MINI COLLISION

So two days ago I had a minor accident.

It was one of those days where… how do I explain it? Where you feel like you have woken up on the wrong side of the bed, and that things don’t feel right or normal like they usually are.

I often hear of this from others but it was my first time experiencing it. And thankfully s*** happened pretty early on in the day, which gave me time to sort of prevent or salvage the rest of it?

Thursday. I woke up with a slight headache–after spending twelve hours the day before covering an assignment, getting my package and a web story out. I wanted to take the subway to work, but as I was running tight in time (as always argh… I really need to re-look at my time management practices), I hailed a Didi…well, as always. This driver is slightly different from the rest as he was not willing to first drop me at a convenience store to let me quickly get my coffee before letting me off at my final destination: office. Granted, I was on an express ride, but it wasn’t even a detour, it was on the way–although maybe the route I asked for went against his direction on his map.

I was toying with the idea to get a coffee because I was heading straight to a lunch appointment in office, and yet I was yearning for a cup of latte to make my slight headache go away. Alas, I told the driver to drop me off at the road side just outside the office. I walked to Starbucks.

Upon getting my coffee and pastry, I remember walking out of the cafe with my phone in my bag, not wanting to look and reply messages. As I was nearing the crossroads, somehow, somehow, I had a premonition that it would happen–me colliding into something.

And it did. It happened so fast. A food delivery bike was whooshing past (as he was gonna turn right) as I was attempting just one or two steps to cross the road. The traffic light was red then for cars to head straight, but it may have been green for those turning right I can’t remember.

It was a knock-down alright, though if you ask me now I really can’t remember much what transpired except that half of my latte spilled onto bits of my shirt, necklace and hair. I could stand back up almost immediately, with only parts of my left leg hurt. Other than that, I would say everywhere else (especially my head) went unscathed.

A female passerby, concerned, was nice to ask me if I am okay–to which I asked her if she could hold my coffee cup for me while I straightened myself up. The food delivery guy, I remember, was standing at the other side of the road observing. He didn’t approach me, neither did he say anything, he just stood and watched–upon knowing I am okay, he drove away.

At that point I was rather annoyed and mad even at the delivery guy. But of course, it always takes two hands to clap. A while after, I thought back and it was my fault, too. While food delivery bikers are notoriously known to be always rushing on the roads, cutting corners; I did not look left and right as I attempted to even take a step forward to cross the road.

And of course when incidents like these happen, we tend to ask ourselves: Oh had I not chosen to make a last minute decision to get coffee from somewhere else, or had I not this or not that, it wouldn’t have happened.

But the fact is it happened. And there’s always something good, something to be learned out of it. In this case, I am relieved it’s a minor incident. It could have been bigger and way more serious. I am also glad that I ended up deciding to wear long black tights that day, as I almost left my place with a short skorts (was super sunny).

Another mistakes I made was: I did not see a doctor right away, instead thinking it was something minor. The bruises turned blue and got more sore as time passes and when night time came. I applied greenzhi which really helped with the wounds.

I decided to see a doctor anyway the next day, for safety (and a peace of mind) purposes. Wounds were bandaged… and when I was told not to shower for the next day or two, I was a bit stunned. The last time I had to go by a day without showering was when my place ran out of hot water just before winter arrived. I need to shower everyday, ok!?

Another moment then hit me: what happens if, as with age, I end up not being mobile in the future? Or if I actually fell and hurt myself so bad, I needed to rely on someone to attend to my daily needs?

You may think I am being dramatic and all of that, but hey it can be so true and real.

Yet something good to come out of this incident: be thankful for all your five senses and that you are mobile. Agile enough to shower on your own, pee, clean your own poop…oops.

Back to my incident, that night in bed, I felt bad for the delivery guy. I hope none of his food was spilled, and that he made it in good time to get those food delivered. I know how hard these people in the service industry work, how hard pressed they are for time, because I am a customer who orders these food too. For these guys, if you deliver those orders late, the customers get compensated and the delivery guys don’t get paid–some even get penalized! And they do this for a living.

But of course the above said, that doesn’t mean they are allowed to not be careful when riding on the road and just cut corners simply.

