Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Happy Birthday Father!


It would have been Arnis's 83rd Birthday this July 23.

Oh, how I often forget his birthday when he was alive!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

AKIC's Canada Trip Notes: June 2015 in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Brandon

    [Some pre-trip thoughts.]
  • To think that humans are bad because they go to war is to miss the point entirely about war.  War is a good thing because humans are so bad.
  • It seems that we are going to have the indignity of having no one come to meet us at the Winnipeg Airport.
  • The family and relatives I had are disintegrating into nothing. The older ones are dying off and I never had much dealings with the younger ones who live out of Winnipeg.
  • Great argument against abortion because of rape.  "I'm sorry innocent one but your father is a rapist and so we are going to have to kill you!"
    [The following was typed inVancouver]
  • Nightmare at Pudong:  Paperwork problems cost us 16,000 RMB.  So, I fly to Canada by myself. Jenny & Tony take a flight the next day.
  • Just before we encountered the problem, we were waiting in line to check in.  Behind us, young twenty-something foreigners who sounded Canadian kept using "like" and "fuck" in their conversation.  No consideration for the people around them.
  • Angela, a ex-student, in Wuxi now living in Vancouver, picks me up at the airport. I had to use a payphone to contact her. She lives near the airport in a house that has four bathrooms and a huge yard. We will be staying with her before we fly out to Winnipeg.
  • I am going to have to get a Chinese driving license.  Because I don't work in BC anymore, I can't renew my driver's license there. This I was told at an ICBC licensing office in Richmond.  However, I learned that I could drive with a valid Chinese driver's license in Canada and that if I moved back to Canada, I could change it to Canadian.
  • But this leaves me with the problem of having a valid photo ID so I could renew my passport.  For that, it looks like I will have to get a proof of Canadian citizenship certificate.  But does it solve the problem of my having a valid photo ID other than my passport? [Perhaps, my Chinese driving license can be my photo ID.]
  • Are humans to conform to the system or should the system serve the needs of humans?  Needing pieces of paper just so you can do something that isn't criminal is galling.  I made a mistake and have to suffer more that someone who performs an act with criminal intentions.
  • Richmond, a suburb of Van, seems a lot smaller than Wuxi.  The buildings are not as tall, the roads are not as wide and the subway train is only four cars long (compared to the twenty car long Wuxi Metro.)
  • Still the sky is so blue!
  • I watched the ninth episode of Game of Thrones.  I knew the dragons would save the Queen or as I think of her:  blonde girl with the dragons.  I also foresaw that the Queen mother, or as I call her the mother of Jodfrey, was going to be thrown in the clink by the religious sect.
  • Angela and I meet Tony & Jenny at the airport.
  • We will try to get a Chinese visa for Tony although it won't be necessary for Tony to get back to China. He was given a exit and entry permit so he could leave China. [We went to the Visa offices but they couldn't give us same day service, it turned out.]
  • Damn! I had a great thought but I forgot what it was.
  • One way in which China exceeds Canada is that Chinese can buy liquor in their grocery stores while in Canada, you have to go to specially designated beer stores or government liquor stores.
  • You can buy pineapple beer in Vancouver though!
  • I saw many typical British Columbians in the shopping mall where I tried to renew my BC driver's license.
  • How has jet lag affected me? I didn't fall asleep till after 2:00 AM.
  • It is only right and proper that we feel guilt about the things we did and may have done wrong.
    [The following was typed while on the plane the plane from Vancouver to Winnipeg]
  • The Vancouver Back Door of the Bus Thank You! Riding the bus in Van, I first saw one guy get off the bus at the back door and say “Thank You!” to the driver as he did so. I thought it was strange. Then the next passenger getting off the bus at the back door thanked the driver. I thought it was just two oddballs doing it. I was in BC after all. But then everyone getting off the bus by the back door did it. Woh! I thought so polite. Jenny & Tony noticed this, and when we got off the bus, at the back door, Tony loudly said thank you!
  • Bus baby troller procedure: when mothers and strollers get on the bus, special accommodations are made for them and seats are folded away.
  • Politeness has me on edge. I feel the need to modify all my thank you's with an intensifying adverb.
  • Anxiety about weight of bags. One airline service person from Westjet asked me how much my bags weighed andI said I didn't know but that we had gotten them all the way from China. The limit was 50 pounds (why no metric? Not that I am complaining.) Two of our bags were just under 50 pounds. One came in at 38.
  • Security before domestic flight in Vancouver was more intense than when going through security at Shanghai. Jenny has metal in her shoe that caused her to spend extra time with the metal detector people.
  • So many laowai in Vancouver. They looked Canadian and spoke with Canadian accents but seemed so foreign to me.
  • Rode the skytrain. I have ridden subways in Mexico City, Chicago, Vancouver, Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing and Wuxi.
  • Tony would rather play Minecraft then look out at the window at the gorgeous scenery. He was even that way on the Skytrain.
  • My Macbook Pro is a little big for the plane. It doesn't fit on the fold out tray.
  • Tony likes his bacon and hash browns. I have given him all of mine from my meals.
  • Weather was gorgeous in Van. Too bad, we were only there for three days.
  • Watched a video with Father from 2010. He said he hated mountains because they blocked the view of the sky. [He said he also hated Winnipeg because it was a big city.]
    [The following was typed while I was in Winnipeg]
  • Someone – My brother Ron – met us at the airport after all.
  • I drove a car for the first time since May and June of 2012. Funny, how nerve wracking it is to get into the driver's seat only to then to have it seem like riding a bicycle.
  • The first evening in Winnipeg we went to a cousin's place for dinner.
  • We are staying at my brother Ron's house.
  • Tony has fallen in love with his uncle Ron's Xbox 360 and the GTA game which I have him playing with the mute button turned on.
  • The first full day in Winnipeg, the three of us all got up at 11:15 AM. As soon as we had breakfast and got ready, we went to a Walmart Super-Center on Taylor Avenue. There was so much I wanted that I had to tell myself to want nothing. The food section was mouth watering. I restricted myself to buying a 500 ml tub of cottage cheese. (I asked Jenny to try that and she didn't care for it.)
  • Coming back then to my brother Ron's house, I got stuck for the first time in over ten years as a driver in a traffic jam. I wanted to get back on Pembina Highway from Harrow Avenue but I was in behind ten other cars trying to do the same thing. It took a while for me to get to the stop sign and then the traffic kept coming and coming so that I didn't think I would ever be able to make a right turn. What was really annoying was that there was a parking lot just up the road where cars would take advantage of the break in traffic to make their right turns and thus take a chance away from you. One of these cars did let me turn but it was Jenny who noticed this. The road from Harrow to the turnoff near Royce Avenue, where my brother's house was, was filled with bumper to bumper traffic. [This makes me reconsider the Chinese habit of turning right without looking. How I wish this could be done in Canada.]
  • I have a few people I want to pay a visit to in Winnipeg. On the Friday night, I was able to get a hold of Ed Chalmers, my reservist buddy who is now a policeman in Winnipeg.
  • Cousin Pat, actually husband of my cousin Edie (pronounced E D: that is you pronounce them as letters), is a fiscal reactionary.  He has been retired for over twenty years and doesn't go out much, out of choice.  He says the world is going to shit.  Case in point, he says, America's huge debt.
  • And after riding around Winnipeg and spending time at the Polo Park shopping centre, I am very inclined to agree with Pat, although not for fiscal reasons.  At the food court there, I saw so many fat and badly-dressed people.  And the ones who were in shape looked to have spent too much time in the gym, which only showed how decadent the civilization was becoming either due to overeating or being overly concerned with body image.
  • Not one really knockout local woman had I seen.
  • On Saturday, we went to the Forks and Polo Park where we did too much shopping.
  • Saturday, we also drove past the new Winnipeg Blue Bombers stadium and I saw as the reports had indicated that there was no parking. Pat also told me that 30 million dollars was going to be needed to repair the thing after one year of operation.
  • I drove past the recently constructed Museum of Human Rights.  Pat had said it was ugly.  Under his influence, I thought it looked like a Wuxi white elephant.
  • Saturday for supper, we went to an Italian restaurant on Corydon avenue.  We didn't have a reservation so we had from 5:00 to 630 to eat our meal.  The place seemed undermanned.  Our waitress dealt with us brusquely. Jenny enjoyed her salmon. My lasagna was too much.
  • In Polo Park, they had a shop that sold music CDs and movie DVDs. I thought everyone got that stuff off the Internet now.
  • There was a shop at Polo Park for white trash culture called Spencer's.
  • Tony was very irritable. The whole time in Polo Park. He was always wanting to go to a computer or toy store.
  • We went to Assiniboine Park on Sunday. There was a lack of signs, we thought, as we drove around looking for the zoo and the mini railway. And it just so happened that it was complained about by the owner of this mini railway that we wanted to go to for Tony. Just as we walked to its ticket office, the owner said business at his railway was slow because a lot of tourists didn't know of it. I told the owner I only knew of the mini railway because I had ridden in years gone by. And as I mentioned that I was living in China, the owner talked and talked to me and he had me thinking I was becoming a slow talker after all my years in Wuxi.
