Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tony Kaulins & Trains

Tony & The Microphone

Tony spent a lot of time watching videos of the Jam and Paul Weller.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Two days of staying at home with Tony results in a first

Monday & Tuesday this week, the K boys, Andis and Tony, spent their at home while Jenny was out doing stuff.

Monday, Andis was up early while Tony was fast asleep.  Tony didn't get out of bed till 1030 a.m.

Tuesday, Andis slept late.  At about 1000 p.m., Tony suggested that Dad get up. 

Tony wanting to get up first was a first.

Tony eats....

... the noodles that Dad made for him!!!

Little Things

Sunday, February 26, 2012

One way to jump the queue at a popular restaurant in China

It was a Saturday evening around six in the downtown of  Wuxi, China

"Let's go to Grandma's! said Jenny Kaulins, Chinese wife of Andis Kaulins who was a Canadian living in Wuxi, China.

Grandma's was a popular restaurant on the top floor of the Wuxi Yaohan, formerly Ba Bai Ban, department store on Zhongshan Road in Wuxi.   And on that Saturday evening, there was a lineup out the door.  Andis seeing it, quickly gave up any hope of being able to eat at the restaurant that evening.  On a previous occasion, the Kaulins family had to wait an hour before they were able to be seated.

This did not dissuade Jenny from going in to see how bad the lineup was.  Andis agreed that she go in and at least see if there was a chance of finding a seat in less than twenty minutes.

Jenny went in and Andis waited outside.  He put his son Tony on his shoulders and prepared to leave.  He was pessimistic about being seated this evening.

But, a minute later, Jenny came out and told him to come right into Grandma's.  She already had a table.  She had agreed to share an available table, in a private room, with eight seats with two other small groups.  

Jenny told Andis later that many people did't like the idea of sharing a table.  Andis thank fate that his wife didn't share this dislike.

The Kaulins Boys

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Jenny has the Pink

"Pink" is a Tonyism for Ipad.

Where's Wandis?

Morning at the Bus Stop

Saturday Morning, I was at the Bus Stop waiting to go to work.

Looking at the characters on the bus information signage inspired me to write the following Chinese characters:

我 住 在 加州样方 (I live in the California Villa)
我 是 加拿大人  (I am a Canadian)
我 也 是 加人  (I am also a 加 "Jia" person)

Just as this came to me, I was startled by this older woman walking backwards.  She was doing a calisthenics of a sort as she waited for the bus.  Maybe, she figured that by walking backward the atrophying of walking forward would stop.  Unfortunately, time doesn't go backward as we walk backward -- I have done experiments to prove this because you can never assume.

And I startled the backward-walking woman as much as she startled me.  Because I was standing sort of behind her and in her path, she noticed me out of the corner of her eyes and then looked at me directly.  I saw her do a double-take.  She must have done this because I was foreigner -- either that, or I almost tripped her. 

She stared hard at me and asked me a question.   I could make out that her asking me if I could speak Chinese.  In Chinese, I said I could a little.  

She then asked me questions so quickly that I had no chance of understanding her.  A young man, seeing this, served as a translator, translating her Chinese for me and my Chinese for her.  Not really understanding what she was saying didn't stop me from talking in Chinese.  I declared to her that I had a Chinese wife and a four year son. (I always declare this when Chinese people speak to me in Chinese because I assume they want to know my situation.)  She then asked me why it was that my Chinese was so terrible and why my wife wasn't teaching me.  I tried to show her I did study by pointing out Chinese characters I knew in the bus signs,  but she couldn't understand my pronunciation -- funny, because the young man did.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Andis makes a speech

