Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Last China Adventure Part 1 - Beijing with No Passport

June was a busy time for me in Beijing. I had just organized all my belongings to be sent by boat back to California (they have now arrived at my new home), school was finishing up, and I had some visitors arriving for a last trip around China. The plan was to have them (Dad, Uncle Geoff, and Aunt Heidi) arrive on the Friday before school was out (June 10th) and we'd leave for Tibet the day after school was out (June 16th). We would arrive back in Beijing on June 25th and then all fly back on the same flight to San Francisco on June 26th. We had already paid for the trip and had our itinerary. All was good until...

Tibet got closed to tourists about a week and a half before we were planning to go so our permits were not granted. Apparently the 90th anniversary of the Communist Party is a big deal.

So, we changed plans. The crew already had their flights into Beijing and I reorganized with my travel agent friend, Hunter, for a Silk Road trip. School was finishing up and I made arrangements for a driver to pick up my family at the airport on Friday afternoon and I'd meet them at my apartment. All was good until...

I lost my passport and Foreign Expert Certificate. This was not good. When they arrived, I had my dad help me look through all my packed suitcases and throughout my apartment. No luck. I also searched my classroom with the help of several coworkers. No luck either. Nothing else was missing from my bag so it was unlikely that they were stolen. I called restaurants I had been to since I last saw them and they had not been found anywhere. My best guess is that I had them in my hand at some point and set them down and walked away. I didn't really have time to continue searching for them hoping to find them so I needed to get them replaced.

I informed my school's Government Affairs Office and they set things in motion for me to get replacements. I figured I would get things done but also show my visitors around while we were still in Beijing. At the moment, there was a possibility that we wouldn't be going anywhere due to me not having the correct identification. Hunter began planning a new alternative trip but he was waiting until we knew exactly when I'd get a new passport. I made an appointment at the US Embassy for Monday morning.

On Saturday, Dad, Geoff, Heidi, and I went to the Dirt Market in the morning where we found some things to buy.

I had a splinter in my finger that had worked its way down to the point of needing surgery to remove it. Thanks Uncle Geoffrey. Dad tried to open an umbrella and failed to do so safely - probably because he was opening it in my living room. We got matching band-aids.

In the afternoon, I went to the police station near my apartment to file a police report but it turned out to be the wrong police station to do that so I had to walk up the road to another one. There, no one spoke any English so, with a Government Affairs person on my cell, we passed the phone back and forth to get all the information they needed. They gave me a police report all in Chinese to take to my embassy.

On Sunday, I went by the photo place to get photos for my new passport, new Foreign Expert Certificate, and new visa. We also went to the Temple of Heaven.

In the afternoon, we had a driver take us to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. We were there in time to have nice afternoon light and fewer other tourists walking around with us. We took the chairlift up and rode the toboggan slide down.

While on the Wall, I began to think that the photos I got were not the correct size so we'd need to go back that evening to get new ones printed. We got them.

On Monday morning, I dropped the crew off to have breakfast while I went to the Embassy. I had to have a half-day substitute teacher for my classroom. The Embassy trip was quick and pretty painless. They apologized that it might take nearly 40 minutes for them to get me an emergency passport and I could leave and get a coffee if I wanted to. I opted to stick around and wait patiently and coffee-less.

With my new passport in hand, I picked up my family and we headed to school. Once at school, I went to the Government Affairs Office to give them my passport so they could get started on getting me my new Foreign Expert Certificate and visa. They told me that I would need to give them the money for those plus an expedited fee plus a fee for posting in the newspaper that I had lost the two things, etc. They said it all looked good until...

They asked for my new Temporary Residence Permit. Shoot. I didn't go back to that other police station to get it. I had my old one but it had my old, lost, passport's number on it. After school, I went back to the police station and got across that I needed a new Temporary Residence Permit. These are good for one year and you need to get a new one anytime anything changes, like you lose your passport. When the officer opened my new passport and saw that there was no visa, she started looking very surprised. I asked her to wait a second while I called the Government Affairs person to help again. All worked out and I was able to get my new Temporary Residence Permit.

On Tuesday, Dad, Geoff, and Heidi had a driver take them to Tian'anmen Square, the Forbidden City, a museum, and the Confucius Temple.

While they were being tourists, I went back to school to give them my new passport back plus the new Temporary Residence Permit (and also to work). By this time (June 14th) they expected to get my Foreign Expert Certificate back by June 20th or 21st and an expedited visa by the 24th. This meant that I wasn't flying anywhere until then. I let my travel guru know and he arranged a new alternative travel adventure. China by train! I was advised by some that this is not a good idea as I would still not have a passport with me. Some said even if I was able to travel by train without it, I would need it for checking in to the hotels. I was betting on my photocopied passport to be enough. Plus I had that police report saying that I lost my passport and I also had my Chinese driver's license.

Wednesday, Geoff, Heidi, and Dad got to be tourists again. Geoff got a haircut.

Wednesday was the last day of school and was a short day for the students. I gave hugs, packed the gifts my students and coworkers gave me, and headed back to my apartment to see what Dad, Geoff, and Heidi wanted to do for the evening.

Part 2 up soon. Will traveling by train without proper ID work out for me? Will I get my passport with a new visa back in time? Find out soon!


P.S. Sorry this post took so long. I've been busy.