Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Andis Kaulins in China Diary: December 9 to December 15, 2013

This week's highlights: Wuxi was cold and cool. I was a twit. I went on Twitter to follow David Warren and I created a second Twitter account only to have one of my followerships rejected by the great man. Other than that, I went for a long overdue visit to the dentist – a Chinese dentist.

Monday [December 9]
[Entered on my home laptop]
  • I don't work today. At 7:00 AM, I took Tony to the rendezvous point with the VW sedan that takes him to primary school.
  • There is a lot traffic leaving the California Villa complex (aka 加州洋房) in the morning. I have to fight for open space in order to get to the meeting point and afterward go home.
  • I have spent the rest of the morning doing nothing in particular. I went on Twitter to follow David Warren, creating a second account to do so. I proceeded to follow all the followers of David Warren. I did some e-book reading. I downloaded seven by Theodore Dalrymple – I think I spelled the name right!
  • I read the first two chapters of a Dalrymple book and I am tempted to add it to my list of books I am currently reading.
  • I feel guilty and annoyed with myself. I am not concentrating on anything in particular. I am doing things out of guilt. I feel annoyed that I can't enjoy myself.
  • Outside, it is cold, gray, and the smog level is still high.
  • I got to go to the dentist on of these days. Jenny won't take me today because it is a miserable day outside. [I would go myself but the dentist doesn't speak English.] My teeth are horror show. I have lost a few fillings over the past year so that food gets stuck in my cavities when I eat; one of my two front teeth is very brownish so I don't show my teeth in photos if I can help it; and sometimes they hurt a bit. And it didn't help that I heard a story about a boy whose teeth were so bad that he ended up dying from a brain infection.
  • I will try to watch the 1963 movie The Pink Panther. I remember way back in the seventies, watching a Pink Panther movie in the cinema. It ended with some hot chick taking off her fur coat and entering the bed with Inspector Clouseau – but the bed which was mechanical and folded down from the wall had controls which flummoxed the bumbling inspector....
  • Last week I watched Them! and the Three Godfathers. The former film was an alright sci-fi flick from the 1950s – not in the least corny; the latter film was a Western where one of the characters read the Bible and could say The Lord's Prayer. Both films backed my belief that old movies are better than the movies made today.
  • We did go to the dentist after all.
  • Jenny took me to the dentist at the Yanqiao Hospital.
  • Walking into the Hospital, I was disappointed to see that there were lineups ten deep of people waiting to get their registration booklets.
  • There was no lineup at the dental office however. The dentist was in my mouth lickety-split.
  • The time spent on the dental chair was full of unpleasant sensations. There were many moments of awkward tugging but only a few instances of sharp pain.
  • I had warned Jenny that my teeth were very bad, but she told me that was horrified when she, along with the dentist, looked in my mouth.
  • The conditions in the hospital were primitive by Western standards. The hospital had no central heating so it was cold in the dental office. Furthermore, unlike the dental offices I had been in Canada where a vacuum is used to clean saliva and debris from a patient's mouth, I had to raise my head, grab a cup of water, and spit in a nearby sink.
  • I will be making four more trips to the dentist to get one tooth restored.
  • Tony & I set up the train set tonight. After just an hour, Tony told me he wanted to watch something on my Ipad. So, I got him to help me take apart the train set and put the pieces in their plastic container. I saw that if Tony had his druthers, he would throw the pieces in the box in no particular order. I had to constantly admonish him.
  • Since Tony wants the Ipad, he has to learn to clean up the mess he has made before he can use it.
  • My first return trip to the dentist will be on Wednesday morning.
  • Show 'em you have a rich interior life. What is on your mind? Nothing. My mind is blank.

Tuesday [December 10]
[Home Laptop]
  • I work 13:00 to 21:00 today.
  • I was up at 6:25 AM. I had to get Tony off to school, you know.
  • I won't wear long johns today.
  • With the late shift start at work, my morning is a little enjoyable. I can hang out at the house, getting ready for work at a civilized pace, listening to podcasts all the while.
  • I have listened to a Russian history podcast, the Three Martinis podcast about politics, and am now listening to the Adam Carolla Show.
  • I make this entry because I will be emailing it to my school laptop....

