Today was another whirlwind day in Shanghai. Basically, I spent the entire day on the move and I have three things to show for it. First, I was finally able to get a bank card. Up until now, I have had to rely on Mark to supply me with cash from the ATM so that I could make purchases. I haven’t had access to the Chinese bank account, and when I want to make large purchases I have to borrow his debit card and leave him with the possibility of needing money and being unable to get any. This is frustrating to say the least, but this isn’t a situation born of pure laziness. I have been in Shanghai for two months now and it isn’t from lack of trying that I don’t have a debit card. You see, the bank wouldn’t give me one. Well, they wouldn’t give me one unless I opened my own account. They thought it was crazy that Mark would want an additional card for his wife. A joint account? Ha, ha. That suggestion is so funny! The solution was for him to open an account for me and then just keep putting money into it from his account. And depositing money is best done in the bank, mind you, and our internet banking is limited and, also, apparently has never worked. Ah, China. Why can’t things just be simple? Why the crazy every day? Just to mix things up, it turns out that other banks will let you have two debit cards for one account! And they have internet banking! In English! So what do we decide to do? Go and open another bank account, that’s what. Now Mark gets the joy of changing his direct deposit and other information from one bank to another. Check back with me in a year or so and I am sure it will all be close to figured out. So now I have a debit card for an account with no money in it! Chinese bank card—mission kind of accomplished.
I had grand plans to make it to the big electronics store down the street. Yesterday for Leap Day they had a big sale where things were 29% off (so clever) but I couldn’t get to the store to save Mark money. My Chinese teacher claims they have all of the items I have been scouring the city for and that the prices are relatively cheap. She taught me how to say “food processor”, “blender”, and “digital slow cooker” in Chinese in preparation for my excursion. Allegedly there are English-speaking staff working there, but I have learned not to count on that. After my three hour bank trip I was going to see if anyone could understand my Mandarin and hopefully score some of my kitchen things. I was debating whether I should walk or grab a taxi to save some time and energy when my phone rang. It was Lucas’ school telling me he was sick and I needed to come and get him. Change of plans. Luckily, I had the school address and phone number along with my parking pass and parent ID card in my bag. Emergency preparedness! For once I had enough cash for the big ride to Shanghai American School and I was right by the taxi stand! I sprung into action. I was amazed at how easy this was! I was in a taxi going to pick up the sick kid! Without incident! Of course, this could not last. The driver had no idea where he was going and asked me to call the school for directions. A few weeks ago this would have made me nervous, but we were going in the right direction so I stayed calm even though it took me more than one call to actually get a person on the other end of the line. I handed the phone to the driver and he sorted things out. He still pulled out his map, though, which meant he was driving, talking on the phone, and reading the map at the same time. We slowed to a crawl and wandered into other lanes as he tried to get his bearings. Horns honked and other cars swerved to avoid us, but this isn’t so strange for Shanghai. He eventually handed the phone back to me and we barreled down the road.
Lucas’ school is a good 40 minute ride from our house, and once I am there I need a taxi to take me back home. I remembered how this has left me stranded before so I figured I would ask the driver to wait for me while I went in to get Lucas. But how to communicate this to the driver using only five or so words in Chinese? Not possible, I decided, and called Mark’s assistant. Once again I handed the driver the phone and he swerved and talked until things were worked out. He found the school, waited until I had Lucas, and even managed to get us on the way to our house in one germy piece. The ride home was uneventful until we arrived at our compound. We usually come in the last gate, but this afternoon it was locked down tight and not a security guard around. Our taxi joined the line of honking cars and waiting bicycles, but nothing happened. Lucas and I got out of the car and hiked to another gate. When I called to find out why the gate was closed and when it would be reopened I was told it was closed… forever! Just because. Closed even for foot traffic. FOREVER! Oh, China! You are so silly. But we were home, so mission survive-a-quick-change-of-plans was—accomplished!
And my third exciting accomplishment? I wanted a bubble tea and I got one! Ok, it was cold and I had wanted a hot one, but I am still going to say that mission order-a-drink-through-a-combination-of-Mandarin/pantomime was—accomplished! And, yes, I am going to count that as my third big event. The end.
Lizzy and Fay are in Cancun and enjoying your blog! Sounds like you’re making progress. Learning how to get things done in China. Inch by inch it’s a cinch. Yard by yard it’s mighty hard…. (guess who)