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Reisverslag Chinese Visa trouble & with 200 students in India!
2 mei 2015
Chinese Visa trouble & with 200 students in India!
How do I know this? Well for that you will have to read my whole visa-adventure first:
As this is my first blog to you, I should probably quickly explain what exactly is happening on my latest adventure-planning:
First of all we have a mandatory 2-week ‘Global Health Symposium’ in India at Manipal University, for which I had to go back to the state ‘Karnataka’, where I have been 4 years ago for my internship as well. Of course I could not let this chance pass to visit that place quickly and go down to the South (Kerala), where back then we were not allowed to go from our professor (you might remember my sad report about that 4 years ago ;-) ).
After this symposium we all have to start doing our research for our thesis.
For my thesis I have to do a research, pretty much wherever I like, as long as the topic relates to my ‘Global Health’-Masters. I really wanted to do my research about disease surveillance and got the amazing opportunity to go to a country which is in my top-3-want-to-visit-list: CHINA! I was sooo happy when I got the news at Christmas that my placement was confirmed and that I would definitely go to Hangzhou (near Shanghai). I had booked all my tickets and started working on my research proposal. After this symposium I would be flying directly to Shanghai for my placement for 3 months and a bit. That was the plan. But it wouldn’t be Asia, if things would go according to plan of course.. so in the very end of march (3 weeks before leaving to India) I was called into my supervisor’s office at the University in Maastricht and received the bad news that the Chinese had cancelled my research (god knows why..). As if the past weeks had not already been stressful enough!! Now we quickly had to find me a new placement, but we had no clue, whether it would be possible to keep my topic, the country or even both!! I was stressing out like a crazy person, you can imagine.. A lot of hysterical laughter happened in those days. ;-)
After a few days my (really helpful!) supervisors gave me the good news: A new placement in China with a new, but similar topic! I was SO relieved! But now the stress was not over. I had to arrange a visa as soon as possible! Two weeks to go until I had to leave the country and the embassy would take 1 week to process the application, so things had to be done FAST! At first the new placement asked me whether I could go on a tourist visa. While definitely the easiest option, unfortunately those are only valid for 30 days after entry into the country and are generally not extendable. As I am going to be there for 3 months this was not an option. The very helpful assistant in China managed to send me the necessary documents for a different kind of visa exactly 1 week before I had to take off from the Netherlands, so I immediately went to the Hague to apply for my visa. For this I first had to book some hostels and extra flights though, because to get a Chinese Visa (even as a tourist!) you have to be able to prove where you are going and staying each single day of your journey...
All happy with all my documents I went to the embassy and to the counter, where the guy looked at my documents. After a felt 5 minutes of looking at them he looked at me and said “You can not get this visa mam”. WHAT?!?! I asked him why, as the embassy-lady on the phone had told me that this was the visa to go for and I had all the necessary documents but his answer was only “This is not your decision to make mam”. I KNOW, BUT WHY?! He told me I would need a working-visa as I am doing an “internship” according to the invitation letter from China. I explained him that I would not be working there, not earning money but he insisted that that is what I need. I asked him what documents I need for that and he listed 3 extra documents, among which a Chinese working permit. To the question how on earth I was supposed to get a Chinese working permit in the first place, especially 1 week before leaving, he said “You will have to push them. Don’t worry”… Yeah.. right…
With one more metaphorical Chinese slap in my face I left the building, wondering what to do next and realizing, that this was not going to happen as planned anymore. I would have to cancel some flights and come back to the Netherlands to get a different kind of visa before flying back to China..
After calling with a visa helpcentre a few times, we came to the conclusion that I in fact need a student visa. According to them, even a working visa would probably be denied, because a working visa is only given if one earns money. And as I am going to do my thesis they would probably require a student visa. Soooo I looked up the requirements for a student visa. Not so bad actually, all I need extra is a so called “FW202”-form which has to be requested at the university!... oh no, wait.. after I request it they actually have to request the MINISTRY OF EDUCATION to make this form and send it to them. Alright.. oh.. I need the ORIGINALS?!.. okay, well there is still some time while I am in India so they have time to request and send this by post to the Netherlands. Should be fine..
“Dear Miriam, no problem, we can request this form. For this we have to go through a procedure, don’t worry, it looks a bit complicated but we will manage. All we need are the following documents from you:
- A passport copy (*alright, that’s fair enough*)
- Your CV (*that’s fine*)
- A filled University Application to our University (*only 10 pages, including what my parents do for a living but also fine..*)
- Your research proposal (*Wut? I have just gotten my new topic a week ago..*)
- 2 recommendation letters by professors who are familiar with your research field (*ugh..*)
- 5 Abstracts from articles you have published so far (*haha..*)
- A notarized copy of your TRANSLATED original Bachelor’s degree (*translated? I am leaving in 4 days and it is already Thursday today! Guess I will have to have that done when I am in India somehow*)
- A notarized copy of your Bachelor’s transcript (*Argh.. Okay, I guess my university can notarize both of that.. What? What do you mean, that is not sufficient for you? It has to be done by an actual notary agent? ARE. YOU. KIDDING. ME?!*)
Off I went to India, with all the documents still in my stomach that had to be made. Especially the translation and the notary agent signature seemed very difficult.. Luckly it was possible to order a translation at an agency by mail (Ka-Ching, there went my money..). Now only the signatures. First of all the notary agent that I found claimed it was not possible to have someone else go sign the documents for me. A ‘power of attorney’ would be needed. Luckily, after a lot of hard effort by the very helpful Gábor (!!!) he managed to get the documents signed by someone else, and even earlier than expected! THANK GOD! I ran to the library at Manipal University, to scan all the documents (btw: You have to PAY for a scan here. Hahaha….) and sent them off to China. DONE! Finally, this was out of my hands and now it’s all on China!
