Brett and I parted ways on Monday for the first time since we got married in March and he jetted off to Norway to work north of the Arctic Circle. It’s his first stint since December last year so we’ll be happy to get some inflow into the bank account again much as we’d prefer to just keep travelling together. I’m spending the time Brett’s at work hanging out in Beijing, doing a bit of Mandarin study, getting us Kyrgyz and Tajik visas and (still!) trying to sort out my a new German passport in my married name.
Instead of staying in a hotel the entire time I’ve found myself an apartment where one of the tenants is moving out before her six month lease expires. The timing is perfect and it’s cheaper than any comparable hotels. Currently my main issue is trying to get the landlord to come to the police station to register me. Usually if a foreigner stays at a hotel the hotel does this but for rental accommodation or even if I was to stay at a friend’s place technically I need to register with the local police within 24 hours of arriving. Most of the time I wouldn’t really be too worried about it but I have to get one more visa extension before I leave China and the last one was painful enough without something like being off the official radar for the past month coming into play.
I haven’t actually moved into the room yet, the girl whose room I’m taking leaves tomorrow and at the moment I’m sleeping on the couch and littering the living room with my exploding luggage. It’ll be nice to move in properly, have my own key and play at having a routine for a month or so. The grass is always greener and when I’m travelling part of me craves things like getting up at the same time every morning, knowing where my next meal is coming from and having some consistency in my daily experiences. All the same things that I find dull and monotonous after a few months of settled living, when my feet start itching again.
As for the German passport… Well. Maybe its best not to get me started? In Tokyo we were missing Brett’s divorce papers and my birth certificate; in Beijing they wanted Brett’s birth certificate and an apostille of our marriage certificate. Through a combination of courier mail, hand delivery and express post we managed to get all the pieces together (with the help of long suffering families at our respective homes) and went to the embassy before Brett left as they needed his signature too. However they now also need translations of key documents which at the first place I checked take 2 weeks and cost 664 kuai (about US$100). They don’t have anyone who can translate directly from English to German and so it will go via a Babelfish-like process from English to Chinese to German (and I pay for each translation plus a myriad of other mysterious fees). God only knows what the Germans would think of the Babel-iscious outcome. Tomorrow I’ll try to find a better option but the chances of me getting a new German passport before I leave are slim, I’ve resigned myself to just getting the official name change document so I can organise the actual passport somewhere down the line. Maybe in Kyrgyzstan?
The class I’ve found seems like it’s going to be perfect. I went for the first time today and it’s a good combination of material that I know, material that I need revision on and new vocab and grammar. Much as I hate to bare my inner geek I’m really looking forward to hours on end copying out characters over and over again in the laborious process of trying to remember them. Somehow I find it soothing, like a masochistic form of meditation.
I should have warned you at the start that this update isn’t quite as exciting as the last 15 weeks. Consider yourself warned that the next 6 weeks will be sort of more of the same though I am planning on getting out more and taking some photos once I get settled and get some of the initial things ticked off my “to do” list. Today I checked out the Wal Mart superstore nearby and was amused at the contrast between a well stocked western style store and good old fashioned Chinese “service”. Actually she wasn’t all that bad and to be fair I haven’t seen anyone picking their zits rather than serving customers, so things are changing. That used to be a favourite China moment. It’s probably not often that you see a complimentary bottle of Coke attached to a tube of toothpaste though. In a way it makes sense: drink the Coke and you need the toothpaste, but they’re kind of sending mixed signals aren’t they? Not that “Darlie” toothpaste is overly good at subtleties, they changed the name from “Darkie” in 1985, as if that makes the caricature of a black man on their logo and the Chinese name of “Black man” less racist.
More again next week from Beijing and hopefully I’ll have some photos worth posting (or any at all!).