Onward to Da Nang, but not by train

Onward to Da Nang, but not by train
[Classes began last week, so please accept my apologies for delaying this post.] HANOI, VIETNAM — Now that I had settled on visiting Da Nang, in hopes of finding some warmer weather and an ocean view, the question was how to get there. My first plan was to take the overnight train from Hanoi to Da Nang. With that in mind, I figured lodging at the Mango Hotel (above), which is right next to the Hanoi train station, made sense. It was only about $22 a night and offered free breakfast, and I could walk to it from my Airbnb. Once at the hotel (which is not bad, by the way), I set about finding out how to buy train tickets for a departure two days later. The cost ranged from $40 for a soft seat to $60 for a soft sleeper berth, and the trip would take about 15 to 16 hours. On a lark, I also checked airfares from Hanoi to Da Nang. It was cheaper to fly! Only $36 for a round-trip ticket to Da Nang. So guess what I did. My lodging in Da Nang was another Airbnb within walking distance to My Khe beach. For ...

On the first part of the journey …

On the first part of the journey ...
CHANGSHA, HUNAN — There was football. More about that later, though. I left Zhengzhou on Jan. 25 as a heavy snowstorm was just picking up steam. The snow was so bad that even the high speed CRH trains, which run on schedule 99% of the time, had to slow down or even stop, because of poor visibility and slick trackage. My train to Futian station in Shenzhen would normally have taken seven hours. We arrived four hours later. Second-class ticket: 735.50 yuan ($116). My plan was to stay overnight in Shenzhen anyway, and my flight to Hanoi was in two days, so no big deal. There are many bargain flights out of Hong Kong, and I love Hong Kong, so I spent the second night there. My Jetstar ticket was $180 round trip, including an extra checked baggage fee. I stayed in a guest house near Causeway Bay for $65. My Shenzhen hotel near Futian train station was $60. [I’ve blogged about visiting Hong Kong before, but briefly, you can walk from Shenzhen’s Futian checkpoint to the Lok Ma Chau checkpoint in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, passing through two immigration and customs control points. That takes about an ...

Happy Year of the Dog!

Happy Year of the Dog!
GUANGZHOU — It is now the first day of the Year of Dog, a suitable time to update everyone on my winter travels. I have just returned to China from Vietnam, where I stayed a little more than a week each in Hanoi and Da Nang. Now, I’m the middle of another week hopping from one place to another to see old friends before I head back to Zhengzhou. Here’s the itinerary, keyed to the map above. 1. Zhengzhou, Henan, China, where I currently work 2. Hong Kong (with a brief stay in Shenzhen) 3. Hanoi, Vietnam 4. Da Nang 5. Hanoi again 6. Hong Kong again 7. Guangzhou, Guangdong 8. Kunming, Yunnan (to reunite with a friend from Jishou U) 9. Changde, Hunan (for a former student’s wedding party) 10. Jishou (because I miss it) and then probably back to Zhengzhou via Changsha, unless I decide to squeeze in another place first. As I mentioned last time, this holiday trip turned into a working vacation when a former colleague asked me to proofread and edit an English translation of a book by a Chinese writer — for pay. Once I finished that, they offered another job, also for pay. ...

It’s a working vacation in Vietnam

It's a working vacation in Vietnam
DA NANG, VIETNAM – As usual, I have waited more than a week to write something about my latest journey. Seems to be a habit of mine. This particular trip has turned into a working vacation, which though fairly lucrative, has cut into my free time somewhat. A few days before I was going to leave Zhengzhou, a former colleague from Jishou University asked if I could proofread and edit a translation they had prepared of a book by a Chinese author. (I cannot reveal who the author is, or the title of the book.) She asked if I could finish it in five days, and I had to explain I was leaving in three for Hong Kong and then Vietnam. So, we agreed on a five-day extension. It was 198 pages long. Everything was going along swimmingly, until I caught a nasty head cold in Hanoi, which rendered me useless for two days. But I managed to process the book by the agreed deadline, and collected the other half of my fees. Then they offered me another job – 191 pages this time, but by the same author. What the hell, I figured. Nothing like earning money to defray ...

An end of the year report, and a thank you

An end of the year report, and a thank you
ZHENGZHOU, HENAN — We are about an hour from the start of 2018 here, and I’m taking a few minutes to recap the year before I get ready for the ball to drop (figuratively speaking). First of all, someone donated $30 in Bitcoin to the website today, anonymously as I have no idea who sent it. Whoever it is, many, many thanks! Here’s a quick recap of 2017, which has been one helluva year, for many reasons. In January and February, I spent a month touring Japan. Two weeks of that was spent with my son, and we had a ball! If I could afford it, I could spend a month just in Tokyo and never run out of things to do, see or eat! March through June were business as usual, teaching Business English students at Jishou University. It was year nine for me, and I fully intended to stay another year at least. But, reality beat that idea down. Unbeknownst to me and (apparently) my foreign affairs officers, Hunan province had lowered the maximum working age for foreign teachers from 64 to 60, meaning that I was unable to remain in Hunan as a teacher. Worse yet, as ...

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 ...
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