At the end of the day still, we on our end have to do what we can to prevent any mishaps, which is to practice constant vigilance on the road.

PS: Pa, Mom, I was not looking at my phone when I was walking……

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CUANDIXIA VILLAGE

(Delayed post)

I went to sleep – and woke up – on a squeaky bed; so fragile that moving a little would hear it shreak a good shreak.

It was mid-April, but I switched the portable heater on anyway during night time. My en-suite toilet was alright; although I doubt my bed sheets were washed prior, neither will it be cleaned after I leave.

But that’s really beside the point when you are staying in a village, when you have to get down to the groove of what it’s like.

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Not your typical courtyard room but I settled for a modern one with usable toilets instead

I chose to come here to “take a break” from city life, from the non-stop buzzing of my WeChat, of work.

And what really spurred this trip was the fact that I had been involved in a mini project of 18 days straight – of listening-in to completed interviews, transcribing, translating, writing stories for our website… Five days into this project, I was looking around online for a mini getaway (I was only churning out two to three feature stories back during my The Edge Weekly days).

One good thing about this job is: it’s not a 9 to 5 job weekdays one, and so I could opt for a day or two off during the week (special case scenario this time–just after this project was done).

I had a relatively peaceful few hours upon arriving at the village – of hiking, courtyard homes hopping, until this bunch of 13 Chinese ladies decided to check into the same courtyard inn as I did. They were so loud and boisterous that… every other second I was mentally telling myself to ignore them as I was trying to turn in since 9 at night. So much for a quiet getaway, I thought.

The next morning, the noise did not end. Plus, they were so popular that even other inns know of them (there was 70 courtyard homes in the village) — when I was making my rounds of courtyard homes-hopping, a few of the owners asked if I was part of the group. I was amused for one second, I mean couldn’t they tell I was traveling solo haha.

But that’s the thing about being in a village, any small info travels quick… But hey, gossip goes around even in big environments and companies as well, so we gotta be mindful of what we speak and how we act not just in public and but also in tinier circles.

Oh my, I just realized I forgot to introduce where I went. Forgive me!

I decided on Cuandixia Village, which is 90 kilometers away from Beijing’s CBD.

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To be honest, I originally contemplated to go Xi’an… but thinking harder, I really couldn’t afford to go anywhere further. It’s not so much the money but the ability to take time off. One thing about this role is–we never know when we’ll get a call to cover something (not complaining, but it is what it is. Of course there are ways around it, but I choose to err on the side of caution).

This was my first trip out of Beijing that is not work-related. It felt… I don’t know. I wasn’t rushing, neither was I thinking how to film the package, what can and should be my establishing shot, my story-line, what other footage do I need, etc.

All in, I spent less than a day (20 hours) in the village… minus the fact that it took me 3 hours to get there, another 3 to get back, over 10 hours in my room (in a book). This means I really only spent close to 3 hours outdoors LOL.

But it was a nice little getaway.

Having read so much about China’s villages, it was a nice accidental stumble online on this one. I ultimately decided on Cuandixia for a few reasons, including the fact that it’s accessible by public transport, it has “character” as it is touted as Beijing’s “Potala Palace” (in Tibet).

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And the villagers. While they are in the business of making money, that doesn’t stop them from being good people — ever so willing to help (reminding me not to miss the next bus), no matter if you’re living in their inn or not. Most if not all bear the surname Han there.

Along the way, I too met so many nice people – this elderly woman whom I met at the Pingguoyuan bus stop, was so nice to prompt me to get off the Zhaitang stop. And to the not-as-elderly man who drove me to the village, and helped me scout for a decent-priced inn.

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Total amount spent in this one day one night trip? About RMB 300 (about RM200). This includes to and fro subway rides, bus rides, ride up to the village, dinner (78 kuai for three dishes — I know I am greedy — and a beer), breakfast (10+10 extra for fried eggs — I just love them ok), accommodation (100). You could argue it’s not that cheap: well my one meal’s already 80 percent that of my stay for the night… but oh well.

It was an experience, and a nice one too, at that.

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Way too many picturesque photos but here are a few of my favourites:

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A REPORTER’S DIARY

As a reporter, I live for moments like these.

