Young dog, old tricks

Since coming to China, I’ve been fortunate enough to encounter a lot of modern technology that I’ve never encountered in Manila, or instances with technology that I’ve never had to endure when I was living with my family. They do say that living abroad gives you the chance to experience new things. In this blog post though, instead of experiencing something new, I was forced to re-do an experience that I haven’t undergone in a long time.

So, knowing what an insomniac I am, my body clock is unusually abnormal. Sometimes I’m asleep really early, so I end up waking unbelievably early; sometimes I’m asleep really late and end up waking up mid-afternoon of the same day. In my old apartment, I had no problems with water usage, whether or not it’s evening, morning, or dawn. I can take a bath, do my laundry, clean, whenever I felt like it. Imagine my shock when the day before yesterday, after a cleaning session and a cooking session that had me smelling and covered in whatnot, I was all-ready to have my post-midnight bath and was in the shower when lo and behold, the only thing coming out of my shower head was trickles of water – not enough for a bath. I freaked out, wondering if it was because of my water bill, or something else. I probably spent about 10 minutes figuring out what to do when it finally hit me, this is what I needed to do if I wanted to get into bed at all (since I wasn’t going to plop into my bed dirty).

While moving into my cousin’s apartment earlier this month, I noticed that they had an old-style heater, the one you plug into a socket and then dip into a pail of water and wait to heat. Yeah, we had one of those in my parents room, so I was quite familiar with using it. But the thing I was grateful for most was despite not having enough water to take a bath using the shower, I had a pail full of water, which was a habit I learned from my parents who said that it was always good to have a full pail of water on-hand because if a fire emergency happened and all water and electricity was shut off, at least I’d have available water. So, I got dressed again and had to drag that pail of water from the shower area to a nearby bathroom socket and wait for it to heat up.

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When you can’t count on modern technology, old technology has a way of pointing out that old does not mean useless.

After all was said and done, and the water was warm enough that I wouldn’t feel the winter cold, another thing I had to do was re-learn how to make-do with just that one pail of water for my bath. You can tag it as a #firstworldproblem even though I’m from a third-world country and currently living in one too, but it has been a very long time since I had to limit my water usage for my showers. Which is not entirely a bad thing I may add, having to experience that again, but it just made me re-think how often we take things like water for granted. We are so used to having a lot, too much water, too much food, too much money, too much of too much, that we forget that if we can limit what we use now, it may mean that we save more for later.

Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t mean that I’m going to start using just one pail of water for my bath, because I won’t be able to have a proper bath like that. But I think, from now on, I’ll be more conscious of how long I actually spend in the shower because it’s not a good habit to waste water just so I don’t have to give up being under warm water.

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The DouDiZhu Addiction

So sometime during the holidays, and even some instances before that, I’ve noticed a lot of people playing this card game on their cellphones and on their computers. It wasn’t Mahjong, and it looked something like hearts. It wasn’t until I asked my cousin and uncle that I found out it was a game called Fight the Landlord (斗地主-doudizhu) which is a very popular game here in China. For my Chinese readers or readers who are very familiar with China and Chinese culture here on the Mainland, I don’t think I need to explain how popular it is.

There’s a cards version of the game, an online version on a computer, and various apps for smartphones. I’ve recently been playing the QQ version, where you play with other real players who are logged in.

The game is very similar to a Filipino game we call Tong Its, and another we call Pusoy Dos, where you try to form combinations (very similar to poker) and try to get rid of the cards in your hand, and where the number 2 card is highest. Of course, in Fight the Landlord, the Joker card is the highest. And in Fight the Landlord, you can drop combinations of cards like straights and pairs together, or something like that…it’s quite difficult to explain. I haven’t fully understood the mechanics of the game, one – since I can’t read the instructions in Chinese, and two – because I don’t fully understand how the instructions on Wikipedia go. I guess you just try out the game and learn it through practice. Of course, playing online means that most plays are somewhat automatic and there’s an online guide to help you and give you hints.

The text above just says that the farmers win the round. This picture is from my QQ game. Other games have other designs for their characters and table settings, though gameplay is always the same.