Thoughts and Observations about my very short trip to Shanghai

  • It was very disconcerting for me to see so many foreigners.  One time, I saw a foreigner come out of a shop that I was about to enter, and it just didn't seem right to me.  I am so used to be the only foreigner to enter a place.
  • I can't help but want to watch a street fight instead of just walk by.  I saw one take place between these two middle-aged women at a shopping center.  They screamed and gesticulated, and appeared to be on the verge of exchanging blows.  Someone, who was on the side of one of the women, was recording the fight with her mobile phone.  Eventually, one of the women walked away.  I made the people, I was with, stop so I could watch.
  • Tony saw a tunnel train!
  • I hate dealing with the government, any government.  The visa and passport process always makes me wrought with anxiety and angst.  I swear my wife was going to kill me when I had my problems with the consulate about the using the statutory declaration in lieu of guarantor form. (Form PPT 132)
  • I also thought Jenny was going to kill me when she learned that I didn't bring my driver's license with me.  I thought I didn't need it since I was trying to renew Tony's passport.  But click on the link of my previous bullit, and you will see that I was mistaken.
  • Riding the fast trains twixt Shanghai and Wuxi was quite a grand thing.  The views were wonderful and the scenery was ever-changing.  One didn't have a chance to get bored.  Only problem was that one the trip to Shanghai was too short for my liking.  I finally was settled in my seat, had my Ipod out for reading, and before I could say "Jack Johnson" very fast, we were in Shanghai.
  • When one returns to Wuxi from Shanghai, one has to prepare to de-board when one passes Suzhou.  It used to be a half-hour ride twixt Suzhou and Shanghai.  Now, it is but an instant.
  • I saw a Gap clothing store on Nanjing (or is it Nanjin?) Road in Shanghai.  I used to shop there back in the day which was over ten years ago.  The styles in the Shanghai Gap left me cold.  I am from another time.
  • The turnstiles on the Shanghai Subway are automated.  You have to put your subway card/token into a slot that lets you enter.  I performed this process less than gracefully on a few occasions, as did Jenny.  One time, Tony ran ahead of her as she put her card into the slot, entered the subway stop and so left her stranded.  She had to go to a service desk to reactivate the card and so be able to enter.  I kept trying to enter the turnstile without properly "wanding in" my card.
  • We saw a tank full of sharks and turtles on Nanjing Road.  Tony thought the sharks were dolphins.
  • I didn't take many pictures in Shanghai.  I did shot some video which I will put together to make a video-piece about Tony and trains.
  • My brother was able to send Jenny's inviter documents for her Canadian Visa Application just in time.  I never would have thought that I would have been phoning my brother on the other side of the world to make sure he had sent me an email.  
  • I also called my Mom.  "Ma!  I am phoning from Shanghai!" Cool!

I got grief about using the Statutory Declaration in Lieu of Guarantor (Form PPT132). Can a Canadian use Chinese as Canadian passport guarantors?

I got the 5th degree (or was it the ninth degree?) about using the Form PPT 132 when I made an application to renew my four year old son Tony's passport on Tuesday at Shanghai Canadian Consulate.  The lady at the reception desk at the Consulate held the form up and away from me when I requested it, and told me that the Consulate was strongly discouraging applicants from using the form.  In response, I told her that I had been in China for seven years and so didn't know anyone in the various groups who could perform the guarantor function, that I had used the Form PPT 132 on two previous occasions at the Consulate and not been hassled about it, and that an email I had sent asking about using the form the week before, I had not been informed of their policy of official discouragement.  So the lady did relent and allow me to use the form.  But when I filled out the form, I was made to declare that I would never use the form again.

So who can I use as a guarantor if I continue to live in China?  Apparently, I can use lawyers, medical doctors, dentists, policemen, magistrates, judges, and notaries from China!  I asked, I asked again and that was what they told me!  Not that I could have done other than I did when I signed the Form PPT 132 yesterday.  There aren't any Chinese lawyers, Chinese medical doctors, Chinese dentists, Chinese policemen, Chinese magistrates, Chinese judges and Chinese notaries that I have know for two year.  Although, I will make sure to know some when I renew my Visa later this year!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mid February 2012 thoughts

  • My brother sent me an email telling me he was as well saddened by the death of Gary Carter. I guess if you were a Canadian living at a certain time when the Expos were Canada's baseball team, the passing of Gary Carter really hits one hard. My brother, who was a catcher, told me he modeled his stance after Carter.
  • Gary Carter had a way about him, that was quintessentially American. He had that kind of Ronald Reagan optimism. The anti-yanks of the world would hate his type. Tell them that he was also a devout Christian and they would begin to question his being enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Gary Carter, R.I.P.!
  • My son Tony tried to prevent me from entering a shop and buying some drinks. Read about it here!
  • I got to go to Shanghai to renew Tony's passport and submit a Visa application for Jenny. We haven't been in the Shang since the day our flight from Canada touched down at Shanghai's Pudong Airport over 18 months ago.. If I have no reason to go to Shanghai, I won't. I am not looking forward to this trip. I want the applications submitted and to be able to return back to Wuxi as soon as possible.
  • I had a student tell me that he got his first mobile phone when he was in grade three! Kind of young I am thinking.
  • Someone told me it looked like Spring was coming to Wuxi. I didn't want to hear that because I was wearing my thermals, a.k.a Long Johns.
  • It took three hours to get Tony to pose for his passport photo.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Thursday, February 16, 2012

I'm Stunned

I just found that out that baseball player Gary Carter died.  He was a favorite ballplayer of mine growing up.  Nothing pleased me more than to see the former Expo play a big role in the the New York Mets 1986 World Series victory.

