A Different Tone

I saw Steve Aoki at Club Syndrome last night in Kunming. No, that was the night before last night, actually. Last night I downloaded the Chinese dating app “Tantan” and spent HOURS of my life compulsively swiping left on pictures of men in the drivers seat of Audis. Then this morning I was abruptly awoken by the racket of some very entitled construction workers in the apartment above me removing flooring. I’ve watched enough HGTV to name that sound with a degree of authority. I had an angry meditation in the prone position in my bed for about an hour with that as music. The people who moved into that apartment about two weeks ago are usually screaming at each other until they loudly sob and throwing things so I guess I can be grateful about the sound of construction. Maybe they’ll insulate.

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That’s me with my arms out really wide at the show. I got a bit of Steve’s cake on my face and my friend Kassie back home says that means I’m famous now so that’s cool.

I’m at Sal’s Restaurant caffeinating and shoveling Tex Mex flavored calories into my fat mouth. My feet are cold and I’m regretting my conscious decision earlier to not wear socks. Steve Aoki was lit as fuck but to be honest my body regrets it. Everything hurts. Especially my neck. It doesn’t help that Sunday I wrecked my e-bike because I was tired and someone braked really hard in from of me. It wasn’t severe or anything but I’m definitely inflamed. I spent about six hours of Monday jumping and fist pumping and swinging my long sweaty hair around. There are no drugs in China so this wasn’t fueled by anything other than joy and adrenaline. Not that I’m into drugs, I just wanted to clarify. It was a real rave despite the lack of illicit substances. I wasn’t planning on going to this event as I didn’t know about it. I was just at Barfly guzzling my obligatory “freakin weekend” pint of porter when I saw some VERY well dressed people walk in and heard the news of this show.

I transferred 288 RMB to a stranger on Wechat who promised me a ticket, hopped on my e-bike, forgoing the helmet in my excitement even though it was only slightly over 24 hours since my sleepy mishap with the brakes, dropped my teacher trousers at the door of my apartment in favor of some tights with an interesting pattern and a very short, very flattering dress and arrived at the club about an hour and a half before Steve Aoki came on. I brought the party in my pocket and began dancing the MOMENT I walked in.

I got the opportunity to exercise my boundaries with two different men who mistook my clothing and good vibes as invitations to touch my body in ways that made me feel uncomfortable. One was super creepy and one was actually pretty cool, I just didn’t feel like being touched. This has been an issue at the forefront of my mind lately, the whole people touching me when I don’t want to be touched thing. My friend suggested that I simply assert myself by saying “Don’t touch me.” Great suggestion, friend. It worked. It turns out that most people respond immediately and rather respectfully to clear instructions. I’m not mad at the two people and I wasn’t inappropriately touched by them after I clearly stated my boundaries. New skills being learned at the ripe age of 26. No need to silently seethe when we can use our words.

I met some VERY cool and seemingly VERY wealthy Chinese teenagers there who I didn’t realize were teenagers until they asked me how old I was when I was in the front seat of their Audi on my way home at 4am. When they told me they were 19, I didn’t actually believe them at first, but alas, it was true. I told them to call me “Nai nai” which means grandma in Chinese and we’ll probably hang out in Dali when I visit in a few weeks.

Besides swiping left compulsively into the wee hours of the morning, I also had dinner with my friend Alexis at my Chinese teacher’s home yesterday. She lives with her parents in a beautiful home in a beautiful neighborhood. Her parents were very hospitable. The meal was quite delicious. Her mother is a very proficient chef who studied by watching cooking shows. We were stuffed like the many dumplings we consumed upon our departure. IMG_1684

We all agreed that we were this lovely woman’s new daughters and she will be instructing me in the ways of the Chinese kitchen at a date to be determined. That means my Chinese teacher is my sister, which I’m down with. She’s a wonderfully talented and kind woman, pictured below between friend Alexis and I. This is a tower on top of a mountain that we climbed up to for a beauteous view of the setting sun over Kunming. That’s Alexis on the left there. Olive in the middle, and me on the right. My body was sore but it was worth the climb for the view. IMG_1682

I decided to write all this down because I don’t know why. I haven’t touched this blog since a nice man gave me $50 on Paypal to post a link to his apostille website. I hope he’s well and I hope you enjoyed my rambling. Usually my life here is less haphazard and more deliberate. I just wanted you to know that in case you were worried about the no helmet thing. Love to you and yours whoever you are.

How I Obtained My Tourist Visa to China

This post is about my personal experience. I don’t officially advocate lying on a visa form, but I’ll tell you that I had a long conversation with a nice man who works at a visa broker, and he gave me some tips I used and some I didn’t. I’ve listed them all for you below.

I hand delivered my documents to the Chinese Consulate so I recommend this option. Locate your Chinese Consulate first, then make the decision based on your personal circumstances. I like doing things myself and I like doing them cheaply. You can pay a visa service to take care of this for you, but you will still find the following helpful.