  • At the Assiniboine Park Zoo, a lot of animals were hiding because of the hot weather. Tony did see a polar bear swimming at least.
  • Mosquitoes! Worse than Wuxi!
  • Two pretty girls – Asian – entered the Tim Hortons as I was having coffee with the ex King of Wuxi.
  • No more pennies in Canada.  When paying cash, prices are rounded to the nearest nickel.  Inflation continues.
  • Mobile phones are more expensive in Manitoba than Wuxi.  The former King of Wuxi said that in Wuxi, he and his wife both had mobile phones but that in Winnipeg, only his wife had a mobile because of the price and the restrictions of contracts.
    [The following was typed in Brandon]
  • It was a two hour drive to get Brandon on Monday. Dull, dull, dull, dull, dull. I was in pain when I arrived with my butt sore and my leg all so stiff.
  • Before leaving for Brandon, I had coffee at a Stella's with Trevor Kraft who I knew at DHL-slash-Loomis in British Columbia.
  • I wanted to buy a burner phone to use for two weeks in Brandon but it was just too expensive. When it comes to mobile, they do it better in China. You can buy a sim card and phone cheap in China.
  • I visited my father's grave side after supper on my first day in Brandon. My first time to see the grave stone in person. I will try to visit it every day while I am here in Brandon.
  • Second day in Brandon, we – that being the Kaulins family – went shopping. First the family went to Mark's Work Warehouse where I bought two pants for work and a pair of jeans. Then, we went to a nearby Walmart where Jenny and my Mom bought stuff, and Tony whined about being hungry so I took him to the in-store McDonalds. He had chicken nuggets and I, for the first time in years, had a quarter pounder. The fries that came with it were too much. Later, just Jenny & I went to a Dollarama. Jenny bought some things she thought she needed and I bought four brands of chocolate bars that I couldn't get in China: Smarties, Glosette Raisins, Skor, and Wunderbar (Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!)
  • I had to accompany Tony to the bathroom at Walmart because he had to go poo. In the men's room, there were two urinals and a toilet which was occupied. Tony was noisy and impatient, and even looked under the door to see if anyone was in the toilet. When the person came out, it turned out that he was an old man, and he said something to me about his being old and slow to which I could only say that someone had to learn to be patient. Tony then took his time in the toilet and so there were two men waiting. But then the cleaner came in and told us that there were more toilets and urinals in the back of the store. I told him I was just waiting for my son to finish, but he repeated himself. “There are three urinals and two more toilets in the back of the store!”
  • Lots and lots of obese and old people at the Walmart.
  • Also at Walmart, I made an appointment to see an eye doctor because I wanted to see someone I could talk to in English and so get proper glasses. The only catch was that it could have taken a week or more for me to have had the eyeglasses made and I may have had to get my brother to mail them to me in China. [It turned out that I got my glasses on the day before I was to leave Brandon.]
  • I have seen people of all races in Manitoba: Africans, Latinos, Asians and Aboriginals.
  • I have brought Ron's X-box to Brandon because Tony likes it so much. He especially likes the GTA game. He also plays Minecraft on it using a disc which I have purchased in Winnipeg. [It was either that or buy him a much more expensive Minecraft Lego set.]
  • I got myself eyeglasses at Walmart. They were bloody expensive because I needed progressive lenses. The doctor said that one of my eyes was higher on my face than the other, and so he asked me if I had ever suffered head trauma. I told I'm didn't and thinking about it afterwards, I was sure I told the truth. All this was useful to know because I wouldn't have learned it in China. The last glasses I had made in Wuxi were shite.
  • Storm rolling in while we were at the Real Canadian Superstore was cool to see. What a contrast between the black cloud of the incoming storm and the bright, blue, clean sky.
  • Soccer in Brandon: at a field near my Mom's, a game was played by Africans and Middle Easterners. Maybe one fellow was white.
  • Almost bought a pair of Duracell ear buds, but changed my mind at the last minute. I have to resist and resist...
  • Went to a second hand store that was near the Superstore. It depressed me.
  • Tony called the Superstore the Stupid Store
  • Went to see Mad Max Fury Road at a nearby multiplex cinema which had an arcade but no human ticket sellers. I bought a large popcorn and two large drinks; and Jenny was impressed by the pail like size of the drink containers.
  • As soon as I got to my seats in the cinema, I had a let down feeling. The experience was too expensive. The popcorn wasn't fresh. The atmosphere was impersonal. I vowed to never see a movie in a Canadian cinema ever again.
  • The movie itself approached Fast and Furious levels of implausibility. The movie makers wanted as much chase in the desert as possible.
  • Tony went to the bathroom three times during the movie.
  • I watched the Chicago Black Hawks defeat the Tampa Bay team to win the Stanley Cup. It was during the Stanley Cup Final in 2012 that father died.
  • We went for one afternoon to Minnedosa, a small town about 45 km North of Brandon. The drive there through green flat fields was pleasant enough except for a ten minute stop caused by construction.
  • Summer means road construction in Manitoba. The winters and the wide range of temperatures destroys them.
  • The drive to Minnedosa was also ruined by an unexpected school zone speed warning on a provincial highway. The radar sign indicated the car's speed and made me wonder if we had gotten a ticket.
  • Minnedosa was a nice little town.
  • We would stop at three places there.
  • We first went to a park downtown, climbed on an old train car and caboose, and posed for photos by an old Sherman tank.
  • I saw a bald headed man with tattoos and sunglasses strutting on the Minnedosa Main Street as I was trying to get to Minnedosa Lake.
  • We finally found the lake and I saw the bald headed man walking nearby it. Near a beach, there was a playground to which Tony happily ran to to be among a bunch of what I learned were pre-schoolers who were celebrating the end of the school year. I talked to an older women there who had first talked to Jenny. She told me that she was there with a two year old niece of hers. She also told me of twin boys in her family who were graduating from high school that day and who were six foot three. One of them had suffered a stroke when he was 14 months old. I gave the woman a yuan coin to give to someone.
  • From the playground we went to another playground where we picnicked. I saw some high school students nearby who were dressed in suits and gowns for their graduation photos. A little later, there was a motor boat towing a water skier in the lake.
  • I then saw two sights as well that sickened and annoyed me. First, there was this greasy long haired man with tattoos and no shirt riding his mountain bike. Then, there was a group of five young men who hung out at beach and boat launch and seemed up to no good. I was happy when they pulled away. Manitobans can be friendly and yet there is that white trashy element to them. When I drove Jenny and Tony to our third stop, a nearby dam, I saw a beer can that must have been tossed from the vehicle of the five rowdies.
  • We saw the bald man walking again as we pulled into a park by a dam. We walked on the dam which made for some nice photos, past some babbling brooks and then into marsh land.
  • We returned to Brandon and weren't stopped by construction. As I drove, Jenny took some great video of the sky. That damn school zone where there were no kids caught me speeding again .
  • Trying to make a left turn in Minnedosa was annoying because these big pickup trucks would pull beside me to make a right turn and obscure my vision, thus preventing me from making a left turn.
  • Back in Brandon, we went to a Value Village. I was tempted to buy books by Sarah Palin and Rex Murphy. [Value Village is a thrift store chain. We had gone to one in Winnipeg as well.]
  • After dinner, we went to father's grave to place some new flower pots. Mom said that ones she had laid previously had been stolen.
  • Then we went to Canadian Tire: an hardware chain that is as much an institution in Canada as Tim Horton's. It is in fact older than Tim Horton's. No Canadian tire caps for sale alas....
  • Three types of garbage cans provided by the city at my mom's house. I wonder how types of garbage cans, they have in the swankier parts of Brandon. Five? Seven?
  • As a reactionary, it is my duty to mock these things and remain ignorant of what the different colored lidded cans are for.
  • The world has become less humane. Humans have to adapt to the system, not the system to people is the governing ethos these days.
  • I watched some television news and was appalled by the left-wing orientation. Listening to the results of the SCOTUScare decision, all that was said was that the decision was about whether millions of Americans would be able to afford health insurance.
  • I had coffee with Raymond Pero who I have known since 1982. How to describe Ray? First off, Raymond is a nice guy, of low status, with a ghoulish laugh. I couldn't help every time I met him to make off-color jokes to get him to giggle.
  • Surprisingly to me anyway, Raymond is a father. He got some native girl pregnant and now his twenty year old son is working at a McDonald's in Winnipeg. Ray and the girl are separated.
  • Ray's parents have both passed away and they are both buried in the same cemetery as my father.
  • Ray is still a reservist private after all these years. I gave up the ghost as far as a military career when I realized I could never be an officer and would never get beyond corporal in the ranks.
  • Ray gave me some updates from people I remember from my days in the reserves. Some have died like then Lieutenant Thompson who later became the CO of my regiment. Another young lieutenant from my time is now retired and is a curator at the Shilo museum. A third, this sinister fellow who was only good to share a complaint with was now in a mental home.
