Solitude in the City of 20 Million
On Friday, I found my spot. My spot for when I need time to just be by myself. But before that….
My bike and I rode the Shanghai River Ferry across the Huangpu River to Pudong. The ride took about 20 minutes from the time I bought my token (1.3rmb) to riding away through the enourmous construction site at the Pudong dock. The river ferry is the only way to cross the river with your bike or motorbike, and there are at least six crossing points within the downtown area. So it’s very convenient and a lot cheaper than the tourist boats that cross the busy waterway.
Unfortunately, this was not my first trip to Pudong this week. On Thursday I took the exact same boat and rode my bike to the exact same building that houses the Entry and Exit Bureau of Shanghai. I needed to go to the EEB to extend my 90-day visa to 120 days. On Thursday I sat in the sparkling new third-floor waiting room watching the various internationals meander through the rows of airport-style seating for over an hour while wishing that my number was next. 428. Finally. I approached the desk only to be told that I didn’t have one of the documents I needed, a temporary residency permit. I kind of expected this, but didn’t really understand how and where I could obtain one of these permits, so my four hour adventure to Pudong wasn’t a complete waste. At least I knew what this temporary residency permit looked like, and that I could get it from the front desk at my hotel. As soon as I got home, I obtained this little pink piece of paper and tucked it away for round two.
On Friday morning, I set out early (okay 9:30 might not be early for some of you, but it is for me). I boarded the ferry pictured above and made my way to the EEB. Since I knew exactly where I was going, the trip only took an hour and I had my number in hand by 10:30. 162. That’s good. A lot smaller than my 428 from yesterday. The only problem was that they were on 40. 112 people in front of me. No big deal I thought. There are 9 desks open so the numbers will go quickly. Sitting in the waiting room was like being in an international airport with a 2 hour layover. At this point in my travels, I am a people watching expert, so an hour went by quickly. At 11:30 I noticed that they were on 120. At 11:45, they were on 124. All but two desks, 9 and 4, had shut down for their lunch break and people had started queing at those two desks regardless of their number. (By the way, this is an annoying fact that I have accepted by now about lines in China, no one waits their turn.) At this point, I was starting to get hungry and antsy to be done with this, so I began watching the clock and the number ticker.Â Kind of like watching paint dry. Forever later, 162 was called. I approached the desk, laid my passport, application and residency permit in front of the officer and waited for his approval. Then he tells me that if I extend my stay to 120 days, I will not be able to re-enter the country on my current multiple-entry visa. Well, that doesn’t work, considering we’re planning to be here for at least 6 months and I don’t want to spend another $320 on a third Chinese Visa in one year. I casually tell him I wish he had told me that yesterday (I think it was the same officer), and again, I walk away empty handed.
I called Nik to share my frustration and then got on my bike to clear my head and to make the most of my trip to Pudong. That is when I saw these.
The streets near the EEB, which happens to be near Century Park, were lined with these little flowers, blooming red and pink roses and the most wonderfully scented trees I have ever smelled. It is the little things that life better. Who cares that I spent over four hours waiting for something that I didn’t get? Not me. There are pretty flowers, and they make me happy.
I rode around in search for food, had to detour around way too many construction sites, ate lunch and finally landed here.
From 2pm until 3pm on Friday, the Riverside Promenade just north of Zhangyang Lu was completely abandoned. I sat and did nothing but watch boats pass and enjoy the shade tree. I had found a place of solitude in this city of 20 million.
**Update: Sorry to leave you hanging on the visa stuff. I didn’t get the extension, and I won’t be getting the extension. But I’ll still be okay and will be able to stay for the same amount of time. The visa that I currently have is a 1-year, multiple entry, 90-day length of stay Tourist (L) Visa. Which means that for one year, I can enter and exit the country as many times as I want, but I can only be here for 90 days at a time. When my first 90 days in China are up on May 21, I will have to leave the country only to re-enter. Then I will start another 90 days that will take me to August 26th or so. Then when that’s up, I’ll have to leave and come back again to finish up our trip. It is a hassle and an extra expense that I wish I didn’t have, but I shouldn’t complain because I will probably be going back to Hong Kong in the next two weeks and I’ll probably be going to South Korea in August.