Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hanging Out With Tony Kaulins On Wuxi Metro Line #2

Andis Tells Edith He's Going Backpacking

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Books AKIC Read in 2014

Book Author
The Rise of Modern China (Part 1) Immanuel CY Hsu
Canada under British Rule 1760-1900 Sir John George Bourinot
Our Culture, What's Left of it: The Mandarins and the Masses Theodore Dalrymple
The U.S. Civil War John Keegan
Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics Charles Krauthammer
Jeeves and the Wedding Bells Sabastian Faulks
Lord of the World Robert Hugh Benson
Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America Mark R. Levin
With Lee in Virginia: A Story of the American Civil War G.A. Henty
Macbeth William Shakespeare
Richard II William Shakespeare
The Niomachean Ethics Aristotle
The Man Who Loved China (Audio Book) Simon Winchester
All's Well That End Wells William Shakespeare
The Orphan Master's Son Adam Johnson
Homage to Catalonia (Audio Book) George Orwell
Outer Limits of Reason Noson S Yafonsky
Travels in West Africa Mary H Kingsley
Antony and Cleopatra William Shakespeare
Johnny Carson Henry Bushkin
Under the Skin Michael Faber
American Gun Chris Kyle
Infinite Ascent David Berlinski
Beauties of Tennyson Baron Tennyson
A Concise English Grammar for Foreign Students C.E. Eckersley
The Politically Incorrect to Western Civilization (Audio Book) Anthony Esolen
As You Like It William Shakespeare
The Comedy of Errors William Shakespeare
The Seven Storey Mountain Thomas Merton
Jesus Christus Romano Guardini
The Tyranny of Cliches (Audio Book) Jonah Goldberg
Everyday English Michelle Finlay
Coriolanus William Shakespeare
President Me Adam Carolla
The Story of the Greeks (Yesterday's Classics) H.A. Guerber
Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China Ezra F Vogel
Twilight of Abundance David Archibald
Routledge – Teaching English as a Foreign Language Many Authors
I am Pilgrim Terry Hayes
Cymbeline William Shakespeare
Alexander Hamilton Charles A. Conant
Prayer in Practice Romano Guardini
Treasure Island Robert Louis Stevenson
The Passing of the Turkish Empire in Europe B. Granville Baker
The Hall of Uselessness: Collected Essays Simon Leys
Prayer Joseph Ratzinger
The Story of Magellan and The Discovery of the Philippines Hezekiah Butterworth
Learning the Virtues That Lead to God Romano Guardini
The First Circle Alexander Solzhenitsyn
People's Republic of Amnesia Louisa Lim
The God of the Machine Isabel Paterson
Among the Believers V.S. Naipaul
Silence Shusakiu Endo
& William Johnston
Interview with History Oriana Fallaci
Please Stop Helping Us:
How Liberals Make It Hard for Blacks to Succeed
Jason L Riley
Leisure the Basis of Culture Josef Pieper & Alexander Dru
Breakfast with Benedict: Daily Readings Joseph Ratzinger
The Blessing of Christmas Joseph Ratzinger
True Grit: A Novel Charles Portis

December 2014 AKIC Notes

December 2014, I did the least amount of writing for this blog since I started it in 2005 (2006?). Why? I had been occupied with other things like my son Tony and whatever my wife Jenny wanted me to do, so there wasn't time to sit down and type my attempts at observations and thoughts. When I had spare time – actually a lot despite what I just typed – I was studying Chinese and reading books. I finished reading my 60th book of the year just after Christmas because I had decided in late December 2013 to keep track of the books I was reading and was as a result, wanting to achieve a milestone number of books read. The 60th book was the novel True Grit that had been the basis of two movies of the same name including the one starring John Wayne. The novel was amazing. It was a simple enough story but was so well written: a good way to end a list of books read. I also read the blog of my favorite living writer David Warren who became amazingly prolific in December, publishing a gem of an essay every day. Warren is a traditionalist Catholic, who despises Liberalism, Capitalism, and other Materialist philosophies. Instead of trying to find a middle way between the competing materialist ideologies of Socialism and Capitalism, Warren tells of how Catholicism properly practiced, transcends these false choices and did so before the Enlightenment. Warren writes so well that I have practically given up any desires I had to be a writer. Good writing is re-writing I have learned from another favorite writer of mine and Warren is always tellings his readers how he is junking entries or always rewriting them. I find the time that I have for rewriting for even one monthly entry is not enough.

So the following is a series of recollections of things that happened near me or to me in December 2014. Some of them were made close to the event in question, but I didn't write anything from the middle of December till after Christmas. The writing about these times may not be in chronological order. I am typing them as they come to me.

