Next Steps…

“The rewards of tomorrow are safely hidden in the belief of never quitting and not giving up on yourself today”   ~ Johnnie Dent Jr.

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At last the government documents have arrived from China and I can now make my way to apply for my visa at the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco. Now this is getting real! From the first contact with the Christopher Ribeiro with ELS Suite, in late May, to now, it has been a test of patience and faith, and practice in being in the moment!

What I’ve managed to do in the six weeks in between,  is to confirm my good health, learn more about my tenacity and stick-to-itiveness, and to prepare physically and emotionally to leave the familiar for an adventure. The team in China with English First, Zhengzhou my new Employer, has been in good communication these six weeks, too, providing updates and setting expectations, as they prepare for my arrival.

Yesterday the signed documents from the Chinese government were received by courier,they actually arrived a couple of days earlier than expected according to the tracking information.  I’d been packing when the courier rang the bell! I am beside myself with excitement and an energetic feeling that I get as I’m about to jump on a wild ride!

Now I am preparing to head to the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco.  I’ll need the Government docs I’ve received, a completed visa application, my passport, and for good measure I will take my birth certificate, ID card, and the original letter offering me employment.

The Consulate offers a regular service for $140 which takes about four business days or a bit more for expedited service and I’ll be able to obtain my visa same day. The Consulate only takes plastic payment and also has limited hours during the business week. As a note, the best way to be prepared for applying for a visa and to confirm what is required and the various means of application and payment, the estimated time to obtain the visa, is to visit country specific websites and then to take it from there.  Additionally, be sure to make copies for your record of all documents that will be presented to obtain the visa.

Come Monday morning, I will catch the train in to the City and the Chinese Consulate… with this, taking the next step in my exciting journey…

 

The Need-to-Know Stuff

“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”

~Mary Anne Radmacher

The idea of an evening sun set witnessing the moon rising into the night… to experience a morning sunrise lighting the sky from a new vantage point… these are things I dream of imprinting on my memory with the sense of the moment, the place, and the people.  And the longing for these experiences has driven me to create this possibility to go, to see the world, to experience living the way others do where they live, everyday.

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Beginning to plan for my maiden journey, I read anything and everything I could get my hands on or pull up on  the inner-webs!  I’ve learned about heading to China to live for work, through books, articles, and many blogs.  What I’ve learned and compiled about the mundane everyday activities, hopefully will be helpful to you, too… don’t be overwhelmed by the subject matter… take what serves you and leave the rest, and share your good ideas and experiences in the comments.

First off, for me, is my ability to stay in-touch, connected, and to be able to capture my writing and photos… thus keeping my electronics safe and secure!  China’s voltage is pretty strong compared to my country, and I learned I’ll need a transformer to adjust the wattage so as to not burn out my laptop and mobile devices.  I was lucky and found a transformer that has USB outlets as well as a couple of electrical outlets housed right on the device.  The best practice for traveling internationally, is to have a transformer and adapter outlet plugs to protect your electronic devices, the other things like blow dryers, curling irons, clothes irons, etc. can be purchased (or borrowed) where you’ll be with and they’re guaranteed to work with the voltage and outlets!

While traveling I want to continue to write and blog and also to stay up with family and my editor who will be in another part of the world.  This means I will be relying on unsecure WiFi connections (I am doing that now here in the US and adding this solution to my devices even here, gives me added peace of mind). The solution for protection of  information (passwords, emails, identifying information) in my devices, as well as something that will allow me to access my blog and photo sharing sites (even accessing news or streaming the occasional movie or music), I need a virtual private network, or VPN.  I did a good bit of research and decided on a paid VPN that allows me to accommodate several devices on a single plan (MacBook, iPad, iPhone for me) on a single plan.  The biggest draw for me is security with additional firewalls for my mobile devices, quickness for uploading vlogs and streaming, as well as customer service support.  I chose Goldenfrog’s VyprVPN though a search via the worldwide web will help you decide what’s best for you. What is clear is that you will want to establish a VPN and you’ll want to do it before you leave your home country.

Next on this discussion list are sundry items, such as over-the-counter medications, that will help us be more comfortable in our new home the other side of the world.  It is quite common for travelers everywhere to struggle with stomach ailments when we begin to eat food and drink water in new and different areas.  It’s highly recommended that embarking on an international journey to take along Immodium AD, Pepto Bismol (or straight up bicarbonate soda), acetaminophen, ibuprofen, an anti-biotic ointment, insect repellant (do some research via the Center for Disease Control and World Health Organization), hand sanitizer, small packages of tissue, and sunscreen.  Best advice, is to not leave home without these things… the amounts you take depend upon your length of stay and where you’re going as chances are once you’ve settled in to where you’ll be, you’ll find a local source (or online source) for refills.

