Our shipping is here, or “winging it”

Getting our stuff from China to Spain has been an ongoing headache.

April

Discovered we were moving to Spain, not Germany. Interesting discussion with other staff about whether it’s “movers”, “removers” or “removalists”. Located a Chinese shipping company relatively easily via colleagues at school.

June (few weeks before move)

Researching “life in Spain” and stumbled across dire warnings about bringing goods from overseas, including not being able to ship personal belongings without proof of residency (e.g. student visa, work permit, residence card). Won’t have any of this until 3 – 6 months after arrival. Looked into shipping to family in the UK, but again, not enough “proof of relationship” to get through customs. Considered shipping to Australia and then sending it onward once I had residency – round and round in circles, dark days. A few times I almost passed out from the anxiety of it all.

Didn’t contact Chinese shipping guy immediately, as sneaking suspicion he was “winging it” and quite possibly had never sent anything outside China before despite “international movers” claim. My suspicions were confirmed as he refused my offer of additional paperwork only weeks from the move. I contacted numerous other shipping companies, but at the end of the day their costs were at least double his quote, if not more.

Decided to sell the superfluous stuff (the cool things I’d accumulated after 2 years in Asia *sob*), and send 1 or 2 bags of things we really couldn’t part with via DHL or similar (for about the same price as the entire shipment *double sob*)

June – a week before we depart China

Lo and behold, Johnson (the shipping agent) replied! “Don’t worry, I know about this (residency requirement) and I have a plan”. His plan involves stashing my things in with another family also going to Spain (but with citizenship or residency already in the bag). Dubious, I was forced to trust him as we had run out of time for any other scenario.

June 25th

Johnson came, and despite his assistant being a tad rough and careless with the packing, seemed to know what he was doing. Paid the 7000RMB and crossed my fingers.

Mid-September

For the past 4 months I have wondered silently if we will ever see our things again. We’ve been in Spain about 3 weeks with no sign of shipping. Contacted Johnson. He said “Don’t worry, it is on it’s way”, but a couple weeks later, still nothing. I emailed again, and this time received the curious reply “I sent by air express as I think this will be quicker for you. It should arrive soon”

Now, one of the reasons Johnson was able to provide me with the best quote was because he intended to send slowly, by sea. Air express sounds very curious and hopefully I won’t be getting a new bill.

Late October

WEEKS of confusion later, the shipping has arrived. During this time, Johnson vanished off the radar and I started getting calls and emails in Spanish relating to my “import” and mentioning “storage fees”. I dutifully completed the forms they sent, hoping I was writing in the right places. Discovered by accident on the phone to company that they thought I was importing goods from China to sell, and I was about to be charged an exorbitant amount of tax for old shoes and teddies. A few confusing conversations later and I was asked for “proof” our things were used, and why they needed to be moved from China to Spain.

GAH. 4 days later, still no replies to my emails sending them everything I had and asking for clarification.

YESTERDAY

Suddenly a truck pulls up outside our window and someone starts shouting my name (surname/first name haha). A burly guy gets out and starts passing boxes over the back fence for me to lift inside (!). Waives away my attempts to provide ID, takes €24.20 in tax, and drives off.

Of course, the moral of the story is: everything will be okay. It got here despite all my worrying.img_6551

 

 

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Chengdu chill #blogjune 27

245am before we finally crawled into bed after foolishly booking late flight, which was delayed, then half an hour in taxi line before picking lunatic driver who said yes, yes, yes and took us in the wrong direction 😭 

We’re feeling it today. Lessons learned: 

  • wheeled suitcases are great. Just because you have a fancy backpack doesn’t mean you need to use it
  • Late flights are just silly
  • Overnight sleeper trains vary according to train class. No more K trains!
  • Luggage lockers only appear when you don’t need them. If you need one because your back is about to break and you are sweating up a storm and wishing for death, then Nanjing local government will build 2 new railways and NOT install luggage store

Good news is there’s no hurry. We don’t really have to be anywhere. So we wandered Chengdu this morning, ate some pancake flatbread thing for breakfast, washed down with hand squeezed orange juice outside a Buddhist university. 

<still no photos because VPN can’t handle the upload>

Currently sitting in the Bookworm cafe, one of the longest serving western establishments in Chengdu. The concept is cool – what’s not to love about a cafe inside a bookstore? It seems the sort of place where you could hide in a corner with your laptop and never have to fear being moved along. Service is awkward and slow (they just came to let me know I can’t have a cappuccino because there is ‘something wrong with the machine) but staff are sweet and the food is good. Times like these I really should improve my TripAdvisor reviewing abilities…seeing how much I rely on them for advice. But I just want to lie here with my new book…

China farewell #blogjune

Languishing in Nanjing airport. Blog June has fallen by the wayside as I’ve frantically raced to pack, ship, trash, clean, book flights, trains, hotels, cars, arrange gifts, attend farewells and send ‘last emails’. Oh, and finish my Library Annual Report. Can’t believe I managed to do it. It’s not 100% but I did it in such a short timeframe and in spite of being told nobody cares and I shouldn’t bother by just about every staff member)

Our Farewell China tour commenced with an overnight hard sleeper train from Qingdao to Nanjing which I am bitterly regretting right about now. NB – don’t forget trains in China decline not only in speed, but in amenities, cleanliness and general passenger behaviour the further down the train heirarchy you fall. My daughter is obsessed with hard sleeper (6 berth, no door) so I thought we’d try just one. But foolishly booked a K TRAIN!!

