Gratitude It is nice to be alive. It is nice that I open my weekly blog entry with the word gratitude. It is nice to be thankful. It is even nice to know that "nice" is a kind of pansy word and that to be nice can mean that you are tolerating evil. Anyway, for what am I thankful this week? Many things. I am thankful for all the things I have previously mentioned in this weekly feature. This week, I am especially thankful for being able to buy Christmas presents for my son.
Weekly Overview I should put this at the beginning of my blog entry. However, I think it is a better idea if I, from now on, always begin my blog entry with the word "gratitude." What can I say about this week? I got closer to celebrating Christmas 2012 and finished buying presents for my son Tony. I suddenly realized that I should have bought a present for my wife... There was a Christmas party at school. I slowly tried to put an end to my vow of silence, but it wasn't easy... The gulf is too big....
Acknowledgment It may well be that my being a ghost at work is not a good thing. However, now that I am in the habit of it, I find it difficult to change. That is, I can't get myself to cross the hallway and chat. My Ipod Touch is far more interesting.
Request I need an idea, a good idea of what to buy my wife for Christmas. I make this request to the muse – not to my rare-and-far-in-between readers.
I finished Bastiat's Economic Sophisms this week.
I will will finish either Pascal's Pensees or the Kierkegaard collection before I start another book.
Letters to the Corinthians (KJV version)
Ulysses by James Joyce (thanks to the Frank Delaney podcast, my copy of Ulysses will be forever opened to the spot where the Delaney podcast has taken me.)
Boswell's Life of Johnson: The writer of the Another Sort of Learning link (see below) recommends reading a little bit of Johnson every day. Seems like a good idea to me.
The Wuxi Corrupt Officials
The Corrupts lost their final regular season match-up: a showdown for first place in their division, 107-70. So, they finish in third place in their division and don't make the playoffs. The loss was bitter for the Corrupts and their fans who had been so full of optimism when the team started the season with a 5-0 record.
The drought continues.
AKIC Link(s) of the Week
This entry from American Fez is wonderful. He writes that he usually walks across a bridge that offers the possibility of witnessing a plane flying over a car that is driving over a train that is running over a boat. He reminds me that I am excited when I can see two trains passing each other. I can't think of a place in Wuxi that does offer a possibility of a plane flying over a car that is driving over a train though, but from now on, I will be on the lookout.
AKIC's Quotes of the week
David Warren: There is no alternative to honesty & decency at the individual level. Once this is lost — from many different causes, all of them traceable to the collapse of religious faith — tyranny has its purchase. People keep thinking of "third ways," of institutional & technological arrangements by which good behavior may be obviated. There are no third ways. We serve God, or we serve Mammon, in every single act. Now whether you agree or not with Warren's assertion about religion, we can say for certain, in this life, that there are no third ways, statist ways, to improve the behavior of men. Statist controls like gun control and campus speech codes achieve nothing other than making the people who advocate for them think of themselves as good people.
Blaise Pascal: There is internal war in man between reason and the passions. If he had only reason without passions … If he had only passions without reason … But having both, he cannot be without strife, being unable to be at peace with the one without being at war with the other. Thus he is always divided against, and opposed to himself. As soon as I read this, I knew I had to put into my quotes of the week. I am having a struggle right now. I have to chat my reason tells me. However, my instinct – my physical inclination is stay in solitude.
GK Chesterton: I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. Somehow that justifies my eulogy at my father's funeral and the opening salvo of my now-weekly blog entry.
Soren Kierkegaard: If someone happens to pass gas in public loudly, people are so startled, it is as if it were the voice of a spirit. So intoxicated are we when we are in public. You should see me when I do an English corner.
Canada ain't Cool
If I start to say Canada is cool then you will know that I am ready to renounce my Canadian citizenship – I have no intention of doing that. I will just try to ignore the aspects of Canadian existence that could be considered cool by the day-and-age that we now live in. I will concentrate on what is truly uncool, and thus substantive, about Canada.
This week, I can't think of anything.
