Thursday, July 26, 2007

Visa woes

It's been such a spectacularly useless day that I've given up on getting anything of worth done with the rest of it. Having spent the day drowning in bureaucracy I'm absolutely exhausted.

I don't spend much of my time wanting to shout at people, or banging my head against tables. I managed to avoid the former but did actually make contact between pate and tabletop at one point today.

The day started well with another great talk by James Glazier on embryonic development. Things went downhill fast after that. I was attempting to renew my visa, which should set off alarm bells in anyone who has spent any time in China.

10.30 get in a taxi to go to the visa office to renew my visa which has a week left on it.

11.00 After waiting in traffic I arrive, with slightly baited breath knowing what may be in store but feeling mildly positive. Steps:

a) Read the instructions which tell me to 1) request an application form.
b) Spend 20 minutes trying to find where an application form can be requested from, finding a small instruction in a tiny corner of the room that they can be requested from desk number 31.
c) Realise I haven't got my extra photos. Stand in line for photos. Get photos taken.
d) Go to desk to hand in ticket photos to get ticket to retrieve photos.
e) Take photo retrieval ticket to other desk to get photos.
f) Fill in form, including my name and address in poorly written Chinese characters.

11.30 Stand in queue to hand in application form.
12.15 Still standing, in roughly the same spot.
12.30 Get to end of queue. Greeted by smile from the man at the desk (possible evil tinge to smile).

12.35 Find out that although everything else is fine I need a stamp from my department on the recently filled in form (a duplicate stamp to the one which is on the letter from my department claiming that they have invited me here).

12.40 Get in cab back to the department.
13.10 Back at department, blood is a little warmer but still relatively calm. This was in the game plan all along. Get stamp.
13.15 Back in taxi to visa office.
13.45 Arrive back at visa office. Traffic stupidity has been getting to me a little more especially the truck which had to skid to stop before hitting us as we blocked two lanes attempting to cut across the traffic. The old grunting up a big gob of spit trick which is expelled outside the open door was performed at varying velocities.

13.50 Back in queue. A little shorter but still tedious
14.10 At front of queue.
14.12 Chinese man jumps the queue and goes to the desk I was waiting at. It seems he has an unusual request and therefore doesn't need to queue. Woman at desk goes away to consult with those on high. Due to unusual nature of request this takes longer than usual.
14.20 Woman gives me a smile (I see a hint of a fang).
14.25 It seems that though the form is perfect and the stamp is fine, my out of date residency permit may not be.

"But" I tell her "I used exactly the same out of date residency permit last time and there was no problem."

"Ah" she chuckles "the rules changed at the beginning of July and now you must renew it first."

(This is the point at which my head hits the table, briefly, but a definite head-table contact).

14.30 back in taxi, blood beginning to boil, partly due to lack of breakfast or lunch. Haven't eaten for 20 hours. Feeling quite hungry.

15.00 Buy some baozi, go back to the office and try and calm down. Eat baozi.

15.30 Go to police station to renew my residency permit.
15.35 Permit renewed but with date of current visa expiry. It transpires that I must then get my visa, return to the police station and renew the residency permit...again!

Visa saga over for the day.

15.55 At the bank to pay gas bill.
The following conversation is in Chinese:
Me: Hello, I'd like to pay this please.
Bank teller: OK...but there's a problem. Today is the 26th, and here it says the 23rd.
Me: I'm sorry, I don't read Chinese very well, I didn't know what that meant (This was notably feeble of me, I could have worked it out with a few seconds thought, but things have been too busy).
BT: It means 'something I don't understand in Chinese'
Me: very embarrassing but I don't know what that means.
BT: 'something I don't understand in Chinese' repeated louder.
Me: No, sorry, I don't understand these words. Don't worry I will speak with a friend.
BT: Repeats the same thing, slower and louder several more times. (I haven't had this happen to me before in China though it's the stereotypical British response to the foreigner who is clearly too deaf to understand English.)

I retreat to see if I can find someone in the bank who can explain it.

After some misunderstandings they tell me that I must go to the gas company to have the overdue bill stamped after which I can return to the bank and pay the bill.

16.30 Back at the office, feeling utterly exhausted and having managed to achieve almost nothing.

In fact, on a side note the authorities are currently cracking down on visas in China at the moment. It's very hard now to get more than a three month business visa which is a pretty useless amount of time. I'm told by various people that this is due to a crack down before the Olympics. This will apparently deter terrorism, or so the hearsay goes.

Anyway, having seen the looks on other people's faces in the visa building I'm sure that my story is a relatively simple one, but the fact that it's now only half way through and I'm going to have to return at least twice more to renew the visa (once to hand in the form and once to collect the visa) and once more to the police office, once to the gas company and once to the bank does not make me terribly enthused.

In a total of 6 hours today I've managed to get one thing done, and that could have been done in ten minutes if I'd known in advance what was in store.

Today, physics is on hold until my blood stops seething and I can see properly.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kafka II - Deep commiserations!