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I Can Drive in China
originally posted June 18, 2010 

It took four tries, but I finally managed to pass the written part of the Chinese driver's test, with a little translation help from my friend Winkle.  The test is far more difficult than I would have expected.  I have to thanks all my Chinese friends who helped me get through this - Chen, George, Wang Yijing, and Winkle.  Oh yes, and Shirley in the administration office who helped get the paperwork together.  It took a collaborative effort.

I don't need a driver's license, but I've had one since the day I turned sixteen.  I feel insecure without one.

So that's done.  I can now legally drive in China.  Not that I think I'm going to any time soon.  I really like having Chen drive me around and he always seems to be available.  It's like having our own limo standing by.  Also, I want to be more fluent with the language before I do any driving.  But I do like having the license.

Getting a Chinese Driver's License

I've decided to get a Chinese driver's license.  Not that I really want to drive anything in China, but I've had a valid driver's license since the day after I turned sixteen, and it seems strange not to have one here.  Seeing my new friend Barry and his wife Cory with their little van inspired me to investigate, and before I knew what I was doing I'd been to the office to get my Canadian license translated into Chinese..

Getting a Chinese driver's license, first step.  Translation of Canadian license.  Wuxi, China  Getting a Chinese driver's license, second step, the information desk. What papers do I need? Wuxi, China
The license translation office, followed by the information desk at the Motor Vehicles License office.

...then to yet another office to get my picture taken and then yet another office to find out what paperwork I needed,  . That sent me back to my university administration office to get my official residence permit, which the helpful staff quickly procured for me.  Then, the following week, back to the motor vehicles license office to be sent to yet another office to get pictures taken, and a third office for medical tests that included vision, reaction time, and strength. 

Okay, where next? Getting a Chinese driver's license, the paperwork lady.  Wuxi, China

Getting a Chinese driver's license, the color blindness test.  Wuxi, China Getting a Chinese driver's license, the night vision test.  Wuxi, China Getting a Chinese driver's license, the hearing test.  Wuxi, China

Getting a Chinese driver's license, the reaction time test.  Wuxi, China  Getting a Chinese driver's license, the necessary red stamps all over the paperwork.  Wuxi, China

All that's left is for me to pass the written test.  Apparently having a valid Canadian license means I won't need to take a road test.

The shiny new Motor Vehicle Licensing office, Wuxi, China
The Motor Vehicle license bureau in Wuxi.  Sparkling new building just opened.

But that's where the problem came in.  It's a timed test, sixty minutes for a hundred questions, with questions along the lines of how many centimeters should you be from the curb when you park. 

View from the second floor on Ruth reading her book while she waits for me in the Wuxi Motor Vehcle License office, Wuxi, China  I had lots of help from my friends to get the paperwork together.
Ruth waits patiently reading her book while Wang Yijing and Xiao Chen get me paperwork together.

Halfway through the test, the electricians wiring up the office next door blew a breaker and shut down my computer.  I was hoping the computer would lose my test, so that I could claim I had just passed it when the power went off, but no such luck.  The auto save brought it back up when the power came on.

Here I am, about to fail the written portion of the test.  Tricky questions.  A team effort, but they failed too.  License test, Wuxi, China

I needed 90 points out of a hundred.  I got 70.  It was small comfort that the three other people taking the test also failed it.  Now I have some studying to do, and I'll be back the Friday after next.

And Driving in China - Port of A Christmas in China Story
originally posted December 27, 2010

To make a good story you need events, funny moments, problems, disasters.  This story has none of those things.  Thank goodness.  I was worried.  This was my first time driving in China.  Finally I made use of my Chinese drivers license. 
On Thursday I got our favourite driver to take me to the rental place to do the paperwork.  Then on Friday, Christmas Eve right after class I collected the car, drove it back to the campus to pick up Ruth and together we packed up the dog, dog house, dog food and dog toys, a guitar, a violin, a mandolin, an erhu, and a set of harmonicas, plus two bottles of rum, a bottle of whiskey, two boxes of cream, (ingredients for the eggnog) a selection of both Ruth's delicious home made and not so delicious but acceptable store bought sugar cookies, two packages of shortbread to go with two bottles of sherry, assorted small Christmas presents, and enough essential electronics to outfit a space shuttle.  Off we went to Nantong, about an hour and a half away, for a traditional Canadian turkey dinner on Christmas Day.  And from then on it was uneventful, if you want to call turning out perfect uneventful.

Picture:  The agent points out a scratch on the Honda rental car.  Wuxi, China Picture:  The agent points out a scratch on the Honda rental car.  Wuxi, China Picture:  The agent points out a scratch on the Honda rental car.  Wuxi, China
Chinese Word of the Day:  租  (zū) v. rent; lease

When I picked up the car, the rental agent went over the vehicle and photographed every little scratch.  This became my biggest worry as I ventured into Chinese traffic.  I would much have preferred to pay for comprehensive insurance, and not worry if the vehicle got dinged.  Aside from the fact that, predictably, the car was very dirty, stunk of cigarettes, and the ashtray was full, it was a good vehicle.  Well, okay, the GPS gave me a white screen and then refused to do anything at all, including shut itself off.  The ashtray wasn't so much full as seemed to be missing the lining, but the hole had been used anyway so the butts couldn't be easily emptied.  The passenger side interior light was burned out, giving me no confidence in the maintenance level.  But it got us to Nantong and back, so what's to complain about.
     Nantong traffic is hairy, with rules of the road considered just suggestions and flocks of e-bikes riding through red lights and head on into opposing traffic.  It's more like driving a boat in a crowded harbor than driving a car on a road.  Great fun if your nerves can handle it.

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