A week ago, I attended the GMIC Beijing Cross-Border Venture Summit. I pitched the story to my team (upon being pitched–read below), suggesting prior to produce a package and an exclusive one-to-one interview. I delivered on both counts, even without having nailed down any interviews before the summit.

How did this come about? When I was taking a 1D1N solo trip in a nearby village (will about this soon I hope), I received a LinkedIn message from the organizer who informed me about this event. Upon a quick search online and taking a look at the line-up, in my mind I went “hell yeah!”. They may have approached many other journalists, but having understood a little of the topic and significance of the guests attending…I knew I had to take it on. Glad my team and the director approved of the pitch.

Remember my previous post on not getting my pass to cover the Boao Forum for Asia? I was more adamant than ever to make full use of this summit. As with anything, I firmly believe it’s how much you make out of something. Y’know the old saying: One can only open the door for you, but you have to walk through it yourself.

Let’s talk about my first deliverable.

Looking through the list of panel sessions, I decided to nail down guests from the panel on “Will China dethrone Silicon Valley” with this exact angle in mind for my package. But in the end I instead decided to go with where Chinese VCs are putting their money in times ahead.

When the panel ended, the first guest I approached dismissed my request and left abruptly– not sure if it was because he had to rush somewhere or he didn’t wanna take on the interview–and for a second (JUST a second) I thought oh no, I may not be able to get anyone! But in the end, I got hold of three amazing guests and sound-bites… (I was eyeing them too before so all good!). This goes to show when you want something earnestly, the universe will give it to you. (Let’s forget about the Boao Forum here shall we)

Written article here.

On hindsight, I didn’t actually have to promise and rush for the 12:00 program the next day as this wasn’t a breaking piece or about what transpired at the summit. Got the script out in half an hour, no less, and edited the video with footage available in the system (didn’t bother to go downloading archive ones though footage could have been better).

It was with this package that also reminded me that not everyone will take to your story the same way as you or others do. The chief editors and copy editors loved my package, telling me they learned something new; but one of the GN producers did not quite like it, and went about commenting on a bunch of stuff which I only thought made 10 percent sense. (Trust me, I am all for learning but if the feedback doesn’t make sense, what do you do? I just nodded and agreed to…disagree).

Now on to my second deliverable which is the core of this post, of what got me truly excited.

Days before I was looking up guests at the summit and this investment company DST caught my eye (as it was one of the few companies the organizer pitched previously). Did a quick search on Google and nothing much came up, but that doesn’t mean it is not a good company. Turns out this VC is a solid one and having seen how the Managing Partner answers questions so eloquently (on YouTube interviewed by FT and Bloomberg), I knew I had to get him. I contacted the organizer and all they said was the guests are okay to be interviewed without promising anything.

On that day itself, I was eyeing to catch Lindfors after his session. Despite what the organizer having told me that he was very busy and many other media are also eyeing him, I didn’t just give it up. My cameraman and I went back to the conference room about half an hour before his session started, and as luck would have it…. he was right outside chatting with a few people. I immediately introduced myself and said I had to (not would like to) interview him. He asked what questions I had… (probably unsure if he should accept an interview from me), and thankfully, he agreed. I wanted to do the interview in a set room but he had no time to travel to another floor, and so we scrambled (to my cameraman’s dismay) and did the interview in the conference room itself.

Thinking back we could have done it at the chilled out chairs outside the other conference rooms, but because I was so anxious–it completely missed me. Lesson learned: To not rush into anything just because the situation may call for it, taking a minute or two (relative) to figure things out and decide wouldn’t hurt.

And as his speech was about to start, I had to re-film my questions in another room–which was way smaller, with a different lighting and somewhat different background sound. I do not like re-taking my questions as it just isn’t natural, but that’s the best we could do with only one camera available. (I didn’t book two as I wasn’t sure if I could nail down an exclusive).

For two days I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to edit something proper out given the reasons above. I did two takes of the questions: one with the extra lighting on (cameraman insisted) and the camera positioned nearer to me, and the other take was without the lighting and the camera positioned further away from me (as I felt I looked fat in the former). I wanted to go with the

Looking back, I looked a bit disheveled (eyeliner smudged all)–didn’t even have time to check how I looked after running around (what kind of TV reporter am I…..)

