Thursday, October 18, 2007

Living in China (October 18, 2007)

I have a short little snippet from today that I wanted to share with you. One of the other foreign teachers needed to get money from here, back to the US to pay bills and student loans and such. In a normal country, this would be a very easy transaction, but we're again reminded that we are in China. Supposedly, a few other foreign teachers, associated with a different program but teaching at the same University, were able to pull this off, but all that is hearsay. All I know is that I was told that they had found a way to get a bank account with one of the many "Bank of China" branches that they have here, get a credit card with a Visa/MC logo on it, and use it like we would a debit card in America. Sounds easy right?

So this afternoon we meet our escort for the bank run, get in a cab, and take a short, 5 minute cab ride to this bank. Upon going in, we were greeted with many long lines. The difference between the US and here is that there always seems to be a long-ass line at ATMs, banks, and pretty much everywhere else you go. One would think that if you knew you had to wait in line to use an ATM, you would logically just withdraw more money once instead of going back multiple times. It's just like putting $5 of gas in your tank and returning to the gas station every 2 days to fill it up with $5 again. I don't know if I'm missing some part of the equation here, but all of this waiting seems stupid. Another thing that struck me as a little odd was that the bank didn't really have a "bank feel" to it. It seemed to be more of a stage prop because everything was so spartan. There were barely any papers, all the walls were bare, there were 5-7 teller booths, only a few seats, and 2 garbage cans. I dunno, I thought it looked very questionable and was definitely getting second thoughts of wanting to establish an account at this sketchy establishment. The only reason I pondered doing it was so that I could pay for my Eve account using RMB instead of bumming real, US money to pay for the monthly subscription fee.

Anyway, we found some forms to fill out, started writing in the blanks, and then waited probably 40 minutes to have 4 people in front of us finish their business. Yes, they were that fucking slow, and from what I saw they were only withdrawing money. For the life of me I don't think I'll ever truly know... So after patiently waiting in line, we finally reach the teller as our interpreter began stating our intentions. There was this fat Asian female sitting her plump-ass in a chair looking at us in a manner that said, "I'm not listening to what you are saying, but I already know that the answer is No." She listened, shrugged her shoulders, got the attention of her supervisor, and just sat there and rolled her eyes. The supervisor was skinnier, but he looked like he just got finished doing some farm work. I don't know where they find these people to do these types of jobs, but he looked like an Asian sharecropper wearing a blazer and a nametag. The only thing this dude was missing was a hat. The second he was summoned over, I took one look at him, placed my nicely, filled-out forms in my bag, zipped it up, and wandered to the back of the room to sit on one of the few, unoccupied seats because I knew this guy wasn't going to do anything for us.

The interpreter and my co-worker essentially sat up there debating with this supervisor, calling the equivalent of the bank's 1-800 number, and after 30 more minutes, joined me in the rear of the room. Long story short, either these guys were being punks or you have to be in a major city to get these types of "odd" requests done. I've read on numerous forums that other expats in Beijing and Shanghai have pulled this transaction off, but we're in ass-backwards Yanjiao, so I didn't really expect any miracles to happen. Good thing for me is that I'm financially organized and don't need to send money back on a monthly basis. Again, I'll experience everything once, so now I can put a big fat check next to the bubble saying, "Wait in line for a large chunk of my afternoon to try to open a Chinese bank account and/or wire transfer money to an account in the US."

Yesterday I was fiending some mashies, so I stopped by KFC, probably the only western food outlet in this whole town, and ordered some taters. I was quite humbled when I got home. 5 RMB got me this hella small-ass container of mashed potatoes, with gravy already applied. I should've put a quarter next to the damn thing because it was seriously hella hella small. That spoon was about the same size as a sample spoon is at Baskin-Robbins. Did it taste the same? Yes. Was it like 2 spoonfuls? Yes. Did it come in larger sizes? No. Was it smaller than a side of ranch that us Americans frequently order with our food? Why yes. Will I be purchasing it again? Hell No. I can get a small steak for 4 RMB and that's my whole lunch. Sometimes, I really do miss "Supersizing/Biggiesizing" food items.