Autograph Session Photos
The autograph session was held in a little plaza across the street from the new MRT station at Fu Zhong. Charlene and I got there at 11:30 a.m. to get in the line, joining Ah Ci and Xiao Niu. Caroline came later, after she was through with her class, and Nat showed up late, too, which meant going to the end of the line, since we'd all been given consecutive numbers and no one could cut in. Didn't matter that we weren't right at the front this time, though. The session was due to start at 2:00, so we just chatted and watched the sun slowly eating the shade we were in. By the time 2:00 came around, we were all in full sun, and it was hot.
The guys performed a few songs before starting the signing, and that was cool. Have a look at this video one fan uploaded to YouTube: WuBai's "Flower" Dance
I wasn't able to get super close to the stage, and there was a really tall guy in front of me and Caroline, so I had to keep moving around to try to see. I attempted to take a video, but lame-brain apparently had her camera on the wrong setting, so all I got was a photo of Wu Bai's backside. Eh.
After the mini-concert, the signing began. I had wanted my lyrics booklet signed, since the only pix of China Blue are inside that. But no, The Powers That Be had decreed that the only thing that could be signed was the outside box of the CD, nothing else. No posters, no scrapbooks, no photos, nothing. One CD per person, thank you very much, and please move along quickly, don't ask to take photos with Wu Bai because you know he's so shy, yada yada yada.
As I climbed up on the stage with CD in hand, Charlene tugged my arm. I turned to find a girl with a video camera by my side, wanting to shoot my tattooed ankle. Oh great, just what I want. I told her it wasn't finished, that I still needed to get "and China Blue" added to the 伍佰. Then she ran the camera up my body - crap! I hate, hate, hate having photos of myself taken, not to mention a video camera in my hot, sweaty face! I guess the novelty of having a foreign fan who's this crazy about Wu Bai & China Blue hasn't quite worn off yet.
I bantered a few words with Dino, who was on the end of the table closest to me. Then came Da Mao, who greeted me with a big smile and a "nice to see you" in English, then Xiao Zhu, who calls me 老師 (teacher) since they know I'm Guoxi's English tutor. I asked him if his English was improving and he laughed, saying it was non-existent. I love these guys!
Then the moment I'd been anticipating and half-dreading: face to face with Wu Bai. I was so worried he'd say something in Chinese that I wouldn't understand, because I still have this problem of not understanding when people talk to me sometimes. I managed to squeak out, "Over five years, and I'm finally standing here." in Chinese. He then shocked me completely by asking what my name was. I mean, dude, how many foreigner fans do you have who queue in line for days to stand right in front of you at concerts? And I'm pretty sure your mom must have mentioned me to you a few times, hm? So, my tone of voice when I said, "I'm Ma La!" was a bit incredulous. However, he didn't hesitate at all when writing "To 瑪拉" on the CD, and since there are quite a few ways you could actually write those sounds and he knew the correct one, I eventually convinced myself that he was probably just making 100% sure I was who he thought I was (you know, we white folks all look alike, and I'm not blonde like I used to be, got red hair now). Then he asked me where I lived. What, not gonna ask for my phone number? No, I guess with the guard dog (i.e., wife) standing at his back that wouldn't have been a good idea. ;) And then I got the beaming smile (damn him for hiding his eyes behind those ridiculous sunglasses) and the handshake. Awwwwww. Later, as I checked other fans' CDs, I saw that no one else had a personalized one, so I felt kinda special. Of course, there might have been some that I didn't see, but still. He wrote my name
We waited around for Nat and Xiao Niu to get through the line, then decided we'd stay until the end just in case they were going to perform again. Caroline hadn't gotten her CD signed, so at the last minute she decided to go up at the tail end of the line, and I went along with her, taking another CD with me. Dino laughed when he saw me again, and I think Wu Bai was a little surprised, too. Well, that look on his face could have been leftover from seeing Caroline's ample bosom in the low-cut tank top, ha. I'll bet all the guys appreciated that! If she had been wearing a nurse's uniform, she would have made Wu Bai's day. You know he has some weird obsession with women in nurse's uniforms, don't you? Well, you do now.
So, how do I feel about finally touching the man I think is the most beautiful creature on Earth? Well.....it's weird. I don't know if I expected sparks or something, but it was so very ordinary, no pounding heart, no drool escaping down my chin. Perhaps it was just the quickness of the whole thing, a few fleeting seconds of contact. I get more of an afterglow and a high at the end of a concert! I can't say it was a letdown or anything, but it certainly wasn't what I'd imagined it would be. On some level that soothes me, makes me know that I'm not so caught up in a fantasy that I can't see reality. I think I'm sort of happy that I felt so comfortable in front of him, not really nervous, just as natural as I am with Dino, Xiao Zhu, and Da Mao. I think that means that Wu Bai is the sort of person I could be friends with. Despite the way his management wants to promote him as the "Emperor of Rock," he didn't give off those "I'm so much better than you." vibes, and watching him as he signed CD after CD, smiling at his fans, sharing a few words with them, just made me happy all over.
OK, right then, now I need to tell you how much friggin' trouble it was to get a visa.
The whole fiasco of getting a health exam done could take up pages. Let's just say that it wasn't easy, and I ended up making three trips to the hospital before I managed to get it done. I had my letter of enrollment from the school, I had my letter from my Taiwan bank stating that I had almost twice the required amount of cash to support myself during my study, I had my visa application completed with photos attached, I had my letter explaining why I was studying Chinese and why I didn't need to work because I had the money from selling my house to support me for years to come. I was ready.
