A Lesson In Perseverance

I love living here.

The past few weeks have been full of exciting things. I was moved from basic Mandarin to advanced Mandarin (ahhh) and so now I have a Chinese speaking partner.

On the Fourth of July my entire cohort and I climbed to the top of a hill on campus and watched the Disneyland fireworks from afar. Gorgeous. The colors popped out across the horizon and we wached planes land into the Santa Ana airport while the independence celebration lit up the sky.

I’ve eaten my full of Pinkberry yogurt — a So Cal delicacy. A few friends and I have begun running the “Turtle Rock Trail,” and we have met a lot of friends out on the trails (bobcats). There’s only one little thing that could dampen the adventurous and happy mood around this Irvine campus…

I lost my job.

I’m not moving to Shanghai anymore. In fact, I’m not even sure if I am allowed into China. Two days ago I was asked, along with another peer of mine, into the Dean of Asian Studies office and was shown a list with my name on it. My name was highlighted in red with the word “REFUSED” next to it.

I got denied a Chinese work visa.

China is cracking down on the amount of visas being issued and there is no rhyme or reason to explain why they choose to deny or accept who they do. The Dean gave an LA Times article to me and my friend. I’m heartbroken.

I am now in the process of trying to find a way into the country so that I can continue in my master’s degree and fulfill the practicum requirements. I have applications in to two colleges in a town outside of Shanghai, since my chances of getting allowed into Shanghai on a second visa try are bleak. The colleges are sure they can get me a visa, but I am not guaranteed to get a visa by the starting date of Sept. 1.

Everything in China revolves around the term “guanxi.” This term describes a relationship in which mutual understanding is prevalent. In China, the more “guanxi” you have with a person or an organization, the more preference you will be given. The way to get “guanxi” is to simply be kind and generous to those around you, because you never know who is in a high position.

I am hoping that the colleges I have applied to have “guanxi”with the government because then I will be issued a work visa. Scholastic was unable to get me a visa because they are a Western organization and therefore, lack a great deal of “guanxi.” I am basically hoping that having a job with a Chinese school will sway the government to give me a visa.

There are rumors that this visa crackdown will end (or at least calm down) after the Olympics are over. But I cannot wait that long to apply because of my school work. Because of the Sichan earthquakes, the upcoming Olympics, and a little place that starts with a “T” and ends with “ibet,” China has become even more scrutinizing and unapologetic for its visa handouts. This is a complicated and intense issue, but I have confidence that it will all work out for the best. I have faith that I will be in China next year.

But I’m also scared out of my mind. I spent the first 24 hours after I was told the announcement crying, eating ice cream and blaming China.

I’ve since gained some perspective, and I now think that this may be the start of something beautiful. I will go to China. It just won’t be in the way that I expected. A little character building never hurt anyone.

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