Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Andis Kaulins in China Diary: October 28 to November 3, 2013

Monday [October 28]
[Home Laptop]
I don't work today. These weeks, I work Tuesday to Saturday.

Tuesday to Friday, I work in the evenings. Saturday, I get to do a day time shift.

Jenny kept my son Tony home from school today. He had a bad cough. Tony didn't mind. He played on the computer all morning.

With Tony at home, I won't be able to do anything in peace.

I managed to publish the latest issue of the AKIC Weekly quite easily this morning. I had been having VPN problems the last month which made the seemingly easy publishing operation torturous. Normally, all I would have to do is copy the Weekly text from its file and paste it to the blog site; but the site wouldn't respond...

I hear fireworks. Someone must have moved into an apartment. These are still many unoccupied and undecorated units at 加州洋房。

This afternoon, we will be going to a portrait studio to pose for photos to mark the occasion of our seventh wedding anniversary (which actually was yesterday). Those photos will eventually make it to my blog. If they turn out right, I may use them on updated blog banners.

Tony hated the fireworks I mentioned two paragraphs ago. He had his ears covered and was crying, and so I had to comfort him.

While Jenny was doing homeschooling with Tony, I was reading on the Ipad. So many books, so little time!

I like to say that I have at least four shelves worth of books on my Ipad.

We went to the portrait studio around 4:00 PM. Jenny left first, taking the e-bike with her. Tony whined about wanting to go by e-bike to the studio but I told him that Jenny had taken the e-bike herself, having gone ahead of us so she could get made up for the photos. This didn't placate him so we ended up taking a motorcycle taxi to the studio.

When I told the driver I wanted to go to Wanda, he asked if I wanted to go to 第一 or 第二. I told him to go to 第二 thinking he meant to go the end of the Plaza that was near the portrait studio. Turned out that to him 第二 meant going to the end of the Plaza that was farthest from the portrait studio. After he explained this to me, I told him I wanted to go to 第一.

For the photo session, I wore my wedding suit, Jenny wore a white dress, and Tony wore a bow-tie, white dress shirt, and knickerbockers supplied by the studio.

Afterward, we walked across the street to the Hui Shan Wanda Plaza. There, I took Tony to the arcade where we played three games on three different machines. At the end of the third game, Tony asked where his Ultraman Egg toy was – it was an “aw shit!” moment. I remember Tony had handed the toy to me when he sat down at the machine that we played our first game at, and I had a vague recollection of having put the toy down. So we ran back to the first machine we had played at and didn't see the toy. We retraced our steps back to where we were when Tony remembered the toy and still couldn’t find it. We asked the arcade staff but they couldn't help us.

It was just then that Jenny phoned telling us to meet her at a restaurant in Wanda where we were to have dinner. Feeling the mobile phone vibrate in my pocket was another “aw shit!” moment. Jenny was not going to be impressed with my having lost a toy of Tony's less than 24 hours after we had bought it, I thought.

At Dinner, Tony whined and cried about losing the toy, while I stewed and Jenny gave me the evil eye.

I was hoping for a miracle when I returned to the arcade, after dinner, to do one last search and enquiry about the missing toy. We didn't find it. I then recalled how only a week before, I had found a 100 rmb note on the floor while I was waiting in line at the 85 bakery. The recollection put everything in perspective. You win some; you lose some. Despite losing the toy, I was still ahead on the deal. And the pain I felt when losing the toy was Cosmic Justice for my feeling of glee at having found the 100 rmb note.

The recollection was a miracle I asked for. I realized that I didn't need to find the toy.

Then, walking home, hand in hand with Tony, was a nice moment. We had some nice moments of banter. Tony's English is better than I think it is – I have to admit that I can't escape a feeling that Tony's English is not as good as it would be if he was living in Canada, and that Chinese is his first language so that the relationship between him and me is not as good as I would like it to be.

When Tony talks to Jenny in Chinese, I need Jenny to translate for me.

I learned of Lou Reed's death on the Drudge Report. Years ago, I listened to the Velvet Underground, bought all their albums, and wore a shirt bearing the banana cover of their first album.

Tuesday [October 29]
[Home Laptop]
After making mention of Lou Reed's passing away yesterday, I found thirteen songs by him and downloaded them onto my Ipod. I may listen to them on my way to work.

Tony goes to on a school field trip to Xihui Park today.

After Tony was picked up, I went to the basement of one of the other buildings to get our e-bike which was recharging. One of my duties as husband at Casa K.

After all these years, I have a queasy feeling in my stomach as I contemplate the prospects of going to work this afternoon.

