I started the day with dim sum with the Wife's old classmates. Well, it was really she and her chums eating and talking at one table while Son and I ate at another table in the same room. I can take that. It's something to do for the Wife, not for some distant relative's fifth cousin. After the Wife left the hotel with the Son, I took a nap, watched TV, read a sci-fi paperback, and listened to a This Week In Tech podcast on my iPod, with a nap or two here and there. Then I had lunch in the Western restaurant in the hotel lobby - porkchop and Coke. Originally, I wanted seafood pizza, but just because it was on the menu didn't mean the chef on hand could make it. After lunch, I plunked down another 15 yuan, or about $2, for another hour of Internet time.
So much with complaining. I did enjoy a few moments here and there. Borrowing a page from my sister's blog, below is a list of differences I noticed between this China visit and that from my first visit back in 1994. It may not be 1994, it may be 1993, but for argument's sake, I'll assume it was 1994.
- Water. Back in 1994, at the home of Uncle P, where I stayed at, water had to be obtained from a hand pump. That was better than going to the public well, but still it was an inconvenience. On this trip, I learned that indoor plumbing has arrived to this part of rural China, even though the pipes are outside the walls, not inside them. Only in newer buildings would one find indoor plumbing with the pipes out of sight. In older houses, it would be too much troubles to knock down the walls to hide the pipes, would it not?
- Paved Roads. One night during my 1994 visit, Uncle P and I had to ferry the Wife's maternal grandma home on bicycles. There were some large pieces of kitchen equipments, maybe a wok or a rice pot, and they were tied to the bicycle I rode on. Uncle P took care of carrying grandma on his bike. The distance wasn't that great, but the trip was difficult because the road consisted of dirt and rocks, with puddles here and there. It was nighttime and we had perhaps only a flashlight, the moon, and the stars. Our two bikes were the only traffic on the road. More than 10 years later, the road is now paved and lit. Traffic consists of many trucks, mopeds, and even some cars.
- Telephone. I recall that prior to the visit, while in Hong Kong I had to go the post office to send a telegram to Uncle P. Then after we arrived, I had to walk the narrow path across some rice paddie to the village post office to send a letter to the U.S. I don't remember if the USPS had started using self-adhesive stamps back in 1994, but at the time in the village the village post office had a jar of rice glue on the front counter for attaching the stamp to the letters. Nowadays, many families in the village have telephone and many people walk around with mobile phone, some even with those Borg-like Bluetooth headsets. I noticed that many houses' outside walls have phone numbers scribbled by hand. Uncle P's daughter said the writings are advertisements for some services.
- Internet Access. Back in 1994, even NYC didn't have wide adoption of broadband Internet access and the village probably had zilch. Now the Net is reachable via DSL, which is understandable since DSL works over phone lines. I don't know about the big cities, but I can see that cable TV is not yet available in the village. The phone had become a necessity so DSL adoption is natural, but watching movies and TV shows on cable TV is still a luxury. I borrowed Uncle P's PC one day and access was so-so. At the Waika Hotel in northern Hainan Island, my Son tried to play some game on PBSKids.org and it took forever to load. In general, anything half the world away took time to load. Not surprisingly, I haven't seen a single Mac computer. It's so much easier to cobble together a motherboard and some adapter cards to make a PeeCee running on Windoze. BTW, at 15 yuans/hour, my Internet time at this hotel, the Sunrise Hot Spring in Taishan, is the cheapest I found on this trip. At Waika it was 20 yuan/half-hour and at Holiday Inn Resort in Sanyan (south Hainan) it was 30 yuan/half-hour.
My one-hour computer time is almost up. I do have photos further supporting some of my findings listed above, but even though I have the necessary hardware to transfer the photos to this computer, I don't want to risk messing up the PC. It's a Windoze PeeCee after all, who knows what kinds of problem I may introduce into it by just connecting it to a digital camera. Speaking of PC problems, a few days after I first used Uncle P's PC, his daughter had to rebuild the machine from scratch because it crashed. Piece of Crap.