Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Week in the Life of a Wuxi English Teacher: September 9 to September 15, 2013

I fashion myself to be a 21st Century Pepys.

Monday [September 9]
[Home Laptop]
Tony & Jenny took the e-bike to school this morning. I had been hoping that last week was the last of them having to do this.

It was my Monday Morning task to get the e-bike from the underground area where it was charging. Along the way, I was struck by how every available space around the apartment complex for parking cars was taken. In a few spots I even saw that some cars were double parked. The lack of vacancy for car parking is not reflected in actual apartment unit occupancy in our complex however. You can still see that many apartment units have not been decorated yet.

There is road near the Hui Shan New District Central Park that is full of restaurants and stores. Yesterday at suppertime, parking on the street was so bad that I saw a double-parked car was causing a bottle-neck in traffic. This case of double-parking was as a grievous an example of selfish parking as I had ever seen in my time in China. The car was blocking one of the two opposing lanes for traffic on the road. The jam caused by the double-parking was so long that one did not realize the car was double-parked till one was passing by it. For up the to the point where you passed the double-parked car, you were wondering why its driver wasn't moving his car. And then about fifty meters after the double-parked car, I saw a car was parked perpendicularly against the curb. Its driver had put the front end of his car in a space that was open between two paralleled parked cars!!!

I went for lunch with Jenny to Wang's Dumplings in the Wanda Plaza. She ordered a plate of fried dumplings and a bowl of glass noodles in broth for me. It had been source a point of pride for me that I knew how to use chopsticks and was even pretty good at using them, but eating the food that Jenny had ordered showed that I was a dumb rank amateur chopstick user. The fried dumplings had a soup inside of them. To properly eat them, you have to grab each dumpling by the bottom with your chopsticks and then take a little bite of the dumpling's outside layer so you can suck the soup out. What I was doing was grabbing the dumplings with the chopsticks so as to put a premature hole in them which let all the soup leak out, thus causing a big mess. The leaking soup made the dumplings slippery and difficult to hold on to and so a few of them slipped out of my chopsticks causing a messy splat which left all sort of embarrassing stains on my shirt. Bystanders would have thought that I had just been in China for a week.

Tuesday [September 10]
[Home Laptop]
I work 13:00 to 21:00 today.

It's Teachers' Day or Teachers Day or Teacher's Day. Take your pick.

Tony had presents to take for his teachers.

It was hot yesterday and so my assumptions about it now being autumn were fouled up.

Jenny bought some youtiao. In English, I suppose you could call them deep-fried dough-sticks. I love 'em although everyone says they are unhealthy.


Yesterday, I finished watching another James Stewart Western, Bend of the River. It was an okay movie I'd say, full of great scenic shots of the Pacific Northwest, but you had to wonder why it was the bad guys didn't kill the Stewart character when they had him down for he immediately recovered from the beating they had given him and got his revenge on them. There were some interesting movie edits as well. One shot was cut short because a jet trail was entering the picture. In another scene, a waggon was crossing a river on a day that was either cloudy or sunny depending on the angle the waggon was shot from. Also starring in the film were Arthur Kennedy, who played the American journalist in Lawrence of Arabia, Henry Morgan who played Colonel Potter in MASH, a man who surely had a small role in the Wizard of Oz – a guard at the end of the film who said “All Hail Dorothy!”, and Rock Hudson. The Kennedy character told the Hudson character: “I knew from the beginning that you was soft!”

I then began to watch The Killers starring Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner. Did I think Ava was as hot as legend has that she was? Yes.

[School Laptop]
I did a class about body parts with five women, one of whom mentioned she was divorced when I talked about the ring finger. I don't know how to react when a woman tells me she is divorced. It is a rare thing in China to be told such a thing.

So slow at the school now....

I went to McDonald's for dinner. On the way, I espied three foreigners. One was an older man, looking confused, in the 85 Degree Bakery; and then there was a couple consisting of a tall slender girl with blonde hair and a man with the blackest skin – a mixed race type of couple I don't see often in Wuxi.

Yesterday evening, I saw a female foreigner as I took Tony to the playground. She was in her thirties,slender with blonde hair. She was walking with an older Chinese woman. The Chinese woman said something to Tony. I couldn't tell if the foreign woman had seen me. Her attention seemed elsewhere. I just can't muster the wherewithal to say hello to foreigners when I see them in the area of my apartment. I usually pretend not to see them.

