Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Week in the Life of a Wuxi, China English Teacher: September 16 to September 22, 2013

Monday [September 16]
[Home Laptop]
I didn't work today.

In the morning, Jenny & I went to Tesco. We had breakfast at KFC. Feeling mean, I recommend all my AKIC readers do the same.

We then did a little bit of shopping. While we were doing so, Jenny told me that the parents of the other children in Tony's class were complaining that Tony was getting special treatment, and so she was engaging in some frantic texting on her mobile phone with the teacher of Tony's class.

In the afternoon, I finished watching The Westerner starring Gary Cooper. A strange movie in that it was both tongue-in-cheek and tragic. I couldn't figure out the relationship between the character played by Cooper and Judge Roy Bean. Bean didn't deserve the sentimental treatment that Cooper's character had given him in the end of the movie. Bean had just admitted that he was responsible for burning down homesteader's fields and crops.

I then watched the first twenty minutes of The Mill & the Cross. The film had little dialogue and was using a famous painting for a backdrop It was an art film and the characters were going about their lives solemnly. So, I was feeling of solemnity as I went to pick up Tony.

So solemn was I that I forgot to take the tire lock off the e-bike. I applied the accelerator but was quickly stopped by the lock which had gotten jammed into the top of the wheel well. I couldn't get the lock out for two minutes and I was faced with the prospect of not being able to get to the primary school to pick up Tony. After having placed the bike on its sides, I was finally able to get the lock off the bike by just backing it up.

It turned out that I wasn't late for picking up Tony. I waited about five minutes and Tony emerged from a crowd of kids. I took him on a ride of the countryside and to the playground before taking him home.

When I was in grade one, I walked to school by myself. [I just told this to Jenny and she told me that she did the same, however she didn't have a mother and father to come home to. She went home to an uncle who made she sure she didn't starve but didn't provide much else for her. In the winter of her first year of primary school, she had only one pair of shoes, made of cotton, to wear. And of course she was mocked by all the other girls in her village for being the girl that her mother didn't want.]

Tuesday [September 17]
[School Laptop]
I work 13:00 to 21:00 today.

Three interesting things to report today:
  1. There was an incident in front of the government building that is across the street from Casa Kaulins. I was hanging clothes in the verandah when I saw a car stop near the entrance gate to the government compound. Out of the car came an old man and a younger man. The younger man opened the trunk and pulled out a wheelchair on which then he sat. The old man pulled out another thing, from the trunk, which turned out to be a sign and then pushed the man in the wheelchair to a spot on the road side that was in the lane leading the entrance gate. The man in the wheelchair then unfolded the sign and displayed it. I told Jenny then to take a look and she told me that the pair of men were demanding some compensation from a government official working in the building – there had been an accident or something. The pair were first confronted by the compound's security guards. People came out of the building and talked to the pair. Then a police car showed up. The pair talked to the policemen for about twenty minutes or so. The police car then left, and I then saw the car that brought the pair to the spot come to pick them up. So, there were no beatings.
  2. I took a completely new way to school. Last week, I told you that I had taken the 617 bus downtown and I was quite taken with the area it rode through. The wife mentioned that I could transfer to the 3 bus to get downtown. Well, I did that this morning. I arrived at a stop that was across the street from the school – it having taken me about 70 minutes to get there from home. This was not quicker than any of the ways I get downtown but it wasn't so awful; so I will take it again.
  3. I ran into a teacher working at a school that competes with ours. He hadn't heard of the suspensions and deportations at Wuxi Wall Street that resulted from their being found to have employed illegal part-timers. This surprised me. His school had been engaging in the sort of hiring that had gotten Wall Street suspended.
  4. Did I say three things? I knew there was a fourth thing of interest to type into this blog. I am appearing in a commercial that is playing on all the bus televisions in Wuxi. My 635 bus companion sent me a message saying she saw me when she was riding to work.
  5. Now there is fifth thing I should mention. I phoned my Mother last night. I told her our good news about the apartment mortgage but she depressed with news of the employment situation in Manitoba, and her weather report. Two degrees in Brandon! It is still in the high twenties here in Wuxi.
  6. My cousin who had her ninth child last week was on a plane three days after giving birth so she could attend a wedding in Winnipeg! Amazing!

Wednesday [September 18]
In other languages, today is Mercredi or 星期三.

I work 13:00 to 21:00 today. Tomorrow is a holiday: The Mid-Autumn Festival. So I come to school with jeu d'esprit.

