The Strange Case of Arabib

Musings / Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

One of my good friends, Voozy, was very fascinated with the story of Arabib, the girl from Tunisia caught in a confusing love triangle. Here’s an update on her.

Last week, I came out of my room around the same time as Arabib. She was dressed, ready to go somewhere, and so was I. Dinner was what I was going for. I asked her if she would like to join us, and she agreed. She had left her hair, and her face was showing the blooming prettiness of youth. “You know, this is the last time maybe we go together,” she announced dramatically. “Last time?” I asked, astonished. “Yes,” and she pulls me inside the room. No dirty thoughts now! I stumble inside her rather sparse but very well-kept room. “What do you do about your visa?” she asks. “My visa? Well, I have a residence permit, the school did the work,” I say. There was some confusion…I couldn’t understand if she wanted a visa or whether someone wanted a visa. By then, Birdy came along, and as we walked to the nearby Lanzhou restaurant, Arabib told us her plan.

She is planning to go to Shenzhen. “When?” “Tomorrow.” “Tomorrow?!? “Yes, you know, my visa is over on March 31st, so I need to go to Hong Kong. I search for a job in Shenzhen, you know.” Rather bewildered, I nod. “Aren’t you going to come back?” Birdy asks incredulously. “Maybe. I don’t know. I am not sure,” she says. “What about all your stuff here in the room?” “I may come back after a month, or maybe if I don’t come, I ask my friend to send it to me, you know.” I nod. Over a plate of noodles, she reveals that she is going to Shenzhen with a Chinese friend. In between, her boyfriend, the Algerian one, calls her on the phone. “Yes baby, ok baby,” she croons. He is very worried, her boyfriend about her being in Shenzhen, going to Hong Kong. The noodles that I order require a little bit of concentration. I try to focus on Arabib’s rambling life while trying to ensure that the slippery strands of noodles reach my mouth despite the clumsy chopstick-handling skills I possess. She is not herself, this evening. Arabib appears worried, anxious. We try to reassure her. “I am sure you will find a job in Shenzhen,” I say, more out of habit than confidence. I really don’t know the Shenzhen job market.

We walk back to her room, and she gives us some spicy peanuts to have, and some sort of sweet rolls. I am always hungry  here in China, and I devour them. Then, she shares some of her DVD collection. I look around her room, and ask her if she has finished packing. “No,” she laughs. “I am very strange. I just pack tomorrow morning.” “But your flight is at 1PM!” I state, the meticulous planner in me, aghast. “No matter,” she says, while sorting through her pile of DVDs. Birdy borrows a few. “But when can I return them to you?” she asks. “It doesn’t matter,  you know,” she tells us. I am touched by her kindness, and as we part with a hug, I am hoping that her life turns out right.

A few days later, an “important notice” is pasted on her door. It’s from the International Office. The notice warns her that she must pay all her dues by April 9th, failing which they will break open the room, confiscate all her belongings, and put a new lock on the door. Stunned, I send her a SMS. It never reaches her. I slowly wonder then…was it all a grand plan? Did she just run away so that she didn’t have to pay the fees? Her visa/residence permit was expiring on March 31st. Only the university can renew it. If she hasn’t paid her fees or room rent, then there was no way the university would provide her with a visa. So, the solution is obvious. A visa run to Hong Kong. Possibly re-enter China with a tourist visa. Find a job. Throw your old SIM card.

Is that how it was? Could she have duped the university so well? I don’t know. It seems sad if it were so, but human nature, I have seen is rather capricious. She isn’t the first mad March hare I have met. And something tells me, she won’t be the last.

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