Convenient, Connected, Chaotic

It has been 20 days since I came back to China for a visit. I am very impressed with the speed and easiness to do certain things here.

It began on the day of my arrival at my sister’s place. Once I settled in, my 16-year-old niece asked me, “Auntie, what do you want to have for dinner?” I asked what the options are. She said, “Anything!” Oh, okay. So, I mentioned what I craved at that moment, a kind of northwestern spicy cold noodles (凉皮). She nodded. Twenty minutes later, she yelled from another room, “your food is here, just open the front door.” Sure enough, the delicious noodles were waiting for my consumption, already paid for (by my sister, no doubt). Great service.

I mentioned in my last post that I had to get a Chinese phone to use here as my life will depend on it. An existing SIM card from China Mobile didn’t include data plan, so the girl selling me the phone gave me 1GB free to get started but it would expire in three days. I didn’t really need a monthly plan so I turned to my niece for help again. She asked me if 200M is enough to last me till the end of July, if so, she could get it for me with RMB 10 ($1.5). Problem solved – I was officially connected.

Even though this didn’t cover Hong Kong, the moment my flight landed, a text message popped up on my phone from China Mobile, letting me know that I could buy unlimited data package by day, just text ‘GMDZHL’ followed by the number of days to 10086, and they had half-price promotion for new users of this service. So, I texted GMDZHL3 and received a confirmation text message in one minute, informing me it was activated. For RMB 34 ($5) I got three days of unlimited data coverage while in Hong Kong. Awesome. Even if I hadn’t done this, the roaming data cost would still cap at RMB 30 ($4.5) a day – not the best deal but wouldn’t be very expensive either.

3c6d55fbb2fb4316a3ea2f1c29a4462308f7d3dbBeing connected all the time on WeChat proved to be crucial. During my college reunion in Shanghai, all coordination and announcements were done via WeChat – change of plan (we now leave at 1:30pm, not the 2:45pm previously scheduled); call for gathering (bus is here, let’s go!); meet at a place with location share (we are in this restaurant now, come find us); post photos of people and food constantly for those who couldn’t join us. Of course, the money we didn’t spend was refunded into each person’s WeChat wallet.

As you probably gathered by now, plans and timing tend to be flexible/chaotic here in China. While I was in Hong Kong, my friends and I usually had a rough plan to meet on a day but no time or location specified – “let’s keep in touch and decide later.” Then, at some point later that day, WeChat got busy. For example,

She asked, “Where are you now?” – I sent my location.

“How about going to this place?” – okay, let me check how to get there.

“No, no, I can pick you up.” – we started a session to share real-time location. I watched the two dots on the screen get closer.

“Now walk towards the water.” – okay, I started walking and at some street corner the two moving dots overlapped; I turned around and saw her car drive up, I got in even before the car fully stopped.

Perfect, till the next chaos.


Much Needed R&R

I don’t have any major event today, so I eat, play, chat, sleep, watch TV, eat, read, walk, sleep… It is also a perfect time to reflect and summarize the past month and my whirlwind activities.

  • Week of June 18th. Projects summary and transition; Farewell at the team meeting; David’s birthday celebration; Wrapping up and organizing files; Last visit of the Tyson’s office; Shopping; Meetup with a few old friends.
  • June 25th. After a few conference calls at work in the morning, boarded a plane to start my vacation.
  • June 26th. Arrived at Copenhagen, Denmark in the morning. Took train to Roskilde for a nice short visit.
  • June 27th. Checked out the aquarium Den Blå Planet; Boarded Star Breeze in the afternoon and our ‘Baltic Delight’ cruise began! (I will only list the various ports for now so that this post would not get too long. Stay tuned for more detailed posts on these wonderful places around the Baltic Sea.)
  • June 28th. Bornholm, Denmark
  • June 29th. Gdańsk, Poland
  • June 30th. Klaipeda, Lithuania
  • July 1st. At Sea
  • July 2nd. Tallin, Estonia
  • July 3rd. St. Petersburg, Russia
  • July 4th. St. Petersburg. Russia
  • July 5th. Helsinki, Finland
  • July 6th. Aland, Finland
  • July 7th. Arrived at Stockholm, Sweden; All day traveling back to US
  • July 8th. Picked up documents from a friend’s home; Did chores around the house
  • July 9th. My last day with EY; Returned firm assets and checked out at the DC office
  • July 10th. Noon-time flight to Beijing – further messed up my jet lag from Europe
  • July 11th. Arrived at Beijing, dinner out with my mom and sister’s family
  • July 12th. Picked up train tickets; Activated a cell phone – can’t survive without one since they use it for everything here – pay at stores and restaurants, take Metro, rent bicycle, order take-out, get a taxi etc. I feel so out-dated but I am catching up!
  • July 13th. 4.5 hours on a high-speed train to Shanghai; 48 hours of college reunion craziness began
  • July 14th. Ate too much, drank too much, talked too loud, laughed too hard, slept too little. Enjoyed every minute with my friends from decades ago
  • July 15th. Reunion ended in total exhaustion. Met Charles Yang for dinner, who once interned in our New York office for 8 months. He also brought me to visit the largest Starbucks in the world.
  • July 16th. Train back to Beijing, in time for my sister’s birthday celebration.
  • July 17th. Accompanied my mother to the US embassy for her visa interview. Big crowd, long line, and heavy rain! Can’t say I enjoyed it but the result was good!

So you see, I just got a chance today for my much needed rest and relaxation. I exchanged messages with a few friends, went to grocery shopping with my mother, and also visited the nearby community library. It is a good break before the hustle and bustle starts again tomorrow.


Books read in 2018 Q2

I just came back from cruising around the Baltic Sea, and the second book report of 2018 is over due. My goal this year is to read 50 books, 25 of which in non-audio format and 5 in Chinese. I finished 14 books in Q2; only two of which I actually read as opposed to listening, and there was one Chinese book. Now I begin to think the non-audio part of the goal is quite challenging.

Here are the books I finished in the second quarter:

  1. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
  2. Perturbed Chinese 忐忑的中国人 by 梁晓声
  3. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
  4. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
  5. Obsession by Jonathan Kellerman
  6. Operation Hail Storm by Brett Arquette
  7. Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
  8. Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Max Tegmark
  9. In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
  10. New York Post Fiendish Sudoku: The Official Utterly Addictive Number-Placing Puzzle by Wayne Gould
  11. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  12. Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
  13. Prayer by Ole Hallesby
  14. Adultery by Paulo Coelho

As usual, the books on this list are eclectic in many ways and I liked most of them. I read quite a few books from the author of #2 twenty years ago, and this one is as good as expected. I really enjoyed #7 and #9. I finished all 200 puzzles in #10. There are many interesting and though-provoking topics in #8 and #12. I don’t like #14 at all.

Keep reading… till the next report. 🙂Books 2018Q2