Sunday, February 24, 2008
Our visas, allowing us to enter China, came last week, and with it a surprise.
We had applied for the standard tourist visa, which gives you 60 or 90 days to enter China with a maximum stay of 30 days.
What we got were visas which give us one year to enter China with a maximum stay of 60 days. I wish I'd known this sooner because visa prices went up $30 each the week before we applied for ours.
This is apparently in retaliation for the United States raising its visa prices for everyone, not just the Chinese, to $131. The USA also requires foreigners to fax their itinerary two days before they arrive here. This reportedly is for homeland security purposes. At the same time, the government is requiring this, they're planning to mount a multi-million dollar compaign to attract foreign tourists. Go figure!
We're working on gifts now to take to our friends. We each take a small wheeled suitcase with a day pack to carry on the plane. That limits the size of the gifts we can take. Plus, all the neat souvenir items, such as mugs and T-shirts with Washington on them, are usually made in China. Talk about carrying coals to Newcastle! In the past I have scrapped off "made in China" stickers as well as cut tags off clothing. I am trying something new this time: having items made with pictures I've taken on them. In China, you have to be careful about giving gifts that you've made yourself. For so many years, the people did not have enough money to live on, let alone buy gifts, so any gifts were homemade. Today, with their standard of living rising, they have money to buy gifts, and a store-bought item has become a status symbol. I'm hoping the gifts we're taking this year are just the right compromise. They can be seen at http://www.photoworks.com/storefront/Cheryl_Probst.
One friend is a diabetic who loves sweets, so we're taking along a lot of sugar-free candy for her. She also likes Sweet 'n Low, so we're taking a long a couple of boxes of packets for her. Apparently you can get artificial sweeteners in China, but she says it's not as good as Sweet 'n Low.