Home / Asia / Typhoons, Pets and Consulates…Just Don’t (if you can help it)

Typhoons, Pets and Consulates…Just Don’t (if you can help it)

I am in the middle of chaos (and a typhoon but more on that later).

The kitten of destruction (Puff), is coming with us to Mumbai (as if there was ever any chance of her not!). Unfortunately, this means navigating the requirements of two of the world’s greatest bureaucracies, China and India which, of course, conflict. Yesterday, they managed to collide with today typhoon’s and I am not amused. I’m also wet, hungry and out of pocket from Uber surge pricing so things are just peachy here in Shanghai.

Clearly, we are leaving Shanghai. As you do when moving countries and along with virtually everything else we owned, we’d shipped the printer. Almost to the identical second that our stuff landed well out of our reach in a Chinese customs yard, the pet agents emailed with an additional 8 different government forms they’d miraculously just discovered and all of which they needed urgently. All were in PDF, all had to be filled in by hand and all had to be filled in in triplicate. One unexpected dash back to the office later, I meticulously filled in all 8 of them, screwed up the spelling of the ashram that constitutes almost all of our serviced apartment’s address four times, finally got it right, scanned the lot, emailed them all back and schlepped home.

Expecting at least thanks if not praise, the responses from the agents were…annoying.

Pet Agent 1, who is handling the Chinese end and coordinating the rest, dryly informed me that the 20min I’d spend madly scrolling through my phone trying to date my travel for the last two years from photos because Immigration has my passport had been poorly spent. Apparently they needed my cats travel itinerary, not mine. Puff had none but apparently there are such jet-setting moggies in the world that this section is five lines long.

Her compatriot, Pet Agent 2 who is handling the India end, then informed me that oh, FYI, I needed to have the Indian consulate in Shanghai sign one document and get a scanned version of it back to them by Indian close of business today. If I didn’t, the paperwork wouldn’t be able to be completed on time so Puff couldn’t be imported on those dates which would mean that we’d need to change our flights to flights that were already fully booked on days Air India didn’t fly out of Shanghai and after my China visa had expired.

Basically it translated to: Tomorrow, go to consulate. Beg. A lot. Do not leave without signed form.

Oh, and did I mention the typhoon? Shanghai grinds to a soggy halt in the rain. Taxis dissolve, Uber prices spike so high that they enter “start auctioning off your internal organs to pay for this trip” territory and getting anywhere is a royal pain in the a**. Of course, this was the day I had to make it out to Gubei, well into the Shanghai suburbs, twice, or my entire international move was going to be put on hold, except mine wouldn’t be because I’d need to leave the country because my visa would have expired. No pressure at all then.

The consulate opened for document submission at 9:30am. I started trying to get an Uber for what should have been a 20min journey at 8am. By 9:10, after an hour of Uber attempts and 40min worth of standing in the rain in front of my building trying to hail a taxi, I finally managed to get a car to actually turn up and off we went. Thankfully, he was of the brilliant Uber driver category and not only found the building, but dropped me at the correct entrance (of four). Because of course, it couldn’t be that easy, there are no external signs for the Indian consulate, even on the metal board that meticulously lists every other occupant of the building. There are also no signs for the lift that takes you to the floor the Indian consulate isn’t technically on but I was prepared for this and had googled extensively (the VPN Gods had smiled on me). I had three different floors, two different towers and another address entirely and started to work through them.

Attempt one was a failure – the floor was under renovation and there was no one there. Attempt two was not actually a full lift, it only went to a mezzanine. Attempt three was pure accident. I got in what I thought was the wrong lift, pushed what I thought was the wrong button and ended up exactly where I needed to be. How very China.

I signed myself in and told the extraordinarily confused woman I needed paperwork certified for my cat. After confirming three times that yes, I did indeed need paperwork certified for a cat, that was going to Mumbai, I was sent to the waiting room. The room looked like it had been outfitted from the left overs of a 1980’s boardroom complete with black conference table with brown laminate inlay, brown matching chairs with black inlay and some couches of the same vintage. A couple with a small child were there with a colleague to replace the husband’s lost passport. A man was trying to have his divorce decree notarised. I was trying to have someone certify documentation for my cat. The confused receptionist came back another three times to ask me if I was really, positively certain that I was moving from Shanghai to Mumbai and that I did indeed need documentation for a cat (still yes).

I was.

After another 20min, I was called to the counter with a cry of “ah… the cat”, paid my processing fee and was told to come back at 4:30pm. The whole thing had taken about 25 minutes and a taxi appeared as I walked out with a tea from the Costa in the foyer. Home I headed. Puff was not as sympathetic as I thought she really ought to have been and none of my stuff had miraculously packed itself. I still don’t think that was fair.

At 3:00pm, I started the dance of trying to get an Uber again. The typhoon had not miraculously disappeared and a taxi had not miraculously re-appeared. Uber driver number two was unfortunately of the “brand new driver moron” type. He couldn’t find my road (it’s a massive main road), then he couldn’t find my cross street (two massive main roads), then he couldn’t find my building (massive signage), then he wouldn’t turn into the driveway. By the time I managed to get into the car, it was 4:30pm and I needed to be at the consulate before their 5:30 document collection window closed….its a 20min trip that during a typhoon could take infinitely longer but even I was a little taken aback at the anti climax.

I directed the driver and got to the consulate in half an hour. I walked in and was greeted with “Oh, the cat” as the receptionist dove for my form that had been duly signed by the Consul General. In under 5mins, I got in, collected my form and walked back out to the same annoying uber driver who this time wouldn’t turn around and wouldn’t drive the 200m back into the driveway even though it was pouring rain.

My form, signed by the Consul general himself and clearly stamped with “The consul general takes no responsibility for the contents of this form”, was accepted without comment by Pet Agent 2 and I got a petty but satisfying revenge on the Uber driver by comprehensively soaking the inside of his van.

It’s the small things I suppose but Puff still wasn’t very sympathetic and things still weren’t packed.

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One comment

  1. Pamela Buckingham

    Oh! I am laughing and crying all the way through this amazing and brilliant read! I shall have to make a fresh cup of tea, dry my eyes and start again! 👏🏼

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