Categories
Personal

3 Weeks Later

Proof that we are indeed in Shanghai (photo taken while we went outside for PCR testing).

We landed in Shanghai on Monday, March 28, and as I write this it’s Sunday, April 17, and so the last day of our mandated three-week quarantine period.

As I had described in my previous post, our first two weeks were to be spent in a government-selected hotel. Once that was done, we moved to a hotel booked by the studio, where we would do our third week of isolation (although a bit less strict in that we could at least leave our hotel room to access areas of the hotel).

Of course, the major event that has happened in parallel to this is the city-wide lockdown in Shanghai, which began on the day we landed. That means that even though our quarantine will be over tomorrow, we won’t really be able to do much as most of the city is still currently in lockdown. There are areas that have been slightly opened, depending on whether there are any positive cases in that area, but for the most part the city is closed to regular life. Since it appears that there are no positive cases in our area, we are hoping that from tomorrow we’ll at least be able to go outside and get a bit of air — something we’ve only been able to do once in our three weeks here, and that was yesterday, as we needed to take part in the mass PCR testing that takes place regularly across the city.

Taking part in our first city-wide PCR testing.

So what’s next for us? Normally the end of our quarantine period would have meant that we could finally start visiting apartments, but that’s not going to be possible until the lockdown ends. That does mean that we will be in our current hotel for the foreseeable future. Depending on what you read or the rumors you hear, things might start getting back to normal in May, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Our current hotel.

On the bright side, life is pretty comfortable in our current hotel. Our room is quite spacious and includes a kitchen area (it’s a “service apartment” type room) with breakfast is included every morning, and there’s a system in a place to buy meal boxes every day (a random assortment of Chinese food, like we were getting in our initial quarantine hotel), so we’re not dealing with the issues many are in the city of lack of access to food supplies. There’s also a gym that we can use, and so that has been keeping us active.

So there you have it, three weeks in Shanghai, but I still haven’t been able to see anything in the city. Certainly not the way a person would imagine moving to a new city.

Another proof that we are in Shanghai.
Categories
Art Personal

In Shanghai

Art for “The Shanghairen” art project by Ye Yuan.

It took much longer than we had initially expected, but here I am, sitting in a hotel room in Shanghai.

How long did it take? I accepted the offer for my role at the Ubisoft studio in Shanghai back in May of last year, and I imagine my first contact with the studio was in March. So that means pretty much one year.

When I accepted the role, the plan was for me to start working for the studio remotely from July, and then hopefully a move could happen towards the end of summer, or around September. Unfortunately, it was only in September that immigration applications resumed, and the process was indeed a long one — we finally got the government papers we needed at the end of January, and then got our visas in February, and immediately booked our flight for March.

The weeks leading up to our departure date were pretty hectic, as I went to my hometown for a quick visit with my parents, and then a week before departure we needed to start self-isolating at home, and undergo a first PCR test 7 days prior to the flight, and then again 2 days before the flight (both a PCR and blood test). Getting the results the next day, if negative, would allow us to apply for a Health Digital Certificate (in the form of a QR code) so that we could actually board our flight the next day. Yes, it was as stressful as it sounds, as I don’t think anyone likes to leave unknowns that close to a scheduled departure time.

But thankfully there were no issues, and our flight from Montreal, with a transfer in Toronto, to Shanghai went off without a hitch. From takeoff in Montreal to landing in Shanghai it was just about 22 hours of travel (and because of the different time zones, we left Saturday night and arrived on Monday morning).

The arrival in Shanghai was, as expected, not your typical arrival due to the strict COVID measures taken by the government. We had to wait 30 minutes in the plane while paper work and passenger lists were verified, and were then led through a long walk in the airport, having another QR code (with health declarations) to show, another PCR test to undergo, and then waiting for a bus that would take us to a government selected hotel where we are to quarantine for two weeks. Everyone we encountered was in full hazmat gear, and that includes the staff at the hotel.

We never thought it would be an easy experience, but we had properly prepared mentally for it, and it went down pretty much as we expected. We’re thankful to be here, in a room that’s quite comfortable, and being served meals at the door that are not bad at all, while we check our temperature twice daily. Once we’re done with the two weeks here, we’ll still need to self-isolate for an extra week at another hotel, and then we’ll be able to go out and actually start looking for an apartment.

Oh, and did I mention that we arrive here while Shanghai is under the biggest surge in COVID cases since the start of the pandemic, and so various areas of the city are in full lockdown mode. So being quarantined in a hotel with meals served for the next couple of weeks isn’t bad at all.

All that said, we are indeed happy that this new era of our lives is finally started, and I can’t wait to finally get to spend some time at the studio to meet my colleagues in person.

The two images in the post are from a collection of 80 covers created for “The Shanghairen” art project, inspired by other homages to New Yorker covers like “The Tokyoiter” and “The Parisianer” — and there’s “Le Montrealer” as well, of which I spotted an exhibition at the airport in Montreal.

Art for “The Shanghairen” art project by Xin Yin.

Categories
Events Personal

PechaKucha

I’m happy to say that I’m getting in the PechaKucha swing of things again, getting involved with the PechaKucha Night series in Shanghai in the lead-up to our move there.

The scene at one of the PechaKucha Nights I used to produce at the SuperDeluxe event space in Tokyo.

