Sunday, May 20, 2018

Darn. The Jets Game Was in the Afternoon.

Game five of the Winnipeg Jets' Stanley Cup Semifinal series against the Vegas Knights was played on a Sunday afternoon, Winnipeg time.

I found this out when early Monday morning, Wuxi time, the NHL app on my iPhone told me that the Jets has lost game five and thus the series to the Knights.  I had been expecting to follow the game on the app later Monday morning.  [Following the Jets on the NHL app is like watching the numbers go and down on an elevator's panel.  All I see on the app screen for an ongoing game are three numbers:  the two teams's scores and the time remaining ticking down.]  

In Wuxi, I can never follow live a game played Sunday afternoon in Winnipeg.  I just can't keep my eyes open at that time. [And I know, because I have tried to follow big football matches early in the AM.  It can't be done even if the game is compelling.]

Learning of the Jets' demise was a sort of bang mixed with a whimper.  It was a sudden disappointment to learn that the Jets had been eliminated because I hadn't expected the game to have already been played.  But I was able to quickly process the result because the Jets losing was not unexpected to me.  The latter aspect of the reaction may have been a result of age and my physical distance from the continent where the Jets were playing combined with the fact of my following the Jets being a solitary experience:  I wasn't caught up in a frenzy about it as I would have been if there was even another Jets follower I could talk to.

I suppose the Jets were doomed to lose to the Knights as the 116-36 Seattle Mariners were doomed to lose a playoff series to the 2001 New York Yankees who represented a city dealing with the 9/11 disaster.  The Knights began to play days after the Las Vegas massacre.

Learning the result of game five the way I did also leads me to recall how I learned that the 1978 Red Sox had lost that famous pennant race to the Yankees.  I was in Oromocto, New Brunswick and I had been playing a hockey game.  In the locker room afterward, I remember expressing hope that the Red Sox could beat the Yankees in the one-game playoff, only to be told that the game had been played and the Red Sox had lost.

Still, I am glad for the Jets and Winnipeg to have gone through their playoff run.  If they can keep the team together, there will be a Stanley Cup in the future!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Five Things

1)  After after having dropped Tony off at school, I was proceeding in line going towards a traffic light when I got cut off by a small truck.  This annoyed me so much that I kept my car beside the truck, rolled down my driver window and knocked on the passenger window of the truck so the driver could see me flip him the bird.  The driver, who appeared to be of the peasant class and may have not been sophisticated enough to know what the gesture meant, just kind of raised his hand at me.  When the light turned green we drove off without further incident though I did stick my hand out the window with a parting middle finger salute.

2) A young student told me she had no idea who Li Xiao Long (Bruce Lee) was.  When I showed her a picture, she said that he was probably someone of whom her parents knew.  I was astounded.  Li Xiao Long, as I told the student, is probably the most popular Chinese person in the West.  It leads me to wonder of what else the younger generation of Chinese is unaware.

3) A colleague and I were walking from our school to Sanyang Plaza.  Sanyang Plaza, located in the center of Wuxi city, is a series of underground tunnels running from a hub that is underneath the intersection of Zhongshan and Renmin Roads.  The tunnels lead to various downtown shopping malls and the tunnels are lined with many businesses including restaurants.  It was one of these restaurants that my colleague and I witnessed receiving a food shipment.  Shipments to Sanyang Plaza, evidently, have to be taken down flights of stairs.  Three flights, in fact.  The restaurant was receiving what looked like either frozen meat or fish.  The frozen product was packed into plastic bags and was solid enough that it was in slab form.  For whatever reason, these slabs of food were laying on the sidewalk at the top of a stairwell entrance to Sanyang Plaza.  I saw one of the workers pick up the slabs and fling them one-by-one down the stairs.  The frozen food slabs would bounce on the stairs three or four times before coming to a rest at the bottom where another of the workers would pick them up and put them on a push cart.  The reaction of all the workers involved was of a great amusement which leads me to conclude that the worker flinging the slabs of food had had the package containing the packages break on him.  The reaction of some of the passerbys, like this foreigner, was aghastment.  I wonder what the locals witnessing this thought.  

