Chinese Nightmare before Christmas (EN)

********** Die deutsche Version von diesem Post gibt’s HIER ************

We are currently floating somewhere in between the Christmas holidays and the end of the Gregorian calendar. Nobody is quite sure what day it is. Only the re-opening of shops and stores let one guess that the main gluttony – that the holidays undoubtedly are –  is over and the town is becoming alive again. The presumably most peaceful time of the year oftentimes becomes the most stressful. But I’m going to spare you with sentimentalism of if and why we don’t even celebrate Christmas for its original reason and values anymore. That one is for another day. Because to the loyal readers (and surprisingly enough, there actually appear to be a few rare ones out there) I still owe a Christmas story of my own. I realize some might have heard that story being told already once or twice (and if you were lucky enough to hear it already feel free to skip to the second part of this blogpost) but there might be a few who are curious and have not heard the story of how I had to ransom myself out of China for 40.000€. (Btw probably one of the sentences I’ve said the most over the course of the last couple of weeks!)

I’ve already teased some of it in previous posts but as a disclaimer: since this is a Christmas Story the beginning might be ridiculously outrageous but there will indeed be a Happy End. Maybe a couple of plot twists and – in the name of Philisophbear – a few drops of knowledge.

But let me start at the beginning of this wild ride, that the last four months most certainly turned out to be. Those of you who have been reading my blog since last year might remember the (presumably) more or less harmless bicycle accident I was involved in last year in September. I haven’t heard anything of it ever since and thought, it may be all water under the bridge already. But as the Beijingers among you certainly know, the winters in Beijing are dry and not much water runs anywhere. When I unsuspectingly returned to Beijing this past August in order to start my second year at BSB, the first evil tidings were already waiting for me. A co-worker of mine who kindly helped me the day of the accident was informed that a letter from the Chaoyang District People’s Court was on its way to school, content to be determined. So let’s wait and see and in the meantime have some Jasmine tea. (cuz I’m right at the source ya know).

Fast forward to a good month and a half later, end of September: Said colleague gets a call from the court. Allegedly I had refused to accept the letter from court and had also refused to answer any attempts they made to call me on my phone which is why I am being summoned to appear at the People’s Court for a reading of said letter. Ummm, alrighty. Since the letter was never delivered to me in person and Chinese authorities wrote down a 1 in my phone number as a 7 I could have hardly accepted calls to a wrong number or the letter. But anyhow… One doesn’t simply defy the Chinese government (insert Boromir meme here) so a week later I followed the summon, and together with a colleague as a translator (Shoutout to my amazingly helpful colleague Wenqiao) made my way over to the court. After a short but thorough security check I was invited into an empty court hall by a very sour and seemingly annoyed court clerk who proceeded to read the content of the letter which Wenqiao kindly translated: Supposedly the Chinese gentleman who got injured during the accident had to admit himself to the hospital two days after the accident without any feeling in his extremities and consequently had to undergo spinal surgery. Since I had already been deemed guilty on the the night of the accident (quite frankly, probably rightfully so) I am to compensate the plaintiff for his medical bills and other potential compensation costs.

Right. Time to take a deep breath because it gets even better: Until the whole civil lawsuit is over or until I decide to pay a deposit of roughly 8000€ I am officially banned from leaving the People’s Republic of China! That’s right. Let that sink in for a moment. Travelban, being stuck in China for an unforeseeable time and getting properly bent over by the victim of the accident. Think what you like but most people that have heard this story up until this point came up with words like “scam”, “con” and “milking for money”. Sometimes you do hear similar stories on the news or read about it online but you never really expect it to happen to you. Also, a travel ban is especially useful when you find out about it a week before your planned trip to Indonesia. Not as if that would ever happen to me… So after a short dispute with the sour and ice-cold court clerk there was no other way than accepting my fate, canceling my holiday and finding a lawyer for the rest of this fun ride. According to said lawyer I could have even tried to catch my flight and might have been able to get away with it but my balls only get this big…

The following weeks were spent with a) trying to find out how much money this dude is actually going to get from be, b) how I am going to acquire the money to pay the bozo and c) how to get rid of this ridiculous travel ban until December in time for my holidays back home.

