A few weeks ago I moved into my first apartment, a small two bedroom in the Waudoukou neighborhood in northern Beijing. As you can imagine, it was a little chaotic moving two women, five suitcases, and a plastic bin of cleaning supplies and dishes forty minutes across one of the most populated cities in the world. Especially when neither of those two women spoke more than the most basic Mandarin to communicate with the cab driver. But we got it sorted out, figured out where everything went, and got settled in.
Chinese law states that we had to report to the local police station within 24 hours to register our presence and report our address. Again, neither of us actually speaking more than *basic* Mandarin.
At some point it became clear that there was some problem with my registration. Of course it would be mine. It couldn’t be my roommate, it had to be me with the police problem.
Through elaborate charade and patient use of several translator apps (and one English speaking officer) we managed to figure out that the computer wasn’t registering where I had been for three days, and therefore I was considered in violation of the law. It was dicey for awhile, but eventually I managed to convince them that I was where I was supposed to be and was let off with a verbal warning to register on time in the future, but it took three days before my heart started beating again.
Meanwhile, all official forms in China have to be signed with both an “official” name (ie the name appearing on my passport) and a Chinese name, which I obviously didn’t have. Now I do. Mudan is a “country” name meaning peony flower, which I have adopted fairly quickly for use in certain circumstances 🙂