  • Opened up a Smarties box and thought it strange that it had three compartments inside.
  • I hate driving and I hate flying, I can tell you on account of this trip.
  • Saturday morning in Brandon, I took Jenny to some garage sales where she bought a few things to take back to China. I saw a set of books about the Simpsons that I would have liked to have purchased but didn't because of worries of weight restrictions for our return flight to China. At one of the sales, we saw a family of Chinese who were from the Northeast as I suspected and as Jenny confirmed when I asked her. Another home had about 50,000 hockey and other sports cards for sale. They were from the 1990s and the time of the great sports cards memorabilia bubble.
  • Brother Ron came from Winnipeg for our Brandon weekend and told me that we (that being Jenny, Tony & I) didn't like doing interesting things. Tony only liked playing computer games, I only liked reading and Jenny only liked shopping. True enough and yet what we going to do? Go Fishing? Biking? Driving? That one trip to Minnedosa I did take tired me out.
  • I regret that I won't be able to see all my cherished acquaintances in Winnipeg. We came at the wrong time. Weekdays, everyone has to work and weekends, everyone already has plans. The logistics of meeting them wearies me as well.
  • I didn't visit my sister in BC this trip. I learned from my Mom that Benita is not too pleased but someone was going to have to be disappointed this trip.
  • I have told my mother that she should sell the house in Brandon. I can't see myself coming back here except to visit my father's grave site. It may well be that I may never see it again after this trip...
  • My memories of Brandon are ultimately bitter. I have some good memories of my last year of high school, which was my first year in Brandon, but even then I can recall there were bouts of loneliness and not feeling that I belonged that would haunt the rest of my days in Brandon and in Winnipeg and still to this day in China. I wandered the halls of Brandon University, for four years, lonely and lost. I went to the University of Winnipeg to try to correct those times instead of giving up on the educational establishment as I should have... My times in the Militia with all the assholes and the drinking unsheltered me from any youthful idealism I had.
  • My telling my Mom to sell the house in Brandon seems selfish in a way because it ultimately repudiates my father who was obstinately happy to live the rest of his days in Brandon.
  • Ron, Tony & I went to Shilo's Royal Canadian Artillery museum. Shilo, which is about 15 km from Brandon and where I lived on two separate occasions, was not as I remembered it. It seemed smaller and some new roads, which disoriented me, had been built.
  • After the museum, we drove to Quebec Crescent where the PMQ we had lived in 1976-77 was no longer standing. The area behind the PMQ where we would wander didn't look the same at all. In my memory, it was more open.
  • I ran in Bruce Tripp, an unforgettable figure from my reservist days, at a Beer Store. Go figure.
  • Our third drive out of Brandon was to Souris which was 47 km south, more or less from Brandon. [Our first small town, Minnedosa, was about 45 km north.]
  • Souris is famous, to those who know of it, for its swinging bridge. I, if I recall correctly, went to the Bridge on a school trip in 1979 or 1980. I have a distinct memory of the kids getting rowdy and swinging the bridge very violently.
  • In Souris, we stopped first at a little rail museum in front of which was a old rail service car where Tony posed for some photos There was also a Moose statue nearby for us to pose by as well. [It dawned on me that were old rail cars and engines on display everywhere in Manitoba.]
  • We then drove to Souris's Victoria Park. The website I had visited earlier in the day said it was a place to go. The park had a bit of a hill to climb, on top of which was a lookout tower made of wood that was wobbly enough to make me a little nervous to climb its stairs. From the lookout, I could see the actual swinging bridge which we couldn't find right away. [It turned out we had passed by it earlier.] Tony got upset because there was a pool that he wanted to swim in but he hadn't brought any swim clothes.
  • We then crossed the swinging bridge and posed for photos thereon, of course. While on the bridge, a Christian couple gave Jenny some pamphlets. They were an older couple who I had seen earlier in Victoria Park. They stood out then because they were dressed in the Mennonite fashion and they walked rather vigorously with beatific smiles on their faces. Jenny was happy to get the pamphlets and didn't know what they were about till later. I was nonetheless glad to see Christians.
  • When a man's mother and a man's wife fight, what is the man to do? What he should want is for his wife and his mother to stop fighting. How he can bring about this goal is another question altogether. The only thing I can think to do is pray for strength.
  • The problem is that I am weak.
  • Amid this squabble, I had beers with Ed Chalmers, an old friend from my 26 Field days and that Ray Pero character. Ed is working in the child sex crime unit of the City of Winnipeg. One story was enough to further sicken me about the world.
  • Tomb desecration of my father's grave? Not quite, but the flower pot that my mother had placed at my father's grave, and that you can see in photos at AKIC wordpress, was missing three days after we had placed it. [It turned out that the workers removed it. Fucking regulations.]
  • For me, the clouds in Brandon are what are worth seeing here. White Cumulo Nimbus clouds soaring against a clean blue sky are quite breathtaking if you have spent as many years in a smoggy Chinese city as I have.
  • The Brandon Shopper's Mall was a strange place in June 2015. Imagine a shopping mall with no anchor stores. The big retail spaces for a grocery store and a big retail department store were empty. The Safeway and the Target having moved out in the year previous. I went there anyway and was impressed with the food court which had a Tim Horton's and A&W. I took Tony to a shop called EB Games that sells games for video game consoles like X-Box and so on. While there, I saw a father bring his boy, who was younger than Tony, into the store. The man had a big gut and was wearing a Kiss rock band t-shirt. Disgusting I thought. Men use to wear suits at one time. [I admit that I dress as badly as that father but I am readily ashamed of myself.]
  • I went to the Manitoba Liquor Commission store. I would have loved to have told those guys to find real jobs. The government liquor monopoly is nonsense! It is another thing for politicians and bureaucrats to screw up. And of course you have to drive to get to it.
  • Brandon's population is about 45,000. I had told my students that it was around 30,000. So in my lifetime, Brandon has grown by a sizable percentage. When it had less people though, it had its own television station, its own local newspaper published in the city and it probably had train service. Now, you need a car to get about and the city might as well be a obscure suburb in Winnipeg, what with all its parking lots and strip malls.

[The following was typed in Wuxi.]
  • I took Tony to a public outdoor swimming pool in Brandon. He waded for an hour and told me he wanted to go home. His timing was impeccable because as soon as he was dressed, it began to rain.
  • On Thursday, a rain storm was heavy enough to cause my Mom's basement to flood. This hadn't happened in the years that I and my brother Ron had lived in the house, but a great flood in Brandon in about 2009 started the problem which has resulted in insurance companies suspending the sale of flood insurance in Brandon.
  • Friday about lunchtime, we left Brandon. I said good bye to Mom and then good bye to Father (Dad's gravestone was our last stop in Brandon). Tony had to ruin the moment by insisting on playing the IPad instead of paying proper attention to his grandmother and grandfather.
  • From Brandon, it was a two hour drive on the Number One Highway to Winnipeg. The drive was marred slightly by my being boxed in by other cars. At least five times, I found myself the situation where I was doing 110 kmh with cruise control approaching a car ahead of me doing 108 kmh while in my rear a car doing 111 kmh was overtaking me. The car passing me wasn't going fast enough and so I found myself closing in on the car ahead of me and thus having to get out of cruise control.
  • It was also annoying to listen to the radio as I drove to Winnipeg. On a country station where I kind of hoped they knew better, they praised the gay marriage court decision in the U.S. “Love is love!” said one of the radio talkers. What the hell does that mean? I thought to myself.
  • Switching the station, I heard an interview with an artiste who was talking about conversation circles. Apparently, a group of people sit in a circle and talk, one at a time, as a way of expressing their feelings. The artiste was hoping to get a grant to continue on with her art work. [Driving to Brandon on the #1 Highway, I listened to the CBC and heard an activist advocate the banning of tobacco sales altogether in Canada.]
  • In Winnipeg, it was a rush against the clock for me to see as many old friends as I could. I would succeed in seeing two and not seeing one.
  • Friday night, I meet Arielle (formerly Eric) at a Stella's restaurant in Winnipeg's Osborne Village. It was an experience in many ways. I first had to find a free parking spot and was frustrated by signs that were full of rules and regulations. A parking lot that said parking was a six dollar flat rate during off business hours was empty. I found I had to find Arielle first to show me where to park. Arielle was the midst of a radical change in identity which I didn't know how to deal with, being torn as I was between being of a reactionary mind and being in practice a nice softie afraid of confrontation. Arielle was a troubled soul is about all I can say. First hearing her voice on the phone was startling because it had gone down two octaves. It wasn't before I had a conversation with her on the phone that I could detect traces of Eric's voice.
  • Arielle's appearance was more feminine than I was expecting.
  • Saturday breakfast at the Pancake house with Jenny, Tony & Ron.
  • Saturday afternoon, I went to see another friend from my U of W days: Nicole Firlotte. I told her about Arielle. She told me she had dated Eric back in the day. Now, she was married to a gentleman named Cain (or Kane or Cane or Caine) who had done some interesting things with their house in the Wolseley area of Winnipeg. He had built a pond in front of the house with gold fish in it and a deck that went all around the house.