It’s quite fun though, and most of the time I play it when I’m idle or when i can’t sleep. And the great thing is that if you’re the “farmer”, you play alongside a teammate, which is usually what I choose. I don’t yet have the confidence to boldly choose to be a “landlord” when I see that my cards are good (as players can choose to bid for the landlord position if they think their cards have a chance of winning, because landlords start the game with any cards – combo or otherwise). It’s much easier to partner up with someone. Anyways, it’s a win-win situation if you’re helping out your teammate as you both get points for winning. So, getting rid of all your personal cards isn’t always the answer. Sometimes the strategy is to not do anything so that your partner wins, or to beat the landlord so you can give your partner a chance to win. These strategies work especially well when your partner is only 1-3(more or less) cards away, since some players leave combinations to the very end of the game (which leaves other players surprised and unsuspecting of the turnout).

So far since starting to play, I’ve won some and I’ve lost some. Some are really good wins, and some feel really depressing, especially when I haven’t dropped that many cards and I find myself unable to drop anything before the opponent wins. I’d like to believe though, that I am getting a lot better at playing.

Only time can tell if I’m improving. For now, each game is a learning process, and I still commit a lot of mistakes. But as they say, experience is the best teacher.

The student is now the teacher

Hello 2013, this being the first post of the year, and the first blog post in about 3 months. A lot has happened since I last reminded everyone that I was alive.

Today is the 2nd day of January, and here in China, it coincides with a 3-day national holiday that starts on New Year. Since coming back to Xiamen after my 2-week semi-vacation in Manila for the Christmas holidays, I haven’t been doing much of anything besides staying home, sleeping, and trying to keep myself warm. In fact, my assignment for my part-time work ended 3 months ago so that part of my productive life hasn’t been awake in a long while.When I first came back to Xiamen last 28, I had to initially decline offers to renew part-time work because I was hoping to catch up on schoolwork, and previous tries to do part-time work online last month never pushed through due to various circumstances. But yesterday, my boss asked me if I could spend the holiday doing work and since I didn’t have anything planned today except a shopping date that could be moved, I decided to okay a schedule to teach.

At first, I felt very iffy about coming to work on one – a holiday, two – the morning, and three – cold winters day. Owing to the fact that I had a hard time falling asleep last night, among other things, I woke up tired and not excited to commute to work. But my initial blah-ness over the situation changed for the better over the course of 8 hours, more or less.

Today, I taught 4 different students with varying ages, which is a lot different from before when I had 4-5 students who were all the same age and in high school, and with a set of more or less the same exercises which I had to drill them on and review with them.

My first student today was a 15-year old girl. She wasn’t that hard to adjust to as she was very similar to my past students, and her comprehension of English was okay so I could speak English without worrying so much about translations. We spent 2 hours correcting her English essays, which weren’t that bad for someone whose mother tongue isn’t English. She was really nice, and quite adorable all wrapped up in her thick down-feathered jacket and scarf, and even asked me to lunch with her. We had lunch together at a small Chinese restaurant across the street, and I had one of the cheapest (yet filling) meals I’ve had in a long long time. And did I mention she thought I was 17? 🙂

My second student was a lot different, and reminded me of myself when I was much younger. I arrived late because during the lunch break I had decided to go to my friend’s house which was nearby and commuting back to work was harder than commuting from work to my friend’s house. My student was a 11-year old girl in the 6th grade, very talkative, curious and distracted, which was probably what I was when I was her age. She was just so jittery-flittery (yes, I know it’s not an actual word) the entire time I was correcting her essays. As compared to my first student of the day, her comprehension of English wasn’t as broad so I had to speak Chinese more than I did English, which proved a little trying because my wrong intonations were more noticeable when I was trying to explain things to her. Besides editing her work, I had to write down why certain words were used a certain way, compared to similar sounding words which could mean something completely different. I couldn’t just explain because she couldn’t understand my way of speaking very much, so I had to pretty much write everything down. She was quite hyper though and kept looking around the room, at my bottle of coke which she at one point started shaking vigorously, and kept glancing at my bracelets and whatever else could distract her from her essays. Not to say she wasn’t adorable, because she was. She made me realize how hard it must have been to teach me when I was her age.

