Iggy Pop was an intellectual? Who da thunk it? I called him Iggy Poop. And I am not talking about the punk rocker Iggy Pop. I am talking about Michael Ignatieff, the Harvard Professor who became leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. The guy seemed like a total putz. And yet the article I link to bemoans the fact that this "intellectual, would-be philosopher king" wasn't elected prime minister by Canadians.
I don't know if "kidnapping" is the right word to use to describe this phenomenon I have been told happens in Wuxi. Thieves will steal license plates off cars, and then demand money (ransom) from the car's owner to return the plates.
My first question, of course, was how could the thieves get away with this? Couldn't the car owners contact the police so they could track down the thieves? It turns out that the thieves don't demand that much money for the license plates -- just 100 or 200 rmb. These "ransom" amounts don't make it worthwhile for the police to get involved, and are less expensive, in time and money for the car owner, than going through the process of getting another license plate.
I then asked how the payment of ransom was done. The thief tells the car owner to put money in his bank account.
I heard some talk about China on the Mark Levin show. It came from a caller, to Levin's call-in-show, who had spent four years in China getting a degree and learning Mandarin. She reported she was sad to see what America was like on her return -- Obama's fault she said. She also reported that she didn't at all like what the Chinese were doing.
I report this China talk just because it was interesting that someone who had been in China was also a Marc Levin listener. I have to admit I listen to all his podcasts. He is a guilty pleasure for me, but only a little. That is on the guilty part of the pleasure. He may well be rude to Liberal callers, but they deserve it. He may call his opponents names but so what? The Left engages in the tactics a hell of a lot more than Conservatives ever do.
Are there any other Levin Podcast listeners in China?
Taking Tony for a bike ride, and running into some toughs. Really, it was the story of me losing my temper. And the toughs were rather meek.
Saturday night, I accompanied Tony as he rode his bike with training wheels around the neighborhood of Casa K.
A foreigner walking through the neighborhood of Casa K will raise eyebrows. In fact, on my Saturday walk I first saw this old man raise his eyebrows at us as we passed. I decided to look straight ahead, pretend to ignore him, and take Tony on his way.
I have at times been able to hear passengers in passing cars and vans say "laio wai" or "Wai guo ren" in my neighbourhood. Most of the time, it is like water off a duck's back for me. But sometimes I am just not in the mood or I feel like I am being gawked at like I am some sort of monkey.
Tony and I, will, on our excursions, sometimes argue about which way to go. Saturday night, at a point where I had determined I walked enough, I wanted to make a left turn so we could go back home. Tony however wanted to continue straight on. He cried when I insisted that we go left. As he stood in place, I walked away in the direction I wanted to go, and he then started to cry louder and yell "Momma!" I was compelled to turn around. I walked back to him, gave him a hug, and then had to pull him in my direction of choice.
He calmed down, but then insisted that I carry him on my shoulders. Normally, I have no problem with this. But carrying him on shoulders and also pulling his bike is too much.
So after ten minutes of carrying him on his shoulders and pulling his bike, I took him down off my shoulders and told him to ride his bike. He said "No! One Two Three!" (One Two Three is what he says when he wants to be put on my shoulders.) I told him that the bike would be garbage, and he cried again. I had to console him again.
It was at this point that I looked up to see that these two young men on an electric bicycle had stopped to watch Tony and I struggle. Flush with annoyance already at Tony, I told them to "fuck off!" and gave them the finger. I was not sure then if they understood. For they then rode off, and I heard them say "we love you!" I screamed "faggots!" at them, and thought maybe they did understand.
I was able to get Tony to ride his bike for a hundred meters or so, before I put him on my shoulders. As he rode, I was thinking about my reaction to the two young men, and wondered if they would come back. I saw one of them pointed a phone camera at me and may have taken a photo of me and my middle finger. I also thought about how Tony and I will be seen all over Wuxi next month on the bus videos, and I imagined the reaction of the few locals in Wuxi who may remember having been sworn at or offered a finger by me. My reaction, I was loathe to admit, wasn't very Christian. The swearing may also been a symptom of weariness of living in China.
Just after I put Tony on my shoulders, I saw the two young men on bike accompanied by another bike with another two young men drive past. Seeing Tony and me, they turned around to get closer to us. Seeing them, I decided that I was going to watch them and observe them in a disinterested manner as possible. Passing close to us, they uttered a barbaric "hello!" and one of the riders raised his hand at me. I am not sure what the gesture meant. I couldn't decide if it was meant to be rude or a how-ya-doing. I maintained my stoic posture as they rode away.
Tony and I then arrived at home. The riders didn't follow us. They were on my mind through the rest of the evening and during the next morning as I made my way to work. I imagined a photo of my giving a middle being circulated on the Internet -- either that or a video of me swearing. Should I take Tony down that route again? I wondered. Was it time for me to get out of China? I wondered as well.
Sunday, the next day, someone gave me their seat on the bus, and I felt sheepish -- the Chinese are not so bad after all, I thought, and in some ways they were much, much better than me. I later yielded my seat to a woman and a child, and the woman seemed tickled pink to have a foreigner give her a seat.
Perils of being so far from home. My father's health is declining, and my mother is at her wit's end trying to take care of him. I pray for my father and feel ashamed of my powerlessness -- it is the accumulation of a life of ill-made decisions.
