Friday, February 13, 2009

Back in Beijing

Wednesday night I arrived back to Beijing after a three week whirlwind tour of the east coast - five U.S. states, many relatives and friends. I didn't get to spend time with everyone I would have liked but I was able to see a lot of people. I also at a lot of great food: grilled oysters in Florida, a burrito at my favorite dive Mexican place in the East Village, Goan food on Second Avenue, bagels on the upper east side and in Queens, seared sea scallops at Cafe Des Artistes.

Beijing welcomed me back by embracing me with a gray sky and heavy air. My lungs felt tight as I walked to and from yoga class Thursday morning, but rain fell (for the first time in 110 days) while I was at lunch with friends (Hua Jia Ya Yuan on Gui Jie, Ghost Street, for shui zhu yu, carp wrapped in foil, pumpkin medallions and plum juice), clearing the way for easier breathing and a blue sky today.

When I went to the police station on Thursday to register my presence (required within 24 hours of arrival if you are in an urban area) I was told to come back today, which I did. I presented my passport and a copy of the form from the last time I registered, and the police woman entered my information into the computer. She then gave me the new computer-generated form (in triplicate) and asked me to look it over. The form includes information for the date by which you are required to leave China. My current visa allows me to stay in-country for up to 120 days after each entry, which means I need to leave for a day or longer before the middle of June. The form had an August date, probably due to a typo, showing that I can stay for 180 days. I got the attention of the officer and explained that I have a 120 day visa, 180 days would be lovely but it's longer than I'm allowed to stay on my current documents. She looked, confirmed that there was an error, made a manual correction and had her colleage double stamp it, then handed me my copy of the form. My required exit date was still incorrect, which I pointed out. We both laughed and she apologized as she corrected it manually on my form, which I would need to show to a police officer, along with my passport, if I were stopped in public and they requested it.

Glad to know that I haven't forgotten all of my Putonghua in the time I was away.

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