The joys of SF traffic for the toll bridge. Not too bad when I thought about the reason for my visit to the city!
This morning I woke up in the wee hours of the morning (ok, only 6:20 AM, but that's early for me) pulled an energy drink out of the fridge, and hopped in the car with my Chinese visa application and mapquest directions. Two hours! That's how long it takes to get from the East Bay, to the heart of the city, only 40 miles away, mostly due to the toll booths that have thousands of commuters sit in line for about an hour to pay to cross the bridge. I found this out the hard way two days ago when I drove to the Vietnamese consulate down there, which amazingly, I found without a hitch. No line there, beautiful!
I aimed to get there about 20 mintes before it opened at 9, as I had work at 11. Didn't happen. You want to know the big differences between the Vietnamese consulate and the Chinese one? While the Vietnamese one is easy to find and teeny-tiny, the Chinese consulate is huge and came with directions that didn't make sense.
Looking at my directions, wondering why they're not taking me to the Chinese Consulate...(and it's not because of my terrible handwriting!)
Sooo when I went to take a left onto Turk from Mission, I found that you can't get there from that street. I don't mind asking for directions, really don't, but SF has this crazy thing where you can't park almost anywhere but parking garages, which also means no stopping anywhere to ask for help...what's a girl with no sense of direction to do?!
A sweet girl did her best with her limited English skills and tried to help me out, but that only lead me farther in the wrong direction-finally I found a spot on the side of the road and dug into my server aprons for change. With 8 minutes ticking down I ran into the nearest store, and was finally able to get directions from someone. The smile on my face when I finally found Turk was ridiculous :)
Stepping into the consulate felt like stepping into another world, or it at least felt like I was stepping into China.
My handy stash of change in my server apron
I did a scan of the place and out of the swarms of about 150 people, I found 3 who weren't Chinese. I love diversity. Growing up in areas until college where almost everyone is caucasion, it's really refreshing to be the minority in the way. Without even talking to anyone, it made me appreciate what else is out there in the world and made me wonder what exactly it will feel like to actually be in Asia, surrounded by a different culture and language. I'm not sure, but I do know that I'm really, really excited.
After being assured that I didn't also need a visa for Hong Kong, following a short freakout, I pulled a me. And when I say that, I mean that I scanned the room and found someone who looked interesting, and sat next to them. Found some random reason to start a question.
A peice of paper never looked to sweet...
I never got his name, but lets call him Mark
was heading over to China with his school for an architecture project. How flippen' cool is that?
Aaannd there was a bigger reason I sat there, that I didn't know til it happened-the little Chinese lady next to me asked me if I wanted an earlier ticket number (it's kind of set up like the DMV there where you sit in cold plastic chairs for hours til they call your number). Oh my goodness, YES! I was going to be late for work- Thank you so much!
Little acts of kindness. Love it.
I finally had my number called an hour after I arrived, and was told to come back on Tuesday, which means I'll have my passport back safe and sound a week before my trip. Sweet! Back on the road again I didn't care that my energy drink was wearing off, I was dead tired, and had to work for the rest of the afternoon...I'm going to China! And the clouds cleared, so the city was gorgeous-I love life!