You Never Know Where Life Will Take You

Welcome! This is a blog about a girl, who got a job, and moved halfway across the world to teach English. Read and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My New Philosophy....and Hong Kong Happenings!

Hong Kong has been crazy! Actually, the whole visa process has been crazy.  Mainly because I realized right after Christmas that NO ONE at TEFL had said anything about my visa. I had told Tina, head of the foreign teachers, that I was going home during the Chinese New Year and double checked the dates to make sure they were okay. I also stressed that my Tourist visa expired before the holiday as well. Apparently, communication isn’t a strong point of TEFL. It wasn’t until I drew a calendar up on the board in my office detailing the countdown until I leave did it really hit them if they didn’t act fast, then they’d lose me to visa complications. There is no possible way to cover 10+ classes on such short notice, so yeah, that kind of shocked them into motion. It was like lit a fire under a bunch of ants. I had my plane ticket booked, hostel booked, and promised money upfront to pay for my trip but the end of the day Friday. Awesome…but still ‘Strike One’ for me having to remind them to do their job.

Also, as they were running around like chickens with their heads cut off, I was compiling information on the side. You know: addresses, phone number, directions, English and Chinese. Things that normal people do to prepare for a trip? They turn to tell me what I would be doing and I show them my sheet and they were so amazed! It’s like they couldn’t fathom someone preparing something ahead of time – what is this thing called ‘organization’!?!

I had classes all day Monday and most of the day Tuesday. I left right after work on Tuesday and hopped on a plane from Hangzhou to Hong Kong. I will say, since my flight was so late, I really appreciate them booking a direct flight instead of a flight to Shenzhen and then having to take a train into Hong Kong. The flight was no problem, had some movies downloaded and I made friends with the guy sitting next to me. Charlie is a financial adviser here in Hong Kong with family south of Hangzhou. He also lived in Australia for about 10 years, so no communication issues. Got his numbah too!  Unfortunately, I don’t have a phone. I’ll probably email him after I post this blog. It’s nice to have connections. Anyway, I got in late Tuesday night to my hostel after taking a shuttle from the airport. It’s small and super hard to find but nice? Downside: there is no internet and the owners speak like ZERO English. Strike Two TEFL. Next time I’m booking a hostel closer with an English speaking attendant….mainly because I tried to ask them a bunch of questions (where’s the nearest Starbucks since your establishment doesn’t have wireless, where do I catch the bust back to the airport, what time do I need to check out). How much did they understand, even when I tried to ask in Chinese, NONE! Gah, frustrating!

But I told myself, if I can survive this, I can survive anything.

I got to downtown Hong Kong no problem on Wednesday morning, but had a hard time finding the Visa office. I walked past a line outside the Chinese Resource building and asked the people in it what they were lining up for. One effeminate man told me 'This is for tickets to Lady Gaga.' Made sense, so I walked around the building, no luck. Walked into the building, still no luck. Walked past the line again and crossed the street...only to be stopped by the guy that told me the line was for Lady Gaga. THEY LIED TO ME! I am so incredibly much for the kindness of strangers.

Oh well, it was a great laugh and the guy and his two other cohorts let me butt in line as an apology and we kept each other company and freaked each other out by telling stories about people who had passport problems and got stuck in Hong Kong. [cue dramatic foreshadowing]

It was all fun and games too….until they mentioned, as I was flipping through my papers, that it looked like I didn’t have my health exam. That’s weird, I thought, I definitely got one of those back in November specifically for the visa application process…why wouldn’t TEFL include it?

I go ahead and fill out the application, where I feel like they ask me a lot of redundant questions. Waited for my number and when I got to the desk, the lady asks me where my heath exam sheet is. STRIKE THREE TEFL, STRIKE THREE! I have to have this sheet to submit my paperwork. No health exam, no visa, big problem.

I rallied the troupes! I told myself, if I can survive this, I can survive anything. I was not going to get stuck in Hong Kong (as cool as it is).

I put on my action pants and ran across the street to the Starbucks and tried to use what little battery was left on my laptop to frantically spam everyone at TEFL to tell any of the people in charge about my problem. I then ask around Starbucks to see if anyone knew where I can get a voltage converter so I can plug my computer in. Found a place nearby and grab one…but then realize I left my chord at home.

NoooooooooooCOPYMAX store. I run over there and then have to buy a USB so I can transfer the file from my dying computer to their system.

Finally, get it printed out. I run back to the consulate, get another number to wait in line right before the cut off time, re-fill out the paper work, and submit my application! SUCCESS…until I learn that I will have to pay double of what we thought ($1400hkd instead of $700). Oh, and we only guesstimated that amount because I looked up the prices on the horribly behind-the-times P.R. of China Hong Kong Consulate website (I don’t think they’ve updated their site since the Beijing Winter Olympics)…but still, TEFL should know this information.

They are saying now that ‘no one knew it had to be included…’ LIES! Someone is definitely lying. I understand Laura not knowing, they have kind of shoved taking care of the foreigners and the foreigners’ visas off on her, because Tina isn’t the best manager (and that’s putting it in Chinese terms…where ‘fine’ actually means ‘horrible’). Putting together visa applications isn’t her actual job. If we are going to point fingers, I’m going to go with the hiring/paperwork department that put together my application papers in the first place. This is their job to know how to do this. Plus, the only reason they had me get a health exam in the first place was FOR this visa. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have had to get one. You don’t do health exams for kicks around here.

It was a big sigh of relief to get everything submitted…let’s just hope that all of the bad karma today yields a bunch of good karma tomorrow. I want my Z visa and I want my passport back with little to no hassle. I don’t want to get stuck in Hong Kong, even though it’s a pretty cool city. I went and walked around the Harbor and up and down Nathan Road after all the madness this morning.

I think the ultimate thing is this, though: don’t trust anything TEFL does or says as far as I can throw the building it’s located in. Sad, but true. I’ve got about 8 more months of this. So my mantra is always: If I can survive this, I can survive anything!

This pretty much was my day.
Image (c) Allie Brosh (


  1. Thanks for keeping me in stitches with your (probably not so funny at the time) adventures across the seas. I awarded you the Liebster Blog Award on my blog Hope you'll keep writing whenever possible!

  2. Hi!
    My name is Ana and I received a proposal to work with the TEFL Academy in Shaoxing. Do you recommend it?
    Could you please answer me as soon as possible.

    1. Hey Ana, sorry about not getting back to you sooner.

      Be careful when you negotiate the contract - make sure to ask for all of the things you think are reasonable before agreeing to the job. They also might end up sounding sketchy, but stay firm in your demands because this will benefit you in the long run. I ended up switching companies because TEFL overworked me and underpaid. There was a high turnover rate and it got to be exhausting and disorganized.

      I don't know if you are still in the market, but here is a shameless plug: I'm also hiring another English teacher for the company I currently work at here in Hangzhou, Childhood Arts. Here is our website: Feel free to look around. We are an English and Arts combination school that teaches kids ages 3-10. It's a full time position, 10,000rmb/month salary, visa help, accommodation help. If you are interested, feel free to email your resume or questions at /shameless plug

      I wish you the best of luck and let me know if you have any more questions about TEFL or ESL teaching in China.