Across Continents

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Not yes

The lady in front smiled at me. A young man had approached the Policeman keeping order at the front of the queue, asking, in English, where foreigners waited to enter Almaty’s Chinese Consulate. I’d intervened, explaining you queued with everyone else. Just as I was doing. He wandered off, looking frustrated.

After a lengthy wait I was eventually allowed into the Embassy compound, to be greeted by a rather helpful man. Took me a few moments to ascertain he wasn’t a Chinese official but an agency tout, of no use to me. More waiting, then eventually allowed to approach a glass screen.

“Do you possibly speak English?” I asked. “No” said the official, without expression. I explained my circumstances, my just expired sixty day visa, showed him my application form, the supporting paperwork. Seemed I’d also need a letter of introduction, then perhaps thirty days might be possible. I’d explained I’d not needed this for my previous visa, a return flight confirmation being sufficient. But he wasn’t budging. It wasn’t a simple no, rather a not yes – a polite no.

I’d wandered back out into the compound, found the tout I’d spoken to earlier and enquired about a letter of introduction. Around a hundred US dollars, would take a week or so. Bit of mental arithmetic – week for a letter, allow a week for visa processing – with no assurance of success, and I’d get perilously close to the expiry of my current Kazakhstan visa. Which would mean, in practice, a last minute flight out to obtain a fresh one. More expense.

So what to do? I’d get nowhere today at the Consulate, so decided to contemplate my next move over a cup of tea. Objectively. Seemed I could spend a good deal of money, time and effort attempting to secure a fresh visa in Almaty, but with no guarantee of success. Far from it. And even if I did manage to obtain a thirty day visa, I’d struggle to work with that for crossing China in its entirety. Time for Plan B.

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