October 4, 2010

Permission Granted

"What street are we looking for?"

"Uhh, Pennsylvania Ave for the bus stop."

Splash. I watched as Alex stood looking at me as a car zipped past flinging a gutter full of rain onto her pants. It was all perfectly orchestrated as if we were the punch lines of a joke in a movie.

We both have colds and today's rainy and cool weather wasn't helping our cause. After a 20 minute metro ride, we intended on catching a bus within a block of the metro stop. The block quickly turned into two, then three, then five. We were freezing and wet and finally just hailed a cab.

I had saved the two addresses of the Chinese consulate in my phone not knowing for sure which one was legit. Luckily, they were only a block apart. The cabbie pulled up to the first address and asked me to read the piece of paper taped to the door. All I saw was "Consulate," "People's Republic of China."

"Yes, I think this is where we stop," I said.

"Umm, I don't think so. Read the sign more carefully," he replied with a thick accent. "My eyes aren't good, but I know this is not where you should go."

Oh. Oops. I didn't see the part that said to head down the street a bit further.

We went through security, picked a number and found a spot to sit down. It was a plain room with florescent lights, uncomfortable chairs, and approximately 75 other people waiting to do just what we were there for. 

Our numbers were 99 and 100. The digital sign was at 49 when we sat down.

After an hour and a half, we were finally called. We had some mistakes on our application, but the lady broke out her white-out and helped us fix it. A consulate with white-out? How perfect! She was very friendly and said everything looked good.

We left, found some lunch and hot coffee then went back two hours later. Many of the people we had waited with in the morning were coming back to pick their visas up. The afternoon crowd was much more relaxed than in the morning. Our wait this morning was tense and it was easy to see we were all nervous about whether we had everything we needed for the applications. However, after lunch we spoke with several people going to China to work or to visit a friend. We had a nice little camaraderie going, congratulating one another as we got our visas.

Walking out of the consulate was a strange feeling. I couldn't stop looking at that fancy sticker in my passport. Two months I've been knocked around not knowing when or even if I would go. Within a matter of a few hours today, I was granted the permission I needed all along. 

In its own twisted and uncomfortable way, everything seemed to work out as it was supposed to. But then again, nothing worthwhile is ever comfortable. After the fiasco I've already been through, China is bound to be incredibly rewarding.

I still can't believe I'll be getting on a plane Thursday morning. Hangzhou, here we come.

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