It was about six o’clock when we stood at the 35-bus stop.
The sign says the bus operates from 05h40 to 20h30 every day.
We’re heading to Beijing, about 40 kilometres away.
By car it takes 90 minutes to drive.
Today we’re taking the bus to Liangxiang and then the subway, all the way to the heart of this massive city.
It’ll take, maybe 2 hours.
Just after 6 the first bus arrives.
It is packed with people, more people get on, but we decide to wait for the next one, in the hope that there’ll be a little more space.
Just before half-past the next bus is there, as packed with people and we get on, because we need to get to Beijing to do our application for residency.
We’ve been in China almost 19 months.
First time round we got a 6 month residency permit.
Then a 12 month one.
That’s the longest they’ll give you.
They could renew it, or extend it, like we’re hoping they’ll do today, but 12 months is what they give you in one instalment.
It is the 23rd.
Today our existing residency permit expires.
So this is the day to do it, unless we’d like to burden ourselves with a massive amount of red tape and bureaucratic trouble.
We arrive at Liangxiang 25 minutes later, just outside the new subway station which looks like a scroll.
Everyone on the bus heads towards the station.
They’re smartly dressed in office clothes, ready to commute for 90 minutes to get to work, to commute right back home tonight.
I’m grateful I don’t have a 3 hour commute every day.
We take the Fanghsang-line to its end, get on line 9 and ride it to its end as well.
Then we take line 4 for 3 stops to transfer to line 2, taking it to the Lama Temple Station in the heart of the city.
We’re there by 8h45.
Anna Wang meets us at exit B and together we head to the local entry and exit administration office of the Public Security Bureau (PSB).
We complete forms, go to the right counter, but then the officer informs us there is a problem, my Foreign Expert Certificate (which allows me to work in China) has been cancelled by my precious employer and the new employer has taken too long to renew it.
Anna asks us to wait.
We should go have lunch, she’ll be back at the PSB at around three o’clock.
We walk down the street and find a beautiful Halaal restaurant which serves Chinese Food with a Malaysian twist.
It is beautiful.
Then back to the PSB.
Anna is there.
The problem has been sorted out.
And I am reminded that good will and strong relationships often make a way where a way does not seem to be.
Our applications go in without any glitch, except fro the slight frown on the officer’s face as he processes applications for 4 children, repeatedly asking ‘four children?’, Anna explaining that we are from Africa and I am a good teacher and Zuko teaches the children and Beate is with us, so it really isn’t that bad as we are 3 adults and 4 children, which isn’t that different from China.
And I am reminded of grace.
Aware that it is our Origin’s grace which allows us to make this journey through this foreign world with its exquisite people and exotic places.
We make the same journey home.
This time the subway isn’t as congested and on most lines, most of us get to sit for most of the journey.
By 5 we’re back in Liangxiang.
By five-thrity we’re in 大高舍村 (High House Village).
Zuko brews a cup of coffee.
We talk about how clean the subway is and cheap, only 7¥ for the entire journey.
We talk about, even though millions of people use this system of underground trains and busses every day, how nowhere it felt too crowded or congested.
We talk about how well our little Tribe did, as we do the things you have to do, to be able to experience this journey.
And my heart is filled with gratitude, hoping that somehow these experiences will enable them and help them be able to live lives less ordinary as they quickly head towarss adulthood.