Sunday, July 25, 2010

Harry interviews Andis

Good-evening, it's Harry, here, and no, I'm not your 'foreign correspondent', but I'm here, metaphorically-speaking, with some questions I'd like to put to Andis (or, whom some of you know-better, by his acronym, 'AKIC'):-

1. Andis, you have, of course been in China, in Wuxi, for several years now. Could you describe some of the things you felt, when you first arrived there? Just for a moment, rather than talking about your day-to-day work-tasks at that time, did you then have other, more-personal, wider expectations, goals, or perhaps, objectives, that you set for yourself when you first arrived?  (and to what extent have you achieved these?)

I was full of verve and optimism when I arrived  here, but I was amazed at how quickly some things turned out disappointing -- so many disagreeable people -- new varieties of A-holes.  I had left one lunatic asylum (British Columbia, Canada.) and entered another -- I should have known better.  

And yet I should add that the Chinese exceeded my expectations in many ways -- the students generally are wonderful people.

My goals were to find a wife and become a good teacher.  I have achieved one of those goals.  I also wanted to improve as a person.  I don't know if I have but I have become more aware of my inadequacies, which I suppose is going along a ways on the road of self-improvement.

Oh yes, there was this other goal about learning to speak Mandarin.  How did that work out for me?  Ai ya!  I have lots of excuses.

2. We all know that you now have a family, - wife Jenny, and your son, Tony. Do you think there are any significant differences, in being part of a family-system there in China, in contrast to the 'atypical' family-type relationships, in your Canadian home-country (or in other western societies, generally)? And in this regard, to what extent, (if any), have you adapted yourself, in your role as a husband, and father?

To answer the last question first, Jenny would say I have adapted horribly.  She's right.  The only thing I have sacrificed is a pub life.  Jenny has exhibited a level-headedness about family that I have ever seen before.  Many expats have scoffed at the idea of the Chinese respecting family, but frankly it is true. 

I would say that the Chinese respect family and parents more than Westerners.  To hear a Chinese teenager say he is beholden to his parents is a stunner to a westerner used to jaded Western teenage thinking.

3. When you get home in the evenings, can you give me some idea of the evening (or week-end) routines, or activities, that you would usually share (in the family-context)? For instance, what kind of topics would you be discussing, at the meal-table?

I find my attention at home is split up between my books, the computer, and Tony.  I am constantly telling myself to get my priorities right -- that is my routine.  
We don't discuss politics and religion at the table -- other than that anything goes.  Number one topic:  Tony.

4. In your travels in China, is there one specific city, town, or location, that has impressed you (or bewildered you!) more than any others? If so, why?

I am impressed by the riverside park in Jiangyin. It is on the Yangtze River near a large suspension bridge -- a wondrous view of Modern China.  It reminded me of Stanley Park in Vancouver, Canada except that the Jiangyin Park has more modernity and more history.
Beixing, my wife's hometown, baffles me -- but that's where my in-laws live!

5. Do you regularly keep yourself-informed, of news, current affairs, or sports, that are taking place in the global-sense? I'd be interested in your views about the 'big melt-down', the GFC, and, what is your assessment (or forecasts) for the economies in North America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region?

I stay informed through the blogs though I tried not to follow a news site if I can help it.  I believe the dictum that following the news everyday keeps you dumb.  

The world is going to pot but then it always has been going to pot and always will.  Personally, I worry about North Korea.  And I also worry that the area of relative peacefulness we have had will come to a crashing end like the recent period of economic growth did.

America's economic problems, particularly its debt, even not fixed soon will be bad for the world.  

As well, Europeans will have to start having more babies.  The culture of death and leisure of Europe is unsustainable.

China will grow old before it gets rich.  Lord knows, what trouble that will cause.
Sports,for me, is now looking at the standings and imagining the teams as they looked in the seventies and eighties.  I was horrified to see how the aesthetic of my favorite sports had changed when I went to Canada -- so many boys now and so few men.

6. Do you believe that the Obama administration is pursuing a centralist, or 'Keynesian-model' approach to addressing the financial woes that America has experienced, in the past two years? Do you know of any alternative policies, that you believe would be preferable, for sustained economic-recovery?  And, do you think that the more-recent financial 'tremors', in Europe, could (as some analysts fear) present the risk of a global 'double-dip'?

I say Obama is not a centrist.  Economically, he is to the Left of Bush who is looking more and more in retrospect like a centrist because Obama has doubled and trebled down on everything Bush ever did.  

Contrariwise, Paul Krugman, a Keynesian, says Obama hasn't been Keynesian enough.  But the problem with Keynes is that everyone has their own idea what Keynes actually believed.  Keynes had a habit of thinking aloud and so some people have lashed on to these thoughts and construed them anyway they wanted.  Who really knows what Keynes would have thought of Obama.  I am sure, he would have thought that Obama is out of his depth on Economic matters.

I would have taken a libertarian approach to the crisis, let the pieces fall where they may.  What has happened in America, is that all of Obama's meddling has gummed up the works -- there are valid questions being raised about  the rule-of-law, this concept of too-big-to-fail, and how Obamacare will change the relationship between American citizen and government.

