Monday, 31 December 2012

Chinese Love Notes: Broken Dreams

Do you like the sound of your alarm clock ringing?

No?

Thought so.

I don't either.

Well, strictly speaking that's not quite true. I kind of like my alarm clock. But only because my fish recorded a cute wake-up message for me and hearing my fish's voice has a calming effect on me.

If it wasn't for his voice I would spend my mornings contemplating whether to throw my alarm clock against the nearest wall or not. Although, I must admit the fact that my alarm clock is also my iPhone usually tends to stop me from really wanting to execute my fantasy.

After I switch my alarm off I usually open WeChat to send my fish a message. I'm not the kind of person who can jump out of bed right after waking up, I need between a couple of minutes and half an hour to convince myself to get out of bed. Even as a teen I need three reminders and the promise of coffee from my dad before I would get up. Talking to my fish is therefore a very good way of distracting me from the fact that it's morning. You see, I'm really not very much of a morning person.

Over the last few months I've perfected my morning routine to the degree that I actually prefer it to forcing myself out of bed just for the sake of having time for some coffee. Yes, I know. Something's seriously wrong with me. If only I had someone to make me coffee in bed... It would help considerably if my fish wasn't on the other side of the world. He likes to get up right after waking up. The coffee-making duty will therefore be his responsibility as soon as we're reunited again. I just need to teach him how to make coffee.

Talking about a reunion with my fish...

A couple of days ago I did just what I always do after I wake up. I switched off my iPhone alarm, opened WeChat and tried my best to type out a coherent message to send to my fish. You have no idea how difficult it is to type Chinese characters on your phone when can barely see the screen because your eyes refuse to stay open for longer than a second.

Most mornings my fish replies right away. He knows when I have to wake up for work and I like to convince myself that he stares at his phone until his screen lights up, announcing my message. Okay, so maybe I'm just imagining this... Don't you dare ruin this sweet dream for me! This is after all my boyfriend we're talking about! He better be longingly staring at his phone, desperately waiting for my message! I do that kind of stuff... Should I have admitted this?

If you follow my tweets you probably know that my fish and I have been planning for him to come to Ireland to visit me.

Unfortunately that dream shattered a couple of days ago.

When my fish gave me the news, I had to read his WeChat message five times until its meaning really dawned on me.

No Irish holiday visa for my fish.

I think I had a small heart attack after realising that I wouldn't be able to have a stupidly romantic Hollywood-movie-like reunion at Dublin Airport.

Don't get me wrong, I did know that this could happen.

But...

Hope dies last.

Always.

These last six months I've been desperately clinging to the hope that my fish would be able to come to Ireland. I had all sorts of ideas and plans. What to do? Where to go? What to see? Where to eat? I wanted to show him as much of Dublin and Ireland as possible. All my favourite places. My favourite Chinese restaurant. My favourite shopping mall, park, street, coffee shop, etc. You get the gist. That idea has been keeping me excited for a number of weeks. In fact I still have a long list of things to do and places to see in my wallet - a bucket list of sorts. Planning all this has been giving me more than a coffee cup ever did. The thought of boarding a train to Sligo together with my fish, taking the Dart together, strolling down Dun Laoghaire Pier, coffee in Stephen's Green park, riding the bike around Phoenix Park, a trip to the beach followed by hot chocolate. I wanted to do all those ridiculously lovey dovey things couples do and I wanted to share it all with him.

But.

No visa.

After waiting for four months, my fish's visa application was finally processed but not approved.

I felt heart broken, I still do.

The day he told me, I cried the whole day. I cried so much I had to run out of work to avoid making a fool out of myself.

I felt like I was stuck in a bad dream.

I went back and forth between angry and sad. Acceptance wasn't forthcoming.

Sometimes not knowing is a hell of a lot better than knowing.

When you don't know you can dilute yourself with hope.

Hope makes it all better.

But when you know. When you finally know... well it sucks! 

I fail to understand why my fish's visa was rejected. It makes zero sense to me. The reason the embassy gave him makes even less sense to me.

