My half term break trip to Shanghai, China started with the joy of obtaining a Chinese visa. Getting a Chinese visa is almost as fun as getting a Thai visa and work permit. Both countries require stacks of paperwork and for all my Thai documents I had to sign every page (your hand starts to cramp after you sign 7 pages of contracts, 2 pages of diploma, and 4 pages of passport pages, all that times three). For the Chinese visa I needed the application form, a photo, a copy of my passport with all my Thai immigration stamps, a copy of my Thai work permit, a copy of my latest Chinese visa (along with the data page of my old passport), round trip flight reservations, hotel reservations, and your passport so they can put the visa in it. China does not mess around.
Fortunately for me, they would allow someone else to drop off your application packet. My friend Jessica was in town; we taught together in China after we graduated and became close friends. She stayed at Regents for a couple days and then went to Bangkok for me. The plan was she would submit my application, then I would meet her in Bangkok for a weekend of sightseeing before I returned to school and she went on to Cambodia, I would then pick up my passport and visa the day before I would depart and we would meet in Shanghai.
You know what they say about best laid plans and all that. Visas just never go right for me.
My photo was wrong: my ears were covered, I was wearing jewelry, and there was too much skin showing around my neck. The visa office changed the photo requirements and did not post it online. I had to beg off a half day from work so I could go in and apply for the visa myself.
The last time Jessica and I were teaching in China together we got taken to the police station and told we were in violation of Chinese law. Our visas were not the right type for teachers, and if we stepped in the classroom again we would be deported. Technically we weren’t teachers, we were Cultural Ambassadors and English Language Resource Interns but it’s difficult to explain.
To get a proper application photo I went to a Kodak photo place where they did all sorts of application photos. Upon receiving my new photo I had to laugh at the editing, I was certainly a few shades lighter. I needed to be back to school in time for my afternoon classes. The visa office opened at 9, I got there at 8:30 and there was already a line down the hallway.
The line was long but they moved through it fairly quickly. Except for the people who showed up without their paperwork completed. I had plenty of time to people watch. Did they make the man with the tattooed face and huge gauges take the gauges out for his photo? There was a couple arguing with their application officer. Another man was shouting at his officer about how he needed to leave in two days and he needed his visa before then.
I was surprised how helpful my application officer was. Being a cute blonde foreigner probably helped. He caught this mistake that I put my name down as Peinsipp Peinsipp. He also told me that a ten year multiple entry visa was the same price as a single use visa. And that’s how I ended up with a ten year visa to China.