Monthly Archives: May 2012


I have learned a new term, apostille.  I learned it in the context of dealing with the elaborate paperwork involved in moving to a new country.  Over a week ago we sent off a whole bunch of forms and proofs, including medicals exams complete with EKGs and chest x-rays, transcripts, copies of passports, and certifications, in order to get our foreign expert certification, the first step in getting a Z visa for China.  We were feeling pretty on top of things.  But of course, it is never that easy.  A few of the issues that bounced back were easy to take care of.  But two were a little harder.

The first was that our official transcripts were not sufficient, and we needed to send copies of our diplomas.  Our diplomas, unfortunately, are somewhere in our storage locker in Massachusetts, in separate boxes, with nothing on the boxes indicating that they are inside.  Most U.S. academics never really do much with their diplomas, as far as I can tell.  Many are never picked up from universities at all.  Luckily, with some computer forensics we were able to locate old scans of them, and we are also ordering replacement copies to bring with us.

The second was that kiddo’s birth certificate needed to be authenticated by the Chinese consulate, which requires an apostille from the state of Massachusetts (where he was born).  An apostille is an official certification that the clerk who signed the document is in fact the real clerk of that county, and that the signature is that clerk’s signature.  It comes with a nice gold seal.  So I did a great deal of searching on the web, emailing, and making phone calls until I figured out who to Fed-Ex the birth certificate to to get this fabulous piece of paper affixed.  There was perhaps a little panic or at least anxiety, but we’ve managed to take care of this first step, and next week I get to brave the consulate.  Luckily no dates are written in stone (except the beginning of the school year), so we can adjust our travel plans as needed to fit the pace of bureaucracy.

Meanwhile, more requirements keep turning up.  The latest fun was an on-line evaluation that included, in addition to resume-type stuff: a personality test; a test of our knowledge of Chinese culture and practicalities, Western high culture, and ESL teaching; and a 200-word essay on a topic of their choosing.

This is all a useful reminder to let go of trying to feel in control, and to roll with the punches.  I suspect this will serve us very well in the months ahead.


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Why enough dumplings?

We are moving to China this summer.  All three of us — two grown-ups (professors) and our kiddo, who will turn six soon after we arrive.

I don’t think we will be typical expats.  It’s been a long time since we graduated from college, so we’re not traveling the world as young English teachers.  We are not being moved there by our company.  As a family, we haven’t lived out of the country before.  But circumstances conspired to force a choice of what to do, and we decided, after much discussion, to take the opportunity to have an adventure as a family.  We are lucky enough to have been offered the chance to move to Suzhou and teach architecture there to Chinese students (in English, which is a good thing, since we don’t speak Mandarin).  So now we are working on our visas, viciously editing our possessions down to what will fit in our suitcases (and our storage locker), and getting our minds around this big move.

We don’t know how long we will be there.  It could be for the rest of our lives, it could just be for a year or two.  We think that schools in the U.S. will be interested in faculty with China experience if and when we decide to move on.  Meanwhile, kiddo, whose favorite food is steamed dumplings, says that after three years, it will be enough dumplings.


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