Well, the last of the graduation events are over, and all that remains is the last goodbyes to friends who are leaving for good. Too many goodbyes, I almost can’t take it. But a bunch of my kids will still be here next year, and I’m really looking forward to working with the youth worship teams next year. I haven’t been regularly involved with youth worship since stepping down from leading the youth worship ministry at my church in Canberra at the end of 2002. I’m really looking forward to the new challenge/joy of helping out with it here.
I attended a LOT of events in the last month or so…
- Homeschool Co-op end-of-year concert
- IAB Spring Fair
- ReGen formal dinner
- Womens Retreat
- lead worship at the bilingual service
- Homeschool graduation
- Last ReGen/Open mic night
- my birthday party
- BICF Youth leaders appreciation dinner
- Becky’s surprise hens’ night
- ISB graduation
- baptism of one of my boys
- Baccalaureate Service
There’s also a bunch I missed because I was double or triple booked and probably a lot more I’m forgetting right now. I also have a big farewell party coming this Saturday – the last one before I go home. It has been a VERY busy month or two, especially with being in Beijing almost every weekend for at least one night each weekend. This has left me extremely tired, despite trying to relax at home during the week. I am honestly looking forward to the peace that comes with people leaving and activity ceasing.
I celebrated my 26th birthday with a party at my house here in Langfang. 15 friends from Beijing made the trek down to see me, which along with myself and 2 friends who live here, made for a crazy-big group of 18 people! I made pavlova with my new mixmaster (a birthday present from my parents) which turned out to be about my best one ever. It was an amazing day – I really had a wonderful time.
On my actual birthday the next day (the 1st of June), one of my girls sang in church for the first time and did an amazing job (I was bursting with pride!) and then I got to have lunch at “home” (and by home I mean Peter’s) with a lovely group of people, including some of my girls. Best of all, it was a beautiful, clear, sunny day. Perfect!
I am preparing for my trip home to get a new visa. Hoping that everything goes smoothly, but I can’t help but be a little apprehensive… you never know how it will work out. I’ll probably be holding my breath inside until I am back in China with a one-year work visa in my passport. Also, if you would like a postcard from Australia, send me your postal address and I’ll do my best! I sent some last time but I didn’t have addresses for everyone…
Story #1 – the Petrol Station
In my last update I included a photo of the queue of trucks etc at the petrol station. Last week I was driving past with Xiao Wang (a guy I work with) and realised that the queue had gone all the way down the block and around the corner! We commented on this and I asked if he knew why there were always queues at this petrol station – he said that it was the only one in the area that sells diesel fuel. When I came to work on Tuesday morning (after the long weekend for Dragon Boat Festival) I saw a bunch of trucks and buses outside. Then I realised there were trucks all the way up the street. I soon realised that this was the queue for the petrol station!! To get here, the queue must have continued around the corner where I saw it last week, gone to the end of that block, turned at the next corner, continued for ANOTHER block, before turning down the road our office is on and going the 500m or so to our front door. The line moved all day yesterday, never getting shorter. When I got to work this morning I didn’t see it, but I was here before the petrol station opened – it was soon back to our front door and has stayed there all day. I wonder how long this will go on?
Story #2 – the Police and the Passport
Some of you have been waiting to hear this story! A week ago I was at home watching DVDs with Ting, it must have been nearly 9pm because it was time for her to go home. Anyway, there was a loud banging on the door. At first we ignored it – who do I know who would bang on my door like that? Must have been a mistake, someone on the wrong floor or something. When the banging continued, loud and violent, Ting went to the peephole for a look “There’s police at the door,” she said. So, wishing I was wearing less sloppy clothes, I answered the door. There was one neat looking policewoman and four lanky, grungy looking policemen (obviously her lackeys) on the landing. The policewoman was talking to someone from the apartment opposite mine and asked me to wait a little. So Ting and I went back inside and waited 10-15 minutes for another bang on the door. She was checking all the apartments in our complex (that must have taken a LONG time!) checking that everyone was properly registered – which I wasn’t. I took out my passport and she took it and copied down the details. We talked and arranged that I would go to the police station to register properly the next day. I asked if there was anything else I needed to bring. She said no, I just needed to come in person. I said I would be sure to bring my passport with me and she looked at me funny and said no, she was taking the passport with her. At that point, I was freaking out. There was NO way I was letting someone take my passport! But she was already holding it! I started talking very fast (yes I know I talk fast anyway, but it’s different in Chinese, it takes more concentration to talk that fast when I’m freaked out!) Anyway, I eventually talked her into letting me have my passport (after saying numerous times that it was unacceptable for me to not have my passport, and actually physically grabbing it back). i gave her my mobile number and she called it on the spot to make sure I’d given her the correct number.
So the next afternoon I went to the police station – with my passport! I found my way to the room number she had given me and knocked on the door just as a loud buzzer went off – it was the 2pm buzzer, telling everyone that lunch break was over and it was time for work again. Although not as common as it once was, lunch breaks in China used to be 2 hours, one hour for eating and one hour for sleeping. The better your job, the better your sleeping arrangements – a big boss would have a separate bedroom with a nice bed attached to their office. This policewoman had a soft couch in her office that a friend of hers was still reclined on when she let me into the room. I started out by apologising for the trouble I’d caused her and we got into a nice long conversation about, well, everything. Plenty of exclamations about how good my Chinese was, and comparisons to other foreigners she’s had to deal with, even asking would I be able to come and help them during the Olympics as there will be a bunch of foreigners staying in the University City and their station is ill-equipped for the translation needs as none of them are language majors. When her scanner warmed up she scanned my passport – photo page, visa page, and latest entry stamp. This has become the standard for all registrations, to the dismay of retreat admin teams everywhere! (Every time you go to a hotel you must register – so for a camp of 250 people, that’s 250 registrations – 250 copies of passport, visa, and entry stamp to be found and collated and the data entered in the hotel’s computer). I have never learned the Chinese word for scan or scanner so when she said it I asked her to repeat it, and to write the characters down for me. This delighted her, and she asked for the English, and soon after asked for a few other words. While she filled in paperwork and printed documents for me we kept chatting – she showed me a picture of her husband and son, I told her about studying Chinese both in Australia and here, and on and on we went. She wasn’t quite done when she got a call from the Station Chief asking her to come down (I think “asking” was too gentle a word). She asked me to come with her as she couldn’t leave me in the office by myself with all the sensitive documents there. So I stood outside the chief’s office while they talked. From where I was standing I could see that he had a separate room attached to his office – complete with large wardrobe and large bed. When they were done, my documents were copied, I was given a printout of my first registration and copies of my second registration to fill out and bring back (three individual copies needed, each with photo and company stamp – the company has to tell the police station it knows where I’m living and that they, the company employing me, will permit me to live there).
So THAT was a fun little experience!