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.