Trouble getting home

Now I begin to worry a little.  I am prepared to go home, with my new face mask for the journey and a lot of anti-bacteria spray, and I SkIMp my parents from the station, but no reply on the homeset.  I try my mother’s and father’s handsets – no reply.  I leave messages and have no reply all day.  I check their socnets, nobody is posting anything for two days.

The station has many crowds of people and many ad-screens with warnings for the flu, saying to wear masks at all times and use anti-bacteria spray on hands before you enter the train.  But some people have only a piece of cloth tied around their face, or only the free paper mask, and these are wet and falling away from their faces.  My friend Li, who studies medicine, tells me that the mask does not stop the germs, it only stops people touching their mouth and nose.  Most of all, it makes us feel safer.  Still, when somebody is coughing, everybody moves away from them, and it is so crowded, this becomes very dangerous.  I think one man is coughing on purpose to make a way to the train, but he stops when an old woman is taken away from the station because she cannot stop coughing.  She is saying “Not flu, I had this cough 10 years, it is not the flu!” but she is forbidden to travel.

The train arrives, and I fight through the crowd but before I get to the door, the destination screen says “cancelled”.  Then I get a message from my grandmother – she is telling me “Stay in Beijing, don’t try to SkIMp – afraid they will trace this handset.”

I check the newsnets, and see the breaking news that some towns in Anhui province are isolated as a precaution, to contain a minor outbreak of the bird flu in a rural region.  But Xiuning is no small rural village, it is close to Huangshan and almost a city – if my family is in the isolated area, how big is this area?  And what is wrong with SkIMp?  I must go back to the university, to check for more reports from independent newsnets on a faster and better set, but I begin to be very afraid.

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16 thoughts on “Trouble getting home

  1. It’s not good news from the agency. I was meant to get into China tomorrow, but the flight’s been cancelled – we need to start negotiations with the military all over again to get aid in. Aid workers in the Guanxi region have been recalled, but we had difficulty contacting them. It looks like they’ve restricted civilian W4 use in the affected regions, and taken some NGO socnets off the preferential list. I knew that the international protocols on the satellite network allowed for blocking W4 access regionally – that’s why your map apps will always know where you are, the first thing your set tells the satellite before it’ll connect you to any socnet is your GPS reading. It’s supposed to ensure bandwidth for preferential socnets (like military and medical) in a major emergency, but blocks aren’t to be used for periods longer than a couple of hours – lack of comms causes panic and doesn’t help anybody. Obviously some reports are getting out from the preferential socnets, and those reports aren’t good – you’ve no doubt seen them yourself by now. I should stress, though, it’s still very plausible that the larger towns are just isolated as a precaution, like they say, and the flu really is restricted to outlying rural regions. I have to say, I’m curious as to how your grandmother sent a SkIMp message from inside a blocked region.

    • She used to make old handsets, mobile phones, in a Foxconn factory when she was young, and then when she is older she made a business doing set repair and “customising” – unlocking some features and socnets that need a subscription. If anybody can make a handset get into a preferential socnet, or maybe give a false location to the satellite, it is my grandmother.
      They say they isolate the towns for a precaution, but the national newsnets say they do not block the communications, it is a satellite malfunction. They think we are stupid! They tell us do not panic, but they give no information on where is the outbreak, how many are sick, how many are dead, or why communication is stopped. Until today, I did not know they can block the W4 – I never hear of this before. How can we trust we are safe?

      • Try not to worry just yet – it’s not unusual for the politics and communications side of things to be much less competent than the medical side. I’m sure that whatever’s happening in Anhui will be under control soon, and I’ll try to let you know more when I get there.

  2. Goddamn the Earth’s rotation and the whole EST zone – I didn’t see this until now! Mei, why didn’t you SkIMp me? You have to come to the US for the holidays now – just get to the airport before they ground the planes, if you need money I can borrow it from my folks. If you can’t get home, you’re better trying to contact your folks from here than from Beijing.

  3. Hey Mei – haven’t heard from you lately. News on the epidemic’s going a bit quiet over here – you alright? Did you get the packages? SkIMp me if you need anything, Sugar-snap.

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