Day Three – Wednesday
I woke up around 4:30 am; jetlag sucks. It was Sofi’s first day of school. We met Driver Wang downstairs and I accompanied her to school. We got there 40 minutes too early and waited in the lobby. Some paper work to fill out for her bus and I met her home room teacher and said goodbye. Then back in the car and back to the hotel to start work. One of the nice things about our temporary apartment is that its in the same complex as Amazon.cn’s office. I only have to walk across the driveway and go up to the 28th floor. Work was hectic and crazy busy.
One of my frustrations is that I’ve been without a “smart” phone for months now. I had jailbroke my iPhone in the US so I could switch carriers to AT&T in preparation for the move. Sadly a software update made the phone inoperable and then I dropped it on the road and it shattered. I’d been waiting until we got to Beijing to get a new phone. Tuesday I’d been told the wait at Unicom for an iPhone would be 2-6 months. Since their release in China everyone wants an iPhone. Robert told me though that I could get an appointment at the Apple Store in SanLiTun. Since the website was all in Chinese, Robert had been trying all night and morning of Wednesday to get me an appointment. The website was so popular that he couldn’t get through. I told him via a text that if he got me an appointment no matter what that I’d leave work to take care of it. Reason being is that the website said I’d need my passport to get a phone, and I had to turn my passport over to the immigration lawyers to convert our temporary Z-visa into a Work Visa.
Guanxi then came into play. Guanxi is interpersonal relationships. This is a very powerful and important concept in Chinese culture. In America we’d characterize it as : “it’s not what you know, its who you know”, in China its richer and deeper. Robert gave me the mobile of the General Manager of the Apple Store in China. Robert had worked with him several times in the course of taking his customers to Apple. I gave Jim Ford a ring and he said could get me an iPhone no problem that afternoon. He told me to come in after 3pm when the resellers were gone and ask for Peter. Peter was the lead of the Genius Bar processes there in Beijing. He explained that because the iPhone was so popular that there had been a lot of demand and a lot of scalping for the iPhone 4. Resellers were extremely upset when Apple began selling directly to the customer and they had been coming into the store and being very rowdy and the police had been involved. The agreement was that only individuals that had appointments could get an iPhone. I didn’t have an appointment so to avoid any issues he had me give him my coat. He went into the back and put an iPhone 4 in its pocket. We met at the register, he handed me my coat and I purchased a case and the iPhone. After chatting for a bit while the salesman cleared the transaction I walked out the door with an iPhone in my pocket. Yeah one more detail complete and me connected to the world again!
Day Four – Thursday
I woke up at 5:30 am. Sleeping in finally! It had snowed! Beijing is a very dry climate, but they do get snow several times a winter. This has been an unusual winter in that this was the first snow of the season. A few inches of dry stuff that no one shovels, but sweeps with brooms into piles. I got Sofi ready for school and was going to take a taxi with her to school because Stac was going with Driver Wang to get her medical exam, a necessary step for me to get my work visa and us to get residency permits. While waiting for a tax in the lobby the BCIS bus drove up outside, and I convinced them to let Sofi get on and ride to school. I then went across the driveway to work. I had an appointment after lunch with Asian Tigers to get my bank account. We went to the ICBC branch near our permanent apartment. We took a number from the machine and waited. We were #130 and they were on #121, it was going to be a long wait. All four tellers were sitting behind big huge thick plated glass with a microphone on either side to enhance the sound. Everyone in the lobby could hear everything anyone was saying about their banking business.
Since it was going to take so long I went next dour to Jenny Lou’s, an grocery store that imports food from the States and Europe. I bought Miles some pop-tarts, which he loves, some cereal and some Macaroni and Cheese. A few small things from home provide some nice familiarity and comfort. I dropped the food off with our driver and went back into the bank. After waiting some more time our number came up and our teller started processing the paper work. They don’t have a concept of a joint checking account that isn’t extremely complicated. Something about how with a joint account we could reserve funds for each other that neither could access and joint portion that we both could access and that if Stac ever needed to withdraw money at the bank I would have to be in person or have an authorized note. Too complicated, so I got a single account with a single debit card. But that left Stac without a card. They wouldn’t give me two cards, but they could open another bank account and we could transfer money back and forth, so that worked. Our fees for these two accounts? 5 rmb to open an account, 10 rmb as a yearly fee (though tey waived the fee for the first account) and 24 rmb for balance alerts that would be deducted in the future. Total out of pocket : 15 rmb around 2 dollars US.
For every feature that you get on the account : mobile access, Internet Banking, account alerts, etc there is another form of paper that the teller has to process and each one has to be signed. We had to do this twice once for my account and once for Stacey’s. For each form I had to sign, at the end of the process the manager has to come over and approve everything. She felt that my signatures did not match between some forms, she said : “The signature on the same day should be the same”. She and she made me sign again, and the teller annoyed made me re-sign several times to get them to match. Finally after dozens of forms and lots of very loud typing and stamping with his red official stamp I left with a USB fob for internet banking (very serious about security) and two debit cards and a ton of carbon copy paper work that I was to keep in a safe place. I had a bank account and I could now get paid electronically from Amazon in China. I’d needed my passport to open a bank account, and when I arrived back at the hotel I met a runner from immigration who collected all of our passports and the Work Visa and Residency permit process began.
Back to work for some meetings before heading out in the evening to get some new medications for Stacey. I’d had some problems getting the right benefit cards printed out for us, I’d accidentally printed out the US versions and the billing wasn’t working at the clinic, we’d been having to pay with AMEX each time. Finally I’d gotten the right Aetna Global cards and finally this time I didn’t have to pay. Then the hunt was on for Sofi to get a one-piece bathing suit so she could attend her swimming class. We decided to try Wal-Mart the SuperCenter! It took Driver Wang a while to find it, but with the iPhone I was able to search and direct him using the maps and the GPS. Wal-Mart is on one huge floor of a massive building. We wandered all over looking for a few school supplies and a swimming suit. Unfortunately they didn’t have swimming suits because it was winter of course so we failed at that. As we left Wal-Mart to go home right outside the door was a small table with two chain smoking guys and a table of illegal pirated DVD’s. They are just so brazen and cavalier about it. I guess brazen is the wrong word because it is just openly accepted everywhere it seems. Each DVD was 5 RMB, just less than a US dollar. They had copies of The King’s Speech and The Fighter both at the time still in theaters in the US and both definitely not on video.
Back home I made me a peanut butter and honey sandwich for dinner from the food I’d bought earlier and had a few BBQ potato chips. Ahh some comfort.