In February Jean got the letter of approval for her visa to come back with me to the states, which left only the "simple" matter of collecting the visa.
As it turns out this is not as simple as it seems. She had her interview at the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou back in January. To get an idea of the geography here, if Huzhou is a town about 60 miles north of Atlanta, and if Hangzhou is Atlanta (large city with an airport), then Guangzhou would be Miami. Not exceedingly far, but requires one to fly.
Anyhow, the consulate "can" mail the visa to the visa applicant IF you live in select large cities (like Shanghai or Beijing), but if not you have to go down to Guangzhou to collect it yourself. Neither Huzhou nor Hangzhou can receive these visas, but Jean DOES have a cousin who lives in Shanghai who could receive it.
Even if you have it mailed to you, you must FIRST go down to the consulate in Guangzhou in person to fill out the forms to have it sent to you. Then why, you might ask, would you ever choose to have it mailed to you? Well I'll tell you why. It's because after you go down to Guangzhou there is still some processing and then they mail it to a local post office, so you'd have to stay for at least 4 business days in total.
That being the case, since we'd have to go down to Guangzhou anyway, we decided just to get it all done in one fell swoop, and have a nice long weekend vacationing in Guangzhou to boot.
Jean actually left before I did, because the consulate is only open Monday through Thursday. That Monday was actually a Chinese holiday (Tomb Sweeping Festival) and so was only open three days that week. She left early so that she could get the processing started as soon as possible. I left a day later because I had to work, and was already taking off two days for the long weekend anyway.
On a side note, my flight to Guangzhou was scheduled to leave Hangzhou at 3pm and arrive two hours later on Wednesday the 7th. Because I was starting out in Huzhou, not in Hangzhou, and because I was dependent on buses and bus schedules, I had to leave my house around 8am to be there in time. When I arrived at the airport, I was about 3 hours early, so I had to kill some time. As the time got closer I found that my flight was delayed to 4:30pm. No big deal, just more time I had to wait. We finally began boarding the airplane at 4:30, which would've put us in line for a 5pm departure, but unfortunately, even after everyone had boarded the plane, we were told that due to inclement weather in Guangzhou, we hadn't yet been given landing clearance in Guangzhou, and so would wait to take off.
Flash forward to 8:10pm and we were finally taking off. Oh yes, about 3 and a half hours sitting waiting ON the airplane. You know it seems to me that nearly every, and I'd have to say all but maybe one domestic flight I've had in China has been delayed by some time. Maybe as little as 20 minutes to as much as 2 or even in this case 5 hours. The only flights that I haven't had this problem with are the international ones I've had going home. Then again, those were American air lines, not Chinese ones.
Eventually I arrived in Guangzhou and Jean and I went back to the hotel.
Getting back on track from that diversion, Friday the 9th, Jean and I headed to the particular post office where the consulate sends the visa packets are sent. We weren't sure if it would have arrived yet, but it would've been possible. To our delight, it was there! It'd actually arrived the day before according to the mail stamp.
So finally, Jean has her visa and we'll be flying back stateside this summer!