Water is essential for us wherever we are and traveling to new areas, the water and our bellies are always at odds.  Most likely in our flats and place of business we’ll have filtered water dispensers for our use.  Also, in restaurants drinking hot water is quite common in China, and the reason why is that boiled water is a good way to kill bacteria (and it is good for our bellies, too). You may want to get a hot water pot for your flat as well, it will boil water in an instant for drinking and cooking noodles, etc.  Because I have water with me all the time, I wanted a portable, refillable solution.  I found an awesome water bottle filter called The Grayl, yep just like the holy grail and by God it is that good!  I’ve always got a refillable water bottle with me these days, however it doesn’t do anything to the water.  Now where I’m traveling to and with the activities I hope to be doing, I need to be aware of possible viruses, particulates, and chemicals that could be present in drinking water. The Grayl is a full-spectrum purification +filtration and provides ultimate protection against pathogens (viruses, bacteria, protozoa), particulates, chemicals and heavy metals – filters 99.9% of these things out of your water within like seconds!  Again though, do a search on the world wide web keeping in mind where you’re traveling to, your activities while you’re there, and what sort of filters you’ll need.

Besides good, clean water we all need good clean air and traveling throughout the world we can remain on top of air quality outdoors and indoors with a couple of apps for our mobile devices.  It’s worth it to be aware of air quality and then to make the choice to wear a mask outdoors and to also purchase an air purifier and plants for your flat to help you while indoors. If you suffer allergies, if you like to exercise outdoors, and if you just want to maintain good health, prolonged exposure to polluted air anywhere can add up to health concerns so investment in a top mask is a good idea (a valuable side effect is those that wear them swear that they experience less cold and flu ailments).  So here again, do a bit of research and check out what and how air quality is measured indoor/outdoor and then choose the best app for your device and decide if you’ll want to have masks on hand for the occasional very poor air quality days.

Something else to be aware of is carbon monoxide poisoning.  CO has no odor and can be subtle and present without you knowing causing exposure to low levels over long periods of time. There aren’t clear statistics on deaths in China due to CO poisoning, though it is present.  There is a way to protect ourselves as most flats in China are above retail and restaurants and the risk could be present.  I found a travel CO alarm that I think will work well for me.

Now this next subject, which is a bit personal, but essential to speak about when traveling to any foreign country (some could argue even traveling to some family and friends homes) and that is bathroom habits.  In China, and many parts of the world, the common toilet form is a squatty potty or one that is in the floor, at ground level, that you will have to squat over to take care of your business.  Most of us will likely live in flats that have a western style toilet in them, though still, out n’ about you will encounter and have to use the facilities that will be a squatty potty.  On that list of sundry items above, I mentioned tissue packages and hand sanitizer, this is why and where you will want to use them both.  Also, the manner in which the squatty potty is used will begin to come as second nature, but here’s a couple of tips: roll up pant legs – do not drop your drawers, the smell in these rooms is usually pretty strong so be prepared, you will strengthen your quads and core while using the SQ, and there are studies that show this style of taking care of business is actually better for our gut health (who knew).

A bit more on bathroom habits, though this time for your flat.  Many bathrooms are often a big single room with a shower only and no bath tub.  The water heater for the warm water in the bathroom is in the room, and the proximity between the toilet (and I’m highlighting this because of the toilet paper) and the shower is sometimes extremely close.  Many people will leave the paper outside the bathroom while showering, though there have been some good suggestions for keeping the roll dry… here’s a few: a small foot operated stainless steel garbage can (lid on so no water on the role, plus you can store extra in there as well), or the DIY of the ziplock bag, to name a couple.  It’s a humorous subject, until of course you’re left with wet toilet paper.  Do a search including camping and waterproofing toilet paper, or toilet paper on a sailboat, for example to get more ideas.

These seemed the most important things and situations to highlight in this post.  Anytime we travel anywhere, we will encounter different ways of being and doing almost everything and truly those are the things that make exploring fun.  Being somewhat prepared helps to soften these differences that could otherwise not just be surprising but also could have a super negative impression of the people and countries we are visiting. I for one feel better informed and excited for the experiences awaiting me!

