August 30, 2006 - Yinchuan, China
Adventures in Paperwork
Left for Yinchuan early this morning with hopes of starting and finishing my mandatory Ningxia Hui province medical exams. No dirty foreigners here. Mr. Yin would accompany me and make sure all the right squeaky wheels were greased. I felt a bit guilty having him come as the teachers at Guyuan Yi Zhong are so stressed with the upcoming inspection, but was assured it wasn’t possible without him.
The trip got off to a bit of a rocky start. It was planned that we would travel in relative luxury by car to Yinchuan, 3 hours away, but the single school car was called away on “important business.” Not a good omen. It was off to the bus with us.
10 minutes later we were on the express bus to Yinchuan - but it was almost guaranteed to take 4 hours.
The 4 hours turned into 5 - owing to a couple of highway-side passenger pick-ups, an extended fruit-buying foray and a seemingly unnecessary engine-belt changing. Quite the beautiful scenery though, stark contrast between the vivid green osasi (oases? oasiseses?) and the drab tan of the desert.
We arrived in town at 12:30, just catching the usual noon break. The health bureau wouldn’t open for another two and a half hours. We had some time to kill.
I watched hungrily - maybe even had a few bites of a side dish - as Mr. Yin slurped down his noodles. I wasn’t about to ruin my fasting for the last 6 hours and my bloodwork with it. At 2:15 we hailed a cab and got in.
Some terse Chinese later and we got out. The cab driver had no idea where the bureau was.
Neither did the second.
Or the third. Or fourth.
Time to regroup. A quick text message later and we were on our way.
The bureau opened at 2:30 and a large group of us were herded upstairs to a waiting room. Copies of passports, photos, forms, more forms, forms from the school and yet other forms were handed over. I readied myself for a good bit of poking and prodding.
It wasn’t to be. China surprise! No doctors after 2:30.
Day 1: Kaput.
Hoping to salvage the day Mr. Yin called an old schoolmate of his and we walked to dinner. I felt a bit less guilty about having Mr. Yin come to Yinchuan with me. Halfway to the restaurant our new companion jogs off in an opposite direction - I learn to get a bottle of the best local baijiu.
One dish into the meal the baijiu is poured. Poured out completely into the 3 waiting glasses. Dinner just got a bit more interesting.
With the baijiu and dumplings flowing freely, dice weren’t far from the action. A few rounds of san ge nige and Mr. Yins friend breaks out his English.
“HE IS MY BEST FRIEND. HE IS MY OLD FRIEND!”
It gets louder. Much to the amusement of our fellow diners.
“HE IS MY - MY BEST FRIEND. YOU ARE MY FRIEND.”
That I am.
The baijiu is gone. It’s replaced by a fresh local draft. Icy mugs too. Very good.
“YOU ARE MY NEW FRIEND. MY NEW BEST FRIEND. HE IS MY BEST - BEST FRIEND!”
We pay the bill and leave for the hotel. Somehow and somewhere - totally unbeknownst to me - my new friend picks up a case of beer. Mind you beer here is sold in 750mL bottles. None of those wee American bottles.
The volume picks up yet again in the hotel room as we talk.
“YOU ARE BEST FRIEND. HE IS FRIEND. WE. ARE. ALL. BEST. FRIENDS!”
The case is gone and our friend is too.
Mr. Yin seems a tad embarrassed, but not surprised. Great guy - nice as can be and great for me to try my Chinese out on - he just likes his drink.
He passes out on Mr. Yins cot. I get the feeling I am lucky it wasn’t mine.
The following morning we ready for Round 2 at the health bureau. Mr. Yin pays a 10 kuai tariff for a menacing looking yellow stain on his bed-sheet.
I had no idea how luck I was.
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