A few more student names to pass on: Easy, Elfie, and Silence.
Sunday evening, these men yielded a seat on the bus to me, just because I was a foreigner. Ai ya!! I really feel more of a heel for yelling at those young men on the electric bike!
I then listened to the Radio Derb podcast.
I am not always listening to conservative podcasts. The twenty percent of the time I am not listening to a conservative podcast, I try to listen to what the left has to say. For instance, I listen to the Slate political gabfest podcast, but it is just sad stuff. For whatever reason, they choose to talk about Steve Jobs resignation from Apple. Their talk was pointless, boring, and uninformative.
So far, Tony and I have wrestled at home. We then went to the Taiwanese restaurant -- the latest regular stop -- for lunch. We then took the bus downtown. Downtown, we got on the number 81 bus -- a double-decker which Tony likes to ride. The second level front row seats were occupied so Tony cried -- an old woman gave up her seat for Tony who didn't thank her. Tony has an entitled sensibility that should be nipped in the bud.
Now, we are at the playground. Tony has forcibly taken a mini-car from a little girl. He has also been wrestling with another little boy -- he has been holding his own. I will put the video of the scrap on the Internet.
Jenny wants to buy Tony a bowling set for his birthday; I want to buy him more track for his train set.
I have read a chapter of Ulysses and of 1984 as I sit here. On this iPad, I have an awesome selection of books. Already, I can say "too many e-books, not enough time."
Rained again yesterday. I got my shoes soaked. Water was a foot deep in places.
What a wet summer it has been. And they tell me it hasn't been wetter than normal. (Alas, some people do agree with me!)
China is more fake than it has been five years ago. How can one determine that for sure?
In a Wuxi pub, two westerners sit. They talk, all the Chinese patrons are killing fruit on their electronic gadgets.
Wuxi people only care about money and nothing else. And so they are dull as dishwater. Some westerners say this. I just make note of it.
Sometimes the jostling of getting on the bus grates at me -- I want to elbow someone in the head.
So many free books I can download to the Ipad -- e.g. Edward Gibbon's book about the Roman Empire, Ulysses by James Joyce, 1984 by Orwell. And I don't have the time to read books that I would buy if I could.
Famous overseas Chinese brands? I can't think of many.
Driver in a orange sports car is weaving and veering through traffic like there's no tomorrow -- I mean this guy is driving in a way that you wish he'd crash. My son Tony saw this driver -- we were on a bus -- and yelled "orange car!" over and over again.
I know the bus I am on has to make a right turn. If I was driving, I would have been trying to get the bus into the right lane to make the turn. But the driver stayed one lane to the left. He pulled up beside a bus that was already in the right lane. When it was time to make the turn, he pulled the bus into traffic, aggressively cutting off traffic already going through the intersection including the bus on his right.
Thanks to Connie, a former student and Tony fan, who bought the toy that I wanted Tony to get. Tony has been playing with the extra train track as I thought he would. He loves it and is endlessly fascinated by his train.
The K family took the taxi home on Tuesday night. The driver and I had a good laugh at a BMW driver who ran his car into a concrete barrier. Many drivers drive fast and don't see the barriers, which are set up to block construction areas and divide traffic, till it is too late.
Tang Poetry. I got a hankering for it at times. As that does great Sinologist and Conservative John Derbyshire. He reads Drinking under the Moon by Li Bai here.
Quote: Being too careful is being too careless in a different direction. --- Rabbi Shraga Silverstein.
Quote: "There are some issues that are too simple for intelligent people to understand. Most moral issues are like that. The problem isn't distinguishing between right and wrong. That is not always as plain as day, but usually it is. The problem is finding a way to justify doing the wrong thing. And once you think you have found it, the people still arguing for doing the right thing may be dismissed as "simplistic." David Warren -- my favorite columnist.
I changed my breakfast routine at McDonalds. For six years, I have been having the Egg and Sausage sandwich for breakfast. Last week, for the first time ever, I had the Egg and Ham Sandwich. I like it so much that I think I will eat it for the next six years.
Who says conservative-minded chaps like myself aren't capable of radical and revolutionary paradigm shifts?
I have taken the iPad to school! Isn't that something?
I tell the students that this is how things work at my home: my wife is the boss; I give her all my money. One of the students then told me that his parents were both the boss in his family and that he was the master of himself.
I am at the playground again. It is becoming a summer habit. Monday, I take Tony to the playground -- he plays, I occupy myself with the IPad.
But Tony is being whiny today. His crying is interrupting my reading and blogging. I spank him. I then read a passage from Orwell's 1984 -- Winston Smith realized that it was always your nervous system that gave you away.
Your nervous system was your enemy, I should have said. I re-read the passage. I mention this because I real did explode at Tony just then. Quickly feeling remorse, I hugged him.
I use the iPad to take videos of Tony. He will surely watch them later at home in bed.
A cameraman and some staff from school came to Casa K. We shot a commercial for the school which will be shown on bus video screens throughout the Wuxi area. I spoke a little Chinese but my fluency was hopeless. Every sentence uttered required that I make a lot of effort. Still, it was nice to be able to read some of the script's Chinese characters even though there seems little chance I will achieve fluency.
Ida is the Idamizer. If you're not on her list, you don't exist.
