I have to learn to put money in perspective

Here is the video I uploaded.  I have no idea if it will work because it doesn’t really work for me but perhaps it will for you.


So Friday was the big trip to the big city of Nanjing (pop. 5,000,000 plus).  We got a ride there with someone from the school who had to go on business.  It was about a 45 minute boring drive.  And then we hit the big city.  Cars, cars, and more cars.  It was busy.  They dropped us at the bank and the adventure began.

We cashed our traveller’s cheques and we deposited our bank draft.  We also deposited most of our traveller’s cheques.  Since we were at the Bank of China in Nanjing and our account is at the Bank of China in Jurong we were hit with a service charge for the deposit.  It’s ridiculous.

It only took almost an hour to do this.  I guess that’s fast for China.  But I made it longer by trying to find out what happens if someone somehow steals my bank card information from the magnetic stripe on the card.  It happened in Toronto and the bank immediately replaced the money since it was obvious it wasn’t me that withdrew it.  And I know they are devices you can put in ATM’s that read the cards.  Then you can make your own stripe and off you go.  So what is the bank’s policy here in China in case of this kind of fraud?

Shujie asked some bank employees but this question was beyond their understanding of how the bank works.  I think you have to fail an idiocy test to work at the Bank of China.  I couldn’t handle her asking someone else as I felt it was pointless and I asked her to tell them I wanted to speak to someone who spoke English.  The reason for this is that the “higher ups” are the ones who know English and therefore know more about how things work at the bank.

Since the bank is at the bottom of this very high building no one came to see me, but they did talk to me on the phone.  He appeared to have the answer, which was no answer at all.  It’s basically that they’ll notify the police and try to determine whose fault it is that the information was stolen.  I’m trying to say someone stole it from the ATM machine and he’s telling me that they need to determine whose fault it is.  I should also check my account daily to see if there are any unauthorized activities.  So the policy is no policy and maybe you’ll get your money back and maybe you won’t.  Welcome to this country that is speeding towards modernization.  As I tried to tell Shujie, Chinese policy should be to learn how to walk before they start running.  Here they do things first and worry about the flaws later.  A good example is the new high-speed trains.  Great idea!  Especially when 40 people were killed because of a malfunction.  Did they hurry this?  That was another rhetorical question.

After the bank we took a cab to an area of the city where we were told I could get something for my Iphone that would allow it to handle a different sim card than the one it was locked to.  I did a jailbreak and an unlock before leaving but apparently with the Iphone 4 it doesn’t work.  I needed to buy the piece the sim card fits in.  This tricks the phone into thinking the sim card (wherever it’s from) is legal.  It cost about $15 which is cheaper than buying a new phone.

They did the job and then gave me a training lesson.  It seems there are a few steps you need to perform if your phone is powered off and you need to start the power.  It’s quite simple really.  All you do is:

  1. Remove the sim card.
  2. Power on the phone.
  3. When the power is on you’ll get a message about the phone not having a sim card.  Dismiss it.
  4. A screen will appear asking you to accept the terms of the illegal thing you just bought.  You press accept.
  5. There will be a little box where the signal icon should be in the upper left corner of the screen.  This is good.  You then go and phone “112” and end the call.
  6. Go to settings and enter “airplane mode”.
  7. Wait about 20 seconds until you get a message and dismiss it.
  8. Exit airplane mode.
  9. Re-enter airplane mode for 2 seconds.

10. Exit airplane mode.

That’s it.  Now you’ll get a signal.  Who thinks these things up?  How do they find these loopholes?  It sure is tough being a criminal.

After this we walked to the computer stores area.  It’s a little different here.  You can have a small shop that sells computer things, or you can go to a large store that has many different vendors in it.  It’s great because you can do your comparison-shopping very quickly.

I wanted to get a monitor so we walked around and Shujie haggled as she loves to do.  You only pay retail in the supermarket.  Everything else is negotiable.  It can be quite annoying and the voices are several octaves too high.  I get annoyed and I ask her to stop.  She tells me you can’t say “take it or leave it”, you have to go through the steps.  The vendor gives you his price and you counter.  Then the vendor will change his price a little and give you all the reasons you should pay it.  Then you counter giving all the reasons you shouldn’t pay it.  It’s both time consuming and annoying.

I also told her she needed to use me to play the game.  She should tell them that her husband says, “no way” and he should give a better price and she’ll try to “convince him” to accept.  She changed to that method.

I got a beautiful 23” LG monitor.  I love it.  It’s about $200, which sounds good, but I’ll explain about all that later.  Then we bought an HP 3 in 1 printer for about $45.  Then a nice small speaker for the computer since she made me leave my Bose speakers behind.  Then a wireless keyboard.  I couldn’t find a Bluetooth keyboard for under $100.  No way was I buying that.  I was shocked that in the land of knockoffs and cheap labour that a Bluetooth keyboard was not available.

We had McDonald’s for brunch after our bank visit.  I had a real bad Big Mac craving and I hadn’t had one in a few years.  I never eat at McDonald’s in North America, but I do when I’m out of the country.  I know what I’m getting and the restaurants are clean.  I wonder how a Big Mac in Toronto can taste the same as a Big Mac in Nanjing.

