'China', and Western Ignorance.
I've written a number of articles in the last months about my life
(this year) in China. Those stories relate to the frustrations of
dealing with the Stupidity or Malevolence of the Commonwealth Bank Australia, the frustrations of Murphy's Law in traveling, and the frustrations of dealing with an old computer, but after my most recent article (read 'laugh') in relation to the Commonwealth Bank Australia's New CEO's Asian plans,
I decided to write this article and make it a companion piece to
perhaps give the Western Armchair 'know-all' a glimpse of how
frustrating the little things of life which are so taken for granted in
the west, can be a right royal pain in the ass in China.
In the telling of this tale I will be drawing from my experiences
both in Baotou City in Inner Mongolia, and Suzhou City in Jiangsu
In my most recent rant about the Commonwealth Bank Australia titled CBA's CEO Ian Narev's Asian Dream I wrote:
If the Commonwealth Bank Australia intends to do business in Asia,
then I think it is going to need to know a lot more about 'providing
customer service' and 'dealing with foreign realities on the ground'
than they do at present.
Essentially, this article is about those realities on the ground.
Currently my credit card account is suspended because the Chinese
government has blocked my email account. That's it in a nutshell. I
can't access the account and the Commonwealth Bank not only refuses to
deal with me via my hotmail account but also refuses to deal with me
through the email service within my allegedly secure Netbanking system.
Suffice it to say, that in China, the internet and email accounts are
not as reliable as they are in the west. This is one of many things of
which some westerners may be unaware.
Internet related problems.
I have previously written about how that wonderful Mr. Kang of the SuZhou Computer Repair service has looked after me so I won't bore you with that tale, but my internet problems did not cease when he fixed my computer.
There were 3 distinct periods in 4 weeks during which I could not
access the internet. The first time lasted a week. It took that long for
the telecom guy to come and attend to the problem. He tried to tell me
that I needed to buy a new modem, but it was his company that sold me
the bloody modem when they installed the line. I refused to part with
cash of course, and called my Foreign Affairs Officer at school, who
told the man - whatever it was he said.
A week went by and I lost the internet again, this time for about 4
days. The technician came and fixed the problem and told me that it was a
problem caused by my computer. I spoke to Mr. Kang and he said that
that was ridiculous.
A week later I lost the internet for the 3rd time and did a song and
dance at the telecom office and next afternoon the guy came to see me.
When he entered my apartment I shoved my phone in his face and told him
to speak to my computer repair man and tell him what the problem is.
He told me to wait a minute while he fiddled with my computer, and
then he went downstairs. Thirty minutes later he returned and informed
me that everything was now OK. It was an outside line problem. All up
that month I lost about 14 days of internet use.
Air-conditioning and Central Heating.
Last winter in Baotou, where the temperatures were between minus 20
and 30 degrees, the whole floor upon which I lived was without central
heating. It was actually warmer to go outside and stand in the sun. All
winter! 'So Sorry! Central Heating is not working!'
Suzhou is nowhere near as bad as Baotou, but it does get cold and so
air-conditioning is reverse cycle allowing for warm air to be circulated
in your room in the winter. (But only if you are rich enough to afford
it! My privately leased apartment does have it.)
One Friday morning, just before leaving for school, I lost power to
the air conditioner and other electrical goods in my apartment. After
classes I took off for Jiaxing
and didn't return till Sunday night. Monday morning I went to the
realtor and informed her and was assured that there would be someone at
my apartment that evening to fix the problem. Each day on the way to
work I called in to say that the guy hadn't turned up and by Thursday I
was 'hot' but only under the collar.
The guy finally turned up Saturday afternoon at about 5pm and after 5
minutes of playing around with the air conditioner and the power point,
had everything working again. Wonderful! The following Sunday it died
again. This time I was able to call him directly and he soon arrived and
fixed the problem and then called the 'landlady' and gave her a blast
about the fuse boxes. He told her that she needed to fix them. An hour
later, the power went out again and even though I was using nothing in
the apartment, the fuse box was sizzling.
Monday night the landlady's husband and an electrician turned up and
spent about an hour working on the fuse boxes and fixed the problem. And
this is now my cue to tell you about the Water Problem - or more
correctly - the hot water problem. Actually the lack of Hot water. The
electrician explained to me that my apartment did not have an electric
hot water system installed.
