It took three weeks, but after much cursing and hair pulling, I finally have internet in the new apartment. The amount of time that I spent trying to figure out how to live without the web has confirmed my understanding of how addicted I really am. But who cares, the world is at my hands once more!
When I moved into my first apartment in Beijing, we were lucky enough to have an internet package already installed, but soon enough it came time to renew our contract. This would have been easy enough, but because internet is typically purchased in 6 month to year long contacts, it was of no surprise that no one could remember who we had purchased our service from. Imagine for a moment that you have no idea who your provider is, but you need to pay a bill. Throw three foreigners with poor Chinese into the equation and you have quite an adventure ahead. We went so far as to go door to door in our complex asking neighbors who they got their service from. Most of them didn’t understand what we were trying to ask, and those that did were so entertained by the idea of foreigners trying to get things done that they weren’t much more help. After hours of digging and questioning, we found the phone number that we were looking for, and that was that.
This time around, I have not been so lucky. Three weeks ago, I had one of the girls that I work with call in to find out who was responsible for the internet in my community. In a format similar to the U.S., certain companies have the rights to place service in certain areas. Unlike the U.S., however, there are only a few main companies, and all of them are heavily controlled by the government. The result is that there isn’t much need for them to get anything done in a timely manner. At first, the answer was that they weren’t sure if they put internet in my community, and they would have to check. Checking took four days, at which point they called back with an answer. This was great, except that they had gotten my address wrong, and as such, the answer was null and void (despite being an apartment complex directly adjacent to my own). Add another 4 days.
Eventually, it was determined that they could provide service, but they weren’t sure when they would be able to install it. Another staff member in the office explained that they would call when they had time, but that I shouldn’t expect any news any time soon. Three days passed, and no call. Once again, we were forced to pick up the phone, this time being more direct in demanding a time that they would arrive. Someone on the other end said they would arrive in the next three days, and would call before they arrived. Given that I work almost an hour away from my apartment, this wasn’t exactly convenient. Three days later, they called, ready to come install everything on the one day when I wasn’t able to come home.
The story goes on like this for some time, and ultimately becomes stagnant and entrenched in bureaucratic depths that seem to line a post socialist economy. Long and short, I got my internet, it just took days longer than I would have liked. In honor of this moment, I have included two pictures taken from my balcony in the closing hours of the day. It was an unusually clear day in Guangzhou, and I was graced with the sight of the mountains in the distance.