4) Chinese drivers are very impatient.  It is not unusual for them to honk their horns as soon as a traffic light turns green because they want the cars in front of them "to get a move on!"  Another driving tic they have is to instinctively want to swerve around anything slowing down ahead of them.  One time I was arriving at the entrance to Complex Casa K and had chance to face, head on, one of these impatient drivers.  The entrance area to our apartment complex, which is a T-junction, is begging for an accident to happen because the views of drivers exiting the complex are blocked by all these cars that are parked on the side of the road leading to the entrance.   A cautious exiting driver cannot see traffic on the road unless he creeps out slowly onto the road to get beyond the blind spot caused by the parked vehicles.  It is hazardous but it can be made all the more hazardous if there happens to be an impatient driver following. The impatient driver will try some manuever involving rapid turning of the steering wheel because he wants to pass the cautious driver whom he thinks is taking the turn too slow and not throwing caution to the wind.  So, there I was approaching the entrance this one time when a cautious driver was slowly trying to make a left turn out of the complex.  I was able to make my right turn into the entrance but this turned out to be a major inconvenience for the impatient driver who was following the cautious driver.  He had cranked his steering wheel and was hopeing to pass the cautious driver by turning into the area that I had taken (rightly, I might add).  And so my arrival made him rapidly change his course back to following the cautious driver.   The scowl of impatience on this middle-aged man's face owing to a slight delay and the exertion that he was putting in to turning the steering wheel of his long black sedan were a joy for me to behold.  Any opportunity I get from now, to relate this anecdote, I will have a grand time acting out this man's exertions and corresponding facial gestures because in any future conversation I have about the peculiar local driving habits,
 this anecdote will be a staple.

5) I discovered that both Latvia, my country of ancestry, and China, my current country of domicile, both have teams in the KHL.  The KHL is hockey league spanning Europe and Asia.  It is a truly international league with teams in Latvia, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and China.  The Lativan team is based in Riga.  The Chinese team is based in Beijing.   Beijing and Riga have played each other at least once.  Sad to say, for me, Beijing won the one match I know of 3-1.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

"Way to Go Winnipeg Jets!" from Wuxi, China

In Wuxi, I was able to watch Game 7 of the Jets-Predators series Friday morning on my CCTV App on My Ipad.  It was the first time I had seen anything besides highlights of this year's playoffs.  I had been following the playoffs with the NHL app on my Iphone.  Annoyingly, I discovered there was a one minute delay on the CCTV broadcast because the App would alert me to goals before I would see them on the CCTV broadcast.

Watching it the game with Chinese commentators, it did not seem so stirring.  They were talking over the muted feed of a North American broadcast.  How I wish I could have had a Canadian feed!  

Be that as it may, the result had me walking on the air and punching the air like a mental defective the rest of Friday! 

My memories of the Jets go way back.  I saw the WHA Jets play.  I attended a few Jets playoff games in the old Winnipeg arena, being part of the Whiteout.  I can also claim to have attend a game of the only playoff series the Jets 1.0 ever won.

I'll be wearing my Jets 2.0 cap through their series with the K-nites and hopefully during the Stanley Cup final!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Second Day of My May Day Holiday

April 30th was sort of a holiday for me.  It was the second of three days of the May Day Holiday in China.  My wife Jenny was working and so I did have a few duties of chauffeuring that I had to do with my son Tony. I first had to take him to his drumming class in the downtown of Wuxi. I later had to take him to his after-suppertime swimming class which was closer to our home.

The plan for the day was to first go downtown, wander about and look at some places before going to the drumming class. For lunch we were going to go to a pub called the Red Lion. From the Red Lion we were to go to Tony's drumming class.

Because I was to drink beer at the pub, I decided it was best if Tony & I took the bus and then the subway downtown. But walking to the bus stop, we discovered it was very humid. This was to be the first of many annoyances we would experience that day.

On the train downtown, some fool played his music loudly using his smartphone.  I stared at him and I saw eyes raised among the other passengers, but none of us did anything.

The third annoyance was to see that the Red Lion was closed. I had assumed it would be open on the afternoon of a holiday. My being wrong could have been enough for me to have a swearing fit because we had walked a bit of a ways in the suffocating humidity to get to pub and I didn't have a plan B. I had been so much looking forward to having a beer and sharing a pizza with Tony.  I didn't swear however because I had to stop Tony from whining.  We instead, after some indecision, went to this Italian set-up (but no longer run by, it seemed) restaurant named Ciao Italiano. I wouldn't have minded it so much if its tables were not so small and its beer was served cold on tap in a cold mug.  Beer was instead served in bottles.

Finishing our meal at the restaurant we had time to burn before Tony's drum class started. The restaurant we were at was on Wuxi Nanchang Jie bar street, so we walked the street. I couldn't get over the fact that all the nice little shops and businesses were in the midst of construction and and that there was trash everywhere.

Owing to the humidity we took a taxi to the Tony's drum class. Arriving, we still had time to burn so I got to have the experience of buying and then consuming a can of beer in a Family Mart convenience store.  After the drum class I was to experience annoyances of the day number four and five.  Both of these were the results of cars that swerved around pedestrians instead of yielding to them. I got revenge on them both by pounding my fist on their trunks.

