Woke up about 6:30am after a good night’s sleep. The CPAP says 6.3 hours with an AHI of 1.7. Took a shower, got dressed, tossed more dirty clothes into the slowly accumulating pile in the washer, decided it wasn’t laundry day, yet. Cleaned up the kitchen, including storing all my dry goods in the big pot on top of the microwave, washing all dishes, cleaning the counters, and washing the floor. Put a pot of water on to boil, part for tea, part for refilling my water bottles. Was that the phone ringing?
Melissa called! We talked for over an hour, laughing, sharing stories. She liked the one about my first conversation. She asked me to send a blog link to Dennis, and thought Josh might know about the translation app for speaking with someone using my phone.
Blue sky this morning (first time since I arrived) with big, fluffy clouds.
I have two things to do today: go to the police station to finish my registration, and walk to the center of town. I have to get back by 6:30 for a Skype with Nathan. And the television guy might come by to get my television working. But first, a cup of tea.
I got lost, again. I walked out of the apartment and took what I thought was the right route to get to the police station. But within 10 minutes I knew I was walking where I had never walked before. I pulled out my trusty GPS and was glad I had saved the police station as one of my favorites. But when I searched the short favorites list again and again, there was no police station. Even worse, there was no home apartment location saved, either. Before I panicked, I checked again, and one more time, but the GPS had no record of the favorites I had set yesterday. So much for technology! I searched the skyline for the tall apartments that were next to my building, found them, and headed back. Why was it so hard for me to find the police station? Why did I keep getting lost?
Circling back to the apartment, I began once more, this time relying on my memory. Sure enough, there was that bakery and ice cream store that oozed sweet sugar cooking. And just past that, the intersection where I got lost yesterday and asked for help. Then there was the hotel on the right and bingo! I stopped. I was crossing a tiny street and something told me to stop. I searched for the street name. It was the tiny street for the police department. I walked down the little alley, recognizing many of the stores. Even the same old man was there, preparing food, just like yesterday. I nodded and smiled but he didn’t respond. I went right to #6, the blue building with a light hanging down.
A superior ranking officer was there watching over the offices. He saw me, said “Hello” in English. I responded with my best “knee-how.” He gave me a pat on the back, welcomed me into the station. I smiled at the policewoman I had talked to yesterday, handed her the papers from Lisa. She looked them over, filled in a couple blanks, pulled out a manila folder and added the papers to others already there. It was my police file. The police in China have started a file on me! She handed my file to a young man, who began typing the information into a computer database. And now I am in a computer database in China (actually, I might have been put into a database when I came through customs).
I stood there quietly, waiting for any questions or instructions. I had time to look around. There was a video camera hanging upside down behind the young man’s computer screen, its red light on, taking movies of the back of his screen? There was a sign with English. It said, “Make a line.” Above the desk where I had filled out the forms yesterday there was another sign with English: “Fill out the form.” I kept from smiling as I thought how these two signs seemed to fit this police office. I wanted to take a picture, especially of “Fill out the form,” but I knew how police were often skittish around cameras, and I was their guest after all.
Ten minutes went by. I sat down. I was now facing, and so stared at, “Fill out the form.” Perhaps the Chinese characters above the words said something more like, “This desk is for filling out forms.” The sign was, in fact, right above the desk where I had been told to sit while I filled out my forms yesterday. Something about English on permanent signage in a police station in Chengdu, China was reassuring and comforting. But with only these two short phrases to read, and not wanting to make anyone uncomfortable by staring or appearing impatient, I lowered my eyes to my lap, pulled out my Kindle Fire, and began a Sudoku puzzle.
As the two female police officers talked to each other, I listened for the Chinese tones: first tone, flat and high-pitched, second tone, rising, third tone, dipping, fourth tone, falling. They were laughing and speaking with more excitement than I would have expected for police business. The young man never joined in, clicking away at his keyboard, more evidence that the women’s conversation was personal.
A young man came in, handed over an ID card and a paper. A young woman, another ID and paper. An elderly, well dresses man, a whole folder of papers, which were not accepted until he came back about 10 minutes later. At one point the line grew to three people, all waiting to give papers. Did they all need to register like me? Were they new to the district? More likely, this was the administrative office of the police station and anything having to do with paper was handled here.
I had finished three Sudoku puzzles, an easy, medium, and hard one, which meant I had been waiting over half an hour. I glanced at the young man. My forms were still his primary focus. I thought about getting up and walking away, just to see if they called me back. I wasn’t even sure I should be sitting there. Was there anything else they needed from me? I decided they wouldn’t want an American hanging out in the police station unless it were necessary, and since they hadn’t chased me away, I was staying put.
A few minutes into my expert Sudoku and I heard the distinct thunk of a hand-stamp. I looked up. The policewoman was checking her handiwork; a big, red-star government stamp of approval. She swung the paper my way. “Okay,” she said in English. I gave her a thumbs up and a smile. I turned and walked quickly out the door, right into an oncoming police car with lights flashing!
Luckily, the car was inching along, backwards. The car was carefully wending its way down the driveway, squeezing by other parked police cars with only a couple inches to spare on either side. I hoped the flashing lights didn’t mean this car was on an emergency call.
I waited until the police car drove by, then walked slowly behind it, at the pace of a funeral procession. Trying to avoid looking at the driver, I stared at the long, horizontal scratches of each police car we passed.
When I reached the end of the driveway, I turned to say goodbye, saw the superior officer who had given me a friendly pat. I gave him a wave, but he was busy with something else. When I got back to the boulevard at the end of the tiny street, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There, bright blue and over six feet tall by three feet wide, was a lit sign that said, in English as well as Chinese, “Police Station,” with a big white arrow pointing up the alley. How could I have missed THAT? Twice? I shook my head. Either that sign was just put there in the past hour, or I was as blind as a bat!
On the way home I ventured down a small street and found a pedestrian street full of vendors. Off of this street were narrow, curved walkways, always interesting to me. For the second time this trip the walkways opened up on an open-air market! I took a quick walk around, found a tofu vendor, lots of garden fresh vegetables, including some beautiful red carrots, tomatoes, and bean sprouts. I didn’t buy anything this time. I’ll go back just as soon as I empty out what I already have in my fridge.
I’m starting to feel at home. Everything I need – vegetable market, police, Consulate, and craft beer – is within a 15 minutes walk of the apartment!
I didn’t make it downtown today. It’s a two-hour round trip on foot. Maybe tomorrow morning. I’d like to make my first visit to Sichuan University, too. But it’s ½ mile in the other direction. And tomorrow night is movie night at the American Consulate.