Sunday, September 25, 2011

Renewing our visas and the nice people along the way.

Like foreigners in any country, we have to renew our visa's regularly.  For us, it's once a year.  We come under Paul's visa as he works part time at a university...except that this year only he was in China when visa renewal time came.  Plus,   Elisabeth turns 18 and can no longer come under his visa. She needs her own since she is now an adult (cough, cough).
So the two of us got tourist visas just to get back in the country. While we were at the San Francisco Consulate, the nice woman said that if she could see our marriage license, she could just give me the dependent visa right there.  We had no idea about this and of course our marriage license was in China. So a tourist visa it was.
Elisbath needs an official student visa now and that is a fairly heavy paperwork laden process.  I needed to get my dependent visa so last week was visa time!  Our visa's expire October 7 and we need them updated to travel during the October 1 holiday week.
On Wednesday afternoon, Paul and I headed up to the PSB (Police Security Bereau).  When we got there, they went through our paperwork and told us they needed to see our police registration form.  All people in China register with the police when they move or re-enter the country.  We had neglected to do that upon our return and now we were regretting it.  So back on the bus to our home about 1/2 an hour away.
So Friday, we took Elisabeth out of school to get some of her visa stuff done.  First we went to the local police to register.  They very nicely ignored the fact that we were late and didn't fine us. Once that was done, we taxied back to the PSB to get my visa done.  Once there, they told us that since I had come in under a tourist visa, that I needed to have my physical done again.  The woman was super nice and did every thing she could to make it easy for us.  She told us not to wait in line when we come back next week and that she would get things done quickly.
By this time it was 12:00 and we were starving.  So we went to get lunch even though you are supposed to go to the exam with an empty stomach.  Paul went off to teach and Elisabeth and I went to the hospital to get the exam done.  We did this the first time two years ago so I knew what to do.  Basically, you get in line and give the people your passport and a form.  Then you discover that you have forgotten to bring a picture of yourself and go upstairs to get a picture and and make copies of whatever you have forgotten to make copies of.  Then back downstairs to start the circuit.
First you take off everything on the top and have an x-ray taken to be sure you don't have TB.  Then you go upstairs and have blood taken.  It was at this point that Elisabeth turned ghost white and had to lie down.  The very nice people gave her some candy and warm water.  She didn't faint. 
Then you have to give a urine sample.  Let me just say that if you have to go to the squatty potty and pee into a small cup, pull up your pants and zip before you try to pour it into the tube that they give you.  Also, notice that there is a shelf to put the cup on before you zip or pour.  Also bring soap.  Lots of it.
After the bodily fluids, you go to get weight, height and blood pressure.  Mine was a little high. I think the near fainting and yucky urine episode might have stressed me out a little bit.
Then you get your eyes checked.  Elisabeth shamed me by saying the numbers  we had to read in Chinese. It wasn't that I couldn't have read them in just didn't occur to me.
Then we had an ultra-sound.  I had my gall bladder out many years ago.  Gall bladder surgery is rare in China so the woman couldn't quite figure out what was going on.  I don't know how to say "gall bladder" in Chinese but she kept saying the same thing over and over again so I said "Mei you"   which means "none." Another worker said to me "Gall bladder- cut?" and I said yes.  The woman said I had no scar so I lifted up my shirt again to show her my laparscopic scar. She said that she had seen my gall bladder two years ago and I told her she couldn't have.  Since my friend went there two years ago and they didn't notice she was five months pregnant on the ultra-sound, I'd say the ultra-sound results are a little sketchy.  But the people again were very kind and very admiring of my small scar and American medical care.
Next we had this done.

Electrodes were attached to our bodies and we were asked many questions.  No, not really.  I'm not really even sure what this was.  I think she said ECG but it might have been EKG or who knows.  Anyway, that was our last station.  We took our stuff downstairs, were told to come back next Tuesday and that was that.
We got in  a taxi with the most dangerous taxi driver ever.  Lots of squealing brakes and yelling at people he almost hit.   However, I did see this peaceful scene.

These old men are sitting in an alley. One is fixing a bike tire, the rest are talking and playing games.  I love scenes like this.

Days like today remind me of why I love China.  What could have been an unpleasant day was made really bearable by the unfailing kindness of the people involved.  We've had our fair share of negative encounters, too.  But today was a good day....and we'll be back next week to finish!

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