Thursday, August 24, 2006


In case the end of the last post was confusing, here's the deal: Last March (or something like that) HKBU sent me forms to fill out to process my visa application. As you might expect, this is a good deal more involved than what most people experience when landing, because I'll be working here for 5 months instead of being a tourist for fewer than 30 days. Thankfully, the HKBU staff fills out much of this paperwork, but I still needed to supply things like proof of the the fact that I work for Pepperdine (like a contract) or that I have my Ph.D. No big deal. They told me it required two months for processing, and when I received these forms, I had more than two months. In my mind, I had a whole semester.

Not only this, but our contracts go year to year. I have tenure, but each year during the summer I have to sign a contract again. So the relevant contract for my employment this fall semester should be the one for 2006-2007, which I would receive in the summer. So I decided to wait until the summer.

After the end of the spring semester at the end of April, I started on getting the materials for the visa. It occured to me that if I planned on visiting Hawaii, Taiwan, and the Philippines before I arrived, I would have to get this application ready by June 10. Earlier, even, considering the time it takes to send it to HKBU and for HKBU to send the visa back. I started asking around and found that the contracts wouldn't be ready yet. Eventually it was decided that I could send my old contract, and send the new contract later. I finally sent the packet of information for the visa to HKBU on May 13.

On June 22, the HKBU people pointed out I forgot to sign one of the documents, and that I needed to send more stuff. This other stuff was stuff I thought I had sent, like 2 photos. I faxed what I could and took more photos, but they eventually found the photos. And about the contract, it turned out all that was needed was not a contract but a letter from the International Programs office saying I really was a Pepperdine faculty member.

The HKBU office finally submits everything on June 26. They said the process takes 4-6 weeks, so it should be ready in early August. Whew.

My flight from LA to Hawaii is on August 11. So as that date approaches, I get nervous when the visa stuff hasn't come back yet (By the way, I get the 2006-2007 contract to sign in the last week of July). But apparently this is a situation they deal with a lot at HKBU. The solution: Come in with a tourist visa, come by HKBU and pick up the work visa (which should be in by the time I arrive), then leave the country and come back in.

Luckily, leaving the country is pretty easy: go to Macau.

Now strictly speaking, going from Hong Kong to Macau isn't leaving the country: since 1997, both have been part of the People's Republic of China. But under the "One Country, Two Systems" slogan, both are "Special Administrative Regions" with their own laws, and, as it turns out, their own immigration/visa. So by leaving Hong Kong, I get my tourist visa cancelled and my Macau tourist visa; by leaving Macau I get my Macau tourist visa cancelled and get my Hong Kong work visa activated.

So yesterday I took the 3C bus to Tsim Sha Tsui, where there is a convenient ferry to Macau. The setup is a lot like getting a plane ticket: you buy a ticket, you have to be there 15 minutes early for your departure, you get an assigned seat.

The ferry ride wasn't particularly interesting: there was a lot of fog or pollution, and I couldn't see much of the islands we were passing. It was interesting to see how much forested area there still is on these islands, though. Based on how much Hong Kong is developed, I would have expected there to be housing scattered everywhere.

Macau was a Portuguese colony for the purposes of trading with China, and later, a jumping off point for the Jesuits in bringing Christianity to not only China but other areas in Asia, like Japan. At some point in the 20th century, people in the Portuguese empire decided they didn't want to be ruled by a colonial power, and Portugal decided it didn't really want to rule them either, and quietly, Portugal divested itself of most of its colonies. Macau was the last to go, and the handover to China was much less hyped and in the news as the handover of Hong Kong. But it happened, and in a lot of ways, Macau is like Hong Kong.

Not in every respect, though. The most visible difference when you arrive are the casinos. Some of these are Las Vegas-like monstrosities, rising out of the small colonial city with mock volcanoes, mock Egyptian palaces, mock Chinese cities, and so on. There's even more coming: enormous construction works are taking place, diverting traffic and causing quite a nuisance.

I couldn't find the bus stop. The guidebook was good about telling me what buses to take, but I couldn't figure out where to get one. I eventually walked into town, which wasn't far, or wouldn't be far if it weren't hot and humid outside.

There's not much that's particularly exciting in the main touristy square except a building run by the tourism agency that has the feature of being inside and air conditioned. But a little north of there, past some quaint street vendors, and up a long steep hill, lies the ruins of St. Paul's Cathedral. This was a major area for the Jesuits, and it was partly built by the Japanese that the Jesuits converted, but who had to flee Japan when the Tokugawa Shogunate decided to persecute the Christians. This gave me a point of reference (being Japanese, and being Christian, though almost certainly not descended from these Japanese Christians). At some point the Chinese kicked out the Jesuits, and the cathedral got used for army barracks, and eventually in the 19th century there was a fire and all that is left now is the main facade.

The facade itself is interesting in how it communicates the gospel to those who are illiterate: the Holy Spirit is a dove that is above the scene, a young Jesus is right underneath with items related to the crucifixion, and below him, Mary. The major Jesuit leaders are below her. On the left are 16th century Portuguese ships following a star in the East, bringing the gospel to China. On the right the woman from Revelation is shown crushing a Chinese-style dragon.

There was also a crypt where it is believed several important Jesuit leaders were buried. The door to it explained in English, Chinese, and Portuguese to remain silent out of respect for the dead. But very few people were taking this advice. The whole scene was kind of a circus. Which, based on my experience at the Taoist temple, may not have been conscious.

Nearby is an excellent museum of Macau, where they first exhibit parallels Eastern and Western civilization, then describes the development of Macau, through modern times.

Macau Tower is also hard to get to--it took a lot of explaining on the part of the people in the tourist information center to tell me how to get there by bus. I felt that the distance to the bus stop was almost the distance to the tower. Which isn't true, but it looked like it.

Macau Tower is one of the tallest buildings in the world, and the observation deck also features a sky-walk, where you get tethered onto a line, and you can walk (as a group) around the top of the tower with no railing to keep you from falling. This was not open at the time. Thankfully. They also had a zipline that allows you to jump off, down to the ground. This was open, but I didn't do it. Maybe if I were with friends. Maybe.

Tired of chasing buses, I took a taxi to the ferry (cost 30 Patacas or about USD $4), crossed back, and got my work visa activated.


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