Poof! Three more weeks gone in China

I was really hoping to have much more time to blog and make videos of our experiences in China.  But just like that, poof, three weeks have flown by without any new blog posts.  I guess I don’t have any excuses other than I haven’t made any time for it.  My weekdays are 10+ hours in the office/commute, going to the in-hotel executive lounge for a dinner (wine/beer, appetizers, bread), then back to our room for me to spend another 2-3 hours on conference calls and answering emails coming in from the USA (they’re just getting in to work).  No time for social media.  In fact, very little social time with my daughter on weekdays.

Weekends have been sleeping in an extra hour or two, then a leisurely breakfast, some time working on photos/videos, and then venturing out creating new memories and experiences.

big breakfast

Big breakfast (only half of the food!)

Sorting out the legalities

Before I left the USA, there was some visa requirements to take care of that I mentioned here and here.  As expected, after arriving in China there would be a few more hoops to jump through.  As my original entry visa only was valid for 000 days (yep, zero days), we had to work quickly to get everything in order.

consulate-4

Allowed duration of stay:  Zero days?

The first step was to get another medical exam, this time here in China.  I had the benefit of being assigned a “handler” from our company’s immigration attorney firm.  They emailed me the address of the Travel Health Care Center and expected me to find my way there.  There’s an app here in China called DiDi, which is nearly identical to Uber or Lyft.  Having used Uber only once before, the concept was still very new to me.  Adding to the complexity, the DiDi (taxi) drivers speak zero English (and I speak nearly zero Mandarin Chinese).  With the help of a local co-worker, he showed me how to enter the address into the app and I made it there just fine.   Didi/Taxis are fairly cheap here.  When I took one in Chicago to get to the Chinese Consulate, it cost about $10 for 1.4 miles (2.3 km).  Here in Wuxi, China, it’s about $3 USD for 6 miles (10 km).

The handler met me outside the clinic and then led me around at a nearly running pace, as if she was getting paid to complete the process in 5 minutes or less.  In the 90F/32C and high humidity, I immediately started sweating buckets.  We went to the registration desk, then climbed a couple flights of stairs where she would proceed to barge into examination rooms, with examinations currently being conducted on other patients, and stand within a foot of the physician as if to tell him, “hurry up…you’re wasting my time”.  I’m not used to that lack of privacy in a hospital/clinic, so I stayed many paces back, generally outside the door that she charged into.

She rushed me around to about 7 stations, intruding on each of the patients already being examined.  Each exam only took a few moments.  Not sure why she couldn’t wait those few moments for the prior patient to be completed!  I had another ultrasound (the baby is healthy, but the ultrasound technician did claim I “have a large liver”…maybe it’s all the beer), a vision test (which only consisted of a single color-blind test), a blood pressure station (holy cow…I must have been really stressed out), and a few other tests, including blood and urine samples.

Maybe I was stressed out because one of the exams had a physician with an ancient head mirror.  I didn’t know anyone from this century still uses them?  Even the Fisher Price Medical Kit doesn’t come with them any more.

Head mirror

They still use these things?

Or maybe it was the ancient EKG that they hooked me up to that still used the suction cup electrodes?  And they left hickeys all over too.

Suction cup electrodes

Suction cup electrodes….ouch!

A visit to the police station

After the medical check was completed, I handed over my original Master’s degree diploma, and the immigration attorneys submitted the paperwork to apply for my work permit.  This normally takes about 3 weeks, but it was completed in a little more than one.  Immediately after my work permit was granted, I needed to apply for a temporary residence permit.  This must be done at the PSB – “Public Security Bureau”, otherwise known as a local Police station.  The immigration people sent me the address, and I used a DiDi taxi to get there (I’m becoming proficient!) and the same “handler” met me there.

Wow, there were so many people at the police station.  And I’m not talking about criminals!  Actually, there were lots of pretty women (no, not prostitutes), their children, and a few men/fathers.  I’m told that many of them were seeking passports, as it was the start of the summer break from school and it’s common to travel somewhere during the break (especially to escape the heat and humidity of China).  In the case of a foreigner, they must register their residence location within 24 hours.  Most people travelling on business are not aware of this requirement because the fancy international hotel that you stay at takes care of this for you.  This is also the reason that you cannot stay at a small “Chinese” (not part of an international chain) hotel…they don’t want to mess around with registering the foreigners at the PSB.

Once I move from the hotel to an apartment, I have to visit the police station again to register my new residence location.  Technically, if I visit a friend overnight, I have to register with the PSB that I’m sleeping there.  Pretty weird, big brother stuff.

We did some other touristy stuff…I’ll write about that soon.

liyuan_c_p

Sights from the first week in China

We now have our first week behind us in China.  We enjoyed ourselves, other than the daily 93°F (34°C) temps.  Generally there has been a slight breeze, which makes it tolerable if you’re not in the direct sun.  Due to the “fog” that’s nearly always present in China, the sun isn’t very strong as it filters itself past the airborne particles.

The first week was more like a typical business trip than moving to a new country.  Still in the honeymoon stage.  We’re still staying in a nice hotel, eating safe hotel food, and not struggling with much yet.  One thing different is having my daughter along.  It’s not like having beers with co-workers after work, but there are better photo-ops with my daughter.

(Click on any photo to see it larger.)

Priya Flowers

Flowers on a near-by walk

 

Priya Pergola

Priya under a pergola

Apartment Hunting

We spent quite a bit of time this week looking at apartments.  We had nine appointments lined up for Tuesday afternoon, but three of them went off the market before noon!  We had even worse luck on Wednesday where we had six lined up and four went off the market by noon.  We went back to take a second look at two places on Friday and asked the agent to start negotiating with the landlord on one of them.