  • I was born in December 1964. Do the math.
  • The first thing I witnessed of interest in December was the public safety bully boys of the Hui Shan District surrounding the driver of a three wheeled pedicab taxi. They had used two pick-up trucks to corral the pedicab so that it was against curb on the side of the road. Five of the black uniformed men stood around the pedicab driver as he stood, his head lowered, beside his vehicle. I have heard that the pedicabs are illegal but I have used them on numerous occasions. They are cheaper than a car taxi on a rainy day.
  • Within a period of twenty hours, I had two men come up to talk because they had seen me appearing in those short commercials for our school on the Wuxi Metro television screens. One of the guys was gushing and said that I was handsome. He also said that he saw from the commercials that I was teaching pretty girls English. What he meant was that I was appearing in these commercials with the redoubtable Edith who is a very attractive girl. Anyway, this kind of celebrity recognition seems strange to me because I find I am in the midst of a spiritual crisis and mostly feel isolated in my life. Really, this “fame” I have does nothing for my soul or even my earthly self-esteem.
  • It is early December and I am befuddled as to what I should buy Tony for Christmas. It had been an easy and enjoyable task to do this previous Christmases, but in 2014, I find it very problematic. I can't think of a toy that excites me, and now Tony has suddenly changed his mind about what excites him. He had been on a Ultraman kick but it suddenly ended when Jenny bought him a yo-yo in late November. He now doesn't want more Ultraman toys for Christmas and wants a yo-yo, even though he can play with the thing properly (I can't either I must confess). He doesn't care for Matchbox toys anymore. I would buy him Plarail accessories or even more engines, but the toy stores that I frequent don't sell them anymore. (Has Takara TOMY Plarail given up on China?) I would buy him some Lego but Jenny opposes the idea because Tony's habit is to play with toys and not put them back when they bore him. What Tony really wants is an Ipad but that would be like buying a drug addict cocaine for Christmas – not done.
  • A lot of our students have the Iphone 6.
  • With so many Chinese having cars, there will of course be fighting about parking spots. At my apartment building, the people living above us bought a Suzuki Swift and seem to be zealously trying to keep the parking spot in front of the building. On many occasions, they have parked their old e-bike in the spot as a way of trying to hold it. But for a few days, a white Toyota has taken up the spot and I can certainly detect the look of consternation of the face of the owner of the Suzuki Swift. One Saturday morning, I could hear screaming in front of our building and I looked to see a woman pointing in the direction of the parking spot. Jenny tells me that the owners of the Suzuki Swift have not paid for the parking spot... Which explains why they bought a Suzuki Swift.
  • I was with Jenny & Tony riding the subway when I noticed that these young women, who were sitting down from us, were looking at Tony. I could have sworn that one of them got on her phone and called some other friends, who must have been sitting in another car on the train, about Tony. Tony sensed that the girls were staring at him and looked away. The girls, eight of them, as a group, then came over and asked Tony & me if they could take a photo with Tony but he ran away into the corner of the car and looked away. I had never seen him so shy and scared. [I took video which can be seen on the Internet.]
  • David Warren's description of Saint Nicholas was inspiring. The son of a rich person, Nicholas was not a rich spoiled brat (like some of our students). He lived simply and gave his inheritance away, anonymously tossing bags of gold coins into people's houses. Sometimes, he even sneaked down chimneys to deposit the inheritance. He was also so orthodox that he decked the leader of the Arian heresy, who was really an enlightenment (we can figure it out all on our own) type. A very un-bishoplike thing to do but it was something he did for the love of Jesus.
  • Do you have a form showing you changed your passport? I was asked this question by a bank worker. I suppose she meant, or maybe my recollection was wrong, to ask if I had proof that I had updated or renewed my passport. My thought at being asked that question was incredulousness. Could there be such a form? My next impulse was then to say sarcastically, that here was my current passport: all the proof I needed to show I had changed my passport.
  • I had to go into the bank and be served by human beings and deal with the bureaucracy because our school had told us that the bank was updating their plastic cards, making them more high tech and all that. If it would improve our service, I had in theory no objection to going to the bank and getting the card updated. I did worry about the time it would take – especially if I had to wait in line longer than it would take to have the card all changed and updated. I was told it wouldn't take that long, just bring the old card and the passport, and all would be looked after.
  • But of course, I had to deal with the bureaucratic curse. To get my new card I had to make two trips and spend nearly two hours in the bank.
  • On the first trip, the process seemed to be going along smoothly enough. (I did forget my password, having transposed two digits of it in my memory, but a phone call to Jenny set me right.) The clerk – or I should say one of the clerks – noticed that the passport number they had on their records did not match the number on my current passport. This, I told them, was because I had gotten the account over ten years and – as I would later discover – two passports ago. It was then that I was asked if I had any other identification I could show them or proof that I had changed my passport. That ended my first trip to the bank. I was to go home and find my old passport.
  • I phoned Jenny about this and she told me that I should have just gotten a new bank account. I felt dumb at first after she said this and wondered why I hadn't thought of doing this myself. And so for a short time I was committed to getting a new account at the bank. But then I wondered why the bank workers hadn't suggested this either.
  • One of the reasons to not get a new bank account was that it was a stupid and bureaucratic and onerous process that was best avoided. So, in the evening after my first trip to the bank, I got Jenny to retrieve my old passports. She in fact realized that I had to bring two old passports – not one – to the bank because I had in fact renewed my passport twice while in China.
  • So the next morning, having no classes at school, I went to the bank with my old bank card and three of my passports: two expired and one current. (I have another old passport at home but that had expired in the 1980s.) It took them one hour to change the passport number in their computer system. The clerk who was processing this change didn't want to make any mistakes and evidently, had never seen a Canadian passport before. She continually asked questions of other clerks and supervisors (there was one supervisor whose job it was to stick her finger into an electronic fingerprint reader in order to authorize whatever it was the clerk was doing. I saw the supervisor stuck her finger in the machine four times.) The clerk was confused with how to enter my name (Andis Edmunds Kaulins) because she was wasn't sure which name was my family name and which name was my given name, and she didn't know what to make of my middle name Edmunds. (This confusion is a result of a differing practice of placement of family names in the West and in China. In the West, the family name is the last name; in China, the family name is the first name.) When asked to print my name, I caused further confusion by printing “Andis Kaulins” and they made me change it to “Andis Edmunds Kaulins.” A further delay was caused by my not knowing my address. They had to ask around to get the address for my school. Yet another delay occurred and I was then asked it there was an address on my passport. Having gotten annoyed at this point by the clerk's constant questioning of her co-workers and her evident confusion at looking at my passport, and her further studying line-by-line some kind of page-long directive she was consulting which must have dealt with how to change passport numbers in the system, I told them there wasn't. The clerk who spoke English – not the clerk who was processing the passport number change – told me that they needed a Canadian address in their system because five letters, not three were require in the system's computer data base. I told them that I had been in China for ten years and would have to make address up. I then swore at them, saying that I had been told that this card change that I was told that I had to do would take no longer then ten minutes. I can't recollect whether it was before or after the swearing bout that I noticed a back log of people were waiting to be served. So, I decided to make a show of it for them and got up and started pacing, my hands on my hips. This caused one of the people who had been waiting a long time because of me to approach the window I was being served at and to ask what the delay was. Mercifully for them and for the clerks and for me, I finally got my new card and was able to go on my way. With a sense of relief that the process was finally finished, I thanked the clerk and sheepishly apologized to her for my swearing.
  • I had hoped to get my Christmas shopping done the day I had my bank card changed. I wanted to buy Tony a Tomica Parking Garage. There was one at the Sunning Grocery Store but it was 599 RMB. So, I thought I would ask Jenny to see if she can buy it on the Internet. I also looked at Lego toys. Tony would love them but Jenny had expressed strong opposition to buying them – Tony would be leaving the pieces in every possible nook and cranny of our apartment. [Jenny vetoed my wanting to buy the Garage on taobao saying it was a stupid idea.]
  • When I go to 85 degrees to buy coffee, I always have to tell the clerk to not put my take out coffee in a bag. When I go to McDonalds to buy a meal, the drink gets put in a bag because I can't be bothered to tell them to not bother. I mention this little detail because it is a cultural difference between China and the land I had lived over a decade ago.
  • What is the point of me following news or politics? Having a view on it does necessarily make me a superior human being. Having the proper view of President Obama or even Prime Minister Harper is easy to do and requires little effort on my part. And really they don't matter a fig to Jenny or Tony or anyone else I come into contact with.
  • In a Speaker's Corner I did about the topic of blindness, a student said that the United States had been discovered to have tortured some people. Later, this same student then understood what I meant when I when I talked about how blindness was not only physical and involuntary, but could be willful and chosen. However, he managed to show he got what I meant about this kind of blindness while at the same time demonstrating he was blind in this way. “The Japanese,” he said, “were blind to the truth about the islands.” He was referring to those disputed Fishing Islands.
  • Every once in a while, a student embued with political emotions will expose himself to me and the other trainers bringing up issues of political controversy in the midst of a discussion. I sometimes choose to parlay with these students but mostly I don't bother because I can't speak in a manner about these topics that the students could understand. In the case of the student at my Blindness SPC: I had taught him in a the class the evening before, and I saw that he loved to talk, but had poor listening.
  • All the best restaurants in China serve white rat meat, I was told.
  • December 13th was a solemn day in China, especially in Nanjing where the anniversary of the Nanking Massacre was marked.
  • December 15th, I went to the underground of an apartment building in our community – that is, not our building – to retrieve our e-bike which was being recharged, and discovered that the extension cord we had been using had been stolen. We had had the charger for six years. Likely culprits? Some other e-bike owner or maybe some worker who needed an extension cord very quick and knew that e-bike charging areas are a great place to find one quickly.
  • Refer to the first bulleted item of this entry and you may guess my feelings of bemusement are the fact that I may be going to the 60th birthday Party of Someone's grandmother this month.
  • Tony's Canadian grandmother had cataract surgery done on one of eyes this month. I have confess that I feel guilt that she is living by herself in the harsh climate of Brandon, Manitoba while I am here in China. For 24 hours, her eyes were bandaged and she had to pay someone to look after her for that time. [Tony's Canadian grandfather had similar surgery done on his eyes. He had to go to Minnedosa (a hour's drive from Brandon) to have the surgery done. There were no local operating rooms available. Mom had her surgery done at the Hospital where Dad had died.]
  • The Damnedest thing. Some buildings in Wuxi are heated. You would think this was a good thing and that I would love going into those buildings, but I in fact hate them. I don't mind cold weather because I can dress for it. What I really hate is being overdressed. So when I go into a heated building when I am dressed for a cold building, I suffer.
  • One of my students works for a company that designs satellite dishes. The users of his products are in the poor and rural parts of China that don't have access to cable or internet. I asked him if he could point his satellite dish at foreign satellites and he told me “it was forbidden.” [How often students tell me something is forbidden.]
  • The Wife is on the ball. Jenny is already thinking of booking a flight to Canada in June. I have floated the idea of her and Tony staying in Canada for an extra week. I only have three weeks to spend in Canada. She wants to spend a month.
  • Someone gave Tony a Lego Fire Rescue Helicopter toy. It took an hour for me and Tony to put the thing together. When I say “me and Tony,” I mean to say that I tried to get Tony to help in the building but as it got to the end of the process, I lost patience and did the finishing assembling touches myself.
  • With the two cops being shot in New York, I can't help but be tempted to say the Left in the United States, starting at the top with Obama and working down to De Blasio and Sharpton and the hash-tagging mobs have blood have on their hands. For they have all been propagating a lie that the police are out to kill young black men every chance they can get. So big a lie it is that has been advanced, that you would have to think they were crazy, like the cop killer was, to actually believe it. In their sane moments, the Left, from Obama on down, surely does recoil from the assassination of the two cops. So it probably is over the top to say the American Left has blood on its hands in this particular incident, but it doesn't excuse the stupidity or willful blindness of the irresponsible rhetoric the Left has advanced in their stupid lie-filled campaign against supposed violence of cops against black people.
  • Before Christmas, Tony spent many an evening leafing through the Lego catalogue I had snagged from a toy store in the Hen Long Plaza.
  • For the secret Santa exchange held at our school’s Christmas Party, I bought a Lamborghini.
  • A toy Lamborghini.
  • On December 27, Tony & I rode the Wuxi Metro Line #2 for the first time. We took it to the Ikea station where I bought much needed shower curtains and was gladdened to see that Tony liked eating Ikea hot dogs.
  • I walked past what looked like protesters at the big government building near our apartment complex. As I was approaching, I decided to cross to the other side of the street and get as far away from the scene as I could.
  • Stupid man walks into elevator entrance blocking those trying to get out. I swear at him and turn around and give him the evil eye as the door closes.
  • I worked Christmas Eve. Thoughts of the modest circumstances in which the nativity happened made me enjoy the fact of it.
  • I buy Tony a lot of Lego toys for Christmas.
  • Tony watches the Lego movie twice.
  • On a Saturday morning, I parked the e-bike in front of our apartment building for Jenny and I later learned that it had been knocked down so that both its mirrors had been smashed. I suspect that a car may have backed into it.
  • Part of the Wuxi Metro Line #2 runs above ground along empty fields which are surely going to be developed.
  • Christmas Day was a day off for the Kaulins Family China. We slept in late, did some chores around the house, and then had a big supper at a Japanese restaurant in the Hen Long Plaza. I did post a lot of nativity scene paintings to a social app to try to impress upon my Chinese contacts, the real reason for the holiday. Most of the students I talked to however, told me they weren't going to do anything to celebrate Christmas. They saw it as a foreign holiday that had nothing to do with them. Feeling somewhat annoyed at one student who said this with a smirk, I said that Spring Festival was a parochial Chinese celebration that had no significance, no positive message for humanity in general.
  • Come to think of it, almost anything Chinese is only of significance for the Chinese, not humanity in general.