First things first…

I’ve accepted the job offer, so now what?!  It’s been a dream of mine to live and work ’round the world and I’m on my way!  I accepted a job to work in China… never have been to China… what do I need to get there, and to stay there for a bit.  Thankfully the company I am working for assists with securing the necessary documents for the proper visa to work and reside in China and they’re working closely with me on the visa process.  If you’re considering working in another country, this could be a requirement or a part of your negotiation.  If your on a tourist visa, the processes I’ll speak to below will still stand for you.

No matter where any of us travels today, we will require identification documents. Usually these documents include a passport, possibly our birth certificate, a second photo ID (driver license or ID card) and if traveling internationally a visa may be required as well.

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 12.15.21 PMFirst off visit your country’s national government site (in America it is the US State Department site) to learn about obtaining or renewing your passport.  The State Department site has a whole host of information for US citizens traveling abroad and is a must to be saved in one’s bookmarks on your laptop and mobile devices alike.  The site lists information for emergency services and alerts, as well as locations of US embassies and consulates (which you will want to know for every country that you’ll be visiting).  There is also information on visas requirements for US citizens visiting foreign countries (you will still want to visit country specific web sites for requirements along with locations of consulate or embassy to obtain visas and which type of visa suits your type of travel to that country). Definitely take a moment to visit these sites, peruse them, bookmark them, and make notes about what is required (pay particular attention to delivery timelines and payment types accepted at foreign consulates and embassies) for your travel.

On the US State Department site there are two sets of tabs, with the top most set having a tab title Travel that will provide information about travel documents (passports and visas) emergency services for citizens abroad, etc. Click here and review this page for invaluable information for your trip.  The Center for Disease Control will give you an idea of immunizations required for entry to particular countries as well as information on health risks (outbreaks, etc.) in particular countries.  I can’t say enough how invaluable these sites are for preparing for travel.  The earlier you visit them and know the requirements, the better to ensure that you’re prepared with not only required paperwork but also up-to-date immunizations and health records.

Another suggestion is to visit a travel clinic in your city or county, or quite possibly at your medical providers facility.  The travel clinic can inform you and administer any immunizations and give you good general healthy practices advice for the countries you plan to visit.  Likewise, if you are moving to a foreign country, you could be required to have a health evaluation as a part of your required travel documents.  This physical exam may consist of not just a written certification by a physician of your general good health, but you may also be required to have specific tests such as EKG, blood tests for HIV-AIDS, Tuberculosis, etc.  Outside of your primary care physician a travel clinic and some private service companies can provide the tests that you may need.  Search the internet for sites that will allow you to obtain blood tests, EKG, and lung x-ray independant of a primary physician.  In America travel clinics, Planned Parenthood, and county health offices could be sources for the general physical and certification of good health by a licensed practitioner.

Should your circumstances for travel be for employment purposes, your employer may assist you with visa and country specific documentation.  It’s a good idea to have a handful of additional passport sized photos of yourself, as it seems you’ll need one when you don’t expect it for one thing or another.  Additionally, be sure to keep secure electronic copies of all travel documents (passport, visas, birth certificate, identification card) along with your credit cards.  Keep these copies available securely on your laptop and portable devices as well.  This is a good practice in case any documents go missing or should you need something on the fly, you’ll have the required information in hand.

Knowing the required documentation and expected timeline for securing visas, etc. is a vital first step in traveling anywhere.  It is no fun to have arrived at the airport ready to head on a most excellent adventure only to realize your shy of some required documentation.  It is best to be duly informed and prepared before securing transportation to avoid costly charges for changes, etc. and to remain healthy and safe for your trip. Feel free to share your best practices and thoughts in the comments below.

Success & Preparation

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Photo credit to Patius

 

“You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.” ~ Yogi Berra

 

 

 

 

Success equals preparation or is it that luck is when preparation and opportunity meet? Well, I’m a bit more pragmatic especially while I’m about to embark on living abroad, first time out in a long while, and I figure a bit of effort at preparation will set me up for a positive first step.

Something valuable to consider is that no matter how long we are away from home, and even when making a home in a new country, we are still guests in this new place; we always bring where we are from with us where we go, be it in our appearance or how we speak and sound.  With this in mind I embark on knowing as much as possible about where I’m going, about the psyche of the people, the challenges of those intrepid adventurers that have gone before (as well as the fun and interesting things they make mention of), also wanting to be as comfortable safe and secure as possible.  Note to you well traveled, well heeled readers this will read rather pedestrian for you, so perhaps you’ll engage by sharing your tricks for overseas travel, or even the crazy story or two.