I’ll do a future post going into more depth on apartment hunting in China, but in the meanwhile we are enjoying living in a hotel (for now) and exploring many of the things that are near-by.

Night view from hotel

Night view from hotel, 21st floor

 

Night view from hotel

Night view from hotel

 

Filtered sunset

“Filtered” sunset

There’s a small temple very close to our hotel.

Temple near hotel

Temple near hotel

Temple near hotel

Temple walkway

Gone fishing

Gone fishing

Nanchang Street

About 1 mile (2 km) from our hotel is Wuxi’s famous Nanchang Street, which is a walking street that has been renovated to look like an old canal village street. The views are nice during the day, but even better at night, so we are planning a return trip soon.  The street is lined with shops, restaurants and bars.

Nanchang Street entrance

Nanchang Street canal

Nanchang Street water tour

Nanchang Street

There’s also a large park directly across the street from the hotel.  Many people gather there for Tai Chi, a walk, to ride the miniature battery powered cars, or to fly kites.

Flying kites

Flying kites

 

High as a kite

These kites (circled) are flying higher than our 22 story hotel

 

Flying kites

Kids enjoy flying kites too.

 

 

First 24 hours in China

The first 24 hours in China have been good.  Our 14.5 hour direct flight went well, although neither of us got more than about 1 hour of sleep on the plane.  It’s likely because we landed shortly after midnight in our (previous) home time zone, and we’re both night owls.  Immigration went well, and much to my surprise, our bags were not inspected in customs.  This was quite a relief, as I didn’t have to explain the hard drives filled with movies and TV shows that were likely against their censorship policies, not to mention their copyright policies (oh, wait).

shanghai-luggage

6 months of luggage

We landed in Shanghai, but our new home is in Wuxi, about a 3 hour car drive away.  Depending upon the definition of “largest city“, Shanghai qualifies as #1 with it’s 24 MILLION people, which is three times bigger than USA’s largest city, New York.  I thought it would be good to show my daughter the world famous Shanghai skyline before continuing on to Wuxi.

Approaching Shanghai

Approaching Shanghai, and 2nd tallest building in the world

 

Famous Shanghai Skyline

Some of the famous Shanghai skyline

 

First family photo in China

Our first family photo in China

We are already famous (infamous)

We strolled along the famous “Bund” area in Shanghai, taking photos and doing a little people watching.  At one point, Continue Reading →

Packing for six months

How much do you pack for an international trip that lasts for six months?  I’ve taken over 40 international trips to over 20 countries, but never for more than three weeks.  For this trip, it seems like I’ve been packing for three weeks.

lots-of-luggage

Of course I started by making a checklist.  But the more that I wrote on the list, the more I remembered I needed to add to the list.  There’s things that you want to bring along with you that you wouldn’t take on a normal short trip.  Continue Reading →

Arrested for child abduction?

Moving abroad is equal parts exhilarating and terrifying. You’re leaving behind family and friends to start a new adventure.Alexandra Talty

lakefront_drive
Photo credit: A New Day in Chicago by Roman Boed CC BY 2.0

I’m feeling a bit sad.   I’m driving home after a work event social event, where I just let the cat out of the bag to my coworkers that I’m moving to China for 6 months.  I have the windows down and music loud as I drive down a road along the world’s 4th largest freshwater lake.  It’s a beautiful 68°F (19°C) night with no humidity.  I will greatly miss this.  I love the cool nights and beautiful sunny days, often sailing on that lake.  I reflect on what it will soon be like.  Nearly 90° in early June, very high humidity, sweating my ass off.  And even hotter in July and August.  I’m not looking forward to that.   I will miss the people that I’ve come to know here.  The comfort in the familiar.  My home sweet home.

There will likely be new friendships to be forged in this new land, completely on the other side of the world.  But that is still unknown.  A foreign people, a foreign land.  Will they have the same things in common as I do?  Or will they find me so foreign and unrelatable?   Will they make me feel at home? Or will I feel truly a foreigner?  I like to think that I’m a relatively easy to talk to guy, and might not have a very difficult time befriending my new coworkers and maybe even some neighbors.

But what about my daughter?

Will my daughter be so homesick that she cannot stand to stay there another moment?  Or will she Continue Reading →

Censorship: No more Google, Facebook, YouTube

If there’s one thing that has literally kept me awake at night before moving to China, it’s the censorship in China.  While I really don’t care about politics at all, the part that has me worried is the censorship of the internet.  We have all heard of the Great Wall of China.  But there’s also the Great Firewall of China.  China has the most restrictive internet in the world, where they block over 8,000 domains.  While most of those websites aren’t of interest to me, they also block essentially every site that I do use!

no-google

Here’s just a partial list:

Google related: Gmail, Google+, Google Hangouts, Google Search Engine, Google Play, Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Calendar
Video: YouTube, Vimeo, Netflix
Social: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Snapchat, WordPress.com, Blogspot, Blogger, Flickr, SoundCloud, Whatsapp
News: The New York Times, Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Bloomberg, Reuters, many pages of Wikipedia
Other: Dropbox, Skype (not blocked, but so slow it’s useless, and monitored by third parties)
Porn: Every porn site (OMG, what am I going to do?)

While I don’t use everything on that list, much of what I do use is on that list!  I use all of those Google products.  This blog is run on WordPress (along with most blogs in the world, 60% market share, over 239 million websites).  Priya and I both spend a lot of time watching YouTube for entertainment or learning. We use Google Hangouts for free VoIP calling anywhere in the USA…we listen to music on SoundCloud…we use Wikipedia for research.

VPN to the rescue

It’s fairly common knowledge that  Continue Reading →