Friday, December 12, 2014

David Warren on China

David Warren on China:

China is gutted today; gutted by the worst effects of both the prevailing materialist ideologies, "socialism" and "capitalism." Her own best traditions were abandoned in seeking false goods.

Clink on the links to read all Warren has to say at his blog and at the Catholic Thing.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

November 2014 AKIC Notes

Just one entry to cover AKIC goings on in November 2014:

  • Here's a confession. I can't stand the sight of some students. In fact, knowing that I will have them in my class makes me feel irate. Something about their manner, usually their laziness or their haughtiness or their scowling, gets my goat and I'd wish they'd get out of my sight and consciousness.

  • The previous entry should not be an indication of the tone of this collection of notes. They are written – except for this entry which I am making at the end of the month – one after another as they occur to me during the month of November 2014. If you read on, you will see my mood fluctuates.

  • But then, some students are great and make me think there is hope for the human race.

  • I was listening to the Journey Home, a show on EWTN about people finding or rediscovering the Catholic Church. One of the guests was a successful businessman, who among other things, said he had spent seven years among the atheists of China. He couldn't wrap his mind around them and their not being able to contemplate the idea of there being a God. He was also taken back by the utter cynicism of China as the business he was working with had no scruples about cheating to make money. Listening to him, I certainly had to concur that many of the Chinese seemed utterly lacking in soul (as well as imagination). His time in soulless China did however make his conversion to Catholicism much easier because he witnessed the grimness of a society without a belief in something higher than an earthly power. I hope my time here will result in a similar finding of a home.

  • I took the 25 bus to get home one day and saw a poor person get on board. He brought four bags on – that be cotton bags not suitcases – full of all his possessions I would guess. He had to have been going to the bus station and had to have not had enough money to take a taxi there. He wore a suit jacket that was torn at back at the seam joining the jacket vest to the jacket sleeve. His collared shirt was frayed from constantly being worn. His shoes were the green khaki sneakers I have seen for sale at work wear shops that would never be seen anywhere near the more expensive shopping malls.

  • I was on that 25 bus – a rare thing for me to be, now that I can take the Metro – because I had gone to downtown Yanqiao. I hadn't been in Yanqiao in months and was disappointed to see that it was being renovated. Yanqiao's downtown, with its narrow streets and 1970s socialistic architecture, was being torn down and replaced by more modern commercial store fronts. A shame I felt, because I had found downtown Yanqiao be quaint in a strange way.

  • To get to Yanqiao in the first place, I chose to walk instead of take the bus and so I had some men on bicycles ride past me and scream "hello!" There were of course saying that because I was a foreigner. I pretended, best I could, to have not heard their greeting but they probably saw me stiffen up my shoulders. Having "Hello!" said to me as I walk about the streets of Wuxi's Hui Shan District is not an unusual thing, but it is rare for me to respond to it. The reason I don't return these greetings is that I don't perceive them as being friendly. So often these hellos are said in a "well what have we got here" or "looks like we gots ourselves a foreigner" sort of tone. They are also delivered in a drive-by-shooter like manner. Wuxi locals are racist in a manner that would give PC police types in the West heart attacks. But as GK Chesterton said, differences are meant to be laughed at, and the locals, having not imbibed western political correctness are maybe acting in a sensible way.

  • A businessman told me about a government official who was dealing with a mob by looking for money to pay them off..... The businessman's company had been forced to relocate from an industrial zone in the Wuxi area so developers could build a shopping mall. Along with his company, residents had also been forced to relocate from the area. One day, it just so happened that when the the businessmen went to the government, to deal with a government official, his meeting was delayed because the government official was looking for money to pay off an angry mob of those residents.

  • I watched the first two periods of a video of a NHL game played between the Winnipeg Jets and the Tampa Bay Lightning. The home team, the Jets, looked nondescript and its fans were quiet to say the least. Will the Jets leave Winnipeg again?

  • One day, on two occasions, I swore at locals. When I say they were locals, I mean they were Chinese and I am assuming they were from the area where they were seen by me. And when I say I swore, I swore aloud so that they could hear me; although from their reactions, I don't think they understood me.

  • I first swore at this woman who had cut in front of Tony and me at a KFC. What happened was that a bunch of customers were in a gaggle around the counter so that it was impossible – still after all these years – for me to determine who was next in line to be served by the staff. And this woman, who I would call bitch ten times aloud, walked right in front of me. (I should have physically brought attention to the fact that she cut in front of me, I know, but even in a rage I have to hold myself back because something much worse, than swearing profusely in public among people who don't understand, would have happened.)

  • Then, I was on an elevator with Tony & Jenny when these three men came on with freshly lit cigarettes in their mouths. One of the men instantly dropped his cigarette to the ground but the other two ignored entreaties from Tony that they put out their cigarettes. I couldn't resist the urge to use the words pigs, apes, baboons and monkeys as I spoke aloud in the elevator at them. On this occasion, however, one person understood my swearing: Jenny, who told me to be quiet because the men didn't understand me. I pointed out to Jenny that signs were posted in the elevators prohibiting smoking but these idiots were ignoring them, and even if they didn't understand me, I wanted them to deduce my meaning from my tone.

  • Which reminds me of another one of my pet peeves. Some idiot is always leaving his cigarette butts on the stairwell floor of our apartment building.

  • On my day off, I was walking around the Hui Shan Wanda Plaza and saw two foreigners. I tried to pretend that I didn't see them. (The idea of talking to them fills me with revulsion for some reason).

  • Wuxi's Hui Shan District is a horrible place for foreigners! Don't move there! Don't even go there to visit! (This is what I want foreigners to think. I want the place all to myself.)

  • This phrase in a review about a book about Stalin caught my attention:  the old-fashioned Russian èmigrè view that the Russian Revolution was made by 'Jewish brains, Latvian rifles and Russian stupidity. I never knew about the Latvian rifles and the role they played in the Russian Revolution though I was well aware of the Jewish role and have thought about Russian stupidity. This phrase will stick with me for the rest of my life. (My parents are Latvian.)

  • The reaction to the results of the 2014 U.S. Midterm elections has resulted in euphoria among Republicans types – at least, that is the impression I get from listening to the political podcasts that I do – but David Warren who is my favorite reactionary and my current intellectual and blogging hero, seemed unimpressed and pretty much said that the elections were just politics as usual in the Western World.