An agreed upon best practice with international travel, is to secure your main source of travel as early as possible to get the best price and seat selection.  A couple of recommends are to spend a little more for a seat above economy when traveling for long distances; not only do you want to be comfortable, you also want to arrive in good spirits and well rested. Further travel within the continent or country(s) you’re traveling to could be purchased prior to arrival, like say perhaps purchasing a rail pass, though most often getting the lay-of-the-land when you arrive affords you the choice to go by rail, rent an auto, or to fly a regional airline.

Baggage allowance is an important consideration depending on duration of stay and destination.  Understand what the different seat classes allow for both carry-on and checked baggage (size, weight, and number of bags) and consider moving up a class where allowances are a bit more generous (could be a few additional kilo or even an extra bag) if that might make sense for you.  This may be key if you’re planning to be away from home for a longer period of time and will require more clothing or comforts for the longer duration.  Airlines have detailed baggage limits for size, weight and number of pieces that can be checked and carried-on.  It is important to comply as overweight charges can be a bugger.  This preparation of measuring what to pack for the duration of your stay (seasons, activities you expect to be doing while there, access to laundry facilities) along with the possible cost of excess baggage weight or additional baggage. So, become familiar with airline websites to be able to review the baggage allowances/requirements tab, and toggle back and forth while making your selection.

I’m also for the everything-in-one-bag and traveling light as possible when the duration and potential activities warrant it. The key with this sort of travel is to be flexible, though well informed about the area that you’re likely to be traveling within.  The ease in which you can move and maneuver when packing light and with just what you need, is a great trade-off to having everything on hand.

When choosing an airline for overseas travel, it’s worth it to consider customer reviews as well as pricing.  Checking reviews you will learn a good about flight and ground crews, food quality, movie and music quality, etc.  I also found it was helpful to review the seating map of the aircraft for seat reviews as well.  Sites like SeatGuru  give you customer reviews of actual seat assignments!  I found this really beneficial to learn of someone else’s experience in a space as well as with airline crew and amenities.

An important consideration is travel or ticket insurance, or at the very least to understand what the penalty charge would be if you have a need to make changes to your ticket (it’s good to be able to be flexible for longer stays or for the unexpected delay). Most ticket purchases are done electronically these days, which is nice as we can do this at our leisure while toggling between webpages of airlines and plane seat schematics, etc.  However, all airlines have telephone representatives that can assist with first time purchases as well as with any changes you may need. Highly recommend working via phone for any changes you may have, so you can minimize cost (possibly avoid charges through a service oriented agent).  Something I learned this go-round was that when purchasing tickets online, many airlines are requiring a looks-see at the credit/debit card used for purchase, along with the customary ID verification, at check-in.

Another thought for airplane travel, particularly for long international flights, is inflight food and amenities.  Depending on who is meeting you upon arrival, and whether you care about this or not, the food you consume on the plane with altitude and sleep (or not) you want to drink loads of good ole’ fashioned water and avoid alcohol (truth be told, I’m not sure I can or want to avoid a gin … may depend on my seat mate and the turbulence). To avoid puffiness drink  water and get up occasionally and walk the aisles.  Also, avoid salt intake and maybe even try the vegetarian meal choice.  Reviews on SeatGuru and airline forums will often have comments about meal quality and other amenities.

As for your carry-on bags, I received great advice from several people about having a change of clothes, any prescription medications, and your toiletries in your carry-on bag just in case you’re diverted from your checked baggage for some reason.  Checking the airlines baggage policy you’ll know if you have the option of a carry-on and/or a computer bag, plus your handbag or briefcase.  One bit of good advice was as far as the hand bag was concerned, to put my cross-body bag in a larger satchel type bag that could accommodate a refillable water bottle, reading material, laptop/tablet (stocked with a book, a couple of movies, and favorite music), earpiece for airplane music and movie watching, pair of socks, ear plugs, travel pillow and sleep mask, snacks, etc. (airlines will have light blankets and small pillows for your use, as well as earpieces for purchase).

These choices are of course yours and many will depend on budget, the length of your flight, expected duration of stay at your destination and what you’ll be doing while you’re there.  Some may say time is a luxury, though for these sorts of trips, it is valuable to allow time for preparation on the outset. Successful preparation will enhance not only the flight experience, it will quite possibly set the tone for the whole of your upcoming experience ~ Bon Voyage!

 

 

Beginning My Adventure (of a lifetime…)

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 2.07.19 PMWhat’s this adventure of a lifetime I mention? Well for me, it’s been a life long dream  to live and work in other countries, to live everyday among new people, to learn about their lives first hand, to basically and truly become a citizen of the world.  And here I go, as within a few weeks I’ll be on a plane traveling round the world to do just that – to live and work in China!

