Sunday, September 13, 2009

Jackie's Visa Castle

Hoorah, Tabitha is back in action! No more Chinese internet censorship for me.

"How did you do it?" I hear you cry. The answer is - Magic. I can divulge no further for fear of encroaching on the 8th Harry Potter book rumoured to be set in a Dystopian future where the internet highway is blocked by a Baron Freespeechblockamort, and Harry and chums must work out a way round it.

I will now hand over the reigns to my pitiful owner as the guest writer for today.

I've spent the last week manically trying to stop my visa from expiring in my little hands. I spent two weeks in Hyperactive Stress Mode (similar to Berserk Mode in RPGs, but more neurotic) trying to get the relevant forms from my University and the reluctant local police station, whilst being thoroughly aware of my rapidly expiring visa. Then it was off the middle of nowhere outside the 59th ring road for a medical to prove that I don't have AIDS. The medical also checked my blood pressure, weight, height, hearing, sight, colour blindness, heart rate and internal organs. Luckily, the visa application process is pretty relaxed with ID, needing only your passport, dental records and your original umbilical cord.Then it's back to the other side of town and off to the Division of Exit & Entry Administration of Beijing Public Security Bureau 出入境管理

I arrived at the Bureau.


No one would serve me, because I hadn't yet picket up a ticket. The ticket machines print off a 4 digit-number ticket for you that indicate how many people are waiting ahead of you. Mine was 1408. This then qualifies you to sit in the Visa Waiting Area and listen out for your number to be called, but at the same time there are different numbers being called out for people waiting for a different service (residence permits, over due visa processing, visas for Hong Kong nationals and so on). The result is hearing "Ticket 1311 please go to.../Ticket 12B79 please go to..."

simultaneously whilst different numbers are flashing on a separate screen in front of you screen. I could see people quite literally crying with fear. As it came close to my number being announce, I grew anxious. When the moment came, after 2 hours, I leapt up only to realised I was simply being allowed to join the long queue that snaked it's depressing way around the interior. I waited inline, bored.

When my moment eventually occurred, it was disappointing brief and impersonal. My medical form was glanced at, my 21 passport photos were snatched from me and my passport was extracted from my hands with no words


"Come back in a week to collect it. NEXT!

What? That was it? That was the big moment? That was what all these days of nervous anxiety and rushing to have my blood taken had led to? Where was the interaction? The moments leading up to it were dull.

Inside the entry and exit bureau


As a result I propose the queuing process should be made more 'fun' and 'interactive' just to keep the adrenaline pumping application process consistent right up until the end.

It should work out so that you have to get your 87 digit service number from an Exit and Entry Bureau Employee who acts out the numbers in abstract dance and you have to work out what the numbers are. They perform the dance twice: once normally and the second time in reverse. You then have to convert that number into binary code (with the aid of a small handbook that you can only obtain by answering a series of questions on the history of Feminism in Estonia). You have 5 minutes to convert the number. Once your time is up you have to wait until what you *think* may be your 'number dance' is shown on the large screen in the middle of the room - that's your cue to go to service desk NG15368X (or whatever one is recommended). You have 14 seconds to get to the service desk, but you're not allowed to run. When you get there, you have to recite your number (now in binary coding) whilst someone throws balls with numbers written on them at your face.

You can not make any mistakes.

You get 60 seconds.

When you succeed, you can hand over your application and receive some kind of feedback on how well you filled out the form or how different you now look to your passport photo.

The End.

Get anything wrong or miss the time limits at any point and you have to repeat the whole process again.Exciting! Imagine the adrenaline rush! They could film it all and show the highlights as a television programme, with Chris Rock doing the commentary . It would be like Takeshi's Castle.

Perhaps they could employ Jackie Chan to shoot at you with a strong water pistol from a hovering plane whilst you attempt to hand over your visa forms. No one would ever succeed and the Chinese Government could relax in the knowledge that as the visa process is now utterly impossible rather than just annoying, dull and inconvenient; the number of foreigners in the country will decrease in time for the October 1st 60th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. The end credits would roll over an image of a boot stamping on a visa application form. Forever.

Jackie's Visa Castle*2

*1: Photo is only a representation. The featured image is actually of the Inside of the New York Stock Exchange...but you get the idea.

*2: Artist's Impression.

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