Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Week in the Life, of Sorts of a Wuxi Expat: September 23 to September 29, 2013

Monday [September 23]
[Home Laptop]
I didn't work today. In fact, I didn't do much of anything so there isn't much of an entry for today.

Here is what I did do:

  1. I finished reading my WH Mallock book.
  2. I went with Jenny downtown and got my hair cut really short.
  3. I took a lot of photos for my Casa Kaulins blog.

Tuesday [September 24]
[School Laptop]
I work 13:00 to 21:00.

Jenny says I snore. She said that she couldn't sleep Sunday night because of my doing so. She asked if I remembered being shoved by her (I didn't) during the night. She shoved me, she said, in hopes of getting me to be quiet, but instead I snored all the louder.

The idea of someone being awake when I am sleeping is strange to me because it seems to me that I am always the last to fall asleep, and I can remember many a night where others were fast asleep while I was staring at the ceiling. I even used to always say that I wasn't the sort of person who could put their head on a pillow and fall asleep right away.

I told Jenny to make a recording of my snoring.

I took the 602bus and then the 312 bus to get to work. While doing so, I listened to the latest Econtalk podcast. The topic was the Sports Gene. From what I could gather from listening to the podcast, I think that author of a book about the Sports Gene said genetics helps give athletes an advantage in sports, and that if you don't have these advantages, whether they be the right body shape or a gene, you have no hope, no matter how much you work at succeeding. The idea of genetics playing such a role in who we were and what we can become is one that I have always found depressing. I will never forget becoming so depressed from reading a New Yorker article which discussed how even personality was determined so much by evolution and where our ancestors came from. I was approaching my mid-twenties when reading the article and I was thoroughly miserable at my situation and my prospects in life. It seemed I was doomed to be lonely and poor, and the article seemed to indicate that I was genetically fated to be so doomed.

Wednesday [September 25]
[Home Laptop]
I work 13:00 to 21:00 today.

I was up at 6:00 because Tony has to off to school by 7:00.

For the first time in months, I wore long pants in my civilian-non-English-teacher mode. It is getting cool. I may wear long sleeves during my English-teacher mode today.

Obama wanted to bomb Syria because the U.S. Armed Forces needed some combat practice, not having had any in a couple years. That is what one student told me was his theory about what he was trying to do in Syria. That combined with another student's assertion, made last week, that Obama was a puppet of the arms industry shows to me that the world's perception of America hasn't changed even with supposedly world-friendly Obama in the White House.

I am back to studying Python on my free time. I downloaded some PPT slides for a Cal Tech lecture on Python which I have found to be very informative. I don't really have a project in mind right now however. Having written my forty team tournament program, I am not sure how to proceed. I may try to make the program more detailed and increase its options for the user. I may allow the user an option of following one team through the entire tournament process. I would also like more statistical reports to be made of the results like single game records and multiple tournament records as well.

Last night, I did a class about superstitions. All the students told me that they were not superstitious. One of the students said he didn't believe in God because God didn't exist. None of the students could supply any examples of superstitions – I had to do so myself, and even then the students could not provide any other examples of superstitions. It seems the students have not had to actually think about superstitions and religions beyond being told that science is superior to both.

Tony has a dark bruise on his arm yesterday night. He told Jenny that the teacher had hit him. Jenny phoned the teacher who said she hadn't. This lead to an argument between Jenny and the teacher. I don't think Tony was hit by the teacher, though he does drive Jenny to such frustrations that she will hit him. Tony, as I have observed before, will be quiet or say I don't know! when he has been caught red-handed. He does lie on occasion. So it is hard to say how Tony got the bruise. Are the other kids picking on him because he is different? Is there resentment of the fact that he is a foreign kid maybe getting special treatment? Jenny told me that some other parents in Tony's class have alleged this. Did in fact the teacher get so frustrated with Tony? So whatever the cause of Tony's bruise, it sounds ugly and my stomach has a nauseous churning feeling when I contemplate the incident and the future of Tony at that school. I can't foresee things getting better. It seems a degree of animosity has built between Jenny, the other parents, and the teacher.

[School Laptop]
I take the 610 and then the 81 bus to get to school.

A student was in Beijing recently and he told me that compared to Beijing, Wuxi's air was fresh. The air was so bad in Beijing that the student said he got a sore throat very quickly.

Thursday [September 26]
[School Laptop]
I work 10:00 to 21:00. Because I have to get Tony out of the house at 7:00 AM, I got up at 5:45 to take a shower and shave. As soon as Tony was on the way to school, I caught a bus and got downtown about 8:00. I spent about 45 minutes at McDonald's where I had breakfast and read religious things on the Ipad.

