Sunday, May 21, 2017
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Thursday, April 6, 2017
One morning in early March, I took photos of the traffic chaos around Tony's school and I was hoping that the drivers were wondering what this foreigner was doing.
I took the photos as I returned to my car after having accompanied Tony to the school gate. I especially made a point of taking the photo of a car that had parked behind me. This car had its ass stuck out into traffic big time. The driver was sitting in his car and noticed me taking the photo. He then had a look on his face that was priceless. I then gave him a big smile.
To become March, I binge-viewed the Lemony Snicketts tv series. I loved the style in which the series was shot. It was full of the elegant shots that I associate with films done by Wes Anderson. I as well loved the dialogue which was full of the wordplay of instant misunderstandings and the constant mentioning of synonyms of words that the characters had just used. It was a delight for this so-called English teacher to watch.
What is the problem with the Chinese aircraft carrier?
There is one pilot who likes to park his plane so that none of the other planes can land or take off.
I was hoping that Tony & I would be able to watch the Lego Batman movie in the cinema.
This won't happen because of our schedules and the fact that the movie is only getting limited show times in China (because it is a kiddie film). Tony is going to see the movie by himself. :(
Tony & I ended up going to see Lego Batman together after all. :) It was in Chinese and I could only understand a few sentences of dialogue. But I could definitely tell that it was Mandarin Chinese being spoken. No doubt had I about that.
So now, I have got impetus to again restart studying Chinese. This time, I will try to watch some Chinese movies with subtitles.
Is the world going mad? No. It is mad and always has been.
I ALSO binge-viewed a second Netflix series: 3 percent. The Process against the Cause. I highly recommend the series. It is basically a story about what people will do to try and get privilege and become part of the 3 percent that have it. The story of the series has candidates to join the elite try to get through the Process, a series of tests that determines who is elite and can thus live in a place called the Offshore. There are some plot conflicts though as there are people from the Cause, who are against the Process, who are seeking to infiltrate the Process as candidates. Meanwhile the committee overseeing the process is trying to unseat the manager of the Process...
This year in reading I have read some long novels. So far, I have gotten through Don Quixote and Kristin Lavransdatter.
The wonders and perils of technology. My wife Jenny does a lot of internet shopping. In China, I say she loves to go on Taobao, the big Chinese internet shopping site, or I say she loves to taobao, my attempt at creating a Chinglish word. Because of Taobao, I often have to pay a visit to one of the many lockers around our apartment complex which are set up for delivery drivers to conveniently drop off parcels and FOR internet shoppers to more conveniently pick them up. This errand I go on for Jenny is fraught with peril because something always seems to go wrong. Often, I go to the wrong locker – there are so many around the complex – or I screw up the pick up process by not being able to understand the prompts on the locker's keyboard which are in Chinese. A new wrinkle was added to this peril because people going to pick up their parcels, instead of entering passwords into the keyboard screen can press a key on their mobile phone that opens the locker door directly. The first time, I used this feature, it worked like a charm. The second time, it worked fine as well for the first of the two packages I had to pick up. But for the second package, I had a problem. I pressed the open door button and nothing opened in front of me. Fearing that I had opened a locker door somewhere else, I ran back to Jenny and she then noticed that the parcel had been dropped off at another locker. This delivery company had two lockers at our complex. So I had to run like a bugger to the other locker where the door was opened but the package was not taken!
One female student works at a factory in the purchasing department. She tells me she is so busy that she finds herself avoiding taking on more tasks. She admitted to me that she would tell people she wasn't available if they were looking for her... And thing about the factory is that is robotic. She tells me that her factory has more people in administration than in production, and that she would love in to be in production because they have less work to do.
I have been taking photos and publishing them in my Andis Kaulins in China photo blog (at wordpress) that show the little details I see living in China everyday.
I used to care a lot about the number of views that I got FOR my blogs, but when it became obvious that the numbers would never amount to much, I stopped paying attention. If one of my entries can get a hundred views, I am happy.
Of course, one hundred views must mean I have really one or two real readers.
A podcast I listen to mentioned that they had 40,000 listeners. Being a near regular listener to this podcast, I felt privileged.
The podcast in question is the Federalist podcast which must be made in Washington D.C.
I should really write an essay about something and make a blog entry about it. But what topics do I have anything interesting and original to say?
For the first time, I used the GPS on my Iphone to get me around Wuxi. What had happened was that Jenny had bought a second hand lamp on WeChat and I had to drive out to the New District to get it. The directions, to the apartment of the seller, which were given to me by the maps app worked like a charm. I got there with few problems.
They have these new types of public rental bikes in Wuxi. Unlike the previous type of public bikes which are to be picked up and then left at a bike stall, the new rental bikes are tracked by GPS and can be left anywhere once the rider is done with the bike. The bikes can be rented using an app on one's smartphone.