Bravo to the Canadian Conservative Government! They are bringing back the Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal Canadian Army, and Royal Canadian Navy. These arms of the Canadian Military were lost when in the 1969, the government of Pierre Trudeau, decided to amalgamate the Air Force, Navy, and Army into the Canadian Armed Forces. It was a terrible decision. An insult to the legacy of the country. It was like Pol Pot trying to declare Year Zero.
I can't remember ever feeling so giddy after hearing a government announcement.
As a Latvian, I don't see why Canadians would want to get rid of royal designations. It was Latvia's bad luck to never have been a colony of the British Empire, and subjects of her majesty the Queen.
Summer is finishing up at the school. I may be able to return to regular blogging.
Tony has been passionate in his desire to not get up early. But his mother reports that compared to his classmates, Tony is better-behaved when he finally does get to class. His classmates are lying on the floor crying for their mommies.
I feel like my weekend has started. However, tomorrow morning I have to do a commercial thing for the school.
Space. I went into a convenience store to buy a drink. I went to the counter to make my purchase. The counter was probably a meter long. No one was at the counter as I made my purchase, and no one was behind me through most of my purchase's duration. So I stood within .1 meter of the cash register -- .9 of a meter to spare for anyone who would queue behind me or stand to my left. Just as I paid for my drink and got my change, this guy came on my right and put his drink on the .1 meter of counter. It struck me as really weird and a sign how Chinese perception of space and queuing is so different from Western.
Phew! I lucked out (or should I say I lucked in?). On Friday night, like Thursday night, there was a heavy thunder storm. As I was on the bus, I saw the rain come down in buckets or sheets -- it looked like I was going to walk and become soddenly for the second consecutive night as I made my way from the bus stop to Casa K. I shrugged and began to do some reading. After five minutes, I looked up to see the rain had stopped, not diminished but stopped absolutely. I couldn't believe it my luck.
Who do you want to stay home with? One young male student said Kobe. Why? I asked. Because he was more handsome and intelligent than Lebron James, the student said.
Only stupid people say "no why!" or "me too!" That is what I tell any students now who say this. It smacks of rudeness, laziness, and lack of imagination. So many students do this. I have to clamp down on this.
Thunder storm for the fourth straight day. So much for talk of the rainy season having ended two weeks ago.
I asked the students why the riots in England were happening? Those who had anything to say, parroted the left-wing line -- the government isn't looking after or is ignoring some poor people.
(*I had planned to submit this article to a local Expat magazine that is now defunct. So with no place to take to it, I will publish it here.*)
Circumstance governs destiny.
Cause and effect are an infinite cycle.
Zhang Jiuling, Tang Dynast Poet
Does Living in Wuxi change an Expat in ways that say living in Shanghai, Shanxi, or Shaanxi wouldn't? Writing in a Wuxi Expat blog, I would like to think so. And I have lived in Wuxi for seven years so I think I am entitled to have a say of sorts, though I fully acknowledge that I haven't spent all that much time in Shanghai, Shanxi, or Shaanxi to know what those places can do to an Expat. Still, six years in a place and it will grow on you; and you even start to think to you have a feel for its people and have become like them in some way. But then again, six years being a long time in a person's life, it is natural that one does change and one has the hope or presumption that one has picked up some wisdom in that stretch of time. And when one does contemplate life's changes and tries to ascertain where and how the changes came about, one has to separate the changes that can be attributed to time and the changes that can be attributed to the place or circumstances one is in (as well as to one's own personal idiosyncrasies). Also, once one has identified the changes that can be attributable to a place, one must separate them into physical and metaphysical changes.
So, this essay will be a search for changes, that can occur to a person, brought about by unique Wuxi factors. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, the only test-animal this essay's author can use is this essay's author — I have managed to successfully (or unsuccessfully) separate myself from other Wuxi Expats so I can say that I haven't been" tainted" by their changes and mindsets, and I don't have time to do surveys which seem so unpoetic anyway... I will try to list as all the possible sources of change and my personal changes that can be attributed to the time during which I have been in Wuxi. While doing so, I will then determine if these changes could only have occurred in Wuxi. However, Wuxi is a small city in a Chinese sea of humanity, however, so try as I might it will be hard to separate Wuxi-only effects from the more massive Chinese effects.
Immediate Changes on arriving in Wuxi
Did my first few days in Wuxi culture-shock me hard like a sucker punch from an irate co-worker? I would have to say it didn't. I lived in British Columbia (or British California as one witty Canadian has referred to it) after living in Manitoba which was the equivalent of moving from North Dakota to Seattle, or Siberia to Paris. But that is not to say that I was a jaded mover, a gypsy , or an anthropologist, if you will, before I got here.
The first thing that struck me as a Canadian coming to Wuxi in 2004 was the sheer numbers of people it had. Never ending crowds of people, even in the boonies. The masses of people immediately changed my concept of space. Go within ten feet of a Canadian and he will look at you sternly. In Wuxi, I had to learn to not be offended by close proximity. However, this concept of space is something I could have picked up anywhere in China — not just Wuxi. Wuxi, I later learned, was not considered to be all big or crowded by the locals but instead it was quiet and sedate
Another thing that moving to Wuxi immediately showed me was that people were capable of anything - things I couldn't have imagined became possible in Wuxi. My perception of the strangeness of people moved up a level. For instance, I never thought I would see motorcycles and pedestrians and cyclists blatantly ignore traffic rules as they do here. There is a sort of pragmatism in their attitude to traffic rules that I find admirable and repellant at the same time; and of course following the maxim about being in Rome, I have adopted their habits — even the ones I thought repellent, when it suited me. Whether this has expanded my worldview or outlook is something I wonder about. People, everywhere, cheat and ignore rules when possible.. Everywhere in the world people are trying to put food on the table and get ahead.
