Banking Bureaucracy

Another week another blog. Just like how in my early posts I always moaned about being ill, it’s now becoming a bit of a theme that I’ll start a blog post lamenting that I haven’t got anything interesting to write about.
The past week has been pretty standard. Work from Friday through to Tuesday, and occasionally going out for the odd (non-alcoholic) drink in the evenings. Yesterday it rained again and now everything is nice and clean and fresh. After last week, when we were experiencing a cold snap, it has warmed up considerably. The sun is struggling its way through the pollution, the trees and bushes are just starting to come out with green buds, almost no one is wearing a coat and for the first time I’ve heard birds chirping away while fluttering between the trees. Spring is definitely here.

I’ve now been here long enough that I’ve saved a bit of money; enough that it’s worth sending it back home to my account in the UK to save without the risk that I’ll accidentally spend it on something unnecessary. So this morning I went with Jennifer, the school’s admin assistant, to the bank to transfer [an undisclosed sum of money] back to my UK account. Apparently it’s only possible to transfer money overseas from the Bank of China, but my Chinese account is with the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank. First we went to the Bank of China to see if it’s possible to send it from my SPD Bank account directly. It isn’t. I have to give the money to the Bank of China in cash. But, as there’s a daily limit on the amount of cash I can withdraw at a non-SPD Bank ATM we had to go to the nearest SPD Bank to withdraw the money in cash.

I can’t remember the last time, if ever, that I’ve held so much money in cash before, although maybe when I worked at a computer shop in my student days and someone would pay in cash I might have held a similar value. Except the highest value note in the UK is £50, while in China it’s ¥100 (about £10) so this felt like a lot more money. After walking the couple of blocks back to the Bank of China with a huge wad of cash, Jennifer found out what we needed to do next. We could only send the money from a Bank of China account, so Jennifer had to open a new bank account. Since I’ll only need to send money home maybe once more, but Jennifer will in future assist many more western staff members in transferring money back home, she opened the account in her name and we paid in the [undisclosed amount]. Then we had to convert the balance from RMB into GBP. The Bank of China gave a pretty good rate – I only lost about £2 in the conversion against the actual current market rate.

Then we had to actually arrange the transfer. Twice Jennifer filled in the form wrong, but we got it right the third time. The lady behind the counter was very insistent that my name on the form had to be exactly as it is on my account in the UK, and we debated for about 10 minutes over whether my name includes “Mr”. In the end we decided that it does, as my statement from my UK account includes Mr, and we didn’t want to fill in the form for a fourth time. So then we were finished? Not quite. I still had to pay the transfer fee of ¥200 (£20). I though it would be taken out of the amount being transferred, but it had to be paid in cash as an additional fee. The problem was that I’d just handed over all my cash to be transferred to the UK, so I had to go to the ATM again to withdraw enough for the transfer fee.

In total it took about two hours. I’ve left myself enough money in my Chinese account to last until the next time I’m paid at the end of April if I spend only my daily budget and not any more. Unfortunately I’ve now realised that with the weather getting warmer I’ll need some summer clothes. I’ll have to be extra frugal over the next few weeks if I’m going to manage with the money I’ve left myself.

In other news, our new teacher Rosie has left to go back to the UK. She was only here for a couple of months, but she’d got quite ill and actually spent almost a week in hospital. Due to her symptoms, when she was first admitted to the hospital the doctors gave her a spinal tap to test for meningitis. In the UK the doctors would have used language like “we’re going to take a sample of spinal fluid to rule out the possibility that you’ve got meningitis”, but of course the nuance is completely lost in translation and comes out as “we think you’ve got meningitis”. I can’t imagine how scary it must have been to leave Europe for the first time and end up in a Chinese hospital having spinal taps done, which is a pretty major procedure.

Anyway, if you’re reading this Rosie, we’ll miss you!

Since Rosie had been off sick I’d covered her Tuesday evening class to some four year olds. By the second week covering her class I’d just got them to like me and, you know, not cry when they saw me. At the end of the class on Tuesday when Amy, the teaching assistant, told them that I would be their teacher permanently from now on, two of them started crying again. I bet they wouldn’t have noticed if no one had told them! But I really like the class so it should be good fun once they accept me.

Over the past few of months most of the teachers from the different branches of my school have been studying for the TKT (Teacher Knowledge Test) qualification. It’s an additional qualification to the CELTA, and it’s offered as part of my employment contract. This particular course started running before I arrived, so I was too late to complete the first three general modules, but I did take part in the Young Learners module. The workshops discussing the theory of teaching young learners have been really helpful and I’ve already been putting that theory into practice. A couple of weeks ago all the teachers got together for the exam. We had to do the exam in biggest room in any of the schools while one of the Directors of Study put his Cambridge University Exam Invigilating training into practice despite the various sarcastic comments. Some time in May I should find out the result and hopefully add another teaching qualification to my CV.

One thought on “Banking Bureaucracy

  1. Hi Jon
    We met some time ago. I live in the compound next to yours on F C 5 Lu. I just finished reading through your blog – very entertaining and so close to what I am sure most foreigners feel on their arrival in China.
    Do feel free to get in touch – perhaps we could meet up some time at the Walmart Starbucks…
    It seems to be a favourite haunt!!

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