Dec 8, 2011

the hurdles come in droves.

The hurdles really do come in droves.

There was a month of pushpushpush and gogogo and fightfightfight getting my major changed and then a few weeks of downtime - lots of rest, exercise, reading, and feeling on top of my job.

I have found myself back in the pushpushpush mode thanks to my work semester soon ending, a Christmas trip to the States next week, some more school crap, and securing my Indian visa. Everything comes at once it seems. Hurdles. Droves.

I'll pick up my story after the marathon on Sunday. I've waited some time to blog because I needed some processing. And a lot of sleep. And to center myself again on my belief that things do fall apart, and that things do work out. But mostly they work out.

My friends left after the marathon lunch and I hopped on the metro to meet up with my favorite Brit. She is leaving for good next week (super sad) and wanted some clothes made at the fabric market before she leaves, so off we went to the land of tailors hawking rolls of silks and cashmeres in every color imaginable.

After a few hours everything started to look the same and our feet were pulsing in pain from all the walking, so we headed to a Muslim restaurant for a feast. Cabbage, lamb, chikpea/veggie bake, and Xinjiang beers was a great end to a loooong day.

The next morning I awoke on Steph's couch and packed up my things. My plan was to go to the Indian visa office to get our visas processed, meet Steph for lunch, then head out on a 5pm train back to HZ in time for an evening workout and to see my kitty.

As you probably can tell, this did not work out.

What would happen was a string of unfortunate events that at times made me want to lie down in the Shanghai street and give up. I had a moment of jealousy for everyone I know who is married, lives in a cute house in comfortable America and doesn't have to "deal with the things I do alone out here." In short - I became irrational, emotional, and absorbed by self-pity. Ha. Not pretty.

But then I dug deep and found the pieces in me that tell me to continue on when faced with trials. I asked God for grace. And was granted it repeatedly. (even though I was still using the F-word far too often in two languages). God forgives. ;)

So what happened? Let me tell you. And then you can judge me for making mountains out of molehills...

As Steph and I were heading to the metro, we stopped at a "cash-point" for me to use my American debit card and take out the exhorbitant amount of money it costs for an American to go to India on a tourist visa. I took out my dough and asked for my card back.

It wouldn't come out of the machine.

I called the bank. Our conversation started out friendly enough, but after 40 minutes and a run-around of being told it would take me 4 days to get my card back I told them I don't live in Shanghai, I was leaving that day, to cut it up when they got it out of the machine and to ....&%$%**. You get my drift. Not pretty.

So now I have no access to my paycheck in America until I get home. Awesome.

I tried to tell myself it is no big deal and I can live off 30 bucks til I get home, and hopped on the subway to the Indian visa office. (India outsources their visas due to internal corruption, so I went to an office, not a consolate - weird).

I took a number and waited 1.5 hours to be seen. I sat in the chair, spoke to the Chinese man, and told him I wanted 3 Indian tourist visas. We started with mine. He took my passport and after a few seconds said with a shocked tone of voice, "There's not enough pages here!" "Yes. There are." I assured him. I had checked that I had enough pages. I had 3. You only need 2.

Turns out the last two pages in your passport are for endorsements. You didn't know that either? Now I feel better.

So I processed the boys' visas, then called Z in a tizzy. He looked up directions to the American Citizen Services Center while I hemmed and hawed about, "why is everything so hard?" and "And I don't even give a crap about anything anymore, I give up," He patiently listened to my patheticness and then responded with a, "Go, Jessica, Go!"

That was all I needed to get the energy boot required for a 3 line change-over and 20 minute walk to the US office. However alone the way, I was telling God that all I want for Christmas is a permanent house in America, a yard, a picket fence, and to never leave that neighborhood except for yearly domestic family vacations.

An hour later, I rolled into the office at 11:25. (Funny enough, the American Citizen Services office is located in a mall. Fitting for an economy that is suffereing because its people rely on debt and credit).

I rushed up to the window. "Hi, I need pages in my passport." "Do you have an appointment?" the Chin.ese man with an American flag appliqued shirt on asked me. "No. But I am an American and I need these today, please." I begged. He laughed and waved me away.