The commercial I did for the school, which is now appearing on buses all over the Wuxi area, has incorrect subtitles. They never replaced the original script with my edits! Zut alors! Be that as it may, the video shows give me a performance that is a real tour de force. 

I get an enquiry about teaching English from a woman named Anastasia from Russia. Lovely name.

I took the 25 bus to school today. Much as I wanted to look at scenery again, I decided not to board a 617 bus which had arrived earlier. I needed to use my bus time to study Chinese.

What will happen tomorrow Chez Casa Kaulins? The Enfant Terrible (Tony) et moi will probably go out on the countryside to regardez the trains, or as the Chinese may well say: 看 火车。

Thursday [September 19]
[Home Laptop]
  • Mid-Autumn Festival. I don't work today. I go back to work tomorrow. Many workers and students get Thursday, Friday, and Saturday off, and then have to go back to work and school on Sunday. I will work the Friday and Saturday, and then get Sunday and Monday off.
  • Happiness equals Reality minus Expectations. A person I know posted this on We Chat! There is something wrong with this but I can't put my finger on it. By saying H = R – E, you are also saying that R = H + E. That is, Reality equals Happiness plus Expectations. You could also say that -E = H – R or E = R - H. That is, Expectations equals Reality minus Happiness.
  • I ran into Brian Drapes just as I was about to catch the 635 home. I got to know him from my unsuccessful attempt to run a softball team. He has got the life. One month in China and then a month in America.

I wrote the previous three points after midnight so technically they were part of Thursday. Here is what I have done in my real today so far. That is, my recap till now which is 13:30:
  • The K family was up at seven this morning, despite the fact that it was a holiday. The first thing Tony did was immediately grab hold of my Ipad and play Real Racing 3. The first thing I did was sit on the throne and try to figure out what it was that I was going to do with my free day. Alas, I realized it really wasn't free because I had to placate my wife. So I was torn between the need to do things around the house, the need to take of Tony, the urge to take photos for my Casa Kaulins blog, the requirement I put on myself to do some blogging, and the requirement I give myself to do some reading. What I did do was clean some of Tony's toys, fold up some dry laundry, upload Views of China from Casa Kaulins #21, take just two photos for the Casa Kaulins blog, set up train simulator on the laptop for Tony, get a fully charged e-bike from the basement of a parking garage, and have some breakfast.
  • While I was getting the e-bike, I saw that a group of hairdressers was giving haircuts near the security gate. I assume their salon was doing a promotion. I should have taken a photo of the four people who were taking advantage of the promotion. It was quite a sight.
  • Part of my need to take care of Tony was to get him out of the house. After doddling around the morning in the apartment during which I had thought of not going out, I did get Tony out of the apartment at 10:45. He was hell bent on going to the Wanda Shopping Plaza to buy a toy Ice Cream truck. I just wanted to take him for an e-bike ride around the area. I prevailed in this battle of wills because Jenny was finally able to make Tony realize that he was going to get what he wanted if he just had a little patience.
  • The path we took on our e-bike ride was basically rectangular with Casa K being at a point at the middle-bottom or south of the rectangle. We went past the Yanqiao rest stop on the freeway between Jiangyin and Wuxi. We went through some factory areas where we saw that workers were working on what was supposed to be a holiday. We saw two high-speed trains as our path intersected with rail track at two spots. We rode on a road past older factories in Jiangyin. We saw a truck with twenty workers in the back even though it was supposed to a holiday -- but then I remembered seeing groups of workers cutting grass and bushes on e-bike ride we had on another holiday in the same area. (Are there still Coolies in China?) In Yanqiao, we stopped at the Ruhui supermarket where I bought six cans of low-alcohol pineapple beer and Tony wasted three rmb of my money on arcade rides.
  • While we were in the supermarket, Jenny phoned to tell us she was heading to the Wanda Plaza. We were to meet her there but we first rode home first so I could drop off the cans of beer. At the Wanda Plaza, we tried a new restaurant, which in English, would have been called the number eight restaurant. Jenny ordered a simple group meal consisting of some fried cauliflower, breaded chicken wings, boiled fish, and fried pork. It was okay. Just. Tony was happy because Jenny had bought him the toy ice cream truck he had been begging for.
  • Things got interesting for me when I took Tony to the restroom. While there I ran into a foreigner who told me he recognized me from my blog. He was teaching at a school in Xi Shan for New South Wales University in what I understood to be a university prep program. We exchanged phone numbers and hopefully we will meet again soon. He had only been in Wuxi for a month.
  • I have been running into people the past few days... First there was Terry, and Brian and …..