We can only hope that the Republicans can take both houses of congress and maybe common sense will prevail.

7. On a scale of one, to ten, where would you rate Barack Obama's administration? (Could you give specific rankings, perhaps, as regards the economy, foreign policy, domestic-issues, etc?)

I have to admit that I have a visceral hatred of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright's "former" parishioner.  As far as I am concerned, he is a left-wing airbag who has advanced far above his station in life. He has done nothing to change this opinion.

On Foreign Policy, I give him a one or zero (you said one to ten).  Obama seems ashamed to be American sometimes, and has a bloated regard for foreigners.  On the economy and domestic matters, zero, but what do you expect from a McGovernite Democrat?

What is particularly distressful about his presidency is how all the racialist talk has not abated.  America electing a black president is not enough to grant America absolution for its racist past.  Neither, it seems does judging a person by the content of his character and not the color of his skin a way to avoid being called racist.  The charges of racism against the Tea Party movement -- nothing can be so blatantly untrue, and it again demonstrates the inability of the Left to honestly confront ideas of people who oppose them. Why isn't Obama, the guy who boasted of being able to transcend partisan squabble, telling everyone how false the charges of racism against the Tea Partiers are and telling Tea Party opponents to defend government involvement in the economy?

Anyway, I will try to give the devil his due on some points.  His wife has kept her mouth shut for the most part since she became first lady.  Obama has shown himself to not be a pacifist.  He did give a good speech at the Nobel Prize ceremony (of course, he didn't deserve the award!).  And....... (I am thinking)........ tweet!  tweet!  tweet!

8. In your years there in Wuxi, have you ever met any people in the expat-community, whom you'd have liked to have seen catapulted (or the trebuchet, maybe!) out of China? (NO names please!). Do you and your family have close-relationships, or friendships, amongst the expats? (Perhaps describe both the positive, and negatives, of the expat social 'scene'?)

You meet people you want to see catapulted everywhere you go on God's green earth.  So the question for me is really is the proportion of the people that I want to see catapulted in the Wuxi Expat community greater than the places I have been before?  I would say yes.  For one thing, I have meet many people from Ontario Canada here than I have meet in the other places I have been.  For another, I have encountered many Germans and Frenchmen.  Anti-Americanism is rampant here in Wuxi.  So I have to say the proportion is greater. 

I have exiled myself from the Expat Community by getting married and moving out to the Wuxi boonies.  The best relationships I have had in Wuxi have been due to my blogging and Youtubing.

A mistake I made in coming here was not getting involved in the faith community.  I hope to correct that oversight this Fall.

The Wuxi Expat Community is a small town slash lunatic asylum full of petty rivalries and gossip.  I have seen the same sort of things that plague human relationships here as do anywhere else in the world.  Some people do like to take a custodial attitude to China like they are the experts and every one else is the newbie.  Expatdom here is often plagued by that insidious group think habit of anit-Americanism (this day and age's antisemitism).  I have never forgotten being told not to wear a USA t-shirt to the pub one time. (Now, I won't wear it till the American electorate show up Obama)

9. This is a hypothetical question, similar to the old 'Desert Island Discs' radio show, in which guests were asked to name perhaps three, or four, recordings, and books, that they'd take with them to that isolated atoll. Could you please list which 3 specific books, CD music-recordings, and DVDs,  that you'd find it impossible to live without?

The Holy Bible, King James Version and a suitable Catholic translation.  Other than that it is hard to say.  I say I would have to bring Evelyn Waugh, Flannery O'Connor, James Joyce, George Orwell, Thomas Aquinas, Florence King, GK Chesterton, Mark Twain, Gibbon, Dickens, Blaise Pascal, Shakespeare, and a lot of poetry along -- but to narrow it down to three books!  I can't do it.  I would have to have the biggest anthology every published.  
Any musical artist, even Sinatra, would grate after awhile, but I have would have to bring a box set comprising recordings from Frank's three record company relationships -- Columbia, Capital, and Reprise.

10. 'What is the one thing, in all the world, that you really hate'? (or, conversely, and more-positively),:- 'What is the one thing, in all the world, that you really love?'  

I love my family and God.  I hate militant atheists, socialists, progressives, and people who can't come to work on time.  (Sorry!  I love my family and hate militant atheism)

11. (Oops, sorry, may I pose just one or two more supplementary questions?)
You and your family have very-recently returned from Canada. Can you talk about any striking, or surprising, changes, that you may have seen, or experienced, there, after your absence of several years?
There was the eeriness of familiarity that really struck me.  Other than that:
The place was more built-up.  
Abottsford had a franchise in the American Hockey League. 

The government was thinking of more and more fascist ways to extract revenue from innocent citizens.
I realized how polite Canadians are.

12. Another 'just imagine'-type question, what things make you really happy? Imagine, if, you had say, about 50 million dollars, what would you really like to be doing, right now - and where? (and why?!).

If I had all that money, I would try to find a way to be two places at once, for I feel that one has to transcend the saying "the grass is greener."  You could do this but being happy where you are but if I had the money I would try to be in two places.  

The two places would, for now, be Wuxi, China and Brandon, Canada -- I want to be with my family and Jenny's family.

I want to thank you Harry for asking me these questions!

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