Visa Interview Scheduled!

Folks, this is it. The one we’ve been waiting for.

After months of stalling and strage emails/phone calls/faxes, we’ve finally got word of Xianyi’s visa interview.

The magic date is January 22, 2007.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was writing the consulate at the email address they had provided me to see if they could give me an estimate on when the interview would be. The email bounced. Checking their website, I found an online contact form which I used to ask my question. Five days later I got a message saying that my question could only be answered on the phone – even though the original letter I received from them said it could be done over email.

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I called the number (which required using the final 2 minutes of my prepaid phone card, a special card JUST for calling the visa section of the consulate, which you can only purchase at a specific bank, and asked my question, adding, “Please hurry, before my time runs out.”

“They are running a background check on your wife.”

“And how long does that take?”

“I don’t know, I can’t tell you.”

“Can you guess?”


“Is there any former experience you have that could estimate for me how long a typical background check takes?”


And that was that. So I figured we were in it for the long haul. Then last weekend, while Yoyo was back in Chengdu on business, hanging out with her parents and eating her Mom’s food again, I was laying on the couch in Shanghai watching a movie when the doorbell rang.

What the…?

“Ni you kuai jian,” the doorman told me, and I wondered, Who has mail delivered at 8pm on Saturday night?

Only the US Government, I suppose. Victory is within our grasp, dear readers. Wish us luck.

Chocolate cake


Take a look at this slice of chocolate cake!


Man! This is my buddy Tristan, whom the computers at Georgetown randomly paired me to live with freshman year – and man did they hit the jackpot. Tristan and I became great friends and continued to live together throughout our time at school.


I jacked this image from his Flickr page, which I would link to here, but he’s tagged all his photos for friend and family viewing only – not into the whole open source thing. That’s cool, but I just had to display this shot to the world.


The title indicates that this was taken at Ruby Foo’s in NYC. And by the look of sublime love on Tristan’s face, I’m sure he relished every bite. Cheers to that!


Chris Faville, magnanimous ignoramus


Does anyone remember when that ad agency called us wanting to use one of Yoyo’s images for its Visa campaign? Back at the end of August. Well, after much wrangling, I finally got Chris Faville of the AKQA ad agency to cough up the dough.


It’s nice to finally be paid, but I don’t like having to hound people for money they owe me. Especially when business has been done. Our contract specifically stated that we were to be paid within 30 days of giving them the photo, ie, around September 30. Over two months late.


But the reason I even bring it up is because this guy Chris Faville sends me this email today, implying that he’s done me a huge favor by finally living up to the terms of our contract! I’ll start with what I wrote him, to put things in context:


From: R. Portfolio
Sent: Tuesday, December 05, 2006
To: Chris Faville
Subject: Re: $—


This is beyond ridiculous. We are all busy at work. If we didn’t keep our accounts, however, we would all soon be out of business.

I find it difficult to believe that you could not have found 15 minutes in the last 3 months to have set up a Paypal account and paid me what you owe. I also think it’s a stretch that you should have “issues” setting up an account. It is as easy as buying a book on Amazon. You enter your email address, some personal info, and a credit card number, and you’re done.

I expect to be paid the $— you owe me by December 13 – one week from today. If I do not have the money by then I will have to find some stronger methods to get you to comply than simple polite email requests.


From: Chris Faville
Sent: Fri, 8 Dec 2006
To: R. Portfolio
Subject: Re: $—

Relax guy.

You are lucky I’m not sending you a wire transfer. I’m actually paying out of MY pocket first, and then getting reimbursed, which will take weeks to get the money back. If I sent you a wire transfer it would likely get held by the Chinese government for months probably before you saw one cent.

But it is the holiday season, and I’m feeling like being a nice guy despite your threats below to find some “stronger methods” to get me to comply. Whatever…

I didn’t even have a Paypal account. Don’t need one. I set it up for you. Just for you. You’re welcome.

Anyway, you’ve been paid. It’s done. Enjoy the $— and please don’t send me any emails. I don’t even need a confirmation that you received it, a ‘thank you’, etc. Nothing.


What is that all about? The funniest part is that paying me by paypal was his idea in the first place!


From: Chris Faville
Sent: Mon, 28 Aug 2006
To: R. Portfolio
Subject: Re: Flickr image

… Can you send your paypal account to me? This should be the easiest way to do it, otherwise there’s a bunch of additional paperwork I’ll have to do.



