Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fighting the internet in China

Good news, everybody! I've arrived safe and sound in Shanghai, if not a little (a lot) jetlagged. China so far is...interesting. Fascinating, even. It's definitely very different from Korea, but I'm trying to take Shanghai on its own terms without constantly comparing it to Korea.

This, obviously, is not happening. Every time I go to a restaurant, or get on the subway, or even walk along the street I find myself thinking how this would be different in Korea and, sorry Korea, but China is currently winning that fight.

Well, on every front except one: the internet. In Korea, the internet was generally cheap and relatively fast (except if you were trying to watch a youtube video or stream anything. That just doesn't happen in Korea).  Here, however, not only is there the Great Firewall of China to contend with, but there's also something that just feels so very third world about the internet here. At least here in my hotel (and also in the Starbucks down the road). Occasionally sites will load on command, but more often they have immense difficulty loading even the simplest .jpegs. What's worse, though, is that the internet will just cut out and decide that you've loaded one too many pages in a given time period and refuse to load any more for the next 5 or 10 minutes. Which is just great fun, given that my internet-induced ADD leads me to often have 5 or 6 browser tabs open at any given moment.

The Great Firewall itself is proving to be as problematic to me as it was to the Mongol hoards. Apparently it's going to take a far stronger VPN than I had initially planned to get around, so I'll probably in the end wind up paying for one following Chinese rules for internet browsing. I NEEDS MY FACEBOOKS AND I NEEDS THEM NOW.

In the Becoming A Real Person In Shanghai front, I went to the school location yesterday, which happens to be in a crazy ritzy part of Shanghai (in the Pudong area across the river). So I'll go from teaching in a pretty poor area of Korea to a pretty rich area in one of the richest cities in China. Exciting. Also, apparently, our school is some sort of Model Location or whatever, which means that the bigwigs from corporate come by from time to time to observe/bother us. Hurrah.

More pressing, though, is the housing search. Debating whether to have roommates or not, finding a neighborhood, and ultimately finding an apartment that I can actually live in is apparently not the easiest thing. But people have done it before in Shanghai, and I've found apartments in Washington DC, so in theory I should be able to find a place to live. It'll just hopefully be sooner rather than later. Side note: if anyone happens to know of apartments in the Jing'an or Huangpu areas of Shanghai for less than RMB4000/month, PLEASE LET ME KNOW. THX.

I'll keep you guys posted on the living/working/internet situation, assuming I do not suffer a nervous breakdown stemming from facebook withdrawal in the near future.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Ugh FINALLY he's posting

After having been thoroughly put to shame by my friend, who just had a friggin baby (btw, CONGRATS) and is still blogging, I felt it was time to update the interwebs on how my life has been going.

The short answer: it's been busy. I think I last left you guys in mid-February, when I was still at Hwaseong Elementary in Korea. Well great news! I'm not there anymore! I flew back to the States on March 7, following a whirlwind of good-bye parties (both wanted and unwanted), packing, giving away things, and transferring money.

And actually, as it turns out, NOT transferring money. See, I had been told by my school that my severance pay and deposit refund would not be paid to me until the next payday. Which would fall after I left Korea. So I didn't think, on the day I was running my bank errands (which naturally had to be left to the last business day I was in Korea), to check my balance. So I missed the many millions of won that needed to vacate my account so I could have the money sent to America. Fortunately, though, I have some fantastically helpful friends and the money made it to my American bank account.

Back at home, things were just a whirl of wind. Visits from family, awkward KISS concerts, and a week spent running around the Washington, DC area. One of the things you quickly learn when living the long-distance lifestyle is just how little time you really have with your friends and family when you do get to see them. It never seems like it's enough, and someone is always going to feel screwed over because you couldn't spend enough time with them. And that pretty much sucks. It takes someone with far greater planning and scheduling skills than I to juggle everyone properly and appropriately manage expectations. I guess the moral of the story is PEOPLE COME VISIT ME. I LIVE IN COOL PLACES.

But now I'm sitting on my parents' couch with my bags packed yet again, preparing for departure to Asia. It was a little more than 13 months ago that I left for Korea, and while I'm nervous now, it doesn't compare to how I felt back then. I'm pretty sure I can handle this, and most of what I'm feeling is excited.  Well, that and hungry. Time for my last dinner in America! For the next year, anyway...

See you in Shanghai!