The consulate official was suspicious. What should have been a simple matter of adding more pages to my passport had turned into an interview. I was led to a room with a round table and asked to wait. A few minutes later, a serious-looking official entered and sat across. Without any introductions, he asked for my passport and began leafing through the pages. He was interested in knowing why I was in China. I explained that I was visiting friends. He wanted to know who my friends were. I talked about little Lynn from Guangzhou, Nick and Gaojing from Shanghai and some other people I met while traveling on trains. Perhaps satisfied that my friends were not from the ministry of state security, he relaxed and authorised my new passport.
I needed some photos for my new passport. I wanted to get a shave before the photos, but I could not find a barbershop. The consulate was in a complex with several apartment blocks. I saw a shop that looked like a beauty salon. The girl there opened the door and asked If she can help me. I told her I needed a shave, but it was okay as they perhaps served female customers. The girl reached out of the door, pulled me inside and placed me in a chair. She sent a kid to go buy shaving foam. After applying the foam, she held a naked safety blade between her thumb and finger and began to shave me. In China, no one says no to business.