Got to Hong Kong on a late flight on Monday the 30th, after dropping DZ off at the vet for boarding and spaying. By the time the airport bus got me to Tai Po and Terry and Cheryl picked me up, it was close to midnight. Thank goodness for friends who are willing to go out of their way for me! Stayed up chatting with Cheryl, who was off work that week, but Terry had to hit the sack.
Tuesday Cheryl and I headed over to Hong Kong island so I could apply for the visa. Found the visa office, after getting off on the wrong floor and a bit of slight panic when the office was not there, and there was no one waiting. Cool. Got right up to the lady and handed her all my stuff. Then she asked for my driver's license from the US. Uh....I don't have it with me. I don't drive in Taiwan.
Her: "But you need to have proof of your US address."
Me: "But, I moved and don't even have the same address as on my license." (I'm using my dad's address as my US one since I sold my house.)
Her: "It's one of the requirements. Where are your bank statements?"
Me: "What? I have the letter from the bank showing how much is in there."
Her: "That's not enough. Do you have your bankbook?"
Me: "Yeah, here. Most of my money is still in my US bank."
Her: "Can you bring a bank statement?"
Me: "Well, yeah, I can print it from the website this evening."
Her: "Fine, bring that back tomorrow. And since you have the same US address written on your HK immigration form and inside your passport, we'll take that."
Me: "OK, thanks.
Wah! Stupid, I was so stupid. I completely missed the "proof of residence" on the instructions, because I got sidetracked by the "HK ID photocopy not required for non-Hong Kong residents." That was an idiotic thing. But the bank thing? I thought I had that covered.
Back at Cheryl's that evening I printed my last statement. Then I decided to print the prior two months, just in case. Good thing, because when I went back on Wednesday and said I'd brought the statement they wanted, the lady asked me if I had three months' worth! Then she told me to wait. So, Cheryl and I waited. And waited. And waited.
Eventually, a door opened and a woman called me in to a little room. Then the third degree commenced. Why haven't you been in school since the end of May? I had to explain about my prior school saying they thought they could work out their problems, and I was hoping to be able to return there. Where does your money come from? Well, like I wrote in the letter, I sold my house. How much did you sell the house for? I told her how much, not that that was how much I received, but hey, she didn't ask me that. Why do you have all these daily deposits of $15,000NT or $16,000NT? Because I can only take out $500US per day from my US account, so I go get the cash, then I walk into the bank and deposit it. Just look at the bank book and compare it with my bank statements, and you'll see they're done on the say day. Duh.
Then she told me that I'd already studied Chinese for a long time, and why did I need more. Excuse me? One year of studying Chinese doesn't even scratch the surface! I told her that I want to attend university here to pursue a degree in Asian studies and language, but that right now I'd never be able to understand the instructions. Also, I have aspirations to be an interpreter, and that requires years of study! By this time my stomach was in knots, and I was sure they were going to tell me no. She even asked me why I didn't go to Mainland China. Since I wasn't sure she was actually a Taiwan national, I didn't want to tell the truth, which is, "My god, that's a communist country with zero freedom, why the hell would I go there?" So, I told the other truth, which is that Mainland China has no Wu Bai & China Blue. Guess that worked, because I did get my visa.
Now, Cheryl and I hadn't eaten yet (those cheese Ritz didn't count), and it was after 3:00 p.m. The day before we'd gone to a great Mexican restaurant called Coyote for lunch, and we knew they were having happy hour now, so we headed over for some celebratory margaritas and food. It was expensive, $289HK, which is about $37US, but it was worth it. I can't get decent Mexican food in Taiwan, and a real margarita? Sppff, no way. We then went over to Marks and Spencer, where we had quite an enjoyable time making fun of the clothes, almost as much fun as we'd had in Starbucks the day before, looking at the Elle Magazine fashion photos. Almost giggled myself off the chair a couple of times with that. Most laughable were the bras, so heavily padded for those teeny little mosquito bites that pass for breasts on so many of the Asian gals.
The rest of my Hong Kong visit was spent watching Bollywood and Korean flicks with Cheryl, interspersed with a bit of the second season of "Little Britain." Met Doris for dinner on Thursday and had some good Shanghai-style food that was pretty inexpensive. Took off early Friday morning with Terry so he could drop me at the bus stop, landed in Taiwan at 1:00 p.m. Had to go to the visa office at the airport to get the actual visa attached to my passport, and that little delay resulted in me being stuck in a crowd of Japanese tourists waiting to get through immigration. Lordy, six planes must have landed at once! It took over an hour to finally get through, and my suitcase was sitting forlornly next to the luggage carousel when I got there. Got the bus back into town, took the MRT from Yuanshan home, dropped my suitcase (which, by the way, had been damaged and now the pull handle barely works) off, and headed to the vet to get DZ.
This was DZ's first time away from home. I didn't have much choice, can't keep asking friends to travel half an hour to feed my cat, and she needed to be spayed. Vet said she was a wild bundle of claws every time he went near her, which resulted in said claws being clipped. Also, their two cats were very curious about DZ and kept going over to her cage, which agitated her, so instead of locking their cats up in their cage, the vet put newspaper over the front of DZ's cage, so she was always in the dark. Gotta tell you I'm not real happy about that. She was completely traumatized, and it wasn't easy for me to get her out of the cage. Once I got her home, she was much better, but I got a few bites from her as she let me know exactly how she felt. I have to take her back today to get the stitches out, and that's not gonna be fun. Speaking of which, I need to go, it's getting late. Outta here.