Then there was annoyance number six.  The car-pounding I did happened on the way to the subway which we were to take home so we could get to Tony's swimming class. The train turned out to be crowded and so we were not able to easily get a seat as we had become accustomed.  (Which was almost an annoyance till we got to the next stop and seats became available.)  Now, most of the time the locals on the train pay me no never-mind or no heed, and that's just the way I like it.  But it was a holiday and so there were types on the train that I normally wouldn't encounter, like these two brats, one female and one male, who sat besides us and gave off a bad vibe.  The boy stared directly at my iPhone screen and said something to his companion involving the word Laowai, making me very uncomfortable and perturbed. This staring made me put my phone down and instead try to concentrate on what Tony was doing on my IPad. But the bad vibes from the annoying pair sitting beside me wouldn't go away. The boy then decided to stand up and and to swing from the center pole of the train car used by standing passengers to keep their balance. Glancing at the boy, it seemed to me that he had the face and the ears of a chimpanzee. I then told Tony to never act like that boy because his behavior was that of a monkey.  His girl companion heard this and understood.  It would have been the end of it but as luck would have it, they had to get off the train at the same stop that we were getting off and they would even be waiting at the same bus stop to which we went. I suspected, and Tony confirmed, that they were still talking about us. So Tony and I gave them some choice English curses.

I am not proud of myself for this incident. I really should've just ignored them. And you would think that after 14 years of being with these people that I would've gotten used to it and stop letting them get under my skin!  Be that as it may, the locals are a rude bunch.  I don't think it's just a case of the sheer numbers of them producing enough bad apples to lead me to falsely conclude they have great tendencies to boorishness.  I have been in crowds of North Americans and have never experienced the revulsion at the manners displayed as I have in Wuxi.  I did like how Tony told them off, however. It is good to know that the flesh of my flesh can be an ally.

After that the day went swimmingly. While Tony was swimming, I got my exercise by walking in the area around the pool.  The area is getting built up and I like to walk about to see what has been done.  The amount of building does seem quite impressive.  There are so many tall buildings and bridges and parks in the area that I have no end of things to look out.  However, by walking I see that China is simply not something you want to look at too closely. Up close, you see the buildings and infrastructure are mostly empty, under-utilised and already suffering from neglect.  This 400 meter overpass I walked on had great views and was nicely set up for pedestrians.  But I was the only pedestrian on the overpass, the overpass tiles were cracked and strewn about, and the area under the overpass was virtually a garbage dump.  Whoever designed the overpass didn't take into account how it would fit in with its surroundings.  The locals had decided that the area under the overpass was a good place to abandon rubbish.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

A Smoggy Day in Nanjing

It was very smoggy in Nanjing a student told me. And so she wore a mask.

Going through the entrance gate at the Nanjing Train Station to board her train back to Wuxi, she still wore her mask; having forgotten, as she told me, to remove it. A camera at the gate equipped with facial recognition software then wouldn't let her enter.

Once she took off her mask, the computer recognized her face as being okay and she was able to go on her way.

Teaching Kindergarten

With the demand among Chinese adults for English training drying up, my school is doing more and more kiddie classes. I do some these of classes on Saturday, and now on Tuesdays, I am now doing classes at a kindergarten near our school location.

Kindergartens in Wuxi are located inside or very near to apartment communites. The one I am going to is in a community off Xueqian Road. Dongling Kindergarten is in a three storey complex built around a playground slash courtyard. Its entrance is gated and a security guard had to let me and my handlers inside. The hallways of the kindergarten are filled with toys. There was a room full of kiddie-sized beds for the students to take a mass afternoon nap. Besides teaching staff, there is custodial and kitchen staff. The kids spend the day at the place.

I teach two classes in what is either a music or activity room. The students, in groups of forty, are brought from their homeroom classes. The classes are twenty minutes long. For a warm-up, I get the kids to stand up, touch body parts and do whatever silly movements I can think of  like getting them to spin their arms quickly or slowly. I try to clown it up to get them to laugh. I then teach or, maybe better to say, test their knowledge of the lesson vocabulary which is presented via flash cards. I continue to try to do activities that I think will amuse them based on the words with which I have to work. If the words are say "push" and "pull," I will get the student to come up, one at a time, and try to push and pull me. I add a twist by flying across the classroom when the girls push me but not moving an inch when the boys try.

With the classes being twenty minutes long, and the activities being very physical, time flies. When the class ends, I will sometimes get mobbed by the kids. Some of them just want to high five me and some of them just want to be naughty and hit or spank the teacher. Each of the classes I teach do have their own personality. A well-behaved class is a joy to teach. An unruly class will have me, depending on the mood I am in, wanting to kick or mentally punish them.