I put a photo of my near empty Crown Royal bottle on We Chat. Time for a Re Up, I said. Re Up is a term I got from watching the Wire.

Tony pointed out a VW Beetle to me this morning. I taught him about punch buggy. He learned quickly but I had to tell him that there is only one punch in punch buggy.

Thirty views of last week's AKIC weekly and thirty five views of last week's diary.

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

A big oh-oh at work.

I took the 25 bus to school and listened to all the Lou Reed music I had on the Ipod. Some of the songs were pretty good but some not so. Singing was not Reed's forte – at time it can be embarrassingly unlyrical.

I went to nearby Xinjiang Restaurant (the fifth time in six days) for my plate of Chao La Mian. I had a student, much to my embarrassment, buy me lunch.

Wednesday [October 30]
[School Laptop]
I work 13:00 to 21:00 today.

I want to have a page (on my word processor program) of diary for today. So pardon if some of what I write seems like filler. The only thing I can say in my defense is that it is filler.

I took the 25 bus to the downtown. I took it instead of the 602because there were seats and I wasn't planning on going to McDonald's to have breakfast.

On the bus, I listened to a podcasts from CJOB in Winnipeg. I heard and admired Mike Duffy's defense of himself. He said that he hadn't done nothing wrong and was told by the PMO to pay back the money. Paying back the money said Duffy would have been tantamount to pleading guilty so he wasn't going to do it. There is something to be said for the PMO having too much power. Of course, this tendency to centralize power in the PMO and away from the Cabinet and Parliament started with Trudeau.

On the podcasts, I also heard that the Blue Bombers are 3-13 and the Jets were not playing to their true potential.

Imagined conversation:

Yank: Oh my god! I have to buy health insurance! It is so expensive.

Andis: Can't you still on your parent's health insurance till your are 26?

Yank: Andis! I am 34 years of old!

Andis: Oh!

I should be taking more photos and posting them to my AKIC wordpress blog. But every time I think to do so, nothing screams, to my artistic sensibility, to have its photo taken.

There aren't so many obsolete things to take photos of Wuxi. What is interesting about showing the world that many Chinese are becoming middle class?

David Warren in the comment section of his most recent blog entry (entitled the Three Horsemen) talks about doing things well. Even reading, he says, should be done well. I admit I have a tendency to rush through text and not give it the attention it deserves.

We won't probably ever be going back to Jenny's hometown. Jenny has never forgiven the place for thrusting her aside because she was an extra and unwanted girl. Talking about how both she and I had actually walked to primary school by ourselves when we were in grade one. Jenny reflected how she had to go to school by herself because she was an afterthought to the people who had to take care of her. On cold days, she said, she walked to school in the cheapest of cotton shoes with barely any soles.

And children being what they are, Jenny was teased endlessly by the other children of the village for being the unwanted child.

Jenny at this point in her life is not willing to forgive.

Of course, she has me for a husband, so who can say how much that contributes to her resentments.

You can read in this diary, what I am thinking but not all that I am thinking.

Jenny tells me that yesterday, Tony went to bed at 6:30 PM. He had had such a good time on his school's field trip to Xi Hui Park that he pooped himself out. [He had to wake up when Jenny & I were making love later in the evening however... His first instinct is always to push Dad off.]

I spent the afternoon (when I wasn't in class) working on the GUI for a four team round robin tournament.

Thursday [October 31]
[School Laptop]
I work 10:00 to 21:00 today.

Asocial. That's the word of the morning for me. I suppose it describes me.

I am journalizing about the word because it was made mention of in a podcast that I was listening to this morning as I took the 602bus to work. John Stossel did a program about non-government education models including homeschooling. Homeschooling was criticized initially because it was thought that the children would stay at home and become asocial – Stossel's program said that homeschooling did nothing of the kind and the students were better adjusted than those trapped in public schools.

I admit I like the idea of homeschooling because of my antisocial tendencies. I believe that it was going to public schools that made me, a naturally shy person, very asocial.

There are two sides of the socializing coin. We need to interact with society – of that there can be no doubt. But we also need to be away from society too because it does treat those who are different (and aren't of a criminal disposition) rather cruelly. I was made to feel ashamed of who I was. I remember when I was in public school. I remember being poked with the sharp end of a protractor by some girl who decided to be cruel to me on the smallest of pretexts.

Last week, I had a student tell me she felt embarrassed and shame for something she saw on the bus and for which she bore no personal responsibility. The bus was crowded, she was standing, and she saw an older person get on the bus. The older person who clearly was decrepit was made to stand – no one yielded her a seat until a foreigner, from Africa, did. She felt ashamed because the person who did the right thing wasn't Chinese.

I had breakfast at McDonald's.