I saw a tall foreigner having breakfast at the McDonald's. I ordered my food and stayed clear of him.

I blog about when I go to work but rarely, if ever, do I mention when I arrive home. Last night, I arrived home at 10:15 PM. Tony was fast asleep. I showered and then read on my Ipad.

Three files I work with through the day: My diary file, my AKIC Weekly file, and my thoughts file.

I walk around the school at ten and I don't see any students. I will see about six today in total if they all show up.

I caught one student gaming our school's system. What he had done was book a salon class but then not show up for it but then show up for his private class. The way it works at our school is that students have to attend private classes if they are to advance, or in the case of many company students: get out. They should attend salon classes but they aren't compulsory. So I noticed that this student didn't attend my 19:00 salon class, but showed up at my 20:00 private class. I pointed this out to him and he laughed in the weaselly way that Chinese people do when they have been caught out.

Friday [September 27]
[School Laptop]
I work 11:00 to 21:00 today.

It turns out that Tony is going to school tomorrow. I had believed that he would have tomorrow off and then would go back to school on Sunday and Monday. Instead, I believe now that he will go to school on Saturday, Sunday and on Monday. Jenny, however, tells me that he gets eight days off in a row instead of seven because of this schedule change so maybe he will get Monday off. Either way, the Chinese way of dealing with holidays is insane.

I have more thoughts to put into my other files instead of in this diary.

Sometimes, traffic puts me in a rage as some Chinese person in a car or e-bike cuts you off.

There is something to be said for monastic life. I believe that most English teachers in China should be in monasteries instead of classrooms teaching.

There was another thing Jenny told me about Tony. She thinks Tony is not happy these days. When she came to pick him up yesterday, Tony was not running excitedly to the exit like the other children in his class, but was walking behind them.

I am having great fun with Python. I have figured out how to scan my tourney result files and pull out results for a team of my choice. Tomorrow, if I have time, I will write a function that will pull out the complete line score of a team's playoff result. Right now, I can just pull out the team's line score for a playoff game but not the line score of the team's playoff game opponent.

Saturday [September 28]
[School Laptop]
Last night at the bus stop, where I wait for the 635 bus to take me home, my 635 bus companion asked me how my day was. I sighed; and a pang of boredom and uselessness came over me. I replied simply. “Just another day!” “You always say that when I ask you!” she replied.

The bus came, I got on, got a seat, and eventually I got to my stop. I walked home and was surprised to see a crowd of people and police standing in front of the #53 apartment building. (I live at the #52). The one lane that runs in front of the buildings was blocked by three cars which were parked so close together that I assumed that there had been an accident which would have explained the crowds and police. But walking pass the car expecting to see damage, I saw instead that the cars were parked within inches of each other and I could see no damage.

Arriving at the apartment, I asked Jenny what was going on. She told me that a woman had stopped her car in front of the apartment building and was waiting for her son to come down. The problem was that her son didn't come down right away and the drivers who were waiting in the lane because of her became piqued. So piqued that they become that they decided to not move their cars. A three car standoff ensued. Jenny told me that they almost came to blows.

The standoff started about 8:00. I arrived home about 10:15. I had a vantage point on the standoff from my third floor apartment window and I was continually checking in on it as I got ready to go to bed. The standoff was marked by people standing around with brief bursts of loud and seemingly animated conversation. There were policemen and security guards milling about with civilians.

The standoff ended at about 11:30 pm. It seems that everyone got in their cars and drove away.

I work today 10:00 to 18:00. I woke to see rain. It would have annoyed me so much but Tony had to go to school on this Saturday. I really felt sorry for him. Poor little fellow. He has to have me as his father.

[Home Laptop]
Tony is happy to see me because he wants to play with my Ipad.

A woman sat beside and asked if I was the person on the bus TV. I said I was, sheepishly. I just wanted to be left alone.

Sunday [September 29]
I don't work today. My five day holiday begins! What am I going to do? Not much. I'll stick around the house for the most part, and play it by ear. None of the students, I talked to yesterday, told me that they had big plans either.

Tony goes to school today because of a shuffling around of days off so the holiday can be seven days long.

I wear pants and my sweat jacket. The weather is cooling down.

An old friend of mine in Canada just recently had a birthday. Thanks to a reminder email I was able to send him a greeting. Hopefully, we will be to get together and talk on the phone. Happy Birthday Eric Van Munster!

Jenny went to the dentist in the morning. She didn't enjoy the experience. They were using drills and whatnot; and it was painful.