Wednesday [September 11]
[School Laptop]
I work 13:00 to 21:00 today.

Strange. My spell-checker is not working. Every word I am entering has a red squiggly line appear underneath it, meaning the program thinks my all spelling is incorrect.

I see a man with a wooden leg. What do I have to complain about?

Still many bare-chested men riding about, and I am sweating from the little bit of exertion I perform when I walk from the bus stop to the school.

It is 9/11 today. I should put up an American flag on my website to commemorate the day but I will wait till Obama is no longer the president. It is also the first anniversary of the Bhenghazi debacle.

I finished watching the Killers last night. A good movie though I don't understand how it is that the main character in the movie didn't get star billing in the movie. Instead the movie is said to star Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner. Lancaster played an oafish Swede and seemed to be the weakest actor in the movie. Gardner played the Femme Fatalish Kitty Collins. (How I like the fact that the Gardner character was named Collins – it is pronounced the same as my family name. Gardner also shares my birthday: December 24th!) The actor playing the detective, the hero of the story who figures out the scam, is listed as a supporting actor. Strange. If I could have watched the movie without knowing the reputations of the actors, I would have thought it was a good workmanlike film with two weak but good-looking supporting actors.

I have solved my spell-checker problem by installing the latest version of Open Office: 4.0. I had been using 3.

It is raining outside. I pray Jenny and Tony got home from school alright. This is the last week they will be taking the e-bike to school and back.

Thursday [September 12]
[School Laptop]
I work 10:00 to 21:00 today.

Tony is a bad boy at school. Jenny told me that his teacher had locked him out of class because he was misbehaving. No parent likes to think their child is bad, but there are things Tony does that suggest to me that he has behaviour problems. Like his mother, Tony is very argumentative and can be stubborn at times if he doesn't get his way.

With a few minutes remaining in class, I asked the students how they thought the Chinese Economy was doing. Is it true, I asked them, that the Chinese economy was slowing down? One of the students who worked in the ship-building industry told me that he was a former businessman and that he had heard from his colleagues that they were getting less orders. And now because his salary and those of his colleagues are higher, they no longer had the price advantage they once did.

Turning on the computer in the morning here at school is a torturous process. This morning, my laptop froze for five minutes before a blue screen appeared with a message saying that maybe some new software I had installed was causing problems. In my case, that would be the Open Office 4.0 that I had installed yesterday. This morning, the frozen window was from OO 4.0.

I will be shooting a commercial for the school today. It will eventually appear on buses in the Wuxi area. I will be reciting the legend surrounding the mid-autumn festival and eating moon-cake.

Internet in China is slow as millions upon millions of Chinese try to go online to get train tickets for the approaching October holiday; or so I have been told.

There is a computer game I am addicted to called Real Racing 3 which Tony and I play it on the Ipad. I try to win money and am hoping to save enough money to buy a fancy sports car. Tony just wants to spend the money right away on any car that happens to be available.

Cousin Leslie has her ninth child, Julia, yesterday. I love telling the students, the poor sods stuck with the one child policy, about her and her nine children.

If you think there are too many people in the world, shoot yourself!! I don't mean that. But really there are too many people in the world who think there are too many people in the world.

14:10 PM. I finished the shot. I flubbed up all my lines. Oh well. Now, I have near four hours to my next class, and not much pressing to do as I have finished the prep I need to do.

Friday [September 13]
[School Laptop]
I work 11:00 to 21:00 today.

Tony was a bad boy yesterday. At school, he apparently got in a scrap with some other boy, scratched the boy's face, and pushed him to the ground. Jenny got hell from the boy's mother.

