I was really hoping to have much more time to blog and make videos of our experiences in China. But just like that, poof, three weeks have flown by without any new blog posts. I guess I don’t have any excuses other than I haven’t made any time for it. My weekdays are 10+ hours in the office/commute, going to the in-hotel executive lounge for a dinner (wine/beer, appetizers, bread), then back to our room for me to spend another 2-3 hours on conference calls and answering emails coming in from the USA (they’re just getting in to work). No time for social media. In fact, very little social time with my daughter on weekdays.
Weekends have been sleeping in an extra hour or two, then a leisurely breakfast, some time working on photos/videos, and then venturing out creating new memories and experiences.
Sorting out the legalities
Before I left the USA, there was some visa requirements to take care of that I mentioned here and here. As expected, after arriving in China there would be a few more hoops to jump through. As my original entry visa only was valid for 000 days (yep, zero days), we had to work quickly to get everything in order.
The first step was to get another medical exam, this time here in China. I had the benefit of being assigned a “handler” from our company’s immigration attorney firm. They emailed me the address of the Travel Health Care Center and expected me to find my way there. There’s an app here in China called DiDi, which is nearly identical to Uber or Lyft. Having used Uber only once before, the concept was still very new to me. Adding to the complexity, the DiDi (taxi) drivers speak zero English (and I speak nearly zero Mandarin Chinese). With the help of a local co-worker, he showed me how to enter the address into the app and I made it there just fine. Didi/Taxis are fairly cheap here. When I took one in Chicago to get to the Chinese Consulate, it cost about $10 for 1.4 miles (2.3 km). Here in Wuxi, China, it’s about $3 USD for 6 miles (10 km).
The handler met me outside the clinic and then led me around at a nearly running pace, as if she was getting paid to complete the process in 5 minutes or less. In the 90F/32C and high humidity, I immediately started sweating buckets. We went to the registration desk, then climbed a couple flights of stairs where she would proceed to barge into examination rooms, with examinations currently being conducted on other patients, and stand within a foot of the physician as if to tell him, “hurry up…you’re wasting my time”. I’m not used to that lack of privacy in a hospital/clinic, so I stayed many paces back, generally outside the door that she charged into.
She rushed me around to about 7 stations, intruding on each of the patients already being examined. Each exam only took a few moments. Not sure why she couldn’t wait those few moments for the prior patient to be completed! I had another ultrasound (the baby is healthy, but the ultrasound technician did claim I “have a large liver”…maybe it’s all the beer), a vision test (which only consisted of a single color-blind test), a blood pressure station (holy cow…I must have been really stressed out), and a few other tests, including blood and urine samples.
Maybe I was stressed out because one of the exams had a physician with an ancient head mirror. I didn’t know anyone from this century still uses them? Even the Fisher Price Medical Kit doesn’t come with them any more.
Or maybe it was the ancient EKG that they hooked me up to that still used the suction cup electrodes? And they left hickeys all over too.
A visit to the police station
After the medical check was completed, I handed over my original Master’s degree diploma, and the immigration attorneys submitted the paperwork to apply for my work permit. This normally takes about 3 weeks, but it was completed in a little more than one. Immediately after my work permit was granted, I needed to apply for a temporary residence permit. This must be done at the PSB – “Public Security Bureau”, otherwise known as a local Police station. The immigration people sent me the address, and I used a DiDi taxi to get there (I’m becoming proficient!) and the same “handler” met me there.
Wow, there were so many people at the police station. And I’m not talking about criminals! Actually, there were lots of pretty women (no, not prostitutes), their children, and a few men/fathers. I’m told that many of them were seeking passports, as it was the start of the summer break from school and it’s common to travel somewhere during the break (especially to escape the heat and humidity of China). In the case of a foreigner, they must register their residence location within 24 hours. Most people travelling on business are not aware of this requirement because the fancy international hotel that you stay at takes care of this for you. This is also the reason that you cannot stay at a small “Chinese” (not part of an international chain) hotel…they don’t want to mess around with registering the foreigners at the PSB.
Once I move from the hotel to an apartment, I have to visit the police station again to register my new residence location. Technically, if I visit a friend overnight, I have to register with the PSB that I’m sleeping there. Pretty weird, big brother stuff.
We did some other touristy stuff…I’ll write about that soon.