On journeys like this I wonder if it’s preferable to be alert and conscious when I die, or fast asleep.
‘It’s better not to look.’ Sound words of advice from my husband who has a fixed stare out the front window.
Better not to look indeed. Although the aquaplaning and curtains of water make for a hair-raising trip and you can’t help but sneak a peek at the grey blur that is the road ahead. In torrential rain, the DiDi driver is haring along at 80, 90, seriously is he really going to hit 100???
Heavier traffic – thank God- dropped to 63- If only it was at a standstill for a while, it may still my seriously pumping heart. I thought I was used to the driving in China, but this is seriously a whole new level of crazy. I write as I travel to calm my nerves. To take this nightmare of a journey and put it into words makes it just a little less terrifying- on paper maybe it isn’t happening to me. It’s just a story. Keep telling yourself that… it’s just a story.
The journey back to Shenzhen in a crazy Didi after 3 stressful days in in Guangzhou is where I am now. That pathetic fallacy thing that we English teachers teach as a literary device. It’s actually real! I mean well and truly, not from the pages of a novel, but real life real. After a month of uninterrupted sunshine, we took the trip to Guangzhou to sort out the Thai visas as the heavens opened. And God has been hysterically and maniacally crying ever since. Pointing his spindly finger to us and laughing till water is gushing down: “You fools- change jobs during a pandemic- look at this. What have you done? What are you doing????? IDIOTS!!!!”
Whilst somewhere in the background a “Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha.” echoes.
The communication between us, the school, and the Thai embassy all looked very promising. The official documents from the new school had been DHL-ed in good time, the email back from the embassy assured us that we had all the relevant documents. Good to go. We arrived on Sunday afternoon and checked in to the super plush Sofitel, a French hotel experience in China. Very nice.
Oh – The road has flooded. We are all but crawling past cars that have been thwarted by the torrential rain and are stilled in the part of the road that is rapidly becoming a rising river- the outer lane- at least at this speed not much damage will be done in a collision.
Did I mention we are in an electric car that has little range left? A detour and back up the motorway in an attempt to find a power point to plug the car into. I guess? Nothing has been communicated to us since the failed attempt at charging ten minutes ago. The only Chinese speaker in our little party is still in Guangzhou waiting to pick up the freshly notarised China police checks. Let me fill you in on that little nugget.
(Before I do – I’ll tell you that the car is now back up to speed – 82 – and making a beeping noise. Range anxiety is settling in.)
The list of requirements for the visa seemed straightforward enough… That’s my list below. The requirements for my husband and daughter on different visas meant different lists (equally straightforward…)
All the documents had been checked and verified – confirmation given that we had everything needed. Except that little bullet point (21) on the website that the Consular officers may ask for further documents at their discretion. And they did.
The China police check.
Got it! Each of us had bought it along – just in case. Fresh from it being given to us on completion of our contract at the previous school…
“Now you just need to get it notarised at an Authentication Department (back in Shenzhen) stamped by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and then stamped once more back at the Royal Thai Consulate General. You should be able to get that all processed in about a month.”
Cue a sinking feeling, and a lump wedged nicely to the bottom of the throat.
‘But we’re due to fly from Guangzhou on the 12th.’
‘Yes, our school is booking flights for us on the 12.40 flight from Guangzhou out to Bangkok.’
‘But you can’t get that flight. You can only get the repatriation flight from Shanghai on the 14th.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Yes. You will not be allowed on the commercial flight on the 12th. You can only get the repatriation flight.’
At that point we could have cried. Though my husband being ever pro- active was already on Sky Scanner looking for flights back to the UK. You know – just in case…
Range anxiety subsiding, the driver has pulled in, to the plug the car in. A respite from passenger anxiety as the vehicle is now stationary – phew!
So, it turns out that the Shanghai flight is fully booked, but our Visa man is now trying to reserve us flights on the Beijing flight on the 18th August. It seems that China is reluctant to let us go.
Back to the police checks. The music teacher found a place in Guangzhou that may be able to notarise them (thank you Music Man, Google, and a good VPN.) It’s a long shot – 70/30 maybe? And it was still raining, siling it down, buckets, cats and dogs. Absolutely pissing it down. Raining then – still raining now.
‘There’s flood warnings all over the place at the moment.’
We arrived at the notary place in Guangzhou 12.03pm. Opening times 9am-12pm, 2pm-5pm. Time for a bit of lunch beforehand. After lunch, we scanned our QR codes, had our temperatures taken, took a ticket and waited our turn. The Music Man took control, presented our police checks and passports, smiled, and said some stuff in the local lingo. The impassive, unsmiling lady behind the desk took the police checks and passports, didn’t smile, and tapped away on the computer. She shuffled the papers around and passed them back to be photocopied.
‘They’re going to notarise them. Back on Wednesday.’
The long shot had paid off. Things were looking up. If only the rain would stop!
At the Embassy we were given the WeChat of a very helpful, smartly attired suited and booted gentleman who spoke excellent English. He instructed us to get as much done with the police checks as possible. Nonetheless, he would grant the visas. We have Miss H to thank for that- arguing the point eloquently and passionately. If the checks weren’t fully notarised and stamped by the various official departments by the time that we left China, we need to make sure they are done prior to us switching over the entry visas to working visas once in Thailand.
Now waiting on confirmation of flights and readying ourselves to jump through the next set of hoops.
32km left on the satnav. Let’s hope we arrive in once piece!