We are here in Dalian, China, to look for a house or apartment to move into in November for 2 years of expat living. Before leaving, I purchased VPN accounts from two different providers: HotSpotVPN and WiTopia. These are necessary to get around the Great Firewall of China and to access American financial institutions. Thus far, based on limited testing, WiTopia is my favorite, because it seems faster and tends to flake out less frequently. With VPN, I can access home bank accounts, etc. Without it, I can access just about all the sites I access regularly: CNN, NYT, Salon.
But either with or without VPN, connections to Facebook regularly time out and the experience is frustrating. This is a bummer since I had hope to use Facebook to update friends and family on a regular basis. I hate to use Open Salon for short form updates (because, in general, OS seems a bit more substantive), but I think I'm going to have to do it this way.
We arrived Monday morning after a grueling 24-hour trek (which started Saturday night in Phoenix; some hours just evaporate into thin air). Determined to accomplish a bit and stay awake, we set out with some fellow travellers to find SIM cards for our phones and just explore in general. The concierge at the hotel wrote down some notes to help us find a store and then one of the female bell hops volunteered to take us to a store.
In any hotel in China that accepts foreigners, there are dozens of fresh-faced young people acting as bell hops and clerks. For every one bell hop you might find in the US, there are two or three in China. Every time we pass in or our the front door, three or four people greet us.
Our new bell hop/assistant, Royi, recruited a friend and they led us on a frenetic march down streets and into a couple of shops. The first shop didn't sell the brand we wanted (China Unicom had been recommended) and neither did the second shop. But, not wanting to keep Royi too long, we purchased SIM cards there and tested them. Royi provided some translation, but her English was limited. The clerk in the shop complimented Jimmy on his Chinese. Unfortunately, he zoned out when she used the word han wen (Chinese language) and he didn't understand her! Royi had to translate that bit. With Royi's help we had gotten the job done. We have a Chinese phone number and so do our companions.
Now it was time to fill our bellies. Since we were in a neighborhood with lots of Korean shops, we asked Royi to recommend a Korean restaurant. (One of the deciding factors in moving to Dalian for us was the large Korean and Japanese populations, providing both fellow foreigners to meet and good food to eat. There are not a lot of Americans here.) Royi pointed out a restaurant, which she said was frequented by Koreans. Royi left us there to enjoy a giant meal and three large beers split 5 ways for 237 RMB ($35).
must memorize this visual for future good eating
Next up was a stroll to the major shopping area in the Dalian Development Zone. This is the area we plan to live in because of its proximity to work for Jimmy. As we walked down JinMa Road (one of the main arteries in this area), Jimmy was approached by some women in hats. The rest of us kept moving and then stopped to watch him suffer. As best as he could tell they were offering to pray to a higher power on his behalf. For a fee. He got away without spending a single yuan, but I am hoping they still pray for us, because our schedule is insane for the next three days.
Jimmy turning down a prayer