My fish has an excellent job, a permanent job, an apartment that he can call his own (providing he continues to pay his mortgage every month). He's not rich but he's got a good life. He's got loving parents and a solid group of friends. He works extremely hard. In fact work is all he does, his work is really busy -he's a hydraulic engineer- but he's also a workaholic. He's a genuine guy. This is my unbiased view. Sure I'm head over heels in love with the guy but I haven't suddenly become incapable of thinking rationally.

I can't decide whether four months of not knowing, four months of waiting for news, four months of bugging my fish to call up the visa agency are better than finally having an answer.

My fish and I did everything the visa agency and the embassy asked us to do. We submitted all the required documents and more. I wrote a perfect invitation letter and when they wanted another one, with new invitation dates, I did just that. I send my fish all the required documentation. He also gave the embassy everything they asked for.

If you'd like to know, here's a link to the Irish Visa requirements for Chinese nationals.

Going abroad is not exactly a piece of cake for my fish. He needs a hell of a lot things to leave China to go on holiday and he tirelessly provided it all and more.

Only to be told he couldn't have a visa because his boss didn't answer his desk phone when he told the embassy several times that everyone at his company uses their mobile phones because they are frequently away from their desk. Especially my fish's boss. What boss spends all day every day at his desk? My boss sure doesn't!

To make this reason the basis of a visa refusal is absolutely ludicrous. The hothead that I am, I did tell the embassy so. Mind you, I was extremely polite. You could even say I brown-nosed them, I was so polite.

They only tried to call the boss once. ONCE. My fish's company is not fake. It's a big company, thank you very much, and the fish provided enough prove of that. The embassy's reason of refusal makes zero sense.

All I can think of is that my fish was given a bogus reason by the embassy and if that's really true then I'm way past furious. Someone should audit them some time. It seems Irish public service officials are all incapable imbeciles. I'm sorry if I've just insulted our aunt or sister but I've a right to be unreasonable furious. 

Now, before you scream 'I told you so', hold your horses, I do know that it's not all that easy for Chinese to go abroad. It's a right inconvenience and a royal pain in the backside. Especially if you've never been abroad before and it's your first time applying for a visa.

Still, it makes no sense to me.

I stupidly keep blaming myself. Was it something I wrote in my invitation letter? Did they not like my German passport? My passport photo? The fact that I have a Chinese boyfriend? The mind is quick to come to all sorts of ridiculous ideas.

When you're hurting you're always looking for someone or something to blame.

Deep down I know this wasn't my fault and it wasn't my fish's fault either but I can't help it. I keep blaming myself anyway.

All my love for Ireland has gone right out of the window. I've been a loyal tax payer in this country for more than seven years. I'm working, paying my rent and bills, I use Irish produce and means of transport. I've friends here, very good friends. Friends I call family. This country, the city of Dublin, has been my home for so long that I feel out of place whenever I go back to Germany.

Now all I feel is contempt. I feel hurt. I'm disgusted. In a moment of madness I even contemplated suing the state. This is what I get for paying my taxes and putting my money into the Irish economy. Never mind that the Irish economy is somewhat of a joke at this moment in time. I could have packed my bags back in 2008 when the recession hit but I didn't. I decided to stay, to continue working and wait for better days.

These better days came around when my fish swam right into my life, flipped me over and stole my heart before I could say: "Hey, what's going on?".

I would have thought that this deserves at least a little bit of gratitude. But no. Ireland has decided to give me nothing in return. Come to think of it, Ireland has given me a lot of bad things over the years. Asthma, pneumonia, ice-cold feet, frozen hands, wet clothes from all the rain.

I'd hoped that Ireland would make it up to me by letting my fish enjoy a well deserved two or three-week long holiday. Nope. I guess I'm just not that lucky. Maybe I should ask for the jackpot in the Euro-million instead. It's a right shame that I've been raised to want reasonable things in live. Maybe Ireland would feel more inclined to be good to me if I was a rich, foreign brat with a big, chauffeured car and a father who hands out bribes so his daughter can get in the back door everywhere she wants.

Those with money seem to be favoured in Ireland. They don't even have to pay taxes, there's a law for that, did you know? Just call yourself an artist and you're exempt from having a hefty percentage deducted from your pay checks.

The common folk are expected to pay horrendous taxes, deal with unreliable public transport systems that are forever late, customer service that is atrocious, a medical system that is downright laughable, astronomical rents, mortgages and house prices... the list goes on.