But I did it. I managed to churn out a video the best that I could.

Short written piece here here.

I live for moments like these–to chase after guests, building contacts, asking questions… I felt like I was in my element. To be sure, I knew none of these guests but I read up a little on them before and that’s what make it so exciting, covering familiar grounds on a completely new ground, if that makes sense.

Of course, if it were for print, I’d still have done all of the above but my coverage of topics would be different. But all in, these reiterated the few traits I believe a journalist should always have: persistence, know who and what you want (armed with questions), a determined quest to land something (how can a journalist come back with no story!?).

THERE IS ALWAYS A ‘GOOD’ IN THE ‘BAD’

There’s something about being by the beach, taking in the sound of the waves, breeze of the wind…

During the day, sometimes, it can get a bit too hot. But over here in Boao of China’s Hainan province, it’s sunny and yet somewhat cooling – that’s what you get for being in a sub-tropical climate place in April. It was also a view I was lucky enough to have for a little over a week.

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Except that, I didn’t quite feel the peace that I should. (A pity, I know…)

Almost a week back, I thought to myself: I have possibly faced my first major career disappointment so far as a journalist. (Cue: Drama-nya…)

If I had completed this post back when I was still in Boao, the subtle takeaways may have been more negative. But now that I am back in Beijing, I am feeling all calm and dandy, and in fact have even almost forgotten about the entire ordeal.

(Although, of course, I STILL want to blog about it… #handsitchy. But really, it’s also to remind me that if and when something similar happens in the future, I’ll know better to how to deal with it – just chill, man)

So what happened was: I was not issued my reporter’s pass to cover the Boao Forum for Asia 2018.

To some it may not seem like a big deal. “Just take it easy, enjoy the free paid holiday,” some would say; don’t have to go scouting for extra work, you know. But to me, I was feeling the exact opposite.

Passion… patience tested

Within days of arriving at the town, most were issued their passes. I thought mine was just gonna take a day or two longer. And I didn’t think too much into it as I was working on a last-minute assigned package.

But when the day before the forum kick-started came and I had to forego two assignments, I felt something was amiss. Not wanting to just sit around and wait for our team secretary (who is super nice and patient) to help push the forum’s organizing committee, I attempted to take matters in my own hands, i,e. play an active role in getting my pass.

I was, of course, feeling extremely frustrated and helpless then – being at the registration center two days in a row, offering any help that I can or exploring any other possible ways of getting my pass… but to no avail. At that point, I almost felt like I was “begging” for a right which I was technically granted of, and for a job I worked hard for.

(Two months ago when I was asked if I’d like to be a part of the reporting team for this forum, I said yes; and when all of us were asked to register online, I received the confirmation email as well)

Tested was how I felt at that point. I was looking forward to the forum for weeks. Although I didn’t know of the forum back then, I read up. I was also worried leading up to it because I want to do a good job. I know I can do a good job. Forums are my thing, what more when it’s business news.

Knowing that I didn’t have much time to prepare for the forum (had back-to-back assignments prior), and that I was lacking in my constant keep-up of news (unlike back during BFM days where I write the daily business news bulletins and have the Bloomberg terminal right in front of me)… days before leaving for the trip, I did a mini marathon of researching, saving and printing news reports — according to categories — for me to read during the plane ride… #bingeread

…all whilst also trying my luck on a new video editing software in a borrowed laptop.

Interviewee-Press relationship

I am not a quitter, neither am I one who gives up easily. Whilst pushing for my pass I was also on one-hand liaising with my interviewees on a possible Plan B, as I was still hopeful to be able to be at the forum on the 10th and 11th.

All the back and forth of communicating and rearranging logistics (I’ll save you the details of it), I finally surrendered to fate that my pass will not be issued at all.

Now, there was this one company which I painstakingly landed in the past month (a Singapore-listed company and that’s all I’m going to say of it). I did my research, quarterly reports and all, and gave my questions well ahead of time. The communications department was very prompt and quick to get back to me, which was good.

All was going fairly normal, despite the company (a Chinese lady took over since) kept pushing me for a specific interview location. I wished I could confirm with them days or even weeks before, but my answer was reliant on others to pass on to me, and with the team so huge it was hard to get a straight-up confirmation asap.

