Moving to a new country is fraught with uncertainty and unexpected requirements. Sometimes, that means more headaches and frustrations than one ever wants in a lifetime. Like when you have money, but no way to access it. Or when you have a visa, but got the wrong category of visa.

Both things happened to me yesterday as I was signing in to school here in Beijing.

First. I had to sign in to my apartment. I couldn’t register with the school until I signed into my apartment and got a form of temporary residence from the apartment. The apartment manager handed me my key and said, you owe the equivalent of about $1,200 US for the semester.

“Can I pay month to month?” I ask. “Nope,” they say in Chinese. “All up front.”

“Can I pay with my credit card?” I ask. “Nope,” they reply. “Only cash accepted.”

I say ok and go to a bank. I put in my credit card and pull out some money. Or at least that’s the idea. Nothing happens. I had already maxed out my daily limit. It was Labor Day in America, so no one would be at work, which meant I couldn’t contact my bank or those who owe me money.

So there I was. Effectively broke with no access to any money, which meant no apartment, which meant no registration for school, which meant…well, I didn’t want to think about that.

Fortunately, a friend of mine who picked me up from the airport spotted me the money and said to pay him back when I could. I said I would pay him back through Paypal.

With the apartment taken care of, next was registering with the school. Things went smoothly until the very last step. They looked at my visa and said, “you have an x visa. You need a physical done.” Now, what I was told before coming to China was that I didn’t need a physical if I stayed here less than six months. However, they didn’t say that I needed one if I had an “x” visa. Had I gotten the work visa “f” then I wouldn’t need the physical.

Unfortunately, by the time I found that out yesterday, everyone had gone home. So, tomorrow, I’m off to the hospital for a physical. Hopefully, nothing will go wrong from here on out.

Lessons learned. Expect complications. Be prepared for anything. Have a friend with you who can help you out in a crisis. And don’t give up. Two steps forward and one step backwards is still moving forward.


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