I meet her at the Tesco where we ate lunch at KFC and then did a bit of shopping.

Back home, we waited for Tony to finish school. I passed the time by reading The Search for Modern China and then watching this 1965 film, that I was finally able to get downloaded, called Simon of the Desert.

I downloaded the film because it was listed on a top 100 Catholic films article that I had found on the Internet. I had a notion that Simon of the Desert was this religious ascetic who spent a long time living on a column. People doing very ascetic things is very appealing me. Having the mental resources to survive in solitary confinement is something that I have grown to desire to be able to do.

I watched the move, found it quite affecting and startling, and was surprised to learn that it had been made by a Surreal and Atheist film director.

The movie started out, as one would expect, with a crowd of Christians honoring Simon. It was all quite solemn. However, I should have realized that something was up with this movie when Simon was being honored for having been on the column for six years, six months, and six days.

The film then startled me because it had nudity in it. It was not something that you would have expected from a black and white movie made in the mid-1960s, as well as from a movie that had made a list of top 100 Catholic films. But the nudity was used to show the ascetic being tempted by the devil so it wasn't gratuitous and not blasphemous I thought.

As the movie proceeded, Simon, on his column, was being questioned and tested by monks and other characters, some very modern, who were very cynical about what he was doing. This was something I would have expected from a truly Catholic film because Jesus himself had to deal with this from his followers and the society in which he lived.

But it was the film's ending that truly surprised and unsettled me so that I was a little confused as to what its message was. The Devil was played by a woman, a very fetching girl, in the film. Early in the film, she had tempted Simon without success. But at the end of the film, she returned and took Simon off his column. They got on a jet plane, headed to a big city and a 1960s nightclub where the young people are dancing furiously to some very rocking music. The Devil gets up to dance and Simon, who looks like an old professorial type completely out of place in the nightclub, tells her that he wants to go home. From the dance floor, the Devil tells Simon that he can't because another person has moved into it. The music keeps playing and the kids keep dancing as the movie ends.

The film's concluding scene, besides being very startling – one of the most startling ends to a movie I have ever seen, depicted a choice that I personally have dealt with my life. Taking to the bus to work, I have flipped between listening to religious podcasts and the rock music I have on my Ipod. But more than just podcasts the ending depicted the many choices and temptations I have in life. In fact, the whole tenor of my life was depicted in the two final scenes. The film showed the allure of decadence. But was the movie trying to tell us to choose the night clubs of life and eschew the religious life?

As soon as the film ended, I had to Google for reactions to the film. I was disappointed to see that the film was loved by some atheists who said it showed how religion was all wrong, but as I thought more about the film and considered what I had read on the Internet about it, I now think the film was something a Catholic could watch and say they liked. I say the film was in fact more realistic than surrealistic. Its seeming incongruities depicted the actual temptations that life presents to the spirit in an artistic way. And what do atheists know about religion anyway? If they depict life realistically, atheists can make spiritual films.

I further read that the film's startling ending was the result of the film makers running out of money and so was it hastily made. This only goes to show that giving an artist all he wants may not be the best way to make a masterpiece. Sometimes, you can make an impact on the cheap.

The film was just 45 minutes long, as well because of its small budget, and so I was able to finish it before I had to pick up Tony.

It was my second time to pick up Tony at his primary school. The picking up of children at school is a ritual that I have seen done thousands of times by Chinese parents. My going to pick up Tony, however, was quite the sight for the Chinese parents and and the students at Tony's primary school. I heard a child exclaim 老外(laowai or foreigner) seven times in quick succession. I pretended not to hear that as I did a mental rolling of the eyes.

I picked up Tony and we went for a sight-see on the family E-bike. I first took Tony along the canal so we could look at boat traffic. Standing on a six foot high canal wall, we saw what looked like a hand floating in the water. The “hand” was green and black. It looked to have four fingers and nails with thumb under the surface of the water. I imagined that the hand was attached to an arm that was reaching up from a body floating or resting an arm's length below the surface. I threw some rocks at the “hand” to see what happened. One rock hit the “hand” directly so that the “hand” disappeared from view for five or six seconds before again returning to the surface. This freaked Tony out and we left. We went to a nearby park which the canal ran by and I observed pieces of wood and plants floating in the water that had the same dark and green hue of the “hand.”

We then rode through a transportation commercial park where we were able to see all manner of things having to do with vehicles and transportation. At one spot in the park, Tony wanted to go watch a digger in operation. Something about the digger was drawing a crowd. We wanted to see what was happening but the crowd started staring at us. We were the show now, and the show was watching us. I had to leave.


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