When I made my decision to jump in and search for opportunities to live and work abroad, I hadn’t a clue where to begin or where this adventure would take me; it’s began sort of like spinning the globe and plopping my finger down or shaking a snow globe!  My maiden voyage,  is taking me to China…

I began by reading blogs about traveling  and living abroad which included everything from vagabonding to teaching English second language sites connecting job seekers with companies looking for teachers.  I created files in my bookmark queue on my laptop for this travel/work idea of mine to not lose any of the good information I’d come accross, all of which I am happy to share with you! I’d definitely recommend keeping an open mind, and approaching the process as a learning experience and also one in which you can make friends and contacts for your journey.  I’m a firm believer that when we put in the effort towards anything, that the right outcome will materialize… so go for it and simply begin!

I also began by updating and expanding my professional profiles and connections, seeking out contacts with people who were teaching English; I asked for their help and insight and introductions to other people. This proved most helpful because I began to receive responses about companies to look into, offers of introduction to people and companies, and just the good old-fashioned sharing of travel tips and antidotes from people around the world. Also, in that process I came in contact with an American living in China who taught English as a second language and who now owns and operates a recruiting firm for English teachers in China!

Making this connection with ESL Suite, and its Managing Director, Christopher Rubiero, I immediately felt I’d connected with a reputable company with integrity, not to mention a kind fellow and gentleman with experience in teaching English as well as business in general.  Christopher shared information about the various visa types in China and what to accept from companies that may be offering me a job.  He introduced me to two companies in China looking for teachers to join their staff. He shared particulars about the hiring process regarding interviewing across the globe and what that would be like, etc.

There are several sites on the internet that someone interested in teaching English could visit to learn about opportunities and companies seeking teachers. It is here where a job seeker can post a short introduction about your interests in teaching English along with posting your CV or resume.  These sites are interesting because they also highlight compensation, give reviews of companies, links to various blogs that are always interesting because they give first hand accounts, and links to cultural sites that give invaluable insight into the people and countries you are interested in visiting and working in.

The process of interviewing with English language companies is pretty much the same regardless of the country or city.  First there is an initial exchange via email about the position either because of posting for a job or being recruited.

Second, it is customary that the company contact will ask you to send a copy of your CV or resume, along with a copy of your passport.  This is a way to measure not just interest and skills, but also your ability to travel (I’m sure it also is a way to measure whether someone is legitimate, as well).

During this exchange the third step will be to schedule a Skype interview where you both can see one another.  This is usually a 30 minute meeting or interview where questions can be asked from both parties about the other, about the company, the position, the team, etc.

The fourth step is to receive a written job offer and then begin the process of filling out acceptance forms, providing further required documentation according to the country that you will be traveling to and living in, and then the preparation and research of what will be needed to live in another country (for example, inoculations according to country and region, visa requirements, other specific needs per country). You’ll learn about visa requirements, whether you’ll become a temporary resident of the country and city, and you’ll be able to prepare by learning the language of the country you’re soon to be residing in.

In upcoming posts, I’ll highlight my experience with the process of accepting my position, the documentation required, and my research on the country and specific requirements for me to travel there and to also be comfortable and safe in my new home as well.

PS… here are a few websites that you might find useful for English language teaching…

ESL Suite ~ http://www.eslsuite.com/ contact:Christopher Ribeiro, Managing Director

Dave’s ESL Cafe ~ http://eslcafe.com/  A good resource of information over all.

A found a great deal of information by searching, “why I should leave my job and travel” . Doing this, I found vagabonding sites, sites to join to learn of wordwide opportunities to exchange work for room and board, and also references for some great reading material, too.

I also suggest becoming familiar with time zone information, currency and exchange information, banking and finance, etc.

Coffee, Cafe, Community

BMZZ1909

Surrounded by a cacophony of sound

Subtle street noise, autos, squeaky bikes

The click and snap of a kickstand

the clank of the chain and lock on metal

The breeze moving through bougainvillea and palm

Slapping of flip flops saunter past

chairs  scraping atop cobble stone

porcelain cups clink as coffee is poured

flatware tinkling against plates

All accompanied by a hummm

Sultry voiced lady singing,  supported by a driving base guitar

Heartwarmingly, it is the sound of voices

Many voices, timbre high and low

Families, couples, friends, lovers

Colored by languages, strengthening connection

French, Spanish, Mandarin, German, Hindi, German

All highlighted by chuckles and giggles

the occasional shriek of a child

the bark of a dog

A melting pot at a corner café, in my little world

 

SB 7/10//16