  • Jenny bought a lot of stuff in China to give to her friends. So I spent my last evening in Canada worrying about luggage weight. I weighed the luggage using my brother Ron's bathroom scale. The procedure involved weighing myself and then weighing myself holding one of our three pieces of luggage. We had to distribute the luggage evenly and then have a lot of carry on bags. We in fact brought five onto the plane.
  • My last meal in Canada was a Mozza Burger at the A&W at the YVR.
  • I buy two big bottles of Crown Royal at the Duty Free.
  • I didn't buy any shoes or books on this trip.
  • How was the trip in three words? Emotional, harrowing and unleisurely. I didn't do everything I hoped I could have done.




Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Wuxi Tony Canadian Odyssey #28


In this 2010 video, my late father drives Jenny, Tony & me on the "low road" between Shilo and Brandon, Manitoba.  

Saturday, June 6, 2015

AKIC's May to Early June 2015 Notes, Observations and Thoughts.

[The Kaulins Family goes to Canada for three weeks (June 9 to June 29).  So I have made this entry to encompass not only the blog entries I made in May but the entries from my time in June before I went to Canada.]

  • May 1 was a public holiday.
  • I spent that day at a park near Casa Kaulins posing for photos with my family.  
  • There were a lot of people in the park that day and I found myself thinking that all those people had souls.  I then thought how that thought didn't really diminish the fact that they just seemed like a mass.
  • At the park, the sight of  a  youngish woman, who was standing beside her bag of  cheap plastic toys for sale, seemed so forlorn.
  • On May 2, I edited my April entry (my monthly entry previous to this one).
  • I have been doing more blogging at my WCE sites.  Double Saint Archduke Sir Harry Moore Emeritus has made a movie  for which he has been awarded the Nobel Prize!
  • Mr and Mrs Kaulins.  That's me and Jenny.  After 8 years of marriage, it still seems strange to me that this is so.
  • I buy a “I am your father” t-shirt at Uniqlo, a chain clothing store from Japan that is akin to Old Navy.  At Uniqlo there are always some interesting t-shirts for sale.  Last year, I could have bought t-shirts of the Clash and the Sex Pistols.  This year, you can chose from their extensive line of Star Wars t-shirts of which now Tony has one, I have one and my brother Ron will have one, when I meet up with him in Canada.
  • Twin students at our school, Iris and Emo, appeared to be reading a book in tandem.  That is the girls were both holding onto one  folio volume — one of the twins holding the left page, the other holding the right  –- and scanning together its text.
  • I went to Hen Long Mall and Hui Ju  Mall one day; and I couldn't help but notice that there were many, many empty store fronts.
  • My life is dull I will admit.  I can't find anything better to do on my days off with Tony than to take him to a mall.  This has got to stop.  It is so soul destroying.
  • Being stared at can cause me to swear at the locals, whether they be children or adults, who are doing the staring.
  • I took the Metro from the Civic Center to Yanqiao. About 21 stops!!
  • I sleep with Tony in Tony's bed after a winter of having him sleep with us. Slowly, it seems, he is realizing that it is good to have a private spot of one's own.(or so I thought) 
  • I eagerly await for the day when Tony kicks me out of his room. I'd rather be with Mommy if you know what I mean. (He in fact kicked himself out of his room.  Of this, I will say more anon.)
  • I got an email asking if I wanted to take part in an Expat in China interview podcast.  Part of me thinks the email was a joke so I won't answer it, but if I did and they were serious, I would decline the request.  I think my experience in China has been rather pathetic in a way and my attitude to other foreigners in Wuxi is very negative, so I would feel very uncomfortable doing such an interview.  I want to be the subject of a podcast only if there is something of which I could be proud and at ease to talk about.  And currently there is nothing.
  • How the last three American presidents could  inspire you: 3) President Bush was an alcoholic who cleaned up his act and became President.  So he should be a hero to alcoholics.  2)President Clinton was able to get away with being a pervert.  So he should be a hero to perverts.  1)President Obama overcame prejudice to become the President of the United States?  Okay.  I am going to have to work on why Obama is so inspiring to those who aren't blessed with victim or minority status.
  • Tony was excited because he had a new class at school. When he first tried to tell me this, I couldn't quite get what it was he was trying to tell me  because his pronunciation of “P.E” was slurred.  But he then told me how he liked to do “this” in class:  this being jumping rope which he happily acted out for me.
  • Katherine Hepburn spat in the face of the director as soon as he told her that her scenes in his  movie had been completed.  “This,” she said to him, was for some resentment she had towards him.  I will have to remember that.
  • Despite saying I couldn't stand to watch Major League Baseball anymore, I am reading a collection of essays written by Roger Angell about the major baseball seasons of 1972 to 1976.
  • I am without friends in Wuxi, I admit, but that is because the social options for me make this loneliness my best choice.  (And I say this while wholly admitting that I am not a great social option for anyone else.)
  • There was a power failure at school, but of course it came back when it was time for class. 
  • I am reading Paris 1919, a book about the peace conference held after the end of the Great War.  The author does a great job at outlining how the treaty affected each country.  I learned so much about the Balkans, Austro-Hungary and the Ottomans.
  • On a recommendation from a Gilbert Godfrey podcast, I downloaded the classic Western film My Darling Clementine.  I then put the film on my Ipad.  Ipad in hand, I went to the empty theater in my school to watch because one of the teachers was in such a bad way (drunk) that I couldn't  stand to even have to overhear him.
  • I finish watching My Darling Clementine and come out to see that it has begun to rain.  
  • I love my son.  I love my wife.  These two things are the most important facts of my earthly existence.  I will sacrifice other things for this because I must.
  • Summer is coming to Wuxi and I can see lots of female legs and thighs.
  • Here's another rant, from me, about Chinese drivers.  The rant occurs to me after yet another driver made a right turn on a red without yielding to a pedestrian who happened to be me:  Perhaps the Chinese should all go back to riding bicycles.  Barbarism at a slow speed is much safer than barbarism at high speed.
  • Is the problem with Chinese drivers due to the traits of the Chinese or of the car itself?  Chinese society has been demolished by the modernizing of Socialism and Capitalism.  No where is this exhibited better in the Chinese driver's inconsiderateness.  But then it is the nature of automobiles to make people solipsistic.  You can get people in Canada ranting like nothing else if you start talking about driving and traffic.  So perhaps, the devil matched cars and the  Chinese together.
  • You have to love God with your whole mind.  A jarring and deserved slap in my face statement from David Warren, my favorite blogger.  I don't spend enough time thinking of Him.
  • In the middle of the month, Tony was sleeping in his own bed in his own room and I still had to sleep with him.  I tried to get back to sleeping with Jenny in our bed in our room one night but Tony, in the middle of the night, came to sleep with us.  He said he was still scared to sleep by himself.
  • One of our teachers came to work drunk, again.  It was my good fortune that the day he did so, I had already chosen to retreat to a quiet room in the school and read a book as well as watch another movie on the iPad.
  • I was getting excited about my upcoming trip to Manitoba.
  • My wife, who controls the finances of the Chinese Family Kaulins tells me that we could get a car if we wanted to, but she and I don't, thank God.
  • If I drove in China, I would be hating the locals more than I do now.
  • Getting off the train one morning, I very nearly gave a righteous elbow to a young man who was boarding.  It seems that he was very eager to get a seat and and  so he rushed onto the train despite the fact that several passengers wanted to get off.  He in fact got in my way and instead of backing off and letting me get off the train, he tried to dodge around me.  I was so annoyed that I gave him a shoulder and brushed him with my elbow.  I then wished the elbow had been more vicious.
  • Is all this technology making the Chinese so inconsiderate?  Look at their behavior with cars and of course, you have to look at them staring at their mobile phones oblivious to all else.
  • How are you Andis? (Asked the teacher who was drunk.)  I say one word in response: Sober. (That's what I should have said.)
  • Reprobate.  That's a word that I should have been using to describe that person.  [I wish say this for the first time in this entry: so much reprobatity, no sanctity to be found anywhere in the Wuxi Expatdom.]
  • It is a hot day and the girl wears black clothes and complains about the heat.
  • Tony brings his boots with him to school one morning.  The forecast is for thunder showers.
  • I am living for a future, but not one where I have resolved my issues.  There is no point in resolving my issues if this life is all there is for me.
  • A story about Jack Benny.  It was said that Jack Benny was very gracious and patient with the many people he meet :  all of whom seemed to ask him the same questions over and over again  about his fictional persona and world.  One time, he and a companion were taking an elevator down from a high floor in a hotel.  Everyone who got on the elevator recognized him and would then ask him those kinds of questions.  Was he that cheap?  Did he underpay Rochester?  Did he have a man imprisoned in his vault deep below the earth's surface?  As the elevator finally emptied, he said to his companion:  “Sometime you just want to tell them to fuck off!”  I can say I know that feeling in China when I get treatment tantamount to someone running into a celebrity.
