The big game
Beijing, 11th of August
The great visa fiasco
A concern for myself and many foreigners these last few months has been the issue of renewing qian1 zheng4, visas. Due to the Olympic Games, China has introduced some pretty strict new gui1 ze2, regulations. The Business 'F' Visa, which is what I had, has been suspended and all lu3 you2 qian1 zheng4, tourist visas, have been limited to about 30 days. Only student and work visas have remained, but these are increasingly hard to come-by with the application process being made much more complicated than before.
Because of this I was faced with the possibility of having to permanently leave China for the first time in nearly 4 years. Although I plan to return to the UK eventually, I was still reluctant to leave the country that has become my adopted home. I felt frustrated and even a little betrayed with this situation especially as I had hoped to be here for the Olympics and was seemingly being 'kicked-out' right at the finishing line. I would also have to put my business plans on hold.
Hong Kong again, and again
As I was preparing to move out of my apartment and send all my stuff home, there seemed to be a softening in the policy. I was able to go to Hong Kong and get a 60 day tourist-visa but would have to leave the country to renew it after 30 days. So in the last two months I have gone to Hong Kong twice and will still need to go again next month. Many of my other friends were not so lucky, or as jue2 xin1, determined, as me to stay, with old colleagues, ex-classmates and other foreigners leaving in droves. Many of the language schools here have lost their teachers, meaning they are desperate for replacements - often offering triple rates. In between trips to Hong Kong I have had lots of job offers for teaching roles, but turned most of them down.
With the equestrian events being held in Hong Kong a new Olympic plaza now has pride of place by the Harbour. During my stays in Hong Kong I spent my evenings walking along the river checking out the handprints of the Asian movie stars and also a life-sized statue of li3 xiao3 long2, Bruce Lee.
Beautification of Beijing
My trips to Beijing have given me the chance to see the new impressive terminal 3 airport, which looks like a city from a sci-fi movie. Beijing has changed a great deal since I first came here, but it seems that these last few weeks have seen the biggest changes of all. Firstly, all the construction work has now stopped and all the wai4 di4 ren2, migrant worker (lit. outside place people), who came from other provinces have now left.
I understand that there are stricter controls on hu4 kou3, identity permits, for people traveling into the city. Police now line the streets marshalling vehicles and pedestrians alike, on the countdown to the grand opening. There are new regulations on traffic, with cars with even-numbered number plates, alternating days with cars with odd-numbered number plates (dan1 hao4 shuang1 hao4, odd number even number).
Beijing is certainly a greener city than when I first arrived. Trees and flowers line up most of the main streets and facades of buildings have all been re-painted. The old style communist buildings have all disappeared. Unfortunately a lot of traditional styled Chinese buildings have also been given a "modern" make-over - which in my opinion takes much of the city's character away. For example the chao2 yang2 ju4 chang3, Chao Yang Theatre, had an elaborately looking traditional Chinese style roof and entrance, but now it is a sleek looking modern building that could be in any city in the world.
There are now advertising boards everywhere, and Beijing boasts the longest screen in the world which is located at "The Place". The screen is now a huge shrine to a very famous brand of cola that is sponsoring the games. It's pretty surreal.Most of the athletes have now arrived and I have seen 'fresh' looking foreigners walking around draped in their national flags. But somehow Beijing seems to have many less people than before. And at times the streets are eerily quiet as the build-up to that opening ceremony (see Mandarin) looms 8th/08/08 8pm.
The opening ceremony
I have just sat through the kai1 mu4 shi4, opening ceremony, at home with some friends here in Beijing and was extremely impressed by it. I was especially happy that it highlighted so much of China's traditional culture - and in such spectacular style. My mum emailed me soon afterwards and had said this to say: "I watched the opening of the Games and think it was brilliant. The Chinese have done themselves proud."
A new job
With all the jobs offers I have been getting recently, one in particular was too good to refuse. It was for a Chinese film company to help with translation work for a hao3 lai2 wu4, Hollywood, dao3 yan3, director, - so of course I accepted. This is an amazing opportunity and in a field I have always been interested in. Tomorrow I will fly out to luo4 shan1 ji1, Los Angeles, to attend a movie special effects conference.
Editor's note: Chris is writing Chinese words in 'Pinyin', Latin script, using numbers that indicate the tone of the word. Find out more with our course Real Chinese.
Sent by: Chris