Today is Valentine’s Day–well, here in China, not yet back home in States. Since I have no rose, no chocolate, no diamond, and ate instant noodle for dinner by myself, I reckon it’s the perfect time to FINALLY spend my time writing a blog post. EXCITING!!!
Today I got my driver’s license. It had been a long, tedious process, but not as bad as some other times, such as when I put my son up for “adoption by a local resident”(his aunt, my sister-in-law)–on paper only, but might as well be real–so he can travel back and forth with far fewer visa problems.
I digressed. OK, basically what I had been doing was driving in Shanghai with an international license from my friendly local Alhambra AAA office. The problem is, you can see in this little $20 booklet clearly that China does not recognize this document. Therefore, I had been instructed by my husband (the other criminal) to always carry $200 RMB in case of getting caught by the cops.
What driving is like in Shanghai is an entirely different story that I can write 7 posts about. The interesting thing about cops is that they are EVERYWHERE, but they never do anything. I gradually learned to ignore them and not see the image of the burly bear who gave me a $300 ticket back home. However, “you are illegal~~~” is not a good feeling. At first, husband said only local residents can get driver’s license. But what is the price of listening to men? When I called, I was told a “temporary residency permit” is sufficient. Anyways, this permit is interesting because I had to call the local police station and talk to my friendly Officer Lee, who is apparently very familiar with our family by now because we call him with dumb questions. He issued the document and my first step is done.
I then ventured to the CHINA DMV, by way of subway, walking, then bus, I paid $40 RMB and sat down for the photo.
“You can’t wear white.”
“Huh? What’s wrong with white?”
“We don’t allow it. It does not show on the white background. Here, wear this.”
I was handed a size 12 brown shirt. After the photo was taken, I looked at it, and wondered if it was closer to a prisoner-in-uniform or field-worker-from-countryside. Pic was pasted and I received a physical exam, which basically makes sure you can see, hear, and have arms and legs with same length. The measuring device also shrank me an inch and I vowed to do more yoga to stretch out.
When I finally hit the counter to register for the written exam, I was rejected.
“Where’s your driver’s license from your country?”
“Huh? It’s in the States. But they told me just to bring the international driver’s license.”
I was handed a document that clearly stated the ORIGINAL driver’s license has to be brought in. I tried a little begging/whining/playing innocence knowing it was completely futile.
So, that was last October. After 4 months, I am back with a…California license. The Physical Exam is valid for 1 year, thank God, so I now go in thinking they would let me take the exam.
“Your driver’s license needs to be tranlsated.”
“Huh? Translated…but I have this international license…”
OK, international license is a piece of crap. Besides, mine had actually already expired in Jan. The license needs to be translated by OFFICIAL TRANSLATION AGENCY. I call. $50 RMB. Rip-off, I want to go steal their stupid stamp. In 2 degree weather I take more bus, subway, walking, bus, find the dingy agency, and get the glorious piece of paper that states my California license is a license from California.
Back, at least for some reason (right after Chinese New Year Holiday) I thought it would be crazy busy but there is no one on this day. I finally can register for the exam, and after some pleading I get it scheduled in 5 days.
From the online introduction I guess it also comes in English, French and Spanish. I would not bother with the English version since any difference between this and what I already know about driving would just be more confusing. I have to pretend I am driving on Mars.
Some problems are completely outrageous, and most are laughable, but I don’t have time to take this twice, so I start crunching numbers like “DUI–6 points, drunk driving–12 points. Injured someone–3 to 7 years sentence, killed someone–7 years and above”.
Man, talk about meaninglessness. I actually learned a a few things, such as what those crazy inverted triangles on the road mean (a pedestrian crossing is coming up). The traffic cop’s gestures are impossible and I brutally memorize them.
The allowed test time is 45 minutes. After about 9 minutes, I am done. After another 9 minutes of forcing myself to check because I REALLY DON’T WANT TO COME BACK, I hit the “submit” button on the computer. “Congratulations, your score was 100.” Sigh, medical school remnant skill persists.