What can I say? I don’t need to be back in class until February 14th. It’s tough being a teacher. The winter holiday doesn’t officially begin until January 13th but I learned this week that because I gave my exam last week (actually, I don’t give any exams but that’s how it’s recorded), then my classes for the semester are finished. So Thursday was the final day and Thursday was cut short since I let the last class of the day leave since I was freezing. The classrooms are so cold as I’ve mentioned many times. I just couldn’t stand it any longer. I brought it music to play (culture time) and asked the students whether they wanted to listen or leave. Naturally no one answered for about 30 seconds and then one girl raised her hand. She said if it were okay she’d rather leave. I could have kissed her. Then other decided they could be brave (bunch of wimps) and said the same. So they left and I was happy and I got to go home and be warm. That was good.
The New Year’s holiday didn’t end at the school until Wednesday but I had no classes on Wednesday (I found out Wednesday morning). My students that day had an exam. Naturally no one tells me anything but one student did call me in the morning to tell me. I asked him when he learned that he had the exam and he said, “last night”. I don’t know whether something was lost in translation but somehow I doubt it. This is a weird place.
I basically just stayed inside all week except for Thursday. I can’t handle the cold. I know this makes no sense but I’d be better off up north. Since this is what they call “the south of China”, they don’t buy heaters. Saying this is the “south of China” is like saying the Antarctica is the south of the world. It’s still freaking cold. But if I lived up north then they’d have heat everywhere. Therefore I’d be warm. So no more southern living for me unless it is truly south with a southern climate.
We don’t leave for Baoding and Shujie’s family until January 20th and since a plane ticket is about the same price as a high-speed train, we’ve opted for flying. The advantage to this is that you can buy a plane ticket anytime. You can only buy a high-speed train ticket 11 days in advance at the earliest. Since this is the busiest time of year where literally millions and millions of Chinese travel, it can be tough to get a train ticket. There are many families where the parents move away to work and leave the kids with the grandparents. Only at the New Year do they travel home to see the family. It’s quite sad. Today at the travel agent there was a huge line waiting to buy train tickets (they sell them there). I’m quite happy about the plane.
When we had decided on the plane Shujie went online to buy the tickets. I was only listening with half an ear since we had company (Wen Ya) who is the daughter of Wang Jing’s former boss and is visiting from her university. She’s a nice girl and she’s gone to some of my classes. We enjoy her company.
So, Shujie finds the cheapest ticket she can from some website she’s never heard of. She places the order and pays. Over here, when you pay you transfer money from your bank account to their bank account. It’s like giving them cash. So she did that.
They called her and told her there was a problem with her ID number and that she’d have to pay again and then they’d issue her a refund. This is where I should have started paying closer attention. And she’s usually not a Bozo but this time? What can I say? She paid them again.
They then told her to get her refund she’d have to go into our bank account online and fill out a form. It was the same form as was used for payment and they wanted her to enter an amount of 10,000 RMB (about $1,750). They told her it was a special number so the refund could go through. This woke her up and she said she wouldn’t enter that so they told her to enter the amount of the tickets again. She then hung up because she knew she had been stung.
She phoned them and there was a lot of yelling going on and naturally it was going nowhere. She told them we were going to the police and she told me “let’s go”. I said why do I have to go? I don’t speak Chinese. Sometimes I’m dense. I needed to go to show my white face so that the police would see a foreigner was involved and they would pursue this a little harder.
Shujie told me when we left the police station and I commented that I was quite helpful (I just sat on a chair and slept), that one officer told the one taking down the information to listen carefully and get everything because of the foreigner. It’s crazy but it is what it is.
Later that night she went to their website and it was gone. There was a message there that you usually get when a site hasn’t paid their hosting bill. I’m not sure if that’s what it meant, if it was coincidence, or that the police closed them down that quickly. Who knows? But we’ll never see our money (about $300) but no one died and it could have been worse. I just told her to never buy anything online except from a reputable site that she’s used before or has heard of or was recommended by a friend. And of course, any site you can use a credit card on because you’re protected. When you transfer money your bank tells you, “tough luck, you sent them the money”. Great help they are.
We then bought the plane tickets from a “real” website so we will be residing in Baoding from January 20th until January 26th. Then we’re back in Jurong until we go to Shanghai on January 29th to leave early the next morning for Thailand (and the heat). But I’m not happy about being stuck in Jurong for 2 weeks with nothing to do so we’ve added something.
We’re going to Hainan on Monday for six days and five nights. Hainan is the “Hawaii of China”. Actually it’s quite beautiful (I’ve been but Shujie hasn’t). It will be warm and wonderful and I’m looking forward to it. I haven’t been to this part of Hainan (the city of Sanya), which is the southernmost city in China. Look it up and view the pictures. It looks quite beautiful.
In one of my impulsive buying binges last month I bought a bunch of sports jerseys online. I wrote about that earlier and mentioned that I had cancelled the order when they screwed up the shipping. I wrote them back and told them if they could execute the order immediately I would re-instate it. So they agreed. Ha Ha. The hoops you have to go through to get things done here are amazing sometimes.
They told me they had 9 of the 10 jerseys I ordered and I should choose a replacement for the 10th. So I did. Then a couple of days later they said they didn’t have the replacement so I could ask for another replacement or they could ship the 9 and refund the one. I gave them another replacement but told them to be sure to ship the nine regardless.
I got an email saying they had shipped nine and they would get back to me the next day with the tracking number. What a bunch of liars. So I got online with them to express my displeasure and told them that they could keep the money as I was going to the police to report them. That bothered them since they are a legitimate Chinese business practicing copyright infringement and selling product in North America. Shujie told me if you make a complaint to the police, the police shuts down the business until their investigation is done. I don’t know whether that’s true or not but the woman I was talking to asked me very nicely to not go to the police and to give her one more chance.
I told her she had until 2PM the next day to ship things out and if I didn’t hear from her by 2PM then I was going to the police. At 2PM the next day I heard from her. I have no idea why she had to wait until 2PM to get in touch with me. She told me it was shipped, told me the courier company, and told me the tracking number. Shujie says the courier company is the best one in China. I verified the tracking number online (which took a while since there site only works with Internet Explorer and I basically use a MAC) and it was there and on it’s way. I got it today (1 day delivery) and they are damn fine knockoffs. Here I am modeling 2 of the baseball jerseys.
Shujie has been bugging me to get a haircut but I wasn’t ready. However, I was ready to stop listening to her so I said today that I would and that I’d like to colour my hair. I’ve never done that and I don’t have much hair. So off we went to a very popular hair shop. I saw a few of my students there who got a good laugh out of what I was doing. I wanted green hair but they didn’t do that. I had to settle for my second choice and Shujie says it makes me look much younger. I think it just makes me look silly. But it’s a change and I wanted it so I’m not complaining. So now I’m not just the only white guy in Jurong, I’m the only guy with orange hair in Jurong. I’m so special. Here’s a front and side view for your viewing pleasure. And I’ll post some pictures in about a week when we return from Hainan. I can’t wait to go.