The last batch of students were cousins who were in the 4th grade, a 9-year old girl and a 10-year old boy. I think I found the most joy in teaching them among today’s students, because they were so enthusiastic about studying. And despite seeming somewhat distracted with their cellphones before our session started, they were so concentrated on me when I was teaching them. One part we did when we were studying was that someone had given them phrases in Chinese which they had to translate into English and I had to correct it as homework. Both the students were so diligent and though they had mistakes, they diligently copied what I wrote in English so they could practice their English strokes. Next we did the months of the year and I tried correcting their pronunciations before I moved into quizzing them on the months by giving them the English name and asking them which month it was, and later by giving them the Mandarin name and asking them to translate it into English. I also gave them hints on how to remember which of the months were what in their Chinese counterparts. We also did a bit of fill-in-the-blank exercises and reading, which they were very excited to do. I think this is probably why if I had become a teacher, I would have gone out of my way to pick elementary school students to teach. And even if I had to speak to them in Chinese most the entire time, I was pretty smooth when it came to talking to them, and I didn’t feel nervous or anxious. And, they kept talking about so many random things and telling me how they had already studied their entire book and had memorized all the English dialogues inside. When I asked them to translate the English dialogues into Chinese, just to make sure they understood it and weren’t just reading it, they proved to be quite good. I was amazed.

The best part of today being that it started off on what felt like the wrong side of the bed, yet ended up feeling very satisfying.

Let it not be said that I have never considered education as a career, even if it’s only short-term.

Adventures on a Xiamen Bus

It seems like the only bus rides I ever get to experience is outside of the Philippines, China being the place where I’ve had the most bus-ride experiences. From my first China bus ride in Xiamen in 2004, to the few times I had ridden a public bus back in Zhuhai in 2008, bus rides in Beijing when I had to go to school or when I went around a bit, to bus rides in Shanghai and Hangzhou, and even to bus rides here in Xiamen, riding a bus has proved to contain an invaluable amount of experiences. I’ve had my fair share of good bus rides, bad bus rides, and uncomfortable bus rides.

So far, I’d say that Xiamen bus rides have proved to be the most interesting. In Beijing, a subway option was always available for distant locations so the only times I was on a bus was when I would go to school, or the few times I had to go to 中关村 or some other places not directly accessible by subway. Here in Xiamen, there are only 3 options for me when traveling, which is walking, taking a taxi, and taking a bus. Because I’ve been doing part-time work, I’ve had to commute a lot to get to and from various places, often coinciding with people coming back from work. Also, when taxis prove to be too expensive or too hard to get, buses are of course the only other alternative, especially when you need to get to places that are quite far.

During the last couple of months I’ve been here, I’ve realized that no matter how frustrating bus rides can get at times, there are always days where you find out interesting things on a bus.

An example of an annoying bus ride was about two weeks ago when it was the national holidays, which meant one whole week without classes. Because I live near Xiamen University and the Nanputuo Temple, tourists on the weekends, and most especially on holidays, can go up to over 2000, or even more. The worst part being that my area is kind of cut off from the main part of the city, so that no matter how far you walked to get away from the busy area, you’d still be pretty much stuck in the busy area. So during the national holidays, I still had to go to work, but the thing was that finding buses with space was so difficult because of all the out-of-town tourists,  and taxis weren’t available, so you had to literally squeeze yourself into the buses if you wanted to go somewhere. One of the buses I take to work passes by a tunnel, and most people who try to squeeze into the bus at my station get off at the next stop (the stop after the tunnel) so as long as you make an effort to endure squeezing your way to the door of the bus, and endure the bus ride through the tunnel which can get somewhat suffocating when people around you carry a certain *ahemsmellahem*, it’s all pretty good and well.

But of course, despite bad days like that, I’ve had good experiences on the bus too. Like a couple of weeks back, I bumped into a bunch of Westerners on the bus, who I got to talk to. I’ve bumped into them a few more times on my way home from work since we take the same bus. I also love the old people who say thank you when I give up my seat for them to take, and how I sometimes meet someone who is much older than me and when I offer them a free seat they turn it down nicely saying that they’re getting off at the next stop. I’ve even had experiences where I offer my seat up to someone older, and they happen to get down earlier than me, so they call my attention and give me back my seat. Even though some Chinese people are really rude, like REALLY rude, I am amazed and touched at the few instances that I see young people being polite, like I’ve seen a couple of them give their seats to pregnant women, or parents with kids, or older people. Another thing that amazes me is the paki-pasa system that Filipinos have in jeepneys, paki-pasa roughly translated as please pass this on. Oftentimes, buses here are so full at the entrance that the only way to get in is to get through the exit, so people inform the driver that they’re getting in at the back and then ask the people between the exit and entrance to swipe their bus card for them, or to deposit their 1rmb into the money slot. 

