Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Kimi Coming to England

 As I am writing this Kimi (my girlfriend) is on her way to the UK having just departed from Dubai Airport.  This is the second time she has come to England -- the first being last September when we came together for a short holiday.  Although too short, we had a fantastic time introducing her to my family and doing a bit of travelling around Edinburgh, London, The Lake District and of course my home-town Manchester.

This time is only for a short holiday too, but until we are married Kimi cannot leave her job and come and live with me.  The main reason for this is the one and only gripe for her and fellow Chinese citizens travelling outside of China: the visa.  For Kimi to come on holiday to the UK she has to apply for a visitor's visa (sometimes known as a tourist or travel visa).  Now when I, as a British citizen, go to China on holiday I also need a visa.  This consists of travelling to the nearest Chinese Embassy or consulate, paying about £30, answering a double-sided A4 form with questions such as "Do you have a criminal record?" and "Do you have any fatal diseases?" (I've never really seen the point of questions like this, I'm pretty sure they check out all such information regardless of whether you say "Yes" or "No"), oh, and a couple of passport photos.  But for poor Kimi, as a Chinese citizen, she has to compile a portfolio of information just to get a visitor's visa for a short holiday.  Take a deep breath as I list the requirements of her visa application (just remember this is for a holiday, not for emigration):

  • One completed and signed 10 page visa application form
  • A current and previous passport and photocopy of recent passport
  • One recent passport photo
  • Household register
  • An invitation letter from my father allowing her to stay in his house and be responsible for her
  • My father's utility bill, birth certificate, photocopy of driving licence, bank statements, home insurance, and council tax bill.
  • Evidence of current employment status including the organization code of the company and business license.
  • Permission of leave from her boss
  • Certificate of employment and income
  • Evidence of her financial status which meant freezing 50,000RMB (approximately £5,000) in her bank account
  • Bank statements for the last 6 months
  • Evidence of her relationship with me including boarding passes of recent holidays, emails sent between us dating back to 2007, and photographs of us together at various locations and times
  • A photocopy of my passport and Chinese working visa
  • Payment of 715RMB (approximately £70)

Shocking isn't it?  And all of this does not even guarantee a successful application.  Luckily Kimi has received hers on both occasions which should stand us in good stead for the future.  It could be a myth, but I have heard that applications can be rejected on a random basis, they just have to reject some for no apparent reason.  For the lucky ones who are successful in their visa applications, they receive a lovely sticker in their passport saying they can stay in the UK for 6 months -- Kimi only needs three weeks.

After all of this hard work, I hope Kimi is enjoying her 20+ hours of sleepless aeroplane travel from Wenzhou to Manchester....

The joys of travel

Wednesday, 23 June 2010 (or should I say for those of us from the British Isles), is a very simple, well designed website which enables you and me to create a sleek looking homepage with relative ease.  The whole premise is simplicity, but it's simple with a spark.  And if like me you have various online accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, LinkedIn etc, then can become the core of your online presence.  Also, for those with their own websites, it could be designed to be a striking front page for visitors to launch onto other pages.  It's almost perfect -- with the only flaw being picture uploading.  This is because once your picture is uploaded to the site it will either be too big causing it to automatically zoom in far too much into one spot (which can only be adjusted very slightly); or it will be too small and the picture won't cover all of the page.  With a limited knowledge of picture resizing and a lot of experimenting, I managed to find a width of 1450 pixels to be just about right.  

In this day and age of complicated technology, it is refreshing to see simplicity as a key feature here.  If you would like to see the end result of a homepage, here is the one I designed yesterday: 

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

My Sister's Fundraising Blog

My twin sister, Sally, has recently been successful in gaining a place at one of the most prestigious music and drama schools in the UK:  The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.  This has given her the opportunity to study a master's degree in Musical Theatre, which will hopefully lead onto a professional career in this field.

She is, however, facing a problem with this application.  As with so many things in life it comes down to one thing: money.  The cost of studying at these drama schools doesn't come cheap, in this case one year of tuition fees is going to cost  £9,750.  And this doesn't even include living expenses.

Sally has recently begun fundraising, and is writing a blog to keep track of her progress.  Already she has received some money, but it's not yet enough.  I hope you will take a peek at her site here:

Good luck Sally!

Sally's appearances in various plays and shows

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Illustrating Twitter

Since returning home to the UK in late March, I began using the 'micro-blogging' site Twitter.  More than one year earlier I had jumped on the band wagon to see what all the fuss was about.  I was just about getting to grips with it, when after a couple of weeks, I was cut-off.  That's right, Twitter is another of the many websites to be blocked off by the Great Firewall of China.

So it wasn't until coming back to England that I had the chance to use the site again.  After much experimenting, I have found that Twitter can be a great source of real-time news.  Following friends, news agencies, people of influence, and even celebrities, allows you to have a constant stream of up-to-the-second news at your fingertips.  And with added extras such as you can have a custom-made daily newspaper created for you just from the people you follow and the subjects they link to.   That is not to say there is a fair share of pointless babble on the site, but alas, I am addicted.

There is also a powerful search function where you can search for any topic imaginable and see what people are saying about it.  It also means anybody can stumble across your Twitter feed.  It just so happened a couple of creative people came across my feed a few weeks ago when I was writing, what I thought was a throw away tweet, about the Large Hadron Collider being turned up to 11 for the first time (here is the news story if you can't remember).  They transformed this Tweet into an illustration: 

I was incredibly amused and taken aback by this.  To take one sentence and transform it into a hilarious illustration like this is the kind of creativity I am hugely enviable of.  The people behind this picture are Irkafirka, and every day they will choose one tweet out of the seemingly endless supply of 140 character messages to illustrate.  It is a lovely idea, and one which I hope will continue for a long time to come.

If you are on Twitter, or even if you aren't, then feel free to follow me for real-time drivel from yours truly:  And if you would like to see more tweets transformed into illustrations, then you can follow Irkafirka: 

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

You Are Reading a "Terrific Teaching Abroad Blog"!

I found out today my blog has been featured in a list of 50 Terrific Teaching Abroad Blogs on  I am very flattered, surprised and thankful of this.  Since returning home I have neglected the blog a little due to concentrating on studying (which also includes concentrating on EVERY distraction possible instead of studying), but this has spurred me on to continue writing.  I have so much more to write about my time in China and Kimi's journey to the UK, it would be wasteful to stop now.

Thanks again!