  • On November 11th, I had two Chinese Drivers annoy me. (What else is new? I know.) I made my daily stop at the small shop near the entrance of the complex containing Casa K. Just after having bought my supply of Halls and gum for the day, I exited the store just as a van zoomed right by the store entrance. You must understand, that area just outside the store is a pedestrian area. I can understand wanting to drive there in order to unload things – the area on either side of the store is one of storefront businesses – but it should be done slowly. If I had exited the store a second earlier and went in the direction I was intending to go, I don't think the van could have stopped quickly enough. The asshole driver was probably doing about 50 km/h. I thought about how Tony just rushes out the store entrance as well and gave the driver a glare – not that he noticed – as he opened the side door of his van to unload some things.

  • The van driver so annoyed me that I momentarily forgot where I was heading. I was supposed to wait for the 637 Shuttle Bus at the stop that is right by the store, but I instead walked toward this other bus stop that I used to go to before the Shuttle Bus started operation. I realized my mistake when I was crossing an intersection and the Shuttle Bus I had meant to take drove pass. Fortunately, I knew I was able to catch the 637 bus that was going the other way (the 637 route has two buses starting off at the same time from the terminal station but each going around the route in the opposite direction.), so I turned around and recrossed the intersection. And then it was a case of a Chinese driver trying to make a right turn around me as I was walking and I had the right of way. The car instead of stopping, tried to make a wider right turn around me, but I would not yield and made the car come to a halt. As I got to the other side of the intersection I had to see what the driver looked like: it was a woman.

  • November 11th is a solemn day in Canada. It isn't so in China where, because of the multiple ones in the date, the day is called Singles Day, and now, because of a promotion by Alibaba's Jack Ma, is also a day for shopping on the Internet and getting supposedly amazing discounts.

  • I am not sure what Chinese singles did on November 11, 2014, but the non-singles either went in for the shopping in a big way or didn't bother at all. One student told me that she had spent 12,000 rmb that day. Another said, she had gotten up at one in the morning on the 11th to get her shopping done. Jenny, my wife, said she didn't have time, thank God.

  • I was on the train one Thursday morning when I looked up and saw that the electronic sign indicating we had arrived at Nanchang Station (南禅寺到了 is what I saw). This was my station but I hadn't been paying close attention and I hadn't anticipated that the train was approaching the stop and only noticed that the train had arrived just as the train's doors were closing. So, I had to take the train to the next stop and then wait six minutes to catch a train going back, for me, to the Nanchang Station. It was the first time in my Wuxi Metro riding career that I had made such a mistake.

  • With the nights getting colder, the Kaulins family has gone back to the habit of everyone sleeping in the same bed.

  • I am the same star sign as Jesus Christ (my birthday is December 24)and was born in the same animal year as Bruce Lee (I was born in the Dragon year of 1964). Yes, I am so cool.

  • On the train one day, Tony was sitting between me and this young man. The young man brought out his mobile phone and asked Tony if he could take a to take a selfie with him. Tony didn't want to and so he ran away and sat with Jenny who was on my other side.

  • On the Internet, these are writers who I read often: David Warren, Theodore Dalrymple, John Derbyshire, Peter Hitchens and Anthony Esolen. Beside the fab five, I am keen to read things written by Thomas Sowell, Taki, Jonah Goldberg, Marc Steyn and Anne Coulter.

  • The Kaulins boys got haircuts at a downtown salon one afternoon. The salons, I have seen and gone to in Wuxi, have mostly male staff who are young and seemed to be dressed in the height of fashion. The high degree of hipness that they have make me wonder if my assumptions about the coolness of hip culture being western are incorrect. It would seem that coolness or hipness – I use these words to describe a certain teenage and young adult manner – is a universal thing.

  • In Arts & Letters Daily, I read an essay written by an award winning author from a major newspaper who was in his late fifties but had no money, and was living a dismal life having to depend on relatives and government services to survive. I thought I was reading my future.

  • Some of the poor that the author encountered as he trudged about dealing with government assistance service departments included teachers and fellows who could speak several languages.

  • Doing a little more research, I read that the author was divorced, and thought it funny that he hadn't mentioned it in his essay.

  • I get a break from my transcribing work and so I have time to concentrate on other things in my free time at work like blogging, coding, and studying Chinese.

  • Tony is shy, or as the Chinese would say: 害羞 (haixiu). Sometime, locals will try to talk to him but he will deliberately ignore them.

  • One good thing about being in China is that I can watch a recording of a CFL game and not have to worry about overhearing the game's final score or having someone accidentally telling me it. So I am watching the Western Semifinal between Saskatchewan and Edmonton two days after it happened, over a period of two days.

  • Only problem with the recording was that I knew how the game would end because with seven minutes left on the recording, Saskatchewan was trailing by eight points with three minutes of game time to play. There was not time enough for Saskatchewan to come back. The game would have had to have gone to overtime, and there was no way that was going to happen in seven minutes.

  • Towards the end of the month, I still have the cold I had at the end of October. Sometimes, I don't cough but when I am teaching (talking), I cough like a two pack a day smoker.

  • One night after having gotten home from work, I was asked by Jenny to guess what score Tony had gotten in a Chinese test he had written that day. She was laughing as she asked me and so I was slightly confused. I had come to expect news of Tony getting poor scores on these tests, so I thought for a microsecond that maybe he had done well. But I thought better of it and guessed that he had gotten eight percent. Jenny then told me that he had gotten zero. It seems that he is unable to associate the character with its proper pinyin. The next day, I tried to ask Tony about this but he did a very lame "I don't know" response to my questioning before going all silent and mute on me.

  • I thought winter was finally going to come to Wuxi and I then looked at a weather report of my mobile device which forecast a high of 21 Celsius for the next day.

  • On my spiritual journey, I am all alone where I am. I will have to write somebody who can help me. In my mind, I know it is the right thing. But there is the physical fear and the fear of the total incomprehension of those who do know me. Could I bear the torture?

  • 25 years ago, the Berlin Wall fell. Being in China, I can say that the anniversary has not been well observed. Students I have asked did not know much about it.

  • The anniversary of the fall of the Wall causes me to have this reflection on my personal political beliefs. When I was younger, I was on the Left side of the political spectrum. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the ouster of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua were the two events that caused me to change my mind, adopt a right wing view of things and take on a deep animus to any form of leftist thinking. So, I have been a conservative/reactionary/libertarian for over twenty years now. I hesitate to call myself a libertarian because it does encourage some kooky thinking and is often atheist. I label myself a conservative because I want to be as far from the Left Wing as I can be without becoming an anarchist. I am probably more properly a reactionary because I am aware that the kingdom is not of this world.

  • I am still using Windows XP. In late November, I booted up my computer and got a message saying that Microsoft had stopped updating XP sometimes in April. The message also wanted me to download some software to verify if I in fact had genuine software. This being China, I didn't.

  • One Saturday morning, I saw two bad habits of Chinese drivers result in a near collision. I was able to witness what could happen when a car, driven by a Chinese driver, tries to aggressively pass another car on the right on a single wide road while approaching the entrance of an apartment complex from where a car – driven by a Chinese driver who typically does not check to see if traffic is coming from his left – makes a right turn. I saw a near collision and two cars making very quick swerving turns.

  • I was disappointed that the two cars didn't collide.

  • Studying Chinese experiences. 1) Sometimes, my guess at a character is correct, but it is difficult to find confirmation, even when I type the correct pinyin into the typing app which converts pinyin to Chinese characters. Case in point, the following characters: 哔啦哔啦 which appeared in a textbook which I was using for my pinyin typing exercises. The pinyin is bali bali. I guessed that right away, but I couldn't find the characters in my pinyin typing app. After ten minutes of searching for them there and then in my dictionary, I gave up and asked one of my Chinese colleagues who told me it was bali bali as I had thought. I was able to hold off my feelings of frustration till after I thanked her for taking the time to give me the information. 2) I study Chinese on the train and it attracts the attention of locals sitting nearby. One evening, I had this feeling that the man sitting next to me was intently watching me read a Chinese text on my Ipad while typing out its characters, to test my knowledge thereof, on my Ipod. My intuitions proved to be correct and the man, in broken English, offered me the following advice: "Don't try to enter so many characters at a time when typing them in the app, only try to type in two or three at a time, enough for a word." In other words, press the enter key to transform the pinyin into Chinese characters after a few keystrokes, not after so many as he saw me doing. I did as he said while he was around, but thinking about his advice afterward, I found that wasn't so helpful in some instances because there are some characters that will only show up if you typed in a whole phrase instead of just a few words, parts of the phrases, as it were.

