Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Andis Kaulins in China Diary for September 30 to October 6, 2013

Monday [September 30]
[Home Laptop]
Tony went to school.

Andis read fifty pages of the Search of Modern China. He also watched the first hour of a movie in which Ava Gardner plays a woman named Pandora.

Andis picked Tony up at two p.m. His school got out early today. The parking around the school was frightful, even for the e-bikers. There was even a traffic jam with an irate motorist which made Andis laugh.

At three PM, the K family took a bus downtown so they could go to the Grandma's restaurant in the Nanchang Market.

They got to the Grandma's restaurant at 4:30PM. They were quickly seated but had to wait for their guests to arrive.

The guests, two of Tony's Primary School teachers, arrived at 6:05 PM. Andis was annoyed.

Jenny and the teachers chatted till about 8:00 PM. During that time, Andis read about five chapters of the novel Quo Vadis. He also came up with an idea to write a piece about taking up smoking again – it is something he would put on the school's website.

The K family arrived home about 10:00 PM.

Tuesday [October 1]
[Home Laptop]
Chinese National Day. I didn't work.

We had lunch, at the Wanda Plaza Pizza Hut, with an American who is teaching English at Jiangsu Xishan High School which is the Hui Shan District, just down the street from the Tesco and Wanda Plaza. Bill, I learned, is from California and has had experience teaching in Vietnam before coming to Wuxi.

Why did he come to Wuxi? He told me because of what he read in my blog. My bloggings, he said, made him choose a gig in Wuxi instead of in Shanghai.

He went on to tell me that I must be famous because of my blog. It seems that any time a teacher explores the possibility of teaching in Wuxi, my website appears high on the search rankings.

I mention what he said not to be boastful. When he said I was famous, I immediately thought that it couldn't be so. I really think I am like the Unabomber, the Unabomber of Wuxi. I sit in my small apartment in the hinterland of Wuxi sending out packets of satire and reaction.

If I really was famous, I would be getting speaking fees and engaging in more correspondence with readers. It could be that my reactionary views turn off lots of readers.

Anyway, I learned that there are twelve foreigners living at the Xishan High School. I never would have thunk it. It seems that I'd never cross paths with any of them, except Bill, because I work evenings and weekends and don't have much time to hang in the area of the Xishan school. The teachers hang out at the Starbucks at the Wanda Plaza but the chances of my being there in the evenings are rare.

The Xishan High School teachers are given dormitory style accommodations in their school. One of the reasons Bill wanted to talk to me was to see what I could tell him about renting an apartment in the area. The school accommodations left something to be desired, he told me.

After lunch with Bill, the K family wandered through the Wanda Plaza. There were far too many people there for Andis. He told Jenny that he wanted to be beamed out. After an hour of conversation with a foreigner, he was plum tuckered out.

Andis ordered a chocolate sundae at the McDonald's ice cream stand. It was just his luck that the chocolate syrup was running out. He saw the manager, a chubby woman with short hair and glasses, desperately tapping on the syrup dispenser trying to get the requisite amount of chocolate on his sundae. The manager had to run to the main restaurant counter with his sundae to get another bag of syrup.

What is AKIC's opinion of Starbucks? He is not a fan. He doesn't really like to consume anything they serve there, whether it be a beverage of food; and he thinks the atmosphere doesn't rate the premium that makes its product so expensive.

In the evening, Andis took Tony on an E-Bike ride to Yanqiao town. He got there just as the crowds were all making their way home.

Wednesday [October 2]
[Home Laptop]
I don't work today. The fourth of my five days off. The second of the three day Chinese National Holiday.

I didn't bespatter my blogs with any National Day symbols. The Mao Dynasty is not truly worthy of celebration.

When I took Tony to Yanqiao town last night, I bought him a book that I shown him in a book store. The book was a full of fold-and-glue-together trucks, emergency vehicles, and trains; and so he liked it immediately. When we got home, he had me put together the firetruck for him. This morning, he stuck his face into my face to wake me up and ask me to put together one of the buses in the book. Now, I wish I hadn't shown him that book. I hate arts and crafty things.

I have an idea for my Views of China from Casa Kaulins video series. I will record drive-bys. That is, I will focus the camera on one vehicle or person moving past the Casa Kaulins window. Five or Six of these drive-bys will make a VOCFCK video. VOCFCK #27 will be the first.