Walking past the Church near our school, I had a short glimpse of the cross.

The student I taught this morning told me that she will be going to her friend's house in the afternoon to play Mah Jong.

I have spent the afternoon so far working on the GUI for my four team round robin tournament. I am working on recording the team tournament results – that is, their wins, losses, ties, total points for, and total points against. [It is going to be a lot of work!]

It is Halloween today. The school had its Halloween function almost five days ago, so I almost forgot about it.

Friday [November 1]
[School Laptop]
We are now in the part of the year where the names of the months sound wintery.

I work, if you can call it that, from 11:00 to 21:00. [LECTOR: What do you mean “if you can call it that?” ANDIS: I wonder if I do anything productive. I spend most of my time at work working on my hobbies like looking at Chinese flashcards, blah-blah blogging, ticking things off my to-do list, and writing Python programs for personal use.]

In my constant never-ending striving to do things different, I did something different today. AKIC readers, if there are any who read this blog closely, may recall that I mentioned my getting off at a different stop in the downtown when taking the 602支。Well today, I got off at yet another different stop when taking the 602in order to get downtown and eventually to the school where, as I said, I work, if you can call it that. This stop was one stop after the stop I had been getting off at in my previous phase of striving to never-endingly do things differently. So instead of getting off near Wall Street English School and the Purple Post Office building (where I catch the 635 bus after work), I got off at a stop that is near the Ace Bar and not too far from the Provence Restaurant (if it is in fact still there – everything constantly changes location in Wuxi these days.)

I have been trying to chat up the students about the Hen Long Plaza and Suning Plazas that recently opened up in downtown Wuxi. The Hen Long, said the students, is full of expensive luxury goods. It is also, said a bright student I had in a class last night, for 土豪. This term 土豪(tuhao, which was used during the Communist revolution phase to describe rich people, is now being used to describe the people who shop at the Hen Long. None of the students in the class admitted to being 土豪。

I will be moving back to the office where all the other foreign trainers in it. So, my days of having my own office at school are over. I could have kept the office but it would have seemed unseemly. I also decided to move back out of pure puckishness. I am going to have to resist the urge to record things I see and hear in the office.

Now time for some Joycean interior monologue where I switch from first person to third person, on a dime, as the expression goes:

[From now on, I will type out the Joycean style monologue in italics]

Right wrist against his chin, Andis looked intently or least he thought he did. I could be posing, for literary posterity, as a sort of person or writer who stares intently at computer screens. I could also be posing for my posterior. Ha ha. Andis saw that his ear-buds were on his too list. What to think about that? Nothing. Nothing. Last night, a student had a Beatles song for a ring-tone. I sang. Hey Jude! Na nah na nah na na nah! Na na nah! Hey Jude! A moment of comic relief in a dull evening. Ten minutes to end of class, the student was tired to make sentences with superlatives. I wrote on her comment sheet that she looked tired. She in turn said that I looked tired. True. Long day. I poop myself out even though I don't do anything. Writing that program had me engrossed...

To be engrossed. How to be engrossed. That is the question. With something interesting you dummy!

Let's see if I can think of enough things to make one typed page of blogging for the day.

Andis pressed return twice. That's cheating! Andis decided to not press return. He looked across the hallway. Girl in her office, looking intently at her computer screen holding her mouse tightly. In the other office, I see someone at the chopper or the slicer. Probably thinks he is toiling away. Thinking is more tiring. I do a lot of that because there isn't anything else to do.

Elsie walks into her office, the one across from my current office. She stands. Will she sit? Is she looking for something? Into that office walks Cici. She sits at her chair. Elsis and Cici talk. 十一号。Number 11. Elsie walks out and turns around to stand at the office entrance to ask Cici a question. Elsie gets her answer. Off she goes!

The gorgeous girl isn't working today. It will get her out of my mind so I can think about proper things.

Andis looked at the corner of his desk and did an inventory. He saw three small bottles of hand disinfectant, two lighters. He hadn't smoked recently. Two sticks of gum. An empty bottle of headache medicine. A plastic file stuffed full of papers and binders. Why keep them? In case the computer memory is destroyed again. His mobile phone. Fashionable before the Iphone. A bottle of eye glass cleaning fluid. One white board marker.

Andis heard a voice. Coming from the office? The classroom? Andis stands to look....

The classroom.

Andis looked at his watch. Do everything you want to do till one o'clock. Then do the stuff you have to do for you work.


I didn't have breakfast this morning at McDonald's. Rare readers may know this is not my habit. But short on cash and not willing to annoy Jenny by asking for more, I will have to forgo that luxury.