  • I was told the following by a Chinese colleague: In America, the dream is to get rich and earn the respect of others; in China, the dream is to get rich and move to America. She also told me that President Xi and his ilk were making lame efforts to brainwash the Chinese population.

  • I observe the events in Ferguson, Missouri, USA with interest. I have read some thoughts of others on what is happening there and I don't think I have any thoughts I can add, but I will try nonetheless. First of I will tell you, my rare and not so gentle readers, that I think the rioters and protestors are idiots, and that President Obama blew it. Instead of trying to be equivocal about the incident, Obama should have put the blame for it on those who were clearly responsible: the Brown character who went on a stupid crime spree and the protestors who tried to make more of the incident than what it was. But that would have required Obama to admit that people who he disagrees with on matters racial are right about the pathologies that plague Black America. White Racism had nothing to do with what happened in Ferguson.

  • I read John Derbyshire's take on Ferguson and he said that there was nothing that could be done about it. That is, white progressives will keep trying to push for policies that are counter-productive to whatever it is they are trying to achieve, and an almost absolute unanimous proportion of blacks will carry on as they always have, acting like blockheads.

  • Unexpectedly on American Thanksgiving day, I found myself participating in the making of a video for the school that would be shown on Wuxi Metro video screens. It turned out that a change in plan combined with class scheduling made me the only person who was available to do it. So, I and three female colleagues from school took a taxi to the Roxa coffee shop located at the BCM Life & Arts Center. (BCM is in on the canal near the Baoli shopping mall.) I was to say a few lines about grinding coffee. But when I got there, the plan changed and I was to fiddle around with a coffee grinder on screen and brew a cup of espresso. I did the best I could.

  • The Roxa was a nice place, I thought. It had high ceilings, shelves of books and wine bottles, lots of comfortable sofas for lounging, a bar serving coffee and other beverages, and a scenic location with a patio deck overlooking a canal. It was a nice place to spend an afternoon with a book.

  • The owner of the place actually introduced herself to me and told me about her business. I wondered if the location – somewhat off the beaten track I was afraid – was busy enough to make a profit, but I learned from her that the coffee bar was not open in the evenings and that in fact she made her money by selling coffee beans to local restaurants and cafes. I also found out that she was married to an Englishman and spent a lot of time in England where she lived in a countryside house that was a half hour from the nearest supermarket. She told me her home in England was nice in Summer but she preferred to be in the more urban setting of Wuxi most of time.

  • Her manner of speaking English in which she ended her statements with a lispy particle reminded me of another Wuxi woman I knew who was married to an Englishman: Lilly Rudkin, wife of the 2013 – and more than likely, also the 2014 – Shanghai Expat of the year, Paul Rudkin. Lilly had also spent some time in England and spoke English with a Wuxinese English accent.

  • The Roxa owner, told me that Italians like to come to her shop for some espresso. I haven't seen any Italians in Wuxi since the Italian restaurant near our school closed down which goes to show that I don't get out that often to areas with paths where foreigners can be seen.

  • Whether I need to go to paths where foreigners can be seen is a question on which I am conflicted.

  • The Roxa owner said she recognized me and my face from somewhere but couldn't place me. She then told me that she had seen me at Ganesh's, an Indian Restaurant near the Nanchang Jie Bar street, and that she saw then that I had a Chinese wife and a son. But she then added details to the story of seeing me there that didn't jibe with my recollections of going to the restaurant. I suggested that she maybe saw me on the bus videos or on the subway videos, but she told me that she didn't take those forms of transportation. So, I was mystified as to where she had seen me and was even thinking that there was foreigner in Wuxi who was also tall, also slender, and so looked like me and also had a Chinese wife and a mixed blood baby. But then a friend of hers said that she had seen my Youtube videos while she was in Miami and was homesick for Wuxi. That explained it.

  • For me, the incident was remarkable because I had so discounted my degree of presence on the Internet that it had never occurred to me to have made mention of it as a place where my face had been previously seen.

  • As November was drawing to an end, I still couldn't shake my cold that I had had at the end of October.

  • Angel, my Chinese teacher, says my pronunciation and tones are getting better. I observe that the tones are still not second nature to me and that I have to make so much of a conscious physical effort to say them properly that I find I can't engage in conversation in Chinese and pronounce the tones properly at the same time. It is why I prefer to spend my time trying to decipher Chinese characters. When I am reading, I am not having to think about the tones and hurting my neck when I try to say them properly.

  • I wondered what had happened to the China History Podcast. But Laszlo is back and I have just listened to first of his ten part series on the history of tea.

  • Which reminds me that I have a lot of Wuxi Metro video that I need to put together into a video to upload to Youtube.

  • As November drew to a close, I had a day where I thought my cold was going away. But then the next day, it got worse. I was more stuffed in the head than ever and so I felt a mild headache and I thought my voice was going.

  • I asked a stupid question. I suppose I have asked many stupid questions in my near fifty years on Earth -- many more than I would suppose – and that maybe the best I can hope for is that if I do ask a stupid question, I will quickly realize it instead of having the stupid thought linger in my mind for a long time and never ever realizing my foolishness...

  • Anyway. Here is the stupid question that I asked before quickly realizing I was a big dummy to have asked it. I asked it during a class about superstitions. My student, a very intelligent management type who has spent time in Japan, was telling me how superstitious many of his co-managers were. He told me how many of them wanted, as a group, to make an annual visit to the Ling Shan Big Buddha to pray for good fortune for the company; and so it came into my mind to ask how the 88 meter tall Buddha was constructed and I pondered aloud the possibility that the 88 meter Buddha was constructed first and erected as a whole piece, from lying on its back, onto the place it now stands. As soon as my student mentioned that the whole thing had to be assembled on site from the base up, I realized the stupidity of my question.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Things Seen in October 2014

  • On October 1st, I took the shuttle bus to the Subway Station. It was the first leg of my trip to the countryside to see my relatives and to reunite with my wife Jenny & son Tony who had gone there earlier in the week. As the shuttle drove pass the Hui Shan District government complex, I saw a crowd by the entrance. Half of the crowd consisted of civilians, who I presume were protesting. The other half consisted of black-uniformed security guards and blue-shirted policemen. In the center of the crowd, I could see two men engaged in a very animated conversation. One of them, I presume was from the government; the other was a citizen. Another bus load of security guards was just pulling in as my shuttle bus passed out of view.

  • The train I then caught took me to the bus station which was of course crowded with holiday travelers. The bus station was so crowded that many sat on the stairs between the bus station's two levels.

  • Having to wait, I walked around the bus station to see what I could see, and I did see a young man wearing a denim fabric jacket and matching pants which had a flowery pattern that I would normally see on old Chinese woman's dress. For footwear, he wore black pointy ended dress shoes.

  • I saw heavy holiday traffic on the freeway on 10/1.

  • The evening of October 1st, my relatives took us to an outdoor lantern show which covered an area bigger than a few football fields. One of the displays celebrated the war against the Japanese and depicted a scene where a Japanese soldier was pointing a gun at an unarmed Chinese person.

  • On October 2nd, I was taken to Taizhou (TZ). I saw that Taizhou had its own version of the Oriental Pearl Tower in its skyline. (I subsequently learned from students, who had been to TZ, that it was a television tower.) Jenny & Tony & I went to the Mei Lan Feng Park. Mei Lan Fang was a famous Chinese opera performer who could perform both male and female roles. In the museum dedicated to his career, there was a display where a wax Sergei Eisenstein was directing a wax Fang in a movie.

  • Earlier that day in TZ, I spent some time in the drabbest apartment I had seen in a while. I took in a dreary view of other crumbling apartments and dirty green vegetation.

  • On a dusty street in TZ, I saw a women sitting on a stool cleaning vegetables in a basin she had sitting on the pavement.  A cigarette, half ashes, dangled from her mouth.

  • In TZ, I see a young man dressed spiffy.  He wore a white shirt, a black dress jacket, a pair of tight white cotton knee-length shorts, and a pair of black dress shoes while not wearing socks.

  • I see, at a TZ retail walk street, a tall thin local man, older than me but not by much, proceeding at a slow shuffling place. I wondered if I was looking at the Chinese version of me.

