Posted by: thelocaldialect | July 13, 2010

Kunming Kunming

Tomorrow we’re headed back to Kunming for what is quickly becoming an annual trip. We’re doing it by train, with both the kids, because tickets are really pricey at this time of the year and Dylan, nearing 3 years old, cannot fly for free anymore. So once more we’re braving 40+ hours on the train, covering a great many of China’s provinces, crossing the Yangzi river, in order to spend some time in “our” hometown.

This time while in Kunming we have several important tasks. The first one is to get the kids exit permits so that they can (fingers crossed) make a visit to America next year. They need exit permits because, as American citizens born in China, they have American passports that are completely blank, no visas. Since they can’t exit the country on blank passports (apparently, although personally I don’t see why not …) the local public security bureau has to issue them one time exit permits. The next important task is to get several documents that Wang Yao will need in order to process his application for a green card. While we haven’t decided 100% on the timing of Wang Yao’s greencard application, getting one for him seems unavoidable. There’s no other good way, at the moment, to allow him to travel back and forth between both countries. We have to plan this green card thing carefully though, because once you have a green card you’re supposed to have the intention of staying in America, so if we don’t have that intention yet, then there’s not much use in getting him one. But we’re going to get the documents anyhow, because things seem to be, for the time being, pointing in that direction.

Of course we’re also super excited to see family and friends who we haven’t seen in a year. I’m particularly happy about seeing my old partners in crime, Mike and Lesley. Mike and I used to get into no ends of trouble in Kunming and he is one of the few of my original gang of friends, who I met on a School for International Training study abroad program, still remaining in Kunming. Another of my OG Kunming buddies is Lesley, a fellow UT grad who is working on her PhD in Anthropology at Cornell and is now doing fieldwork in Kunming. My SIT friends and I initially only spent a semester together in Kunming as undergrads, but the situation was incredibly lifechanging and we’ve formed lifelong friendships which started as something China based but grew into something much richer.

Also on tap are visits to the hometown and Dali, if we can squeeze a trip in. Going back to Kunming is always a bit bittersweet because it was my home for so long and I still am incredibly attached to the place. Somewhere deep down I always feel like it is where I belong, but right now living there is just not realistic for our family, so Kunming has to just be a place we visit and hopefully one day we’ll be back there permanently, even if it is when we’re old and grey.

Anyhow, wish us luck on our massive train trip. We did it last year with only one kid, but now there are two! At least Xiao Yu will be with us on the way there (she’ll not be rejoining us in Beijing, but more on that in another post) so we’ll have three pairs of eyes on the two kiddos.

See you on the other side!


  1. Oh wow. A lot’s been happening since you last posted hey? 40 hours on a train to start a holiday. I will never complain about 24 hours door to door again! Good luck, have a great time and can’t wait to here all about it when you get back (and photos- looove your photos!)

  2. You’re absolutely right that you’ve got to be careful about the green card timing. A friend got one for his wife, and now they are obligated to make expensive yearly trips back to the US to meet a quota of days spent there each summer (to show “intention”). He regrets getting one so early, since they would like to stay in China for a few more years. Our family, we’ve just gotten tourist visas for my wife whenever we need to visit the States, which are good for a year and get easier to apply for each time because they’re more likely to believe she’ll return to China. She’s on her 3rd tourist visa now. So, yeah, think the timing over very carefully.

  3. Hello. I found your blog from googling maternity leave for foreigners teaching in China, and stayed for a good read! I am returning to China myself to take up a teaching position for the second time, and perhaps for a long term stint. You provide some great information about living in China, which is very helpful.
    I have Rss’ed and look forward to reading more.
    Best regards,

  4. I’ve always wanted to visit Yunan with Kumming, Lijian and, of course, Shangrila! Your attachment to the place is understandable.
    I’m a naturalized US citizen but I do remember relatives with green cards who did not move over here. They had to come into the country every year, file tax returns and all that. Something to think about.

  5. Hey! I remember reading your blog awhile ago and enjoying it. I just got into a relationship with Chinese guy, so I scrambled off to find your blog. Took forever, but I finally found it again. Hope you post more often.


  6. Wow. You are incredible brave to take two kids on such a long train ride. The upside–at least your 3 year old can get up from time to time and get some wiggles out. My husband and I travel yearly from the United States to Spain and the 14 hour plane trip is miserable for our 3 year old. He has to stay in his seat for way too long and causes mischief when he is allowed to get in the aisle (think pulling out ear phone cords of four passengers before I get to him). I hope the train ride proves easier! At least the baby will sleep a lot!
    Also, my husband applied for a green card while we were living in Spain and it took nearly a year (and several trips to the Embassy) to process. Granted Bureaucracy in Spain moves slower than in the U.S. but probably faster than China. Green cards initially are issued for two years, so you could travel easily during these two years if you were not concerned about renewing. Good luck!

  7. You are so lucky your husband’s hometown is in Kunming, it is so beautiful there! Even if you can’t live there, it is nice to be able to regularly visit a place where you have so many memories.

    Be careful on the timing of the green card, with your situation, it will only take a couple of months (around 3) to process and then you have 6 months to use it. Don’t apply until you are really ready to leave.

  8. Wow I’m way late on this but so interesting to read your comments on the green card as we have to get one for my husband (in Japan) before we leave for America permanently but no idea for the time of that.

    Guess we can commiserate on the paperwork and stress that comes with it together 😛

    • With your husband coming from Japan it’ll probably be a bit easier, but I think the process can be pretty long and drawn out in any case, so definitely get started on it ahead of time so that when the time comes you’ll be able to move together!

  9. Our internet is bad and I finally got your site to open for the first time since June. Glad you survived your long train rides!
    I was just wondering if got some form to fill out for your kids that says that they give up thier Chinese citizenship and won’t ever try to get a hu kou? We didn’t know about this and when we tried to get our son his visa to return to China at the Chicago consulate, they refused to give him one because we lacked this document.
    So now he’s back in China, still nothing in his US passport, and some Chinese travel booklet. Not sure which citizenship he legally is at this point!

    • Wow, thanks for the heads up! I hadn’t heard of such a thing either but now I’m going to look into it!

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