10.22.2017

Mr. Roboto 上网

Thank you very much, Mr. Roboto
For doing the jobs that nobody wants to
And thank you very much, Mr. Roboto
For helping me escape just when I needed to
-Styx



Someone generously donated to us a second hand IKEA baby high chair. We are grateful that once again, we got something very useful for free. The chair, however, was filthy. Clearly, its previous owners never scrubbed it or noticed the dust film on the tray's underside. That's fine. I'm used to making China's version of "clean" to actual clean.

Adequately cleaning the chair and the tray require separating them. How else could I reach all the grooves and crannies? So I pulled on the tray. It didn't budge. I twisted it. That didn't work either. Then I examined how it was attached. I didn't see how to get that tray apart from the seat. Meanwhile, the grimy film lining the tray's underbelly taunted me. I knew what to do. I did what I do every time I encounter a dilemma that needs resolution: I Googled it.

But Googling in China isn't as simple as in places like the US. Here in China, just as a unlocking a bolt requires a key, Googling requires a VPN (Virtual Private Network). Other websites that require a VPN include YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, and pretty much anything Google related. A VPN connects the internet through a server in another geographical location. The result is that I am browsing the internet from somewhere else, and not in an internet restricted country.

I swiped on my Samsung tablet, logged into the VPN, and Googled, "IKEA high chair separate tray". Voila!  A three minute YouTube tutorial and a few vigorous tugs on the tray later, I got that stubborn tray separated from the chair. Time to scrub that tray and chair silly. Thank you, Google. Thank you, VPN.

Oh how I love the VPN. With the VPN, YouTube keeps me moving with unfettered access to Popsugar Fitness workouts. With the VPN, I Google "how to get baby to sleep through night" and "1 cup butter to oz". With the VPN, Dumpling and I chill out to Cat Steven's radio using Pandora. With the VPN, Instagram keeps me connected with friends and family stateside as well with my growing international circle of friends.

So last summer when various news agencies reported that come February 2018 China would totally block personal VPNs, the expat community, as well as China-based researchers and international businesses that rely on Google or foreign websites for work, crinkled their foreheads with worry. Will we really get cut off from the rest of the world? As for me, with Google's search engine no longer an option, will I have to resort to the deficient Yahoo or Baidu? No more Instagram, Gmail, Google Hangouts, or this blog. No more Popsugar fitness videos or recipe research on Yummly. If you want to talk to me, my American friends and family, you will have use Skype or WeChat (China's ubiquitous version of instant messaging, Instagram, Twitter, online wallet, online shopping all combined into a single app).

Even more terrible, the next time I can't get furniture apart, I'll have to figure it out the old fashioned way. That is, sans Google.

Read more:
China moves to block internet VPNs from 2018
Tips for China: VPN Frequently Asked Questions

Chinese Word of the Blog: 上网 shàng wǎng
English Translation: to surf the internet

So clean you could eat off of it!
Without Instagram, how else could I enjoy these two singing Kingdom karaoke?