Sunday, November 20, 2016

You're calling yesterday...

One of my coworkers got a cake for me and another coworker
with birthdays really close together. The cake came with the
candles, but the last two letters were hidden inside the box.
When we opened it we saw that it said "happy birthdaa"
instead of birthday.
Yesterday was my birthday. Yesterday is also sort of right now. As I type my Facebook feed is filling with birthday wishes. Here, in China, it is about 10:30 in the morning, the day after my birthday. On the East Coast it is 9:30 in the evening the day of my birthday. In Alaska it is only 5:30 in the evening the day of my birthday. According to my dad, I can't even celebrate my birthday until 5:03 pm tonight here in China, because he says that you can't celebrate until the time that you were born and you have to adjust for time zone changes (I tell him that's hogwash). I was born at 11:03 pm in a time zone that most of Alaska is no longer even in (only the aleutians and Hawaii are in that time zone).
My birthday started on a slightly sour note. I woke up and reached for my phone to check my email, the weather and the pollution (yes, I check the pollution levels when I wake up). I pushed the home button on my iPhone and nothing happened. I tried again. The screen stayed dark. I tried pushing the power button. Nothing happened. I checked that there was power coming through the charger, by plugging in another device. I tried charging it using another cable and another plug. Nothing. Now, I'm getting concerned. I have plans that involve meeting up with people. I can send them messages from my iPad, but once I leave the house
Chinese birthday cakes are a little different from back home,
but the friend who procured this one worked really
hard to find something similar to what we would find
at home and it was fantastic!
 (and subsequently my wifi) I cannot reach them. I must admit I was a little surprised by how panicked I was. I not only remember the world before cell phones, but I lived in China (and Germany) before cell phones were ubiquitous and before smart phones existed. I tried to do an online chat with Apple support, but they want my IMEI number which I can't look up because I can't turn on my phone. They give me the option to log in with my Apple ID and I do, but then I'm faced with a second level of verification. They tell me that they have sent a verification code to my trusted devices, but I didn't get it. I google how to get a verification code and learn that I can do it even with a device that is offline. Following directions, I try to get a code, but it won't let me because I apparently have not set it up previously and so it sends a verification code via text message to the phone that of course is not working. I do not have another cell phone that will work with my Chinese nanosim card. I cannot receive a text message, I cannot make a call, but I am growing frustrated. The Apple store will open at 10 and I'm thinking of going there, but then I'm afraid I'll be late for church and without a working phone I won't be able to message anyone. I then realize I can use Skype to call Apple Support. So I call Apple Support in the US from Skype. When the representative answers the phone he asks for my name and then a call back number. I replied, "I'd love to be able to give you a call back number, but I'm calling from Skype because my phone won't work." He understood and we proceeded. As I'm explaining what happened, I realize I don't make a whole lot of sense. He's in the U.S. where it is evening and I'm talking about having just woken up this morning. So, I told him I was in China, but I'm not sure if he didn't catch that part at all or if he just didn't realize the implications of that statement. Thankfully, he successfully helped me do a hard re-start of my phone and it works just fine. At the end of the call he needs a phone number. I tell him its country code 86 and then the rest of the number. He's like, "What was the area code?" I said, "there's no area code, but the country code is 86 because I am in China. My U.S. iTunes account is registered with my Chinese cell phone number." He figured it out and it was all good, but as often happens when I call these customer service places, my unusual situation leads to several questions (and I'm sure a lot of talking about my call after they go home from work - or probably even while they're at work). So after a minute he says, "so you're calling yesterday." I laughed and replied, "Yes and you're talking to tomorrow."

The food was sooo good!
Luckily all that happened quick enough for me to shower and still leave for church nearly on time (altogether the ordeal took about 1.5 hours, but I'm an early riser). That afternoon I had lunch at a 春饼 (chun bing) restaurant with some friends. Chun bing is kind of like the Chinese version of a soft taco and one of my favorite foods. It's not very common in China, but when I lived in Baotou there was a chun bing restaurant just down the street from me, so its something I use to eat a lot, but hadn't had in years. We were really impressed we found the restaurant via a Baidu search (not only is Google blocked in China, but even before it was blocked the most common search engine in China was Baidu) and it turned out to be really awesome. The food was both really good and also quick, the service was good and the place was clean. We plan to go back again.
Then yesterday evening as I was going to bed I started to get Happy birthday messages (in all fairness I had a few friends who are either in non-US time zones our made an effort to send the message on my actual birthday where I was). I went to bed at the end of my birthday with the messages rolling in. I woke up this morning to a bunch or waiting messages (and a couple of adorable videos).
It's very interesting, this isn't my first year living overseas, but it is my first time since the advent of social media. When I lived in Germany I was pretty cut off from things back home. I would talk to my family on the phone once every 2-3 weeks and would get letters from family and friends, but that was pretty much it. My second host family had Internet and my family had CompuServe and so I learned how to send email to them on CompuServe from the Internet (first time I sent an email using @), but otherwise I was cut off. When I lived in China before there was Internet (although the first 1.5 years I only had dial-up), and while I was living in China I think MySpace may have been created, but there wasn't the large social media presence one finds today. I chatted with some friends and family using Instant Messenger and my parents called me most every week, but that was about it. When I would come home in the summers one of my favorite things to do was to watch commercials because that would give me good insight into how a lot of things had changed.
Today, things are very different. I know what's going on in my friends lives via Facebook (the same method I used for a lot of people even when I was in the States), I chat via WeChat with some of my family and friends (including voice calls), which is the same way I chat with most of my friends here in China and I even stream a lot of the same videos. Personally, I'm excited that the 3 am EST release of the Gilmore on Friday. The timing will be perfect for me because that is 4pm on Friday and I get off work at 4 pm.

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