The evening of June 30th I sent my dad pictures of Jiuzhaigou to show him beautiful it was, so I wasn’t surprised to see an email from him the next morning when I woke up. I was however very surprised to see that his response was not about the pictures but instead was informing me that my car had been impounded in Denver. A neighbor allegedly reported it as abandoned and the city decided it would be best to impound it. As you know I’m in China, and apparently the city will not release my car without a notarized letter giving my permission. I honestly had no idea what to do. I have 3 more weeks here and had zero knowledge of notary processes in China (or if they even notarize documents). I text Sarah and she suggested I look up the U.S. Consulate to see if that is a service they provide, luckily it is. The appointment times were completely full until the 9th, which happens to be the day I leave for the nature reserve. Leaving my car in impound would be very pricey and stressful. I emailed the Consulate and they luckily responded within 15 minutes telling me they would allow me to come in today on an emergency basis, I just had to be here at 1 pm.
I went to the panda base, because I had no other way to print the letter to take with me. I took a 45 minute solo (and very quiet) cab ride and arrived at 10:40 am. The guards were all speaking to me in Chinese and I had no idea what to do. They pointed me in a direction and I saw a line so I went and stood in it. The girls checking documentation in the line also spoke to me in Chinese and looked very puzzled when I showed them my letter. They called another girl over who told me I could not stand in line until 1 pm. I went and sat on a curb then decided to at least walk down the street to pass time. I suddenly panicked when I realized I can’t even ask to use a restroom (which of course my body then decided I needed to do). I found a bakery that said “welcome all” on the sign so I ventured into that one. Luckily they had a bathroom and the food was labeled in Chinese and English. I was so happy because food has not been an easy task for me to get here. I walked back to the consulate at 11:30 because I wanted to be close by.
As I sat and thought about the language barriers and the anxiety it has all caused I thought about my foundation year internship. I was at Colorado Heights University (CHU); a school consisting of mostly international students. I realized how scared and frustrated they must be at times living in a new country and not being able to get the help you need. I have always admired the students who courageously moved to a new country without knowing the language, but I definitely have a new appreciation and slight understanding of their experience.
I made another discovery during the adventure to the consulate. Sometimes I struggle with my facial blushing. It makes me not want to talk in front of groups and has been very distressing at times. Even at my internship at CHU it has been difficult at times. I realized after leaving the consulate office that I was only concerned with being able to get the services I needed and that many students at CHU probably felt the same way. A welcoming demeanor and empathic responses will most likely be what is remembered, not my blushing face. Sometimes you have to be vulnerable in order to grow and gain new awareness.
P.S. Everything worked out with my car, it was quite the adventure/learning experience.