Did you ever have one of those nightmares where you keep on dreaming
that you have woken up only to have it start again? Well my visa
situation is like that. When I reported the last episode I had returned
from Hong Kong and revisited the Yangshuo Public Security Bureau and
been told that I needed to send my passport off to the Guilin PSB again.
The office told me I didn't need to go
personally. Yesterday I discovered that the person responsible for
sending it off has left it sitting on his desk for eighteen days,
apparently completely forgotten. This only came to light because I
asked. Had I not asked it would have sat there until the thirty day visa
expired and as that can't be renewed again I'd have been on the next
flight out. This means that today I've had to miss lessons to go to
Guilin in person where they have taken it away from me again and told me
I can get it back on the 8th October. So far the renewal process which
normally takes a few days has been going on for FIVE MONTHS and there is
no guarantee that it will be right this time. I am seriously
considering just packing it all in and finding a contract somewhere
On Friday 15th of August at
1:30 I decided to put all of my clothes except for the ones I was
wearing into the 24 hour laundry round the corner. This may appear to
a random remark with no relevance to anything but all will become
I've had the week from hell and it
began a few months ago. It all started when I decided that I would
quite like to go home to England for the summer but would need to
have a summer job to pay for it. I've taught for many summers at a
summer school in Harrow and applied to do it again this year. Now,
for those who don't know, if you teach in England you have to have
what used to be called CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) checks and are
now called DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks. These are to
ensure that you have no criminal record that would stop you working
with children. Unfortunately, if you work overseas, part of this is
that you must also have the local equivalent. China, where I work,
doesn't have a local equivalent. The school in England went to a
great deal of trouble to help me with this and I also went to a great
deal of trouble to arrange a letter from the Chinese authorities that
would act in place of such a document. I gave my passport to the
police who kept it for over a month but eventually returned it with a
letter. In that time I had been corresponding with the school to
arrange things. On the same day that I got the passport back I got
the news that the Chinese authorities had, yet again, changed the
I need to digress for a moment and
explain about visas. To work in China you are supposed to have
something called a residency permit but that's only issuable in the
city where you are working. To qualify for the permit you need to
already have a Z-visa which is valid for thirty days and gets
converted to the permit. Once it's been converted the theory is that
the residency permit can be renewed indefinitely without needing to
get a new visa. This renewal has to take place a month before your
old permit expires but generally takes about a week to accomplish.
Or so it has in the past. The new rule
was that in order to get the renewal you must turn over your passport
to the authorities for twenty days during which you will be given a
receipt that, in their words, “will act like a passport for
identification within mainland China but will not permit you to
leave the country.” This meant that I would be unable to go to
England. I wasn't very pleased by this and the school I was to go to
even less so. They told me that they will not consider employing me
again as long as I am resident in China.
Here's where it starts to get
complicated. Pay attention there may be a quiz.
My existing permit, for Baiyin – a
city in Gansu – expired a week before my teaching was due to
finish. A few days after my teaching finished I was due to fly to my
new home in Yangshuo. So a month before it expired I handed my
passport in to get a one week extension that would give me time to
get to Yangshuo and hand it in again. As days went by I became
increasingly nervous. I didn't want to try to fly leaving passport
behind. Finally, on the evening before I was due to fly, my
administrator returned my passport with a visa that had (for no
reason I could fathom) been extended for four weeks. I flew to
In Yangshuo first of all I had to go
for medical checks and having passed those I was sent to the PSB
(Public Security Bureau) in Yangshuo where a very belligerent
policeman questioned my at length about where I would be living in
the city (I don't know yet), who was my contact at the school (I
don't know yet), how I had got the job there in the first place (I
know but had been instructed not to say because it would cause
“complications”), why I had left my previous school (I told him)
and where was my document from the school permitting me to leave (I
didn't have one).
He told me to go away and return when I
could provide answers.