I have set up the train set for Tony. He specifically asked me to set the track on bridges. He usually asks me to do this, but this time he asked because he was thinking to reenact the CRH high speed train crash of last year. He watched a video reenactment of the crash on Youku many times over. What had happened was that one train stalled out on the tracks because of an electrical problem brought on by a thunderstorm and then another train then ran into it. Train cars flew off the track which runs on a fifty meter high platform bridge. One car ended leaning against the side of the track bridge, one end in the air, the other in the ground. Tony had a train car do the same thing with the train set.

Tony wanted to go out and look at trains. So, I took him to the 惠江大桥 (pinyin: hui jiang da qiao), the bridge that links Wuxi and Jiangyin, and is our usual place to watch trains.

Before we got to the bridge, we rode through some spots of countryside residences that hadn't yet been claimed by apartment building developers. The countryside, we passed, didn't look at all natural. It seemed to be a place on the fringe of a garbage dump. Anything resembling a bigger patch of natural woodland was used as a dumping spot for trash.

At the Hui Jiang Bridge, we saw one train, and then Tony, after having begged to look at trains, wanted to go back. I suppose this was because he was annoyed at my being annoyed at him. What had happened was that he had decided to sit on the e-bike, as it was parked, despite my telling him not to. When the e-bike tipped over as I feared it would, I really got annoyed at Tony and absolutely blasted him verbally for not having listened to me. My harangue caused him to put on a pouty hurt look which caused me to immediately give him a consoling hug. But he had lost interest in spotting trains and looking at the goats ( which were grazing nearby under the Hui Jiang Bridge) after his mishap.

Tony, even in a pouty mood, didn't want to go home without spending some time in the Hui Shan Central Park. There, he tried to play with kids who didn't seemed interested in playing with him. Like father; like son.

Andis, who finds the time spent at the park playground dreadfully dull, passed the time reading Quo Vadis on his Ipod. After finishing a chapter, he wandered the hill going to spots of the park that he hadn't stood at before. At one place, he saw some older persons using farming tools to clear a spot of grass on a little bump of land standing amidst a swamp. Were they going to use the spot to grow some vegetables? Andis wondered. At another spot he was sickened to see to tissue paper and turds. The public park was disgusting beyond all belief, still, to Andis whose Western eyes were nine years removed from Canada.

Thursday [October 3]
[Home Laptop]
Last day of the holiday.

Last night, Andis & Tony went to the Tesco KFC (as opposed to the Wanda KFC) for dinner. Jenny went downtown to have her hair done.

In the middle of dinner, Andis noticed that Tony had put his pants on backwards. So Andis, not giving two cares about the decorum of it, took Tony's pants off and put them on proper.

The weather being nice, Andis & Tony walked to the Wanda Plaza. After a search of the places where toys could be bought, a boat that could be a bathtub toy was found and purchased. Andis & Tony returned home where it was no problem to get Tony to take a bath.

Tony then went to bed at a decent time.

Andis read David Warren's excitement about the government shutdown in the USA, and became excited himself. He hopes it lasts a long time. The Democrats, particularly Obama and Harry Reid are totally at fault in this affair.

Andis finished watching Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. An interesting movie with Ava Gardner looking very beautiful in an adult way, and James Mason speaking in a compelling style. He then started watching Hud with Paul Newman.

On his days off, Andis has had a chance to wander around the area passing by residences. Even the poorest looking neighborhoods, full of dank dirty decaying structures, have cars parked everywhere. What portion of their budgets are put into having a car?

Finishing watching Hud. I'll remember you Honey! You're the one the got away! Funny, I thought the line had “baby,” not “honey.” It was the second time I had seen the movie. From the first viewing, I remembered not liking the Hud character and not quite understanding the attraction between him and the strong woman character. The rest of the story I had completely forgotten. I find I'd liked the movie much better, watching it a second time.

The first time, the film left me cold. For the life of me, I can't remember exactly when it was that I saw the movie the first time.

There is a reason, I now see, why Newman is a movie star. His appearance. Those deep set eyes. And he doesn't ever overplay it. He is cool.

In the afternoon, Tony decided, after refusing earlier when asked, to go out of doors. He decided that he wanted to be taken to the playground at the Hui Shan Central Park. I didn't want to, preferring instead to take Tony an an e-bike ride of exploration around the area, but he wouldn't have anything to do with it, so to the park we went. I told Tony he had half an hour to play – thirty minutes being about all I can stand at the park which is dirty and trashy and full of too many people starring at me.

