Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Disconnected worlds

February 1st, 2011

Funny thing the virtual world. Facebook. Twitter. Online banking. E-mail. My own website. Videos and photos for all to see. Wonderous way to share experiences, organise, plan ahead. And less to carry on the road. A little bit at least. But too much reliance on things electronic is not without its problems. As I was discovering.

Back in the Medicare office my efforts to register with Australia’s healthcare scheme had hit rocks. Demonstrating I was actually resident in the UK. On paper. A requirement, much to my frustration, that hadn’t been mentioned during my first visit. And this I explained, ever so politely. Always willing to try and provide whatever evidence was required. But shifting sands problematic.

We settled on a print out of an online banking statement. Simple enough you’d think. But those clever computer chaps at my bank have made sure printing such things is err.. not possible. Presumably something to do with identity theft. Bit of scrabbling around and I was able to cobble together something together. Hoping it would be enough. And returned to the Medicare office with my netbook. Offering to present the evidence on the screen if need be.

Fortunately the adviser understood the problem. Online banking. Electronic visas. Something of a disconnect with paper applications. Bit of an Anglophile I thought. Approved. At last. I’d have celebrated with a small cup of coffee. But, despite using a myriad of dubious Central Asian and Chinese ATMs without problem, it seemed my card had now been blocked. Finally. In Cairns, Australia. First world. Straightforward to resolve. But unhelpful nevertheless.

Back in the ever more acceptable tropical heat and humidity I mulled over potential pitfalls ahead. US visa. It had everything. Lengthy online application. Interview. With lots of paperwork. Hope I had the right stuff. And my mobile internet connection. Would it work in North America? Track record had been good – everywhere but Krygzstan. And France.

[If you are a UK – they use the term British here – citizen visiting Australia and need to register with Medicare (often stipulated by insurance companies), note that a UK Driving Licence is not normally accepted as evidence of residency. Could have been issued years ago. So probably wise to carry a recent utility bill or credit card statement that shows your address]

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Out of reach

November 11th, 2010

Perhaps the next town. The problem wasn’t the lack of funds. It was getting at them. Frustrating. I’d got used to popping into Bank of China, branches in most towns and cities. But not between Lanzhou and Xi’an it seemed. Inexplicably absent.

Bank - web

Instead rural cooperatives. ATMs yes, but no joy with my card. No Mastercard or Visa. PayUnion. Never heard of it. Sounded like the sort of obscure card that some low cost airlines accept free of bank charges so they can advertise impossibly low prices.

Fortunately I’ve enough cash left to reach Xi’an. And a secret stash of US Dollars if things get desperate. For no matter how low the relative cost of living might be in China, people still want to be paid. Might have to bolster the reserves for the run down to Wuhan. Lesson learnt.

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