I am keen to try the bikes but haven't gotten around to it. There are five companies renting out these bikes which means one has almost too many choices. And because each company requires a deposit on an account before you can rent the bike, the prospect of making more than one deposit is not attractive. As well, Jenny tells me that there have already been people gaming the system so they can basically hog one of the bicycles for themselves. These hoggers can do this by physically hiding the bicycle as well as removing the bicycle's scan code. The latter tactic can be employed because the hogger already knows the code that will access the bike.
The kids at the primary school I teach at have been asking me for my signature, aka autograph. Unthinkingly, I accepted the request in one class and the result was that in next class, I was mobbed by twenty kids all wanting me to write my name on a piece of paper or in their notebook. It was an ordeal that made me glad I am not truly famous. And what was very annoying was how disorderly the children were when crowding around me, as well as how greedy they were. Like Chinese adults, they couldn't form an orderly queue and like Chinese adults faced with the prospect of free stuff, they got really greedy. Thinking that there were not so many kids wanting me my signature, I expected the mob to get smaller and the ordeal to end; but I then noticed that some kids were coming to me to again for more and more of my signatures. One kid actually tried to get a third signature off me.
A story in a textbook I was using with one of the primary school classes I do had a sentence in it that went as follows: "Roy had a budgie named Joey." So, I did a substitution exercise with the class in which I got the students to tell me something like "I have a dog names Spot." This exercise was quite popular with the students and many raised their answers to give me answers. Frequently, the students try to give me wise guy answers. One student said the following: "I have a monster named Mother."
A student told me she was tired because she was trying to teach her daughter some math. It was hard because the girl wasn't interested, she added.
I asked her how old her daughter was, thinking of the trouble my wife was having teaching our nine year old. The student told me her child was two, as in two years old. Her child was going to enter kindergarten soon so she wanted to prepare her, she added.
I thought she was nuts. I didn't tell her that but I did tell her child was still very young, would figure it out and for the mother to not to worry about it. I then complained to this mother about how parents these days spent far too much time supervising their children and not giving them a chance to figure out some things on their own. She responded that she was Chinese and didn't have a problem with these way of doing things.
I asked some of the students if they thought their parents were happily married. A few said they didn't think so because of one of their parents having a bad temper. I asked them if it had been suggested to these angry parents that their temper was a problem. They told me that these bad-tempered parents thought they were always right about everything.
Is Christianity true?
My imagined response had been that smarter men than me believed it was and that smarter men than me believed it wasn't. I know think that better men than me believe it and better men than me don't.
Class 5-1 at the Big Bridge Primary School all bowed in apology to me at the beginning of one class. They had not done well the previous class. I really could have done without grovelling. I would rather have had the class just behave better. I am certain that if they had, I would have noticed and said something complimentary.
Tony tells me that he doesn't have to do homework because he is Canadian.
The Chinese are frothing at the mouths over THAAD in South Korea, I have read on the Internet. From the students, I heard mention but have avoided the topic because their reactions are predictable in that they trumpet the government line. What struck me as strange about it was how it suddenly came up after the half-brother of Nork's Fat Boy had been snuffed out in strange circumstances. Talking about that incident, I had students trying to tell me about THAAD.
Looking back over what I have blogged so far, I see I have made but one mention about local drivers. Now I will make my second.
We uber it to get to the primary school. That is, instead of taking taxis, we use an uber-like app to get private cars to take us to and from the primary school.
Unlike the taxi drivers who are all overly aggressive, the local uber drivers have varying styles of driving. Some are aggressive and some are inexperienced and thus drive passively.
One day in March, we had a driver who was very aggressive. I tried to ignore his driving by concentrating on a e-book on my Ipad, but one instance, the driver swerved and caused me to look up and ahead. I saw that he was heading, at too high a speed, towards the end of a line of cars stopped at a light. He had to brake the car hard and just as he got close to the stopped cars, he thought to use his horn. I thought then that he was trying to get the cars to get out of his way and that he was being very stupid. I shook my head and talked about it to my colleague as we left the car at the entrance to the primary school. I then thought that maybe he was trying to warn them and that thus there was some logic to his using the horn. But after more pondering, I don't think it would have saved him from hitting the car if he hadn't been able to stop in time.
Overbearing parents have been a problem since time immemorial. But I am certain that the one-child policies whether enforced by authoritarian governments or cultural norms have exacerbated the problem.
