Things that are hard to do in China: Internet and Multitasking

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It’s nothing I ever intentionally choose to do, but I am the kind of guy who internet’s with twenty thousand tabs open. I probably shouldn’t, but at this point it is who I am. I internet multitask, and I do it like a fucking champion. I not only have 20 tabs open in Chrome, I have three different windows of Chrome going, one with info to use, one with articles to read, one with things I use reoccuringly, one for background music, etc.

For instance, right now, I am not just blogging, but I am blogging while booking tickets for a vacation, uploading photos to instagram, reading up on what to do in Macau, downloading a Chrome extension and chatting with a friend, all of this while I have my morning coffee. It’s how I do, and it is how many other people my age do as well. We’ve been tethered to tech like it was an extra umbilical cord since 1995, and we aren’t about to change our ways now.
Unless, that is, you live in China. The middle kingdom seems to pride itself on making the doing of normal, day-to-day things as hard as possible. Part of this is just the serendipitous conspiracy of different circumstances coming together to make your life hellish.
To start with, the internet isn’t great here. When one decided to boot up their laptop, the first thing they will see is that they aren’t connected to the internet. You try to connect, and it fails. So you get up and go check the modem, resetting it just to be on the safe side. It still won’t connect, because this is China. Someday a technician may come to fix it, but who has time to wait for that.
So you move into the living room and connect to a neighbors wifi, which works perfectly. Frankly, if the neighbors think that “12345678” is an acceptable password, then they deserve to share their network with all and sundry.
So now you realize you need to check your email, so you boot up your VPN and try to connect to proper, global internet. It connects, but no website loads. You flush your DNS, check your VPN settings and try again. Still nothing. You change protocol, change server, still nothing goes. On the worst of days you find out that China is amping up internet security, and your VPN will be shut down for the next month or so, apologies for the inconveniences.  Well, that’s not going to help. Better purchase another VPN.
But normally you just change VPN servers and protocols until something works. After trying for about an hour you finally breakdown and contact your VPN’s tech support, whom know you on a first name basis and far from asking you your mother’s maiden name for security purposes, ask how Seve is doing these days, and if she bought that mountain bike she was thinking of getting. Your VPN starts working instantly, as if the technician was some kind of messiah your computer had been waiting for.
So now everything is working, right? Sure, but wait a while! Soon enough, your moron flatmate will kill the modem because he is too stupid to properly troubleshoot his computer. Now you have to go through the whole process again!
The modern internet is full of bells and whistles letting you know when something is wrong. Blogger has a nice big pink bar at the top of the screen that lets you know that it is not autosaving anymore. This is your first sign that something is wrong with the connection, and you need to troubleshoot. But this doesn’t tell you where the problem is. I usually open up Skype and use it as an internet connection canary. Because skype isn’t behind the Great Firewall, if I see that skype isn’t connected, I know the problem is with my connection. So I disconnect, check the modem, reconnect, etc. If skype continues to run, but blogger won’t connect I know the problem is likely with my VPN, and I play with that till something happens. Reddit is also not behind the Great Firewall, so I use that as an internet canary as well. If my VPN is on and I cant load reddit, then something is wrong with my VPN settings. If my VPN is off and I cannot load reddit, then I probably need to flush my DNS.
Sigh.
Remember how I said that I was chatting with a friend, as I was doing all of this. Well, we are doing so at a rate of about a message every five minutes or so. We have the chatting efficacy of carrier pigeons.
I also mentioned that I was trying to put in a new chrome extension. Well, becasue my VPN is connected to Thailand, Chrome keeps bringing up the TOS for the extension in fucking Thai. And because I am the kind of asshole who reads all TOS, I now have to go through server after server looking for one in an English speaking country that will connect. So a thirty second task is now taking me well over an hour. The prices for that hostel I was looking at are also coming up in Thai. So to get that done, you have to log off your VPN altogether and do it through Chinese internet.
But I am also trying to get some stuff up onto instagram, and that IS behind the firewall. Also, that conversation I am having with my buddy is either on Gchat or facebook….
God, damn, it.
In other words, China requires from you a new kind of multi-tasking. You don’t do many things at once in China, but you do one thing while trying to troubleshoot everything else. This is as multitasking as you get.

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