Friday, October 08, 2010

Persnickety Lee

Step 3 has been causing us a bit of a problem. After writing and translating fourteen pages of documentation and 5 face-to-face office visits, we weren’t any closer to getting approval from the woman in charge of the paperwork (who we have nicknamed Persnickety Lee). She just kept sending us back every time, and mostly for very small details(she commented on font size and other formatting issues. We are intelligent young women who can professionally format things in our own culture, but even that is different here).

By the end of five office visits, K and I both felt beaten down; we were incredibly discouraged at the length of time that this step had been taking, and the total lack of encouragement from the officials.

About an hour later, I called K. I t old her said that when I went to the office, Persnickety Lee was in a meeting, so I had to waited outside in the hallway until the meeting was done. While I was standing there, a minority woman (who we’ll call Helpful Hebiba) that I had met on two previous visits happened to come walking by. She and I struck up a conversation in her Uyghur, and several other office workers, surprised that a foreigner could speak their language, came out to listen. They all agreed that we should have gotten approval long ago,
but weren’t sure what could be done.

At that moment, the meeting ended and the office door opened. I and a gaggle of minority women all swept in together. Persnickety Lee was surprised to see so many Uyghur office workers there. Hebiba and the minority workers immediately began to talk me up (switching back to the main business language for Lee’s benefit), saying what a hard worker I am, how my business would be really beneficial to the province, and how many languages I spoke (I’m pretty sure she mentioned “Korean” and “Spanish” as part of that list, but at that point I was happy to have someone else talking).

When Lee began to nitpick through the forms again (“really, points 3 and 4 should be switched if you wanted the document to be perfect”), I started to get upset and tried to explain that this was my fifth visit, and that everything required by law was in the pile of documents, but Hebiba whispered to me(in Uyghur) to let her handle it. Hebiba then went on to explain, in her most flattering tones, that of course Lee wanted everything to be perfect, and that was completely understandable, but couldn’t she make an exception just this once, seeing as there was another holiday coming up and this cute little foreign girl had worked so hard? In the end, Persnickety Lee stamped the necessary documents, and Hebiba, myself, and the rest of the Uyghur workers trickled back into the hallway.

So we’re going to continue with the step-by-step process of opening a business. I’ll keep you posted as we work through the next 32 steps, hopefully a lot faster.

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