So first, it’s convenient for him to pay us with paypal. But now that he actually has to do it, I’m “lucky” that he’s not sending me a wire transfer. Oh, right, because the money “would likely get held by the Chinese government for months probably before you saw one cent.” Red China trotted out, again. Add ignorance to the rudeness of this person, Chris Faville. It’s the holiday season, and he’s feeling like a nice guy. Lucky me. I suppose if it were still August he wouldn’t feel obligated to hold up his end of the deal.


I Shot a Tiger

This was taken as Tiger finished his round at the 2006 HSBC Championship in Shanghai. It was on the bridge from the 18th green to the clubhouse. I had been standing there with Yoyo for about half an hour – when we first arrived there was no one there, but by the time Tiger was finished it was well crowded – and I had been practicing the shot on several lesser players who walked by, as well as general staff. See, I was using my grandfather’s old Canon SLR, which is manually focused and which requires the aperture to be set by the photographer. Knowing I would only have one chance to bag the Tiger, I had to be sure I would get it right.

Indeed I did. The focus is perfect, as is the exposure (OK, maybe not perfect, but at least correct). The look on Tiger’s face conveys disappointment – he finished second and may have been thinking about his round here, but probably he was just trying to avoid being photographed. Fair enough. I was, after all, breaking the rules.

Which leads me to this disclaimer: Tiger Woods, if you are out there and happen to read this post, I would like to apologize for knowingly violating the rules of the golf tournament and taking pictures. You know I wasn’t the only one – and I know that doesn’t necessarily make it right. But know this: I did not and would not ever take pictures of you during your setup, stance, or swing. That would be interference. But I must argue that taking a picture of you while walking down the course, or after you have finished playing, cannot really be interfering with your game. You are a public figure after all, and while you have every right to privacy, I think there are times when you have to allow yourself to be photographed. And sometimes the rules conflict with that.

Anyway, Tiger, thanks for coming to Shanghai. You really made my day. If you would like to respond to my ideas about picture-taking, please, by all means, leave a comment on this blog.

Attention! Please call me Xianyi from now on!

photo_unavailableDear all my friends!

I finally made decision of my offical name from now on. I’m not Yoyo anymore, Yoyo is no longer with me. My offical name is Xianyi, this is my real, original name, I hope you all could respect and accept my decision.

Thank you!

Have a nice weekend!

In the mountains of Yunnan

Good friend Jeff Crosby has written a great post about his recent travels back to Yunnan province, the place where Xianyi and I met him when he was living with Eli in Kunming. Jeff currently lives and works in Beijing, but makes a few trips back to our old home each year.

This writing is about a trip into the mountains to visit an ancient tea tree. Here is a sample:

This plant slowly evolved in this back corner of the world and was discovered and nurtured by an obscure and forgotten people. Somehow this little plant sired millions of offspring who went on to become one of the most economically, socially and politically important plants in the world, shaping cultures and markets, playing decisive roles in massive historic events from the Opium Wars to imperialism, the American Revolution and Indian Independence.

Open Blog

Attention all: Comments on this site are now completely open. No need to register and receive a password by email: Just click comments and go for it. I had set it up as a must-register because I feared spam might plague the site – well, we’ll just have to see. I’d rather have more commenters.

Thanks to all those who went to the minimal trouble of registering and have been posting comments. Hope to see more of you!

Toys R Us, Shanghai


Not having much to do last Saturday night, Xianyi and I decided, at Candice’s suggestion, to join her in visiting the new Toys R Us, Shanghai. Da Hai was in town and so he came along with us.


The place, first of all is pretty big. It is inside the Super Brand Mall in Pudong, which is HUGE. There were a lot of people in the mall itself, but most stores seemed to be empty, except for Toys R Us. Perhaps this will mark a resurgence for the Super Brand Mall.


Right at the entrance, Geoffry the Giraffe is there to greet you, along withBuzz Lightyear and Optimus Prime. There are plenty of Legos, includingSocialist Legos, and even Chinese versions of popular American board games like Monopoly.


Happy New Year


Happy New Year everybody! Things have been slow around here, network-wise, as that earthquake near Taiwan cut all the undersea cables connecting China with America and Europe. Been tough to surf the web and read email, and hence the lack of posts on this blog.


The New Year’s celebration went really well for us! Xianyi and I had a very nice dinner at our friend Brad Turley’s restaurant. It was a five-course meal that served a glass of different wine with each course – absolutely exquisite! Then the band was performing at 4Live, and we got one of our biggest crowds ever. Always a good time. We stayed out till about 4 and then slept most of Jan 1 away.


Now it’s back to work and it’s been tough with the internet being so slow. We really are dependent on this stuff. But slowly things are getting back to normal.


And only 12 more days until Xianyi’s visa interview!