Connectivity

As you’ll recall, I broke the internet last weekend. For clarity: I reset the router and didn’t know the school’s static IP.

Once it was fixed, I merrily went on the internet.

I’d like to discuss the internet…I’m going to say problem…here in China. For me, this problem is twofold.

The first part of the problem is connectivity in the personal sense. I try to keep this blog updated on a semi-regular basis – two to three posts a week. That becomes difficult when the internet bugs out for a couple of days at a time. The whole school simply ceases to have functioning internet. The produce store I frequent has better wifi than this place, and I can’t park my laptop in the apple cart and hope no one notices. There are no Starbucks in the immediate area, no coffee shops. The tea houses are bucolic and tech-free.

It would not be so bad, except I’ve missed two meetings this week back in the States, and I have no way of explaining myself. My Chinese cell phone can’t call America, without wifi my computer can’t contact anyone anywhere. I could, in theory, turn on the cell data for my American phone – Verizon charges $21 for every 1MB of data – yeah, MB not GB. I don’t want to pay fifty bucks to tell my meetings “Sorry, there’s no internet where I work all day.”

I am not dependent on my online presence to keep me going. I can function outside of technology just fine, but I also recognize that I need to change my plane ticket and have no way of calling Delta. That I have Skype meetings I’m missing. That I need to buy a Father’s Day gift. My presences is requested online, and I can’t get there. That’s what’s so ungodly frustrating about all this. I have responsibilities which I cannot complete. And yes, occasionally I want to check in on my Facebook people and find out whose adorable babies are doing what, and which color soul a friend discovered they had.

The second part of the problem is the firewall. Google won’t work – China simply says “nope.” This includes gmail about 50% of the time. I can access it through my iphone, strangely enough, but not my work laptop. I can’t go the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal (NPR works fine…because I bet the big wigs like listening to Wait, Wait! Don’t tell me!). No social media, and that’s not just Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook – anything resembling a blog doesn’t load. It’s like navigating a video game street, where there are inexplicable obstacles for seemingly simple tasks.

I can read web comics, go and watch snarky movie reviews, and enjoy fake news . It’s whack-a-mole, trying to guess which sites will be deemed inaccessible and which won’t. Who managed to make China angry today? Attempt to visit their website and find out!

But here’s the thing – I can go the Canadian versions of those sites no problem. I can go to google.ca or bing.ca and navigate with minimal trouble. I only get kicked back 25% of the time. So it’s politics, all the way out here in the heartland of China. They don’t mind the Canadian versions of the websites, even though I think they’ll provide the same results.

There are ways…around the firewall. If there weren’t, I’d be e-mailing these posts to my sister to put up for me. Unfortunately (again), they aren’t reliable either. I get stuck just sitting here, trying to connect with the rest of the world.

Connectivity is a wonderful thing. The internet is an amazing tool at our disposal. With it I can keep in contact with my family across the Pacific Ocean, and find all sorts of useless and useful information for class. I can find pictures of vocabulary words which fail to translate, like “clover” and “otter” and “genius.” Not having easy access to those tools only highlights how much of a gift they are. That sounds really nice of me. I’m cleaning up my awful swearing rants for the sake of internet. This is me after twenty attempts to get somewhere:

Me: “Jesus Christ! You motherf***ing piece of sh*t government control a**hole Communist sh*teating f**k faces. IT’S A YOUTUBE VIDEO!”

That’s connectivity for you.

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