Once, on a bus ride, I spotted a Pinoy yaya (maid) and her alaga (it’s a noun that refers to the child she’s taking care of) who were seated beside where I was standing. The entire time, I was just looking at the adorable kid and wanted to ask if the yaya was Pinoy but couldn’t muster the courage to ask until we were one stop away from my station. She introduced me to her alaga and talked to me about Xiamen, asked me about myself, among other things. It was really insightful and made me realize how Filipino yayas are one of the best yayas in the world because they really know how to take care of a household.

Oh bus rides, even when at times I wish I just had my own car here in Xiamen (even though it would go to waste since I don’t know how to drive, and there’s not many places I go to anyway), taking the bus is so much more cheaper and more convenient, and I get to meet so many different people along the way. It’s not always good, especially when I’m beside someone who smells like they haven’t had a bath in a few days, or when I’m beside someone who is wearing a sleeveless tee and happens to have a lot of hair in their you-know-what, but all-in-all I feel like I’m truly basking in the independent life. Who knows, I might just bump into my next adventure on a bus ride. 🙂

She’s the kind of girl who loves Autumn

I’ve loved autumn since I first discovered that the leaves turn yellow and red and the weather becomes cooler, and the fashion requires people to wear coats and boots, a long long time before I actually experienced it for the first time in Beijing. Coming from a country that only has wet and dry weather, it was something out-of-the-ordinary, something amazing. So according to the change in weather, Autumn this year started more or less on September 23, and Xiamen despite being in the South, is still affected by such seasonal changes.

When I first arrived in Xiamen in February, it was transitioning from Winter-Spring, and then I was in Xiamen the entire time it was Summer, and now it’s transitioning into Autumn. The thing I’ve realized about Fall in Xiamen is that despite the relatively hot weather in the afternoons, the past few evenings have been abnormally cool, and when I mean abnormal it means that the difference between afternoon and evening temperatures feels so different that you’d have a hard time imagining how a few hours can change the temperature so drastically. I guess one thing different about Beijing and Xiamen (weather-wise) is that Beijing is relatively dry, and Xiamen is relatively humid – not to mention how it’s beside the sea so sea breezes are ever-present.

Dad was here just last week, so along with the few winter items I had with me when I first arrived, and some of the items I had brought soon after I realized that all my outfits were Summer-ish and it was still Winter in February, dad brought along some scarves and thicker outfits that will hopefully keep me from buying too many winter clothes for winter, since it’s not suppose to be as cold as Beijing anyway. I wonder how much time I have left to wear shorts and sandals, and be able to go out without wearing a jacket or bringing along something to keep the cold at bay….

She’s the Kind of Girl tee from No. 3 Storehouse Xiamen; Light Blue shorts from Manila; Bowler Bag from Taobao; Brown boots from Taobao; Red Urbanears headphones from Mom

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A Billion and Me

Weekends are at times my favorite days of the week, despite the noise at the Nanputuo Temple, because these are the days I can relax and do my chores and sleep in. Today I was awakened by a loud barrage of noise outside my building, which is located by the West Gate of Xiamen University. I woke up to see a flood of Chinese people filling the streets shouting something almost inaudible. It’s not that I’ve never seen Chinese people like this, I did once join the Beijing locals who were lining up to welcome the 1st day of October (which is the independence day for the People’s Republic of China) back in 2010 at Tian’an Men Square and it was crowded. This is the first time though that I’ve seen Chinese people rally together to announce a stand on something, live.

