A Minor Rant, and Everything’s Good

I’ve come to realize that this whole “pay as you go” schtick might be getting a little out of hand, especially in China. I’m prepaying my cell phone, my internet, my electric bill, my gas bill, my metro card, and if I want satellite TV, I’ll be prepaying that too. As Maria put it, it’s a country with little faith in credit. I mean, how hard can it be for them to TAKE the money from me, instead of making me go and pay them for it? So for the utilities, there’s this card (which I’ve yet to find, it’s in this apartment somewhere…) that I take to the bank or some place and have it filled with some amount of money that translates somehow into a “unit” of usage for the respective utility. Then at the respective utility’s meter in the apartment or building, there’s an indicator that shows how many of these “units” are left and if it’s low, I can swipe my card at it and it’ll refill it.

I know, the original point was for convenience, same with the cell phone (I have to text “YE” to some number to check the balance, then call some other number to refill it using a card I buy from a newspaper stand…?…), but I’m finding it to all just actually be a complete pain! Why can’t I give them my bank account, and they’ll just bill me, like it is in EVERY other civilized country that I’ve been in? I don’t want to have to go out and make sure I fill my cards, of which I’m going to have many, and make sure to swipe it in front of the electric meter or I’ll have my power turned off. Just take my stupid money, please!

So that was the rant against prepaid stuff. Just as a point then, in case anybody is reading this…

Gas and electric utilities are prepaid, you’ll see a meter that indicates how many “units” you have left at the meter. If you’re low, below 200 for electric, I don’t know what for gas, you can swipe your card at it and it’ll refill it. You get this card from I don’t know where, and you refill it at a bank. It was much easier in the States when they just took money out of my checking account.

Cell phones you can buy from any China Mobile store, and you can pick the type of plan you want. There are two kinds of prepaid, plus one that’s more traditional and akin to the contract plans in the states. You refill your prepaid phones using cards you buy from newspaper stands and the likes. There’s a scratch off spot that’ll have a special password code that you enter when you call some number from your phone and this’ll add the balance.

Only locals, meaning people with ID cards, can sign up for telephone and DSL service. There’s a form in triplicate that needs to be filled in, all in Chinese, then you take it to a guy behind a teller and they give you what you want. Since it’s DSL, and DSL only, you’re bandwidth is limited by the type of line that’s in place, and since my current apartment, great though it is, is in a very old part of town, my available speeds are limited by the old lines. Of course, I can shell out to replace the ENTIRE block’s lines, but that’s a whole other can of beans… The real problem with this method of signing up for phone and DSL service is that if you want to make any changes to it, you need to bring along the original person that registered it for you. So when we first got to the apartment, the service had lapsed for some reason because somebody wasn’t paying it for some reason and I had no idea who it was so when I went to the telephone bureau or whatever it was called with my cousin to try to sort it out and get our service reinstated, they couldn’t do anything because we needed the original person who registered it there with us, and of course, we have no idea who that is! Apparently, if we were unlucky, they wouldn’t have been able to set up service without this “person” there. So I spent a harrowing afternoon and much time on the phone trying to track down who the original person was, and if they’d be able to come with me to the telephone bureau to sort things out. Obviously, we were lucky, and that particular branch of bureaucracy decided to ignore the original person. But still, it’s pretty annoying.

And now the phone doesn’t work for some reason even though I’m sure it was working when the people came to install my service and I had originally thought that since there was a slot for batteries and no batteries that getting batteries would fix it but it didn’t and now I have no idea what’s wrong with it and I just want a landline phone because I’m paying for it damnit and it’s free to receive phone calls so it’s cheaper than my cell phone to use if someone’s calling me and now my father thinks it’s the new DSL line that killed it and if that’s the case, then I have no idea what to do…

So the word of the day is…CONVOLUTED!

But as the title says, EVERYTHING’S GOOD!

Everything is actually so very good, it’s absolutely great. It’s been three weeks, and even longer soon and we’ll be celebrating our one month anniversary of moving to China. Impressive how quickly the time has flown.

Perhaps our greatest triumph of recent note is acquisition of cheap produce. And I mean CHEAP. For the equivalent of $1.50, we purchased 3 lbs of bok choy, a bulb of garlic, a huge thing of ginger, one whole leek, 1.5 lbs of spinach, 5 tomatoes, and 1 head of napa cabbage. For the equivalent of 20 cents, we bought a block of fresh tofu. We also got 6 eggs, and two apples, spending in totality less than 3 dollars. And everything’s fresh. We had originally be stymied when it came to purchasing produce because, I suspect, we live so close to the center of town, where it’s very much a tourist part of town, so the usual on the street vendors of vegetables are lacking. So I did some exploration, clued in by some sightings of produce that Maria had this morning on her run, found that what she saw was actually people selling non-edible plants, wandered around randomly some, and came upon this trove of edible greenery, tucked away in some completely out of the way alley.

So that’s part of the everything’s good.

Another part of what’s good, though this may be more neutral in its respects, are all the “businesses” we’re involved in, and the quotes are there to indicate some vacillating on my part in declaring these are viable, things that I want to be involved with businesses, or “head in the clouds” type things that may be best touched with a ten feet stick.

But, to count, we are, I am, Maria may be or is (I’m lumping things together):

1) Becoming part owners of a Western style restaurant, of which I will be the general manager of. This restaurant will need to be renovated and retrofitted from its original inception into an “All Day Breakfast” and “Burgers and Pies” place, with alcohol. I have a plan to make this a 2 million yuan a year business (that’s 300K US) and to have it be self sustaining within a year so that I can move on to more important things, like expanding the restaurant onto the GORGEOUS roof that we have open to us.

2) Creating a online gallery and silent bidding system for the world at large to purchase “Young, Urban, Beijing” original art created by the born in the post 1980s crowd.

3) A good bit of fund raising, apparently…

4) Something to do with Swiss helicopters…?

5) Something to do with proteins…

6) Editing essays and/or teaching Legal English.

Obviously, some of these have more well formulated actual ideas than others. It’s all a lot of fun, but quite busy heh.

Um, but everything is good, and it’s late, and I can’t sleep, but I really should, and my schedule’s all messed up but I intend to fix it, if I have to stay up all night I will fix it. The idea being, I will get up tomorrow, if I sleep, and stay up all day, and I’ll be right as rain again.

Speaking of rain, the weather’s been lovely here! Perfect Fall, actually, something I realize I’ve not seen in a while.


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