The next day someone else went on my
behalf and somehow answered all the questions. However I was
instructed that I needed to visit the PSB in Guilin so the next day I
went to Guiln and handed in my passport. In return a piece of paper
saying they would return it twenty days later.
Twenty days passed during which I did,
not without some difficulties, travel around China using the document
I had been given.
I returned to Yangshuo and on 15th
August at 2:30 my passport was returned to me. For whatever reason –
incompetence, bloody-mindedness, Satanic evil or just because they
could – they had issued an extension that expired THAT DAY at
Midnight after which I would be illegally in China. My company said I
would have to go to Hong Kong and get a new visa.
Remember what I'd done at 1:30?
That's right, I had no clothes at all
except the ones I was standing up in. I told you the relevance would
become clear. Nevertheless, and over my protestations that I would
arrive at the border AFTER the visa expired, I was placed on a bus
going to the border town of Shezhen.
I arrived at the border nine hours
after the visa expired. Unsurprisingly they noticed and detained me.
I was kept for about four hours after which I had to sign a document
which was written entirely in Chinese except for the single, rather
ominous, sentence, “I admit to the above crimes”.
Now, to back track for a moment, I had
been told to make my way to Tsim Sha Tsui where, at Chungking
Mansions I would be able to find a room for about 150 Hong Kong
Dollars a night. The trouble was I couldn't find a room. At any
price. Chungking is a huge rabbit warren of a building filled with
hostel businesses and because it was a summer holiday weekend every
single one of them was full. Outside touts were offering rooms for
anything up to 1800 HKD. Eventually, despairing of ever finding
anywhere, I met a guy in one of the hostels who spoke fluent
Cantonese and had negotiated a room for 600. They had another room
and after some haggling on the phone my company said they would pay
600. I checked in for the night.
It was Saturday and I couldn't do
anything about the visa until Monday. On Sunday, with my new friend's
help, I located another hostel in another district for 450 HKD and
On Monday I went to the Visa agency
that had been suggested. The took one look at my “I admit to the
above crimes” document and refused to apply for my visa. They told
me I had to go to the Chinese embassy. My new friend agreed to
At the embassy, after filling in forms
and queuing for a long time I went to one of the visa windows where
the lady took one look at my “I admit to the above crimes”
document and told me I must go home to England and apply from there.
My friend interceded in Cantonese, explaining the circumstances of my
overstay and with visible reluctance she agreed to process my visa
and told me to come back on Thursday.
From then on things went relatively
well. I booked a flight for Friday, picked up my passport (with only
a thirty day Z-visa, but at least it got me back into China) and made
it back to Yangshuo on Friday night where I picked up my clothes and
changed into something clean for the first time in a week.
Of course, at the moment, I still don't
have a residency permit, just a thirty day single entry visa. I am
hoping that nothing else extends my week from hell. The three months
that it's lasted so far is quite enough for me.
1. Right of way works on the “chicken” principle.
2. Driving is on the right. Unless you prefer the left. Motorcyclists may optionally use the pavements. (In either direction)
3. Use of lights at night is optional for all vehicles except motorcycles and bicycles for which it is forbidden.
4. All vehicles must sound their horns at least once for every thirty metres travelled, or thirty seconds elapsed, whichever is shorter.
5. Pedestrian safety is the responsibility of pedestrians. It is forbidden to slow down to avoid hitting them.
6. All road marking, road signage and traffic light systems are purely decorative.
7. Whenever driving you should look only straight ahead. Checking left or right is forbidden especially at junctions.
8. When reversing “blind” from a narrow space onto a busy road, no assistance may be sought or given.
9. Overtaking is ALWAYS permitted but no account must be taken of oncoming traffic. Blind bends are the preferred location.
10. Where a road has multiple lanes you may only change lanes if there is less than one metre between your new position and the car immediately behind you.
11. Where a road has multiple lanes AND they are marked by white lines, the purpose of the white line is to indicate where the centre of your car should be positioned.