I also quickly discovered that it may well be me that is strange and comes from a strange place. My first day in Wuxi, I was taken to Nanchang Market, and I thought I was being stared at hard. I now wonder why is it, for instance, that we don't cook lettuce in hot water, and why it is that I was so preoccupied with sex.
I remember that I was quickly able to establish that you can't escape oneself, as Chesterton said in an essay in which he said it was more of a journey to talk to your neighbor than it was to go to the other side of the world. Traveling to find oneself is the stupidest cliché ever invented. Truth is, one is trying to find a new self or escape from one's weaknesses which is impossible. I have seen that however my relations were in Canada, they haven't changed one iota here in Wuxi. People have their faults and there isn't a higher grade of person to be found here. I have the same faults that have made or broken relationships whether they be in Wuxi or Canada. Although in Wuxi, I was quickly made to hear of them from many a plain-speaking Brit, Aussie, or American — Wuxi did make me temporarily more out-going. Conversely, I meet many a person, whether Chinese or Expatriate, with a fault so glaringly obvious as to make one shake one's head.
So, moving to Wuxi has paralleled the other moves I have made in my life. I have always thought of my move to Wuxi as just another move in my life so similar to the many moves I made from the frozen plains of Central Canada to the Mountains and Forests of British Columbia. The effects of all these moves on me being subject to the laws of diminishing returns, I will have to say that Wuxi had no immediate change on me. I was just another boring fellow who had come to British Columbia to China.
Radical Changes brought about by marriage
But over the six years I have been in Wuxi, the changes in my life have been radical. When I first came to Wuxi, I was single and could have competed with Dick Clark for the title of World's oldest teenager. I came to Wuxi to change my career, to have worldly experiences, to be able to say I had been somewhere, and because Chinese women were beautiful. I fashioned myself a well-read person, erudite, and all-around wonderful and of the conservative persuasion.
Now, I am married, turned middle-aged, and I have a child. Anyone, even those who are just a little serious about marriage and parenthood, cannot helped but be changed by the experience. Certainly, my Jiangsu wife has me disbelieving all I had previously thought of myself.
But marriage and wives have always changed men everywhere. What I have noticed is an entirely modernist attitude to marriage among the many Expats who come here. Shacking up is a good way to test ride potential wives, I have heard many a foreigner say. Wuxi people don't take this attitude as far as I can determine. As soon as I meet, my wife, I was married. I assume Chinese women are like this all over China. Chalk up a change to China, but not necessarily Wuxi.
Wuxi changes a bachelor?
I believe the changes brought on by marriage are so radical that they can drown out any other possible changes, making it hard to find changes that can be attributed to other factors, like being in Wuxi. As soon as I got married, I could say that I almost ceased to be a conventional Wuxi Expat -- I became a conventional husband trying to keep his wife and child happy — a universal circumstance for a man to find himself in, even if he is from the jaded secular West.
So, I will have to study my bachelor days recollections very closely, since the Canada Andis and the Wuxi Bachelor Andis are the same except for changes brought about by time and living in Wuxi. In my Wuxi Expat bachelor days, I did meet a lot of strange people , seemingly thrown out of the asylums in their countries and offered as sacrifices to the Chinese Dragon. But having lived in British Columbia, Canada, I had seen enough odd types already and seeing the international differences was not something I couldn't have extrapolated from having lived in other parts of Canada beforehand.
Still, Wuxi can get to an expatriate bachelor's head. Many bachelors acquire a status with women that could never have achieved in their home country. But exoticedness can work on women all over the world, I have learned. Oswald, the waif who shot JFK, had to go to Russia to find a wife.
Changes brought about by other Wuxi Expats
I can't plead complete exile from the rest of Wuxi Expatdom. Try as I might, I haven't not meet other Expats.
I have meet Canadians, Americans, Brazilians, Germans, Ontarians, Brits, French, Australians, Danes, Italians, Japanese, Koreans, and Kiwis in Wuxi. I can't say that any of these people did anything to change my worldview that those who I did meet in Universities or Hostels in Canada have They have maybe changed my view of myself. As I mentioned previously, I have been made aware of my shortcomings from the more frank of the expatriates I have meet. And seeing their shortcomings, I realize how the status one can get here is nothing, nothing at all.
In fact, isolating other Expats from my search for Wuxi uniqueness is a must. I really have to think of the Wuxi people I have met.
Not being the only Expat to have live in Wuxi for six years, I will have to say that Wuxi Expats have changed me but then so have the fly-by-nighters that it has been my misfortune to meet.
Changes brought about by Wuxiren?
Plenty of Wuxiren I have meet in my time in Wuxi. What can I say about them? They can be kind to the point of embarrassing me. Frequently, they yield their seats to me on the bus — that is older Wuxiren. One time, a Wuxi policeman shook my hand after I was pulled over for a traffic violation — showing to me that situations don't have to have a gravity to them unless we want them to. Again, I have been told that this is not unique to Wuxi.