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Like working from 9-5

So recently, it’s like I’ve been working from 9-5. Some days it’s 8-5, and some days it’s 10-5. The new semester has begun and I’m finally feeling what it is to be studying and doing part-time work at the same time. I know so many people will think that at (almost) 24, I should know how it feels like, but coming from a country that doesn’t generally allow part-time work to students who haven’t graduated from university, it’s not something completely unheard of especially since I came to China soon after graduating from university. Back to topic, I’ve been doing two things since the semester began this week – studying and working. I’ve been granted a very practical schedule that allows me to study in the mornings and work in the afternoons, though it doesn’t leave me with much time to rest or study, though I’ve tried to remedy that by bringing some of my books to work with me so that during breaks or times that students are answering seatwork I can do my studies.

It’s been very draining and tiring, most especially since most of my classes start at 8 and that means having to wake up a lot earlier than I’m used to, and that means that I don’t come to work fully refreshed unlike during the summer holidays. In fact, this week was so stressful because I was trying to fix all my visa and passport documents (before my visa expires next week) plus I was trying to schedule my classes since I initially wanted my listening class to be on a lower level compared to my other classes, but what was most frustrating was that the language program office decided to re-do the level arrangements and I had to rethink the levels I wanted for my classes. In short, it’s just been really confusing and tiring.

Black blazer from H&M Xiamen; Striped tee from H&M Xiamen; Legging pants from UNIQLO Hong Kong; Eyeglass frame necklace from Xiamen; White and gold bracelet from Xiamen

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Almost Robbed

And to think, the only time I remember being robbed outright was back in 2006 when I was still studying in Ateneo and while I was with my blockmates, my laptop was stolen. Considering that I’ve lived in China for over a year and a half, this is the first time that someone has attempted to rob me. There is a small lingering doubt about the incident in my head, almost like I can’t believe that it happened so it must have been false, but instinct tells me otherwise.

Last Saturday evening, after  dinner at a sushi restaurant and some bazaar shopping with my friend, we decided to head home to call it a night. As we were making our way to the bus stop (中山路站 – Zhong Shan Lu stop), me and my friend were in a deep conversation about a lot of things. In my left hand, I held a shopping bag. My right hand was somewhere near my hand bag. As we were already by the bus stop, I readied myself for any incoming buses headed towards the school by turning to my bag to take out my bus card. With the bag I was wearing at the time, I usually keep the bus card by the front pocket for easy access, but since my friend noted earlier that evening that the button seemed to be coming off. Instead of just feeling for the card like I usually do, I decided to look at my bag while I was taking it out. It was at that moment that I noticed that my bag’s zipper was already 1/3 of the way open. What’s more, I noticed a hand pull away  and a man who was close behind me ducking behind the advertisement board.

I immediately told my friend that I thought I had almost been robbed.

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It’s like I’m back from the dead

As the title of my blog entry says, it feels like I’m back from the dead. One, because I have left this blog empty for the past couple of months, which is a bit unlike me since I used to write every day (on LJ). And two, because for the latter half of July and earlier half of August, I felt seemingly dead as I was alone here in Xiamen and had a very screwed up schedule for the majority of those days.

Because I was in the middle of looking for work here in  Xiamen, and was putting off deciding whether or not I needed one more semester of Mandarin since I wanted to stay longer with my family and because I was planning on taking the HSK5 exam, I ended up not leaving for the Philippines, unlike most of my friends who had left within one week of the final exams. Everyone either went home for the vacation or they went home for good. So, I was basically bored and had a screwed up schedule, with my days spent mostly at home watching anime and Star Trek Voyager, while seemingly faking a productive day by cleaning parts of my room or going to the grocery.

Now, I feel like I’ve come back. Since the middle of August, one of my friends has returned to Xiamen. In more recent days, lots of my foreigner friends have come back from their vacations, and so the neighborhood has been a bit more bustling. To add to that, I’ve been doing some part-time work teaching English and communicating with some Chinese high school students, so that has to some extent regulated my sleeping schedule and wake-up time.

Hopefully, over the next few weeks, I can update my blog with entries about current or past events.

Thanks for still being here, whomever you are~ 🙂 Also, I know have an instagram account, you can follow me through the username dolldalera as that’s easier to access and update through the Great Firewall.

