They do try to really take care of me here. If I have to arrange some official business like registration, visa etc, there’s a student (mostly my flatmate) with me who made the appointment (when applicable), brings the Chinese papers and does all the talking.
For the physical exam (needed for the residence permit) it was the same thing. They even arranged a hotel room for me, since I’m not allowed to eat before the examination and well, with my hypoglycemia it is pretty impossible to travel about 1 ½ hours to the hospital then.
Of course the physical examination wasn’t the first step in the process to get the residence permit. First a lot had to be arranged at the university, like my registration there. They only started that process when I arrived and didn’t prepare or know exactly what was necessary for registration of a foreign postdoc. Not really efficient or nicely timed because of the Chinese holidays coming up, but that’s China. Not good for my state of mind, really need to learn another dimension of patience over here.
While registration was still not complete, but apparently far enough (and we had the time pressure of my visa expiration), I got the necessary papers from the university that combined with the physical examination report would be enough to apply for the permit. Later that was indeed the case; I had everything I needed, so they did a good job there.
Back to the hospital. We had an appointment in a certain time frame, which appeared not to be an appointment, but more an indication of when you should be there to avoid crowds at one time. So we got a number and had to wait. The waiting area was so hot that my sober body immediately went into a hypoglycemic attack. Just the thing we wanted to avoid by staying in the hotel. So I quickly went outside (cold can help a bit) and I was allowed to drink the sports drink I brought. In the meantime my flatmate had her eye on the numbers and my turn was coming up soon.
From that moment on I’ve seen a lot of people. I needed to register, pay, show my filled in form, show my passport, answer some questions and then I was sent to the medical area. Note: as expected, all these things were done by different people! Once I got in the medical area I had to measure and weigh myself, take of my upper clothes, wear a robe and overshoes. The examination itself consisted of several different things, including drawing blood, an ultrasound, a chest x-ray, an eye test and an EKG. When the whole list was stamped by the doctors it was time to go. A week later I could pick up the report.
When we got back in the office I got called in the professor’s office. There were some administrational things to take care of: a whole checklist for which we had to go to several rooms in two different buildings. I didn’t even know what we’re going to do for each step, but I got a stamp in every room.
At the housing part they told us they had only one place left and were assuming I took it before even looking at it, since they already started the paperwork. I was pretty confused because others had told me I would have a choice; I could see the room and then say yes or no. At this point the explanation and translation was difficult and took a while, it became clear in very little steps. The end result was that I could look at the room the next morning. It’s very close to the old campus and on the 6th floor, without an elevator. I need to try to keep an open mind and just see how it is.
In the meantime a bankcard for my salary will be made, but because of the holiday that will probably take a month or so. So no salary till then. I also got my university card (terrible photo, would be nice to know these things in advance!) to use in the restaurants and the bus (and get priority there since I’m a staff member).
So, I would have to wait for my salary, but I also should get reimbursed for the plane ticket and other things, so I was hoping to get that before the holiday. Well, I was wrong. When we got back to the professor he told me again that my salary will have to wait until the holiday is over, but he also told me that the reimbursement also has to wait till after the holidays. Apparently someone who needs to stamp the damn form isn’t in the office or something. Well, as you can imagine, I didn’t like this news very much. I’m in a brand new country, need to buy things and need to do things and meet people and with the holiday coming up, I was planning a day trip as well for which it would be nice to have some money. The professor didn’t understand. He said that students can live of 1000 yuan for a month and since he recently gave me some money, I should be fine.
Later he came up to me and said everything will be fine, I shouldn’t get too emotional (while I still kept a lot inside). I told him that it’s been a tough day, but he thought getting a physical exam and doing some administration is easy. Well, in theory yes, but not with a lack of sleep, a hypo attack, a lot of traveling, having to do things you have no clue of at the moment without warning in advance (I like to know things I need to do and be prepared), finding out you will not get salary for at least another month etc etc. That does cost lots and lots of energy!
A week later I went to the hospital to pick up my medical examination report. Of course I was curious, so I checked it out. Pretty much everything was fine, except my heart rate: a bit of arrhythmia – which is not uncommon – and a lower than average heartbeat. They suggested follow up examination for missing two beats per minute to be in the normal rate. Well, I always had that (a physiology teacher at university was even a bit annoyed when it turned out my heartbeat was relatively low during activity – which meant a well-trained heart – while at that time I was smoking and drinking regularly 😉 ), so I’m not worried.
Next stop was the Exit-Entry Administration Bureau again (was there before for my other visas). Armed with all the proper papers and copies of everything they might need I saw that it was crowded this time. When it was almost my turn after waiting half an hour, a man yelled something in Chinese and everyone ran to a desk. He didn’t spoke a word of English, even when I asked him what was going on. Luckily a helpful Chinese person explained to me a number wasn’t necessary anymore and we just had to queue. Damn.
A week later I could come and pick up my passport with the brand new residence permit. When I move I need to go back to the university again and then the Exit-Entry Bureau to make sure the permit is registered to the proper address.