[School Laptop]
  • And so here I am, typing this entry at school. Two hours earlier, I was typing this entry at home.
  • I took the 25 bus to school and I had no problem getting a seat. It always gratifies me when I know to not get on a crowded 25 bus and watch ten people board it anyway, and then two minutes later, board another 25 bus which is empty.
  • I've just bought Tony some more accessories for his train set. That may be the end of the Christmas Shopping I do for him..... Unless, I buy him another six bridge girders.

Wednesday [December 11]
[School Laptop]
  • This morning, I went to the Yanqiao Hospital (about four bus stops from Casa Kaulins) to have my second of five visits to the dentist to fix one of my many decayed teeth. As he worked on one tooth, Jenny stood nearby watching and talking to him. It was another session of unpleasant sessions but not moments of agony.
  • My appearance in the dental office excited two primary school students whose mouths were and numb after having some work of their teeth. One of the young boys wanted to exclaim but could only gasp inaudibly at the sight of the foreigner.
  • 禁止抽烟 – smoking is forbidden. The pinyin for this is jinzhichouyan
  • Jenny surprised me by casually mentioning that she had reconciled with her parents. She had a disagreement with them and so she hadn't seen or talked to them for a year. So, we may again be making trips to the countryside.
  • I am reading Theodore Dalrymple. I find that his writing is very addictive.
  • The school marketing director is now the former school marketing director. Someone mentioned it to me and when I asked some Chinese staff they said it was very complicated as to why she was leaving. She may have resigned; she may have been fired. [She told me that someone had denounced her.]
  • I want to buy one more Christmas present for Tony. However, Jenny thinks I have bought him too many already because she thinks she has bought him enough already. Don't take the joy I get in buying Christmas presents! I told her.

Thursday [December 12]
[School Laptop]
  • I work 10:00 to 21:00 today. My long day of the week. I don't complain however. I have lots of time to attend to my pet projects like my Chinese study, all the reading I want to do, and my Python programming.
  • Using Python, I have made an interactive GUI that lets me conduct a five team single round robin tournament where I can enter the team names. Unfortunately, the GUI doesn't look right so I am going to have to spend some time fixing it.
  • My last class of the evening yesterday was an one student conversation class which had homosexuality as a topic. I thought I had enough discussion questions to make the class last fifty five minutes, but the class petered out with about 15 minutes to go. I didn't have so much to say about the topic as I thought I did.
  • Two traffic incidents occurred after which I fantasized about wanting to punch the driver.
  • First incident occurred last evening. I was de-boarding the 118 bus so I could get to the 635 bus stop when I was nearly hit by a car seeking to pass the bus, on its passenger side, as it was stopped so as to let off passengers. (Rare readers may recall I have complained about this before) I shook my fist over the car's trunk but choose not to pound on the car. To be honest, the bus driver should have pulled closer to the bus stop. If I was driving I would also have probably unthinkingly drove past on the bus's right. (Though, I do recall once having seen a car drive around a bus on the passenger side by driving in the portion of the road that was clearly meant for passengers to board and de-board buses.)
  • The second incident occurred as I was on my way to school just now. I was crossing the street from the McDonalds at the corner of Xueqian and Zhongshan Roads. The maddening thing, to me, about crossing at that corner, is the right-turning cars cutting off pedestrians who have a green walking signal in their favor and thus one would think, especially coming from a semi-civilized country as I do, have the right of way. This morning, I was almost finished my crossing when a Honda SUV, without slowing down, tried to make a turn in front of me. I didn't give ground however and I made the SUV come to a halt. I glared at the driver but he seem to have averted his glance.
  • I had a student tell me that in driving school, the instructors tell the students that is okay to make a right turn without checking to see what traffic is coming from the left. I told the student that this was absolutely demented.
  • A 10:00 no-show. That is, the student didn't show up. So, I spend the hour looking at Chinese flashcards.
  • It is Frank Sinatra's birthday today. So, I know what I am going to be listening to on the Ipod.
  • No students show up for the SPC. Is it something that I am doing?
  • I won't be doing any work till 18:00. I have too much time to spend on my pet projects now.

