The Bureaucratic Dance

Nicholas Quirke was treading a familiar path on 23 October 2020 as he legitimised his current extension to his stay in China by collecting his passport from the Exit/Entry bureau and registering with the police. He made the trek to the office via walking to the subway at Changchunjie and taking Line 2 to the Lama Temple. Line 2 was a circular line and one of the city’s oldest. It was evident from the style of station platforms which had not been changed or renovated since the system was first built in 1965 and particularly the tiled flooring which was always a coloured marbled style. The lighting and the layout also had a vintage feel to it. Collecting his passport was a swift and easy process, involving only the parting with money which was simplified through the use of WeChat. The temperature in Beijing had dropped dramatically and the winter trousers he had come away with had suffered from his prolonged days on the road and needed to be replaced. He found a nearby mall with a Uniqlo store where he could get some inexpensive practical clothes and spent a good 40 minutes trying on a range of items in the sale. It took a while as there was only small, medium, large and XL sizes and he did not know what category he fitted in. He bought a pair of simple black strides and found two shirts for a bargain 99 yuan. He had a tea in the Sisyphus bookstore and then went back to Xicheng District and the local police station with his new permission to stay extension. as he approached the station he was accosted by an enthusiastic Chinese national who had been living in Canada for the past 20 years and like himself was having to register with the police as he had been stuck in China as a result of the pandemic. Annoyingly he got a ticket before him and Nicholas had two wait an excruciatingly long time before he was seen and then he had to wait even while they processed his registration. The good thing was that he was a familiar entity at the station now and there were no questions. By the time he had finished there was not much time before he had too go back to the Chaoyang district and the school where he was taking another class. He was a little early and to pass the time he went to a nearby grocery store as he had not eaten and bought some mandarins. He asked for five but somehow came away with fifteen all for the price of 10 yuan, approximately £1. The children were older and had a good craps of the language and the ‘Odd One Out’, game he had prepared as an introduction to himself went down well, he even managed to teach them the word Vegan and what it meant. He enjoyed the lesson and to his delight was paid for both lessons he had conducted into his WeChat account. It felt very good to have actually earned money in China. He had arranged to meet Peng for a late supper in one of Beijing’s top Hot Pot restaurants; one opened many years previously by the Last Emperor’s brother. As often happened when meeting Peng he got lost as his map app suddenly started updating and he lost the location. He eventually found it and enjoyed a spicy delicious Beijing style hot pot cooked in a copper pot. By the time they were finished and home he felt totally fatigued by the active day and went straight to sleep.

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