Maria Holland

A Really Crappy Musical

In Uncategorized on March 10, 2010 at 1:33 am

When I set off this morning on the continuation of my journey to renew Lester’s residence permit, I was strolling along bobbing my head to the song “18 Wheeler”  by Pink:

Hey, hey, girl! Are you ready for today?
You got your shield and sword?
Cuz its time to play the game . . .

You can push me out the window; I’ll just get back up
You can run over me with your 18 wheeler truck, and I won’t give up
You can hang me like a slave; I’ll go underground
You can run over me with your 18 wheeler but you can’t keep me down

The lyrics fit my mood perfectly.  I’d been on this quest for over a week now – I’d been misdirected, turned away, and lied to – but was determined to finish it today.  I was feeling confident, strong, assertive, and well-prepared.

An hour and a half later, I couldn’t keep from bursting into tears in the Entry and Exit Office.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself here.  I first went to the XiaDa branch of the police station.  This was my fourth visit – the first time I was told that the only woman who could help me was out sick, the next time I was told to return with a copy of his passport, and the third time I was told that by “passport” she really meant “passport and visa – oh, and by the way we’re closing for lunch now and for some reason aren’t opening this afternoon so come back tomorrow“.  I was really excited to be at the last stop, passport AND visa copies in hand, almost done with this whole ordeal.

It went smoothly, probably because almost nothing had to happen at this office.  As far as I can tell, the entire purpose of this stop consisted of the woman typing up a form that I had already filled out at another office, and authorizing it with a red stamp.  What.  The.  #$%@.  She was the only person who was qualified to do that?? 

Also, it turned out that this wasn’t the last stop.  As she handed me the form, she said, “Now you just have to take this over to Entry and Exit”.   This was something that I had figured would be necessary, but since no one at any of the other FIVE offices I had visited ever mentioned it, I thought I was going to get off easy.  No such luck.  I caught a bus headed downtown, trying to stay calm and focus on the words of “One Step at a Time” by Jordin Sparks:

Hurry up and wait
So close, but so far away
Everything that you’ve always dreamed of
Close enough for you to taste
But you just can’t touch . . .
You know you can if you get the chance
In your face as the door keeps slamming
Now you’re feeling more and more frustrated
And you’re getting all kind of impatient waiting . . .
When you can’t wait any longer
But there’s no end in sight
when you need to find the strength
It’s your faith that makes you stronger
The only way you get there
Is one step at a time

They’re pretty efficient at Entry and Exit.  I only had to wait in line behind one person before the worker told me that I didn’t have the paperwork I needed and summarily dismissed me.  This was about when I broke into tears.  This was the 6th office I’d been to – gathering paperwork or getting stamps at most of them, but two were just wasted trips because the people in the other offices had no clue what they were talking about when they sent me there.  10 hours was a conservative estimate of the time I’d spent over the last week, and the I was running out of time as the current permit expires tomorrow. 

I went home dejected.  Lunch with Aleid, Sietze, and Koen made me feel much better but was not without associated 麻烦 (hassle).  Before lunch, I helped the guys with the paperwork associated with moving out of the dorm.  They were confused because the worker was telling them they needed to pay even though they had already paid for 30 days.  Explanation?  They had only lived 27 days, which meant their daily rate was 70 kuai per day; if they had stayed the full 30 days they paid for, they would have qualified for a daily rate of 30 kaui.  Yes, she managed to explain this to me with a straight face, completely devoid of any sympathy or awareness of how ridiculous this situation was.  I recommended them to just pay for the extra three days, saving them about 1,000 kuai.  She said that was acceptable, but they have to go back in three days to do the paperwork.  They’re not going to pay for any days that those rooms aren’t occupied, at least not on her watch!

I went to our 1 o’clock class but left before the 2:30 class started because the office downstairs was open.  After a mere hour of waiting, I managed to get two more forms filled out and stamped (which is all-important) and set out to return to the site of my earlier breakdown, the Entry Exit office.

The line was much longer, but I passed the time listening to “Paper Planes” by M.I.A. (from Slumdog Millionaire) and wishing that the words were true for me:

I fly like paper, get high like planes
If you catch me at the border I got visas in my name
If you come around here, I make ’em all day
I get one down in a second if you wait

When it was my turn again, the worker struck quickly and efficiently.  She asked for more copies of the passport and was the verge of sending me away, and I knew that I had to take control of the situation.  I stood up and said loudly, “Why didn’t anyone tell me I needed these copies?  I’ve been to 6 offices and this is my second time in this office, and no one told me that I needed copies!”  She told me to sit down, stamped the form I handed her, and told me everything was taken care of.  Note to self: don’t get sad, get mad!

VICTORY.  I felt a huge weight taken off my shoulders as I handed over his passport – the entire matter was finally literally out of my hands.  As I left the building where efficiency goes to die, I listened to the ending of “Shine” by Collective Soul and smiled:

Oh, heaven let your light shine down
Oh, heaven let your light shine down
Oh, heaven let your light shine down
Oh, heaven let your light shine down

I rewarded myself with takeout from a Western restaurant – cheese pizza and tiramisu, both not bad.  I watched some movies online while I ate, and once I finished my dinner I indulged in something else that’s been quite rare since I came to China.  I did math!  When I went to buy this semester’s textbooks, I got distracted by the nearby physics and math section.  I bought one small calculus book filled mainly with practice problems and solutions, and am starting back at the beginning with limits.  Calculus is so awesome.  I know I’m doing anything super advanced but it’s so cathartic, way more than practicing characters.  At least I was able to end the day well! 

PS – All of the aforementioned songs did come up on my iPod shuffle at approximately the times I wrote.

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