Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Andis Kaulins in China Diary: November 11 to November 17, 2013

Monday [November 11]
[Home Laptop]
I don't work today.

It is Remembrance Day in Canada. I have marked the day by posting pictures of poppies on some of my websites.

I woke up this morning at about 6:30 AM so I could take Tony to where we meet the car that takes him to school.

I have spent the rest of the day on my laptop and Ipad. I published a bunch of things on my blogs. I finished watching the movie Peeping Tom. I tried uploading a bunch of movies, via Torrent, on my computer.

I also did a little bit of vacuuming. I hung clothes to be dried. And I waited for Tony to come back from school.

I got to get back into the habit of taking photos for my Views of China from Casa Kaulins blog.

I almost forgot to mention that I phoned my mother last night. She lives in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada where the temperature was sixteen degrees below zero when I phoned her.

I was surprised by my brother Ron answering the phone. He was in Brandon for the weekend, doing some work for Mom in the house – basically tearing down shelves that Dad had put up through the years.

Ron told me that the two Winnipeg sports team sucked and that his knowledge of the current popular culture was less than mine – he doesn't have the access to the free stuff that I do in China.

Tuesday [November 12]
[Home Laptop]
I'll work 13:00 to 21:00 today.

Last evening was Daddy and Tony time as Andis took Tony out of Casa Kaulins. They went to the Wuxi Hui Shan Wanda Plaza to visit their usual haunts: the arcade, the Apple shop, the toy sections, and McDonald's. At the arcade, Tony played the “truck” game – a highway driving game, with steering and pedals, whose object is to race through streets as fast as one can while at the same time colliding with many vehicles as one can. The game is visually stunning and Andis is happy to watch while Tony plays.

Others find the game fun to watch as well. When Tony & Andis went to the game machine, there was no one around. Playing the game, they didn't notice a crowd of twenty people had built up around them. When they did notice the crowd, Tony did a double-take and Andis pulled out a camera to take a photo and video of all the spectators. (Andis showed the video to Jenny later and she laughed.)

At the McDonald's, Tony wanted and got a happy meal so he could get the transformer/ultraman type toy. When he got home, Tony had to rummage through all his toys to find another toy, from the series, that he had gotten a month earlier, ignoring his parents plea that he take a bath.

[Home Laptop]
I took the 25 bus to work.

I got my lunch money.

So, I can tick off blog on my todo list.

The Wuxi Peach Maoists may win their first game of the year and end their nine game winless streak!

For lunch, I walked 8 meters outside the school entrance and went to the Characteristics of Beef Noodles Restaurant and had a plate of fried noodles: Chao La Mian (炒拉面).

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

I ran into a couple of foreigners on the 25 Bus this morning. They were both older male teachers from the Jiangsu Xishan High School. One of them was Bill from San Diego and the other, whose name I forgot, was from South Africa. They were going downtown to see the dentist.

The South African had been in Hui Shan for three years. He was quite familiar with some of the sights of Hui Shan including the White House and the ghost town shopping mall that has a ferris wheel.

Using a government building, even a big one, isn't very helpful when trying to tell me where something is in Wuxi. Wuxi is chalk full of big government buildings.

I had a young male student give me his impressions of America. He expressed annoyance at the Jimmy Kimmel Show for showing a six year old child say kill all the Chinese. All I can tell him that it was comedy and that no one seriously wanted to kill all the Chinese. I should have added that it is so easy to be offended in this world and that America generally doesn't get worked up about all the bad things said about it.

I asked the student if he wanted to move to America. He told me that he was worried about all the gun violence in America. I told him that he was being ridiculous and that most Americans have probably never witnessed any gun violence in their lives.

Most Americans wanted guns I told him because they wanted safety.

While the young man admitted that much about China wasn't great, he did have the desire to be offended, that the government was feeding him, by getting mad about a late night comedy show sketch that most people would have forgotten about save for the Chinese having made a fuss about it.

For lunch, I went to a restaurant, near the Nanchang Temple Market, that serves a delicious dish of beef fried rice (niurou fan 牛肉饭). I can't go to Characteristics of Beef Noodles everyday now, can I?

