Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wherein Pedro goes to the Embassy

Wherein Pedro tries to get to the Chinese embassy.

Today began quite wonderfully. I was awoken from my slumber (wearing a nice pair of rented filipino pajama pants that made me feel like MC hammer), and left with a friend to go pick up my official invitation from a shipping depot next to the airport which is about an hour away. As we drove through the morning obscurity, I got the chance to soak in the tangible stillness of morning in the lower mainland (you might otherwise call it the Greater Vancouver Area...). There was a really nice sunrise coming up behind us as we drove west towards the airport. My friend has a preferred shortcut that takes us through a more rural area filled with evergreen trees and farm houses. As a morning person, I really appreciated the whole ambiance.
After this little morning reverie, we went through one of those nasty poorly marked industrial complexes, and eventually found the shipping company. I went inside to pick up my large burnt-orange courier envelope (^_^). There were no real hitches in getting my envelope, but it did take a few moments to actually get to me. In the mean time, I got to listen to the workers shooting the breeze, and I was floored by how much it sounded like something straight out of “The Office.” The scene was even complete with two or three balding middle aged men, a corporate-esque manager, and some dude with an obnoxiously squeeky voice who seems to have failed his attempt at puberty but still kept going. Something about how awesome this pop artist was... and how they were so surprised they were that she could train for her next flood of performances, “what with all the singing and the dancing!”
Burnt-Orange envelope in hand, we headed up into the womb of vancouver ; } to find the embassy. We got close. Then couldn’t remember exactly where it was. I happened to see that Elysian coffee was nearby (for those of you who have never been, Elysian is a glorious coffeehouse that will perfectly exemplify exactly why real coffee people hate going to Starbucks.) So we stopped after I fed the meter. OH a note on that one~ you know to bring silver change for the meter right? Yes indeed, fortunately I had a box with tons of Canadian change in it - quarters, loonies (1$) etc. I started with a quarter.... five minutes... two quarters... ten minutes-- I giggled and decided to boot it up to 20 minutes and we moved on down the street to Elysian. Thank God for free Wi-fi. I bought my friend a bribery mocha, and got myself a delicious breakfast consisting of Latte and berry scone. Wholesome at the very least. Sipping on our libations, and myself dressed for the embassy in a suit and checking my directions/ (facebook) on my Mac, I must have looked the picture of pretentious urbanite/yuppie. Well... ok so what if I am! After that little identity crisis, we corrected our error and found a little swatch of underground concrete to park on, and I made my way up to the embassy with my official forms, passport and debit card.
Dodging pamphlets from the protesting Falun Gong cult, I strode up the stairs to the embassy and took a number to be seen by an agent. Myself and a few other North Americans, who were evident not only from their white skin but also by their confused and frightened sheep faces as they looked around the flourescent light flooded room, were waiting for our turn to be seen. Among us were a variety of seemingly irritated chinese applying for whatever it is the Chinese need to apply for, and arguing with the agents over things that we the white folk hoped we would be just as capable of arguing about... our entry into China might depend on it.
Finally my turn came, and I scurried swiftly up to the window just like I had seen the Chinese doing. I explained my situation and started handing my applications and official and stamped paperwork over to the agent. Evidently the picture that we had printed out this morning was not official enough for the application... ok ok next issue. My agent continues looking through my paperwork and informs me that I need to apply for my visa in the United States. No ma’am I do not. I have had co-workers that are American that have applied in Vancouver - this very embassy - using their student visa, which I had with me as well. I was informed then that my agent would need to speak with her supervisor -- please do. Evidently my form is only legal for use in the United States... and I happen to be in Canada... oh darn... now what?

Let me shed some light for those of you who are not familiar with the visa processing system of China. In order to get a work permit for China, one is required to have an official invitation, which is given to you by an inviting institution/ company. This institution will then interact with a foreign services bureau in China, a process taking a week or so. This is then mailed or couriered to you the applicant. You take this form to your nearest embassy and apply for your visa. Evidently this form is country specific. Troublesome.

I have a flight booked for the 6th of January, no visa, and a number of questions that need answering. I call this my Gandalf moment. -- I have questions, questions that need answers.

Hopefully those answers come quickly, and I have just gotten in contact with my employer/ what I am going to fondly call “my personal think tank.”

I am optimistic, and - I will not be shaken.