The more time one spends in Wuxi, the more one should expect take on Wuxiren habits.
However, I don't add "a's" or "ehs" to everything I say more than I have already done. Though I have been told that I have become louder in the years — I don't know if this can be attributed to getting old or hanging out near Wuxi Ren.
I have been told that Wuxiren's matter of speaking is such that people speaking Suzhou dialect, sound like lyric poets when cursing compared to Wuxiren muttering sweet-nothings in their lover's ears. Six years of Wuxi can give one a tolerance for squawking.
Wuxiren are also generally richer than the average Chinese person. The economic development one has seen in Wuxi does make one more optimistic about the World economy than if one lived in Jiangxi province.
The economic development has also attracted Chinese from other parts of China to Wuxi. Having frequent contact with them, my pure Wuxiren experience is diluted. So try as I might, the Chinese have changed me more than say Wuxiren.
Wuxi makes one provincial?
Shanghai and Beijing are most certainly world-class cities. Suzhou, says every Expat, is a great city too. And so Wuxi seems to pale in comparison. But is this a fair assessment? I would think not. Six years has made me older and wiser and I can't help but look at the snatches of what as I see as being the current culture, and be amused. Lady Gaga!?! Come on! If anything, one can say Wuxi shelters one from the current idiocies (fashions).
If there is one thing, I have become a snob about, it is the fact that I have lived in Wuxi.
Changes in Personal Habits
I take two showers a day instead of one. I take a shower in the evening because my wife insists, and I take a morning shower because I insist. Other than that, I don't spit, roll my my trousers or shirts in hot weather, squat, or make noises when I chew. I do sometime urinate in public — damn lack of public urinals.
Part of these changes can be attributed to Wuxi's climate which features, to me anyway, a very humid Summer.
Changes brought about by Wuxi Women?
The difference between Wuxi men and Wuxi women is like night and day. Wuxi women are full of spunk, common sense, and femininity. They have a left a strong impression on me. The men, on the other hand, are nice guys, as long as they aren't driving or boarding a bus at the same time you do
Married to a Wuxi girl, I will admit that I am prejudiced somewhat when I tell you I think Wuxi women are great. But then I had to marry one, I decided, when I first saw them. If I had never married a Wuxi girl, I would have always admired them for their slimness and their being traditional.
I have been very fortunate to go to work and admire the bearing and character of all the wonderful women who work there. They have restored this man's respect for the female sex, damaged so much by Feminism in the West.
When I took my Wuxi wife to Canada, she treated my parents in a manner that was exemplary and put me to shame. She showed me how to treat family. I had gone to her home with the Western impatience of being with the unhip. The sight of her dancing with my father to his native Latvian music was something I would never forget because it taught me something. My father was impressed by her common sense. But this was not a display of what I believe to be a Wuxi trait — though it was a fine trait — but of a Chinese trait.
Changes for a Conservative?
Being a stick-in-the-mud conservative, I have to keep very select company in Wuxi which means I keep to myself often and that I have had me to stear clear of many a person. It raises the question of whether Wuxi has changed me a metaphysical or philosophically way. I would immediately answer that it hasn't. More than ever, I believe in my conservative ethos because of what I have seen in China. I have seen that the family is important and that markets are how to improve the lot in life of everybody. But that is not something Wuxi has been hailed as proving. Wuxi re-enforced personal beliefs I already had without enhancement.
For example, going to the Ling Shan Big Buddha, one sees religion being practiced which is cool in my books. But the imagery and rituals have no deep meaning for me unlike the Christian forms I was exposed to growing up.
The Chinese that changed my view of the world are long dead. I haven't meet any Tang Dynasty poets or Confucians in my time in Wuxi.
I haven't meet an Wuxi Expat yet that doesn't miss something from his home country and culture. In fact, Expats like to trade tales of where they have found rare reminders of home in Wuxi. Many of us do come to Wuxi to present our cultures to Wuxiren.
Has Living in Wuxi made me forget about what's happening back in the home country? In my case, I would say it has somewhat. It was five years before I was able to make a return trip to Canada, and to look at a place I spent forty years at after a long absence, was eerie. But it didn't take me long before I felt at home, and yet there was so much I had to catch up on.
In Wuxi, I haven't been able to access sports. I was a NFL. MLB, and NHL fan when I came to Wuxi — sports the locals don't care for. I could have followed them if I had chosen to buy an Satellite dish but I didn't; and if I had a satellite dish now, I wouldn't be able to watch it anyway as my wife and son's preferences would rule. I have tried to follow European soccer but I can't throw away old North American attitude to the sport — the game can be dull as dish water if you have no emotional attachment or disattachments to the teams playing. I follow the standings on the Internet for my leagues but the teams and games have become abstractions to me — I don't know who the star players are anymore. Having recently seen video highlights on the Internet, I am surprised how the look of today's players turn me off. I prefer to watch my DVD of ice hockey played in 1972 — they looked like men in those days.
I find I follow U.S. politics with a passion at the expense of local Canadian politics. While the U.S. will always make a splash, Canadian politics, I have found, barely ripple outside its borders. I didn't know what the opposition leader, a significant figure in Canadian politics, looked like till I saw him on TV in Canada. I didn't know who were the premiers of the provinces I used to live in.