We have at our school this one student, name of Hannah, who has such a parent. Hannah's English is not so good. In fact, we are getting her to repeat the entire beginner level of classes because she isn't ready to go to the next level. She can't make a sentence to help herself and it is hard to get her to say anything that she hasn't memorized beforehand. She also seems to be very inhibited. Many Chinese students are, but she is an extreme example. Our suggestion to have her repeat the entire level was met with resistance from Hannah and/or her parents. It was then that I learned from Hannah's Chinese tutors about her mother.
Her mother is not so much a tiger mother, as a monster mother. She is constantly supervising every moment of Hannah's existence. She personally accompanies Hannah to our school and is waiting for her when she is finished her class. And so being forced to lay eyes on the mother, I am struck by how permanent the scowl is on her face. The mother's countenance suggests that Hannah is subjected to non-stop, seven days a week and every waking hour of the day bullying. Poor girl.
One Friday evening, I had Hannah in a conversation class, the topic was "In the kitchen." Hannah told me that every time she wanted to do something in the kitchen, her mother would tell her to read a school book.
So her mother doesn't want her to learn a practical skill. Does her mother think that cooking is too lowly with her precious one and only daughter?
Anyway, other complaint about Chinese students is that they don't have any life experiences.
Meicun TOEFL students.
These students from Meicun high school are attempting to pass a TOEFL test so they can go to university in America. They are a pretty useless bunch actually and teaching them is a waste of time because they aren't interested in participating in classes. I have hated teaching them as did every other foreign teacher.
Still, I have some sympathy for them. It would seem that it's their parents that have these lofty academic goals for them and so they are forced to come to our school on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays so they can try to achieve this quixotic goal. Despite the kids not being academically inclined, they are stuck in a system where not going to university means they can't make their way in Chinese society.
This sympathy I have for them though is in the abstract. Practically, I despise the sight of them and would be happy if I never saw their faces ever again. Like every other lazy students, they are on their mobile phones all the time. Now, I wouldn't care about this so much except they have to occupy classes next to classrooms where I and other foreign teachers are trying to conduct classes.
One Saturday in March, I had the misfortune of having to teach a class of eight students while this group of Meicun students occupied a class next to mine. [Our classes have glass walls] I would have moved but there was no other classroom I could use. And the Meicuners were loud. I had to tell to interrupt my class and tell them to keep quiet. They didn't. So I had to go again and I called them a bunch of shitheads. At least, it got them to speak some English.
The incident hasn't changed anything other than those kids instead of having ignored me, now are a little more aware of me and are staring at me.
Apparently, some of their idiot parents are friends without someone in the Chinese management of our school.
Driver goes into right hand bicycle lane so he get around a lineup in the car lanes and make a left turn.
Another driver is on my right at an intersection. He wants to go straight while I want to make a right right. The lane he is in is really a cycling lane.
This though occurred to me as I was in traffic: do the locals use their horns so much because it is a form of self expression that isn't censored?
Of course, it could be that frequent use of horn is part of Asian culture.
A 112 rmb taxi ride. It was the most expensive taxi ride I can remember taking. I went from Johnson Controls which is located near the Wuxi Airport in Shuofeng to Casa K in the Hui Shan District near Yanqiao. The distance was 34 km. And the students keep telling me that Wuxi is a small city.
I ended March with a renewed effort to improve my Chinese. Instead of just learning characters and reading, I am trying to improve my listening by concentrating on certain recordings and listening to them over and over again till I know every sound by heart and can understand each word as easily and casually as listening to English.
Wind and underwear.
I left the laundry hanging on rails outside the window of our third floor apartment. It seemed a safe bet to leave them out there while all of the K family went to the nearby shopping mall.
But about two hours later, Tony & I started to walk back home from the Mall and saw that it was now very windy. As we got close to the apartment complex, we saw that sheets and what-not, that had been hung by other residents, had blown off and were resting in bushes.
Tony seeing this became very panicky. He wanted us to run home and take in the laundry we had hung out.
When we got home, I saw that one pair of Tony's pajamas/underwear had blown off the rails and was resting on the roof of the first floor neighbor's veranda. Seeing this as well, Tony started crying. I assured him that I would be able to retrieve them, but this didn't stop him from crying and saying that he really liked that underwear.
Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Friday, February 3, 2017
- It lacks soul because like China, it has been ravaged by Communism and unbridled greed-driven materialistic Capitalism. [Communism is actually a very materialistic philosophy.]
- I feel like a loser because I am unable to get out of China for the holiday like many other Expats do.
- Chinese family dinners bore the hell out of everyone involved. Most of those attending, especially the younger ones are looking at their smart phones to while away the time.
- You can't do anything during Chinese New Year where you cannot escape the crowds if you are with a party of Chinese people. A foreigner, left to his own devices, can walk in places where there are no Chinese or Chinese won't go, and enjoy peace and quiet.
- Chinese are perfectly content to sit around and do nothing during the Spring Festival.