Monday, October 20, 2014

Vogons. Stupid, stupid Vogons.

So, Chinese visa. Pretty straight forward process:

  • Step 1: The Chinese employes applies for a work permit license.  It takes 15 working days to process after submitting all the documents, including an original copy of a non-criminal record and a copy of a medical check issued by a medical center and accepted by the Chinese embassy. 
  • Step 2: After getting work permit license, the Chinese employer needs to apply for an authorized invitation letter. The work permit license is necessary in this step. It takes 7 days to get it.
  • Step 3: The Chinese employer delivers the work permit license and authorized invitation letter by express to you once we get them. You can receive both in 3-7 days.
  • Step 4: You apply for a class Z visa at the nearest Chinese Embassy/Consulate, taking along the two certificates sent by the school. It will take one week to get Z visa.
The end. Easy as pie.

Turns out pie is a lot harder to pull off than you'd think.

The first hiccup came with the police check. I got it, no problem - had had it, in fact, for a few weeks so popping it in the mail was no big. Now, I couldn't afford to send it express (the cheapest was $79+tx) so I sent it regular post. On September 25. Last Tuesday (October 14), when it still proved MIA in the mail system, I sent a second one. The mailman hates me. Both are still somewhere in the system, holding the whole delightful process up. Grrr...

The second hiccup came with the medical check. The school says I need the medical check to be a particular form provided by the embassy and filled out by a pre-approved medical centre. No problem. Call the embassy. They tell me I don't need a medical check and thus can provide neither form nor doctor info.  So, I relay this to the school. The school responds by explaining the whole process in detail, telling me the why and how of each step, and reiterate that, yup, they need a medical check carried out with a specific form by a specific medical centre and that the embassy should provide both. So I email the embassy because, hey, maybe I explained it wrong and at least if it's in black-on-white type they can, I dunno, group think the answer or Google translate or something. The embassy emails me back two lines: "You do not need to provide your medical check. Ask your employer for more details." I forwarded this delightful thread to the school's HR chief and screamed into a pillow. *AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!*

So, in exactly one month I need to be standing in my new classroom teaching my batch of munchkins. And my visa process is still stalled on Step 1 thanks to Mr Mailman holding the police check hostage and the medical check being stuck in a bureaucratic logic circle.

Pie. What a bitch.

If you need me, I'll be binge watching Supernatural and ignoring the queasy knot in my stomach.

Monday, October 6, 2014


So, I accepted the offer. I signed the contract. I mailed in the original version of the pain-in-the-butt-to-acquire police check (which, as I stuck it in the envelope, I realized wasn't for the vulnerable sector which worries me but I've stressed that I was mailing the same one I'd scanned and emailed so...we'll see - fingers crossed!). Now, now I wait.

I wait for the national holiday in China to be over. I wait for the school signed version of the contract to be emailed to me. I wait for the principal to get back to me with some more details about what will be my class so I get some more solid plans going. I wait for the school to receive the mailed police check. I wait for them to complete the process that will have the Chinese government sending me an invitation letter I'll need to submit with the other paperwork for my visa. I wait...I wait for things to become real, for it to seem like this is really going to happen.

The start date on the contract is November 10, but of course it's dependent on the visa being processed which in turn depends on the invitation letter being offered. *sigh* Bureaucracy. In the meantime, I've got three avenues of preparation to distract myself with:

AVENUE ONE: Packing!

It's a fun filled juggle between things I need to replace and things that won't be available in China, while keeping in mind airline checked baggage luggage limits and fees. *sigh* Teleportation, when it comes along, is going to be a huge success, guaranteed.

My shopping list so far includes:

  • Three pairs of sneakers
  • Two pairs of jeans
  • Four deodorants
  • Two average sized jars of peanut butter
  • One cheap leather purse
  • Three tubes of curl cream
  • Two canisters of mousse
  • One bottle of shampoo
  • One bottle of conditioner
  • One battery-operated alarm clock
  • One tooth brush
  • One carry-on sized suitcase

My bank account weeps just thinking about it. It comforts me to know my airfare, at least, will be refunded. Eventually.

AVENUE TWO: Lesson Planning

Last week I sent the BC curriculum for kindergarten to Bureau en Gros to print and have coil-bound. It came in just the other day and I plan to go through it with post-its at the ready to make what notes come to mind. My planning generally tends to start with a topic or a theme, something I can use as a connecting thread that will also stimulate and engage the students. Use the topic as a starting point to find books, storybooks usually, I can read to the kiddies and then look to see how I can bring in other learning expectations from the curriculum. It's a process, what can I say?

Unfortunately, before I can really get into the planning, I need to first get a sense of where I'll be starting, which means knowing what's already been covered and how. I've sent an email to the principal asking for that information, and if possible the corresponding plans, but the national holiday currently happening in China means it'll be a bit before I get a response.

AVENUE THREE: Getting to know Beijing

Do you know what moving to London taught me? Getting to know your city is important. It takes time and first-hand experience, but going in lacking the common language and minus anything overtly familiar...yup, it's time to hit the Google.

Which, incidentally, isn't something you can do in China. The Great Firewall of China is the name given to China's internet censorship which blocks access to oodles of North American sites including (and probably not limited to): Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr, Blogger, Google, Gmail, and Google Drive. This means no more watching General Hospital on YouTube, no more Facebook chats, no more Pinterest idea pillaging. I'll have to forward my Gmail accounts to my Hotmail, blog via Livejournal instead of Blogger (you might've noticed), chat via Skype, Google via Bing (I refuse to use "Bing" as a verb), and...I have no idea what to do about YouTube but I'm sure I'll figure something out. Fingers crossed.

I've looked into options for home delivery, which has taught me that English interface isn't a priority for Chinese sites. That seems totally unfair for a country that's a global buisness power (nevermind that it was over a billion people speaking and reading Mandarin). I've looked into banking options, which has taught me that transferring money home to my Canadian account will be something of a challenge as China is a little on the paranoid side regarding possible laundering. I've looked into what to expect of an apartment, how to pay for utilities, and what to know about internet service. I even looked into animal rescue options, laws regarding both cat and dog ownership, the price of pet supplies, pet boarding options, and Canadian pet import requirements. Just in case. 

...and, small point, but seeing as how there are 3000 human deaths a year in China caused by rabies, I should probably seriously think about getting vaccinated. *shudder*

On the brighter side, did I mention that chances are high that the school will be finding me an apartment and providing a housing allowance up to ¥6000? They'll also be picking me up at the airport so at least that's two less things to worry about.

Cue sigh of relief here.