Monday (the 10th)
I work in the evening: 1800-2100.
It is cold.
I buy Tony more Christmas presents. I could get exactly what he wanted – it wasn't available.
During a class about learning, I learned that I learned a lot during the day. That is, if figuring things out on your own is learning. I did learn about the Mexican-American war when I listened to a podcast – I had had a vague idea that there had been a war between the two countries but the podcast put a clearer idea in my mind about what the war was all about. I learned how to put a Christmas Tree into the background of a photo – that was my figuring something out for the day. (Here is the completed work.) And if learning is learning how ignorant you have been, I have learned how much I have been missing when I had previously read Joyce's Ulysses. Frank Delaney's podcast, in which he goes through the novel line-by-line, is a learning experience par excellence.
What did the students tell me that they are learned during their Mondays? A few said I had taught them something. Others said nothing.
Tuesday (the 11th)
I don't work.
It is cold. I wear my knit-cap, known to Canadians as a toque, in the house. I may even wear gloves tomorrow when I go to work.
Should I sleep or should I write entries for the WCE Blog?
Paul Rudkin remotely installed a VPN on my computer. I have thirty days to convince my wife to purchase the program license.
I was able to upload Scenes from My Life in Wuxi, China #34 to Youtube.
I went to the nearby Tesco to do some shopping, and I took video for Scenes from My Life in Wuxi, China #35.
I will buy Tony one more thing for Christmas. But what it will be is something you will have to find out later at this blog.
Wednesday (the 12th)
I work 1300 to 2100.
In the morning, Jenny goes to Tony's kindergarten for an open house; I am at home by myself, uploading videos like this one, and cleaning the house.
I just realized that it is Frank Sinatra's birthday today. Old Blue Eyes was born on this date in 1915.
I put a 100 rmb on my electronic bus pass.
Someone took me up on my offer of my Don Colacho's Aphorism compilation. A Chinese High School student in Singapore. He found a way to reverse the order of the aphorisms from #2988 to #1 to #1 to #2988. Again, if anyone wants a compiled epub or doc of the aphorisms, email me at email@example.com for the new& improved copy.
They call me the ghost at work. I am there but I am not.
Thursday (the 13th)
I work 1000 to 2100. My 1000 class is canceled so I really don't have much to do until 1500.
I do will stuff on the computer, of course. I have ten ideas for stories for my WCE blog.
I plan to put a wrap on my Christmas shopping for Tony. (I type this at 1000 am. Let's see what I really do.)
I had breakfast at McDonald's. Waiting in line to make my order, this young woman did the barge-to-the-front routine. For some reason it seemed so strange. Barging to the front of the line is something the locals always do, but usually not by those locals of her demographic.
(I type the following at 214 pm. I bought Tony one more toy. I couldn't find any gift wrap. If I was in Canada, I would have went to any store and easily found it. But in China, where they put money in red envelopes on their big holiday, wrapping presents is not often done.)
I am reading but not concentrating.
A few passages from Pascal's Pensees grab me. One of them made my AKIC quotes section. I soon got to thinking how wonderful it would be for me if I was in a monastery. I have to talk in class – there is no getting out of that, and best to do that to the best of my abilities. But to talk the rest of the time – how I wish I worked in a monastery.
Maybe, I am trying to take myself beyond the things that are beyond the world on across the way. Then, maybe I am having a snit.
I have downloaded six volumes of Boswell's The Life of Johnson. I first read an abridged edition and later a full edition. I still remember being asked by a the owner of the now-defunct Stone Soup Books in Chilliwack, BC, why I was so keen to read that book. He thought I was nuts. Oh well.
Friday (the 14th)
I work 1100-2100.
I do something different as I go to work. I decide to get off a bus a stop earlier than I normally would get off in order to walk down a stretch of Zhongshan Road I usually see from the bus. I saw that an Apple outlet was having a ceremony to mark the launch of the Iphone 5.
