Monday, August 30, 2010

the day i discovered i'm a political pawn (and almost had to ride a bicycle with no brakes home)

First off, sorry for the lack of pictures with this post. I just wanted to write down what happened before we post about our fun weekend trip. I think Alison had an equally disastrous/adventurous day setting up her classroom at school; hopefully she'll post tonight about it (and more importantly, hopefully whatever was going on will be resolved by tonight!).

So, Sarah and I went back to Peking Union Medical Center to get the student form for the residency application. It's the best medical school in the whole country and is very "Beijing"--it has state-of-the-art buildings with American-looking laboratories and then the next building is beautifully historic and then the next looks kinda run down. And, of course, there's tons of construction. Anyways, we go to one office, get sent to another, get lost in the maze of buildings, and finally end up at the correct place. The director of foreign faculty calls the police at the exit/entry station, where we went on Saturday and were rejected because the form that PUMC gave us wasn't correct. There is some shouting and gesturing and then a dramatic phone hang-up while Sarah, our poor Chinese officemate, and I all sat there. He told us that, basically, to get the Fogarty students' visas last year, they had to "pay extra" to a police officer, but as part of the "payment agreement," they were supposed to enroll in a course to learn how to register foreign students. PUMC then asked about the course last Spring and were told not to worry about it by the police department and now, as to be expected, the new policeman is furious about PUMC's lack of respect and as punishment will not let them supply us with the correct form until they take the course. Which means, unless they work out a compromise (depending on which organization is willing to lose a little face), Sarah and I will be without residence permits, living in Beijing on visas that expire Sept 14. Keep your fingers crossed someone folds.

After we left his office, the Chinese officemate (a supernice, teeny tiny woman who looks 15 but is actually 25) told us that she saw a cell-phone promotion near PUMC that if you buy a 500 RMB calling card, you get a free bike. So, we waited in line for 45 minutes in the sun for Sarah and she to buy the unassembled bikes. I asked if we should take a taxi back with the boxes, but there was a lot of confusion and Feng really wanted to get her bike made immediately. Long story short, some old man on the sidewalk made the bikes, and, as Sarah and I were saying our "see you at CICAMS" farewell so she and Feng could ride back, Feng tells us that she doesn't know how to ride a bike so I'd have to ride hers back! When we explained we'd have no idea how to get back, she suggested that she get on the bus and that Sarah and I follow her bus so we don't get lost...Bad idea, I know, but there really wasn't any other option as both subways and buses ban bikes in Beijing. So, I get on the bike to practice riding and getting used to peddling with a billion people/bikes/motorcycles/cars/buses around only to find that the bike's brakes barely work (it takes 5 feet to stop after slowly peddling). Visions of plowing into oncoming traffic started flashing before my eyes, but I quickly became resolved to my fate. Then, like a deux ex machina story, Feng saved my life by begging a bus driver to let us on, and everything worked out fine. Just another day in China, I guess.

No comments:

Post a Comment