This is not to say that I left PechaKucha completely behind after I left Tokyo and the organization back in 2015. I’m still a strong proponent of the format, and have regularly encouraged its use at Ubisoft, within various contexts (team meetings, casual Friday sessions, as part of lightning talk sessions, on a regular internal stream I host — I even presented the format to the Shanghai studio recently in a sharing session), but I never got to do anything within the organization during my time in Montreal. I did reach out to the long-standing organizer early on, and met up with him, but nothing ever ended up happening (and the series in Montreal remains dormant).

But as we started looking forward to the new adventure we’re about to embark on in terms of living in a new city, I liked the idea of getting involved in a PechaKucha Night series again — in good part to quickly start immersing myself inside the local creative scene — and so I reached out to the organizing team in Shanghai to offer my help. The series there has been dormant since the start of the pandemic, but there’s now some early talks about when the next event could happen (sometime in early 2022), and I’m happy to be brainstorming that with them currently.

Me behind the console, making sure the presentations are running smoothly at one of our PechaKucha Nights in Tokyo.

So even though I’m not quite sure what role I’m going to be able to play overall in the production of the events, I’m looking forward to getting my feet wet again, and to get those fun feels I had when I was running the PechaKucha Night series in Tokyo for all those years — and that I’ve been feeling quite nostalgic for of late.

Categories
Personal

To Move or Not to Move

Weren’t you supposed to move to Shanghai?

I sure was, and I still am, but since accepting my new role at Ubisoft Shanghai back in May (and then starting to work for the studio at the start of July), we finally (hopefully) have more of an idea of when that’s going to happen.

Indeed, ever since the start of summer, we have been without news on when we would be able to apply for visas (for both my wife and I) to make the move. When I accepted the role, the thought was that things were going to start re-opening towards the end of summer, but then the world didn’t suddenly start getting better as many of us thought. Enter the delta (and more).

That meant that things were getting trickier and trickier for us here in Montreal. Apartment leases here are for 1 year, and you are unable to break them, and so are responsible for that rent until it’s over (you can try and sublease, but that can be challenging as well). My latest lease was over at the end of May, and I of course didn’t want to renew for another year, and so managed to negotiate with my apartment building administration to stay a few more months (until we could move). That was great for the summer, but I was recently informed that this was no longer possible, and would have to now commit for a longer period. What to do?

Luckily, 2 weeks later we got news that China was re-opening the visa process — as well as the news that China would now recognize WHO-approved vaccines — and so we’re up and running again in terms of the application process. Before that, we were even floating the idea of moving to Japan for a while (as a call to the Japanese embassy had revealed that I am currently able to apply for a spouse visa), to then move to China when things would open up again. It would at least have put me in the same timezone, making it easier to connect with my colleagues.

So when are we moving? It’s still not a given, and there are multiple parts to the process that are estimated to take at least 2-3 months. This means that if everything goes well, we could look at a move towards the end of the year — January being the most likely.

This is all incredible news for us, because it finally gives us a tentative timeline on when we might finally be able to make this move happen.

Categories
Personal

To Shanghai

I’m moving to Shanghai.

Well that’s something. After six years here in Montreal, we’ve (my wife and I) decided to embark on a new adventure, and one that involves a return to Asia. It’s not a return to Japan, that I think many would have expected, but rather a return to China, which is how I started my Asia adventure in the first place.

May has turned out to be a defining month in my life — on top of the fact that it’s my birth month. It was in May 1997 that I first went to China, to the city of Tianjin for what was supposed to be a 10-week study program (an exchange program between my university in Montreal and Nankai University), and saw me changing my plans and remaining there until the end of the year. It was in May 1998 that I moved to Tokyo, which would become my home for over 15 years. It was then in May 2015 that I moved to Montreal to embark on a new journey working in the games industry (first at Eidos/Square Enix, then at Ubisoft).

And now, in 2021, it’s in May that I’ve accepted an offer to take on a new role at the Ubisoft Shanghai studio — I’ll start this new role in the summer, with the move happening when our visas our sorted, which we expect will be towards the end of summer, maybe September. After two years working in esports, this will also mark my return to game production — my new role, Production Services Manager, is a transverse role within the studio, working closely with all of the production services teams that support all of the production teams at the studio.

Why this move? After six years in Montreal, we felt like it was time to move on and experience something new. I’m incredibly thankful for the time I was able to spend at both Eidos Montreal and Ubisoft Montreal to “level up” this new career in games I embarked on not that long ago, but at the same time it hasn’t been as productive a time for my wife, in good part due to language issues, but we’ve had other challenges to deal with in our time here, and so we decided it was time for a new adventure in another city.

Why China? As I mentioned earlier, my first stop in Asia was in fact in China, as part of the East-Asian Studies program I was enrolled in at my university, which focused on the Chinese language and culture — and my time at Nankai University in Tianjin was spent studying Mandarin. It’s also where I met my wife, who was also studying Mandarin at the same university — and who, unlike me, continued to use it as part of her studies in the years following our move to Japan. So even though I have never been to Shanghai, I am excited at the prospect of rebuilding my Mandarin skills, and for my wife it means a chance to explore new opportunities in a language and setting that she knows very well. I’m also thankful to work in an expansive global company like Ubisoft, that let me find an opportunity like this, and that allows me to continue to build on the years of experience and contacts I’ve accumulated over my five years here.

So there it is, 2021 is turning out to be a big year for me, as I was hoping it would — it’s maybe a good sign that we’re in the Year of the Ox, which is my Chinese Zodiac.