In terms of b) let me mention my impudent luck of having the two wisest and bestestest parents in the world who were smart enough to close a liability insurance deal for me just a few months before this whole thing started. Shoutout at this point to Allianz insurance who were genuinely helpful, supportive and accommodating throughout this whole ordeal. Coming up with the money was luckily temporarily not a major concern anymore (note the temporarily in this sentence).

In terms of a) it was unclear for quite some time how much money the good sir from the Middle Kingdom is supposed to get. In the beginning I had the understanding that he is going to get the 8000 Euroes and is currently being evaluated for permanent disability. In which case the compensation would become significantly higher. Since the guy initially did not agree to a settlement the court decided a judicial assessment would be necessary to determine how severe the injuries are and how much they are connected to the accident.

This judicial assessment was also the reason why c) was not as easy to figure out as I had hoped. After talking to my insurance and my lawyer we had decided to pay the deposit of roughly 8000€ in order to guarantee the travel ban will be lifted so I can go home over the Christmas holidays. But since just that would have been too easy (plus I have always been a good obstacle course runner), the People’s Court decided to increase the necessary deposit from 8000 to a mere 38.000€. The official reasoning: because of the running judicial assessment and the looming higher compensation payments 8000€ are simply not enough of a deposit. Alright, take a deep breath again. I have to admit that at this point for the first time during this ordeal my inner vulcano was stirring. My poor lawyer, who was really just the messenger had to cope with my emotional volcano eruption but in the end that hurdle in the race had to be accepted too.

Another fast forward to mid November. Allianz happily agreed to go on and make a higher payment and quite promptly initiated a transfer to my Chinese bank account so I could redirect the money to the Court. The only catch: Bank of China was just a teensy-tinsy bit less cooperative than anybody else and turned out to be one single clusterfuck of a spanner in the works. Apparently all sums of 5000€ and higher are routinely checked for fraud investigations (admittedly rightfully so). In practice that unfortunately means that the insurance’s transfer got stuck with BOC for a good 4 weeks and I was not able to re-transfer any money anywhere. Thanks. For. Nothing.

At this point I was pretty much already running out of time. The planned flight was getting closer and closer but what would a plan be without a B or a C. The knight in shining armor was in this case the consul of Austria in Beijing. Even though the dear diplomats at the Austrian embassy “do not own a diplomatic wand” to help with cases like mine and have been – diplomatically spoken – “quite useless” up until this point, they came in clutch in the end. As a last minute resort they suggested that I could – of course by way of exception – create a money depot with the Austrian Foreign Ministry which would then enable me to pick up the money in cash from the Austrian Embassy in Beijing. A few phone calls, Mails and one money depot late and TAAADAAAAA Two weeks before my planned flight I find myself holding 3 big fat stacks of 100-Kuai bills worth 300.000 RMB. (Of course they weren’t handed over by the consul directly because he was busy “hiking the Great wall”. On a Tuesday.) My parents suggested that I get bodyguards for the bank transfer but in the end I managed with just a designated driver (Shoutout to my lovely colleague and Beijing-Fostermom, Silke) and my lawyer to head over to the bank. After what felt like half an hour for counting the bills I was finally able to make the transfer to the court

The next few days basically consisted of a lot of wood-knocking and fingers-crossing by my whole famoly in order to retrieve the prodigal son but: IN THE END IT WAS ALL GOOD! A full two days before my flight I had the official confirmation by court that I would be able to go home for Christmas. It’s a holly jolly Christmas and Hallelujah. What an ending to a Christmas story!

(PS: In the meantime it has been determined that the Chinese gentleman did not carry away a permanent disability however will be granted roughly 12000€ of compensations. I’ll take that. Please and thank you.)

