31 July 2013

Back in the Jing

We got into BJ last Friday evening after a five hour delay on United's 889--most of it onboard--turned the 12.5 hour flight into a 17 hour one.   Despite that, and an entire cup of water spilled in my lap early on, we did okay on the flight and even slept a little.  We missed dinner with my 36-hours-overlapping-in-BJ brother's family but my BJ-for-the-summer niece met us at the airport to help with the five suitcases (five!) filled with loads and loads of gifts and supplies for our peeps here.  

It immediately felt great to be back in BJ.  We're staying at friends' apartment East of the park.  We lived on the West side last year so it's very familiar territory and we love it.  On Saturday we're moving to a service apartment in the Lido area of Beijing  where LiLi and a buddy will go to a day camp while I do some networking and catching up with folks.

Saturday was a bad air day where drizzling clouds trapped the smog so we all felt headachy and sick by the end of the day.  That combined with jetlag caused the "why would anyone live here" feelings to arise.  But Sunday was relatively clear and I forgot again.  It's been 100 degrees or thereabouts, smoggy, humid and generally miserable all week.  This is why many expats go to their home countries for the summer, or to Bali.  At the moment it's not bad though:  BJ AQI 110; SF AQI 78.

We've seen most of our inner circle by now and I'm in the process of making networking appointments for next week.  I feel like I could easily stay forever.  Life is hard here especially for me and my bad Chinese, but there's a way in which life in America is difficult too, with complicated layers of responsibility and pressure.  We're lucky to have the opportunity to experience both and we don't have to decide anything long term, at least not right now, not today.  Today is okay. 

03 July 2013


We went to the Chinese consulate in SF today to apply for our visas.

Not changed yet.  The forms are essentially the same for now but the requirements and processes are expected to change, well, as of yesterday.  New categories including the M, R, Q and S visas.  If you're going to work on a work permit, you'll also now need a certificate of no criminal conviction.

Forms.  The forms can be saved and then typed and printed.  You still need your old visas along with one passport photo.

Return flights.  Last year we didn't need to show our return flight but today we had to go to the nearby J-town UPS store to print a copy of our tickets leaving China.  Many countries require proof that you plan to actually leave at some point but this was a first for me from China.  Of course, after last summer's crackdown for "illegals" in Beijing, it's not surprising.   It was a hair-raising period for me, but I didn't blog about my concerns or share them with LiLi, and then the 100 days passed.

Strategy:  It used to be that the visa line was around the corner outside the SF China consul and that the best strategy was to go 20 or so minutes before opening in the morning or right before the end of the lunch break to minimize the wait.  But today, maybe because it's the week of US holiday July 4th or maybe because folks still think there is a lunch break, there was zero line outside and inside the wait was only about 20 minutes.  The hours are now 9 to 2:30 with no lunch break.

We go back next week to pick up our passports hopefully sporting their brand new visa pages.  We travel in three weeks.