When you visit a different country, you usually need to have a document called a visa. When I visited England, Ireland, and Scotland in 2003, I didn’t need a visa, so I wasn’t exactly sure why I needed one to go to China.
I couldn’t find a clear, brief reason why I need to have a visa when I already have a passport, but here is the best unofficial explanation I can come up with.
Because I live in the United States, I hold a US Passport. I sent my birth certificate and information about me to the state department, and they checked to make sure I could be trusted outside of the country.
But I’m traveling to China, and they want to check me out too. So I needed to apply for a Chinese visa. I sent my US Passport and some other information about me. Chinese officials see that the US trusts me to travel out of the country, and their embassy decides if I can be trusted in their country.
But applying for my visa turned out to be a perfect application of Murphy’s Law, which states that everything that can go wrong *will* go wrong.
First of all, I thought I only needed my passport to get a visa. Not quite. So this morning, I checked with one of the teachers I’m traveling with and realized I also needed an application form and a passport picture. However, I didn’t have any ink in my printer. It was Sunday morning, so the library and Kinko’s were closed until noon. But I needed to meet with the visa folks at noon. (You can’t just mail in a visa application)
So I drove to Walgreen’s to get my photo taken. While they were processing the photo, I drove to Best Buy to get some printer ink. I stopped at home, where I set up the printer, took care of my application form, and printed everything out. Then I went to Walgreen’s to pick up my photos.
Off to Bellevue. Except that the I-5 exit ramp to 520, which is the closest bridge to Bellevue, was closed. The traffic was miserable. I continued down to I-90, and Toby helped me modify my directions by phone. I approached the office. 62 Lake Bellevue Drive, 23 Lake Bellevue Drive, 9 Lake Bellevue Drive, but 1 Lake Bellevue Drive was nowhere! A dead end!
Sooooooo, I called Toby again to give me the number of the visa office. I called, wound up being a block away from the building, and I arrived safe and sound.
We had everything taken care of in about 15 minutes flat! What a whirlwind day… And all that happened in the two hours between 10:30 and 12:30.