“Cathy Lee, don’t tell the police’ that tegory works at Da Hua and don’t mention Mr. Liu.”
That’s was Tony Diao’s advice, after Cathy Lee and I returned from our visit to the Henan Immigration Police. All I wanted to do was have her help me, to see if it was possible to renew my tourist visa here in Zhengzhou, rather than spend ¥2,000/$325 for a plane ticket to Hong Kong.
I thought my renewal date was January 8th but it was December 8th and today was December 20th making me 12 days late – oh my, what should we do? I knew that it was a ¥500 yuan per day fine – but the maximum even if I was five years and 12 days late would be ¥5,000/$900 – but in either case I didn’t have the money.
Cathy Lee, quickly negotiated them down to ¥1,500 but said the unsayable, the unmagic words:
– “tegory works for Da Hua.”
The pregnant lady sent us to the second floor, ‘alien office’ or the office of the alien – where Fred, a not too distant graduate of Zhengzhou Foreign Language School, when Ms Ma was his geography teacher, said we needed to get the form filled out by Da Hua. As we were leaving the alien office or the office of the alien, the short fat man boss asked me who I worked for at Da Hua.
“Mr. Liu,” I blurted out.
Tony called moments later to say, he just got a call from Mr. Liu, who had just received a call from the short fat man boss, in the ‘alien office’ or the office of the alien. “Whatever you do, don’t say tegory works for Da Hua or mention Mr.Liu’s name, ever again.”
That was Monday, and Sally Zhao went with me the next day to talk with Fred who said we had to pay ¥400 yuan to have the ‘form’ translated by a certified translator, plus the ¥1,500 yuan fine – after Fred hung up phone on Cathy Lee’s ethics lecture on the inequity of paying ¥400 yuan to have someone translate – Fred said he would let me know when to come back with the money.
Friday, I was having lunch at Nongda with my former student when Fred said come on over and bring ¥1,900 yuan. 20 red ink fingerprints later, Fred said, “It’s all over just give the paper work to the pregnant lady downstairs.” But, oh no it wasn’t over, it was just beginning.
Moments later, in the taxi ride home. Tony called to say that we had paid ¥400 yuan to officially translate that I worked at Da Hua for Mr Liu.
Monday, Tony joined me at the immigration police office to straighten this whole mess out. Tony and Fred agreed to tear up the ¥400 yuan translation. And substitute a short term 10-day visa that would let me travel to Hong Kong to renew my visa for a small additional charge of ¥952/$150, after I had purchased roundtrip air tickets for ¥1,600/$260.
But oh no, that was the good news. Not moments after Fred reassured us that it was all over, all we had to do was take the paper-work to the pregnant lady downstairs. She said no. The laowai needs to register with the local police station and have the ‘form’ back here before noon. So we can process his visa before the New Year holiday.
Do you know how many local police stations there are in Zhengzhou? Do you know where the Wei Lai station is? Not even the police know where the Wei Lai station is. Tony, Sally and I know now, but we didn’t get the ‘form’ filled out by noon.
After lunch, at 3:00, when the Immigration Police office re-opened, Tony and I got to meet ‘The Man’ the chief of police for immigration of all of Henan Province.
“Get out Tony, I’ll talk to the ‘laowai’ alone.”
“Mr. Gregory, you would be punished in the United States If you broke the law, right?”
“You got these two police ladies in trouble.”
“Because you didn’t register with the Wei Lai police, therefore they didn’t know where you were living.”
“Do you think you could write a letter of apology?”
“Oh. Yes, sir.”
“Pardon me sir how’s come you speak better English than my Toastmasters friends?”
“I worked for the United Nations in New York City.”
Friday afternoon I came back solo and picked up my passport flew to Shenzhen the next day, got off the bus in Times Square HK ordered a triple Americano at Xing Be Ke (Starbucks), went to the 9th floor Page One laowai bookstore bought at last two subversive Chinese political books – books you can’t buy in China – and a Monopoly board game.
Proceeded directly, did not pass go and got back on the bus to the Shenzhen border. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region agent stamped my passport that I had spent 4.5 hours outside of the country. 500 meters later, the Chinese Passport Control officer stamped it again, guaranteeing me 90 more days of employment at Mr. Liu’s Da Hua.
What is the moral to my story of spending almost a thousand dollars for a cup of coffee at Starbucks in Hong Kong?
There are three, well really only one, which is a variation of the line, “that every man who is his own lawyer, has a fool for a client.” After the, “I work for Mr. Liu,” caper I paid the Hong Kong/ Shenzhen agent, Nance Li, ¥8,000 each year, for the next four renewals.