Saturday, June 30, 2012
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
- It has been one months since my father died. Maybe because I returned to China two weeks after it happened, it seems like it happened so much longer ago than a month. And yet memories from that day are still sharp. The last time I told anyone about it, I still got choked up.
- I hate to say it but coming back to China has not offered me any solace. It has been the condolences sent by some of my rare readers have kept me going. Thank God for the Internet because for a person like me, it is my small Internet presence that gives me some satisfaction.
- I know, I sound like I am whining or being bitter. I know I shouldn't be. I know I have a lot of things to be guilty about, things for which I have no one but myself to blame.
- The following photo of me and my Dad was taken probably in the 1970s. The photo has so much meaning for me that I don't where to start. It explains so much about the relationship I had with my father. First, he was Superman; then, he wasn't. And where did I go off the rails?
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
- I arrived home Sunday evening, excited at the prospect of being able to sleep in on Monday. But my wife then read a notice telling the residents of my apartment complex that there would be no water for twenty four hours because some pipes had to be repaired. The water would be shut off at nine a.m. they said. So, I had to get up early take a shower and then coax my wife up so she could take a shower too before nine as well.
- I remember when I first came to Wuxi, hearing stories from older Expats of water being shut off for days on end. None of these horror stories panned out for me through my eight years. This water stoppage is the first I have experienced since the Great Wuxi Water Crisis of 2008.
- One of my students works in H.R. at her company. She had been stuck with the unenviable task of having to lay people off. The first phase of these layoffs, she told me, involved fifty workers. She was laying them off five a day when I last talked to her. One of the reasons she was being so slow with them, she told me, was that she was trying to determine which workers were going to leave anyway.
- I was planning to go to my wife's hometown on my three-day bereavement leave. However, in Beixin, the water is only being drawn from wells so my in-laws don't want me to come out. This is maybe just as well because it would be bloody muggy in the Jiangsu countryside in July.
- National Public Radio has an interesting podcast about American Expats living in China. I doesn't encapsulate my experiences in China, but I seem to come from a different mindset than the people interviewed on the podcast. I have always been more interested in my reactions to China than its reaction to me. I have always felt a chasm between me and China. But, I have also felt a chasm between me and the other laowei.
- I have learned more about myself by coming to China than I have learned about the Chinese. They do things different here.
- Living in British Columbia for eight years was a preparation for coming to China. Lotusland taught me so much about the vagaries of human nature.
- After no tap water for a day, we had a day of heavy rain.
- The first ever Wuxi China Expatdom Video! Not done by me so you might enjoy it!
Sunday, June 24, 2012
- I did an English Corner. Its topic was Parenting. I asked the students what, for the parent, was the best age of the child. Many of the students told me the teenage years. I told them that it would be hard to find a Western Parent who would think this. I suppose this difference comes about because teenagers in China are mostly doing homework and so have little time for Western teenage angst.
- My wife has gone to the recently-opened Wuxi Ikea twice. "Li Jia" is what the students call it, more or less, in Chinese. And she wants to go again!
- The new Burger King in Wuxi feels like it is in a dungeon. It is in the basement of the Parkson's Store at the corner of Renmin and Zhongshan Roads, and so it has short ceilings and no natural light. 42 rmb for a Double Whopper is more expensive than anything in McDonald's. Still, I have come to like the flame-broiled taste.
- I did a conversation class. Its topic was history. I ask the students what were some great historical events. One student said it was great when the Americans dropped Nukes on Japan. I then asked the students to tell me an historical event they would like to change and a few mentioned that they would have loved to have gone back to 1966 and stopped Chairman Mao from starting the Cultural Revolution.
- The bus, I was taking to work, did a very hard stop and my backpack flew off my back and fell on the floor. The force of the sudden and hard stop was enough to tear one of the straps. Of course, the strap was probably already torn anyway from my having used the backpack to carry my laptop. But here was the dandy thing: I got off the bus, walked down the street and found a repairman who fixed my bag for 2 yuan! This sort of thing couldn't happen in Canada. For one thing, the man didn't have a permit. For another, he was taking a space of street. He would probably have been harassed by police if he was in Canada for not conforming to regulation. How nice to do a transaction without the stinking hand of government involved!!
- I have fixed my computer at Buy Now on Wu Ai Road. I had the tech put in an English version of Windows 7. I did this on Saturday Afternoon and spent all of Saturday Evening downloading needed software from the Internet.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
My entries are probably going to be less frequent from now on. I need to make the entry, put it away for 24 hours, and then decide if I should post it.
