Saturday, October 07, 2006

True Colours

After almost six months of being a human football, kicked around by low level civil servants at the DNI office, Zoe's problem has finally been resolved by the DNI office's in-house legal counsel.

It all turned out to be a pointless storm in a tea cup stirred up by some clerk on a power trip. Contradicting the floor staff, their own legal dept. recognises Hong Kong as a legitimate answer to where Zoe was born. The blank could now be filled in by a robotic clerk and problem solved.

I can't imagine how my friend feels. She made numerous trips downtown to this office, had countless dead end discussions in Spanish with a bunch of clerks which led no where.

Then one day, her English boyfriend who speaks not one word of Spanish decided to put on a suit and accompanied her. All of a sudden, everyone was all ears; willing and able. It was on that particular trip that they suggested to Mr T, her boyfriend, that they would seek resolution from their own legal counsel. Zoe might as well be transparent.

When another English friend recounted to me how the DNI officer handling his application was extra nice and helpful while whinging to him about having it up to her ears with all other applicants, mostly illegal Chino residents, I smiled. We are all guilty of it at some point, you know, using our charm or looks to help things along a little. If being blond with boyish good looks could get him his DNI faster, why not, I say good on him. I didn't really think about how those who were treated badly would feel; at least not then.

On the back of this solution to Zoe's problem, my own DNI was also ready for collection. All I needed was 2 passport photos of me in a side shot with blue (azul/ celeste) background. Any local photo shop knows how to do that.

After an hour of waiting, my name was finally called for me to present my photos to a clerk. She looked at my photos and went to have them approved by her superior (the person who stamps on your DNI booklet). A miserable looking man glanced up from stamping and gave me the most hostile stare I had ever met, a mixture of spite and contempt. He said no to my photos.

The young clerk apologetically told me to go and take another set of photos because mine were not acceptable. Her colleague glanced over and shook her head. The two mumbled that their superior was messing me around. I started chatting with the two girls; they both agreed that their superior was being very unreasonable. The young clerk suggested that she would ask him again. Of course, the sour face just stared at me and said no again.

I read the notice on a wall that the background colour of these photos has to be azul or celeste, basically different shades of blue. I didn't want to put this girl in a difficult position but I explained that the photo shop told me it was an acceptable colour and with due respect I wasn't going to take another set of photos when there was nothing wrong with the first.

She suggested I talk to her superior directly. I went over and asked him what could be wrong with my set of photos when the photo shop has been taking DNI photos for decades. He said he didn't understand me. My Spanish vocabulary may be not vast but I have never had any problem being understood. Everyone else around us seemed to have understood but him. OK, I switched to English. He gave me the same "no entiendo". OK, I asked for a translator and he told me to bring my own. That comment had me stewing; the numerous guards upstairs had stopped Guillermo at every turn and told him translators were not allowed; we were told if I needed assistance, the office would provide a translator.

This man's supervisor came over to understand the cause of such commotion. I asked him why the blue in my photos was no good. He explained the law and I told him the law is ambivalent with various shades of azul and celeste (sea blue and sky blue). He showed me examples of DNI booklets hot off the hostile stamper's hands.

The first two were of a lighter blue than mine; then as if by comic timing, the miserable man stamped one photo in a booklet with exactly the same shade of blue as in my photos. I asked both of them for an explanation. I questioned "porché estan bien para otros y no está bien para mi?" (Why is it fine for others but not me?) The same man spat out another "no entiendo". The supervisor, on the other hand, looked completely embarrassed but attempted at defending the non-existent difference.

I went silent but looked at him intently (I haven't mastered the single arching ironic brow yet). He went red and asked the young clerk to continue processing my DNI.

When I went to pick up my stamped booklet from another clerk who was standing by the bigot's side, he deliberately turned away from me. I could have said something, gloated even, but I didn't.

Most importantly, I wouldn't want to stoop to his level; I can't imagine ever sinking that low. By keeping quiet, hopefully though unlikely, he could find it in his heart not to be pointlessly nasty to other ethnic minorities who may be much less able to defend themselves.

Guillermo was even more upset by this incident than me. However, both of us were determined not to let it spoil our Friday especially since it was Mid-Autumn Festival (Moon Festival) in the lunar calendar. It is the second most important Chinese festival, after Lunar New Year.

Char Siu (roast pork) is a popular Chinese dish; it usually appears as part of an appetizer platter, at a Chinese banquet, with suckling pig, roast duck and jelly fish.

Neck of Pork 1 kg (a little fat is good, keeps the lean meat moist)
3 small shallots, minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp salt
5 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp light soy
1 tbsp dark soy
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
a pinch of white pepper
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp seafood sauce
1 tsp peanut butter

Cut the pork into thick slices. Put all the ingredients together, marinate over night in the fridge.

On the day of the meal, preheat the oven to the maximum. Put a steel wire rack in the roasting tin and fill it with water until it is half full. Lay the meat on top and brush the marinade on top.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 min (much depend on how thick the cut of meat is). Brush more marinade on, then turn the meat, repeat the brushing. Bake for a further 15-20 min.

To test if it is done, cut through a piece with a knife. If it is not done after the 20 min, repeat the brushing with marinade and return it to the oven for a further 10min.

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