I told Tony this morning that tomorrow he didn't have any school. I then heard Tony say to his mom. 妈妈!爸爸说的明天我不想去学校!这个真的吗? Translation: Mom! Dad said that I don't have to go to school tomorrow! Is this true?

I now have a GUI, thanks to Python, that will let me run a four team single-game round robin tournament with sorted standings!!!

An English teacher confused a student during a visit by the student to the teacher's dormitory. There was a husband and wife sharing one bed. There was another man and woman with separate beds. The student asked the teacher what she slept in the separate bed. The teacher said we are a couple and the other two are a pair. This confused me and the student. I thought a couple was two things together and a pair was two of the same thing or two matching things. So a husband and a wife made a couple, and two girls, two boys, and two single people made a pair.

I didn't sleep well last night. At 2:00 AM, I was reading my Ipod. I felt tired during when my first class of the day when I had to suppress many yawns.

Saturday [November 2]
[School Laptop]
I work 10:00 to 18:00 today.

I took the 602bus to school this morning. I noticed one girl get on the bus who had a striking face. I then saw that she was dressed in a short black dress, black tights, and wore Doc Marten style boots. She happened to get off one stop before me – that be the stop near the purple post office building where I catch the 635 bus in the evening. As I said I got off at the next bus stop. It turned out then after getting off the bus, we crossed paths which got me to thinking that maybe getting off at this new stop was the better choice.

I don't know how to organize myself this morning. I have things to tick off on my to-do list and I feel like I don't have an enough time to do them.... Teaching classes can be so inconvenient for my personal interests....

A foreign teacher and a Chinese study assistant are to be judges at an English speaking contest. The foreign teacher tells the Chinese study assistant to not really do any judging – the young Chinese person doesn't know what she is doing and she doesn't have enough experience, he tells her.

A man on a bicycle who was a collector of empty plastic bottles came up me to as I was walking home last night and asked me some questions. I couldn't understand much of what he said.

No one wants to join a club that would have him as a member.

No one wants to join a club that would openly canvas to have himself as a member.

No one wants to join a club that wants him to join.

You want me to join! I don't want to be part of that club.

I don't like the Victoria's Secret Catalog. I have found that nothing in it is my size.

[Home Laptop]
After school, I took the bus to the Hui Shan Wanda Plaza where I meet Tony & Jenny for dinner.

Jenny told me that she was not very satisfied with the results of Monday's K Family photo session. Only one photo, she said, was any good. I told her that while I didn't think they were great, I didn't they were as awful as she said. She was annoyed that the photo studio people only touched up one of the photos. Tony still had had discoloration on his face from the black eye he had gotten the week before.

After dinner, we went outside to discover that our e-bike had been tipped over on its side. Why it was tipped over we had no idea. But it did look like Jenny had parked it in a place that was blocking off other bikes.

Reading over this diary, looking for solecisms, I see that my entries are dull as dishwater. I have nothing to say!

Sunday [November 3, 2013]
[Home Laptop]
I watched a clip of the Jon Stewart Daily Show last night with Tony at my side. Tony laughed at the clip seeing its Mister Bean qualities. I, on the other hand, was taken back by the shrill juvenileness of Stewart's humour. The clip was funny because the video taken of the ponderous grandstanding politicians showed them at their worst. However, Stewart's running commentary as the clips ran added nothing.

It is easy to see where Stewart stands on the Democrat Republican divide. To a comment made by a Republican politician pointing out the restriction of choice for health coverage that Obamacare represented, Stewart said “How can they say they are for medical plan choice while at same time saying they aren't for reproductive choice! Huhhh!!” Comments are like that are the sort that need a few minutes to be countered. I could say “Oh! You want the choice to be able to murder babies!” but there is a longer line of reasoning that should be employed so that a person who took the time to think through the issue would then never make a comment so glib and stupid as Stewart made.

A local I know in the Hui Shan district told me that his sister-in-law went to Beijing for her honeymoon and that while she and her husband were at Tiananmen Square, they were but ten meters from the occurrence of a terrorist attack. Some guy from Xinjiang, according to the government, decided to use an SUV to crash into things.

I will take the 635 bus to downtown Wuxi this evening. I need to get some intel about the route.

I felt cold riding the e-bike this morning.

In some of the photos taken at the studio, Tony can be seen holding onto to the Ultraman Egg Toy.

Years ago in Winnipeg, I found a camera in a pub. Instead of leaving it with the pub owner, I kept it.

Jenny thinks Tony's English is great; I think Tony's Chinese is great. Jenny thinks Tony's Chinese is crap; I think Tony's English is barely passable.

I will cut off today's diary before noon. I am going out tonight.

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