After our computer shopping it was time to head back to Jurong.  We were quite wiped and I wanted to take a taxi to the bus station.  But we couldn’t get a taxi.  They were either in use by others or if empty, they would just pass us by.  We must have waited about 30 minutes without any success so we started to walk towards the subway.  The streets were packed with people, cars, and motorbikes.  Yuck!  But I knew there was a Pizza Hut not too far ahead.  I am not a Pizza Hut fan but it’s clean and I was thirsty and a little hungry.  So we decided to rest there and eat.

The pizza was about $7.50 and was more than enough for the two of us.  Shujie also had Chicken a la King, which of course is a Pizza Hut specialty.  It was a relaxing break and then we resumed our trek to the subway.

Was it crowded?  Is the Pope Catholic?  It was mobbed.  And we were carrying boxes.  It was not fun and Shujie said she’d never been on a busier train and she couldn’t imagine one.  I told her that I had in Shanghai in 2004 (I just wanted to experience it), and I told her about Tokyo and the men they have to push people onto busy trains.  She was quite shocked by that.  All these people led us to an argument about China’s one child policy.  She said I could see why they needed it and I said it was a bad thing and education was the answer.  She said there wasn’t enough money for education and I said that maybe if the government wasn’t so corrupt then maybe there would be.  She said the policy is an old policy and under Chairman Mao there was no corruption because people lived in fear.  I countered with the idea that Mao should have just killed a million more people (I consider him one of the big three of mass murderer’s).  She came back with when Joe Biden visited China he said that he understood why they had a one-child policy and I said that Joe Biden is most famous for putting his foot in his mouth.  We tend to disagree on many political things.

So, we get to the stop where we need to get off and head off towards the bus station.  A man approaches Shujie and offers his services as a taxi driver (which he isn’t) and gives a price.  He also says that there are no more buses to Jurong as it’s after 6PM.  We have no idea if that’s true.  The man asked for about $15 and Shujie countered with about $12.50.  After a period of yelling at each other he accepted her money.  It wasn’t a bad price for an hour ride.  He asked for an additional $1.50 and if we paid we could leave immediately, otherwise he wanted to find other passengers.  Shujie wouldn’t give him the money (she can be cheap) so we waited.  After 15 minutes she broke down and agreed to the additional $1.50.

We got back to our home with our packages.  Shujie went to sleep (about 8:30 as I think she’s still recovering from the trip over) and I started to set up things on the computer.  I do love the monitor but the keyboard didn’t work.  I got it to work today so that was good.

So what’s with the money?  I convert everything so my 1,300RMB monitor is $200.  I’m making a mistake.  I can convert it but I’m not working in Canada but China, and I’m not earning the same money.  I earn about $1,000 a month plus free apartment and utilities.  So I can’t really say it’s $200.  I should be multiplying that by about 7.  So my $200 monitor is $1,400.  My $7.50 pizza is over $50.  You get the idea.  I can’t do my spending and just do a plain conversion.  It has to be in context and that’s hard to do.  Now with some things (such as the monitor) I should look at it as Canadian since it was my plan to buy a monitor for $200.  My brunch at McDonald’s that was about $5 is really $35 and who’s going to spend $35 on a meal for two at McDonald’s?  I need to work this all out so I’m not just doing a straight conversion.  I’ll have less than no money at the end of the month and need to get a job as a corrupt Chinese official.

Today was Saturday and therefore a free day to spend more money.  I got a power cord for my USB hub (I don’t know what happened to the original).  We bought a toaster oven.  There isn’t much choice here as people don’t use them and they are not cheap.  This one was close to $40 but I refuse to think $280 on this.  And we bought a thin Japanese type mattress they use to sleep on the floor to put on the bed so maybe I won’t wake up so sore every morning.  It was a busy day of shopping and bargaining.  What’s nice about here is that you before you buy anything they’ll take it out of the box to show it’s condition and that it works.  With the mattress we were laying them out on the floor and I’d lie down on it to evaluate it.  The store ladies were quite entertained.

The monitor has a warranty that means if there is a problem, LG will come to my house to fix it.  I don’t have to take it anywhere and I didn’t have to buy an extended warranty.  I like that.  So all is not evil and bad.

Monday to Friday the day begins with military type music blaring through the grounds beginning at 6:15.  It’s supposed to be student’s exercise time.  All I can say is that it is annoying.  Shujie doesn’t think many of the students exercise but I guess I’ll have to take a look one morning.

My textbooks have arrived but I haven’t seen them yet as I was away on Friday.  I hope they’re not bad and I can get some useful stuff from them.  We shall see.  Tomorrow is Sunday and perhaps we’ll visit a park.  The excitement just never stops.

And a big shout out to Elana on the occasion of her twenty somethingth birthday!

1 comment
  1. Tomas said:

    Awesome start in understanding their culture … thank goodness of your sweet Lass, mate … haggling is a wonderful gift to have … love the video ,,, noticed the kids are right-handed … what was inside the Big Mac? …. (Got to cut this short … my Lass want to go shopping) …

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