  • Despite my experience of celebrity, I am as far as a person can be from the well-connected of the world like the Clintons.  I have no connections, no close friends and no talents or abilities.  I just don't know how I do it.
  • What's so disappointing about my social life, is not so much that I don't have friends; it is that I have not meet anyone who comes close to having sanctity.  Everyone I get stuck meeting here is a person of the world: a collection of experiences and anecdotes without a soul. [I've started reading this book A Humane Economy by Wilhelm Röpke , an economist  that my favorite blogger David Warren wrote about recently.  Röpke  who wasn't a socialist or a Keynesian, was  a free marketer, up to a point.  Warren says  Röpke  basic point is that you can get too much of a good thing and that is what the free market does.   Röpke talks about the boredom of mass man cut off nature, his soul starved because he consumes too much.  Anyway, Röpke brought out another reason why I hate meeting foreigners.  They are the product of modern enmassment.]
  • The Chinese government is cracking down on strip tease shows at funerals.  I asked my wife Jenny if there were such shows at funerals in her home town.  She said that at a recent funeral, of an uncle that she attended, there was a performance of Chinese opera.
  • Jenny tells me that we, that be her and I,  have a reputation for cheapness.  What a slap in the face this is because there is no denying it! 
  • It is the slaps in the face that are deserved that really hurt.  I would rather be slapped undeservedly.
  • Bad weather on my days off keeps me in the house.  So, I watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones and read Paris 1919 to pass the time.
  • I see a foreigner at the Hui Shan Wanda Plaza and my first instinct is to look away.
  • There are many disagreeable people in the world and I am one of them.  I sometimes think I am all of them.
  • A student tells me that her baby was crying on the plane, annoying all the other passengers and so she was moved by the staff into the business class section.  Apparently, no seats had been sold in that section.
  • Sure, I hate, but I hate passively.  The problem is that I also love passively.
  • In a previous entry, I had prematurely stated that the 637 route had been changed because of lack of ridership.  What happened was that  that one evening, the buses weren't running normally but the next day they were...  Well, it seems that this change that I had foreseen has actually come about and is permanent.  Since mid-May, it has to be that when I take the train home in the evening, I have no choice but to walk home unless I want to wait twenty five minutes for the next bus to leave. It used to be that I only had to wait five.
  • I was quite taken with a documentary about Vivian Maier that I had downloaded and watched.  Maier was this exceedingly marginal figure who died and was then discovered to have been a very talented photographer.  I was inspired to take more photos for AKIC Wordpress.  Alas, I don't have the sort of camera she has.  It is hard to take street photos with an iPhone.
  • On the train, I looked up to see a young man wearing a three colored Montreal Expos cap.  I doubt if he would have understood what a Montreal Expo was.  I wish I could have taken a Vivian Maier style photo of this.
  • Since seeing that Vivian Maier documentary, I have noticed there are many opportunities for good street photography in Wuxi.  Of course, I am limited by the camera I have and my nerves to just directly point my camera at someone.
  • Temperatures were high enough that I could wear short sleeves on my way to work.
  • One Monday, the three of us, that being the Kaulins Family, went to Taixing, about an hour by car from Wuxi.  We had to pay sympathy to a relative who had spent some time in the hospital.   The day was uneventful except for my having eaten frog's legs for the first time.  They taste like chicken.   This Monday was a day to to observe a lot as we took the bus to Taixing and then got a return ride in a car back to Wuxi.  I saw never ending people and buildings.
  • The Tuesday following the Monday, I went to the Taihu New City area to teach a company class.  I wanted to walk through the Coastal City mall but it was too big for me to look at in the five minutes fate had given me to survey its premises.  The whole area seems a colossal example of overbuilding. {I would go later with Tony.]
  • Wuxi, way back when I've been told, was a walled city.  Now, that wall has been completely taken down and any parts purporting to be of the wall are merely restorations.  One student told me that the wall may have been knocked down during the Cultural revolution though he couldn't say for sure.
  • But there can be no doubt that the Cultural Revolution destroyed a lot of old things in China and anything purporting to be an historical site in China is probably a fake rebuild.
  • Tony says “Oh! My Goodness!” a lot.  He picked up this expression from a Minecraft Youtube channel where the British host always says that phrase.
  • I suffered from a bad cold in late May.  It came with a cough that I would say was “high up in the throat” making me feel at times like I am on the verge of choking.
  • A student was going on and on about the Japanese and their not apologizing for what they did in World War Two.  The fact of the matter is that the Japanese have apologized on numerous occasions. To be fair though,  there is something to the Chinese complaint that many Japanese have a amnesia about the time.  But you have to couple this amnesia with the fact that the Japanese are a very civilized people these days — much more civilized that the Chinese — and there is no danger of a return of that virulent militarism. The Chinese government harps on the Japanese and World War Two because they want their population to forget the more recent horrors that they inflicted on their own people.  In fact if the Japanese prostrated themselves every day to apologize for what they did in World War Two, it wouldn't be enough for the Chinese Communists who need the experience of World War Two as a  way of not having to apologize for the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Maybe the Chinese Communists should set an example of how to apologize by apologizing to their people and giving up power.
  • Another issue that the students tell me about concerning Japan is that there is this Shrine that  the Japanese go to to honor the soldiers of World War Two.  Well, if this is the case, then why do the Chinese TV people seemed compelled to show these propagandist World War Two recreations where Chinese – Chinese Communists actually -- are shown to offer heroic and decisive resistance to Japanese forces?  I happened to catch one of these shows where after wiping out a Japanese battalion, a closeup shot of a Chinese foot stomping on a Japanese flag was shown.  If the Chinese Communists are truly interested in peace then perhaps such programs should not be shown either.  
  • Communist resistance to the Japanese, I have heard, is a myth.  Mao stood aside and let the KMT get bloodied by the Japanese.
  • A Def Leopard T-Shirt.  Riding the shuttle bus past a kindergarten one morning, I saw that the foreign teacher, who was out front greeting arriving children, was wearing a Def Leopard T-Shirt.  Interesting it was for me and it lead me to many speculations.  None of which I will enter here.  But I will say this about Def Leopard.  They had a good first album with some great songs but then I found their later efforts to be dull.
  • A Chinese study project for myself:  learn the Chinese National Anthem.  I do know one refrain from the song by hear already: 起来!起来! 起来!Arise!  Arise!  Arise!
  • One thing I find funny about the anthem's lyrics is this urging to build a new Great Wall. (筑成我们新的长城)There was no Internet when the song was written so how could they have known to put that bit in the anthem? (Or was it added later, 1984 style?)
  • Jenny says that I snore very loudly.  In fact she complained to me after a night in which I had slept  by myself in Tony's bed in another bedroom.  
  • By the end of May, Tony was sleeping with Mom in the big bedroom and I was sleeping by myself in the little bedroom.  Tony has dashed my hopes that I had had earlier in the month and earlier in this blog entry .
  • Tom, the student I can have a good conversation with, was telling how when he was young, he suffered from hunger.  Thirty years ago this was and so then, he and his young buddies would pry open a food warehouse door (that was then in the area near the three world department store) to steal bags of potato chips.
  • Tom also explained the admiration I had witnessed for Chairman Mao in the countryside where images of him could be seen in prominent display areas of a few private residences I had chance to enter.  Some people, despite the bad things Mao did, did like the fact of everyone being equal and no one having more than anyone else and didn’t so much mind the poverty and shared misery.
  • And speaking of chances, I had a chance on the last Saturday evening of May to go to Wuxi's Nanchang Jie Bar Street.  I very much enjoyed walking the area before having to join up with colleagues at a pub.  During these perambulations, I noticed two things:  1) That just away from the retail portion of the area, there were nauseating sights to smell and look at: abandoned buildings filled with trash.  So, Nanchang Jie Bar Street basically runs through a dump.  2)An area of residences near Nanchang Jie was enjoyable to walk through.  I saw a lot of those sights one associates with older China:  the compact neighborhoods where people don’t live behind locked doors but on the sidewalks and the doorways.  Where in Canada would you see an old woman eating at a front door?
  • On the last Sunday of May, I took Tony to the Coastal City Mall near the New Wuxi Civic Center.  It was big , had many stores, was clean and was ominously under-utilized, but I decided to not invite Jenny to join us. I instead left the mall to join up with her because that mall, even with its vast size had nothing special in it for I to get her to take such a long trip on the subway.
  • I ran into some South Africans near the Hui Shan Wanda Plaza.  They asked me some places that they could visit in the area and I had to admit that I was stumped.  It took me a minute to think of the Wu Culture Park and it turned out that they had already seen it.  And so there wasn't much else that I could think to suggest other than some parks down Hui Shan Da Dao  way.  For me the Hui Shan area is a place to move to and wander around because there are interesting things for a Westerner with an exploring urge to see.  It’s just that there’s no place I could tell a person or tourist passing through to visit.
  • I don't go to Expat pubs in Wuxi because I am living my life in Wuxi.  And because I live in Wuxi, I don't normally cross paths with tourists and so have nothing to tell them about where to go in the area.
