Do You Ever Wonder?

This is a thought that has crossed my mind on occasion: whom have I already seen for the last time?

I’m not pretending that I came up with this image. I took it off 9GAG, cropped out all of the other crap, and I’m posting it here because seeing it visually presented like this just solidifies the profundity of this thought for me.

May we all pause before we act and treat each other just a little bit kinder.Perhaps the Last Time

Temporary Residence Registration for Shanghai

As a foreigner, unless you’re staying at a hotel, you need to register your temporary residence within 24 hours of arriving in Shanghai. This does not only apply to Shanghai of course, but I’m specifically mentioning Shanghai because this is where I live. It applies to all places in China, naturally, with the difference being that in rural areas the time is extended to 48 hours.

In the beginning, I was quite diligent in doing this. However, being here in China on a multiple-entry visa valid for 90 days per entry, it means I have to do it every time I leave the country and return. This got to become quite tiresome. So, when I moved into a new place in an unfamiliar area, I just stopped registering my temporary residence. I didn’t know where the local police station was, it was less than a month before I had to leave China again, and the whole exercise anyway seemed rather pointless for someone in my situation.

However, if you need to apply for a new visa in-country, change it, extend it, or apply for a permanent residence permit – just about anything related to amending the terms of your legal stay – having an up-to-date temporary residence registration is a prerequisite. Failure to register your temporary residence may result in either a warning or a fine of up to RMB 2 000. Even if, like me, you do not see the immediate need for this, you risk the chance of being stopped and asked where you live and then subsequently get checked up on. It’s a statistical improbability in a place the size of Shanghai, but I do know of someone this actually happened to. Continue reading

Shanghai Meiji (China Teach)

My experience with Shanghai Meiji (China Teach) was not a positive one. Though what they do may not be illegal, I felt that their actions were at least unethical.

Shanghai Meiji (China Teach) is a company whose services bridge the gap between the qualifications and experience of those who want to teach English in Shanghai and what the law requires – by negotiating “teaching internships” with schools and language centres. It may seem like a win-win for everyone, but working through them means you’ll be sacrificing an enormous chunk of what you could be earning if you dealt with a school or language centre directly.

Since I had zero teaching experience, I thought that I’d stand to benefit from first doing a teaching internship as it obviously would’ve been in the best interest of my future students to have a teacher who at least had a good few months of solid classroom experience behind him, but it has meanwhile become clear to me that the majority of these language centres are in it for the money mostly and that the quality of education provided takes a huge backseat to profits. So, in the end, experience or no real experience, it wouldn’t have mattered much.

Shanghai Meiji (China Teach) is basically a recruitment and placement agency with a stiff service fee that you end up paying. If you are job-hunting from outside China, you may feel that it is worth the pay cut and programme fee having someone arranging everything for you and helping you settle in. If so, then great: by all means, go for it. They have a partnership with a Chinese language school in Shanghai through which they will arrange a student visa for you that will allow you an extended stay so that you can do your “internship”. Continue reading

Teaching English in Shanghai

National Diplomas are well-known and well-respected in South Africa. For certain professions, most notably in applied science and engineering, employers often value them more than regular degrees because they’re more job-specific.

However, you need a work visa in order to work legally in China, and for this you’ll need to have a degree and at least two years of work experience if you wish to teach English in Shanghai. I understand China’s need to improve the quality of English teachers, but this degree requirement has unfortunate consequences for those who hold a National Diploma from a South African technical university.

The undergraduate education system in China is modelled after its American counterpart, with four years of study for a bachelor’s degree being the standard length. In South Africa, bachelor’s degrees take anything between three and five years to complete, but the vast majority of them require three years. So, I find it ridiculous that English teaching job requirements are usually “a bachelor’s degree in any field” – as though there exists some sort of global standard.

While the length of study for a National Diploma is the same as for the average bachelor’s degree in South Africa, good luck trying to explain that to the Chinese. They don’t seem to care how many years of study it took to get your university qualification. Unless you’re able to produce a piece of paper with the words bachelor’s degree on it, you’re not going to get anywhere. Believe me, I’ve tried countless times. Continue reading

Deister Studio

While I was back in South Africa, I decided it was a good idea to go for a wax again because I knew the weather would start getting hotter once I got back to Shanghai.

Last year, I wrote a number of blog posts on choosing a waxing professional, why I feel that a home-based waxing studio is a better option, as well as what to watch out for.

Deister Studio ticks almost all of the boxes for me in terms of doing things right, so this was my third visit.

What I like about this particular home-based waxing studio is that the treatment area is immediately to the right of the front door, in a purposefully-outfitted room separate from the rest of the house. Lighting is more than adequate, and there is a bathroom with shower just a short distance away from the waxing area.

I appreciate that appointments are scheduled a minimum of half an hour apart, so there is no risk of potential awkwardness bumping into other clients on the way in or out.

Professional, patient, attentive and thorough, I’ve always left feeling very satisfied and would definitely recommend Deister Studio’s male waxing service. Even if you live some distance outside the Bellville area, it’s probably still worth the trip.

Update: As from August, it appears that Deister Studio is no longer at the same location. I therefore cannot comment on the facilities at the new premises.

Thai House Massage & Spa

It’s been two weeks since my return from a 3-week trip back to South Africa. While I was there, I was in need of a massage and decided to pay a visit to Thai House Massage & Spa, located in Brackenfell. Also, my mom’s birthday was coming up, so I wanted to treat her to a massage since she’d never had one before. Obviously, I didn’t want to end up taking her anywhere untoward, so I needed to check the place out first so I could be sure it was only authentic Thai massage that was on offer and not just a thin veneer for something more unseemly.