And it is my view of my home and native land Canada that being in Wuxi has changed in me. I an always asking my students what they know about Canada and I find it isn't much, even among Wuxi Ren who are going to Canada — I get satisfaction from this because I love to see how all the Canadian government attempts to make a splash haven't been very effective at all, and that the things Canadian that are well-known often are because they merit it. Canada, I see, is a pleasant but unexciting place to live. It can never stir one's imagination as the USA and China can.
I have also become aware of the traits of many a European country that I of course knew of but rarely had contact with.
So most of what I have said about my experience in Wuxi certainly isn't unique to Wuxi. I am sure that I would have discovered the same things about myself and travel whether I had lived in Suzhou or Xian or Kunming for six years. So I have to ask is there anything unique about Wuxi that has changed me so that this article isn't boiler plate enough to be stuck in a general China expat narrative? Will I take a bit of Wuxi with me, that is recognizable to other Wuxiren and Wuxi Expats if by chance I run into them somewhere else in the world; and they can say "Hey, have you been in Wuxi?" (perhaps they can smell the Wuxi sweet)
Other than my Jiangsu wife, I don't think so. As far as I can tell China, more than Wuxi; the travel experience more than China that has put a stamp on psyche. It may well be that there isn't in Wuxi anything that makes it stand out from other Chinese places — unless you count the Tom, Dick, and Harrys that are here. People have said that some Wuxiren are barbaric. But people are all barbaric and in their own way. People have said that the food in Wuxi is sweeter than all other places in China. Taste is taste, but that doesn't affect one's soul in a meaningful way? (Did it matter what Jesus and Mohamed or the Buddha ate? Did it affect their souls?)
Still, Wuxi occupies an unique time and place in space, and since one can't be at more than one place at one time, Wuxi can't help but change people. Choose to live in Wuxi and you have chosen to have Wuxi change you. A Wuxi Canadian is different from a Suzhou or Shanghai Canadian of this there can be no doubt. But how they are different is a product of the fact that every person you meet anywhere has a unique destiny brought about by unique circumstances.
The rain started as I left my company class. As I took a taxi to my bus stop, it intensified. But it wasn't then as bad as a rain that I had been stuck in two weeks earlier. I thought the rain would subside by the time I made it home. But as I got on the bus, the rain became even more intense. I could see the rain bouncing off the pavement. I could see big puddles collecting. I could see a strong wind causing the heavy rain to fall sideways. I realized, much to my consternation, that my ten minute walk from the bus stop to the apartment wasn't going to be any fun. I was going to get soaked.
At least when I did the sodden walk, I wasn't wearing my nice shoes. The walk home was also interesting because of the intense (there I go using that word again!) lightning. It was darn close and loud. I counted to two after the flash and heard quite the cracking thunder. I could see a glow of the lightning that I normally wouldn't experience because I didn't have the misfortune of being outside.
A girl comes into class wearing fashion glasses -- that is, glasses with no lenses. I asked her if she thought monocles could come into fashion. I suggested that maybe it was a good fashion for boys, but she thought this was a strange idea.
I am going to be making a commercial for the school that will appear on bus video screens all over the city. Tony will make a brief appearance. I have to memorize a Chinese script. Oh boy!
I accompanied Tony as he went for another tricycle ride on Wednesday night. We walked towards an software outsourcing park. We saw tall buildings there that were either lit in a spectacular way or were very dark. It was all so eerie to walk through so much man-made stuff while still feeling like one was in the countryside.
At the indoor playground on Zhongshan Road, I typed this, on the IPad, while Tony ran around.
August 8, 2011
Missed Chinese lover's day which is the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. And Jenny didn't even mention it. And I didn't put two and two together when I saw roses being exchanged like candy at a playground.
Waiting at a bus stop with Tony, I saw an old man wearing nothing but shorts, a wide Asian peasant hat, and sandals. His skin was deeply tanned in the manner of someone who was always outdoors for work. His bike, with nine or ten bags tied to it, leaned against a power pole, as he ate yogurt from a plastic bowl-shaped container. I didn't much notice him till he tossed away the spoon and container he had been using. He was littering in a very untoward and uncivil way. It stunned me to see him do so, but to think of it now, I know he had his reasons which I couldn't have refuted. To be in his shoes, it would have been a stretch to have listened to me.
I saw a woman wearing a t-shirt bearing the word "Mango" -- Mango, as you should know if you are informed, is the prime minister of the Wuxi China Expatdom. Her wearing of the t-shirt made everything that I and Orient Express are doing at Wuxi China Expatdom blog worthwhile.
I was thinking the day was pleasant. Tony and me sitting on the bus together, after having had a pleasant walk to the bus stop. The day was warm with a cool breeze. And then I saw another foreigner. My blissful isolation was punctured. I felt like my day's cruise was now a chore. Funny, how I see more people daily in China than I ever would in Canada, and yet I can feel more solitude. I love being solitary -- it is exact opposite of loneliness.
Tony plays on the fringes. He joins in the play of others but doesn't seem to mind much if he is uninvited.
Tony has played for three hours non-stop.