I see a foreigner come behind me as I wait for the staff at McDonald's to give me my big breakfast. He speaks to them in what sounds like fluent Chinese. I felt a tinge of envy and then wonder as I ate. Why has all the time I have spent on Chinese has seemed to yield so little for me? I wondered.
On the bus, I listened to the Uncommon Knowledge Audio Podcast. Why did Romney lose? I have heard a million theories now.
First class today will be an Advanced Plus Salon Class (conversation) about strife in the Holy Land. I will have to ask the students what the Chinese think of the Jews and the Muslims.
Most chat is talking behind people's back. So what's the point? Better to be talked about behind one's back than to be the one who is talking behind others' backs.
Christmas party tomorrow. I am not looking forward to it. I often talk disparagingly of Christmas when I do talk about it with the students. Christmas, I tell them, is now a month-long shopping festival. I just read Kierkegaard complaining that Christmas had turned into a pretty holiday that allowed people to be too satisfied with their earthly existence. I can't go there with the students because they wouldn't begin to understand what Kierkegaard was getting on about. I will complain of the materialism.
Speaking of Christmas materialism, I will admit that I enjoy shopping for presents for Tony. All I can say in my defense is that at least I am not buying Christmas presents for myself. I don't want any anyway.
Concentrate! Concentrate! Why does my mind wander to things unimportant? Why can't I read something without some random unimportant thought taking me away from the text?
I see things collecting around the office for tomorrow night's so-called Christmas Party. I like to spend my Saturday nights uploading podcasts to my Ipod Touch. Instead, I have to....
After arriving home from work, I decided to download podcasts from Itunes. I found myself swearing at the Apple Gods because their new version of the Itunes software had a new interface which I found hard to navigate. So, I spent twenty minutes more, in front of the computer than I planned to, trying to figure out how to work with the new Itunes. The interface designers made, what I thought were, silly decisions like moving buttons that I relied upon to new locations of the screen. The buttons were smaller and gave less information. I suppose I will get used to the new interface eventually, but I don't see the point of the changes.
Saturday (the 15th)
I will work 1000 to 1800 today. Then in the evening, I will attend the school's annual Christmas party. The first one, in 2004, was held at what is now the Blue Bar – then it was called True Blue. I remember that the students, about hundred or so, sung happy birthday to me! (I think the party was actually held on the 24th.) I thought that was nice, but then fellow teacher Peter N pointed out to me that they only did so because the school staff had mistakenly thought cakes were needed at Christmas parties.
(I hope you don't mind, the change of tense from present to past.)
I work up at 715 which is oversleeping in my world. I remember I turned off the snooze function on my Ipod Touch at 620...
I still got to work in plenty of time to make this blog entry.
Standing on the bus, a seat became available. A man, who was much older than me and who was also standing, gestured to me to take the seat. I declined. I was going to get off the bus soon anyway. Making my way to the exit, I gave the man a nod of appreciation and tried to mumble xie-xie. Did the man offer me the seat because I was a foreigner or because I was old?
Hell, I feel old. I have an ache in my hip, and on cold days, the bones on my right side ache. I think it must be arthritis. But I can't be bothered to go to the doctor to find out.
Earlier in the morning, I opened the door to see my wife naked. I wanted to make love and not go to work. (I should put something about that in the gratitude section, but I have this strange urge to publish the thought and bury it at the same time. I have a feeling that very few people read my weekly blog entry from start to finish.)
I pointed to a student and said "this student is stupid." Now, why would I do such a seemingly-cruel thing? Here is what happened. The exercise, I was doing with beginner students, required them to turn a sentence I said with a singular "this" or "that" into one with a plural "these" or those." Pointing to a student, whose turn it was to speak, while saying that sentence that was in the lesson plan, I was immediately struck by how, in a different context, I wouldn't dare have said what I had said while pointing at a student.
In my 1000 class, I had a student named Li Jia. "Li Jia" is the pinyin for "Ikea" I had learned because of the recent Wuxi Ikea opening. So I suggested the student give herself the English name: Ikea. Wondering, right then, if that was such a good idea, I then told her to think about it. I remember the criticism I got, nearly forty years ago, for naming a dog Pepsi because it came to the family in a Pepsi box. I stand by that decision. As for today's, I left it to the girl to decide – though she seemed to not mind it.