On arrival in Nanjing our plans took a dive as both railway stations are being upgraded and don’t have storage facilities. Ludicrously I decided we’d both carry backpacks on this trip so after 2 hours we got on the train to the airport, where I am currently trying to stay awake until our 9pm flight to Chengdu. I could try to get us on an earlier flight but I don’t think I have the mental capacity right now 😁

You’ll have to imagine photos as my tired, cranky brain cannot deal with slow China Internet today. 

Moving on #blogjune 21

I’ve been dreaming of leaving this job since about 3 days after I started. I try not to think of anything as a “mistake” (because everything’s a learning experience, right?) but that’s certainly what it felt like here for about…oh, the first 12 months.

Preschool storytime 2016
Action Shot

Yet now, as I sift through work files and school event photos on my laptop and start to Trash and Burn, I have a sudden rush of … feelings.

This is the second-longest job I’ve held. Not necessarily because I have a short attention span – sometimes I’ve moved on in a hurry, but general Life events have also played their part (study, travel, child rearing). My last job before this I stayed 3 years, and it was the first time I left a position because it was the right thing to do, rather than to escape a tyrannical boss or poor working conditions. I was wholly unprepared for how leaving would feel. In the past I had left under cover of darkness, or in such rage against the machine that there was no room for feelings of sadness.

Primary library lesson
Listening intently, which students always do, whenever I speak lolololololololol

Here is a little of the latter, but it has been a long period of my life. And there have been some great moments, and some fantastic people – coworkers, students, random old ayis in the street. It’s also my last school-based teaching job (although, never say never as my teaching college buddy always said). At least by choice. And possibly my last librarian job for a little while. In a few days I will officially be unemployed.

So it’s all a bit emotional. And it will be a bittersweet farewell to China and all who sail in her.

IMG_1863
Not the most inspirational 21st century library environment, but I’ve stared at it every day since August 2014. Incidentally, what is it with me and getting jobs in ugly libraries? (Ayi joining the shot…)

“Staff quarter handbook” and other mysteries of Life #blogjune 19

IMG_1015
How I feel about packing…

There is a funny set up here where the school is divided down the middle, with “academic” staff on one side, and “everyone else” on the other. While the Principals have authority over the ‘academic’ side of things, there is Someone Else who is in charge of the rest. This department is ironically known as: “Support Division”.

The first thing teachers learn is that staff in this division are never, ever, ever at fault. If the shifu (handyman) sets up the entire Assembly hall for an activity that occurs a month from now instead of your major event that takes place in an hour, this is your fault. If the purchasing person orders a CD version of a book (in a school without CD players), this is also your fault. And if you ever want anything to get done, you must play along with this farce, because when I said they are in charge of everything not academic – I meant everything: broken door handles, blocked toilets, drinking water, air filters, purchasing, security, visas, lifting heavy things, your salary…

They also manage foreign teacher apartments, so you may see where I am going with this? Fall out with them over the CD incident mentioned above, and you may find that when your fuse box blows up and you’re sitting in darkness they suddenly can’t hear their phones.

Saying that, there are staff in this department who have gone above and beyond to help us out, (dropped my bankcard down a toilet, dropped my electricity card in the middle of a busy road) and for that we are very grateful. I still think the school should consider making everybody happy by employing a staff member to act as “foreign staff liaison”.

Anyway, I’ve been searching for the staff apartment “exit procedure” for a while, and have finally received a reply that refers me to a handbook that – as far as I can make out – doesn’t exist. I hope this reflects the amount of effort they put into inventory of the apartment when we leave!

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I’m hoping if the inspection person notices the change in toaster they will consider it an upgrade…

Logistics #blogjune 17-18

Falling behind with #blogjune but I have an excuse! We have finally found a way to ship some boxes of stuff to Spain. I’m not sure how confident I am it will actually arrive. All the stuff for shipping is slowly being stockpiled in the lounge room:

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Mostly I seem to be shipping suitcases. How many suitcases does a person actually need? I think I have around 15…and that’s not counting those half handbag/half carry on bags!

We are flying AirNZ to Australia (squee!). They’ve always been one of my favourite airlines, but sadly leapt out of my price range when they started emulating budget airlines with a ridiculous Seat+Bag+Meal pricing model. Somehow by stopping over in Auckland for a few nights en route we managed to find the cheapest flight home. Yes, I realise I will spend those $$$ anyway by staying in Auckland, but it’s been too long between NZ visits! Ironically, given price moan above, they are letting us bring 2 x 23kg bags EACH. What on earth? I’ve scoured the web to see if I can get this deal going to Spain, but so far nope. I even considered ditching the shipping and paying extra to fly AirNZ to Europe, but I have a hatstand and a rug and can’t see that getting stowed by any airline.

