A Surprise

Nicholas Quirke was not looking forward to the now monthly ritual of visiting the Exit/Entry bureau on 14 October 2020. His last request to extend his stay was greeted with a gruelling interrogation about flights which had put him into a panic. The result was that he had composed documentation and details of the situation in England and of the lack of flights on the 18th when his current permission to stay ran out. He felt confident that he was prepared and talking with his sister the night before had helped calm him but the possibility of his request being rejected was ever present. He cycled the whole nine miles, even though it was cloudy and grey and his route through the city on the bike filled him with pleasure. He doubted that he would ever tire of peddling along Chang’an Avenue past Tiananmen Square and Gate redolent with its ancient and modern history. The storm clouds that loured over the Bureau when he arrived appeared as a bad omen and although he navigated the process easily once he was in front of the official he was immediately in for a turbulent time. It had been a long wait and after being questioned he was told he needed to provide 30 days worth of evidence from airlines that he couldn’t get back to the UK. His heart sank and he argued that it was not a safe place to return to and how could he provide that proof. The official took over his phone and showed him where he could get flight details. It took a while for his anxiety to settle before he realised that the official was actually helping him. It still meant he had to get 30 pages of information of details printed but it was clear that there were barely any flights and where there were, they were expensive and it was prohibitive. After another tortuous few hours he left having been granted another month. He was relieved but exhausted by the process and needed a tea. He made his way walking and by bike to Teasure at the APM mall where, to regain his equilibrium, he had a tea. Upon checking his messages he was surprised to discover the school he had signed up with were asking him if he could teach a class on Sunday. It was as if he was getting a reward for the stressful time he had endured and he immediately agreed to take the class. His spirits were uplifted and it was in this positive mood that he began the journey back home, though not before calling in at a nearby mall and collecting another cake for Peng. As he cycled he witnessed another beautiful sunset across Tiananmen and the Forbidden City. It would be his first teaching assignment and he was going to need to prepare thoroughly for the task which it transpired was for a class of 4 year olds, though he was concerned that it was a 2 hour session. He found it difficult to settle down for the evening’s movie but had no problem in allowing himself to succumb to the pleasures of oblivion.


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