Musings / Saturday, March 19th, 2011

Wangba is what you call an Internet Cafe here. Yesterday, after a strenuous workout at the gym, we went over to an Internet cafe we saw close by. The place was HUGE. There must have been a 100 machines there.

Most of the Chinese I saw at the Internet bar were either playing games or watching movies. There were plush seats you could recline back on, and drinks or food you can order to your station. The cost? RMB3 for an hour. We had been looking for an Internet bar for one simple reason – the connection here provided by the university sucks. It’s pathetic at most times and just plain disappears during the evening, especially on weekends. And that’s when I like to just sit  back and watch a World Cup cricket match or two. But it’s been disastrous as it’s practically impossible to stream any site in the evening. To illustrate, I was trying to download Team Viewer software last evening. The file size of the software is 3MB. Read it carefully. It’s 3MB. That’s even less than the photo you attached in your email yesterday or the week before. It took 30 minutes to download 1.5MB, and then gave up. I am a persistent person sometimes, much to my own irritation. So I tried again. This time, after 45 minutes,3MB was downloaded. The download speed is 1.5KB per minute. Ridiculous? So, Fu Julie suggested we can watch the matches in an Internet bar, especially since you can kind of relax with a coffee too! Having seen the wangba here, and seen the mostly shady little dingy rat holes called Internet cafes I have seen in Bangalore, I felt it was worth a try. But. You can’t.

All public Internet browsing in China requires a China new-generation ID card. And of course, you can’t buy this card, you can’t register yourself for this card unless you are Chinese. So, essentially a foreigner has no access. The owner of the wangba here was apologetic. He needs to swipe the card on the little machine he has on his desk – if he doesn’t and anyone has unauthorized use of the computer, it immediately triggers an alarm at a police station that is monitoring it. It’s a bizarre rule from a country that wants to open up to the world – at least allow foreigners with a valid ID to show their passports and log on. Sigh. My next idea is to try sitting at a coffee shop that offers free wireless.

In between, I received a strange mail from the International office here. It was a “kind notice” requesting all foreign students not to “attend any possible group-related activities” these days. That’s it. Hmm. Does that mean I cannot go to a party tomorrow? Nah. You know what they mean. Interesting times these.

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