I had taken some solace from having seen that the people running the park had placed barriers at the entrance to stop visitors from driving their cars into the park using the park sidewalks as roadways. But as I entered the park I saw three vehicles had driven in all the same. Bloody toads, I thought, how did they do it? (When I told Jenny about this in the evening, she said that that was like Chinese to not care rules and other people. And if there was a way to get around common rules of behavior, they would find a way, she added.)

I suppose they will have to put tank barriers around the park to stop the vehicles from being driven in.

Much to my relief, Tony wanted to leave the park after fifteen minutes. However, he wanted to go to the Wanda Plaza and still wasn't interested in my exploration ideas, and so we went to the Wanda Plaza. There, we wandered. Tony went to his favorite haunts: a curio shop that sells toys and the Apple shop. We also went to the arcade and it was good to see that Tony was tall enough to play a driving game which had steering wheel and foot pedals. We capped our time together at the McDonald's where I had a double cheeseburger for the first time in the Hui Shan District after having lived there for five years...

Friday [October 4]
[School Laptop]
I work 11:00 to 21:00 today. It isn't a holiday officially, though it is for many Chinese who had their days off shifted around so they could get October 1 to October 7 off.

I don't feel like going work today. I really am going through the motions.

I wore long sleeves today. Maybe, I shouldn't have. I am sweating in the noon hour heat.

Saturday [October 4]
[School Laptop]
I work 10:00 to 18:00 today.

Alpha Kilo Indian Charlie

Tango Kilo Indian Charlie

Last night, on the bus ride home, I began to watch the movie Becket. I had found it mentioned on a list of top 100 Catholic movies on the Internet. After having watched about thirty minutes of it, I think it is a smashing picture with Peter O'Toole, Lawrence of Arabia, performing great in his role as the King and Richard Burton playing the role of Becket.

A interesting thing happened as I was watching the film. A scene early in the movie featured characters in ecclesiastical garb. A woman next to me saw this, tapped me on the shoulder, and showed me a cross that she had on what looked to be a transistor radio, but perhaps was her mobile phone. I guess she was a Christian. It was good to see.

[Home Laptop]
Tony & Jenny came downtown and met me after I finished teaching classes. We had dinner at Baishiluo and then walked to the newly open Suning Plaza.

Suning Plaza is a new shopping mall next to the Moresky360 Building and opposite the Banana Leaf Restaurant. I believe it was built on the former location of the #1 People's Hospital but Jenny says it wasn't. When I first heard about the Suning Plaza opening, I sarcastically thought that it was just what Wuxi needed: another large shopping mall. I had no intention of going to it but the idea to visit it came to me at dinnertime when Jenny said she wanted to go for a wander after we finished eating. The new mall was seven stories high with lots of clothing stores and restaurants. I don't see myself spending much time at that place other than to eat at a restaurant. The mall had nothing in it that other shopping areas in downtown Wuxi already had.

I will have to do some penance after my behavior on the bus. I didn't lost my temper or anything like that on that bus. I just was acting thoughtlessly and hadn't realized I was till Jenny pointed it out to me. I seemed to be too happy to have been able to get a seat on the bus, said Jenny, and I was earning the ire of someone standing next to me. I shall have to make a point of not being the first to get on the 635 bus and do a stretch of standing on my way home to make up for it.

Sunday [October 6]
[School Laptop]
I don't work today.

It is a rainy day. Not much to do but stay indoors.

I was out early in the morning to do an errand and I was wearing a e-bike raincoat while riding the e-bike. Something I hadn't done in years. There was a time when I took my e-bike from Casa Kaulins all the way to Zhongshan and Xueqian roads. Flat tires forced me to ride the bus.

I finished the 1964 film Becket starring Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole. It was a great movie, with a great story, well-acted, well-shot with great sets.

A typhoon is supposed to come to Wuxi. Of course, it won't be hitting Wuxi full bore since Wuxi is about 100 km or so inland, but I won't be going out tomorrow.

We are supposed to go to the Wanda Plaza tonight. Jenny is treating the family that gives Tony a ride to school in the morning to dinner. Hopefully, we will go to the Xinjiang Restaurant.

I wasn't aware that the National Hockey League had realigned its division so that the Winnipeg Jets are now in the West instead of in a division of teams from the Atlantic Seaboard. But I found out soon enough as I looked at the NHL standings for the first time this season. The Jets have won their first two games of the season.

Jenny says the Typhoon will come to Wuxi tonight. We will have to close the windows, batten the hatches as it were.

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