Well, I’m happy to report that the business conducted at Thai House is totally above-board. In fact, there is signage posted as a reminder that no sexual requests will be entertained.

Thai House Massage & Spa is situated in a residential property on H O De Villiers Street that has been converted into proper business premises, so it’s not like you’re walking into someone’s private home with family pictures lining the walls.

H O De Villiers Street connects Old Paarl Road and Frans Conradie Drive, so I imagine that road can get busy at times. I found that with the street-facing massage room I had on my first visit I could hear some motorcycle noise that occasionally disrupted my deeply relaxed state. However, this wasn’t a huge problem and probably not worth worrying about. Continue reading

Most Recent Hotel Stays

In the month since my last blog post, I’ve had the privilege of staying at a number of high-end hotels in Shanghai. As before, this was accommodation that I didn’t book or pay for myself, so once again I’m simply sharing some quick, general impressions of these hotels instead of doing a side-by-side comparison.

Like most people nowadays, I rely on my camera phone for taking photos. However, my Samsung Galaxy S4’s ageing battery had been giving me less and less usage per charge until I very recently got my new phone: the Xiaomi Mi Note LTE. It’s an awesome phone by the way, but I digress. The point is that I often found myself with a near-dead phone and therefore unable to take photos of the rooms upon check-in. What I have, though, I will share here.

Some of these hotels were first-time visits while others were repeat ones in mostly higher category rooms.

Paramount Gallery Hotel Shanghai

The room had a seating area separated from the bedroom by a TV armoire. Generally, it was a good stay, but what I didn’t enjoy all that much was the central air conditioning. I found the room too warm for my liking, and although there was a panel from which one could supposedly exercise a degree of control over the temperature, this appeared to be mostly for show without really adjusting anything. Continue reading

Social Media Integration

My idea was to have all of my social media aggregated and fed back to this blog on a regular basis. However, the problem I experienced with Facebook was one I hadn’t anticipated.

I could find no easy way to create a stream of my public Facebook posts and integrate it here. Supposedly, one can only do this with Facebook Pages and Facebook Groups but not with regular Facebook personal accounts. Converting your profile into a Facebook Page is not difficult at all, but this was not something I wanted to do. In the end, I decided to use an app that allows me to cross-post public Facebook updates to Twitter and simply embedded a Twitter feed here, which was easy enough to do.

The process and end result turned out very different from the way I had envisioned, but stylistically I’m very happy with the way that my social media content will now be displayed as a snapshot of my latest activity.

Rethinking My Social Media Usage

If everyone used Facebook the way I did, it would cease to exist in its current form. That’s because its survival depends on its users inviting others to be subjected to their constant onslaught of freshly shared content. I, on the other hand, do not send out “friend requests”. The idea of encumbering someone with the obligation of having to view and manage a stream of whatever I decide to post is just something I don’t feel comfortable with. My Facebook friends are all people who invited me, and I use the service predominantly to interact with whatever they share. On the rare occasion that I actually do publish something on Facebook, I do it with my existing “friends” in mind and what they might find informative, interesting or funny.

The reason Twitter hasn’t really grabbed me is because its purported usefulness lies in following the tweets of people or companies one finds interesting. The problem for me, though, is that there is simply nobody I’m so desperately wanting to be kept informed about that I’d go as far as subscribing to their feed of relentless updates.

As for speaking into the ether, I have this blog for that. My always thought: “Why would I provide free content to a service like Twitter?” I did eventually give it a bash sometime last year and had less than rewarding results, but I attribute that largely to my lack of experience with the platform.

However, I’m now rethinking social media and how I use it. Social media is, well, social. Facebook is good for sharing things that may be of interest to my “friends” or for when I’m in need of more immediate interaction and/or validation. The type of content I have on here, with the exception of maybe one or two posts, is distinctly different from what I’m likely to post on Facebook. Likewise, I can’t imagine (m)any of my Facebook friends really being interested in anything I have to say in this blog. Continue reading

Four Shanghai Hotels: My Impressions

In order, my four most recent hotel stays were at Sofitel Shanghai HylandInterContinental Shanghai Puxi, Crowne Plaza Shanghai and All Seasons Hotel Shanghai Yan’an Road.

I neither made the reservations nor paid for these rooms myself, so I don’t know what the rates were for three of these. With the exception of Crowne Plaza Shanghai, I don’t even know what room category the accommodation belonged to. So, this is by no means a side-by-side comparison of quality and value for money; I’m only sharing my general impressions of them.

It depends on where in Shanghai one needs to be and for what purpose of course, but I feel that for the typical tourist Sofitel Shanghai Hyland is, of these four hotels, unbeatable in terms of location. Its front doors lead right onto Nanjing Road, which is a famous pedestrian street and popular tourist attraction in Shanghai. And with places like Pizza Hut, KFC and MacDonald’s all within spitting distance, skill and wind permitting, one can claim a visit to China without having to step very far outside the bubble of Western comfort.

In Shanghai, I’ve grown accustomed to customer service generally being cold and unfriendly. Mostly, I’m just relieved if the person serving me doesn’t make me feel that my mere existence is a source of annoyance or inconvenience. So, stepping into Sofitel Shanghai Hyland and being warmly greeted and smiled at was somewhat surreal and in stark contrast to what I’d been experiencing elsewhere in the city. In fact, I found it a bit overwhelming to the point that it seemed patronising, almost sarcastic. Continue reading