And when I told the comms lady about my tricky situation–of the possibility of not being issued a pass–and asked if we can explore other locations i.e. the interviewee’s or our hotel, or at a cafe, she insisted no initially (only wanting the interview to be done at the conference venue with the forum’s backdrop) but eventually agreed to even considering it. Throughout our conversations, I remember at one point she threw me a line (in Mandarin) saying: Shouldn’t I have checked whether I got my pass before going to Boao?

The first thing that came to my mind was: Here I am, in my best interest to feature your company (which our channel and Chinese media wasn’t even familiar with), and you’re releasing this tone to me. Hailing from Malaysia, one of the value-adds I believe I can provide is a Southeast Asian perspective, speaking to corporates from this region which I may have heard or read of. In a way, I am providing this company with free airtime.

But of course, putting myself in her shoes as well, I replied to her very kindly and cordially: The entire team (more than 60 of us) came to Boao with none of us knowing either or of us were not going to be issued a pass. The hiccup was last-minute upon arriving. “I appreciate if you can put yourself in my position that I do not wish this to happen as well and I’m doing the best I can,” I told her.

I assured them over that if I can’t do the interview, do not worry as the interview will still go ahead, the same questions, it’s just a matter of who and where (most preferably where they would like to, of course…)

Alas, she agreed–after much persuasion–for the interview to be done at the fountain area outside the venue (where no pass is needed). I went to recce the place, took pictures upon her (among dozens of) requests. And when I told her two days before that there is an option of doing a live-interview, they took it up at the end and did not want a pre-recorded one anymore, although with a pre-recorded one means I could do the interview instead of my colleague doing it (which I found out later my team did not want me to take the risk of doing a live even at the fountain area for fear of being checked last minute). 

As a reporter, I will always try my best to accommodate the company or interviewee, but this one was just…a hard one to crack. Granted, you have many levels of bosses to report to, and no one likes last-minute changes and surprises; but girlllll, your tone wasn’t nice. (A reminder to self that we should always seek to be professional and calm)

All ends well

Not wanting to wallow in sorrows, I helped in research and coming up with Q’s for my team mates’ interviews.

I would have loved to explore more interviews on my own but given my situation it was tough to arrange for one in such a short day’s notice, more so for it to be done somewhere outside the conference venue. Given as well that the channel sent a few big wig presenters, naturally, the high-level interviews are taken care of. Plus, interviews are not just interviews for me, I take time to read and give perspective to my conversations.

Knowing me, I can’t sit still – two days before, I contacted a CEO and I swear, the interviewee was the most accommodating and chilled ever. We had a good conversation at the hotel lobby I am staying at.

But of course my unlucky debacle didn’t end there – my borrowed laptop kept hanging on me while I tried to upload footage of the interview and finally tried to edit. What could have been done in two hours took me seven hours. Thank goodness for our cameraman from Guangzhou, Qipeng, who came to my rescue with his Mac book. Heart of gold, he has. I got to learn how to use FinalCut from scratch too!

Then came the challenge of sending back the edited interview to the channel in Beijing… there is a system, and somehow it wasn’t working for us! As if I did not have enough to handle already.

(Am also pretty sure I kept telling myself that being a TV reporter here is only 20 percent reporting and 80 percent doing the “other stuff”)

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What I’ve learned 

All said and done, I’ve realized and learned tons in this trip.

Firstly: Hope, anticipate; but do not pin your entire hopes on it. For example, the weeks prior of worrying, looking forward to this forum… there was no need to, basically. We should live in compartment-tight days (I quote Dale Carnegie HAHAH)

Secondly, given the worst case or situation you have at hand, think instead of what’s the best you can achieve out of it. Okay, so I don’t have my pass… how else can I be of help and useful? Great, my video editing laptop died on me and I can’t do the best with ,

Thirdly, this somewhat serves as a life-lesson for me too: to appreciate the good and smooth times when they happen (for example, say, when my laptop does work in the future, or when I get a pass and can enjoy the very basic access given to a journalist to do her job… we/ I take these for granted previously). 

