It’s 8:29pm and I’m sitting on a lower bunk in a sleeper train from Guangzhou to Liuzhou. This detour won’t be over until the morning when we arrive in Liuzhou at 8:10am.
Today started with me staying up late to take advantage of the internet in Hong Kong and finishing my binge watching of the new season of Stranger Things. (It’s not a dog!) If anything, it’s more amazing than the first season.
I fell asleep around 2am during the episode 4 ‘Behind the Scenes’ actor interviews. My alarm woke me up at 8:00 for my 10am appointment at the Chinese Embassy in Hong Kong to pick up my passport and new work visa. I got up and showered and dresses. I had a bottle of orange juice and two bananas for breakfast, thinking I would grab lunch after the embassy and before I started the trip home.
I packed up the last few things into my bags – jammies and toiletries – and headed off to the embassy. From the hotel in Wan Chai, I had to walk three streets over and then turn left and walk another three streets after turning left onto Fleming Road. The school had told me it was about half a mile away.
I arrived at 9:30 and there was already a long line of people, but not nearly as many as the day before when I had dropped off my application. We waited until 10am when they opened the door. There was a mad rush to get to the elevators first. (They’re called Lifts in Hong Kong). Then another dash to get into the line to pay. It wasn’t too long of a line and it moved fairly quickly. I got to the window and the woman told me that it was cash only. How did I forget what I’d been told the day before??
I asked her where the nearest ATM was and she said downstairs. So I went downstairs, left the embassy, and asked the building concierge where the ATM was located. She pointed out the doors and said LEFT. I walked out and around the building to one of those walking paths between streets that have some shops, the last one was the Bank of China. I went in and attempted to withdraw enough to pay the ransom for my passport, but got a slip telling me I had insufficient funds.
O M G
Since it was the end of the month, and I had paid $300 for an extra night in the hotel so I could shop, and I had shopped, as well as buying a RT train ticket from Guangzhou to Hong Kong, I was low on funds. (I’ll be reimbursed when I return, but it made things tight).
Ok, I assessed the situation. I had almost enough cash to pay, so all I really needed was the balance and a bit to pay the taxi to the train station. Great. I tried again and got the money. Whew! Crisis averted. (And I get paid at the beginning of the month, so along with getting reimbursed it’s a short shortage.)
I return to the embassy, go back through security, upstairs, back to the payment window, and get my receipt so that I can stand in another line, much longer, to pick up my passport. I stood next to a very nice woman who’s also teaching in China, and we had a nice chat. She used to live in Chicago.
I got my passport with the new visa and walked back to the hotel. It was just after 11:00 and I had asked the front desk last night what time I should leave for my train that leaves at 13:11pm. The woman told me that the roads would be busy because of lunch hour, so recommended that I leave at noon to allow extra time. (The ride across the bay is usually 20 minutes).
She said they’d get me a cab.
So, based on this information, I decided that I had time to go two blocks to Marks & Spencer, which I had visited my first day. They have a nice little gluten free section, which includes FRESH bread. I was going to hand carry it all the way home if I had to, but I’ve been dreaming of bread for two months!
I got to M&S, bought the bread, and made it back to the hotel by 11:45am. I went upstairs, packed the bread in a stiff paper shopping bag with a couple of folded city maps on the sides to protect the bread, then placed it in the top of my backpack where it has the best chance of not getting smooshed. I headed downstairs with my packed bags and checked out by noon. Easy peasy.
Or so it seemed.
To be continued…..
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