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Connected in China! Even if I got ripped off…

June 12, 2010

I have internet!!!! Hoooraaayyyy!!!!

It’s amazing how not having internet, even for just a few hours, is debilitating. I felt like I was missing an arm. Even though I’m not a social networking addict (I don’t visit Facebook very often, relative to most of my friends), I rely on the internet more than I realized.

It is such a relief to have internet now, and a Chinese cell phone and international calling card.

So, a lot to update here! My trip over was pretty calm. No major hiccups. The four hour layover in Vancouver was made bearable by the gorgeous Vancouver airport. Polished up for the Olympics, I presume, it felt like a ski lodge. On my flight to Beijing, I sat next to a nice Chinese man, just graduated as well (from McGill University’s PhD electrical engineering program). We chatted in Chinese and in English. His English was better than my Chinese, but not by much.

He compared the air pollution in Beijing to that of New York. Pft. Patently false.

Anyway, he was quite pleasant, and then I found another boy headed to Harvard Beijing  Academy, a Yalie interested in historical linguistics, and we chatted as we got our luggage. We had trouble finding the teachers there to pick us up, and then once we found them, we had to wait at the airport for about 2 1/2 hours – but this actually worked out to my favor, forcing me to stay awake. The teachers also spoke to us in Chinese, which was daunting after such an exhausting trip. Luckily, they kindly dipped into English whenever we looked supremely confused.

Two HBA students later, we finally got on shuttle to campus. I slept most of the ride. We checked into our rooms, and one of the Chinese teachers kindly carried my heavy bags to my room for me. I kept trying to explain that I had packed not only for the summer, but also for winter, as I was planning to stay in China after HBA. I don’t know if he understood me. Needless to say, my obscene amount of luggage was a bit embarrassing.

Everything was timed well in the end: I arrived at the Beijing Language and Culture University (BCLU) at 8pm Beijing time, and was able to beat the jet lag on my first day here! Didn’t go to bed until 10pm on Thursday night, then woke up around 8am this morning.

Today has been slow and necessary: acquainting myself with my room, meeting other HBAers, taking a campus tour, buying a cell phone, my first Beijing meal (Japanese soba noodle soup with veggies), and setting up my liberating internet connection. I even got to Skype video chat with my best friend, Michelle.

Nothing has been too terribly tough yet. Luckily, Rick warned me that every time I shower, it floods the bathroom, as there is no partition between the shower and the rest of the bathroom. Also, we haven’t had to take the language pledge yet: the pledge to speak only Mandarin except when talking to family or friends back home. I’m dreading the moment we sign.

The hardest part of my day so far was feeling ripped off. I “haggled” for a cell phone, SIM card, and international calling card at the little shop on campus known as the Friendship Store. I utterly failed at haggling. I only haggled down about 1/4 of the originally offered price – less, actually – and I barely haggled for the SIM card, and I didn’t haggle at all for the international calling card. So, I paid $50 for the phone and SIM and another $15 for my calling card.

I am such a chump!

Little did I know, the administrative staff had organized a trip for later in the day to a cell phone store, where a teacher would haggle for the students! Ugh! So angry that I missed that. Upon finding out this tidbit of information, I really felt stupid. No refunds at the Friendship Store, of course.

At least the phone works. It’s a cute little LG. Unfortunately, I can’t figure out how to input contacts in English, so I can’t keep any numbers in there until I learn people’s Chinese names. Or figure out how to fix that feature.

Well, you win some, you lose some. I mostly feel like a winner at the moment because I’ve avoided any train wrecks.

Okay. I think I’m going to take a nap. I shouldn’t but I’m going to anyway.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Brad permalink
    June 13, 2010 12:20 am

    Haggling is key! You pretty much always counter at 1/10th the price. The key thing is to know what things are worth. If they won’t agree to that, just walk away and find another store. They will usually try to stop you as you leave and agree to your price.

  2. Michelle permalink
    June 16, 2010 6:05 pm

    Haha I like that that guy compared the pollution to that of NYC! Bah! I never really even noticed the pollution in NY and you could, ya know, see stuff ahead of you. Oh man. Glad to hear your flight went well. =D

  3. Cbuck permalink
    July 21, 2010 12:04 pm

    the shower issue is really confusing
    (i decided im going to comment on every entry, but i have nothing worth saying…damn)

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