It is now 10:00 PM.

After finishing their meal at Wanda's #8 restaurant, the K family returned to Casa Kaulins where they hung out till 3:30 PM. In that time, Andis did some blogging on the laptop before he had to give the computer to Tony who insisted on having it so he could watch videos. So Andis instead read a book on his Ipad but then got sleepy and took a short nap in the bedroom. Andis hated himself for not being able to concentrate on his book.

At about 3:30 in the afternoon, the K family then took the 617 bus before transferring to the 3 bus to get to Nanchang Jie where they strolled on that bar street browsing at some shops.

On the bus, Andis saw himself in a commercial. He took peeks at the screen when his head was facing the floor.

Andis also saw these three young men, with stylish haircuts, get on the bus. One of them wore a shirt with the words F*** O**.

At the start of Nanchang Jie, Andis & Tony saw a fifty foot tall figure advertising a Spanish beer called Mahou or Five Star. Andis then saw some swarthy looking Spaniards who seemed to be making preparations for a massive Mahou Beer promotion. Andis assumed the promotion was massive because there were signs everywhere advertising Mahou Beer. Andis asked himself if Mahou was Spain's version of Australia's Foster's and Canada's Molson Canadian – beers that aren't all that popular in their home countries.

Tony bought a bubble maker with soap, container, and wick in a shop that sold memorabilia with images of Elvis and Audrey Hepburn – there were also buttons for sale with the word “f***.” From the latter sight, Andis put two and two together and thought of the young man he had seen on the bus.

Then there was a restaurant with a military theme which had a machine-gun nest display by its entrance and, of course, Tony posed at the display for his mother and father to take photos.

Andis was feeling sheepish throughout the Nanchang Jie stroll because he had actually gotten his wife to agree to go to the Indian Restaurant behind the Nikko Hotel. He wondered if his wife was going to protest about the price or the food.

When the sun set and evening set in, Andis kindly coaxed Jenny & Tony to head to the restaurant. As they approached the restaurant, Andis tried to reassure himself that it was a good idea to go to the restaurant and that it wasn't going to be all that expensive. His order was going to be simple: butter masala chicken with basmati rice. But what would Jenny & Tony order? He had no idea, and he again fell to despair and felt it wasn't going to seem to have been a good idea.

But in they went. Looking at Ganesh's menu, Jenny made a comment about it being expensive and not knowing what to order. This struck a little fear in Andis but he felt relieved to see that at least what he wanted to order was cheap. Then, Jenny saw a group set meal and thus the problem of what she would order was solved. Andis had his butter chicken masala and was happy though he had to share it with Jenny and Tony. Jenny ordered some Cheese Nan, Himalayan Soup, Shrimp and some roast chicken. Andis happily ate his portion. Tony and Jenny didn't seem enthused but the food but they weren't mad about it so Andis felt some relief.

Much to Andis's annoyance, Tony was very interested in the billiards table that was on the restaurant's main floor. Tony had played billiards on the Ipad, but in real life, he had no idea how to hold the cue, and he just pushed the balls into the pockets.

Leaving Ganesh's, the K family had to go through Nanchang Market where there were a lot of people because of the holiday. Seeing the crowds, Andis became glad that to have gone to Ganesh's because the place was quiet and a nice refuge from all the people.

Friday [September 20]
[School Laptop]
I work 11:00 to 21:00 today. I feel strange coming back to work after my one day holiday.

I am annoyed with myself because I forgot to bring up the e-bike from the underground where it had been charging. I had promised my wife that I would do this for her.

I really should do a bit of research for the classes I do. Sometimes, I can prep just by using the information I can gleam off the top of my head.

Tony is not going to school today. Last night, he fell asleep watching television. It made for a nice picture at my Tony Kaulins in China wordpress blog.

Till I get a haircut, hopefully my next days off, I will come my hair forward, Julius Caesar style.

The Trattoria Ferrara Restaurant, or as I called it the Italian restaurant that's near my school, is closing down. The location ultimately did them in. Having been around nine years, I have seen that location kill many a business. It is on a side street just a little bit too far away from the Zhongshan Road pedestrian traffic. I became disenchanted with the restaurant when its original management moved on to some other ventures. The reason I mention this is that I got an email about it from a visitor to my blog, from Monaco of all places.