He died prematurely at 57.

A Golden Age

There is good eating to be had around my school.  I'd say that when it comes to there being good eating around the school, that it is now a golden age.

Near the school, there is a good Japanese Restaurant, a good noodle and rice restaurant, an 85 bakery, McDonald's, KFC, Dico's Chicken, Buddy Chicken, and the Trattoria Ferarrara Italian Restaurant.

At the Italian Restaurant, I can get a drink, a small pizza and an order of fries for 14 rmb!!!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Working on Valentine's Day

Tuesday is V Day.  I usually have this day off from work, but I changed a shift with one of the trainers so he and his Chinese fiancee could go to Nanjing today and get their wedding license. 

Who is the couple?  Watch this video to find out.  You can see them make an appearance at the end.

I will be doing an English Corner about Romance Tuesday evening.  What do I know about romance?  I can ask questions.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Scenes from my life in China IV

Asides and Coincidences

Funny thing.   I recently finished reading Lord Acton'sLectures about the French Revolution in Epub format on my Ipod as well as finished listening to a five hour Hardcore History Podcast about the Fall of the Roman Republic.  On Friday, the topics came up in class with my students. 


A female student  was reading a book about a family of executioners that lived in France from 1688 to 1847.  I noticed the book and it got us to talking about the French Revolution. 


Another student, this one male, told me his favourite movie was Cleopatra.  This lead to us talking about Julius Caesar, Marc Anthony and Cleopatra.  The student was keen to know about this stuff.


These little asides are what make teaching fun.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Thoughts on things passing

  • I seem to jinx U.S. Republican presidential candidates by declaring my support for them.  Going back to 2008, I first supported Gulliani, then Fred Thompson, and finally Mitt Romney (it was either him or McCain).  In 2011-12, I have put my hopes on Herman Cain, then Michelle Bachmann, and now _________________!  I think what I will do is declare my support for President Obama so I can jinx him, but I really like America and I wouldn't wish President Obama, in the spirit of jinxing, on anybody -- even Russia (I have Latvian heritage), Toronto Maple Leaf fans, Ottawa Senator fans, Vancouver Canuck fans, Madonna, supporters of Hugo Chavez, the Castros in Cuba and fans of Hip-Hop/Rap.  My string of jinxing U.S. Presidential Candidates must come to an end eventually and I can't take the chance that it would end by supporting Obama.  So perish the thought.
  • So here it goes!  Go Rick Santorum!  He seems like a decent fellow, for a politician!  He is an underdog and smart on the issues.
  • I was listening to the latest Sinica podcast. and I may decide to call it the Sinical Wanker Podcast.  Their observations about the U.S. Republican Presidential Primaries were snide to the point of saying the Chinese must be laughing at it.  They thought Fidel Castro was brilliant for deriding it as well.  Consensual Democracy is never pretty.  But I would take Fist fights in the Taiwanese Parliament, a John McCain candidacy, a Nancy Pelosi as House Majority leader and the intemperate  talk of the liberal-conservative divide than Cultural Revolutions, the Castro brothers ruling my country and government-caused famines!  
  • As well, The Sinicals had nothing to say about Rick Santorum other than he was probably a wacko Christian who didn't have a chance anyway.  I suspect all of them prefer Obama, but to hear them favorably quote Castro is going too far -- the people who call Obama a Kenyan Socialist may not be that far off, if that is how his supporters think.  
  • I suppose they may be surprised to know that Obama claims to be a Christian.
  • I have heard that when Pope Benedict XVI visits Cuba, Fidel Castro will be received into the communion of the Catholic Church.  This would be truly remarkable if it was true.  I imagine that Castro would have to spend a long, long time in the confessional for all his sins and crimes.  It would also thwart my plans to wish he would rot in hell when he dies.  Not that this is a bad thing.  Living a human life should mean having a never-ending desire to redeem one's self.  And to see Castro do a good thing is something to be devotedly hoped for.  It would be a grand thing for humanity like Obama suddenly becoming a fiscal and social conservative.
  • And I will confess that I am always having to redeem myself, especially in my wife's eyes.  And I may have to redeem myself for writing this blog entry!

