Discrepancy Card

This is something that I wrote back in August, and posted on my original site (located here). Since many readers are new to this site, and most likely have not seen the other site, I’m slowly recyling some of my entries from that site. 

The building in which I work is located on the campus of a private school. My organization owns the building, but leases the land that it sits on, so this particular piece of real estate is situated within the campus of this private school, not on the edge, not just inside the gate, but deep within the campus.

Like all campuses in China, be they factories, schools, or universities, this one is ringed by a wall (walls are a an important feature of Chinese culture, but more on that another time) and everyone gets on and off the campus via the front gate, which is usually an oversized and slightly ornate edifice that is manned by uniformed guards.

When foreigners first arrive in China, they notice that there are lots and lots of young men in uniform standing at the entrances to just about everything — stores, restaurants, banks, schools, hotels — and assume that they are either police or soldiers. In reality, they are almost always young peasant boys from the countryside who have come to town to get jobs as security guards. Whoever hires them gives them room and board, and provides them with teal green uniforms. There lot in life is to man the gates (and doors) to protect those inside from the dreaded “outsiders.”

Recently the campus security office at this school has decided that their "crackdown of the month" (as I like to call crackdowns in China) is to make all personnel who live and/or work on the campus carry their newly issued ID cards.  This, of course, includes the dozen or so foreigners from my organization who live and work in our building.   When the notice came down from on high about this new regulation (actually, it’s always been there, they’ve just decided to try to enforce it for awhile), we were ordered to submit photos to the security office so we could be issues ID cards.

We did this, and the next day were all issued pretty pink cards, with Chinese on one side and English on the other.  On the Chinese side, the card is called a chu-ru zheng, which literally means "exit-entrance certificate."  I think the propoer translation would be admittance pass.

But on the English side it says, in big letters DISCREPANCY CARD! Huh? After I had a good laugh, I scurried to find my Chinese-English dictionary to see what was going on.  While the Chinese word chu means exit, and ru means enter, when the two characters are put together to form the word churu, the first entry in the dictionary is "discrepancy."  "Admittance" as a possible meaning way at the end of the list.

Upon further reflection, however, I realized that "discrepancy" is probably the more accurate translation since the very presence of a foreigner in a society like this is, in fact, a discrepancy!

And when I forget that, I just whiop out the card as a reminder!

Update:  Even though I dubbed it "crackdown of the month," this one only lasted about 2 days.  On Day One, I of course forgot my discrepancy card, but it didn’t matter….the guard let me in anyway.  Since then I have not been asked to show my card even once!  Never mind.  The security office could write a report to their higher ups that they promulgated (that word is popular in Chinese) the regulation, who report it their higher ups who report it to their higher ups, ad naseum.  It’s the promulgation of a regulation that counts, not the enforcement.