I had heard, all these years, that journalists get gouged at the Games.
Then I tried to get internet service. Getting a wireless password here does not come cheap. In fact, it is 3,500 Yuan, at about 6.7 yuan to the dollar. (This is where you gasp and I say, "Exactly.")
So for now, only Paul has access, and we share. I'm supposed to start doing some work for nytimes.com tomorrow, but we haven't managed to solve the internet issue. I had assumed I could work in their on-site office, which has broadband access, but there aren't enough connections. So will they pony up? Will I have to venture into Beijing to work at the bureau there?
Yesterday, I was able to get online with the free public wi-fi, but someone seems to have put a stop to that. There are several free access connections, but none actually goes to the web.
Then, today, we decided it would be beneficial to have a cell phone. I called ATT before we left, to make sure my phone would work. They assured me it would, and of course it doesn't. I get a signal, it just won't let me make a call.
So we went to the official cell phone site -- the same one that handles the internet, so that didn't bode well. Turns out for the meager sum of 1,200 Yuan (Exactly!) I could get a SIM card.
Just not gonna happen.
I had read in guide books that SIM cards were relatively cheap, and that there were mobile phone stores all over the city. But we're sort of isolated out here. Then I got the idea to try the concierge at the swanky hotel, ask him if he could get me a taxi and send me to a phone shop. Turns out he had a better idea. If all I wanted was a SIM card, he said, he'd take me to a phone shop. We just had to walk a bit.
It turns out that right outside the official Olympic Green area, about a 10 minute (max) walk away, there is a phone store. The concierge, whose name is Andy, walked me over, and told the girl at the shop what I wanted. I picked a phone number, waited until it was my turn and voila -- for 60 Yuan I got a SIM card and 50 Yuan worth of time. So that worked out.
But can you imagine?? Reporters would love to save their papers money, especially in this day and age, but there's some sort of corporate collusion out there. They know reporters don't have the time to do what I did (frankly, it took only a little longer, but required some work on my part) and so they charge for the privilege. But $180 more?