Saturday [September 21]
[School Laptop]
Memo to myself: don't take the 617 and 3 buses on a Saturday morning. You end up standing half the way there, even if the view is nice.

I was approached by another foreigner this morning. This time because he saw me in the commercial being shown on the bus television. “You look better in person than on the television!” he told me. I don't know how to take that.

Last class of the day, the 17:00 to 18:00 with two boys of high school age, was annoying. One of the students just wasn't prepared and I should have failed him but I just want to get on with my weekend.

I meet Jenny and Tony at school at the end of my shift. We ate at a nearby noodle house and then took the bus home. Tony kept on muttering about playing with the Ipad. I eventually barked back at him.

Sunday [September 22]
[Home Laptop]
I don't work today but Tony goes to school. This is because of the National Day holiday that is coming on October 1 and the powers-that-be rearranging days off so the people can get October 1st to 7th off. So, Tony will be going to school from Sunday to Friday [the 22nd to the 27th], then will get a day off on Saturday [the 28th], and go back to school on a Sunday and a Monday [the 29th and 30th] before getting seven days off [October 1st to 7th]. My holidays won't coincide with his. I will get the 29th, 30th, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 7th off. I have to go to work on a Friday and Saturday [the 4th and 5th]. 看得懂吗?Comprendre? ¿Entiendes?

No plans for today other than doing some blogging and watching a movie on my Ipad.

I began watching Duel in the Sun with Joseph Cotten and Gregory Peck on Friday night. The acting by one Jennifer Jones seems overwrought, but it I suppose it takes some skill to be overwrought facially while riding a horse. The movie was made by the studio that make Wizard of Oz and so it is a visual treat at times, even if it is clearly flawed. I would love to be able to dress up like the Joseph Cotten character who wears a cowboy hat, elegant boots, sleek corduroy riding pants, a dress shirt, string tie, and a riding jacket.

In the afternoon, I took the e-bike to the grocery store in Yanqiao to buy some pineapple beer, and had a most pleasant shopping experience. The store was practically deserted except for staff and a few customers. I assume the store was not crowded for two reasons: 1) the competition from Tesco and the Wanda Plaza grocery store. 2) The fact that this Sunday was like a Monday with most people at work or at school.

I finished watching Duel in the Sun. The movie, though made by the studio that produced Wizard of Oz, is really more in the vein of Gone with the Wind, and in fact, the studio that made Duel had also made Gone with the Wind. Referring to the Wikipedia article about Duel, my suspicions were confirmed when I read that the producers of Duel had hoped to make a second Gone with the Wind. Instead the studio probably produced one of the first examples of a movie being advertised as being made by the makers of a previous hit movie. Duel tried to have many elements of Gone with the Wind. It had a female character who attracts many strong male characters. So it tried to be a chick flick. Duel was made on an Epic scale. It was meant to be an Epic Western as GWTW was meant to be a Civil War epic. There was a scene in Duel where there must have over 200 horses and riders. Most Westerns get at most ten or twenty horse and riders in a shot. There were hundreds of extras in other shots as well. Like GWTW, Duel was shot in glorious technicolour so it must have been a joy to see in the cinema. Unfortunately, the female character in Duel, played by Jennifer Jones, didn't have the strength of character of Scarlet O'Hara. Jones' character was that of a woman stupidly in love with a bad man. Jones' acting was worthy of parody. But the movie was not so awful. I'd give it three stars our of four. Cotten and Peck gave good performances.

I was able to finish watching the movie before the enfant terrible came home from school. Jenny now has him doing homework. I will bystand. Tony's griping and moaning about doing his homework and Jenny's high standards are things I don't have the stomach to witness or deal with.

After supper, I took Tony to the playground in the central park. I walked there while Tony brought his push-bike. We first went down a street that had about fifty shops, offices, and restaurants. I enjoyed being able to watch the street's activity for there was so much of it. No where in Canada would you be able to find a street so bustling. On this obscure Wuxi side street, I saw many people getting haircuts, many children playing, many adults eating and drinking, many woman dancing, and people sitting and talking. Past the bustling street, we were at the park which was dark and where it seemed to me that most of the parents had probably already taken their children home. I didn't mind one bit that the park was empty because Tony seems to want to get in trouble when there are other children around. But when Tony saw that the park was empty, he said there were no boys there and that he wanted to go home. There was no point in arguing with him. Trying to take a round about way home got Tony angry and he actually tried to block me from going down a path that he didn't want to go down.

Back at home, Tony & I took a shower – something we always do after returning from a trip outside.

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