Thursday [November 14]
[School Laptop]
I work 10:00 to 21:00 today.

Just for the sake of mentioning it, I will mention something about my morning routine. The podcasts I subscribe to will, for the most part, automatically update themselves on my Ipod. However because I am behind the Great Firewall and because the Wifi signal on my side of the bed is weak, I always have to make a point of checking my Ipod to see if in fact my favorite podcasts have been downloaded and sometimes I have to press some buttons to make sure that they do get downloaded.

Sometimes the buses I ride will come to very quick stops because other drivers and cyclists in traffic will do very unpredictable things and not look where they are going. This quick stops can jolt the passengers. Particularly quick stops can knock some passengers to the ground. This morning as I rode the 602bus, I experienced my worst quick screeching to a halt stop ever. I was riding in the back seat of the bus which is the highest point in the bus's interior, and I was studying Chinese on my Ipad. The bus was making a right turn merging into another lane when it very suddenly came to a halt – I'd say it went from 40 kmh to 0 in no time flat. The passengers screamed, gasped and a few, near the back exit door, were jolted so that they tumbled in a pile. As I looked up from my Ipad, which I clutched like it was Tony, I saw the bodies fly. The bus driver actually had to leave his seat and see if the passengers were alright. One passenger, a woman, he had to pull up from the ground. He talked to her, with a pleading and guilty look in his eyes, and then returned to his seat to drive the bus. The woman was clutching her head for the rest of the trip. When the 602stopped in front of the 101 Hospital, the driver got out of seat and walk back to talk to the woman again – they exchanged phone numbers.

This morning, I listened to an EWTN podcast – a Mother Angelica podcast.

AKIC Health Update: Last week's heavy cough is gone. Now, I am just stuffed up and need to blow my nose a lot.

Lunch: Chao La Mian. Again. I know.

Friday [November 15]
[School Laptop]
Sad news from Jenny's hometown. The brother of her adoptive father is dying of cancer. The brother isn't staying in a hospital; he is staying, dying, at home.

Tony took a Pinyin Test yesterday. He failed. He was one of the three or four students in a class of 52 who did. While I was disappointed to hear of it, I wasn't surprised. I had been given word, last week, that his progress was not very good; his teachers being mad at him for dropping the class averages down.

I got to do a lunchtime speakers corner at the Wuxi government administrative center in the new CBD.

The attendees at the corner were good and I very much enjoyed talking to them.

However, it was the building that interested me the most. It was massive and gigantic in a way that Chinese state buildings can be. It had wide corridors like the Hen Long Plaza. The ceiling in the carpeted conference room was thirty feet high. The windows, as tall as the ceilings, gave one an amazing view of the surrounding area. Looking out of the windows, I could see endless columns of the building curving gradually and uniformly into the far distance. The building I was told, could hold 6,000 civil servants.

The building is so massive that at lunchtime, workers can get exercise by walking a circuit of its hallways like others who would walk around a running track at a sports field.

The most interesting feature of the building was a garbage can I saw in hallway outside the bathroom. It was numbered thus: 12号楼3F. Someone had taken the time to make labels to affix to the garbage cans so that they were put and kept in the proper place in the building.

Just as I left, I was asked by one of the civil servants if I was a Christian. I told her I was, in the sense that I wish I could truly call myself one, and that I leaned towards being a Catholic.

Should I mention it? My first reaction was not to. Now, I have an urge to, but I will suppress it. Perhaps, I will mention it tomorrow. For now, I will be cryptic. There was a Sarah Palinish aspect to it. (Good luck, trying to figure out what I mean by that. For I am being very cryptic.)

One more thing. I had some conversations with the civil servants about the jurisdictions in Wuxi that left me confused. There is a Wuxi super area comprised of three cities: Wuxi, Jiangyin, and Yixing. Wuxi is administratively higher than Jiangyin and Yixing. Wuxi city is divided into seven districts including the Hui Shan District in which I live. I assumed that the Hui Shan District was subordinate to Wuxi City and lacked the independence of a Jiangyin City, but I was then told by a second civil servant that Jiangyin is administratively on the same level as the Hui Shan District. Some jurisdictional vocabulary was missing. What!!!?!