As a US citizen, you will likely receive a ten year tourist visa with 60 days stay allowed at a time. Plan accordingly. Also note that any other Chinese visa (Work, Student, Business) that you subsequently obtain will require the cancellation of your tourist visa. You can’t have more than one valid visa at a time.

I made four trips to the Chinese Consulate. I’m not a tourist, nor do I enjoy standing in long lines. I just needed to do a few things related to obtaining a work visa.  The journey for me was a 16 hour round-trip drive each time. I had a lot of podcasts to listen to and I planned to take care of other errands around the great state of Texas on my trips. I thought it was worth my time to make sure everything was taken care of, and also… Houston is a delightful city. It’s a personal decision. If you follow my instructions, you’ll only need to make one trip. You’re welcome in advance.

Things you’ll need for a Chinese Tourist Visa. This list is expanded from the normal checklist you’ll find on other sites to include extra details and things I was personally asked to provide.

  1. Your passport, with 6 months of validity beyond your stay in China, and at least two blank passport pages available for Chinese visa and entry stamps,
  2. At least two passport photos,
  3. A photocopy of your passport and your visas in other countries,
  4. A Chinese Visa Application, typed in ALL CAPS and printed single side,
  5. A Digital and printed copy of your Visa Application for your records and easy editing,
  6. A printout of your pre-purchased round-trip flight details,
  7. A printout of your hotel reservation(s) and travel plans in China,
  8. A $140 money order plus or minus rush fees. Wait to get this until you know your total. I left the ‘for’ section blank.

You can arrive early in the morning and request/pay for same day processing. Your consular website will tell you that this service isn’t offered and to allow 4 working days turnaround time. My luck with same day processing has varied. One time I didn’t ask for it, one time I was declined it, and one time, they gave it to me with no hesitations. If your consular official won’t provide same day processing or you’ve arrived too late in the day,  ask about having them mail it to you. Your consular website will tell you that this service isn’t offered as well. As of June 2017, the Chinese Consulate in Houston mailed my friend’s visa to her. Just ask.

The time I didn’t ask for same day processing, I actually made friends with a woman in line who got her friend to pick up our passports and mail them to us. Risky move, I know, but she was really nice, and I got my passport a week later.

Now, I struggled with numbers 6 and 7 on the list above because I knew I was moving to China, not staying there for a couple weeks.

Issues with Number 6: Flight Reservations

a) You don’t know your exact dates of travel in China yet.
b) You are actually taking a one-way flight into China and you’re not sure of how you’re leaving or when.
c) You’re taking a train or other method of transport in or out of the country and you can’t book it online too far in advance.
d) You  want the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re able to obtain the visa before you drop over a thousand dollars on airfare.
e) Any other issue that you feel is valid and has you balking or doing frantic fruitless Google searches about how to combat it. I’m not one to exclude.

It doesn’t really matter why, but here are two to three workarounds that involve being less than 100% truthful. These workarounds were unofficially advocated to me the aforementioned visa broker, who employs them and/or endorses their employment regularly.

  • Use an image editing software like Photoshop to doctor up a reservation of a flight that you know exists. Do your research and make it happen. You just need the email confirmation with the dates and times.
  • Use a website that specializes in making realistic looking phony airline reservations. Again, do your research on this and use an actual airline, actual flight number, and its real time. I don’t know how hard the Chinese Consulate checks these, but it’s best to put in the time necessary to do it right.
  • Purchase actual round-trip airfare, preferably on a credit card, and cancel the reservation immediately after you receive the email with your flight details (don’t wait more than 24 hours).

Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t personally like the idea of forgery. That’s why I’m not advocating it, I’m just relaying the information I was told. I went with the third option, which definitely made me nervous, but I felt like it was the least dishonest choice I had available. I researched to make sure the airline allowed cancellation of the reservation within 24 hours (most do), and bit the bullet. I received my confirmation email, printed it, then cancelled the reservation within five minutes of purchasing it. I then proceeded to compulsively check my online credit card explanation of charges until I saw that I was refunded.

Issues with Number 7: Hotel Reservation

a) You’re staying with a friend that you’re visiting.
b) You don’t know where you’re staying yet.
c) You are traveling around multiple cities in China and you don’t feel like booking everything in advance.
d) Any other issue that you feel is valid and has you balking or doing frantic fruitless Google searches about how to combat it. Again, I’m not one to exclude.

This is an easy issue to circumvent. Again, it requires you to be less than 100% truthful, but I didn’t feel as nervous or morally conflicted about this one.

Just make a reservation with the Holiday Inn in whatever Chinese city you have booked your real or fake flight to, ensuring that the dates line up. The Holiday Inn of China allows reservations to be made without providing a credit card or method of payment, and they can be cancelled at any time.

 

That’s all I know. I hope it was helpful to you. Are you encountering other issues with obtaining your Chinese Tourist Visa? Do you have questions or feedback about what I’ve written? Leave a comment or send me an email. Sharing your experience may help a peer.