I can’t quite figure out how to get the internet to work so I’m writing this from Word.

I can’t quite believe all the trouble that I had with my visa considering how much warning I had, watching and listening to the experiences of three fine young people heading off to consulates to get their visas approved.  I was under the impression that I already had mine in hand as I certainly couldn’t remember needing to do all that finagling for my last visa.  The trouble was that this time was the real deal. 9 months is much more serious to the Chinese government than the measly 90 days that I resided in Shanghai last summer.  I landed in China and my stomach sank when the immigration officer told me that none of the papers approving my arrival were the necessary visa.  Luckily thanks to much encouragement and advice from both China and the United States I was told that if I went to Hong Kong I could procure a visa for the mainland.

Schlepping around the Fragrant Harbor for 5 days visiting all kinds of museums and heritage sites was fun but I had a nervous feeling that persisted until my passport was back in my hand, the visa snug inside.  I left yesterday afternoon on a through train from Kowloon to Shanghai.  I purchased the cheapest ticket which was a “hard sleeper.” I was surprised to discover that I was on the topmost bunk of beds stacked three high to the ceiling.  I found that there wasn’t room for me to sit up all the way which was fine as I could just lie down and read the whole time.  Conversation with the passengers surrounding me was out of the question as they mostly spoke Shanghainese, a minority dialect that sounds more akin to an African language than to Chinese. The train left at 3:15 and arrived in Shanghai at 10:00 the next morning.

After all that effort I’ve finally made it to Shanghai Normal University.  I’ve been zipping around most of the day making up for the days that I’ve missed during registration.  They placed me in level one Chinese language classes until I realized just how easy the books that they handed me were. I spoke with the woman in charge of registration and I’ve since been placed into level four. It’s foggy and wet here as I expect it will be often after the Mid-Autumn festival which signals the arrival of fall.

Although this experience has been harrowing and unnecessary it’s already happened and I know that it is only beneficial to me if I learn from it.  So here’s what I’ve learned:

  • I really do want to be here learning Chinese. The thought of being deported filled me with a depression and dread that I have not known before.
  • I have to work hard. I know that I must work to achieve what I want and to protect what I already have.
  • I need to use my time here to the fullest. I’m already extraordinarily lucky to be in this situation but now I have a new appreciation for it. No excuses, I have to study hard and seek out new and enlightening experiences.

As we all embark onto great things and new chapters know that I am always sending you my good thoughts and pleasant daydreams about your lives.

Carissa

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