Saturday [November 16]
[School Laptop]
I work 10:00 to 18:00

Policy. Don't talk. Keep to yourself. As much as possible, of course. [LECTOR: Why? ANDIS: I said I wasn't talking.]

It is going to be a day to get through. Sad thing to say when life is short and one's days are numbered.

[Home Laptop]

I hate Saturdays at our school. Too many Beavis and Butthead students come to our school. Saturday is their one day off during the week and you can tell they'd rather be somewhere else.

Not all the public school students who come to our school are bad. I had a one-on-one class with one student who goes to Tianyi High School and he was telling me about his day. The class topic was “A Day in a Life,” and so I grilled him on a typical day he had at school. It was quite regulated from 545 AM in the morning to 630 at night, and he had little free time.

After school, I meet Jenny & Tony at the Suning Plaza where we had supper. We would have had a perfect meal at the Grandma's Restaurant if they hadn't forgotten to have brought out the fried potatoes I had ordered. They came ten minutes after we had finished all our other dishes, and of course when I finally got them, I could see that they were cooked hastily. [That's been happening a lot lately when I go to restaurants. Three weeks ago, they screwed my order at Pizza Hut and when the pizza did come, the toppings were all piled in the center of the pizza, leaving me with a four inch crust edge. It was another case of a cook hastily preparing a late dish. This morning, I was mistakenly given bean milk instead of coffee with my take away McDonald's breakfast.]

We then went to the Baoli Carrefour to buy some margarine and some ground beef – it was sold out.

We then took the taxi home [A rare thing.] and the driver didn't know the way.

China has a lot of people and a lot of mediocrity.

I was listening to a Dennis Prager Podcast (from the American Conservative University series of podcasts that can be had at the Itunes Store) and it really struck a never with me. Prager was doing a Happiness Hour episode about how happy people choose good people as their friends. I listened and I thought I now had a reason to justify my friendlessness – I have met few good people out here in Wuxi, among the foreigners. [The good ones I have meet are Steve Wall, HM and the Fritzs. And there are a few others.] Of course, I can't claim to be a good person myself. I feel I am in a situation where there isn't much to be done but keep to myself and make efforts to seek out some good people.

Prager also had two calls from listeners that eerily reminded me of things in my life. One caller, sixty years old, phoned to say he didn't have any friends because he lost the ones he did have in Vietnam and because he had a solitary character. His best friend was his wife. Prager told the caller that unfortunately his call wasn't really relevant to the idea of this particular Happy Hour which was that having good people as friends can make you happy. I was struck by the foolishness of the caller for another reason. The caller saying he was a solitary type conflicted with his need to declare on public airwaves that he had no friends. Clearly, the man had issues and had lead a lonely life.... And I was like that caller. A second caller, a female, talked about about a group of female friends who worked together and had been very close till one of the women married a man of questionable character. The others in the group tolerated the woman's husband, because they loved the woman so much. But the husband caused a conflict which involved his filing a lawsuit against some of the other women in the group. The woman took her husband's side with the result that the friendship the group had had was put to an end. And because they were still working together, the relationship became gut-wrenching to deal with – they had to interact on a solely professional level. Prager told the caller that her story was a tragedy. I have had a few of those tragedies in my life – there is nothing that can be done about them.

This afternoon, Jenny went to visit some acquaintances in the New District. These people were living in a 90 square meter apartment with two other families. So altogether there were ten people living in this apartment! The Chinese Family Kaulins, three people, lives in a 89 square meter apartment which, while not big, is cozy for the number of people there are. With ten people living in the 90 square meter apartment, there is no living room! The rent, which is split up among the three families, is about 1300 rmb per month.

Sunday [November 17]
[Home Laptop]
Not working today. Thank God.

We went to a restaurant at the Hui Shan Wanda Plaza for lunch.

I downloaded three helicopter apps from the Itunes Store.

Boy oh Boy! What an exciting day!

Most of my blogging today is being done for the AKIC Weekly and the Andis Kaulins Anti-Blog.

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