So now I’m the proud owner of an 爱国者 DC-V60 digital camera.
Well, it’s giving me a bit of trouble at the moment, but I’m sure that’ll be sorted out when I get used to its little quirks and figure out how to use it properly. The two biggest problems, one of which was very serious and had me sulking in the other room for quite some time, is that the process of downloading some of the software just about killed my computer. And by just about killed, I mean, it was fucking seriously dead for quite some time there. Now it seems to be functioning ok, but we’ll see what happens tomorrow. The other, and far less serious problem, is that it takes so fucking long for the camera to connect to the computer that I assume it’s stalled, pull the plug, and try a new USB port.
Well, chances are it wasn’t just the software to blame for nearly killing my computer. It took me quite some time to get the thing started long before I had a chance to plug the thing in or download any of the free software. At first the bloody thing did what it did back when the motherboard crapped out a few months ago: I pressed the on button, the fan whirred, nothing happened. Well, after a bit of turning it on, turning it off, turning it on and just pulling the plug when nothing happened, and other variations on that rather limited set of options, I got it going. Cool. Then, as I said, in the process of installing some of the software that came with the camera, it all turned to custard again. After a bit of me sulking in the other room and cursing Tsinghua Tongfang, Aiguozhe, and everyone who was ever associated with either company, lzh started the computer and everything is fine again. So, as I said, naturally the first thing I did was to immediately delete the software I was installing when the computer crashed.
So far so good: I have restarted the computer once since then and everything worked like it’s supposed to. But here’s the thing: I restarted the computer having installed what the manual and CD-ROM claimed were the drivers for the camera, and yet it still takes forever and a day for the camera to connect to the computer. In fact, it has yet to establish a connection. The photos I have taken so far are very firmly stuck on the camera. That’s no good. Even though I got a 256 MB memory stick instead of the 128 MB stick that came free because they couldn’t find the free ones (but getting that 256 MB stick cost an extra 40 kuai, so it wasn’t quite so free), I’m likely to take quite a few pictures, certainly more than the 102 pictures taken at 5 megapixels the book says should fit on a 256 MB stick, over the holiday. So I really want to figure out how to download these things, and as fast as possible.
Ah, the holiday. That’s pretty much how I got the camera.
See, last Friday, a colleague of mine was heading up to Beijing for a few days’ R’n’R before he flies back to NZ, and he had all his worldly goods and treasures, or at least everything he owned in Tianjin, to take with him. See, he’s got some medical shit to take care of back home, and his doctors might strongly recommend that he don’t come back. Anyway, with so much stuff to carry, he decided the bus would be better than the train, because the express trains between Tianjin and Beijing aren’t really set up for people with large amounts of luggage, and trying to carry all that shit on to the train, guard it, and get it off the train would have been far too much hassle. I, obviously, go to Beijing often, and for an obvious reason, and certainly would not have complained about a long weekend in Beijing, if not an early start to the winter holiday, and I’m the only foreign teacher on staff with a passable knowledge of the Chinese language, so my help was enlisted.
No, the last clause of that last sentence was not a complaint.
It turns out that us foreign teachers won’t be required this week, or at least, that’s the information we had as of last Thursday. But with the aforementioned colleague only able to get a flight home on the 15th, me having done a runner, and two others having planned to head southwest-wards (to Yunnan via at least Chongqing) as early as possible (either last Saturday or this Tuesday, last I heard), leaving only two foreign teachers on hand, one of whom has only stayed in Tianjin because his wife and one-and-a-half month old child are there, I think the school will have to give up on us, regardless of what they really had planned for this week.
So I’m back in Yanqing. It’s cold up here, but not as cold as I remember it being last winter. They’ve changed the beer. Well, they’ve changed the label. It’s no longer the old Yanjing Ganpi label; it’s a similarly coloured and designed label, but different enough: it says the usual bollocksy Yanjing Pijiu now. Of course it’s fucking Yanjing Beer. Every beer made by Yanjing is a Yanjing Beer. But it tastes the same as the old Ganpi. Still, most Chinese lagers taste roughly the same. But the old Ganpi and the new generically-named Yanjing Pijiu that has replaced it do have a slightly cleaner, crisper edge to them, as if the brewery decided that the cooler weather up here rendered the formaldehyde unnecessary. Whatever, it’s still good.