Sunday (the 16th)
I work 1000 to 1800 today.
I will begin this entry by talking about last night. Actually, I am going to shift from Sunday to Saturday in what follows:
The was a Christmas slash Gagnum Style Dance party at the school last night.
Tony & Jenny came. Tony peed his pants while playing Train Simulator on my office laptop. This ruined the evening for my wife. She had to go to a store to buy new pants for Tony. Saying she was tired, she went home early. Tony, pee-pee pants, didn't accompany her. He wanted to hang out with Dad.
A girl, who used to work at our school and whose wedding I attended, came to the party. I couldn't remember her name. She was a very nice girl and some who I admired very much. And it was killing me that as she was telling about her work life since leaving the school, I couldn't recall it. And to make matters worst, I thought she looked pregnant. It turned out that she had a seven-month old child already. I was fit to be executed after a long and excruciating torture.
I just asked the S.A., who sits in the office across the hall, to remind me of the girl's name. It was Helen. Somewhere in the blog archives, there is a photo of the Kaulins family with her and her husband taken at her wedding. (Here is the link)
Otherwise, the party was as expected. I posed for some photos with the students. Some of them appealed to my vanity by treating me like a celebrity. I took some photos of the students to my in my Teaching English in Wuxi, China Blog. I took photos of the pretty students with a token male student thrown in to take the curse off what I was doing. The other foreign teachers tried to act cool and be above it all, looking on with bemusement at how the Chinese held parties.
The Chinese require performances at their parties. Students sung or tried to win a Gangnum Style Dancing Team contest. The view of the contest was blocked for me by a standing room only crowd.
The party ended by 830 PM, mercifully.
Tony & I walked around the downtown of Wuxi before catching a bus home.
One good thing, of two, about the party was the fact that Tony wanted to spend time with Dad. The other good thing was the students appealing to my vanity.
Dad enjoyed having Tony sit on his lap on the bus ride home. Dad didn't so much appreciate Tony sitting on his shoulders on the walk from the bus stop to Casa Kaulins.
On the bus ride to work (I am talking Sunday), there were images of the Connecticut Elementary School Killer. People, I saw on the Internet, were saying there was a need for gun control.
In China, men have run into kindergartens with machetes killing young children. Young children have also been killed in vans taking them to school. That is my worry when I think about my son Tony. There are many ways to die prematurely in this world that most people don't seem bothered about unless a gun is involved.
Back to Sunday. I have wrapped Tony's Christmas presents. I will have to come to school on Monday or Tuesday to pick them up and bring 'em home. There is no other time I will be able to do without Tony noticing before Christmas.
"Andis! You are wrong!" said the student as he saw me enter the women's bathroom. I was well aware what I was doing when I ran into the bathroom. So when I came out of the bathroom with a mop the student, saw what I was up to. The school Ayi stores her mops in that bathroom. I didn't want to burden her with cleaning the mess that Tony had made the night before when he had peed himself and had also made a mess drinking cola.
I think that People who describe themselves as middle-of-the-road politically are really saying that they aren't capable of thinking for themselves. That is, they are defining themselves by what other people are thinking. So, I think they would be more honest for them to describe themselves as fence-sitters. Thinking about it more, I think it would be even better to describe these people as naked pointy-fence-post sitters. That is, they really getting off on sitting on those fences that consist of pointy-ended pickets which are hammered in a vertical position on horizontal railings which in turn are nailed to support-posts which are posted in the ground every few feet or so. And to get the full enjoyment of sitting on these pointy ends, they need to be wearing no pants or underwear.
Saturday evening, my wife was listening to Buddhist music on her Iphone. She is thinking of Buddhism while I am thinking of Catholicism. Go figure.
Anyway, I can think of worst things. She is not an atheist. Thank God.