********* Now this is the part where everyone who actually skipped the story should feel invited to start reading again!  ************

What does one take away from such a semi/fun experience with the judiciary system  in a foreign country where barely anyone can communicate with you? Mainly and most certainly: a good story and something to talk about at various family- and christmas gatherings/reunions and a fine chapter for the autobiography. However, that is just the very top of the moral iceberg. There were indeed a few other lessons I was able to take away and if you’ve still got a couple of minutes you are very welcome to take away the next few rather philosophical paragraphs. Beware of the knowledge drop!

A famous chef, who has taken his own life a few months back, once said life is like a theme park. You singlehandedly get to decide which roller coasters to take but the exciting ones all have rapid up- and downswings and if you’re lucky enough it goes in a looping. (Some of that might have actually been said by me but you get the point!)

The point I’m trying to get across – and have already touched in the previous couple of blog posts – is that I believe one has to center themself in way that downswings, bloopers and mistakes, obstacles and unforeseen events can’t get to you or even hurt you. Such bloopers, mistakes and obstacles can actually make you stronger as long as you take something away and learn something from them. I’m aware, that my personal story is not among the worst things that can happen to you but for me personally it has been one of the lower downswings in my life so far.

Regardless I would like to claim, that I have managed to stay mostly positive during this civil lawsuit and present myself in a positive manner. One still has professional obligations and private commitments that still have to be taken care of even if you are in a shit situation. That only works out if you don’t let obstacles and setbacks take you down. Of course that is oftentimes easier said than done but I think there are only two really crucial things to be considered (thanks to Gusl for the wisdom!) On one hand it is the right attitude and mindset that I have already mentioned. You’re gonna get out of it and it’s going uphill again at some point. And, even though I can’t really believe I’m saying this, sometimes it also just needs a little bit of faith. I am not saying that has to be faith in God or some other higher entity, just faith that every situation, no matter how shitty it seems, is going to get better again.

On the other hand it is about the people that you surround yourself with. At this point a MEGA shoutout to the two people, who are at fault that I even exist. I genuinely wish every person out there had such a positive, supporting, patient and enduring family as I am lucky to have. Without the backup and the support of my parents, there is no way I could’ve gotten away as easily as I did. You are the real MVPs of this story! Without you I would probably vegetate on my couch in Beijing! Thank you so much for being in my life! But not only my parents and the whole (greater) family was being supportive the whole time. On top of that I am incredibly lucky to have such great colleagues at BSB that are always willing to help when needed. Shoutout to you, BSB staff! And shoutout to all the other people that were being supportive and helped with positive words and vibes. Even if it might sound cheesy, I am 100% certain your “thoughts and prayers” have helped!

So in the end I was able to return to the beautiful city of Graz and a lot of people have asked me, whether I am actually planning on going back to China after what happened. The simple answer is yes! I still have to finish the school year and my contract. Let alone that reason, the answer would have still been yes and even if it might sound a bit nuts: I am still not really sure if China wouldn’t deserve a second chance  and what is going to happen after the summer. Because there was a second great advice I was able to take away from the last couple of months (Thanks Fadderen for that one): It is the sum of all your wild rides that make or break your visit to the amusement parks and even chinese roller coasters can be very appealing.

Until I have to make that decision in a week I am going to enjoy every single moment at home. Because after all, the Christmas time is to most peaceful and wonderful time of the year. Especially when you get to spend it at home with your family and friends after such a long ordeal. If anything, it is a positive kind of stress that you get, when you try to meet up with everybody before the holidays. When you can only move by rolling around from all the family feasts. When you have to finish your Christmas-Foodie list of death before you have to return to Far Far Away land. Because ya know: home, sweet home!

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In that regard, I hope that you have been all rolling merrily through the holidays and I don’t really have anything left to say which is why I am closing this last blogpost of the twothousandandeightteenth year of the gregorian calendar. For me personally, it has been a very eventful, oftentimes amazing but not always easy, yet very rewarding year that I wouldn’t want to miss. I am very excited for what the new year has to offer. With all its resolutions and its up- and downswings. To all of you, who have made it this far I would like to wish all the best for the newest attraction of the amusement park: “2019 – the ride”! Enjoy it with all its inclines and declines, its accelerations and loopings.

Take care and one last smooch on the belly in 2018,

Your friendly Neighborhood Bear.

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