Oh, and from this forum I also realized that hard-hitting journalism does not apply everywhere and in every scenario. My team leader passed on a group interview with a former President of a country for me to do (which I can’t do in the end anyway), and the few questions I wrote in the form requesting for a one-to-one from the organizer–I was eventually told that I can’t even attend the group interview if I didn’t promise that I won’t ask my first four questions. #thefirstfourarethecrucialquestions #pressingquestions #criticallythoughtones (this is even after having mellowed down my questions in the ones I sent…)

And finally, when I was asked to deliver three live hits the next morning (after the forum ended), I took them on despite not having (the privilege to) covered the forum. I drew on insights from my previous package done in December on foreign banks in China.

Another lesson here: Things come full circle. Nothing that you do today is in vain. You may not reap or realize the results today, tomorrow, or even in weeks and months; but I assure you–you will, one day, if you keep hustling.

Quirks

Funnily, I bought a skirt online from JD when I was at Boao, thinking I did not have enough skirts to wear (forgetfully only brought one). And as Boao is a little town, it took more than 10 days and a whole lot of “transits” before it could arrive…was already back in Beijing then.

Also, I did not bring my own laptop (which has VPN and a proper Microsoft Word).

With the two above; for one moment in my second day in Boao I thought: How was I gonna survive? Little did I know I did not get a pass anyway… LOL.

Some things to be grateful for: I got to see Boao, made a few new colleagues slash friends, and well, learned that I should have just chilled more the next time if and this should happen again.

Also, I have again learned to forgive when people make mistakes (it’s always unintentional), and knowing that hiccups are bound to happen especially in big events like these, as my parents tell me.

Gosh, writing can be so therapeutic. If you made it this far to this “essay”… you’re incredible.

MY TAKE ON WECHAT

I have been using WeChat for 5 months now, and I’ve been meaning to blog about what I think of it because… the app (pronounced as A.P.P. in China) plays such a huge and increasingly reliant role to me in the country.

(Not to say WhatsApp isn’t/ wasn’t for me back in Malaysia, but read on…)

If I could describe WeChat in one sentence, it would be: it’s EVERYTHING-in-ONE… it acts as a messenger, email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, payment system, news portal… with tiny, blurred differences between each of them.

And yet, in China, I do feel like I am living another social media life altogether (despite this ‘globalized world’), because most of the Chinese do not use most of the Western apps I mentioned above. But this can be saved for another topic some other time.

WeChat is my source of solutions, and therein also lies the potential of being my source of pain.

From what I’ve read, Malaysia will be the first overseas country to be able to use the entire WeChat ecosystem (by Q1 this year I heard?) — including, of course, its awesome payment platform. Many of you may already know the brilliance of this app, but let me breakdown what it does for me.

*Disclaimer: This post is entirely based on my user experience so far, and is not conclusive of what the app is and what it is able to do (so much more)

I use it to:

Communicate

Besides chatting with friends, it also serves the use of a work email. In my line of work at least, work files – be it daily and weekly agenda, deliverables, notices, etc. (word file, PDF file, excel file) – are all sent via WeChat. Their form of ‘CC-ing’ in an email thread is via WeChat.

You will even sometimes be pulled into groups with hundreds of people, where you probably only play a 0.1% role or contribution to that group. And people rarely leave a group because apparently it’s courtesy not to. So if you’re pulled into a group, you’re pretty much stuck in it for life. But not to worry – the group is just there as an inactive…existence.

And then there’s WeChat ‘moments’ – where you can share pictures, thoughts, articles, anything… you can ‘mention’ (i.e. tag) someone; you can also ‘like’ and comment on others’ moments. Who needs FB, Insta and good ol’ Twitter when you have WeChat moments?

Although, the privacy settings are different because with WeChat, you are only able to view likes and comments on your friend’s post IF you are friends with them. And while some may post everything about their lives on their ‘moments’, and some not at all, for me — I think thrice before uploading anything. Because everyone in my contact list will be able to view it, and this contact list is….. (read below)

The mother of all mother functions of the app is… its QR code function. It’s like a scanning spree, guys.

People you may not know previously, people you just met… they can become your acquaintances on WeChat. All because of this magic sentence: “Do I scan your QR code or will you scan mine?” So it’s somewhere in-between casual (i.e. FB), not-so-personal (like an online messenger somewhat) and yet personal (mobile number)… If you get my drift.