My Sunday English Corner took place on Father's Day. With my father having only died three weeks earlier, I talked about Father's day briefly. I wouldn't have mentioned that my father had died to the students, but there was a female student who I had happened, earlier this year, to talk to a few weeks after her father died. Stupidly, as I went around the class asking students if they were doing something for their fathers and pointed to her. She told me that it was her first Father's Day without her father, and so I told her that my father had just died especially because I felt stupid for having asked her the question which I should have known not to. Why was she attending that particular English Corner on that particular day? Why do I think her being there eerily coincidental?
With my Dad having passed away, I can think of Father's Day as being a day for me. Tony gave me a cake, compelled by Mom of course, but the stark reality of being the adult and not a child really struck me at that moment.
I saw nine old men sitting together in the back of an electric bike & wagon. I wish I could have taken a photo.
Trouble with my laptop: after logging into Windows 7, I got nothing but a black screen and cursor. For a while, I thought I was doomed. I was going to lose all the photos I had taken on my trip to Canada. Talking to the I.T. Person at work, he told me that he was going to have to go to a shop for repairs. Talking to the other teachers, I was told stories of how the black screen meant everything on the hard drive being lost or only being recovered for a pretty penny. But I persisted and I read on the Internet that I could access my drives by pressing the shift button five times when the black screen displayed. This five-shift procedure was originally intended to be used when the keyboard had sticky keys. But the menu that appears does let my get into the drives. Accessing the drives, I found I could access photos, watch videos, and use all the programs not requiring Internet access. This was a relief. However, I still don't have the desktop means I will have to reload Windows 7 onto the laptop. And this is not a bad thing after all because the wife has agreed that the operating system will now be in English. My theory is that I lost Windows 7 because I wasn't pressing the right buttons when Chinese menu choices came up.
I smacked a kid that was kicking Tony. The kid started to cry and I felt sorry. How quickly my anger turned to shame.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
- I gave myself no time to recover from jet lag. Tuesday evening, I arrived in Wuxi; the next day, I was at work.
- I went to bed about seven p.m. on Tuesday. I vaguely remembered that my wife had cooked supper for me and I ate it, barely able to keep awake, before quickly returning to bed. I then woke up in a pitch dark bedroom. With a sense of panic, I looked around the bedroom for the time. It was four a.m.
- My mood as I prepared to go to work, and then as I arrived at work, was crummy. Wuxi's skies were gray with smog. Its temperature was bordering on humid and languid. I wish I was back in Canada.
- On my bus ride to work, I saw that two accidents had happened.
- The differences between Canada and China were like night and day, especially seeing how I had been in both places in the span of four days. I saw thin Orientals with straw hats sweeping streets or riding their bicycles -- a sight never seen in Canada. The driving in China was astounding. The fashions were different. The woman in China were so thin!!
- Leaving the Airport in Winnipeg, I thought about all the restaurants, with so much tempting food, that I would see along the way to my brother's home. Leaving Shanghai's Pudong, I thought how there weren't any such temptations.
- I first thought I was going to tell everyone at work that my father had passed away. But then I told one person, who suggested that he tell the others. It dawned on me that was a good idea when I was asked the question "How was your vacation?" It was just too maudlin to tell anyone what had happened. (Oh! my father died.)
- My first class back was an English Corner. Three weeks ago, I had chosen the topic of it to be My Trip to Canada. I had thought to talk about my father, but as I walked into the school, and looked at the students and the other staff, they all appeared cold and indifferent. So, I didn't talk about my father during that English Corner.
- How do the Chinese offer condolences? I don't know. So far, none have been offered. The Chinese staff here probably doesn't know.
- I find myself avoiding conversations because I don't want to talk about my vacation. I suddenly came to the realization that I don't give a damn if anyone here knows what happened to my father.
- How long does the mourning last? How does it affect one long-term and short-term? I find myself now with an intense dislike of my surroundings.
Six days into my trip to Canada, my father Arnis died. Sad as it was, I consider myself fortunate to have been with him for his last few days. If this had happened while I was in China, there was no way I could have been there with him. As it was, Dad died with all his children and his wife at his side. He was also able to see his daughter-in-law Jenny and his grandson Tony before he passed away
Dad was able to hear Tony call him Grandpa.
Dad told me a story, a few days before he died, of a time when we were in Germany (1964-67) when I was being carried on his shoulders and became entangled in some overhead obstacle -- tree branches. Dad told me he couldn't figure out right away what I was complaining about and kept waling. I told him of a similar episode when I was carrying Tony on my shoulders in Wuxi and walked him into a overhead wire.
Sadly, Dad didn't quite make it to his 80th birthday which would have been in July and to his 50th Wedding anniversary which would have in August.
I wish to thank all those who have sent me and my mother condolences. It is very much appreciated. Thanks to my blog, I have received condolences from some far flung places on this planet.