“Dear Miriam, just informed by HR that they need another paper " foreigner physical examination form", if you finish it please send me scanner. the form attached.thanks and best regards.”
Oh my god.. You have god to be kidding me! This was not just any kind of medical examination form I needed:
- A chest X-ray
- A lab-test for HIV and Syphilis
- An ECG
- A test of my vision
- Certification that I don’t have “any of the following diseases that could harm social order and security”
- Certification that I don’t have a bunch of other diseases, including THE PLAGUE (this is not a joke..)
All sad I went out of my room and ran into one of my co-students. I told her and we discussed that it should be possible to do this here. After all we have the medical campus right next to our student-hostel!” she was so kind to call one of the indian students, who gave us the number of one of the lecturers. I called him and he told me to meet him at the beach evening later on (we all (200 students plus lecturers!!) had an excursion to the beach planned). I found him there and he told me it might be difficult. As India and China don’t have the best relationship, he was not sure they could actually sign it. But I was to meet him next morning to meet another lecturer, who then might refer me to a doctor (Can you still follow it? ‘Cause I sure lost track of who was going to actually help me now.. haha).
The next morning I went and we waited for the other lecturer. And we waited a little longer. And a little bit longer. And then the first lecturer remembered that she actually was at a dentist-appointment… -_- We agreed that I would stay in my hostel-room all day and wait till someone knocks on my door to tell me whether anything is going to happen and if so, what.
A few hours later the hostel-lady knocked and told me I would be picked up by someone (didn’t know whom) at 14.30. At 13.45 she knocked again and angrily told me “they are waiting!” and when I excused myself to the two students that picked me up, they told me they were told I would be waiting for them at sharp 14.00... Hellooo, India! ;-)
The helpful girls brought me to the hospital student-clinic (all REAL Manipal students get a free healthcare package here and have a very nice student clinic for that! very neat!). As it turned out, the girls were part of the “emergency committee” for this 2-week symposium. There are a lot of committees made here by the Indian students to have the symposium go really smoothly, they are truly doing an amazing job! I started feeling a bit bad for the girls though, because it turned out that they were assigned to this committee (so did not choose it themselves) and now they had to come with me, while I was not even sick! Especially, because they seem to be very busy this year at the emergency committee, because many students have already gotten very bad stomach problems and other health issues. Anyway, they were very nice and helpful and got me through all the checks that I needed on the same day! One can only imagine how happy I was with their help! :)
I was only supposed to come back the next day to meet the doctor himself so he would sign the form and do the last checks and so he did, by having me say the colour of my shirt to check whether I can see colors, letting me read the clock and tell what time it is to check whether my sight is good and quickly looking up at me to check for any visible diseases. And THAT is how I know I do NOT have the plague! Haha..
Finally I could send everything to China! Let’s hope they are happy now! It will probably take much longer than I hope for but one way or another I will get to that country and do my research about (if nothing changes again, which it probably will) “Disease Surveillance in Urban areas in China and the use of social media as a surveillance tool” :)
After this whole bureaucratic trouble, now finally there is some mental space to enjoy everything here in India to the fullest! It is really amazing to be back here! So many things have changed since we were here the first time, 4 years ago! There are almost no cows on the streets anymore (apparently the new president has started a campaign, so now cows are placed in designated areas, we were told). Also there seems to be much less waste (compared to 4 years ago! I think someone who comes here for the first time will still be shocked..) and definitely less, and shorter power cuts. On the other hand much more “western” stores and restaurant chains seem to have opened, which I think is not so nice as it only contributes to new diseases (e.g. diabetes) in the country, which they did not have (as much) before.. but let’s not go into that here ;-)
Today was the last day of the symposium and it is very weird to say goodbye to everyone, probably forever to some people.. Also this was actually the last day at university, as now only the individual thesis will follow! Extremely strange! In a few minutes I will leave to a last dinner with some of the people that used to hang out together a lot and after that it will be “good bye Manipal!” and “Hello short holiday in Kerala!” For a small 2 weeks I will travel around there with 4 others from my Master’s. I think it is going to be LOADS of fun and relaxation! :)
And then an unplanned pitstop in the Netherlands to apply for my visa again (fingers crossed!!!) and off to China a.s.a.p.!
I will keep you all posted, but for now I will go enjoy my last minutes with the amazing people I have gotten to know in the past months!
Bussi, Liefs & kisses
Foto's bij verslag (3)
2 mei 2015 19:53 | Door: Corrie
Wat een doorzettingsvermogen, petje af!
We duimen voor je dat alles nu goed gaat.
3 mei 2015 16:49 | Door: kim
geniet van je welverdiende week strand Mir!!!! het komt allemaal goed;-)