Thursday, August 27, 2009

Unwanted . . . by China

With a U.S. passport, a Hong Kong permanent resident card, and a ten-year China home visit visa, I have never had trouble going anywhere in the world. I don different identities, slipping into and out of the various languages, sometimes out of convenience, sometimes out of laziness. If I'm headed to Barcelona with my friends, I pull out the U.S. passport and breeze through security. If somebody in China customs is giving me a hard time about certain procedures, with an unrepentant smile, I sometimes pretend that I have absolutely no idea what they're saying.

Which is why I was shocked when they wouldn't let me on the plane to Shanghai in the Detroit airport. All I forgot to bring was my flimsy China home visit visa. I had left it back home in Utah, safely tucked away in a plastic folder. I tried to convince them that I do indeed have a visa and please can they check my name in the ether of some computer program? Isn't it obvious that I'm Chinese? I tried frantically to demonstrate how I could speak all three languages. The stewardesses who were smiling so patiently at the bumbling business class flyer a moment ago turned around and glared at me, "you think anyone can go to China? Why should we believe you?"

Used to living in my little Utah bubble, I wasn't sure what surprised me more: the fact that somebody would think I'm lying or that I was refused (no! retained, turned away, and bundled off to a different airport where I was somebody else's problem) by China!

I'm ashamed to report, that I did what any respectable college girl would do: I called my parents ten times, and when that failed, I cried.

In someways, that worked. The stewardesses came back to me, promising me a free flight back to Utah (and then from there to Shanghai but it turned out my visa was expired anyways). I was surprised that my little histrionic outburst had effected such a change, but then I suppose that I had passed the test: after all, terrorists trying to enter China illegally don't cry.