 

Xiamen: Preparing for the medical exam

If you’re a foreigner looking to take the medical exam (because you want to get a residence permit for a multiple entry student [X] or working visa [Z]), living in China for an extended period of time requires you to take the medical examination. When I lived in Beijing for a year, I didn’t need to take the medical examination since my first stay was originally for only 6 months and when I extended my stay, they only extended my visa and I didn’t apply for a multiply entry visa. This is actually the first time that I took the exam, which initially was something I wanted to avoid at all costs, until something came up that well….required me to face this.

Because my visa(allotted to me by the Chinese embassy in Manila) expires about a few days (they only gave me 150days) before my final examination is to take place, and because I need to go home next month and need to have extra entries back into China in case an emergency happens, I decided to go for the medical exam.

A couple of months back, when I was still in Beijing, I wanted to take the exam but heard lots of horror stories from friends, especially about the blood-drawing part of the exam. I’m not a big fan of needles but I’ve been better at the thought of blood drawing since I’ve routinely been having blood tests every 6months back in Manila, for regular check-ups and the like. My friend was suppose to come with me, but last minute she wasn’t feeling well so I ended up going to the place on my own.

Here’s where it starts:

Things you’ll need to have with you:

> 3 copies of your China-passport-sized picture

> passport

> (as of this entry) 503rmb [a few weeks back it was only something like 450rmb and it’s gone up by 50rmb, so check with your school or workplace for cost updates]

> no breakfast-stomach (this is pretty standard, speaks for itself; have an empty stomach for at least 12hrs before you come in)

Xiamen International Travel Healthcare Center [厦门国际旅行卫生保健中心 (Xiàmén guójì lǚxíng wèishēng bǎojiàn zhōngxīn)]

Add: 116号 Dongdu Road  Huli, Xiamen, Fujian, China, 361012

Open: Mondays-Fridays; 8-12nn, 2-5pm

By bus: Take a bus to the 商检 (Shāngjiǎn) Station. The building will be behind the Xiamen Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau (厦门出入境检验检疫局)

Buses that pass by this station: 4路空调, 11路, 22路, 22路空调, 26路空调, 43路, 67路快线, 84路, 102路空调, 107路, 139路, 520路, 520路空调, 522路, 522路空调, 533路, 655路, 841路, 842路, 853路, 856路, 858路, 954路, 958路, 旅游1线

Procedure upon arrival:

When I arrived, I asked a form from the desk and proceeded to fill out the form. After you’ve filled out the form, you have to line up at one of the aisles that say “Accept”. Prepare your passport and the form, and when everything is okay, the person at the counter will ask for your passport and the payment (503rmb). This part will take a while because they have to check out your information on the computer and then they’ll print something and ask you to check if your name is correctly spelled out. Check your name’s spelling carefully! They will give you a receipt and a bunch of small papers, so keep everything with you. After, they will tell you to go inside and go through the 1st-3rd floors for your check-ups. Take the door to the left of the counter.

Medical Exams:

Based on personal experience, these are the exams that you will have to go through. I talked to my friends about the exam and it seems I might have missed an exam or two, but I’m not sure since the guy at the counter said everything was a’okay. It could just be that my friend had a different count the last time she was there, and I myself had a different count. Based on my trip, these are the exams you have to go through~

> X-ray, ECG, Eye test, Ultrasound, Blood test, Urine Test, Blood Pressure + Weight and Height (same room)

When I get my results later, I’ll check out what else I’m missing, hopefully I did everything okay and this is all that’s needed as I don’t want to repeat the entire thing another time.

Tips for the Exam:

> Wear a sort of loose t-shirt as you’ll be required to pull it up during some exams.

> Also bring a book with you or some other form of light entertainment (ipod, ipad, psp, etc) as I heard that sometimes there are long lines for the exam (though that wasn’t the case with when I went).

> If you aren’t sure with the exams and which ones you are suppose to take, just go through the rooms with open doors and ask if you need the exam, most likely (if not most certainly), you do.

> With the blood exam, if you are afraid like me, tell the A-yi ahead of time that you are a bit afraid. She consoled me and told me not to be afraid and that it won’t hurt. I looked away when she was putting the needle through my skin, but it’s actually not as bad as I imagined it to be, just a small prick really….kind of like how it feels back home.

Overall, if there are no lines, the whole procedure should take about 30mins-1hour. As you are required to do the tests without breakfast, the best time to do the exam is in the morning.

Hope this helps!