It took two years of riding my bike and hailing taxis, but I finally got my Chinese driver’s license. Shortly thereafter, I got a car! In the past year, my new-found freedom has been nothing short of phenomenal. I am no longer scared out of my wits to be on the road, although I have to be careful not to be jaded by the lack of road rules (something to remember during those visits back home).
Next on the agenda was buying a GPS to further explore the city. My perfect “human” GPS had the audacity to move back to New Zealand, so I had to succumb to purchasing the electronic kind. We decided to follow suit of many friends, buy a unit in the U.S. and then load local maps at the Unistrong office in Lido. This way, we could continue to use the unit in the states and guarantee that the language wouldn’t just change on its own. However, the maps simply wouldn’t load. Unistrong couldn’t give us a good reason why, it just wouldn’t work. Option two was to load them off of the website, which we did, but the maps were just enough off to get a “recalculating” prompt during the entire trip. Annoying, confusing and worthless. We decided to keep our U.S. GPS and buy another one here.
We now own a second Garmin, purchased nearby so that we can take care of any problems that may arise. We’ve been happily traveling along, adding many locations to our “favorites” list. Until recently, that is.
The GPS would not turn on. It wouldn’t even show that it was charging when plugged in. It was dead. I took it back to the store, and after calling in to them almost two weeks later, I was told that the battery needed to be replaced for RMB 500. This is four months after paying more for the unit here than I paid for the identical product in the U.S.
I didn’t pay it, of course, and I asked them to try again to figure out the problem. A few days later I went back to pick it up (no charge), test it at the store, and to get the answer “absolutely nothing” when I asked what they found to be the problem.
At least in the meantime, I was able to find my way around on my own, using good old paper maps. I also used our new Shunyi subway line, which is a nice option if you don’t want to deal with traffic and parking. However, now that I have a car, which still feels new and exciting to me, I’ll still trek out there, get lost, and enjoy the freedom of driving on my own.