Archive for June, 2011

30
Jun
11

Seen on the street…

  1. Man on a bicycle carrying a turtle hanging from on a stick over his shoulder.
  2. Woman crossing a road near the hospital carrying an intravenous drip bag and line attached to her arm.
  3. Woman in high heels riding a bicycle while talking on her cell-phone.
  4. Three people on a motorbike, the girl in the middle holding up an umbrella trying to shield all three of them from the rain.
  5. Man with a small dog on a leash taking the dog for a swim in a public fountain on a hot day.
  6. Many men, young and old, walking along the streets with vests rolled up and bellies – small, medium, large and very large – sticking out in an attempt to get cool on a hot summer day.
  7. Man on a motorbike crossing the road in front of a bus and nearly getting wiped out by a car coming along on the outside of the bus.
  8. Man on a moped with two dead pigs slung across the footrest.

Strange sights….coming soon to a street near you!

28
Jun
11

Subscribing to the newspaper

Newspaper subscriptions work a little differently here. We subscribe to the Shanghai Daily which features both local, national and international news, in various flavours of bias!

You cannot buy newspapers and magazines in supermarkets or grocery stores! The only way to buy a newspaper on a daily basis is from kiosks that sell all kinds of Chinese newspapers and magazines – these kiosks are situated along most main roads, every few hundred metres.

A subscription for the Shanghai Daily involves an online application/email/phone-call to the subscription department of the newspaper. Usually it takes 2-3 days from application until the arrangement for payment is made. The latest arrangement involves the newspaper subscription department telling the post office when they can send someone around to your apartment to collect payment. If you miss the beginning of the month (usually we pay for 6 months at a time and I forget that I need to contact them BEFORE the end of month 6!), they subtract the no. of days that you have missed and work out the outstanding amount. There doesn’t seem to be an option for 6 months from TODAY! The post office worker arrives at your home with a completed receipt, pockets your money and lo, and behold, you now have an active subscription.

Our January renewal involved some additional phone-calls and complications in that we weren’t at home, and there were public holidays, and the post office in the area near to our office had to send someone to collect the money while we were at work. This time I sent an email request yesterday and was expecting a few days delay, and was a bit annoyed that no one contacted us today about finalising the payment arrangements. Much to our surprise the doorbell rang this evening at around 6.00 – and there was “the worker”. We handed over 6 months’ subscription fees, got change and a receipt, and (hopefully) our subscription will continue through to the end of the year.

Last year there were a few days when we didn’t receive the paper. When I raised a complaint, we received an apology via email, and the next day found an envelope in our mailbox with 6 ¥ (Chinese Yuan) in coins for the 3 days when the newspaper was not delivered!

I haven’t felt the urge to subscribe to any Chinese magazines, but apparently you also have do it at the Post Office!

16
Jun
11

Spitting mad!

To quote Monty Python: “I spit on your British Queen” – this is exactly what I felt like doing a few weeks ago – except that Queen E was probably less at fault than the corrupt Department of Home Affairs officials that have rendered the South African passport an item of international suspicion and contempt.

Even though my husband is a British passport holder and I have two step-children who live and work in the UK that have British passports and even a sister that has been in the UK for the last 20 years and also has a British passport, my little forest-green travel document has the misfortune of being labelled “potentially fake” by the British powers that be and I now need a visa to visit my family in the UK.

To make matters worse, I had to apply for this visa in Shanghai, with the clock ticking towards the 90-day deadline by which we have to exit the borders of China.

– So far I have avoided writing about the inherent complexities of our being able to live in China – one day I will have to summon up the courage to do so –

Until then, let me just say that we can only stay in China for a maximum of 90 days at a time. When the 90 days are up, we have to leave the country, go through border control, do a u-turn, and then we are allowed back in – for another 90 days. Unless our annual visa has expired, in which case we have to return to South Africa to restart the application process. [My husband would be able to apply from Hong Kong…..but once again, my little forest green book is not treated with equal importance and significance as his maroon one!]

I digress…I had to apply for my UK visa in the Shanghai office of the agency to which the UK consulate has outsourced the screening process. Initially I tried to apply online – you would think, that in this enlightened age, an online process would be quicker and more efficient, or am I alone in that thinking?

After filling in a 15 page questionnaire, which including questions about my now deceased parents that were South African, not British, and obtaining invitations letters and copies of the passports of all my British family members, I came to the part where I was informed that the nature of my application required that I make a personal appointment.

The earliest available slot for said appointment was in 3 weeks’ time! Only about a week after we would be deported for exceeding our visa restrictions.

I threw my toys (again) and was told (in more polite terms) – Suck it up! So my husband persuaded me to relinquish my passport, not sure if I would see it again before I was escorted onto a plane heading back to SA for overstaying my welcome in China. He reckoned that, being British, he had some clout at the consulate 🙂 and if necessary would track it down to help me to get out of the country. A couple of phone calls and emails, he acknowledged that he didn’t have as much influence as he would like. The Chinese employee at the embassy – Harry – was not interested in our problem. So passed a week of uncertainty and inability to book tickets to….anywhere!

The good news is that the story has a happy ending and a week later the visa was approved and the little green book was back in my very grateful hands. We flew out of China on 2nd June (1 day before deadline)….




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