Yesterday I went to get the extension of my visa sorted out. I hate going to the visa office because they always ask you for papers that no one told you you need to bring, and then you have to go back home, get those papers, and then in the end they might not even need them anymore? (Oh, and the visa office is in the other side of the city in case someone wonders)
Anyways, this time I was prepared. I had all my papers ready. I had copied of everything. EVERYTHING. Even copies of my current passport, visa page, latest entry stamp, you name it… I felt prepared but one thing I had completely forgotten about is that at a place like the immigration bury, you have to waaaaiiiiiittttt….
Yes. Waiting. It is the thing you do here in China. A lot! You wait for tables at restaurant (totally worth it if the food is good f course). You wait at the check out counters in supermarket. You wait for a less crammed metro at the Shanghai metro station, and then you wait, for a looooong time, at police stations and visa offices.
One simply way to escape the waiting time is to act completely oblivious to the system. Like I did the first time I went to the visa office in Suzhou. It wasn’t my intention, but I was so lost when the taxi dropped me off at the address I had given him (which I had been given by someone else) that I walked straight into the first big bureaucratic looking building I saw. As it turned out, I walked into some sort of police office and started going from counter to counter with my passport asking people (in broken Chinese) who could help me. The local police officers must have thought I was a lunatic, because one of them ran away and came back (still running) together with a pretty Chinese lady in heels and a skirt.
-You have a problem? The woman asked me in English.
-Not really? I just don’t know which counter I should line up at? I said and nodded at my passport and visa papers.
-Oh, I see. She said. Come with me.
The pretty lady then took me down the stairs and out of the building and led me to a completely different building a few blocks away. Once we walked in I realised that this looked more like a visa office than the other place. Whooops. Oh well. First timer. I’m allowed to make mistakes.
I thought the lady was going to leave me there, but oh no, this lady weren’t letting me off so easy. She walked passed the big lines of people with passport, asked around and eventually took me to a counter, discussed for some minutes with the woman behind the counter (who was already busy with another client but who cares?) and then turned to me with a smile:
-Okey, this woman will help you now!
-Eh.. okay! Thank you?!
And off she went. And the woman behind the counter dropped everything in her hands and gave me her full attention. Ten minutes later my application had been filed, I had paid and gotten my receipt and were sent home and told to come back next week to pick up my passport. The whole thing took me less than 30 minutes (including running around in the wrong building) and I felt light-hearted when I took a taxi back.
That kind of experience, however, did not repeat itself yesterday. And after 1.5 hours of waiting I was considering walking into the police building again. A tips to anyone going to get their visa papers done: be there at opening time, or, if possible, before opening time to get first in line and avoid the waiting.
Or, simply walk into the wrong building. Act lost and confused. And you might end up getting special treatment.