  • One thing about my isolation is that I avoid questions.  Talking to the South African made me realize that there a lot of things about myself that I couldn’t explain.  I hate been confronted about myself because I am such a mystery and am so inexplicable to even myself.
  • Again I say that I would like to meet people who have the quality of sanctity.  I so hate meeting foreigners because ultimately they have a very disappointing lack of it.  They are materialist and full of experiences, but soulless.
  • I am going to publish this entry on the day before I leave for Canada.  My time in Canada will be an entry all of its own.
  • So, June 2, it rained heavily in Wuxi.  Even though it wasn't windy, the rain was heavy enough to soak even the person who had an umbrella.  In the evening, I was hoping that the rain would subside by the time I was to go home, but it got worse.  As I arrived at the Yanqiao Metro Station, the rain was at its worst.  The wind had picked up and so one was greeted with a blast of rain as soon as one got off the train and onto the platform.  The rain was so heavy that I had to retreat against the wall of the bus shelter to minimize my exposure to it.  And I stood at the bus shelter for over 15 minutes.  The rain was too heavy to walk in with a backpack containing electronic equipment.
  • If I didn't have all that electronic equipment (one  Ipod, one  Ipad and one Iphone), I would have walked home.  It was a Singing in the Rain kind of rain that I could have sung and danced in and it wasn't that cold.
  • In the week before my flight to Canada, I sent out some emails to some people there to let them know I was coming.
  • One thing I would like to do this Canada trip (my third since becoming AKIC) is take Jenny and Tony to the Peace Gardens, south of Brandon on the U.S. Border, so they can see the USA for the first time.
  • I read a Chinese Science Fiction novel, the Three Body Problem.  The book was as good as Science Fiction books can go, but I found it a little too much when the author said that Science Fiction had more to say about the human condition than ordinary literature and religion...
  • I see a person by Zhongshan Road with a t-shirt bearing a bad word that starts with the sixth letter of the alphabet.  On the shirt, the word was used multiple times in expressions telling everyone in the world, including the t-shirt wearer, that they should perform some unnatural act.  I then wondered what I would do if I had a student come into class wearing that t-shirt.  Hopefully, I thought, I would have the gumption to either kick the student out of a group class or refuse to teach him one-on-one.
  • The redoubtable Edith will leave the school.  I learned on June 2 that she found another job.  HyLite's loss, is New Oriental's gain.  It could be said that she was the most attractive girl that ever worked here.  You can see her on my Youtube channel.
  • June 4, I arrive at school and one of the Chinese workers ask if I had money stolen.  I didn't and I asked the co-worker for details of the theft but she didn't provide many details.
  • On the night of June 3-4, I was able to get Tony to sleep in his own bed.  To get this to happen I had to get him in trouble with Ma.
  • On the morning of June 4,  Tony said “Happy, happy, joy, joy” with a sinister smile on his face. He didn't tell me where he picked up this expression, but the chances are he picked it up on the Internet.
  • Another favorite expression of Tony's:  “I'm going to kick your ass!”
  • I see a dog on the subway.  It was accompanied by two police officers and was wearing a vest that said, in English, “police dog” which was a good thing because it wasn't a breed of dog that I would have thought was used for police work.  Not knowing much about dogs, and being overwhelmed by the listings of dog breeds on the Internet, I would say the dog was some kind of hound or perhaps the Australian Shepherd.  The Ozzie Shepherd was near the top of the list of dog breeds in the Wikipedia article that I gave up scanning all the way through.  The police dog had long ears and definitely wasn't a German Shepherd or a Poodle.
  • Less than a week before my Canada trip, I am no longer excited to go, but full of dread.  I have a lot of idea for things to do but the grim facts of my past existence in Canada and my mother living a widow's life will damper it.
  • Nonetheless, onward to Canada!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

AKIC's April 2015 Notes, Observations and Thoughts.


  • I didn't realize it was April Fool's Day till it was too late. I was working that day and I could have used it as a subject of conversation at school. I suppose that I was the fool.
  • At the beginning of April, I was following closely the Winnipeg Jets results as they were attempting to make the playoffs. As it was, they had the final playoff spot but only barely.
  • Temperatures shot up to the thirties (that's in Celsius) on the first Thursday of April.
  • I finished reading a Jeeves and Wooster novel.
  • I caught what I liked to call the 8:05 637 and was surprised to see the bus fill to SRO. The majority of times I have taken the 637, I have been the only passenger.
  • I get these emails updates from a blogger named Lloyd Lofthouse who writes about China. It seems he really hates America more than he loves China and that he is an apologist for the Chicom regime. In one entry, he suggested that the CIA had stirred up the students in Tiananmen Square in 1989....
  • I was bragging to a student that I always got a seat when taking the bus, and so she asked me if this was because people were yielding them to me on account of my being old. Ignoring the insult, which I took in very good stride actually, I told her that I always gave myself plenty of time to wait for a bus with available seats, even letting several buses I could take pass by because they had no seats.
  • Reading on the bus was a great thing, I said, and the student agreed. You can't read in a car if you are driving.
  • The day after we had a high of 31 degrees Celsius, the temperature plummeted to a high of sixteen.
  • The Kaulins family may soon be getting a new e-bike. The e-bike we have had since 2008 has so fallen apart – it's plastic body has been held together with cheap tape – that Jenny has finally bowed to my demands that we get a new one. The final straw was the breaking of the latch on the seat. The seat covers a storage area where we keep the charger and extension cord. The latch became out of whack over the years so that locking the seat required us to slam it down. This slamming eventually caused the latch to break in April. No longer latched in place the seat was sliding forward so that the hinge on the other end cracked and the seat now is out of place and very uncomfortable to sit upon. It isn't worth it to fix it, the repairman told Jenny. [We will get the new e-bike after we come back from our June trip to Canada.]
  • “What did you do this morning?” I asked a student. She told me she forgot.
  • I published a picture of a braying donkey on my WeChat App. It was very symbolic. My way of responding to an outrage. I don't know if anyone made the connection. Probably not.
  • All I can do in China is try to improve the level of English. I can't do much about its civilization because the one I come from gets more and more not worth mentioning or defending.
  • As the train was approaching Nanchang Temple station one morning, I got up from my seat and stood next to the door so I could ready myself to exit. And as I was looking out the window, I felt something brush against my knee. I looked down to see that a little toddler had cut in front of me. Perhaps the Chinese are born that way, I thought to myself. The child was accompanied by a man who I presume was his grandparent. Following the child, the old man got up from his seat and stood beside me and laughed sheepishly as I raised my glance upward from his grandchild, who was eager for the door to open, to him.
  • Do I hate Gays? To answer this question I would first have to say that I object to the use of the word gay in the question. Let's try to use that word in the old way. So instead of the word gay in the question, let's use the word homosexual. Now I will answer the properly formed question: Do I hate homosexuals? No. I hate their sin. And to say I hate them would be to say I hate myself because I am a sinner as well. I sin in different ways. And much as I disappoint myself because of this, I don't hate myself.
  • To disapprove does not mean to cast stones. That is, disapproving is not stone throwing.
  • Walking home one evening, I saw some sights that would seem strange in Canada. I first saw a man, wearing a housecoat and walking his dog. I then saw that a couple of men had set a fire on a street corner. I have seen the locals wear pajamas on public streets, so the housecoat wasn't a complete surprise although it was a first because it was a housecoat. The fire on the street corner was not a first either, but seemed to fall into the pattern I have noticed of things happening in pairs for me.
  • The last student I taught before the Easter/Qing Ming Weekend was mopey. She was determined to tell me that she didn't like anything and all that she wanted to do on the Qing Ming weekend was sit in a chair and be miserable. So, I attempted to teach her the word “mope.”
  • I never know how to take students who get in that I-don't-like-anything mood. Other then to run out the clock with them and at least get them to converse in English, there isn't much that I think can do. People who are determined to mope, are very imperious to reason and any attempt I would make to cheer them up.
  • This particular student was one whom I wrote about in a previous monthly entry. I mentioned that in a previous class, she told me that she wanted to be a doctor, following in the foot steps of her father. She then didn't know any of the vocabulary for that class's topic which was about going to the doctor's, and so I had to make her repeat the class. Despite her dourness in the Easter weekend class, I didn't fail her because, unlike the previous class, she knew the required vocabulary.
  • To make students happy is not my priority. My job is to make them improve their English.
  • One student was mopey; another I had to deal with was fidgety.
  • In a class about movies, I had one of the students say I was old because I told them I loved westerns and musicals. I then read Taki, in a recent article, say that he had his son cover his ears when he tried to play a Fred Astaire recording for him. Better to be on the same page with Taki than with anyone under the age of 35.
  • I went in early to the Hui Shan Wanda Starbucks one morning. There was no one there, I had a coupon for a free coffee and the worker told me that my son was very cute. I thought this was wonderful.
  • On Easter weekend, I stayed in the apartment. The weather was horrible: rain, sometimes heavy.