  • Near the Wuxi train station, at one corner of an intersection, I saw two man holding the ends of an eight foot long piece of string festooned with tiny one-colored flags. The string was meant to block pedestrians who might want to cross the road to get to another corner while ignoring traffic signals telling them couldn't. The men holding the strings looked to be civilians who had been made to do community service punishment by acting as crossing guards. I have never seen pedestrians heed these Shanghaied crossing guards in all my time in Wuxi so I was curious to see how pedestrians would deal with string, but the taxi I was in pulled away before I could witness the amount of success of the string in accomplishing it purpose.

  • October 5th I was taking the shuttle bus to the subway station and saw on the video screen, footage about the goings on in Hong Kong. There was first a reporter in front of a graphic showing the Chinese and Hong Kong flags. Then, I saw video of some guy in a suit making a statement followed by footage of calm street scenes in Hong Kong.

  • My In-laws compound in Beixin is right next to a road, which in Canada would be said to be the main drag of the town. It always concerns me when I am in Beixin or more importantly when Tony is in Beixin, to see the cars and trucks go at a good clip of speed past our compound. For cars are racing at 50 km/h or more, merely ten feet from where my in-laws are sleeping. During the October holiday, I witnessed a semi-truck pulling a tanker trailer come to a quick stop in front of the compound. The semi's tires and brakes jerk rather mightily in front of me.

  • On a Friday, I see another crowd of people by the entrance to the Hui Shan District Government Compound. I could see the crowd from the front of my apartment complex entrance which is about half a kilometer from the Government compound. Riding past the scene on the shuttle bus, I saw that it was a crowd of protestors and I took a photo but it didn't show much other than a bunch of people. With my naked eyes, I did get a glance of two men in the center of the crowd having an intense discussion.

  • I saw the X-ray machine operators at a Wuxi Metro station actually make some travelers open up their luggage. These people, who were probably going to the train station, had to open up a big suitcase. Beside the suitcase, I was able to see a kitchen knife, still in a package that the security people had spotted. As if these people were going to use the knife.....

  • I was standing on the corner of the intersection of Xueqian and Zhongshan Roads when I saw a young gentleman on an e-bike stop right beside me. I couldn't understand why he would be doing this. He was sitting there placidly not moving even though there were green lights in his favor. His placid stare in the direction of where I was standing, while I was waiting for the a green pedestrian signal, was making me nervous. But after about ten seconds, a woman sat behind him on the bike. I then understood what had been taking place. If e-bikes are carrying passengers as they approach the intersection they will be stopped by the traffic cops and security types. I would guess the pair often had to have the passenger get off their e-bike before going through the intersection and then have the passenger get back on afterward This time when I saw them, the woman had boarded the e-bike while still on a corner of the intersection within sight of the traffic officials who were looking the other way for e-bikes approaching.

  • On a Friday afternoon, I went to a company located near the Wuxi Airport – yes, Wuxi has an airport. I saw a Chinese military plane, a Chinese AWAC, with pedestal on its top, taking off. I would have taken a photo if I hadn't been busy watching a student giving a presentation.

  • I saw two foreigners at that company. I think that they were the first foreigners I had seen this month other then my colleagues at my school.

  • Standing at the Shuttle Bus Spot at my apartment complex, I saw an e-bike dash across the road in front of three side-by-side oncoming vehicles.

  • I saw a taxi trying to make a right turn through a gap between two moving buses that were going straight, one after another, through an intersection. The taxi had to skid to a stop as it had gotten too close to the driver side front of the second bus. As soon as that bus got past, the taxi quickly skidded as it got moving again.

  • On a Friday evening, I saw that one of the businesses that had attempted to open in the Nanchang Subway Station was moving out all its fixtures.

  • As I said in the experienced things entry for this month, there were numerous things to be seen in the Hui Shan Wanda Plaza on a particular Saturday night. Tony & I together saw a man with very big bubble wands. The bubble man had placed soap in a bin that was about three feet in diameter. He would place a small child in the center of the bin and then put a three feet wide wand around the child into the bin of soap bubbles. Pulling up the wand, the child would be encased in a very tall and wide bubble. Tony, watching this, was beside himself in excitement.

  • I then saw three foreigners, twenty or thirty somethings, standing beside the stage where the bubble man was performing. I wondered why they were there. They did a show themselves, it turned out, and I thought "Good! They weren't moving into the neighborhood."

  • At the other end of the mall, there were new cars on display (I mentioned how Tony was jumping in and out of the driver's seats.). As I stood by waiting for Tony to have jumped in all the cars, I saw some female models come out. The first set were two Chinese girls with long hair, short silvery sequined dresses, high heels, and nice long legs. The second set were these foreign girls, Caucasians, who were wearing these ridiculous looking bikinis with angel wings.

  • I should have taken a photo of this car that had stopped right on the corner sidewalk at Xueqian and Zhongshan Roads. It was stopped diagonally at the corner of the intersection on a spot that I would have thought was always meant for pedestrians.

  • On a Thursday morning from the 637 shuttle bus stop near Casa K, I saw a lineup of hundreds of people, ten wide, bearing signs and long banners, walking or marching from the direction of the Hui Shan District government building. They made a turn at the corner at which the Hui Shan Ramada Plaza stands. I assume that the demonstration was government approved.

  • Office space on the first level of a building on Zhongshan Road had been occupied by a bank. The bank had abandoned the office space and and the space was being cleared out by workmen who were using a front end loader which was driven into the space to remove rubble from fixtures and displays.

  • I saw the driver of a motorcycle wagon – a motorcycle that had been modified so as to have a wagon attached to it – pushing his vehicle, which was not functioning through an intersection. And just as he would have, had his vehicle been working, he was ignoring the traffic signals and so oncoming cars were swerving to avoid him and his vehicular contraption.

  • Walking down Zhongshan Road, I see a turd on a red carpet placed in front of a shop.    

Monday, November 3, 2014

Things I Was Told in October, 2014.