Three sights seen this morning on my way to school:
  1. I saw a woman accompanying a crippled man on Zhongshan Road. This gentleman was deformed from the waist up so that his arms were curled unnaturally and his shoulders were permanently bent. I imagined that the woman was the man's wife – the good wife devoting her self to her husband through thick and thin.
  2. I saw a man, who was picking through a garbage bin, wearing glasses, sporting a beard, and having his hair tied at the back in a ponytail. He looked to be more of an artist than an actual garbage picker. I imagined that he was an artist living the life of a garbage picker in the manner of George Orwell in Down and Out in Paris and London.
  3. I saw a man, who looked to be in his late twenties or early thirties, passed out in the front of the McDonald's on the corner of Xueqian and Zhongshan Roads. I could see that he had been drinking coffee and wasn't dead – he was a young and vigorous man who must have spent the night drinking things other than coffee; and the expression on his face was that of someone dozing. He was quite a sight for passersby as he slept beneath the bench on which a Ronald McDonald figure sits. After passing by him where I had a close look, I went into McDonald's to have breakfast and from where I sat I could many passersby stare hard at him passed out where he was. One passerby, an older man, went up to him and pulled him up. With a dazed look, he sat by Ronald McDonald rubbing his eyes. As I finished my breakfast, he entered the restaurant, passed by my table, and headed to the bathroom. I suspect he was a foreigner but because he was of a dark skin complexion, I couldn't determine what part of the world he was exactly from. I did eliminate the possibility of his being from Africa – his skin wasn't that dark, and he obviously wasn't of European origin. So he was Asian but I didn't think he was from China, Japan, or Korea...

I have been trying to court reaction from the locals by showing them a photo of my cousin with her nine children. My wife Jenny thought my cousin was crazy, but my wife is basing her opinion on having to raise Tony.

I need to make 200,000 dollars on Real Racing 3 because I want to buy a Porsche.

My wife phones me to say that we may have our mortgage paid off next month!!! That changes everything. We may actually be able to go on a decent vacation for the first time since we got married. So far, in our married life, we have gone to Beijing once and Canada twice.

Saturday [September 14]
[School Laptop]
I work 10:00 to 18:00

Last night, it started raining heavily during the last hour of classes. Loud crackling of thunder at 8:15 PM put a damper on my class. I spent my time worrying about getting home instead of concentrating on class.

On Real Racing 3, I got enough money to buy a Lamborghini. I gave Tony the choice to buy that or a Porsche. Tony choose the Lamborghini.

Tony went to be at 7:30 PM last night!! I could never have imagined that happening even a month ago. He was up early yesterday for school and apparently, after school, he did some exercise and got all sweaty. After taking a bath, he went to straight to bed.

Of course, this morning he was up early. I let him try out the Lamborghini!

This morning, I was on Zhongshan Road heading to my bus stop. The 81 Bus, that I hoped to catch, was across the street pulling into the stop. I didn't think I had enough time to get to it so I didn't bother quickening my pace and instead thought of my other options for buses to catch. But I then noticed that if I had quicken a pace just a tad, I could have caught the 81 Bus for it pulled out from the bus stop when I was but 30 meters from it. But I had made up my mind and wasn't interested in moving faster than I was, for the air still felt muggy. And it just so happened that another 81 Bus pulled in the bus stop just two minutes after the 81 that I had missed. So I was right to have not bothered running to catch the previous 81 bus.

But what is the real lesson of this 81 anecdote? Was fate really rewarding for my patience? Was I just the beneficiary of the fact that the two 81 buses were out of synch? Life, I suppose, sometimes works out in your favour and you should thank the powers that be that this is so.

The good news of yesterday seems too good to be true. Although it did have me feeling giddy, I was struck with the an almost immediate feeling of fear that something bad was going to happen to accompany it.


I made a big mistake. I decided to go to the 85 Degree Bakery at 12:00 Noon on a Saturday. Thankfully, I paid the consequences. I ordered a coffee and then waited twenty minutes before finally getting it. While waiting, I was tempted to walk out. I also fantasized about getting my coffee and then throwing it on the floor of the store so as to punish them for making me wait so long.

[Home Laptop]
Tony finally goes to sleep at 11:00 PM this night. What a shame.

Damn. It is still humid.

Tomorrow, we may go see a movie in a cinema. We got free passes because Jenny won some contest.

Damn. I lost my temper at a couple female students. Seeing them looking bored, I asked them if they wanted to leave the class. This harangue woke them up and me as well. To be fair to the girls, I will say that they did have a stupidly impossible long Saturday with long tests. In fact, four and a half hours of tests they had to write!

I am spending my time now editing this blog entry. I have decided to divide it up into two parts when I publish it on Monday. Part One of the AKIC Weekly will be all the weekly features. Part Two will be the journal. I will then publish an entry in AKIC blogspot and AKIC wordpress with links to the two parts. I am doing this because I haven't figured out how to link within one entry to different parts of the entry.

