I wasn’t going to walk today. I wanted to take it easy and rest up in my hotel room. But first, I had to take care of my visa extension. So I went outside:
“You can apply for a visa extension in every city 市” I had been told in the police office of Ürümqi City a few weeks ago.
- Shihezi City 石河子市
- Kuitun City 奎屯市
- Usu City 乌苏市
It looked very easy on the map, but fate would have it otherwise.
This morning I entered the local police station – passport, photograph, money and documents in my hand. Brother Ma 马哥 and Brother Li 李哥 were with me.
When I walked up to the counter and stated my claim, a large police officer rushed forward. Without even looking at me, he extended his hand toward my passport and started barking at Brother Ma:
“Who is this? Where is he from? What is he doing here? Where is he going?”
I was starting to feel annoyed, but beggars can’t be choosers, and I wanted my visa extension, so I just played along.
Then they dropped the bomb: “It is IMPOSSIBLE to extend your visa here!” they said to us, and our natural question was:
“Because Kuytun City is a County Level City 县级市 and not a Prefecture Level City 地级市.”
“YOU CANNOT APPLY FOR YOUR VISA EXTENSION HERE!!!”
Um… ok. So we left the building and started heading back for the hotel. I felt low-hearted. But I had to document this day in the blog somehow, right? So I took out my pocket camera and snapped a picture of the police building.
This was when things got worse.
A car screeched to a halt and a man in a black coat jumped out, rushing toward me with his finger pointed at my camera.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” he screamed, and from the look on his face I might as well have taken a picture of him wearing a bunny suit on the loo.
So I was dragged back into the police office, where the bulky officer asked about what happened and then started to work himself into a full-blown rage.
Being one half Magyar, it doesn’t take much to get me mad either..
Long story short, they screamed at me for a while, then demanded the camera and tried to erase the picture, which they failed at. I eventually did it for them, not without explaining to them that I found it only understandable that they were unable to operate a simple point-and-shoot camera.
They were policing a place that called itself a city but in reality wasn’t a city at all, right? It was just a bunch of barns and a few sheep they were administrating, wasn’t it? Mr. Peasant Police?
When I finally got released, we had screamed at each other at the top of our lungs, they had suspected me of being a spy, and I had sworn to leave this unwelcoming place as soon as possible, and never to return!
Brother Ma and Brother Li were helplessly trying to ease out the situation, and I could feel a tiny part of my heart being very sorry for them.
When I had packed up all my stuff and was ready to leave the city, some more friends had arrived.
“Do you really have to go?” they asked, “but what about our dinner tonight?”
Maybe I shouldn’t have exploded like that? Wasn’t this also a reason why I was walking after all – to learn how to control my temper?
I thought for a while and made three decisions:
1) I was still going to leave Kuytun. A man must stand by his word. Even if he is an idiot. Especially if he is an idiot.
2) But I was going to take a bus back tonight to have dinner with all my friends here. They were more important than this situation with the police.
3) I was going to apologize at the police office. Even if they were behaving like idiots, that was no reason for me to behave like one also.
So eventually I got back on the road:
Brother Ma and Brother Li didn’t want to leave me alone like that, so they walked the first half of the way with me:
We saw weird old slogans under a bridge:
“Long live the Communist Party of China 中国共产党万岁”
“Long live Chairman 主席万岁”
I had only seen one of these one time before on the walk. They were relics from a time when the country was in a state of violent eruption, where the pillars of confucian culture were demolished by angry mobs, and families were divided and washed away by wave after wave of political terror.
We had lunch in a roadside restaurant, then I continued on my way to Usu alone:
Everything would be better there: I would leave the police troubles behind me, get a nice hotel room and figure out a way to get my visa extension. Let bygones be bygones.
My feet were hurting beyond all description, but I was actually walking and singing at the same time, something I hadn’t done in a long time.
Life felt good when I walked into Usu:
“Usu welcomes you – join hands to start building a peaceful and civilized city together 乌苏欢迎您 – 携手共列文明城市”
I took a video of myself walking, when I realized that the road was full of interesting vehicles:
Then a police car stopped me.
“Go to the police station to register!” they yelled across the street.
“My hotel will register for me!” I yelled back. I knew the procedures.
The city center was just like any other place…
…so I went to the biggest hotel I could find.
I hadn’t even started checking in, when a police car pulled up and I was being questioned.
One of the two officers was a stunning beauty who looked like she had never smiled in her life. There was something eternally cold about her, and in my mind I dubbed her the ice princess.
Another police car appeared, two more officers got out, and everybody started gathering around me. They carefully inspected picture after picture on each of my cameras, while I was answering questions to the ice princess’ expressionless face.
Then they followed me up to my room to inspect the rest of my stuff.
“Are we all done and okay now?” I asked them when they looked like they were done. They nodded and mumbled a half-assed good-bye.
Then they were gone.
I walked across the room and looked at my spying equipment. Then I let myself fall flat on the bed.
What the hell had I gotten myself into here?
Later that night, when I was having food and drink with all my friends in a yurt on the outskirts of Kuytun, all of the bad things were forgotten:
I could feel the warmth of spicy food, drinks and friendship unfold inside me, and I knew that it was a blessing to have all these friendly people around me.
“I have behaved like a fool today!” I said at the dinner table, confident that all the troubles were behind me, and that I was much wiser now than I had been in the morning.