Something To Remember? ... Flying Aeroflot, Visa Issues & Being 'Beijing Ready!'

2018's here now but I would like to evaluate the final quarter of 2017, well to reflect on all of that craziness! My final month in Wuhan during July 2017 might well seem like a world away and the summer trips I took in England were great, it was such a blur that I want to recollect those memories. It's China time again but the last six months were utter madness! Go me to Beijing!

By the time July 2017 rolled around it felt like such a relief, I had been working in Wuhan, China flat out for two years without much of a break. Making my final month count I had a tick list for that sweltering summer month in Wuhan. Work felt strange, I was able to teach my final after school lesson, my final outdoor activity and even my final lesson with each class. From a sightseeing stance I made my way back to Tanhualin, recapturing that same coffee street filled me with nostalgic vibes from my November 2015 visit, revisiting the market street served realness for sure even though the rain pelted down! Taking my last trip on the Wuhan Metro felt bizarre, from Jiyuqiao to Guanggu for the final trip put my whole two year experience together in a series of mad moments. AllStars turned up the music, getting my life that night I made sure Wuhan knew it was loosing one of its best! How I was ready for takeoff but in the same breath I was going to miss Wuhan a lot! Wuhan would be ready for a future visit, I had confidence. 拜拜! 

My Wuhan to Shanghai High Speed journey had been completed without any calamities, meaning I hadn't completely lost my senses lugging two jammed packed suitcases and my carry-on luggage. Almost! To cut a long story short I arrived back onto British soil the next day on-time without any delay, reunited with my family felt great as it had been such a long time since I had seen them but a piece of me was missing. Home life was good, the honeymoon period didn't last for long because the bureaucracy with my visa process. Reuniting with Fiona in Scotland was just the tonic that I needed, talking of tonic it seemed like a bright idea to get on the Buckfast! No! Getting back to Birmingham gave me a slice of Chinatown Overness, turning the lights down low it was a night out to remember with my Brother and his girlfriend. The withdrawal from the berserk nature of Guanggu Square made Bilston feel like a ghost town. I have to be honest it was strange to be back but I had things to do! Those home truths were real!

My Chinese visa process started without many hiccups, the main set of my notarised documents and copies of my new passport had reached their Beijing within three workings days with a popular international courier service. It would be another two weeks before my next piece of paper would be released from the Chinese government, so with some time to spare I planned my Yorkshire trip to the cities of Leeds and York. Leeds was a random choice but it had many advantages like Megabus services from Birmingham for a fiver and from there I was able to get a cheapish train onto York because the return trains from Wolverhampton to that historic city made me shed a tear! Through that certain deviation I was afforded a great weekend of sightseeing, allowing me to escape from the turmoil of visa nonsense! York's Shambles impressed me and Leeds's Kirkgate Market served a Victorian charm. I wanted to live my 'Emmerdale' fantasy for the weekend with a bit of Viking nature thrown into the mix! Yes, yes!

After being home for two and bit months, I was more than ready to move on! On the whole I thought I was set for my papers getting stamped, securing that visa back to the Middle Kingdom was the aim but life wasn't going to be so kind! Getting on with time at home I relished being able to blog about new places that I had been visiting, Leeds was something different and honestly the chance to see Chinese tourists in York gave me a good laugh, there's no other nationality whilst they are holidaying! Communication with my contact was good, getting the first set of bureau requirements fulfilled it was promising to get things in motion. I was deep down enjoying being back at home but the reverse culture shock had me craving the mayhem of everyday life in China. The final throws of 2017 kept me on my toes, little did I know things would be getting twice as hectic in the weeks to follow! I was feeling a third trip on the cards, I was getting cabin fever, my independence was much needed! Beijing needed to come through! 

My parents had recently spent a boozy weekend in Cardiff, inspired by their stories I booked a hostel bed and a return Megabus from Birmingham to the Welsh capital for the weekend. Taking in sights like Cardiff Castle and Cardiff Bay I loved the contrast between areas within the city, of course Bute Town bought lots of realness! When the sun set I donned by dancing shoes and headed down to 'The Kings' and 'WOW' but frankly I loved the cans of Strongbow I found at 'The Kings'. It was a case of getting merry again to cure the first nights hangover! Yes, that bowl of Welsh Cawl brought the flavour big time! Oh, I saw a former Welsh mine in the Valleys, during that hungover state it was an experience to say the very least! Cardiff took my stresses away for even a brief time, back to the real stuff I had much bigger fish to fry! Thank goodness for these little trips, they kept me sane and my blog going the Summer and upcoming Autumn period! I had many other throwbacks up my sleeve that I would publish, it was all good! I needed China! 

Back from my Welsh trip it was back to home to deal with the next phase of my visa process back to the Middle Kingdom. I was planning to return on a different kind of document for a speedier arrival but with a change of management in the Human Resources department and the ever-changing nature of China's visa policies it was back to the drawing board for the conventional teaching visa. My reason for choosing the other visa was driven to cost, having to ask my parents to help me out wasn't what I wanted but a private medical needed to be produced to the visa bureau for those all important visa papers. I was so stressed during that period of time because my heart rate test had shown that I had an irregular heartbeat, it was the rudeness of the receptionist on duty that made my blood boil if truth needed to be told! The international courier confused China with the USA! Why? I was pure raging! They snapped back into action, finally my visa could be finalised. DHL straight up, made me lose my whole living sanity! 天哪! 

Both parties got it together at long last, I was ready for my visa already! To cut a long story short, I finally got the green light to book a visa appointment at long last back in November 2017. Staying at my paternal Aunts house near London, it was a nice week away, getting my visa in check and seeing family with two days in London for good measure. Flights could finally be booked, saving those coins before leaving China the first time meant I could splash out on a one way flight with Emirates from Birmingham via Dubai to Beijing on the Airbus A380! Saying my goodbyes to family wasn't easy but I was feeling very relieved to be returning to China! Being 'Beijing Ready' meant I hit the ground running with the intent to be super organised. With the help of my Chinese Principal it was easy to secure a new apartment and get my bank accounts sorted out during the first five days. It felt amazing to be back in China, Beijing was a whole new start for me to consider. I was ready for the madness of the Capital, Wuhan felt very faraway!!!  

Beijing life during the final six weeks of 2017 posed to be very busy indeed, settling into my new campus was easy because I finally had the chance to be in the same classroom for the whole working day. I do miss my Wuhan children but my Beijing children are just as cute, on a professional level things were great but with all this work didn't leave a lot of time for play! Christmas was downright strange and the workload has meant the weekends have been chilled for the most part. I didn't stress during December to see Beijing because the Olympic sites had been discovered before the year was out. I feel blessed I am finally where I want to be after such a long time waiting and waiting but its all so worth it. 2017's final quarter tested me to my limits but it was the training I needed for 2018. Wuhan may be a distant memory but Beijing stands in the light of the new year with many blessings. With my actual work visa in my passport now, I honestly hope the renewal will be stress free because that UK business was something else! OK!

Goodbye 2017!

Joseph Harrison 


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