The Value of Solar Hot Water Systems
In Baotou I lived on the 6th floor of an apartment building and in
addition to the central heating problems in winter, there was an
additional problem, which was that often there was insufficient water
pressure in the building, which meant 'No Water'. In Baotou, whenever I
had water, I had wonderful hot showers. When I didn't, I had to dip into
the big water storage bucket.
In Suzhou, I don't have that problem. There is always water. But Hot water is another question.
My apartment is located in a little village area
which has undergone a tremendous facelift since I arrived in September.
I am actually luckier than most residents because my apartment is owned
by a soldier - an officer - who installed, in addition to the washing
machine, refrigerator, and air-conditioning, a solar hot water system,
but, like the rest of the residences, there is no electric hot water
system. That means that there is only hot water when the sun shines.
I don't know where I wrote it, but the fact is, that during these
cold winter days, there is no sun, just clouds. The night sky however is
perfectly clear but that doesn't help heat the hot water. Point being:
Like everyone else I have to boil up pots of water in the morning or
evening so that I can have a wash.
China may appear to be a modern country, and in fact she is
developing quite well in that direction, but if you have never lived as
an ordinary Chinese person lives, then you really don't know what life
is really like.
The Commonwealth bank (although they failed when they tried to call
me in Baotou on a landline) expect me to be able to just pick up my
non-existent house phone and give them an allegedly 'free call'.
The Commonwealth bank (although they have been told that I can't
access it) expects me to access the internet and my kingscalendar email
account as easily from China as I could in Australia.
They either haven't a clue about what constitutes 'real life' in
China, or they expect me to break the Laws of China and invest in one of
those systems that can bypass the Great Firewall of China. Not only
would that be illegal in China, but if I had access to my credit card to
purchase one of those systems, I bloody well wouldn't need to 'cause my credit card wouldn't be suspended!
When I got the internet connected I had no translator with me and had
to do everything in Chinese so forgive me if I don't understand it all
too well, but this much I did understand: There was one fee for just an
internet connection, and a larger fee if I wanted to have a house phone.
Question? Does your bank expect you to install a house phone before its
representatives will talk to you? Surely not!
But my personal problems aside, I can't help but wonder what type of
minds these 'retired to their own rectum' bank johnny types actually
have. Has no other person in the world yet had the experience where they
had a difficulty with their bank and could not use a landline to call,
and could not access their email accounts?
Perhaps not! But the law of unintended consequences dictates that no
one can foresee all the possible stuff-ups that an implemented system
might encounter, and Murphy's Law dictates that whatever can possibly go
wrong, one day will.
One would think that based on those two great truths that the
Commonwealth Bank would have the organizational and managerial
flexibility to deal with any situation to arise, but apparently they do
not - OR - they don't wish to!
But you just have to wonder if at the end of the day, the whole issue
is not just about "a shortage of competent staff" and a lack of good
old fashioned customer service. I know in Australia that the Banks
believe that they are a law unto themselves and that the legal system is
nothing more than their personal 'rubber stamp', but if they think a
Chinese or other Asian person is going to 'shut up, bend over and take
it in the ass' like we westerners do in Australia, then I think that Mr.
Ian Narev, new CEO of the Commonwealth Bank Australia, is in for one
hell of a surprise. Maybe he needs migrants to teach him how to do his business.
A Different example of Western Ignorance of the True China.
Ancient Chinese Culture in the 21st Century
Today, I am using a recent letter from Jerry, to tell a story – a
sad story. It is a story rooted in Ancient and Modern Chinese Culture.
It is a story of an impossible love. It is a story I have heard so many
times before, of families who refuse to allow their children to love
whom they will. It is a story about how in the 21st century, Chinese
children must still obey their parents and marry the one of whom the
R.P.BenDedek (pseudonym) is the Author of 'The King's Calendar: The Secret of Qumran' (www.kingscalendar.com
), and is a guest columnist and stand-in Editor at Magic City Morning
Star News. An Australian, he has been teaching Conversational English in
China since 2003.
Writers Journal Kingscalendar
"The King's Calendar" is a
chronological study of the historical books of the Bible (Kings and
Chronicles), Josephus, Seder Olam Rabbah, and the (Essene) Damascus
Document of The Dead Sea Scrolls.