  • News that one of my aunts was moving and selling her old house in Winnipeg so she could move to an apartment near her daughter in Flin Flon (an eight hour drive away) depressed me. Back in the 1970s, Winnipeg seemed like such an attractive place to me because there were so many relatives there. Now, they are dying off and their children have moved to more interesting climes.
  • Tony told me that he wanted to do some trainspotting on a weekend – something we hadn't done in a while. I was glad to hear him voice this desire because it sure beat hearing him beg to play with the Ipad.
  • Scientism: the belief in the redemption of man through science. Hat tip to David Warren.
  • I saw this old woman, hobbling very slowly down the bike path alongside Zhongshan Road. She was walking with the aid of a cane – the kind with four short legs on the bottom – in one hand and a hip-high crutch in the other. She moved so pathetically slow that I had to wonder if she had any relatives to help her, and then I suddenly felt shame as I thought of my mother living by herself in Brandon, Canada. The old woman was going to cross Zhongshan Road at a crossing, near my school, that I was about to take myself. I got to the crossing just a little ahead of her and crossed very quickly and continued on my way to school, all the while wondering how the woman was going to be able to cross the road. In China, cars won't yield to pedestrians unless the pedestrians can get to the open space first, and so it a contest to see who can get through the intersection first. An old woman walking a snail's pace will have a hard time trying to cross a road where drivers are hell bent on not slowing down. I hurriedly entered my school and climbed the stairs to get to the reception area where I could then go to a nearby window to watch the old woman negotiate the crossing. I quickly realized that she wasn't so helpless and was actually a veteran at judging when to cross the street. I saw that she let some cars pass and then proceeded to cross the road seamlessly. A few cars swerved around her and I thought what bastards the drivers were for not yielding. But as she proceeded, cars and buses did come to a stop and she crossed safely.
  • I watched two movie musicals during the Easter weekend: South Pacific and Kismet. I enjoyed them both but alas, I had nobody I can talk about them. Are there some possible rare readers who may have similar tastes to me? No one in Wuxi whether among the teachers, the students or my family would appreciate my love for these kind of movies. If there is anyone, please email me!
  • I remember that, when I was a child and people owned vinyl records, my father had the soundtrack record album for South Pacific. I understand why people of his generation would have enjoyed these movies. What can be better than humming or singing a tune from a movie you just watched? What I don't understand now is why people in this day and age, with rare exceptions, don't enjoy it.
  • The other musical I watched, Kismet portrayed Muslims in a friendly light. While the overlords in Arabia are cruel, the simple folk have a genuine piety. Perhaps that is the way Muslims are today. It seems that it is the ones with the means to travel who cause the trouble. Anyway, Howard Keel, who was the star of the movie, was a genuine movie star. How is it that I hadn't heard of him before?
  • I am reading this book Sapiens, a history of homo sapiens. An interesting book that both David Warren and Jonah Goldberg mentioned this very month. The author asserts that the agricultural revolution was a big mistake. Instead of bringing humans civilization, the revolution instead, says the author, brought drudgery, disease, rapid population increases, and genocide and torture for many other species. Instead of making us free, agriculture enslaved many. The ideal life for humans, suggested the author, was that of the forager who in fact had shorter work hours and more leisure time.
  • Recently, I have eschewed taking the shuttle bus when I go home from work in the evenings. I have discovered that taking the shuttle bus only gets me home five minutes faster than if I walk. So I might as well save a little money and get some exercise. But walking home in the evening, I do feel the tyranny of the motor car. With so many Chinese now owning cars, I find there is little space along the path I take home for pedestrians.
  • Pedestrians are the most human of people on the pathways and roadways of modern civilization. Pedestrians truly have the human perspective on things. And as a proud pedestrian, I have to say that the world created by technology is inhuman. Freedom is an open plain, not a pathway overloaded with parked automobiles.
  • No one can accuse me of heaping praise on Chinese drivers. But if they tried, it would be to accuse me of lying, for Chinese drivers don't deserve praise.
  • One sunny morning, I looked out my apartment bedroom window at the road below and saw a car being passed by two cars, one on its driver's side and one on its passenger side. The road that I can see from our third floor apartment is a two laner. That is, it has a lane for traffic going one way and a lane for traffic going the other. The road also has a width of space for bicycles between the lanes and the sidewalk. This bicycle path is often used as a passing lane by automobiles. The car I saw passing on the passenger side by using the bicycle lane was probably doing about 70 km/h. The vehicle passing on the more conventional driver side was doing about the same speed but was about half a car length ahead of the passenger side vehicle. Traffic coming from the other way forced the driver side passing vehicle to accelerate to get back into the proper lane. The vehicle passing on the passenger side merged in behind it, but just barely.
  • I propose to revolutionize eating. I say we eat lunch in the mornings, dinner at lunchtime and have a nice breakfast for our evening meal. And instead of sticking food in our mouths, I say we eat it by trying to stick it in other places in our bodies.
  • One Friday afternoon, I took the train from school to a Burger King. Not having a seat, I had to read my Ipad standing up (a minor point, probably not even worth mentioning). One stop prior to when I was to get off, the train doors open, I heard some shouting and thought some people were arguing on the platform. But at the next stop I got off and made my way to the stairs when I saw that the shouting I had heard had come from on the train. There was a middle aged woman arguing with an elderly couple. I saw the woman, who stayed on the train, hiss and swear (shus-a-shus-something) at the old couple as they were getting off. The couple stood on the platform close to the door screaming some epithets at the lady while pointing their fingers at her. (Locals point their fingers in a stabbing gesture at people they are quarreling with) The closing of the train doors did not stop the mutual glaring and the couple only turned their attention away from the woman when the train pulled away. I wondered what they were fighting about.
  • And what was the swear word the woman was using? I have heard my wife say it when someone angered her. The girls at work don't understand my attempt at imitating the sound I heard the woman make. The locals can't even to begin to imagine to guess what I am getting at unless I sound a word exactly in the proper tone. The proper syllable said with the wrong tone will not be comprehended so there doesn't seem to be any hope for trying to approximate a syllable even if I try to tell them the context in which I heard it.
  • One Friday night, I decided to walk home in the dark from the metro station. Along the way, I saw a man practicing Tai Chi on a bike path. A little later, I saw a young man standing by himself near a fence blocking access to an apartment community. Before I could wonder what he was doing, I saw him perform a handstand and lean his up-stretched legs against the fence.
  • A taxi driver says that the Wuxi City government is bankrupt to the tune of twenty billion yuan. The reasons? Corruption and the subway system.
  • Out of the blue, Tony told me that he wanted to take the train to Shanghai to go to the train museum which we had gone to one or two years previously.  It was a great idea.  Unfortunately, it was not something that we could have done on an impulse.  I did try to take Tony to the Wuxi East Railway Station but it only served to raise his hopes so much that when I told him that we didn't have tickets to go to Shanghai, he got really upset.

  • So upset was he that I wanted to placate him by buying him a toy that would have raised budgetary concerns from Jenny, but Tony had his mind so set on going to the Shanghai Train Museum that even going to a toy store, with the possibility of buying a toy he wanted , could not raise his spirits.  He said "no!" to toy after toy after that I wanted to buy him.
  • It turned out that the toy he wanted to buy, a Takara Tomy Plarail train, could not be found in Wuxi Stores.  A few years ago, it looked like Tomy Plarail (a Japanese brand) had abandoned the Chinese market.  The range of products available in the stores became limited and it was no longer possible to find accessories in the stores.  They can be found on Taobao, the popular Chinese Internet site, and so Tony has his mind set on always visiting Taobao and looking for the trains he is now in the mood to buy.
  • The Wuxi East Railway Station had a White Elephant look about it.  The people whose idea it was to build the place hoped that they could create an area surrounding the station that was as busy as the squares around the central train stations of Wuxi, Shanghai, Beijing and Nanjing.  Instead, they seem to have added to Wuxi's glut of shopping malls.
  • The one interesting aspect of the station -- besides its vast emptiness -- was a building of glass and stairs that was meant to be an observation deck.  I wish all train stations had such buildings.
  • Monday is my day off.  When I am in Casa Kaulins during the daytime, it is quiet and Tony is at school.  One Monday morning, I was tidying up his toys which he is always leaving on the floor in the living room.  Bending down to put the toys in order (he had his toy fire and emergency vehicles parked almost in a neat row), I became emotional.  In the past, there was a moment when I had my toys in a house.  Lord knows what became of the toys or of the house.  But that was a moment in time, a fleeting one.  This moment with Tony's toys and this time when is Tony is a young boy full of innocent desires and amusements will be gone too I reflected.  This is a moment I would like to freeze.  
  • And I harken back to a moment that I can remember in December 1971.  My family was living in a PMQ in Valcartier, Quebec.  I was looking out the window at the snow in the courtyard of the apartment complex in which we were living and I said to myself to not forget this moment.  That moment has stuck with me.  I have tried to get other moments in time to stick in me but maybe because that was the original one – that is the first time I thought to freeze a moment in time, – that it has stuck.  In the mid 1970s, I would write the day's date on a piece of paper and thought to save them forever.  The scraps were discarded.  
