Things I Never Knew Could Make Me So Happy
As we’ve been getting set up here, many common errands have proven extremely challenging. Despite Nick’s fluent Mandarin, it seems like nothing is ever easy, we’ve learned a rule of thumb that the simplest errands often take three times as long as one might expect because they involve extended negotiations, handwritten paperwork, and often result in multiple trips and some frustrating returns.
But when something finally does work out, it is accompanied with such an extreme sense of satisfaction, relief, and accomplishment. Some things about which I never thought I could be so happy:
- A connected, operational jailbroken and unlocked iPhone. It’s true, I love my technology, but I never thought seeing a signal bar could bring me such joy. Being knowledgeable about and somewhat apt with technology, I took it upon myself to research and perform the jailbreaking and unlocking of our respective 3G and 3GS iPhones for use in China. I thought I had successfully followed through all the steps, including the acrobatics of timing the pressing and lifting of sleep and home buttons simultaneously through the jailbreak software boot, but when it came time to insert our newly purchased SIM cards: no dice. No matter what I did to fiddle with the installation and unlocking features, I couldn’t get it to work. I went for an entire week without a cell phone; thankfully Nick had his Beijing number working to help with our manifold errand-running. I gave up and we went back to the store where we bought are cards to report that they were not working, and were then brought to one of the many nearby shady cell phone repair shops that are found in the underground labyrinth of commerce under Chongqing. The guy proceeded to tell us that the jailbreak didn’t work (no shit) and started to work on jailbreaking it himself. I quickly realized he was using the exact same software as I had, and yet wasn’t following the explicit directions for the timed release of buttons and thusly froze my phone. I used what little Chinese I know to say “give me!” and we walked back home. I tried again and again with different permutations, deactivating one way and another, and still nothing worked. We complained again to the China Unicom official customer service, where everyone (including the guard) seemed to have a different opinion on why my phone wasn’t reading the SIM card. Finally, it took going to the “authorized Apple repair service” in one of the more legitimate technology superstores for them to tell us our modem firmware wasn’t right to support Chinese SIM cards, and I handed over my precious iPhone with some confidence and a speck of hope that he could get it to work. About 10 minutes and 150 kuai later, I had a working iPhone. I called Nick’s cell phone, it rang right next to me, and a sense of glee washed over me.
This is not something you want to see when unlocking your phone.
Those bars make me very happy.
- Sheets and a comforter that fit our bed. Unlike the US where sheets are advertised as fitting their respective bed size (Twin, Full, Queen, King), sheets here first of all are not fitted (just flat), and are sold based on the size they are, rather than the size bed to which they correspond. This, we did not figure out until purchasing 150 cm sheets for our 150 cm bed to find that they only covered the top and not the sides. Two sets of returns to Carrefour (and angry glares from and negotiations with aggravated salespeople) later, we had sheets for our guest bed, but we still didn’t have sheets for the newly arrived, larger (180 cm) and softer (more cushion than just springs) mattress we purchased for the master bedroom. We trudged back to Carrefour with trepidation, hesitant to encounter the overeager sales women that had confused and led us astray before. On this visit, we realized Carrefour didn’t carry sheets for beds larger than 150 cm, and so we marched on elsewhere, sheetless. Thankfully, we had spotted a specialty bedding store where we found and purchased sheets that weren’t hideous or in blaring China red. I can’t tell you how good it felt to sleep on that appropriately dressed bed that first night. Not just because it was softer and far more comfortable than all other beds in China that we’ve slept on thus far, but because of the deep sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that came with having this task crossed off the list.
This is what happiness looks like.
However satisfying these two tasks feel completed, we’re still waiting for the broadband to get hooked up into our apartment. And so I post at the Starbucks around the corner, where it is satisfyingly easy for me to order a “bai cha” (white tea).
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