Tianjin and Visa Woes ~

It has been so long since I posted a blog! Honestly, everyday that goes by I think of a new topic to write about, but then I remember the posts I still haven’t written and think to myself, “Oh I have to write those first.” Then after a few days, I don’t want to write anything because I am so behind that it would take forever to write them all. It’s a never ending cycle, so now I am going to write about what’s been going on with me recently, and get back to those posts I haven’t done later….If I don’t do it this way I kow I won’t ever write again, haha. Anyways, Tianjin is a city 30 minutes north of Beijing, and also the city where I will spend the year studying at Nankai University. When I first left Shanghai a few weeks ago to participate in Chinese Bridge activities, the TV producers automatically bought me a return flight to Shanghai for the 10th. Of course, I had no plans of returning to Shanghai, why would I do that when Tianjin is so close to the capital, right? I was just going to miss the flight in the airport and hop on a train to Tianjin, there’s a bus/train every 30 minutes for only 70 RMB. Being a nice person though, I felt bad having the show spend money uselessly, so I told Mrs. Zeng to cancel my ticket. This caused her to freak out though and demand where I was going, so I told her about my plans and before I could put up a fuss she was canceling and rebooking my flight; this time from Changsha (the city where the finale was filmed) straight to Tianjin. This wouldn’t have been so bad, except that the cancellation fee and the ticket price difference amounted to 150 RMB, a price I had to pay, so I was pretty livid but what could I do?

The flight to Tianjin was supposed to leave at the ridiculously early time of 8:05am, so I got Mrs. Zeng to change it to the 8pm flight. I didn’t want to miss out on hanging out with all of my new, awesome friends and free meals just because someone got too antsy to see me off. The last day of Chinese Bridge was bitter sweet, we only knew each other for almost two weeks, but it was an intense, activity-filled two weeks. It felt like summer camp on speed, we laughed, cried, and partied together. The day before last we all went to our favorite club in Changsha called True Color (本色), then danced and drank the night away. I learned a truly shocking fact that night, apparently grinding is a dance form mostly done in the Americas, therefore my European friends were all newbies at it and actually prefer the 80s-dancing-in-front-of-each-other thing. I adjusted quickly though and still had a good time (Note to self: Find a pack of Americans to go clubbing with though, because I don’t know if I can handle a whole year without grinding! *shudders*). We got back around 5am, said our goodnights, and had a long, restful sleep. We were all up in time to eat an early lunch though (around 11am), good thing too because about one third of the students left right after and I had the chance to say goodbye. Among that group, some of my favorites were Natalie and Liliane, Natalie is a pretty South African girl engaged to a Chinese man. We fell in love over our common love of Chinese food, she’s skinny but she can pack it away! Liliane is one of the first people I met and she’s from Mexico, she’s staying for the year in Beijing studying. Since Liliane is in Beijing studying and Natalie’s fiancé is from Beijing I expect to see them again this year 🙂

Just an hour after that, the rest of the participants were being shipped enmasse to the Changsha airport to go to Beijing, then fly home. There were so many people to say bye to, it was a never ending flurry or hugs, email exchanges, and pictures. In the end I know there are a handful of us staying for the year, so hopefully I will see them again, my Irish friend is going to be in Hangzhou though so that one may be a stretch. On the bright side, there’s still my German friend Lutz, Natalie, Liliane, and Italian roommate, Cinzia staying nearby in Beijing, so there’s still hope! Also, my Australian hunny bunny, aka Jessica, has parents who work in Kunming, China; so she will be back here for Christmas, and she invited Lutz and I over to spend the holiday…I smell a road trip!

Jessica had a morning flight, so it was just us two after everyone left. We bought snacks and holed up in my room watching movies like, The Adjustment Bureau (it was ok) and Inception (much better).  At 6:30, I was on my way to the airport in a taxi provided by the show, I called ahead to my hotel in Tianjin to let them know of my arrival time, when (of course with my luck) they ask me at the end if I am a foriegner, and sorry but they couldn’t house foriegners. That may sound strange but it actually is common here, hotels and certain buidlings have to have permits and liscences to house foriegners, I think it’s a security measure so those without visas can’t stay in the country easily. I just wish I knew that when I booked online, they could have put it on their website for christ’s sake! Assuming foriegners can’t read chinese to book the room anyways? So there I was, on my way to the airport with no living accomodations when I land, and no current internet access. Luckily, I had one of the producers cell phone numbers and gave her a call, she found another place for me to stay and booked it. The only snag was I couldn’t check in after 10, which was when my plane was supposed to arrive, she told me it would be no problem, and to just call them and let them know. That would have been perfectly fine, except right at that moment my cell phone ran out of minutes…Also, my plane was about 3 hours delayed, so I didn’t even land in Tianjin until a whopping 1:30am. With no garauntee of having a room, I spent the night homeless in the airport instead, I slept with my head on my backpack, and legs and arms around my other two suitcases. That goes up there in my “Wosrt night ever” category for sure.

Around 6am, I hopped into a cab and finally got to my hotel, it was only 80 RMB and relatively pain-free. Finally in my hotel room, I was really tired, but jumped on the internet to try and solve my visa problems. China has very strict visa regulations, there is no grace period like in many other countries, whether you are here for an hour or twenty weeks, you need a visa for that. My current visa is a 90 day, multiple entry tourist visa, meaning everytime I re-enter China this year I get to stay for 90 days. Not bad, except I came to CHina May 22nd, therefore my visa is up for expiration on August 21st (yes, a few days from now). I was freaking out! I called my friend Victor who just got back to America from China, he reassured me not to listen to what others are saying online and to visit the international office in Nankai. The forums online about changing visas was scary, people had me thinking that at best I would have to go to Hong Kong to apply for a change of visa status, wosrt case, go back to my home country. Before any of you do anything drastic like that, remember that there are always Entry-Exit Bureaus to take care of that. It was pretty simple, I went to the office, a teacher helped me fill out an application, told me where to get my physical done, and just two days ago I had my interview with the officer to get my new visa. It’s not completely over yet, they have my passport and paperwork (walking around China without my passport is a bit unnerving) and I can pick it up on the 23rd. So I have two days (the 21st and 22nd) to experience life on the wild side, I am going to laugh in the face of the law!! …Well, not really, but at least I don’t have to leave the country 😀

 

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