And that was that. With no hope of getting in that day, I could not make it back before the 3pm closing of the Indian office. I called Steph at work, asked her if I could stay with her another day, then had Z make my appointment online for the next morning. I called a friend in the dorm who was checking on Mu Shu to see if she would mind checking on him another day. Thank goodness for good people.

I then spent a day walking around Shanghai trying to burn as many calories as possible and people watching. I became very nervous because my visa was going to be delayed a day, it takes 6 working days, and I was leaving the US in 9 days. That is cutting it close so losing a day was not ideal. But C'est la vie.

A day wandering Shanghai:

That night Steph and I went to the Yu Gardens and I was really thankful to have more time with her!

So the next morning I woke up bloody early and made it to the American consolate for my 8:15am appointment. I went through security, sat in the American room while hoards of Chin.ese people sat outside in the "hoping to go to America" area.

And found out AFTER I paid 100$ for pages that the PRINTER WAS BROKEN.

Talk about stress.

But a nasty old white man beat me to the negative emotions and caused a scene, "We have to be at the airport today! We need these pages! I'm white and obnoxious! blah blah." I was so embarrassed by his behavior that I vowed to be as pleasant as possible in order to counter-act his asshole-ness. I resigned myself to waiting in that room for as long as it took to get my passport India-visa-ready.

Luckily, America really is an awesome and efficient country because a mere 2 hours later I was hauling butt out the doors and into the metro again, passport in hand with a new bunch of fresh pages.

I made it to the Indian office by 11:30 and sat for 2 hours waiting to be seen. Everything went well for me, until the guy noticed something fishy on my paper. My heart sank as I realized what was going on..."C-c-con-Concordia?" He said.


I wrote my job in the employmet line of the paper.

Without going into details I shouldn't post on the interwebs...that was a dumb mistake.

4 hours later, I had re-done all my paperwork. All I needed was an email from my gmail account sent to the visa email account because I didn't have a hard copy of something I needed.

"You have computer?" the guy asked me.
"Does your phone go on internet?"
"Noooo." I was getting frustrated. I use a 10$ Chin.ese phone because I could care less about electronics and would rather spend my money travelling than on shiny things. But in that moment, I wished I had every i-device known to man. (and is the reason I am contemplating a big purchase...)

He thought for a moment. Then gave me my suggestion, "go ask one of the people here with an iphone to help you email."


After fighting him he was like, "You want India visa? You do this." So I marched up to the first rich Chin.ese lady I saw and plead my case in Chi.nese. She looked at me like I was an idiot. I looked back at the guy in the window and he was waving me towards a young girl in the corner. "Ok," I thought, "You've done more embarrassing things..." So I sat by the girl and started my pathetic speel in Chi.nese, "Can I please use your phone to email the office....." She cut me off in perfect English. And I am happy to say that after 40 minutes of sitting with Joyce, I have made a new friend in the visa office. We are even facebook official. Homegirl is so cool. Grace in the hard moments.

After 4 hours of being in that office, I walked out feeling...strange. They have my passport, and so my fingers are crossed that they really do grant visas in 6 days so that I will make my flight to America on Thursday. Here's hoping.

I headed to the train station and found out that my ticket from the day before was non-refundable so I was out 12$ on a train ticket. Oh well. Life goes on.

3 hours of travel later, I was home in HZ. With my kitty and my friends. Exhausted.

It seemed like every step of the way something was wrong. Debit card/access to American money gone. Not enough passport pages, No appointment at US consolate, printer broken, disclosed job, no internet access.

But hopefully it will all work out just like everything always does. By grace.

Then last night I biked an hour in the rain to my Wednesday night class at the far away campus. And the teacher told me in front of the entire 100-person class that I have not been signed up for the class this whole time, so I have to re-take it next year. Somehow my name got left off the roster and no one cares enough to let me have the credits even though I haven't missed a class and wrote the midterm paper.

The hurdles come in droves.

walk slow. xoxo.

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