It wasn't so easy to fix the damage Tony did to Dad's Laptop

The problem, caused by Tony, on Dad's laptop didn't go away so easily.  Dad discovered that when he logged onto the laptop later, the screen again was ninety degrees off kilter -- that is, the screen was in portrait orientation instead of the normal landscape.  

A little exploration on the Internet revealed that the solution to the problem was easy enough.  All Dad had to do was restore the system to a previous time.  But because Dad's operating system was in Chinese, it wasn't going to be so easy to do a system restore.  

But thank God for Google Translate!  Dad used the facility to find the simplified Chinese characters for system restore.  Cutting and pasting the characters into the the search box on the Start Menu of Windows 7, he was able to get to the system restore menu.  This menu was in Chinese, but Dad did have a screenshot of the English menu, and so was able to fix the problem!

Monday, February 6, 2012

What Tony did to Dad's laptop!

Those who have an Ipad or Ipod touch know that pivoting the device can change it from landscape to portrait configuration and vice versa.  So, it is not a rare thing for Tony's Dad to turn on his Ipod touch, when Tony lets him, and to see the screen in an unwanted configuration.

Monday evening, after letting Tony play with his laptop, Dad turned on that device to see the screen in a configuration that he didn't want.  The sign-in screen of the laptop was in a portrait configuration -- that is, everything on the screen was flipped ninety degrees from where it should normally have been .  Having this problem with the Ipod, it took Dad a few more seconds, than it should have, to realize something was wrong.  When Dad entered the password, the "*" character, used to hide the password, went upwards on the screen instead of left to right as it would have normally.  The desktop and all its icons were also ninety degrees off.  And maneuvering the mouse on the screen was impossible.

Fortunately, Dad was able to quickly discover, after a minute, what had happened.  Dad saw a key on the keyboard that had a picture of a screen on it:  the F1 Key.  To activate the function of that key, one had to press the function (Fn) key.  Doing this, Dad fixed the screen configuration problem by pressing the keys and choosing the correct option of the menu that then appeared. Tony had pressed the function (Fn) key and the F1 key at the same time -- a possible mistake Tony could make playing with the Microsoft Train Simulator program.

In the aftermath,  Dad had three thoughts.  First, he fixed the problem so quickly that he didn't have time to really get upset about it.  The problem was, in essence, fixed during the moments of it setting into Dad's awareness.  Second, he should have taken a photo of the problem and put it into the blog instead of trying to describe it.  Of course, he could change the configuration of the screen again to take a photo, but that was asking for trouble and so it would be better to let things be.  Third, he wondered if he should let Tony use the laptop again.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Monday Morning

  • Talked to my mother this Monday morning.  She is doing alright.  She tells me that Dad is going to be transferred to a Care Home.  Mentally, he is not all there anymore.
  • I also tuned into the last twenty minutes of the Super Bowl.   The game was shown on Chinese television live.  Watching in the game in China is strange.  If I hadn't grown up with the game, I don't think I would have become an American  Football Fan by watching the Super Bowl.   There is too much standing around between the action.  The extended commercial breaks are not filled with the fabulously expensive commercials on Chinese television.   Instead, you see a minute wide shot of the stadium with occasional close shots of  players standing on the sideline.
  • It is raining and miserable in the Wux.  I am not going anywhere.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Things I was witness to

  • My Saturday Speakers' Corner Topic:  Legs.  I asked the students about the legs of Chairman Mao and Zhou En-Lai.  Mao, some students said, probably didn't have nice legs; Zhou, who was handsome when he was young, probably did.
  • At the Italian Restaurant, Trattoria Ferrara, I saw a foreigner walk in and say Bonjourno!  I didn't think Italians did that in real life.
  • A Wuxi Expat really appreciates fairy tales.
  • I am keenly following the Republican Primary taking place in the good old USA.  It is a rather solitary activity, like masturbation, for me.  Not that the other foreigners in my life are gay, but they might as well be.  The only foreigners I know in Wuxi now are knucklehead socialists, anti-Americans who love Obama and a supposed conservative type who tells me he liked Huckabee in the last Presidential election cycle.
  • I probably mentioned it before, but I will say it again.  When I first started teaching at the school seven years ago, it was rare for students to tell me that they had cars.  Now, it is rare for them to tell me they don't.
  • Brushed my teeth on Saturday morning, and I had a filling come out.  I don't know when I get it fixed.