This trip to Canada, only my second since 2004, has become one of deep reflection for me. Thinking of my relationship with my father and my family and this country of Canada, I am filled with regrets. So many things I wish I could have done differently, and yet I somehow have Jenny and Tony. Life seems to me to be a series of episodes over which we have some choice but not much control. I remember fleeing Brandon and Winnipeg because I didn't accomplish much of anything.
So much I didn't do for my Dad when he was alive; and so much I didn't say about him when I did a eulogy.
The first thing that struck me when I came back to Canada: a large Tim Horton's cup of coffee is the size of a Big Gulp, or at least what I remember a Big Gulp being. The second thing? People in Canada are so fat. And they are fat in ways I didn't think was possible. I saw a fat woman whose body was shaped like a diamond: She was narrow at her head and feet level but in the middle, she had easily a fifty inch waist.
Besides coming to see my Mom and Dad, I came to Canada to eat and shop. I needed shoes and I bought three pairs. I also took two pairs my father won't be using. I bought a Winnipeg Jets cap (bearing their original NHL logo – I hate the new one.) I ate Mozza Burgers from A&W and fries with gravy (not available in China) from KFC. I ate a dozen crusty rolls from Safeway in one evening. I also drank about ten bottles of Sleeman's Honey Lager. I didn't smoke a cigarette – they are too expensive.
I have spent most of my time in Canada in Brandon, Manitoba to be with my Mom.
Jenny has passed her time here by shopping. She doesn't much care for the scenery: it is too flat and there are a lot of trees. I have to admit, I share her boredom. An hour of the flatness seen from the highway between Brandon and Winnipeg can be quite the sight if you haven't seen it in a while. But only for so long. The drive between Brandon and Winnipeg must be the longest two hours one can spend on the planet if you have to do it on a regular basis.
I paid a visit to the Brandon Armories. I hadn't been there since 1987. It seemed a little smaller than I recalled but not that much smaller. I wish to thank Gordon Sims for giving me a tour of the 26 Field Regiment RCA museum in the building. If you are a military buff, I recommend going to it. The museum is compact and yet full of interesting things.
Tony has occupied himself, when not on the computer, with riding his bicycle and playing with his diggers in one of Grandma's flower beds.
The Keystone Centre, the 6,000 seat home of the Brandon Wheat Kings, has a new name thanks to Corporate sponsorship. The locals, I am told, still call it the Keystone.
I have seen Immigrants from Africa, China and India here in Brandon. The makeup of Brandon's population has changed since I left.
I am typing parts of this entry in the backyard of my Mom's house. Tony is playing in the backyard . He refuses to go outside without supervision.
A strong gust of wind forced the garage side-door to flap open. I quickly closed it. Tony was inside the garage and he started bawling – he was terrified. I opened the door and he ran out and didn't calm down for two minutes.
My cousin's husband Pat, the Irishmen, says the world is going to pot. Being a retired bank manager, he has had a field-day discussing the monstrous imbecilities of what has happened in Europe and America.
I watched a live hockey game on television for the first time in eight years. Other than the goalie for the New Jersey Devils, I don't recognize any of the players.
Everyone in Canada dresses horribly. Going through my father's photo albums, I see that people stopped dressing nicely during the 1970s. My father, when he was a young man, dressed far better casually than I did for my wedding.
The weather in Brandon has been sometimes cool (in the tens) and hot (in the thirties). (Temperatures are in Celsius in Canada.)
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Friday, June 8, 2012
This eulogy is divided into three parts: gratitude, acknowledgement and request. It takes the form of a prayer.
I wish to express my gratitude to my father Arnis Kaulins.
Thank you Dad for giving Benita, Ron and me life.
Thank you Dad for raising us.
Thank you Dad for all those Sunday Drives and the journey that our childhoods were.
Thank you Dad for taking us to all our extracirricular activities.
Thank you Dad for the all the care packages sent to us whether we were in Sasktachewan or B.C. or China. It is hard to find deordarent in China.Let me tell you it was certainly appreciated.
Thank you Dad for never forgetting our birthdays.
Thank you Dad for the camping trips and the cross-country train rides and drives.
Thank you Dad for all the cheesy gifts. Oh! How I going to miss those combination screwdrivers and can openers. I will never ever again be able to look at one and not think of you.
Thank you for our first bikes and cars.
Thank you for never ever giving up on us and for making us who we are.
And finally, thank you for being with Mom all these years.
We, your children, acknowledge that we all separated in your later years. The birds fled the nest you had built. We really wanted the joys of our childhoods to return. So when we mourn, the child in us mourns the passing of the Arnis who was our Super Dad.
And I will end this eulogy with a few requests. Let's honour Arnis by remembering good-old Arnie, That he spelt kaulins with a "K," that he was a great gardener, that he came from a small country Latvia, that he served in the armed forces of this great country of Canada, and that a fulfilling life is not one in which we take but one in which we give our time to others.