  • In Beixin in the Jiangsu countryside, Jenny told me that Tony followed some countryside boys to a field and played with them. He didn't tell any adults that he was doing this and so they got worried and went to search for him. Whatever he did with the boys in the fields was all good boyhood stuff and so I told Jenny to not worry so much about him getting his socks and shoes all dirty.
  • Jenny told me that she had heard that a policeman had been hit at the gathering I had seen at the entrance to the Hui Shan District government complex. (See October things seen.)
  • Jenny told me that Tony did some work in the countryside. He helped scoop up harvested peanuts which had been lain on the ground to dry.
  • Jenny told me that her sister (Jenny has two) had gotten into an evening argument with her husband and got beaten. Earlier that day, her sister had driven us to Taizhou, and had been exceedingly nice to Tony, in fact being very motherly to him. Jenny's sister spent the whole next day lying down. (Chinese men, I have read and I have been told, think nothing of slugging their wives in arguments. Whether this trait has changed in modern times is hard to discern. I read a book about China from over a hundred years written by a visitor that reported this. Foreigners have told me that it still happens a lot in these times.) Jenny also told me that her mother didn't see what the big deal was about the incident. Jenny told me she would visit her sister to see how she was doing.
  • Student told me that in Nanjing during the October holiday, the subway station was so crowded that she had to wait three trains before she could board. In Nanjing, the trains come every four minutes. In Wuxi, they come every ten.
  • Jenny tells me her sister was staying with her mother.
  • In my first class back from the holiday, a student told me that she supported the demonstrators in Hong Kong. She said she wanted democracy in the mainland. The two other students in class told me that they hadn't been paying attention to what was happening in Hong Kong. One of these two students told me that she didn't like Hong Kongers, having been treated rudely by them, she said, when she visited that “small land where the people had small minds.”
  • I asked another student about what was happening in Hong Kong. He was an older gentleman in his thirties. He said he hadn't been paying attention. I told him that the world was thinking it was big news. I told him it was the biggest protest in Hong Kong since the 1960s. He misunderstood and thought I was talking about all of China, and told me how students were killed in Beijing in '89.
  • On the first Friday following the Golden Week, a student told me that his school was having classes on Saturday but on a Monday schedule. And then the next Monday, following the one day off on Sunday, would be another day with a Monday schedule. So, the student was telling me that he was having a weekend with a Monday and a Sunday, followed a Monday. Two Mondays in three days.
  • Someone told me that they saw someone wearing a Mickey Mouse Jacket. Under the Mickey Mouse was written Sewer Rat.
  • An acquaintance, a businessman who lives in the Hui Shan District, told me the following:
  • HK can't succeed or the Party will have trouble on the mainland with citizens there wanting what HK got.
  • The most powerful person in Wuxi city is the Wuxi Party Secretary, not the Wuxi Mayor.
  • Thirty years ago, a Chinese delegation to New York City was surprised that American city delegations didn't have party secretaries but only mayors.
  • Five star hotels in China have been desperately trying to downgrade themselves to four star after the central government, in its effort to fight corruption, said that party conferences would no longer be held in five star hotels.
  • The problem the Chinese economy is that the central government wants to control everything.
  • Only three our of the sixteen subway lines in Shanghai make money. The rest have to be subsidized. (I had to teach the word subsidized to my acquaintance.)
  • In the 1950s, the Chinese Communist government sent a letter to Hong Kong telling them to not give their citizens so much freedom.
  • Hong Kongers have a bias against Mainland Chinese. So, my friend would rather shop in Dubai.
  • The local Lexus dealership sales are down which is a sign that the Chinese economy is slowing down.
  • Buses in China can be very crowded and sometimes, the driver will tell passengers to pay and then get on the bus through the back door because for whatever reason some room is to be had there. I had a student tell me that one time he did this – that is, he paid at the front – but couldn't get on the bus because the driver closed the door on him. He was part of a group of three or four people who were told to pay at the front and board on the back, and he was the last to try to board. Usually, I find myself a seat on the bus because I take the time to wait for an empty bus. But I remember one time, I boarded a bus where this was not an option, and I boarded the bus at the back and then made a point of rushing to the front when I got off to pay the fare by swiping my card.
  • Student told me that his company was getting less orders from Russia.
  • A student told me that the workers hadn't got their pay from their company.
  • A student told me that he was going to a notary to have a criminal records check done for his Australian Visa application. He will be going to Melbourne to study for a Master's Degree.
  • A female student, who is attending FAS school, told me that she was feeling sad because she wasn't able to get a job with Hainan Airlines who had come to her campus to recruit. The thing that really got her was the fact that she didn't even get an interview because she wasn't slim enough.. As it was, her chances were slim (pardon the pun) to get the job. Only nine out of four hundred were selected she told me.
  • What's happening in Hong Kong, a student told me, would be dealt with quickly in Mainland China.
  • Problems with Italian components are causing delays on an assembly line in Wuxi, said a student working at the company.
  • I should instead of calling this the “told things” entry to the “things told and overheard” entry. I overheard that local businessmen are finding the inability to bribe government officials hard to deal with, because the incentive of government officials is to do not anything efficiently for a businessman because they don't want to be suspected of having been bribed.
  • I also overheard that local mayors and party secretaries in China are jockeying to become heads of committees investigating corruption because they would be immune from being investigated for corruption.
  • I asked a student, with the English name Leo, why he had the English name of Leo. He told me that he had previously had the English name Hunk but felt compelled to change it because somebody already had that name at a company he had just joined. I explained to the all the students in the class with Leo, what a “hunk” was in English. To the young female who was a fan of the NFL, I said that she would think that all the players in the league were hunks because they were all so handsome and strong; but she said she only thought the quarterbacks were hunks. I asked a married male student if his wife thought he was a hunk and he coyly said yes. I then asked a married female student if her husband was a hunk and she said in a flat manner that he wasn't.
  • A student named Terry tells me that fitting rooms are places where people can change their clothes.
  • A student tells me that the banks are in bad shape in China and that I should take my RMB and convert then to dollars or euros.
  • A middle school student told me that his friend broke his leg when trying to dash in front of oncoming traffic as part of a school boy dare; and that after the accident, the boys took the injured boy on a bus to his where they were subjected to severe questioning by the boy's parents. Stupid kids.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Things I Experienced in October 2014

