anyway, as I’ve blogged earlier, the freeze on withdrawals closed off the principal method I used to transfer my monthly pay (in Chinese yuan) to my US bank account (in dollars). Bitcoin enabled me to move money quickly and cheaply. But since January, I’ve had to be more creative in transfers. A larger result of the withdrawal ban was to depress the market price of Bitcoin in China, sometimes by as much as $200, compared to the prices at foreign exchanges like Coinbase or ...

Trying out Abra, a new mobile payment app 1

Trying out Abra, a new mobile payment app
JISHOU, HUNAN — While exploring ways to move my money more easily around, I stumbled across Abra, a mobile phone app that transfers funds using the Bitcoin network. I gave it a try, and I like it. For one thing, it simplifies my transfers from China to the USA. Before Abra, there were several steps to transfer money from my bank in China to my bank in the USA, whether I used PayPal or Bitcoin. Abra reduces that number, and removes some fees in the process. There still remains one major drawback: Abra has no working relationships with banks in China. So, I still need to jump through a few hoops to buy Bitcoin to drop into my Abra wallet, but once it is there, it’s a breeze to send it to my bank account in the States. I’ve done all sorts of stories about moving money across borders, but to review, here are the main steps. For PayPal: Log into my China PayPal account. Send funds from my Chinese bank to my American PayPal account. PayPal charges a 4% foreign exchange fee. Log into my American PayPal account. Transfer funds to my bank account. Not bad, right? Unless you ...

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 ...

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 ...
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