The next time a taxi driver asks me where I'm from I won't be joking that I'm an Irish lass. I'm just a German expat living and working in Ireland.

I guess I made it obvious that I'm not a happy camper at the moment, but honestly what to do you expect? That I shrug and say "well at least we tried"?

It would have been really nice of the Irish embassy in China to allow my fish to visit me. He was prepared to spend a lot of money here during his holiday. Now I'm just happy Ireland won't get the pleasure of enjoying his money. It's better off in a saving's account in some Chinese bank than in the hands of the country who denied me my happiness.

If you've read all the way to here, I can tell you that I'm laughing now. I've always been the kind of person who needs to vent. I can't bottle things up, I will explode if I do. I just needed a couple of days to have a good few cries, complain to my fish and sulk.

Now that I've written this blog post, I feel so much better. I feel refreshed and ready to tackle the next hurdle. 2012 wasn't a completely delightful year but it wasn't all bad either. I did meet an incredible and unique fish after all. Still, I'm looking forward to an even better 2013 and a chance to be reunited with my happiness. The "my happiness" sounds a lot less corny in Chinese, if you ask me.

On a somewhat more objective note, dating a Chinese guy really isn't that easy. Unless you're an expat in China that is, then it's very easy. You've a lot of handsome guys at your disposal and if you give them the time of the day you'll find that they are fabulous dating material.

I for one love being able to tell my boyfriend that I think Korean guys are handsome/hot/sexy and have him respond with "I think so too!" instead of the girlish "What are you looking at other men for?" I'm sure I'd get from Western guys. Am I too biased here? It's just, I've never ever met a Western guy who will outright admit that he thinks another guy is handsome, but I'll tackle that subject in another blog post early in the new year since I did recently have a very interesting conversation with the fish about this.

Back to the matter at hand, dating a Chinese guy.

It downright sucks when you're not in the same country as your sweetheart. As a European/German I can visit any European country I wish. Visa? Excuse me, what visa? The border control usually just takes a quick glance at my passport and that's it. Many other countries participate in visa waiver programmes and I'm welcome to visit and stay between 30 and 90 days without needing to submit a visa application. Upon arrival immigration will ask a few questions, check my passport, give me a pretty stamp and wave me on. I've the option of working holidays, gap years and studying abroad and spending an entire high school year in another country.

When you're used to this kind of privilege you really don't pay too much attention to it. You consider free travel to be your prerogative and unless you're forced to stop and think, you're probably unlikely to waste a second thought on just how lucky you actually are.

I will personally admit that I'm one of those lucky once who never thought twice until I moved abroad and took some time to think about how good my life actually is. I was privileged enough to visit the US, France, Poland, the Czech Republic, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Greece and Belgium all before turning 18 and have since followed up with Ireland, the UK and China.

My fish's only 'abroad' experience? A handful trips to Hong Kong.

In the words of a woman, I'm wearing a really pretty pair of high-heeled sandals while my fish wears a pair of plain, heavy winter boots. Because unlike me he's not that lucky when it comes to travelling. Sure he can skip off to any Asian country, that's quite easy for him to accomplish, but if he wants to travel to the USA or Europe...let the fun begin!

If I had to submit the ten million documents required (like my fish) in order to apply for a visa to go abroad I'd probably just stay in China and travel around the country. It's big enough to keep me entertained for a good while.

So next time you dig out your passport in preparation of hoping on a plane to fly to some cool or exotic place, just take a second, think and say a quiet thanks. 

You're really privileged, don't take it for granted.

4 comments:

  1. Hug you...and your fish. I know how you feel.

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  2. So sorry about visa but congratulations on your engagement!!!!
    I just wanted to know did your bf put you down as his unmarried partner or as his friend. My bf is doing his visa application for England at the moment and I'm sooooo nervous!! I don't want the government to claim he won't come back if it shows he has ties here.
    Thanks for telling your story xxx

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    Replies
    1. In my invitation letter I wrote that my fish is my boyfriend and that is what he told the visa agency and the embassy. In hindsight I should have probably just said that he is my friend and he should have said the same thing...but you never know what it actually is that they are looking for. I hope it goes well for you and your sweetheart and he gets to visit you.

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