It’s Visa Renewal Time!
At 7 a.m., the winding road from Longzhou to Chongzuo was fairly empty of traffic and just as breathtaking as always.
Steep, rocky mountains rose to the right and left of the road amid lush, green forests. Water buffalo could be seen at every turn, plowing through rice fields or taking a lazy slosh in muddy waters. Mud-brick houses also dotted the landscape, found near sugarcane fields spread out on the flatlands.
Such a drive once again reminded me of what a beautiful area I was living in.
This trip was taken last Monday. Mr. Luo, the foreign affairs director of my school, and I were zipping along in his van to the government offices of the county seat. My 1-year visa had almost expired and it was time to submit the necessary documents to receive another.
Mr. Luo had compiled a huge packet of materials necessary for me to register once again with the government. It had taken him 3 weeks to collect all of these: 3 invitation letters, signed and stamped, from Amity, my school and the province asking me to teach in China, a signed contract by myself with the school, my health certificate, the Longzhou police station resident permit, plus copies of my passport, resume and foreign experts’ card. Along with that were 2 photo head-shots, used to paste into files and whatever else deemed important for identifying the foreigner.
Every province has its own complicated mess of instructions, forms and notification papers required for visa application and renewal.
This province is no different.
Our Pingxiang Adventure
The last time Mr. Luo and I had such a venture together had been 2 months earlier for my health certificate. Mr. Luo and I had loaded ourselves into his mini-van to once again take the country roads early morning, this time to the Vietnam border town of Pingxiang (ping shee-ahng).
Pingxiang is actually much smaller than Chongzuo but it had a service not offered anywhere else in the county: health exams for entry-exit visas.
After 1 hour of driving, we came to the small government office in Pingxiang only to find out that the health exams were discontinued in February. All health exams for visas were now done in Nanning, 3 hours away.
Not wanting to waste the trip, Mr. Luo suggested we go to the China-Vietnam border area for window shopping.
A 20-minute drive had us at an odd little dusty, constructed-overnight town lined with shop after shop of Vietnamese carved wood items There were chairs, tables, figurines, table-top ornaments, and huge sculptures. All were ornately decorated, some better than others, by Vietnamese and then trucked into China to sell.
Tucked in between these were huge glass vessels of medicinal drinks made from grotesque, whole reptiles (giant toads and coiled snacks) stuck in the alcoholic liquid. I always knew Chinese were into this kind of stuff but seeing it in person was a bit disgusting . . . . and at the same time, fascinating.
After walking around a bit in the hot sun, I decided to call it quits but not before purchasing a few business card holders to give as gifts.
Learning about Guangxi History: Youyiguan (Friendship Pass)
Yet another tourist site which Mr. Luo suggested I see was Friendship Pass (or Youyiguan).
This French- Chinese post was established in 1896 by China and France in accordance with the sino-Vietnam border affairs which required both sides to have military and foreign affairs agencies. The Chinese side set up their post in Guangxi, at the tourist spot known as Friendship Pass.
Both sides also established 9 other smaller outposts along the border, one being here in Longzhou (thus the reason for the French Embassy being here years ago).
The Friendship Pass office was built by the French in 1914 along with a Chinese-style arched bridge building through which people passed under. The Italianate design of the main office looked quite out-of-place for such a remote mountain region. It’s still used today but as a police headquarters and tourist center.
This area also was a key fighting zone during the Sino-French war (1884-1885), a war fought to decide if France should replace China in control of Tonkin (northern Vietnam).
The Battle of Bang Bo, known as the Battle of Zhenan Pass, was an important Chinese victory during the war so visiting remnants of the fighting footholds are also another draw for tourists.
According to Wikepedia:
“The battle, fought on March 23 and 24 in 1885 on the Tonkin-Guangxi border, saw the defeat of 1,600 soldiers of General François de Négrier‘s 2nd Brigade of the Tonkin Expeditionary Corps by a Chinese army of 32,000 men under the command of the Guangxi military commissioner Pan Dingxin.
“The battle set the scene for the French retreat on March 28 and the conclusion of the Sino-French War in early April in circumstances of considerable embarrassment for France.”
Scattered up steep, stone step inclines and among deep brush are the bunkers and walls built by the Chinese soldiers to fight against the French. Although a roasting hot day, trekking about the pathways and walkways was still a worthy venture.
Hard now to imagine a vicious battle taking place in such a quiet, scenic area.
Visa Completed: Good to Go for Another Year
While the recent Chongzuo trip didn’t give us the same sightseeing marvels as Pingxiang, it did bring about one positive event: After 4 days, I’m happy to say that today I received my passport back, visa valid until July, 2011.
None too soon as I’m leaving tomorrow for Nanning before flying to Chengdu on July 6 for some time with Sichuan friends.
Have a safe holiday weekend, all of you in America! Enjoy your July 4th celebrations as I enjoy the beginning of my summer vacation
Ping An (Peace) from Longzhou