As we are backpacking south China for 2 weeks before we fly to Australia we’re going to leave our big bags in the apartment until we get back from our Yunnan/Guizhou/Sichuan adventure. Speaking of which, I haven’t kept up with blogging due to the pain of trying to book that trip. If only China had a rail pass for travellers! But as with everything, why on earth would they try to create new markets when there are already 2 billion people chasing the product?

Exit strategy #blogjune 16

Only 6 1/2 days of school to go. I’m tidying my desk, my Inbox, my Documents folder…and I’m sifting through the “Things I Started But Quickly Discovered Nobody Cared About So I Stopped” pile. It’s an unfortunate side effect of this role that I have developed a Very Bad Habit that goes completely against my character: I have stopped completing some tasks I know to be important when I’ve learned nobody cares about them, or worse, if I learn that other staff, or managers, mock me for doing them. It’s last minute, but I am so disappointed to make this realisation that I am going to try to rectify it to some extent by setting myself the challenge of creating an annual report for the Library using infographics.

I’m testing these sites:

Canva (can’t get the templates to load without VPN *cry cry cry*)

Piktochart (like a lot. Easy to use, pretty templates, loads without VPN)

Infogram (could be great, but templates won’t load without VPN)

Easelly (already annoying because weird layout and templates won’t load without VPN)

So I reckon I’m pretty much stuck with Piktochart, but that’s cool because it is cool! There’s some excellent advice about creating interesting annual reports here and here.

While I was playing about with them, it suddenly occurred to me that an infographic would make an awesome CV. It seems I am not the only person to have this thought! There are even companies who you can pay to create amazing graphic CVs for you, like Story Resumes, the people who created my favourite below:

lucyin

China farewell tour #blogjune 14

Before we depart China we plan to travel mostly by train from Qingdao to somewhere near Guangzhou. The train is my Ms 10’s idea. She is particularly fond of overnight trains (ugh). Fortunately they’re not too bad in China. A couple of good websites for travel planning are helping us identify places to stop: Travel China Guide and China Highlights. They can be a little liberal when it comes to the realities of what is on offer in a particular city, but their info is usually up to date and very thorough.

For booking in China, I use local travel website, Ctrip. It’s okay, but has some limitations, such as stupid rules that won’t allow you to book adult and child tickets together online. They also won’t let you book train tickets instantaneously. I usually find prices on Ctrip then take the screenshot to a local travel agent to purchase. This agent is a desk inside a mobile phone store. One of life in China’s infinite frustrations is that one end of the desk is for booking flights and accepts card payments, while the other end of the same desk is for train bookings and accepts cash only.

China Itinerary

Well, since having this idea it seems overnight trains may be frequent North to South, but not so much East to West. We may need to fly some routes. Or take a weird southerly direction to get East, hence:

Nanjing: Nan 南 means south. One of the cool things about Chinese cities is that some of the major ones are named for their points on the compass.  “Bei” 北 means north (Beijing), “Xi” as in Xi’an, means west. Nanjing has been the capital of several empires and the Republic, and features in many important events in Chinese history – the Opium Wars, Taiping Rebellion, and was the site of the worst horrors of the Japanese occupation.

Wuhan: water village sort of outside Shanghai

Our main stops though, are:

Chengdu: home of the panda 

Lijiang – Shangri La, tiger leaping gorge, minorities 

Guiyang/Guizhou: minority groups and hand papermaking. There are supposed to be UNESCO listed villages (listed for their traditional methods of papermaking) in this area. 

Guilin/Yangshou: pretty. You know those dome shaped mountains and rice field photos of China you see? They’re mostly taken here. 

Kunming/Guangzhou: depends who has the cheaper flights back to Qingdao

Now I just need to get all this booked!

Serendipity #blogjune 9

Our rescheduled flights to Seoul are not til Friday morning, so we have a day to kill in Qingdao. Ever since my paper obsession started, I’ve been quizzing our Chinese staff about local art shops or workshops. They’ve all looked at me like I’m insane, and giggles at the idea of art being a career path. 

Which is probably why the year 3/4 class managed to go on an excursion to a hand papermaking & traditional printmaking shop without me hearing. Sighhhhhhh

But the flight debacle meant today was an opportunity to check it out. We found it in what was probably a neat little art hub around the time of the Beijing olympics, but which, like so many other neat little things in China has been allowed to fall into disrepair. The staff do community workshops (they have read my business plan), so there was only a guy with a little English in the store, but nevertheless he showed us everything, lit a raging fire in me for printmaking, and sold us one of everything in stock.

searching for Chinese characters
everything a young Chinese scholar needs to know about life
they also make paper
background to the letterpress. we think he said xiangxi?
found 马美兰