Wait — Click here if you haven’t read part one (of step 4) yet.


I had two hours and thirteen minutes to study 1500 possible questions that I hadn’t seen in 4 years for a 100 question test that I must answer 9 out of 10 correctly or I would completely waste 3500 RMB and 48 full hours of my life.  My blood pressure was about 450 over 225 and my chances of success were slightly above zero.

However, chances of success if I didn’t try were exactly zero so I determined that if I was to fail I would fail in a blaze of glory.  I mentally recalled every inspirational, underdog, 4th quarter, give me all you’ve got speech from every great sports movie I had ever seen.  Hoosiers . . . Rudy . . . Rocky . . . The Bad News Bears . . . that hockey one with Kurt Russell.  I can do this!  I am a champion! When this day is over I will hold my head high, stare the system square in the eye and say, “nana nana boo boo!”

I ran like Forrest Gump to the nearest taxi and said, “Dead Chicken! take me to the closest net bar” (pretty common for foreigners to mispronounce “taxi driver” and say “dead chicken”).  After some confusing deliberation we drove until we saw a roadside Wang Ba (internet cafe).  Internet Cafe actually sounds so . . . how do you say it . . . not filthy.  This one was the opposite of not filthy.  It was a long, dingy, smoke filled room with about 50 PC’s lined up side by side on tables that stretched to the end of the room and back.  There was one computer that was not occupied by a twenty three year old gamer.  “I took it.”

The quest began.  In my mind it would be a quick Google search to find all 1500 questions and start cramming information into my brain’s temporary file (which I hadn’t used since college).  Not the case.  After 38 precious minutes the only articles I had found were funny blogs about how ridiculous the test questions are.  I already knew that but I was getting some great blog ideas.  Not so much helpful.

1000 kilometers away Flight was searching too.  She sent me the Chinese test which I copied and pasted into Google Translator.  Just a quick word about translation.  It is an art, not a science.  Translated individual words all stuck together do NOT always equal translated sentences.  No disrespect.  Google Translator is a tremendously powerful, incredibly helpful tool but in my adrenaline fueled frenzy there was little time for English translations that still needed translating into better English.

For example – Here is one of the Chinese test questions, digitally Englishized . . .

“With fog horn can cause other attention; hear the other vehicles honking should be honking responded.”

To or Wrong?

Here’s another one . . . 

“Driving at night, to avoid overtaking, where overtaking transform the car to indicate the distance light forward.”

To or Wrong?

With less than a hour left I finally found an English practice test.  I was getting about 60% wrong.  And then it was time to go.


There were at least 200 people in line to take the test ahead of me.  The line came from the second floor, down an outdoor stairwell and wrapped around the parking lot.  Thankfully it was only raining a little bit.  I stood for about 45 minutes and finally made it to the bottom of the stairs when the guard at the top of the stairs noticed me and waved for me to come on up.

“You want the English test.”

“Uh. Yes.”

“You don’t have to wait in line.  Go on in.”

Feeling like a complete idiot for standing needlessly in the rain for nearly an hour I went in and sat down among another 200 people.  Turns out the outside line was just people waiting to come inside and wait some more.  A lady turned around and said, “You want the English test?”

“Uh. Yes.”

“Go on up.  You don’t have to wait.”

Now feeling like a complete jerk who gets to move to the front while all of these other poor, soaking wet souls wait for what could be days I spoke to the other guard.

“Um. I want the English test.”

“You want the English test?”

“Uh. Yes. I want the English test.”

“Ohhhh.  You don’t have to wait.  Go to that desk.”

I went to that desk and pushed my way through the crowd.

“You want the English test?”

“Yes.  Yes I do.”

“Give me your papers.”

So I did.

Pause . . . and I kid you not . . . this happened.

“We don’t have an English test.”

“I’m sorry.  What?”

“We don’t have an English test.”

There was a brief silent moment.  Like the moment when Rocky gets blasted and falls face first to the floor.  You know the moment I’m talking about don’t you? The crowd is jumping, the referee begins counting and you see Adrian screaming “GET UP! GET UP!” But it’s still silent.  It’s the decision moment.  Go against all of the odds and pull yourself up with your last remaining strength or stay down and give up.  No one would blame you . . . but no one would make a movie about you either.

I got up.

“I’m sorry.  What?”

He started speaking slower, louder and using sign language.  “WEEE (pointing at himself and the other people at the desk) . . . DO NOOOT (waving both hands back and forth) . . . HAAAAVE (receiving motion) . . . AN EEEEENGLISH (pointing at my mouth and nodding condescendingly) . . . TEST.”

“Yes.  Yes you do have an English test.  I have taken the English test.  Right here in this room four years ago!  I took the English test!  I KNOW YOU HAVE AN ENGLISH TEST!  Seventeen people just asked me if I wanted to take the English test!  YOU! YOU yourself asked me, ‘Do you want to take the ENGLISH TEST?!  To which I replied, ‘YES!! YES PLEASE MAY I TAKE THE ENGLISH TEST?!!’ And NOW?!!  NOW you tell me you don’t have an ENGLISH TEST?!! WHERE IS THE ENGLISH TEST?!!”

“We don’t have one.”

I called Flight.  She spoke with them and explained to me that the English test is only for the first timers but since I was recovering a lost license there is no English test.  My test would only be 50 questions which should have been wonderful news but evidently it was not common for English speakers to lose their licenses and so no provisions had been made for that.

“Can I just take the hundred question test?!”

“No.  You must take the 50 question test.  In Chinese.”

With absolutely no hope of success I planted myself (politely) and decided I wasn’t leaving until closing time.  My reasoning was maybe they’ll get so frustrated they would buckle and just give me my license.  Miniscule chance but still higher than me passing the Chinese test.

Several of the guards and other employees gathered together to discuss the problem of the foreigner who wouldn’t leave.  They finally came to the agreement that if I had a translator they could take the test with me.  I didn’t have a translator and even if I could find one there was no way for them to get there in time.  Still no hope.

A young lady who had just finished her test asked me (in English) if everything was ok.  The guard saw it as a golden opportunity.

He excitedly asked her, “You speak English?”

She said “yes.”

“Please, please help us get rid of this guy?” I’m paraphrasing

She agreed to translate the test for me.

We sat down at the computer with a webcam pointed at my nose .  She translated the first question . . .

“Ok.  This one says, um, ‘All drivers must obey all of the traffic rules.'”

Seriously?  I started to click “Right.”

“NO NO NO NO!” She stopped me.

I looked at her.

“Don’t look at me! Don’t look at me! Look at the camera!”

I snapped back to attention afraid to move.

She scolded me.  “It’s wrong . . . Policemen, firemen and ambulance drivers don’t have to obey.”

I was trying not to look at her but as my nose flared in disbelief I chose to take her word for it.  She was right.

Like I said, translation is an art, not a science and even though her English far exceeded my Chinese it was quickly obvious that she was neither an artist nor a scientist.  However, together, we missed two questions and that’s all I have to say about that.

I got my license back.

Every great triumph embodies an inspiring moral.  Something that looks good on a poster like, “Believe in yourself and anything is possible” or “When you get pummeled to the ground always get back up.”  However as I walked away from the DMV that day, too shell-shocked and humbled for “nana nana boo boo,”  I felt there was a deeper, far more meaningful lesson that I had learned and learned well . . .



No matter what.

Should you ever . . . ever . . .

. . . lose your license in China.



If you missed the rest of the epic adventure click below to catch up:

Driving in China Step One:  Insanity

Step Two

Step Three

Step Four – Part One

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