12. When merging onto a busier road it is not your responsibility to merge safely, it is everyone else’s responsibility to get out of your way. Your car will go into any gap that is at least one centimetre bigger than the vehicle.
While these rules may be somewhat cynically stated, they are in broad principle correct.
If you doubt me I found this video on YouTube which is nothing unusual, just an everyday drive in any Chinese town. It lists a few more rules that I missed above.
Now go out, have your brain surgically removed and apply for that Chinese license.
I saw on the internet
that they are planning a remake of the Crow, not a variation or a
sequel but a remake. My first thought was, here we go again –
instead of choosing one of the poorer films and remaking it to be
good one, they're taking the one that was damn near perfect first
time out, the one that doesn't need a remake, and making it again. It
seems to be the pattern.
My second thought was
that maybe I should watch the four Crow movies again.
So I did.
The first crow movie
is, as I said, damn near perfect. It's visually stylish. Underneath
the violence it has heart and even a streak of sentimentality.
Brandon Lee's performance is excellent and the only thing that mars
the movie slightly for me is that there is a small but significant
change to the original comic book. In that, the original crime was
genuinely motiveless – mayhem and murder for its own sake. The
movie adds a reason in the interests of plot and to my mind that
undermines the actions of the Crow. Still, it's a small point in an
otherwise favourite movie.
Crow: City of Angels
and Crow:Salvation are the second and third movies in the franchise
and there are a couple of serious flaws that they share. The first is
that the directors (Tim Pope and Bharat Nalluri respectively) both
choose visuals over sense. Sensible and consistent plotting is
secondary to whichever visual conceit has crossed the director's
mind. So, for example, in City of Angels the Crow erupts out of the
water where his mortal form was drowned and hangs in a crucifiction
pose hovering in the air. There's no explanation and moments later he
is apparently back in the water and dragging himself painfully up
onto the pier. It looks good but it makes no sense. Similarly in
Salvation the villain likes to insert screws into his arm causing the
major scarring that's the main plot driver but no reason is ever
given for it, just as no reason is ever given as to how or why he has
a secret and rather gruesome taxidermy lab completely unnoticed in
the police station.
The second flaw is that
both directors seem to have got the idea that a vital element of the
Crow mythos is sexual fetishism. It's less of a problem in Salvation
because it's at least vaguely connected to the story – in City of
Angels it just forms a seedy backdrop to the action – but in either
case it's a prominent feature of the movie.
With all that said
Salvation at least tries to take the story in a new direction. Eric
Mabius' Crow is both more menacing and more nuanced than Vincent
Perez manages. City of Angels is just a pale, failed retread of the
first movie with vastly inferior performances and scripting and that
sexual fetishism is just about the most pointless thing in a
So, what about Wicked
It's bad. It's
excruciatingly bad. From the text-on-screen introduction of the bad
guys to David Boreanaz ludicrous overacting to Edward Furlong's
portrayal of the Crow as a petulant goth teenager, the whole thing is
awful. And that's before we get to the stone bonkers plot about
Boreanaz wanting to become the antichrist and bring hell on Earth or
Dennis Hopper visibly making plans to fire his agent in every scene
he's contractually obliged to appear in. It has about as much in
common with the other Crow movies as a pet goldfish has with a great
white shark. It's a bad Crow movie and it's a bad movie in it's own
For all that I don't
hate it as much as City of Angels. Wicked Prayer is just utterly
incompetent, City of Angels seems to have willfully distilled
everything that was great about The Crow and then thrown it away and
kept and amplified everything else. It rehashes the whole of the
first movie in such an inferior form and with so much gratuitous
rubbish that I actually find it offends me.
What, then, of the
Personally I'd rather
see a new take on the tale but if the have to remake something, why
not Salvation. Imagine how good it could be if it were remade with
all of its flaws fixed; with the weirder plot points expanded and
explained, with villains who weren't just cardboard cutouts.