So on Friday morning I helped my colleague shift all his stuff up to a hotel in Beijing. Mate, that was a mission and a half. Problem number one was getting to the bus. Tianjin’s taxis are just plain to small. We got one of the bigger Xialis. Huh, bigger. We managed to get one single case in the boot (trunk, for you bloody yanks), and the rest in the back seat, with skinny little me squeezing between the luggage and the door. Yeah, I had a couple of bags, too. After all, I’m planning on spending a good month up here. So it was a bit of a squeeze, yeah. Problem number two was figuring out the buses. See, I’d seen them on the right of the train station’s 前广场 before, and so that’s where I took us, even though the driver thought the 后广场 would be better. I decided, for safety’s sake, to go for what I knew. Turns out the driver had a point, but that’s problem number 4, and I’ve only got as far as problem number 3 so far, which was the driver’s accent: Holy fucking shit! I have never heard such a wacky, weird-arse accent in a taxi driver ever before anywhere in north China. Sure, when I was in Taiyuan, my Chinese was nowhere near good enough to judge people’s accents, and for a long time in Beijing it wasn’t much better, but even so, I’ve spent a fair bit of time in north China with Chinese good enough to tell when somebody was from out of town or not. And bloody hell, was this guy from somewhere I didn’t recognise. At times his accent was absolutely impenetrable, but on the whole I could understand most of what he was on about, and he could understand me, so we could communicate. But bloody hell did communicating with this guy take some work.
Anyways, we got there, and problem number 4 emerged: How to figure out the buses while not killing every motherfucking “taxi” driver who seemed to think my name was some variation on “Hello! Beijing! Taxi!” However, my last run in with such a driver, although being long, drawn out and bloody frustrating, was ultimately very successful and we managed to wait for quite some time with nobody, but nobody bothering us. So we got there, we looked at the buses waiting to leave, found that one of them had no seats left and so was no use to us anyway, and then I wandered over to the ticket office and got us tickets for the 10:30 bus from the Alsa office. Then we went off to get some breakfast and relax somewhere far away from the “taxi” drivers. At about 10am we went back to the bus stop to see what was happening and fended off more of these bloody idiot drivers (including the most troublesome, but last of the parasites). Sure, part of it was our fault for walking up to the Yutong bus to see if it was ours (I should have read the tickets more carefully), but really, some of those drivers really should be shot and dumped in the Hai River. Well, anyway, we eventually got on our bus.
And then the bus left late.
And then the bus went to the real bus station at the后广场 to pick up a few more passengers. Obviously we should have listened to the taxi driver’s suggestion. Trouble is, I don’t much trust taxi drivers as a species. Still, a little humble pie every now and then never does any harm. And then the bus driver proceeded to find us the worst traffic jams in all of Tianjin on the way up to the expressway. And then the traffic on the expressway, although not being as bad as I have seen, was enough to slow things down for us. And then there was traffic backed up at least a kilometre at the Dayangfang tollbooth just inside the Beijing border. And then there was Beijing city traffic to deal with, which was followed up by every man and his dog desperately wanting to turn left ahead of us at the Zhaogongkou bridge on the southern third ring road. And then it took forever to actually get in to the bus station. And to top it all off it took us two and a half hours to travel the hundred-odd kilometres from Tianjin Railway station to Zhaogongkou Bus Station and… where were we? Zhaogongkou?! Fuck. So there we are on the southern third ring road miles from anywhere we wanted to be, or even could have wanted to be. Well, don’t tell the boss, but we were only a couple of blocks west of head office. Well, we got ourselves a “taxi”, well, a heiche, and headed off to the real world.
My colleague likes a hotel at Baiziwan. It’s a bit out of the way, but just south of Soho and the Dongjiao Market, so it’s not a bad location at all. It’s a bit expensive for my tastes, but very comfortable and most certainly not over priced. In fact, the price is certainly worth it, but the value lzh and I get for our money at our regular joint suits us a little better. I hope that makes sense. Anyway, we got him settled in there and wandered up to Soho to meet lzh and get some lunch.
Lunch? It was half past bloody two by the time we got to Soho. Bloody buses. I’m sticking with the trains in future.
And then lzh and I said our goodbyes to my colleague and jumped in a taxi to Deshengmen.
We made it back to the village just in time for dinner. And a bloody good dinner it was.
And since then lzh has typed up a little more of her graduation thesis and I’ve done fuck all, and then today we took Ma and Didi into the county town to buy a washing machine, a meal at KFC, and a digital camera.
And I’m enjoying my digital camera. It’s pretty cool really. The Yanqing branch of Dazhong had a couple of Panasonic and Canon cameras for slightly more than I paid, but still within my price range. Thing is, they offered only four megapixels. And the difference between 4x zoom and 3x zoom wasn’t really enough to convince me to buy either of the more famous brands. And besides, the Aiguozhe came with a bunch of free extra stuff: the DC-V60 PLUS offered a 128MB memory card, some kind of battery, and a teddy bear. The DC-V60 came with a 128 MB memory card, two rechargeable batteries, and a battery charger. Also, the PLUS comes only in red, whereas the regular DC-V60 comes in a much cooler grey. The PLUS cost as much as the Panasonic and Canon models, whereas the regular was 400 kuai cheaper. The other differences were less than negligeable. So I bought the regular, and because the staff couldn’t find the free 128 MB memory card, they offered a 256 MB card for an extra forty kuai. What the hell, that’s more memory at what really isn’t much of an expense, only a tenth of the extra it would have cost to buy any of the other cameras, so why not? So here I am, yet to figure out how to shift photos from camera to computer, but with stacks of extra space on the memory card, and time to figure things out.