Tuesday, May 27, 2014

That’s New

My friends, I have been desperately scrambling to find something to write about, obviously to no avail. I’ve written in depth looks at topics I’ve written about before. That type of writing does not come easily to me. I struggle for every word. Catchy phrases just won’t allow themselves to be caught or committed to print. Ultimately I shelve the entry for another time when my head decides to cooperate with me desire to write. Much as I’d like to post as often as I did in the early days when everything was new, I simply can’t bring myself to write for the sake of filling a void.

That makes me seem like one of those artistes that will/will not commit some deed for the sake of her art, doesn’t it? I’m not trying to put on airs; I’m just trying to be sincere.

Truth is nothing earth-shattering is going on. Funny I should say that from China, where just a few days ago a 5.6 magnitude quake rattled Yunnan province in the wee hours of the morning. Fortunately no deaths, but there were some injuries.

Life is good, life is sweet, life is rockin’ and rollin’ along. My health is much improved since I found out produce was trying to kill me and I now avoid it at all costs, even though I miss the crunch of vegetables and summer fruit is in season. What could be better than a chilled slice of watermelon on a hot day?

My classes are going well. I found my groove about 2 years ago and now no longer suffer anxiety at facing a class. I have enough material prepared to see me through several academic years. Being as I do not teach a structured curriculum, figuring out what to do with my students for 90 minutes per class used to be a challenge. Not anymore. Teaching has not become boring, but it is nothing to write about.

You might have also read that I’ve taken up bike riding for fun and fitness, and to outwit death. I say that tongue in cheek but sometimes, it is literally a life and death proposition to ride a bike on the streets of Wuhan. So far, the furthest I’ve ridden in one stretch is 35km. I’m aiming for 50km this week. While riding is exciting for me, I’m fairly certain you might grind your teeth and roll your eyes should I write entry after entry about my sore knees, my tanned arms and how I cannot seem to find a horn or bell loud enough to announce my presence on the street.

So if all is well and life is moving along, why do I take to the keyboard today? Because I finally have something new to report!

It was a wonderful day. The weather service predicted rain but all we got was mugginess, making me sweat while standing still. Yesterday I stayed home all day because of heavy rain but today I was going out. That’s a pattern I’ve followed since I’ve been here: home one day, out the next.

I hadn’t been to Walmart in a while. Since I got my bike, to be exact. I decided that would be my destination today. I wanted an insulated lunchbox so I could pack picnics for my all day rides, and I needed some new socks, and I wanted… it was nice just to go and look around.

After Walmart I set my sights on bus 777. I always ride that bus from Metro to the bus that takes me home, but I’ve never ventured past Sha Hu station, where I change buses. There was still about half the route to be run. Time to enjoy my old form of entertainment: seeing where buses go. It was a nice ride but nothing spectacular, other than the fact that I got very hungry and developed a craving for Burger King.

One can’t find BK all over the place in Wuhan, like in the states. There are only 2 locations that I know of, and they are almost literally around the corner from each other. I was nowhere near that corner. Also, I had no cash, so I would have to stop by the ATM. That part was easy: the bank and BK are on the same street, within a block of each other. And only about 2 blocks from Sam’s house. Quick change of bus, and I was there!    

My poor friend! He’s been so busy we’ve not had time to visit. Because I was in his neighborhood I contemplated inviting him out for coffee, or stopping by his house but then considered how overwhelmed he is with work this time of year and decided he probably would enjoy rest more than a visit. Such were my thoughts as I took my money from the ATM, ambled down to BK and enjoyed a tasty burger and a cool 7-up.

Before getting on the subway headed home I decided it would be a good idea to transfer the money I had in my pocket to my wallet. I had slid the cash in the side pocket of my cargo pants because it was quicker than tying up the ATM by whipping out my wallet and storing the bills. As I delved into my pocket I realized my bank card was not there.

OH, NO!!! What did I do with it? It only took a few seconds to realize that I had left it in the machine, and another moment to authorize panic at the thought that the next customer could easily have cleaned out my bank account. Retracing my footsteps proved fruitless: of course my card was gone. Cursing my absent-mindedness, I sent Sam a message, telling him what happened. I also told him to feel free to call me an idiot.

As always, it’s Sam to the rescue! In a matter of minutes he and a sweaty Baby Erica appeared. While she and I reacquainted and played Sam took charge, leading us to the bank branch around the corner. Although the teller couldn’t help me she instructed us to call the customer service number, where an English speaking representative would handle things.

I probably don’t need to go into detail about how the matter was resolved but I want to emphasize the lengths the bank went to help me.

The first thing they said was that, if there was no activity on the ATM within 30 seconds while my card was active, my transaction would be closed/cancelled and the machine would retain my card. I breathed a sigh of relief: if memory serves, the ATM lobby was not crowded. I don’t recall anybody immediately behind me. Sam went further: “If your account has been cleaned out, we’ll call the police. They will use the bank’s surveillance video to see who came in behind you and the bank will assist in identifying the thieves.”

From there it was a simple matter of providing proper identification – my passport, which I did not have with me. However, because Sam is required to register all foreigners with the appropriate authorities, he has copies of all my documents. My passport number was as far away as the next computer terminal. He logged onto the government website that lists foreigners, found my information and provided it to the waiting representative.

I should tell you there is a slight problem with my bank account. Because it was opened by the school, my information was not entered into the bank’s computers correctly. In spite of
Sam’s best efforts, the problem persists. Therefore they could not use my name, date of birth or phone number to access my account. Only my passport number would unlock the needed files.

Customer Service called me a total of 5 times in two hours to update me on the situation and to ask if I wanted my account frozen for 5 days. Mind you, all of this took place on Sunday afternoon. They called me again this morning while I was in class to let me know my card had been retrieved from the machine. At that time this courteous representative also gave me instructions on how to reclaim my card. I was astounded by the level of service I got, on a Sunday afternoon, after 5pm when all the banks close, and the prompt follow-up, at 9AM the next morning.

As for Sam: we did get a visit in, in spite of my best intentions to leave him resting with his family. At the time I called he was in the park, teaching Erica how to skate. Over coffee he showed me pictures of her wearing all the protective gear you can think of. There she was, adorable in her color coordinated helmet, elbow pads, knee pads, gloves and skates. The blue of her safety gear went well with her pink outfit and Sam’s selflessness went a long way to ease my desire to kick myself for being so absent minded.

See? All in all, a good day!     


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