Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Language skills put to a test at the visa office

With small steps... even I am getting there!

Yesterday I went to renew my visa. You all know the visa drill -paperwork de luxe, nothing to look forward to- but yesterday actually turned out to be a good day to visit both the police station (to get a temporary residence/proof-of-address paper that you need to proceed with your visa) and the visa office as there were barely any other people, and no long waiting time. Awesome. I wish it could be like that every time. (I guess the fact that I had all my papers in perfect order and the guy that checked them at the police station was the same guy who checked them the last two times, also helped. Although he refuses to admit it I know he recognizes me. The fact that he smirked when I came in and then barely even touch my rental lease -he's seen it enough times- gave him away).

When I was done at the police station I went to the entry/ exit bureau to hand in my passport to renew my visa. When my number was called I was greeted by a middle aged Chinese man. He looked at my visa, then looked at me, then looked at my visa.

-CAN YOU SPEAK CHINESE?! He said with broken English.

-Yes I can speak Chinese, I replied in Chinese.

-Sorry, say that again, he said, this time in fast Chinese.

-Yes I can speak Chinese, I repeated.

He looked at me for a bit, with a thoughtful, yet mischievous expression on his face. 

-So you are studying at Suzhou university?

-Yes I am.



-Do you understand everything I am saying?

-Yes I do.



He gave me a long look.

-Give me another photo, he said, without moving his face or taking his eyes off me. (I had already given him one and I had a little plastic folder with additional passport sized photos of me in front of me).

I gave him another photo.

-Take of your hat.

I took of my hat.

-OK you can put on your hat again.

I didn't.

He looked triumphant.

-Do you not understand what I am saying? He said, this time a bit slower.

-Yes I do. I just don't want to wear my hat right now.

Biiiiiig smile from him.

-Your Chinese isn't bad. OK, let's take a photo now.

And that was it.

I think I can confidently say that I passed my visa office Chinese language skill test, even thought I didn't even know there was such a test. Not quite sure what the reward will be? Another 6 months student visa in China?


Anonymous said...

Ahhhh. It's things like this that give travellers so many stories to tell back home.

Well done Jonna.


Did you hear about how the Australian Prime Miniter Kevin Rudd gave a speech at Beijing Uni which was completely in Mandarin? It was in 2006 or 2007 I think, soon after he won office.

I'm expecting similar feats of linguistic genius from you too now Jonna!


Jonna Wibelius said...

Yeah you wish Adrian (actually, I wish too! But it aint gonna happen!). It's quite funny w Rudd. The Chinese people love him. I heard he was on national TV last year (I think) wishing everyone in China a happy new Chinese New year...

Anonymous said...

The visa office is at the Great Wall? Wow, I heard they were making it harder to get visas, now I know it's true!

Oh and well done for confounding the doubters!

You na, jia you!

Jonna Wibelius said...

Woai -nah, the visa office hasn't moved to the great wall... :) I just don't have any photos from the real office. I figured if I picked up my camera and started taking shots of all those serious-looking visa officers I would get in a lot of trouble. And impressing them with my Chinese wouldn't help.

Rambler said...

Adrian, one of the other foreign teachers I work with is Australian and he loves to mention that his Prim Minister can speak Mandarin.

Anonymous said...


It seems to be the season for racial awareness amongst the leaders of the free world. Mr Obama for the US, and Kevin Rudd, for Australia. Did you know Mr Rudd's son in law is from Hong Kong, and his Environment Minister (I think) is Eurasian.



Anonymous said...

oh,this article is totally interpreted into Chinese and post on the forum here..