Playing with the iPad, I made a funny photo of Jenny, knowing full well I would earn her wrath. Foolhardily, I showed her the photo. Sternly, she said it wasn't funny. I froze. But then Tony then said "it was funny.", and I laughed a tension-reduced laugh.
Sunday night, I walked as Tony rode his bike (pedal bike with training wheels) in the area near Casa K. Tony determined more of the route we took than I did -- I was pleased with his decisions though Jenny wasn't to be. Tony and I went all the way to the Home Decorating Mall and back -- I figure about six or seven kilometers of riding for him and walking for him.
I enjoyed my walking with him because I got to see a lot -- I had worried that he was going to go to the nearby public square and hang out with other kids. As well, the weather was comfortable. One of the streets we went through, I saw at least three groups of forty or fifty people watching televisions set up in store windows. I assume the people were migrant workers from nearby construction projects (of which there are many) with nothing better to do. I found the scene strange coming from my apartment with internet access, big screen television, and Ipad2 -- I thought I was going back in time.
Nine o'clock in the p.m. on a Sunday night, we saw that workers were still hard at it in many of the construction sites we passed.
I was able to see many stars in the sky as I chased Tony. Something that people confined to downtown Wuxi would have a hard time doing.
Jenny was not pleased when I told her where we went. She thought it was my idea to go where we did. In fact, going where we did was a pleasant surprise to me. I had put on all thoughts of going somewhere that I thought interesting out of my mind. It was Tony who was the explorer.
Jenny had good reasons to not be pleased. A precedent had been established last night with Tony that would be hard to break.
And now to the passing scene.
America loses its triple "A" credit rating. The Republicans got hosed on the debt deal. The stock market goes down. Way to go Obama (and RINOs)!
A few of the students remember me proudly declaring myself to be a proud subject of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Here is a column by David Warren that says better than I could why I am a Royalist and why any good Canadian should be one as well.
Here's a thought that will get me into trouble. I wish -- spank me, whip me, hurt me, and all that. Anyway, I will do an English Corner about Famous Women. I will ask if the students think that if all the countries of the world had female leaders, there would be no more war. I of course disagree. Just go to a Chinese market and watch women shop. That would rid one of illusions. But here is my thought. If countries all had female leaders, wars would be more bitching!! Instead of two nukes dropped on Japan -- ten. The Iraqi War would have ended earlier because women would be more likely to use Daisy Cutters.
Later. It turned out that a lot of students agreed with me. None said women in charge would mean less wars. A few, including some women, there would be more wars in only women were in charge. There was an ancient Chinese saying, said one student, "three woman, one play."
Typhoon coming to Wuxi! And I don't have any boots.
One of my students told me what his father told him about executions. The father witnessed executions in his youth. He told his son (my student) about them in great detail. For instance, it often took two or three shots to kill a person. A soldier would first shoot the person from behind with a rifle. An officer would then shot two or three more times with a pistol because the person wasn't dead yet. And then there was the air gushing out from the executed person's lung when hitting the ground...
Secret societies in China? I asked the students. One student told me about a bad society called the FLG. I told her I had seen the FLG in Canada outside the Chinese consulate. The student then said "hmmmm!" in a surprised and exasperated manner.
The Tea Partiers are terrorists and hostage takers? The Tea baggers are making sugar-coated Satan sandwiches? The knuckle-draggers TPers are basically racist -- no sensible person believes that government shouldn't borrow as much money as it can? Are these questions a joke? Apparently not. This stuff that is being spouted off by the Left after the end of the bogus and picayune debt ceiling deal.
First, I should mention another story from Tuesday's night of heavy rain. My wife left the window slightly ajar in the kitchen. When the rain storm came in, it opened the window quite widely, and my wife had a devil of a time trying to close it. And when she did, she had a lot of water to clean up.
I was told that the rainy season in Wuxi was officially finished last week. You would never know it. Just this afternoon, as I was at a company doing level placement tests, another bout of heavy torrential rain hit the city.
At the Tesco near our home, you can see people who have come from the deep countryside. Last night, I saw three of them walked into the place with no shirts on. It still jars me to see this -- I can't get the notion out of my mind that walking around without a shirt is barbaric.
I thought to entitle this posting: Ten things I have fallen out of love with, but that would have been overstating it a tad. Still, through my life, I have changed my mind about things and people. And I have come to loathe some things and people I previously thought to be wonderful.
Here are ten or so in no particular order:
David Letterman. I used to think he was very funny. Now, I can't help but think he is a jerk. His attacks on Sarah Palin were the final straw. Socialism. Socialist at twenty if you have a heart; Conservative by thirty if you have a brain. I used to agree with this statement. But I have been starting to think Socialists and Lefties have no heart. The Toronto Blue Jays. I regret ever having cheered for them. Even when they won World Series for Canada. The Vancouver Canucks. The riots by their fans after losing game seven make me think Vancouver doesn't deserve to win a Stanley Cup. Go Jets go!! The Miami Dolphins. The first NFL teams I liked had Csonka and Griese. The Dolphins now look generic and boring. Ken Dryden. When I was growing up, he was one of the coolest goalies. Now, he is a brain dead politician. The U.S. Democrats. Their posturing in the Debt Limit debate has been unconscionable. But I came to realize how unconscionable they were twenty years ago. David Frum. What happened to him? I bought his books and he seemed sensible. Then, he drank the Obama Kool Aid. Or at least got a whiff of it and lost his senses. He has turned into an establishment Rino Squish. The Sandinistas. Seriously. I was upset when they had lost that election that Reagan forced on them. What a fool I was. Citizen Kane. I watched the movie twenty times. I jumped on the film studies band wagon about its' greatness. But there is something wrong with the idea of the struggling artist who thinks he doesn't have to be subject to the laws of economics, especially in an endeavour that is a collaborative effort like film-making. Woody Allen. A dirty old man. I used to make a point of watching his latest movie as soon as it came out.
