Friday 7 January 2011

Oh of course things couldn’t be that easy…

There’s a visa office near my friend’s place, which she assures me can process my request. After standing in line for a while – no information in English – I’m informed that I have to go to the main office on the island.

The MTR is a new experience, but I navigate buying an Octopus card, finding the right trains (three of them) and getting to the office shortly after 11am. I fill out the forms and wait for my number to come up.

The fun starts here. First, I don’t have all the right papers for a Business Visa even though I have all the right papers listed on their website. Second, they will only issue a 30-day visa, Tourist or Business, to foreigners, irrespective of their nationality.

I try to phone to get the new document faxed through, but the phone won’t take my credit card. And they are closing the Visa office for lunch at 12. If I go ahead with the Tourist visa it is, again, a very expensive trip to Hong Kong just for 30 days in China. If I delay applying to appeal somehow to a “higher authority” – if it’s possible to find one – for a 90-day visa, I might jeopardise being able to get a visa at all before my flight back midday Tuesday

I go ahead and apply.

I have to go back to my friend near New Territories, about 90 mins by public transport, to be able to communicate this change of events back to Rhizome: my HK mobile won’t allow international calls – HK being a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China has a great deal of autonomy along with its own currency and phone network. So it’s skype.

But despite all efforts at the Lijiang end, it’s now a fait accompli and we can but learn from this.

I make my way back into “town” for a chiropractic appointment which partially sorts things out, make a second appointment for Monday afternoon, and meet Helen at her office. They’re planning a spring exhibition with a floral theme and there’s a possibility of my work being included. I haven’t had a chance to show her my recent explorations with Dongba paper so I’m a little nervous about this…

Central Street Market

Her office is right next to the bustling market in Central – stall upon stall of ripe and exotic fruits, fresh vegetables and mushrooms. Then the fish market – a vast array of fresh and salt-water fish, and seafood: oysters, prawns, clams, winkles, mussels, razor-fish and crab. We select huge prawns, eel and a fish that’s fed on broad beans, apparently giving it a delicate and slightly bouncy texture.

We’re having steamboat, or hot pot as it’s commonly called in China.

Fresh prawns

And it’s absolutely delicious washed down with a fine glass of white… Something in very short supply in Lijiang. Most Chinese wines are pretty foul, and imports very expensive so I pretty much abstain.

10:30pm. It’s been an exhausting and trying day – so glad to slip into bed with a hottie.