Welcome to my day off. Just how I like to spend a day off. 7 hours on a bus. I am now in Xi’an, and I did not skate here. I arrived on a bus. Let’s start from the beginning…
In the morning this morning I decided that I should try to extend my visa. I only had four days left on my original visa, so it would not only be cutting it fine to try to skate to Xi’an within that time, but I also figured that smaller cities are generally more straightforward with regards to visa extensions, so I would try to get it done in Pingliang.
Pingliang is a prefecture-level city, so anyone would safely assume that a visa extension would be able to be arranged here. As I found out, this would not be the case.
“I am sorry, but during this Olympic season, we are not able to process a visa extension for you. You must go to a big city like Lanzhou or Xi’an,” the desk assistant said.
I insisted. I pushed. I reasoned.
“For me to go to Xi’an, it will cost me not only transport costs, but hotel costs in Xi’an, and most of all it will cost me travel time. This is very inconvenient for me,” I insisted. “Surely you can call your superiors in Lanzhou and ask for permission for an exception.”
“No, it is impossible for us to do this at this time,” was the answer.
“Welcome to China! Welcome to our foreign friends! This is your motto at the moment, is it not? Well, I do not believe it. I do not feel welcomed. Because of the Olympic games, everything is not more convenient. It is very difficult. I have nothing to do with the Olympics. I don’t care about the Olympics!” I said.
This seemed to hit a nerve, and before I could say anything else, the section chief offered for the Police department to pay for my bus ticket to Xi’an to make up for the inconvenience. I was taken aback, and to be honest, rather dubious.
There seemed to be not much choice however, and I eventually gave into the fact that I would not be getting a visa extension in Pingliang.
I retrieved my gear from the inn, and returned to the police department, where they had a car waiting for me. I was driven to the bus station, and sure enough, the 75RMB bus ticket was paid for me, and I was on my way to Xi’an.
It just goes to show how ridiculous the system is at the moment here. If they had to pay for every foreigner’s ticket to a big city, then it would be more economical just to do the visa extension in Pingliang. Anything to make the foreigner feel welcome and happy with China. Forget the big picture…just make sure the here and now is OK.
I was almost hopeful that I would get my visa application in at Xi’an today. That hope was smothered with a flat tyre on the bus I was on.
Welcome to China.
I checked into the Ludao International Youth Hostel, and spent the rest of the evening, night, and early hours writhing in pain with one of my crazy headaches that occur when I am tired and dehydrated. I’ll have one of these every few months, and this is the first time I have had one, and not had painkillers on hand. Strangely, the pain is worse when I am lying down. If I take a walk, the pain fades somewhat. So I was wandering the streets of Xi’an late tonight.
Interestingly, there does not seem to be any particular ‘red light districts’ in China, or at least in the parts of cities that I have been to. There are however a proliferation of beauty palours that seem much less to do with hair and makeup, rather with luring single males in. The “halloooo’s” emanating from these beauty parlours fell on deaf ears with this single male, as I wandered around the streets in a daze, buying the odd 600ml bottle of purified water and guzzling it down.
The moral of today? Never travel without painkillers, never travel without painkillers, never travel without painkillers, never travel without painkillers, never travel without painkillers, never travel without painkillers, never travel without painkillers, never travel without painkillers, never travel without painkillers…
Oh, and China’s bureaucrazy is just that.