  • I find it hard to believe that the time in which I was living was longer ago than the events which had formed my consciousness were from when I was young.  [Hitler died 19 years before my birth.  The Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series over twenty years ago!]
  • I saw a guy who looked like Deng Xiao Ping.  He was short and wore Deng style clothes.  Sights like this are why I came to China.
  • At the Hui Shan Wanda Cinema, I saw a film in the 3D IMAX format for the first time. The movie, Fast and Furious Seven, was silly though full of great technical effects. There were cars flying in the air at great heights, cars on parachutes just happening to land on roads instead of in nearby forests, and cars rolling down mountain slopes without injuring their occupants seriously. The format for viewing the film didn't redeem it in my eyes. The 3D was annoying. The IMAX screen on which I watched the film was not as big as I had expected.
  • There weren't any characters in the F&F movie who were old. Kurt Russell, the oldest actor in the movie was acting young wearing an expensive suit, his hair greased back.
  • The Winnipeg Jets made the NHL playoffs. Hurrah!!!
  • Waiting for the 637 Shuttle Bus one morning, I saw a car weaving and swerving in traffic, driving very aggressively. I wouldn't have mentioned this but for the fact that the driver's car had mouth with sharp teeth decals on its doors. The decals certainly reflected his driving style.
  • What I would like to see more of on cars would be decals of pricks with arrows pointing toward the driver's seat.
  • Questioner: “How are you doing, Andis?” Andis: “Oh. I am still a boring white guy Canadian.”
  • I am getting old. I feel sore in the joints at times. As well, I feel chest pains.
  • I couldn't go back to Canada and do my old jobs because of my declining physical state.
  • I have to confess that I actually worked in Canada.
  • Three times I heard about a foreigner who peed on a bus somewhere in China. First it was from my wife, then from a student, and then from a teacher who read about it on the Internet. We all had to wonder if we knew the foreigner personally. Many foreigners who come to China are barbaric yahoos. And so every foreigner knew a possible suspect who could have been the subject of the story that was widely circulated in China.
  • A student tells me she doesn't like her job.
  • Another student tells me she doesn't like her female boss. “She is fifty and she is in the time of her life where she isn't happy,” said the student.
  • I asked a student to tell me which country he thought was China's best friend in the world. He told me Pakistan and I was initially surprised. But thinking about it, I realized there could be a case for it. China and Pakistan have never had a war against each other. And during China's war with India, Pakistan was a Chinese ally. (The student mentioned Pakistan because there had been news of President Xi paying the country a visit and giving them money.)
  • For the second straight weekend, I took Tony to a toy store and then left it without having bought him a toy. He had his heart set on TOMY Plarail trains which are no longer available in stores in China.
  • I was able to get the four leaked episodes (numbers one to four) of the fifth season of Game of Thrones. One student said she envied me when I mentioned this to her. But I told it was easy for me to get them.
  • Jenny is going to re-watch the first four seasons of Game of Thrones because she wants to keep the plot lines straight and she wants to better understand what the characters with their strangely accented English are saying.
  • I also watched the entire second season of Broadchurch. Jenny wondered, as I did, how there could be a second season. Didn't they find the killer in the first season? Turned out that the case had to go to trial...
  • Was it worth it for the makers of Broadchurch to have made the second season? I will say yes if only because the first season was so good that we wanted to be with the characters some more.
  • I watched the Serpico. Serpico should have been called Serpicool.
  • I just found out that the Ducks beat the Jets in OT. Shite!!
  • Tuesday morning, about 10 o'clock, I was standing at the 637 shuttle bus stop that is near Casa Kaulins. I saw, at vehicle entrance lane to, what I assume is, the Hui Shan District Police Station compound, a man staging a sit-in protest. Vehicles attempting to enter the District compound ended up backing up and entering the compound through the exit lane. The security guards were talking to the man, obviously wanting him to move, but the man then defiantly put his hands behind his head and laid down on the pavement. He was obviously aggrieved by something.
  • It was not the first time for me to see a protest at one of the many government buildings near Casa Kaulins. This Tuesday morning, I stood close enough to have taken a photo but was shy to openly do so. When the security guards looked the other way, I did try and quickly pointed my phone camera at the scene but that photo didn't turn out so well.
  • Later, after having seen the sit-in protester and then having made my way to downtown, I was crossing Zhongshan Road at the crosswalk near our school. I was able to get one vehicle to yield to me but another car, silver in colour, didn't and because it came so close to me, I got riled and decided to pound its back trunk with my fist. It was enough to startle the driver and I saw him slow down for an instance after he had passed me. “What the heck was that noise?” he must have thought.
  • I did a Speaker's Corner about old age. I got a good laugh whenever students prefaced their answers to my questions using "Depends." None of them knew that Depends was the brand name for adult diapers in North America: neither did many of my non North American colleagues.
  • The light turning green at a busy intersection leads to a competition for space between cars moving in opposite directions. I have seen not one, but two or more cars try to turn quickly in front of approaching cars and then narrowly dodge pedestrians (like me) who are trying to get through the intersection as well.
  • What to do about these screwed-up countries flooding their neighbors with their refugees? How about, colonizing them? If these people from screwed-up countries want to go to places that are administered by Americans or Europeans, wouldn't it be better, for them and for the established residents of the countries they want to move to, if the administrators – that is colonial administrators came to fix up the countries that are screwed up and fixed them? Places like Mexico, Libya, Haiti and Cuba maybe need to be looked after by people who know what they are doing.
  • Some of the goals I have seen scored in the current NHL playoffs are not very scintillating. Frequently they are the result of pucks, shot from the point, that manage to find their way in the net because of a broken stick or a freakish deflection off a body in front of the net. These goals not are the result of any great offensive initiative from the players involving great passing or buildups that allow the fans to anticipate the goal.
  • I had a student who had it in his head that sadness or disappointment were synonymous with boredom. Moments when you are very sad, elated, very angry, very disappointed are not boring. In fact, they may be too exciting.
  • I had a student who didn't know what fruit was, who should have.
  • I had a student whom I had trouble trying to explain vegetarianism. (Or should I say “ a student whom I was trying to explain a word to” or “a student to whom I was trying to explain a word”?) I wanted to have a discussion with her about vegetarianism. Not thinking she knew what the word meant, I explained to her what vegetarianism was before asking her to give me her opinion of vegetarianism. To this she said she didn't know vegetarianism was. And so I told her a second time that a vegetarian was someone who didn't eat meat and asked her if she would like to be one and she told me she had forgotten what the word “vegetarian” meant. I became exasperated but persisted. I told her I had already told her twice what the word was. And so I then told her a third time and she finally understood. I've got to tell the students to stop translating in their heads, and start listening and thinking.
  • I watched a video of a debate between the atheist Richard Dawkins and John Lennox. Dawkins is not a good evangelist for Atheism. While he seems comfortable on the doubters turf about religion, he doesn't have much to offer as a replacement for it.
  • I keep to myself as much as I can because I hate having to deal with stupidity. I have enough on my plate with my own stupidity, I will admit; and this stupidity of mine makes it hard for me to deal intelligently with others when they are being stupid. All I can think to do is say “oh” or say nothing at all. Try as I might, I overhear things that are said by people who are trying to be clever or even sound authoritative. One instance this month, I had chance to hear someone sound progressive about English grammar and forms...
  • A student attending a middle school which shares the grounds with Tony's primary school tells me that Tony is well-known, almost a minor celebrity, at the middle school. Many girls at the middle-school think Tony is very cute and like to take pictures of him. The student told me he had seen lots of photos of Tony.
  • At the end of April, I got hit with a bad cold.
  • A student Tom tells me that Hu Jiantao was something of a figure head leader. So, in fact the previous Chinese leader Jiang Zemin , despite giving up his position, kept his power. Hu was unable to dislodge Min supporters from the Chinese government apparatus. Current president Xi is trying to battle them, having recently arrested two generals from the Min camp for corruption.
  • At the end of April or near abouts, the Jets played in the playoffs and lost their series in four straight.
  • At 8:00 PM on the last Tuesday in April, I taught in the classroom of my school that had a great view of Zhongshan Road and downtown Wuxi. Unfortunately, it wasn't so great to see that scene that Tuesday evening because I see could a storm was brewing. It was all I could to do to hope for the storm to come quickly and pass through as quickly as possible. But instead the storm scene built up rather slowly and the heavy rain started falling at 8:45 just as I was about to go outside and make my way to the subway station and go home.
  • A fool can be someone who is living retarded on purpose.
  • A fool can be someone who has rationale for acting retarded.
  • I tried to watch a Yankees Mets game played in the year 2015 but found I couldn't stand the look of it. The players looked like boys, not men. The uniform pants they wore were cuffed (instead of stirruped)which I thought was abominably ugly. The Mets starting pitcher had a mop for a hairdo. The Yankees starting pitcher had a look of pot-induced insouciance and couldn't wear his cap straight. And the new Yankee Stadium looked like a shopping mall. I gave up watching after barely one inning.