China 1999

Written by Al Wong (Write to me)

This is my experience in Beijing, China in the Summer of 1999. If you came to this webpage first, it's better if you start from the beginning of the story.

Tuesday, June 29th
Renminbi, Email, Etc.

A somewhat busy day. We managed to exchange money, buy postage stamps, buy a calling card, send email messages, opening ceremony, etc.

Wei's Time

Cathy Wei told us the night before to get up by 7:30am. A few other students and I understood this to be up, dressed and ready at 7:30am. I was surprised to find out Cathy had just gotten up at this time. So now I call this scheduling by Wei's Time which dictates you actually get ready between 30-40 minutes after Wei's Time. So if Wei's Time dictates you be up at 7:30am, actually ready time is somewhere between 8am and 8:10am.

Today's activities include:

  • Money Exchange. The exchange rate was something like 8.08 reminbi (RMB) to one US dolllar. I can't make out the handwriting on my exchange receipt. Traveler's checks get a slightly better exchange rate than US cash.

  • Postage Stamps. To send a postcard from Beijing to the US costs $4.20RMB. I bought a number of stamps for postcards.

    I later discovered the postage stamps in Beijing will not be accepted for letters/postcards in Hong Kong. I could use these stamps in Xi'an though. So postage stamps are good throughout China except in Hong Kong. Their One Country, Two Systems rule.

    [Beijing Phone Card]

  • Calling Cards. Calling cards are available at the front desk of the academy. For $50RMB, you supposedly get about 3 minutes calling time to the US. In reality, I called the US three separate times and got no more than 2 minutes total calling time. The internal phone system at the language academy appears to be a mess as using the phone card is a complicated procedure.

    As an aside, the calling card can only be used in Beijing. I discovered later that I could not use the same calling card while in Xi'an or in Hong Kong. So calling cards only work in the city which you buy them.

  • Shopping Center We went to a department store at a place called dang dau shang chang. It was kind of interesting seeing what products were available and to people watch.

  • Pokey Email. I was escorted to use the computer lab at the language academy. There were about eight Win 95 machines in a local network. However, their Internet connection is very slow. I understand it was at 28.8K baud which is shared by all machines! Telnetting to my service provider, Primenet, was painfully slow. I couldn't reach Hotmail either. Fortunately, I was able to reach Yahoo's email system and managed to send off three email messages before I had to leave the computer lab. The computer lab is open Monday-Thursday from 2pm-5pm.

    Problems. I cannot dial in to the computer lab from my room phone. I also cannot dial out to a local service provider from my room phone. It turns out you need a special phone line to dial out to a local service provider. Cathy's room has this special phone line. While still in the US, I had originally asked for dial up information to the Internet in Beijing and was told it was not available. I was very surprised to find out Cathy actually had a working phone line to the Internet! Needless to say, this left me somewhat peeved and disappointed.

  • Opening Ceremony. This is where we met two of the facilities managers (we really should talk to them about getting brighter lights for the rooms!) and several academy teachers. I was expecting a lot more people in this ceremony. It turns out the only students who showed up were in our class! I also felt I was overdressed. Cathy specified semi-formal dress code. That usually means coat and tie. Actually, the real dress code for the opening ceremony is dressy casual. At least, that's what the managers were wearing. Fortunately since I'm going to Hong Kong right after this class, I can use my coat and tie over there in the better restaurants.

  • Dinner is a Feast! This time they served us a multi-course meal which we could not finish. A lot of food was wasted because some people were still not over their jet lag and could not eat a lot.

    I wish to mention something that really bothered me during this meal. One of the teachers, evidently prepared a song to sing to our group. He was great. Then out of the blue, our table was expected to sing a song, evidently for the entertainment of the academy's teachers who were also present. There was no forwarning and this was not planned. We had just eatened and several people were still in jet lag mode and so were slow in coming up with a song. Cathy Wei kept insisting we sing a song. We ended up singing a poor rendition of the song, Bingo, which the teachers really didn't pay attention to anyway. Cathy mentioned we will have to sing a song later during our visits with other schools. I fail to see the connection. The request to sing a song at dinner was impromptu. Singing a song at other schools will be planned.

  • Beijing at Night. We were taken on a nice bus ride around Beijing at night. Our one stop was to see some locals performing a local dance in one of the side streets.
The Next Day China 1999 My Writings Al's Wild Web Page

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Last updated : November 8, 1999
Copyright 1999 Al Wong, Los Angeles, California, USA
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