Monty Python. I remember watching John Cleese and another Pythoner perform the parrot sketch on Saturday Night Live. It was not funny the second time around. I then saw John Cleese make political pronouncements. Why couldn't he have shut up?!?
Europeans. The Norwegians talking about their tolerant society made me want to puke. When people use that word "tolerant" in that manner, they really mean that unlike others, they are good. They should say that they tolerate the good and harmless, and are intolerant of evil and baseness. But it is bad, by their way of thinking, to be intolerant. So their whole boasting of tolerance is a logical muddle if you ask me. (like accusing your opponents of being ideological and acting like you have transcended ideology -- on what basis, do you decide if something works or not?).
As I type this, sweat pours profusely down my forehead.
Walking through the apartment complex with Tony, I hear "Laowai, Laowai!"
Tony is older in months than I am in years. That became official on July 23. Tony will be four on August 23.
As I type this, I have only one pair of reading glasses left! The other pair dropped on the floor breaking the frame. The lenses are fine. Tuesday, I hope to get a new frame for them.
As I type this, I must say that a period of 24 hours separates the previous bullet from this bullet. I got new frames for the glasses.
I was able to go a favorite Muslim restaurant of mine because it was across the street from a dental office that Jenny had to go to.
While Jenny was at the dentist and then getting me new reading glass frames, I took Tony to a playground. As he played, I was reading books on the Ipad. I read chapters of 1984, Homage to Catalonia, Ulysses, and Wealth of Nations. I then read a Playboy interview of Marshall McLuhan which I comment on in a following bullet. All the books and the interview I was able to download for free off the Internet. Hours of fun for me it would be if Tony and Jenny didn't demand the Ipad as well.
Tony, at the playground, spent his time sitting in a toy car. He didn't mix much with the other kids except to jump on a trampoline with them. But then he would get upset if someone else sat in the toy car, and rode away with it. There was one time when Tony was holding the hand of a boy bigger than him to get him to follow which was strange.
The K family then had supper at a nearby Pizza Hut. Tony had to have both the Ipad and Parmesan Cheese container to play with. He couldn't have both so we took the Ipad away -- the Ipad was at least stopping Tony from running around the restaurant.
As I type this, sweat again pours profusely down my forehead.
Time to put some short Latin phrases in my blog entries!
I went downtown today, cum uxoribus et liberis.
I publish blog entries una voce -- not uno animo.
AKIC comes to you, ex dono dei.
After supper, I had to catch a taxi to get a company class I was to teach in the Wuxi New District. It being about 530 p.m., the competition to catch taxis was stiff. I had to walk a bit to find a place where I wasn't part of a group. I thought I had found a spot on Zhongshan Road, but this group of people ran in front of me as I was trying to wave down an oncoming taxi. They basically stole the taxi from me. I was pissed, but not pissed enough to whack them. I gave them a stiff middle finger that left no doubt what my attitude towards them at that moment was. They responded by saying sorry! sorry! sorry! in a manner, that I think of it now, was of people who were in a desperate hurry to catch a train. But then it also reminded me of the way locals trying to cheat you respond when you have caught them. I will have to satisfy myself with fantasies of having tackled them and then taken the taxi from them.
After the class, I took a taxi from the company to European Street so I could catch a bus a home. It was just my luck that two minutes before the Taxi got me to European Street, it began to rain torrentially. It was the heaviest rain I had seen all Summer. The place where the taxi dropped me off was already ankle deep in water. A huge puddle already formed at a nearby intersection. Some people riding electric bikes decided to pull to shelter to wait the storm out. At the bus stop I was at, everyone clung to the sheltered parts of the stop. Riding the bus home, I was treated to scenes of rain puddle carnage. Some intersections were a foot deep in water.
I enjoyed the Marshall McLuhan interview. I will probably read it again to gain a better appreciation of it. I was interested to know that he was an admirer of Pound, Joyce, Chesterton, Eliot, and Yeats; and that he was a fervent Catholic. McLuhan said many interesting things though I think some of his predictions haven't been borne out. I do think it is true, as he says, that the media has changed our perceptions of the world in radical way, though really one doesn't have be a genius to realize this. McLuhan, however, provides striking depictions of how radical our perception changes have been. There would have been no industrial revolution without the printing press he insists.
McLuhan said something about the Kennedy--Nixon election that I thought wasn't true. He latched onto the narrative that Kennedy gained a big advantage by looking more telegenic in the televised debate. If this was so, why was it that Kennedy apparently needed crooked means in Chicago to win what was a squeaker of an election?
I am Canadian. I have lived in Wuxi, China since September 2004. I am ashamed to admit what I do here. In this blog, I recount the things I have seen and the experiences I have had here in Wuxi. I also make comments on things that strike my reactionary fancy.