  • It took me seven hours to get to Beixin from Wuxi on October 1st. It would normally take three hours. I first took the bus from Wuxi to Taixing and then caught a public bus to Beixin.
  • I felt the weaving and swerving of a coach bus whose driver seemed to be F1ing it on his way to Taixing.
  • I stood in a crowd at the Wuxi bus station for a hour because the bus to Taixing was late. Expecting the bus to be on time, I became stuck in the rush toward the bus entrance gate, when the bus's number was posted on the board above the gate, and then I wasn't able to go back when I realized the bus – it being October 1 – was delayed. So, I had to stand in place, a compact place with tens of others, for an hour not knowing when the bus would leave.
  • I had to stand for a hour on the bus that I took from the Taixing bus station to Beixin where my in-laws live. I didn't realize that the bus was a city transit bus, not a coach, and didn't bother to join the initial rush to board the bus.
  • I felt boredom of the countryside. Nothing to do but stay in a room and hide from the crowds and the noise and the filth.
  • I feel utter disgust when walking down the street on which my in-laws compound was located, and so I went back to inside their compound to hide.
  • At my local Pizza Hut, I read the menu and couldn't find a listing for pepperoni pizza. I peevishly gave the staff and the manager the what-for. The menu had changed they told me, but they did make a pepperoni pizza for me. To place the order in their computer system, they had to enter it as an order for a deluxe pizza with all the toppings and then hold about ten toppings except the pepperoni
  • I walked through the Hui Shan Wanda Mall observing the locals be consumers while I listened to a podcast speculating about what was happening in Hong Kong. Mention was made of the Tienanmen incident and the persecution of the Falun Gong.
  • I had a good meal at the Grandma's Restaurant in the Sunning Plaza. The shrimp cooked with garlic as well as the garlic fried potatoes were to die for!
  • I took Tony to the grocery store in the basement of Sunning Plaza to show him the toys on display there. As far as I know, the grocery store is the only one that still sells Tomica toy cars and Plarail train sets in Wuxi. I also showed him a Ultraman figurine in a display case that was in a Japanese package. He looked at it and told me that it was an Ultraman Uglu. I then saw that it said so on the package. However, I couldn't tell if Tony could read the package or his knowledge of Ultraman characters and figures was that extensive. I mentioned this to Jenny and she said she was wondering too about how Tony could have known.
  • Tony & I are a sight for other passengers when taking the Wuxi Metro. I didn't notice this as much when we were riding the bus, but because the train seats face each other, I notice lots and lots of stares. I can even look down a couple cars from where we are sitting and see people staring at us from that far away.
  • In the second bedroom of Casa Kaulins, which had been a study, Jenny & I put in a bed for Tony. (No longer would he sleep with us, was the hope.) The day before we were to do this, we had to do some cleaning and to move some stuff about. I saw that we either had too much stuff or too little space in the second bedroom, and so I decided that some things had to be thrown out. One thing we threw out was a metal stand for our flat screen television (that we bought six years ago). Since the television was on a wall and wasn't ever going to be moved, I convinced Jenny that we should trash the stand. So, I took it out and left it by a nearby trash bin. Ten minutes later, I came back to the bin with more trash from the second bedroom, and I saw that the stand had already been taken by somebody. A little later, I found a CD player which I showed to Jenny and that she told me to trash. The player wasn't working as far as I could remember, and anyway, was rendered obsolete by all our newest electronic gadgets. I took that player out and stuffed it into the trash bin with the bags of normal refuse. Returning again ten minutes later with more trash, I saw that someone had taken the player. As I then told Jenny, some stuff you can't sell, but you can give it away for free.
  • In a discussion about Hong Kong goings on, a student asked me how demonstrations and protests in the West were covered in the West. “Did Western governments try to tell the people they were no big deal?” I didn't know how to explain to him that the media in the West wasn't government controlled and that most people heard the government views through private, not government media filters.
  • So we put the bed for Tony in our second bedroom. And so for the first time, we tried to get him to sleep in a bed other than ours. He surprised us by actually falling asleep in his new bed. We had expected him to resist. He didn't however stay the whole night there. At about three or four in the morning, he came back into the master bedroom and fell asleep beside Mom. As expected, he wasn't comfortable with sleeping by himself.
  • I have had a student, English name of Change, in some of my classes. Way back when, I had a student name Hope, in classes. Yes. Hope and Change.
  • Change took the name because his Chinese name is Qian Jie. The Qian which in Chinese means money. Funny, I told him because change is sometimes what we call the money we may have in our wallets or in our pockets.
  • Rare readers may remember my mentioning that I took part in the recording of a commercial, for our school, for which the theme was backpacking. Well, the second Thursday in October, I was sitting on the subway train, minding my own business as it were, tapping out pinyin on my Ipod in order to test my knowledge of the Chinese characters that I was looking at on my Ipad, when I looked up at a video screen and saw someone reading a map of China. That map was familiar to me, and then I saw Edith's image and (Edith is the redoubtable one who is a study assistant at my school.) I realized that they were showing the commercial in which she and I had stood together for the recording! My first reaction was to smile, my next was to feel sheepish. The subway was crowded, it being the morning rush hour, and I wondered if the other passengers would look at me and notice that the foreigner on the train was in that commercial. When images of my backpack, that I had used as a prop in the video, appeared, I instinctively turned the backpack about so that no one on the train would recognize it. (The map of China was a map I had had for years folded away on a shelf near my desk at school. I used it as a prop on the commercial)
  • When I do order pizza for pick up from my local Pizza Hut, they give me a lot of plastic forks which I take to school and use to eat Xinjiang Noodles.
  • Walking on the subway platform, I noticed that the tile flooring was very uneven: so uneven that if I was dragging my feet as I walked, I would have tripped and fallen on my face.
  • When I saw the backpacking commercial a second time, I saw more of the video including a shot where I was walking with a backpack on my back into a building. My posture looked atrocious, I thought. I then had a passenger nearby point at me, in a questioning manner, after she noticed that video and then me sitting on the train. I nodded my head up and down to indicate that it was me in the video. It was the first time, in four years, that I have had a stranger indicate that they had seen me in a commercial that was being displayed on a nearby video screen.
  • The second night of the Tony new bed era, I slept with Tony on his new bed. The mattress was hard and had a wooden headrest. He slept soundly; I was my usual hard-to-get-to-sleep self.
  • A student told me that during the Golden Week holiday, she had gone to a friend's wedding and became very displeased. The reason? The Groom. He's a bad man. A week before the wedding, he had gotten in a car accident in which he was driving a car at speeds over 140 km/h with three girls he had met in a pub. He told his fiancee about the accident and told her to not say a word about it to his parents. On the wedding day where the tradition is for guests to go to the Bride and Groom's home, the Groom was a terrible host: he hadn't cleaned his apartment, he didn't provide food for anyone, he let the guests fend for themselves for chairs to sit in, while he had two computers on so he could play computer games. And he didn't talk to anybody. Of course, I asked the student why her friend was marrying this man, and the student told me that her friend was 26 years and wanted to get married before it was too late.
  • In mid-October after Tony got his new bed, I was sleeping in two beds every evening. Tony wanted me beside him when he fell asleep. When he would fall asleep, I would go back to my & Jenny's bed. But in the middle of the night, Tony would come to our bed, and so I would move to his bed to finish out the night.
  • I feel rage as a green light comes on and I can't cross because of all these right-turning vehicles not stopping for the red light.
  • On the night of Thursday, October 16, history was made as Tony, for the first time, spent the entire night in is bed. (Dad did join Tony in the new bed at 5:30 AM because he was worried about Tony.)
  • On Saturday the 18th, Tony was up at seven AM. I don't know if it was on purpose, but he asked to play with my Ipad Mini. Tony is now obsessed with first person shooter games... One of which I had downloaded the previous night.
  • Coming to the subway station at 9:00 PM one evening, I didn't have to have my bag run through the x-ray machine. The workers had gone home. Presumably, they were getting rest for their daytime shifts when passengers do have to have their bags x-rayed.
  • I took Tony for a wander around the Hui Shan Wanda Plaza on a Saturday. There were numerous shows being put on in the Mall's two courtyards, including car displays from dealerships hoping to boost sales. (Look to the things seen entry for October to learn what we saw) Tony jumped into the driver seat of as many of the cars as he could while I stood by feeling that we shouldn't be doing this because we weren't planning on buying a car ever. And then while we were looking at the cars, some dancing girls and models came out. I wanted to watch these girls wearing showy silvery dresses but Tony grabbed me by the hand and pulled me away. The little bugger.
  • Doing a salon class about tools, I felt compelled to give the student nicknames because the topic seemed a barren one for which to start conversations. The students were mostly urban apartment dwellers who had never picked up a tool in their lives. Eric, I called the Hammer; Justin I called the Axe; and Chris, who loved to eat, I called the Bucket.
  • Late October, I got to take part in another school commercial to be shown on the video screens of Wuxi Metro trains and stations. Standing beside the redoubtable Edith, I said a few lines of introduction about the topic of comic books.
  • I got the news of the Parliament Hill shootings from the Drudge Report. A little bit later that day, I had a student tell me what a peaceful country Canada was. I mentioned the shootings to him and he said that he had heard about them. So it was news in China.
  • The death of the reserve corporal, who was performing honor guard duties when he got murdered, impacts me in a slight way. I was a reserve corporal many years ago in Brandon and Winnipeg, Manitoba. I took part in a few twenty one gun salutes marking the opening of a session of the Manitoba Legislature. I can just imagine the horror for this man's family and friends. He was taking part in the most benign of military activities and got killed.
  • After I learned of the shootings, Edith came in and excitedly told me all about what had happened in Canada. She thought that ISIS was responsible and that she wanted all ISIS killed. Apparently, they were a problem in Western China.
  • Jenny & I celebrated our 8th anniversary on October 27th. I hope that when I die, I am still married to her. I have the Catholic attitude when it comes to marriage. A marriage is forever and  indissolvable . Divorce is a horrible thing though I don't deny that it is sometimes necessary. But most divorces in this day and age are frivolous. On October 27th, 2006, I made the vow of till death do us part, and I will be damned if I ever break that vow.
  • As it got into late October, I found myself spending more time in Tony's bed than my & Jenny's. One evening, Tony didn't go through the preliminaries of falling asleep in his bed and just went to sleep in our bed; leaving me to sleep in his bed all night.
  • Washing my hands in the bathroom one morning, I noticed Tony had left some of his Ultraman figurines beside the sink. Tony has no notion of putting things in one place. I constantly have to chide him to put things back or at a proper place, whether it be the remote in the remote pockets we have placed near the television or dirty clothes in the hamper instead of on the floor of the bathroom or living room.
  • Buying a coffee at the 85 bakery, near our school, lead to some momentary confusion for me. I took the coffee, in the 85 paper cup, upstairs to my office desk where I added the cream and sugar. I then got up from my desk to look at the bulletin board and noticed a paper cup from 85, similar in size to the one I had just bought, sitting on another desk in the office. I was momentarily startled. What was the cup doing there? I thought. Had I been adding cream and sugar to a coffee that wasn't mine? I picked up the cup on the other desk and saw that it was empty and felt relief. I asked my colleague what that cup was doing there and he told me that it had been sitting there since the day before.
  • In order to make another commercial for a school, I was taken to a bookshop with the redoubtable Edith. I hadn't been in a bookshop for a long time and I liked the feel of it again. It brought back some pleasant reminisces. I even liked browsing through all the Chinese volumes. A series of books called Old Photos (老照片) was particularly interesting to flip through. The books featured old black and white photos of ordinary Chinese people from throughout the 20th century.
  • On the Wuxi Metro, I look ed up from my my Ipad Mini to see a video with a foreigner in a yellow shirt shuffling on his feet as he talked into a microphone. The foreigner was me so I quickly look back down at my Ipad Mini.
  • On October 30th, I spend the entire evening sleeping in Tony's bed because Tony was sleeping with Mom and occupying my place on her & my bed. Tony tells Mom that he hates the new bed. So, as of October 31st, Tony has slept only one complete night there.
  • I had students liking my explanation for the phrase getting a taste of one's own medicine. “Imagine!”, I said to the students, “that you kidnap your math teacher and take him to a dark room where you make him do math homework and tests. That would be giving him a taste of his own medicine!” The idea of this was extremely popular with the high school aged students.
  • For the last two weeks of October, I had an annoying cough that was either the result of a cold or Chinese air pollution.
  • At the Nanchang subway station, the trains coming from opposite directions will usually arrive at the same time. One time I got off my train at the same time that Sally, a Chinese co-worker, coming from the opposite direction got off her train. We greeted each other but we didn't talk. I was listening to my Ipod and was very caught up with a particular podcast episode to which I was listening. Later, Sally told me that it seemed to her like I didn't seem keen on talking to her because I scowled when I saw her. I didn't deny what she said, and told her about wanting to listen to a podcast.