Friday, April 07, 2006

Episode I: The Immigration Menace

Let the ramble... begin.

February 26th brought the last day of teaching before heading out into the wild unknown of China. My classes were all fun yet solemn, but there is no story here. It goes without saying that the beloved throngs that are my students feared a life without Teacher Bill, but who wouldn't? Numbers cried, of all ages. Little Gary of GoGo fame (his picture has been posted in the past) kicked off Sunday morning by telling me in Chinese that he already missed me as he refused to relinquish my leg. David (11 years old) demanded every once of contact information; Paula, Angel, Popola, and the rest of the 1:30 crew showered me with gifts (dolphins included) while Clare gave me a 3 disc Mongolian dance set.

But class is class, and while rewarding, the story begins outside the workplace.

Monday, February 27th, marked the going-away party. We'd originally planned celebrations at a trumped up dumpling emporium (if you don't understand my dumpling fetish, you're new to this blog) but as the numbers swelled we relocated. Meeting first at our main branch we began the train over to the restaurant. Little Apple (branch manager) and I picked out a cornucopia of dishes, excluding the tired guobuorou and disanxian. I wore my tailored jacket. Toasts were made. Stories shared. Honor bestowed. All laughed. Many cried. Check out the pictures.

Turns out I Harbin reaps good friends, and The Bill sprouts more thana few good stories, and all together this means more than my share - no, wait, my exact share of toasts. Regardless, despite the high level of emotion and sentimentality of the evening I ended up quite drunk. And quite hungover on the soft seat train ride (5 hours) to ShenYang the next morning.

Ugh. Hungover train ride. Overcrowded train. Not fun.

Now you may ask why might our intrepid explorer be headed to ShenYang, capital city of LiaoNing province? To tour the original Emperor's Palace? It was closed when I got there. Take in the beautiful parks? They were mostly frozen over. Sample the delicate cuisine? It was the same as Harbin. No, I was there to provide moral support to a friend applying for her J-1 Au Pair visa. She had found a sweet deal in Monterey, CA and all that remained was the interview which had her scared shitless. Rightfully so.

Now, I worked in immigration in a past life, that life that existed sometime between college and China, and its all about the details. We showed up for the interview that frigid morning and the mob was large. But godbless the American Consulate or whoever forced order unto this maddening crowd, for it soon became quite orderly. However, order or no, the line was long and the weather cold, and my friend quickly uncomfortable. I kept warm by dancing around with my American passport held high singing a tune of "I don't need a visa, lalalalalala!"

America: Fuck Yeah.

Eventually she got in, had the interview, scored the visa, and we headed out to have some fun in ShenYang. Turns out there isnt much fun to be had in ShenYang, but we did take in a large park, a temple, and other random sites. Nothing of great note. Certainly the story of the day was the visa, seconded by my ability to follow the entire dialogue of "The Transporter 2" in Chinese (shut up, lets see you do it). I also scored a promotional item that would come to serve me well throughout the rest of my travel: a bag. Not like your mom, but a handy little side satchel bag that stowed my Lonley Planet quite conveniently.

The ShenYang adventure ended without hitch and I parted ways with my Harbin friend: she off to America and I off to BeiJing to reunite with the parental units. The first leg lay behind me without a hitch.

The Bill will return in:
Episode II: The Wrath of Mahm


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