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November, 2014:

Playing Detective

When some people apply for a US visa, they present fraudulent information about themselves. This is beyond the small sins that some people commit when they lie on a resume, like exaggerating salary information, education or a job title. People have lied to me about big things. For example, someone once told me that he was the GM of a big car parts company. When we investigated, we discovered that he actually does work for the company, but his job is to sweep the factory floor. A simple phone call to the company was enough to uncover that lie.

This week I was sent out to another city to conduct site visits, and investigate some cases. I had a list of places to visit, and a mission to confirm applicants’ employment, business activity, income, etc. They day’s activities included a lot of driving around, calling applicants to find their exact places of business. Once we found them, I asked a lot of questions to try to uncover the facts.

Some of the applicants were clearly not fraudulent. They showed me their businesses, talked freely about their customers, their incomes, their plans for the future, etc. Wrapping up those cases is easy. We thanked the applicants for their time, and noted “no fraud.”

Others were clearly fraudulent. The place of business that one applicant listed on his application form didn’t exist. In another case, the address existed, but the business didn’t. We called the applicant to verify the address, and the applicant verified it. Then we said that we were standing at the address, and we couldn’t see his store. “Click,” went the phone. “Fraud confirmed,” went our notes.

It was a fun day. I learned a lot about the local economy, gained some more insight into the city. I like talking with people, and learning new things.

Finding fraud was disappointing, of course. I don’t like it when people lie to me, but in this case, I’m not surprised by it. Some people are almost desperate to get to the US, often because they don’t see a future for themselves in their current circumstances. I can understand that they lie, but it still makes me sad. I feel sad for them on the inside, and do my job on the outside.

“Real Effect Baptism Mascot”

Your guess is as good as mine.

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I don’t think this will catch on in the USA

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Hungry?

How about some rabbit nuggets?

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If that doesn’t work for you, we also have yak strips.

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Another milestone

Today marks six months since I arrived in China. In some ways, it seems like a short time. Work keeps me very busy, and so the days go by quickly. In other ways, it seems like a long time. I have learned a lot, and done a lot so far, but I miss my family very much.

In the future, when I look back on this time, I hope I will not regret the price that I forced my family to pay by choosing this career path. There are always regrets, of course, and you can never be completely sure that you’re doing the right thing.

Maybe all you can to is try not to second-guess yourself, and look to the future.

Chinese Opera

The Consulate’s Public Affairs Section was given some tickets to a Chinese opera, and I was able to snag a ticket.

The show was based on the folk story of the woman who flew to the moon, 嫦娥奔月. The libretto captured the whole story of Hou Yi the archer who shot down 9 suns, and the pill of immortality that his wife Chang-E stole from him. The story was enhanced to include foreshadowing and depth of plot. In the end, it’s a tragedy, as the two lovers are separated by mortality and space.

The Program

The Program

The performance was a commemoration of the 120th anniversary of the show, which was performed by a legendary male performer who gained fame by performing women’s roles. The show is also recognized by UNESCO as a cultural heritage. That’s marked by the red banner over the stage.

The Stage

The Stage

During the performance, the spoken and sung lines of the show were displayed on screens on either side of the stage. This was an enormous help to me. The last opera performance that I saw was in 1988 in Taipei. My Chinese has improved a lot since then. This time, instead of not understanding any of the language, I only didn’t understand 90% of it. The captions were a lot of help.

The show seemed to be more modern; there were spoken parts in addition to the singing. In addition to the traditional acrobatics, there were some special effects, like clouds and snow. The final scene, showing Chang-E in her ice palace on the moon, with snow falling, was visually stunning. The lasers were over the top, but this is modern China, after all, so you have to allow for some tackiness.

Curtain Call

Curtain Call

 

Curtain Call

Curtain Call

My first Chinese opera experience was a bucket-list item. I wanted to see a Chinese opera performance so that I could say that I did, and so that I would never have to see another. After this performance, though, I would like to go again.

Hey, wife, want to go to the opera with me?

I have been horribly insulted

This morning at the visa interview window, I was insulted in a new way. This insult hit me like a solid punch to the solar plexus. My feeling of self-worth has been severely compromised. I may never recover from this attack on my self-esteem.

What happened? A woman applied for a visa with her 2-year-old grandson. She was trying to get the kid to engage with me. In China, children are encouraged to use family terms to address people, like “older brother” or “aunt.” It’s considered polite and a way to build relationships. If a kid calls you “Uncle Bill,” that puts you in a familiar relationship, with its accompanying status as an elder relative.

This applicant tried to get her grandson to do that to me. She told her grandson to use a familiar term to address me.

She told the kid to call me “Grandpa.”

Tshirt English of the Day

“Dream Striker”

Nervous visa applicant quote

“Have a good nice!”

Tshirt English of the Day

“Think of your own ideas”