Jenny was watching Desperate Housewives. I jokingly asked her if she thought watching this show would prepare her for life in North America. She replied that she was thinking of becoming a desperate housewife. Touchez!!

Sunday [September 15]
[Home Laptop]
No work today.

Jenny went to the dentist in the morning. I should have gone with her. My teeth are like Beirut in the 1970's and 1980's.

Tony & I went to the Hui Shan Wanda Plaza Pizza Hut for lunch. We didn't have to wait to be seated but there were a couple of kids playing with toys at a table nearby and Tony had to join them so he could show them the toy that he had brought with him. This ruined my hopes for a father & son sit-together lunch. I instead found myself losing my patience with Tony & the other kids. I exploded at Tony, using language with no uncertain terms, when he dropped some of his food on the floor... Shamed to say but I used rather vulgar language in trying to get the kids to shoo away.

Jenny, Tony & I then went to see a movie. We got three free passes but not for the Hui Shan Wanda Cinema. The cinema we went to was in a shopping plaza (yet another shopping plaza in Wuxi!) in an area between the Hui Shan district and the Wuxi New District. To get there we took the 617 bus, a bus that I had seen stop at the stop near Casa Kaulins many a time without, till today, having ridden it. The 617 bus went through area that I had previously been to on family e-bike Sunday rides with Tony. Be that as it may, it was still very first-time for me and I looked at the areas the bus went through with great fascination. All that I saw was very Chinese like the traffic, the never-ending construction, the canals, the boats, the fruit stands, the old men on bicycles, the goats, the workmen playing cards, the garbage, the barges, the factories, the rice paddies, the agriculture, the men sitting on chairs watching the world go by, the crowds waiting for buses, the three wheel cars, the tall buildings, the small shops, and bridges.

At the cinema, we were going to watch the Smurfs 3D but our passes were only good for 2D movies so we instead saw Elysium with Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. We saw the movie in an Imax cinema where there at three hundred seats, but the crowd was sparse, there maybe being thirty at most. That combined with the nice plush and large seats, and it felt like we were watching the movie, which was in English with Chinese subtitles, in private. But unfortunately the sound was all wrong. It was loud, almost too loud, and I could barely hear what the actors were saying. If I had been watching the movie on my Ipad I would have put on my earphones and been able to hear the dialogue. Tony, who is scared of loud sounds like fireworks, was covering his ears. So while we could feel the explosions and music, we found that the actors voices seemed muffled.

Tony was also unable to sit down, instead wandering around the aisles of the theatre as well as up and down the stairs, and thus caused me some anxiety.

The movie itself seemed to be making some point about immigration and other current political issues in the USA. Rich people live on a space station called Elysium in order to flee an mid twenty first century Earth that has become very, very overpopulated. Only a select few can live on Elysium which contains lush greenery, swimming pools, and mansions. At the start of the film, illegal immigrants from Earth try to come to Elysium only to either be killed or summarily deported. The character, played by Jodie Foster, who orders the killings then becomes involved in a plot to stage a coup to take over control of the Elysium government from what she sees is an ineffectual president. At the same time, Matt Damon's character joins in on a plot to capture Foster's coup co-conspirator. This co-conspirator is carrying a lot of important data and computer code, which can control the Elysium's entire computer system, in his brain. Damon manages to transfer that information from brain of the co-conspirator into his brain during the attempt to capture the con-conspirator. However, Damon has to flee a gang, including the movie's bad guy, bent on killing him. Damon's character however leverages his possession of the vital information to have the gang that had been pursuing him to take him to Elysium where, after a slugging match with the movie's bad guy, his fellow plotter, who is a hacker, is able to change code in the Elysium computer system and make everyone living on Earth a citizen of Elysium. The computer system controlling Elysium then sends EMS spaceships, operated by robots, to give everyone on Earth free health care.

Oh yes. I should mention. Foster's character is killed by the movie's bad guy whom she had earlier hired to kill illegal immigrants to Elysium.

I am glad I didn't have to pay money to see this movie. I prefer to watch old westerns on my Ipad.

It was the first time I had been in a cinema in years.

The popcorn served in Wuxi cinemas is sweet, not salty with butter.

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