Inner Mongolia registrar

Jet-Set Wedding (Part 5) – Excuse me, can we get a divorce here?


So, the man himself finally arrived and it was time to begin. We followed him into his plain office that could have just been any other old office, the only indication that it wasn’t being a humungous, round and red sign, which read “Marriage Registration” in English, Chinese and Mongolian propped up precariously on a coffee table in the most random fashion imaginable.
The registrar was an incredibly unceremonious and unenthusiastic man in his thirties who after merely glancing at those documents it had been such a hassle for us to procure started chucking forms at us to fill out. They were entirely in Chinese and both Mr. Li and I had to fill out our own copy including partner’s job, address etc, due to which practically all the information was duplicated. I wonder what would happen if the foreign partner is unable to write Chinese characters, as the registrar seemed to insist we each fill out our own sheet of paper; fun!
At this point the whole excitement of the entire day, probably worsened by the fact that I kept vlogging any insignificant piece of information (that is modern lingo for recording everything on video with my phone while giving running commentary), came crashing down on me and suddenly writing a couple of Chinese characters seemed incredibly difficult and gave me a severe headache (not the figurative kind).
After handing in our sheets of paper, the registrar input all the information into his Lenovo computer, once he had finally managed to read Tong’s mother’s name. Since it is a very old and not commonly used character, most Chinese people are unable to read it and believe it is a traditional character rather than a simplified one. An easier version of Chinese characters was introduced in 1949 under Mao on the mainland to make communication easier and combat China’s concerningly high illiteracy rate. Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan still maintain the traditional system, which in my personal opinion is a lot more aesthetic, but infinitely more difficult to master and hence less practical.
In Tong’s mum’s case it is truly just a fact that she as a very uncommon and complex looking surname, which often causes problems when she needs to “describe” her character or has official business to do (you cannot really spell a Chinese word, rather you describe the components of the character, e.g. 婧, a common given name for girls would be “woman”(the left bit 女) plus “green”(the right part青)). In the end, our friend, the rigid registrar managed to locate the character in his Chinese typing software and all was good with the world.
He printed out two electronic copies of our marriage application, sticking one of our little red wedding pictures on each paper. We then had to not only sign this document, but also add our fingerprint with red ink, which I felt was rather dramatic, or symbolic of how marriage and jail are not dissimilar institutions for the glass-half-empty philosophers among us.
Thus, it was done as the registrar handed us our little red wedding booklets; plural because you receive two booklets, one for each spouse and in it the name of the owner of the booklet comes first. So in my case it reads my name and sex and below details that I am married to Mr.Li, who is male (quelle surprise).
The registrar was less than enthusiastic about our proffered bag filled with German sweets; the ungrateful b…ureaucrat, but what can you do? In the glamorous life of a Hohhot foreign registrar, a couple of Nimm 2 and Schokobons simply fail to impress.
He did then make the nice gesture of offering to take a picture of the two of us together with our booklets, with the white wall in the background; not as Chinese tradition has it at a brown podium with a red cloth background; if you are going to the special foreigners marriage office, you don’t get the special red curtain, I mean who do you think you are? Mao?
We were just gathering our belongings, after we had completely destroyed the formerly neat office, it looked a bit like a bomb went off with all our documents and goodie bags and clothing strewn across the place, when there was a slightly awkward moment as a couple walked in, by the looks of it in their early twenties, asking whether they could get a divorce here. Mother-in-law of course interpreted this as a bad sign for our marriage sent from the heavens, while I just found it all rather hilarious. Suffice it to say, the young ex-lovers where in the wrong office, even the wrong province as it turned out, what with him being originally from Henan, or one of the other H provinces and them having tied the knot there. As I always say, one of China’s provinces is equal to an entire country in Europe, be that in terms of food, language and as it seems even divorces.

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