Tuesday, September 11, 2007

You thought the CTA was bad

So. this story started yesterday, but because of the water problem here, this story was put on hold, except now it becomes a three part story which I felt that needed to be shared.

Part I

Off I go to get a bus pass since school is starting next week. Yup, the countdown has begun.

As with many things that we cannot explain while living in China, the bus pass is no exception. There is but one place and only one place in Xiamen where you can purchase such a beast, and it so happens to be at the local bank across the street from where we live. Mark and I attempted to buy one a few weeks back without any luck, We got the "teeng boo dohn", which basically means she didn't care to understand us. Mark and I ran into a friend while shopping, (small island) who originally came from China but was a Canadian, so I explain our quandary and she offers assistance. With pen and paper in hand, she writes in Mandarin what we are looking for, and tells us that we should add 200 RMB on the card.

I go to the bank that sells the cards, and hand her the slip of paper that basically tells her that no, I don't want to hold your bank up, but I would like to buy a bus pass. She reads the note and then proceeds to hand me this form, which now I have to write out and yes it's all in Chinese. I look at her, and she gives me the signal to sign my name. Okay that's done,. Would you like my my 200 RMB now? That was too easy, now I need my passport, says the quasi manager who speaks a little English. Really, why is that? Yes, he assures me, I do need a passport. I go back to our place, find the passport and head back to the bank. They look at my passport, photocopy it, and get me to fill the rest of the form. After which three tellers, a security guard, the quasi manager, and two clients and 20 minutes later resulted in me getting a bus card, or so I thought. It didn't look like the card that other people had, so I verified it with the quasi manager to ensure what I had in my hand was a bus pass. He assures me in his broken English, yes it is.

Later that evening, when Mark arrived home, I told him about my bus pass, and of course he wants to check it out. I show him and he says, " this isn't a bus pass, it's a debit card, you opened up an account ". All this time we were trying to get an account and voila here I was getting my own account. It's not what I wanted but we apparently have. Okay, so now I have to go back tomorrow and try to get this pass. I may have to call my new friend at 110 to help me get this since I am not having much luck. Whatever was written on the slip of paper, they didn't quite understand.

Part II

I head to the bank to try and prove my husband wrong and if he's right, to now buy the pass from what he thinks may be our bank account. First, I thought I would check to see if I could get anymore information on this bus pass, so I will call my little lifeline, 110 to see if they could help. Okay, so perhaps yesterday was a fluke? I must have had a lucky day yesterday, because the two different people I spoke to had no idea what I was asking for. First, they thought I wanted to get somewhere by taxi, and explained I needed a bus pass or bus card to take when I'm travelling around Xiamen. Didn't quite catch the concept, and then wanted to know where I wanted to go. After 5 minutes, they thought perhaps that I should call 114, for what reason I don't know.

With my three Chinese books in hand, I headed off to the bank, to finally establish whether I have an account or if what looks like a debit card is an actual bus pass. The gal recognized me and started to laugh. I pulled out my card, with my original request that was written by our friend, and she nodded. Then I pulled out my Chinese character book that had bus and pass to show her what I was looking for. She nodded saying something in Chinese, that resembled a yes, that the card was indeed a bus pass. She pulled out a card similar to what I had, and placed it on the window to demonstrate how you to use it. In case anyone at this time thinks I am idiot, if not, I was starting to feel like one, I get the concept of bus passes, having one of my own back in Chicago, except this card has a stripe on the back similar to the debit/credit cards. We have yet to see where one would actually swipe this card on the bus.

Not convinced yet, that this card is that I am holding is an actual bus pass. So Mark suggests that we try it on the bus and see what happens. We had to go to our travel agency to pay for tickets, so this will be a good test. Okay, so the buses were packed and we were too chicken to try it, so we walked to our agency instead.

Stay tuned for Part III and hopefully the conclusion of the bus saga.

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