Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Visa renewal

We had a pretty classic trip to the police visa station yesterday.. I wrote about this place last year.. you go in and it’s just a huge hall filled with people and I mean filled. All foreigners have to go there to renew their long-term visas, but it is 90 percent or more Chinese. I’m really not sure exactly what they have to do there.

I picked up my new passport yesterday morning then headed back to Becky’s office to pick her up and head over to get our visas with Mr. Dou. The thing is, we have to submit voluminous paperwork which includes officially printed out and “chopped” (stamped) documents from Beijing Riviera stating that we live here,. There is one for each member of our family and the kids are all attached to mine.

So after I picked up my new Passport I went to Becky’s office to make a photocopy of it and finalize getting all our papers ready and then we realized that all of our resident papers for me and the kids are already printed out on official stationary and chopped with my old passport. So I realized I was probably hosed – I had a new passport and no official documents showing residency with that number on it.

I asked lily, the office manager, if I should even go and she thought for a moment and said yes, but you may have to have Mr. Dou take you to Riviera and get new documents and return to the office this afternoon.” Then she wrote the new number on the document, along with a note explaining the situation more or less. And then Becky and I got in the car with Dou and headed over.

Now, Dou is the driver but he is more than that. He is like the government affairs administrator. He runs interference on all this stuff and on this day he turned in an absolutely bravura performance. Becky and I figured there was zero chance of them accept in the paperwork for me and the kids. They don’t play with the chops here. No chop means no document.

We got up there and Dou just blew off this long line of Chinese people and sort of shoved our documents into the hands of one of the officers, whom I recognized as the Slam lover from last year. [ Remember this? -- scroll down almost to the very bottom of the page to see the Slam chop.

Dou hands him this big stack of papers and leans over the counter, chatting him up amiably and spinning out a long yarn. The guy is laughing and smiling as he flips through the papers.

Realizing who he was, I then remembered that I had a copy of the New Chinese Slam in my bag, which the publicity director of Nike China had given me a few days prior. I pulled it out and started looking at it, intending to give it to the officer when I had the chance. I told Becky I thought he would like it. He looked up and said, “wo xi huan!” (“I like”). We all laughed and I gave him the magazine. He stamped everything with official Chops and handed all the papers back to Dou.

We had to cross the room to wait in another line to finalize the processing of the papers but this was the essential part where they are accepted or not. At least I think that’s the case. Who knows. We just follow Dou around and sign when and where we are told. But we were waiting inline and the Slam-loving officer approaches and says hi, says he and the other officers play a regular pickup game and he wonders if I might like to join them sometimes. I said sure, sure and gave him my card, urging him to call. I haven’t heard from him yet but hope he does call. That could be pretty classic. I may have to come up with a knee brace to fake an injury. For years, I was wary to play guitar in front of people since they would expect me to play like Eddie Van Halen and now I have to watch picking up a basketball. Funny.