Hence you could be adding and accepting requests every other day. It can be rude to not accept sometimes because you don’t know if it’s someone from work of if it’s work-related not! And if you delete the other person from your contact list, he or she would know. It’s not like your own phone’s or WhatsApp where only you have full purview of your contacts.

But this is why I say it can be a source of solutions and pain because… Just as people get use this app to get responses from me; so can I — to get updates and to get things done. For me so far, WeChat has been useful to get answers from different people, share contacts, double check with my interviewees on facts (as the verbal interview is done in Mandarin). And they respond so fast (with emojis — Chinese style!).

Although, my question still remains: What and where is the fine line? As anyone can have access to you anytime of the day, at the end of the day it really is up to you to choose should you and when to respond… or can you? (Yes, of course you can)

Payment system

I use WeChat Pay to pay 99.99% of what I need to pay in China.

From my monthly rent, meals, online shopping, that 1.50 herbal egg by the road side, Didi (linked to my app), groceries, water bills, food delivery, and mobile top-up…

Basically, everything la except for my subway card top-up – which only takes cash. I used to be given the weird eye when I wanted to pay for cash at a convenience store, but now it’s my turn to do so to the subway peeps. Jokes.

我扫你还是你扫我?

WeChat Pay also has this ‘Distribute Angpao’ (red packet) function too. During festive periods, such as Mooncake Festival, Team Building, Spring Festival, I have received these red packets (意思意思) from leaders of the company, where one chooses a certain ‘total amount’ to give away and it gets randomly distributed to a certain amount of people.

But beyond that, you can also get your REFUNDS** via this app. Like, immediately. Be it from JD.com where I usually get all my stuff, or food delivery (e le me), Didi, shops… For example, if I cancelled a food delivery order, or return a good to the seller (be it online or a physical shop)… the money will be in my bank account in no time. They usually tell you it takes one to three days. But they have been exceeding expectations thus far.

**it can go into your WeChat balance if the amount was deducted from it, or it goes into your bank account if you merely use WeChat as an ‘intermediary’

Btw, I haven’t included the usage of this when it comes to paying at unmanned convenience stores and supermarkets.

Source of information

You can ‘follow’ organizations, pages, events, activities on WeChat. They call this Subscription Accounts where you get notifications whenever these have updates.

It is here where you get your daily news, information feed, etc.

Once, there was an assignment where the PR personnel told me to just “关注” their account on WeChat to get any information I am looking for – without even bothering to even first find out what exactly I am looking for (hilarious). And of course, she did not answer my queries over the phone.

There was also once where I was reading a company’s annual report online. And in there there’s a QR code. Scanned it immediately to follow any of its updates. Have to ‘keep up with (Chinese) times’, know what I’m saying? HAHAHA

I have scanned QR codes of restaurants, cafes, salons to be a member and get discounts immediately (HEHE so Asian). But really, you can do this with any service industry I reckon.

HOOKED

Into my second month in China, I can already feel how this platform – while mega useful and convenient – can also be abusive, if we allow it to.

Whether you like it or not, you need to get on the app — to pay, reply your boss… and in there you get distracted by other people’s social media posts… portals you follow… Hence, people here are always hooked on their phones!

Of course, dominating headlines around the world is that of Tencent Holdings’ buying spree; and expanding the usage and breadth of its app usage beyond its payment system — to micro finance, insurance, selling of mutual funds…

I have yet to experience any of the above, but as it is now — the app is enough to overwhelm me.

At one point, admittedly, I was pretty scared of looking at my phone or this app. There were simply too many groups, too many messages.

Questions that run through my mind: Just how reliant are we on WeChat? Is there an alternative now, in the future? Comparing to days where we had ICQ, Friendster, QQ (not sure how vastly is this used still in China)… In terms of payment platforms, sure, there is AliPay, but what about an all-in-one app?

As at writing time (Feb 18, 2018), Tencent Holdings — the mastermind behind and who owns WeChat — is trading at 447 Hong Kong dollars, a 5-year high, with a market cap of 4.2 trillion HKD (over 500 billion US dollars). In the past one year, the stock has doubled.