Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Chinese Zodiac - The Year of Expensive Electronics
All over town, fireworks stands are springing up, selling explosives that would be totally illegal in the states. People will buy this stuff and set it off in their front yards for 2 weeks straight. Night and day. At times like this, I'm glad to be deaf in one ear. But even rolling onto my side at night can't deafen the sound of massive explosions directly across the street.
Yes, the Year of the Rat is coming to a close. And here in China, that means Big Sales! It's like Black Thursday in the States, or Labor Day. We have been saving and saving to get a new television set, but it has never quite worked out. Once, when we saved enough, we gave it to Shay's orthodontist instead. Once, it went to Aidan's pre-school. Another time it went to pay the dentist.
But finally - finally! - we had enough saved up to buy a good t.v. Our last one was bought in 1999 - it's a 20-inch, multi-system, multi-voltage tv with a built-in VCR. (Quick primer: you need multi-system multi-volt so you can bring the tv with you when you move. It needs to operate in the U.S. and overseas, so it needs to work in both 110 and 220-volt environments. And it needs to be multi-system so it can pick up programming overseas. Such televisions are more expensive than plain ole U.S.-spec tvs.) Our old t.v. didn't play DVDs, either, which is kind of a problem, because the kids always needed my computer to watch their movies.
The old t.v., posed with an Olympic doll to give you a sense of size, even though you have no idea how big the doll is, either:
So Bart took his envelope of cash and went to the electronics market with his friend Scott, our personal tech guru. He was thinking to upgrade to a 32-incher.
Does nobody in this world watch a small tv anymore? Because when they got there, the smallest tv was a 37-inch tv. And it was the same price as the 42-inch set.
So - you guessed it - Bart bought the 42-incher. And a DVD player. Now we can hook up a DVD player and our AFN box, both at the same time. (AFN is American Forces Network - military television - and it allows us to watch some programming from back home, minus the commercials. AFN makes their own commercials, and you haven't seen cheesy til you've seen these commercials. They're all about how to save money and how to prevent suicide, interspersed with mini-history lessons and such. But I digress.)
When you buy a tv set here, they deliver the next day. And then someone else comes to put it together for you. But I guess that last bit was lost in translation. So when the delivery guys dropped it off, Bart and I assembled it together. Then he went to the gym. Then the doorbell rang again, and there was a guy standing there saying "television?" in Chinese. I answered, in Chinese (go, me!), "yes, we got the tv." To which he replied: "garble-garble-garble?"
Me: "We have the tv."
Him "Garble garble tv?"
Me: "It's here. Do you want to see it?"
Him: "Garble garble."
Me: "Come in, please."
He comes in, looks at the put-together tv in astonishment, points at me and says "Garble garble garble?"
"Yes," I answer, thinking maybe that's the right answer.
"Oh, okay," he says (hey! I understood that!), then "Garble garble."
He checks the cords and cables and doohickeys, then pronounces it all "okay."
He holds out a paper for me to sign, and is somewhat perturbed by the fact that I'm signing with my left hand. "Garble garble," he says, trying to put the pen in my right hand.
"I can't," I reply, waving my left hand in the air, in a gesture intended to mean "I'm a lefty."
Eventually, after a few more garbles, he lets me sign with my left hand and leaves.
So there you have it. We have entered the new millenium at last. A television too big for our Virginia townhouse! With a DVD player!
Now we can watch Dora on the big screen.
Life is good.
New television, same Olympic doll. And Dora! Que bueno!