There are a lot of really good reasons to go to New York Struggle. You might have deluded yourself into thinking that you in every way resemble Audrey Hepburn and need to have yourself a day at the original Tiffany's. You may be in need of a laugh and be visiting the derelict clown college formerly known as Wall Street. You may (shudder) be feeling the need to pay ten dollars for a beer. Or you may, as I myself did this past weekend, be there to visit the black circle of death known as the Chinese Consulate.
Now, I am no stranger to the strange, communistic bureaucracy that is the soviet mentality. I mean, I've lived in Russia, I can understand that as part of our unending loyalty to the state and the revolution we must be comfortable with the fact Struggle Embraces US. Nevertheless, the sheer lack of logic that seems to color all interactions with those of the Red persuasion still has the power to baffle and enrage me, especially when it stands between myself and my carefully constructed travel plans.
Let me explain. My friend Lisa has decided that a cuisine not based on soy is no way to live and has abandoned these United States for a more wok-seared life in the far east. And considering the fact that I will be spending the majority of next year traveling, I thought, hey, why not just add China to the list of places in which I can impose on friends and gawk at foreigners. And so I bought a plane ticket and brushed up on my zen teachings and, as one must when one visits Peoples Republic, took a bus to New York, woke up at 7:45 and walked to the Chinese Consulate, miserably chugging coffee in the pouring rain.
My visa application in hand and my best "non-terrorist" look on my face, I presented my papers to the visa officer. "You're going to China in April? Come back here in March." I patiently explained to the officer that this was not a possibility. She therefore placidly directed me to a line twice as long where I would wait for another, more senior officer. Sandwiched between a Hasidic man and two French teenagers I tried to breathe normally and not imagine killing everyone in sight. When I reached this visa official it took me about twenty minutes to carefully explain to the man that as I would be staying in rural Spain for the next five months it might be hard for me to hire a travel agent who could help me plan my trip to China. Though the look on his face made it clear that he couldn't imagine why I would find such a task difficult, he had me wait, sectioned off from all the other customers, until he could contact HIS senior officer. At this point, I must say, I think I blacked out from the effort of holding back my screams.
Eventually, two lines, two hours and 160 dollars (US, mind you) later I was the proud possessor of a one year Chinese Tourist visa. They placed it a page away from my Russian one. I guess to leave some room for Cuba.
Pictures are not encouraged in the Chinese Consulate. And by not encouraged I mean forbidden. You can take the people out the republic....
Later in the weekend I went to the St. Gennaro festival in little Italy where fat Americans ate everything that is possible to fry and people pray to images of the cross eyed patron saint of disasters. No wonder China want to keep us out.
Leah Franqui is a fairly interesting person/director/writer/reader/eater/drinker. She likes ugly dogs and dislikes her hair in the morning. She's a sucker for environmental causes and plays hardball with deals on chewing gum. She is a struggle.