Here is another instalment of our time in Nanjing, China. As I go back over past adventures it’s fun to see how we’ve changed since our time away…
legal or illegal, that is the question. Or, how to cause a slight panic when none is necessary.
One of the things that a foreigner must do when staying for any real length of time, in one particular city or other, in China is to register with the local police. They copy your passport, log in your locale and make sure you there for the purpose you say you are. It’s usually pretty easy and painless and done by your liaison that’s in charge of your time where you are staying. When I was last in China I had to have pictures taken and was given a little red passbook that was my official registration and work permit for my year here. Since our time here is so short this time we did not anticipate the craziness that ensued. Our friend works with most of the foreign teachers that come and are hired by the university to teach. He handles their getting settled, housing, registration with police and collaboration with the department they work within while they are at Nanjing Normal University (NNU). He is not in charge of mum while she’s (we are) here, but he is a good connection and has been helpful in helping those that are in charge of mum. They’ve been absolutely great – such a difference from the last time when she felt so left to her own devices with trying to figure out about schedules, holidays and the rest. This time things are wonderfully organized and set out. However, the getting registered with the police did not happen upon arrival. It was not until our friend had his secretary inform those taking care of mum that this was dealt with. We turned over out passports so that we could be painlessly registered. Now comes the fly into high gear and all sorts of craziness. Last night we got a call telling us that we were much too late in getting registered and that this would either cost us 3,000RMB or we could check into a hotel for the night (though not necessary to stay in the room over night), check out hand the receipt over with the passports to the police and all would be well. Hmm. This seemed not quite above board and something that might come to bite us back later. So, mum called our friend to make sure that this was the correct course of action for our situation. Yes, this did seem like the right sort of thing, but he would call the district police and find out what was going on and what ought to be done for our situation. In the meantime, Christina (mum’s interpreter and English graduate student) called to tell us that the hotel was booked and we should come over and that mum’s university contact had called her friend in the police to make sure this was all right and the way to keep us from having to pay the exorbitant fine. Time passes, we wonder what will transpire and are fully ready to do what we’re told however odd it may seem. Finally we get the last call that tells us that we don’t have to check into a hotel and all is well. The trouble arose from being registered as short term residents rather than whatever we should have been registered under. So, all that worry and rumpled feathers for something rather easily taken care of – whew.
This weekend finds us going to spend the night with Lilly and her family (Jangguo and Caroline). She wishes to extend her hospitality back to us as we did for her and her family when she was in the US studying at Harvard. They have a lovely apartment/flat on the 15th floor of a complex newly built in 2004 and they stretched to afford it and now it’s at least doubled in value – lucky them. When mum was here the first time as a visiting scholar Lilly was assigned to be mum’s interpreter and we have kept up the relationship ever since. When we got up to the flat there was a picture on the desk of us all together in the flat they had years ago. Back then their home was more of the traditional concrete block flat that people think of when thinking of communist housing. It was tiny by anyone’s standards while the new flat is spacious and filled with light from the almost floor to ceiling windows. I’d say, “what a view”, but the smog from the city is awful so there was a limited view even on Sunday which was a clear day after rain. AEB was having a hard time in a new place even though the people were not new to her. She was scared to try the food, not wanting to be out with the rest of us in conversation and being not only shy but a bit of a pill as she tried to keep others from chatting and enjoying the time when she could not allow herself to enjoy the experience. As an adventuresome adult sometimes it is hard to remember that being adventuresome as a child can be overwhelming and I can’t say that I was a stellar parent the entire time. Jangguo is a collector of art – painting, calligraphy, even chinaware. AEB decided that she would draw some pictures for him as a “thank you” which helped in her having a better time than she was allowing herself to have.
The other thing that helped was walking over to a shopping center where there was an entire floor just for children – clothes, shoes, a play area for tiny ones, a game room for larger one (think Chucky Cheese’s but without the pizza and more “cheese”) and then there were stalls for making items with a clay-like material. Our girl decided that she did want to sit and make something. There was little room for creativity as you had to make exactly the item you chose to make from a shelf (I’ll have pictures up so you can see for yourselves). The young woman, the “teacher” was one more interested in what was joing on on her iPhone than the child in front of her. AEB followed directions with a bit of help from Lily, but mostly she just had to watch and copy as best she could. Occasionally the teacher would tell AEB to “do it again” or “it’s too big, make it smaller”. If any of you are familiar with the film, “My Neighbor Totoro” then you will recognize the little blue totoro that she made. He’s actually quite sweet, probably not worth what we paid for him, but it was the first time our girl was seeming to enjoy herself the entire time we were visiting.
Lilly is helping to get AEB into a school. She thinks that getting her into a kindergarten will be easier as it’s much less rigorous structured learning and more “free”, as she puts it. Apparently, kindergarten can go up to age 7 so this is probably a better plan that trying to place her into a first year primary school where things are heating up for the competition of placements into good middle schools. It’s true, unlike US schools where you move to the neighborhood with the best schools, here you test into the best schools so your scores as a first grader actually impact your future all the way into university – scary! And sad to think how close things are sounding as the US education system changes and moves so solidly into a testing order of being.
Anyway, we are back in our little flat after most of us had a lovely time with Lilly and her family. Things are more to AEB’s liking in they are what she’s become accustomed to here on the seventh floor. More adventures to share as we encounter them. I think today I will see about taking possession of mum’s bicycle and fitting it for AEB to ride on the back so she and I can go out and about. We shall see.