Friday [December 13]
[School Laptop]
  • Yesterday, I had a 20:00 no-show, so I only taught for two hours all of yesterday.
  • Today, my shift at the school is from 11:00 to 21:00. [I should talk about shifts instead of saying I work from such time to such time. Really, I just sit at my desk all day just keeping myself occupied unless I do have to go to a classroom and talk to some students.]
  • I will be going to the Wuxi City Hall today to do an English Corner with some civil servants. I will talk to them and talk with them about Canada and Christmas. I hope there is a good mob there. [There was only six. I felt I talked too much and looked too disorganized.]
  • This morning, Tony and I exchanged some comedic and guttural hellos, and some good-byes. “Hellooooo!” I said. Tony would smile and repeat what I said in a deep voice imitating my emphasis and holding of a vowel sound. It was a nice moment.
  • I found a box in which to put my toys for Tony. I alternate between “What the hell, buy him another toy!” and “Why bother? You and Jenny have bought him enough already.”
  • News of the execution of  Jang Song Thaek was shown on the bus this morning. [That was the number two of the Great Leader in North Korea. I wonder how many riders thought about Lin Biao.]

Saturday [December 14]
[School Laptop]
  • I work 10:00 to 18:00 today. Tomorrow I don't work, as well as the day after that. So, today is my Friday. Hooray!
  • It will be a challenge to find something to blog about because there are no novel things for me to report to my very rare readers.
  • Here is what I do have to say:
  • Construction at the corners of Zhongshan and Xueqian roads. In front of the McDonald's and Wang Dumplings restaurants, they have put up the blue temporary metal fences that block the view of construction from passersby. I assume that it has something to do with the subway construction but I could be wrong.
  • The first class of the day will be a salon (conversation) class about history. This class is often disappointing because most of the students have no thoughts about history other than it is boring. This could be because the schools really want to make history seem very boring and thus discourage the students from doing any independent reading of it. The history of China from the late 1950s to the mid 1970s was dreadful and something the current regime really doesn't want to talk about openly.
  • This evening, like last Saturday evening, we will go to the Grandma's restaurant. This time, we will go to the Sunning Plaza the Grandma's; we won't go to the overpriced and limited-selection the Golden Grandma's.

[Home Laptop]
  • Two lucky things happened this evening.
  • First, when I went to the Grandma's at the Suning Plaza, I got a seat right away. I have no idea why because I went to get a number and the hostess took me to a seat. It must have been because I was a foreigner. My wife said there was long lineup outside.
  • If you must go to the Grandma's in Wuxi, you can't go wrong with the one at the Suning Plaza. The service today was very good.
  • The second lucky thing: After dinner, we walked to the 635 bus stop and had great timing. The bus pulled in only a minute after we had arrived. Last Saturday eveing, we had to wait twenty five minutes.
  • Only problem was the temperature rose by five degrees and I was sweating in my winter dress.
  • The damn thing about the weather now is that it if goes up five degrees, you are overdressed. This evening, my long johns and parka were causing me to sweat profusely.
  • I am glad that I don't hang out the Wuxi Expat pubs anymore. Today , at school, I just happened to be told things that I wish I hadn't been told. If I was in the pub community, I would have known about this awful gossip months ago. Just too many fucking big-mouthed gossips...

Sunday [December 15]
[Home Laptop]
  • I don't work today. I am not going downtown. I am hanging out in the area of Casa K.
  • I went for a walk in the morning and I saw a foreigner. I assumed he worked at a high school in my area because he was walking on the road that came from it. He wore black wrap-around sunglasses and and looked straight ahead – I couldn't have sworn he was pretending to not notice me.
  • I have to confess that I more often than not pretend to not see a foreigner when I do see a foreigner anywhere in Wuxi. So the previous point is not so much a complaint as something that happened that I thought I could put in my diary.
  • I do have this question about the person wearing sunglasses. Other than driving a car, I don't see why people need to wear sunglasses, other than for nefarious reasons. When I was young and trying to be hip so as to deny my nerdish and humiliating adolescence, I wore Ray-Bans and I actually relished the glare of sun directly in my eyes at sunset as I drove because it gave me a practical reason to be wearing my sunglasses. Living in Manitoba, Canada, I also saw that sunglasses were useful on a day where the sky was gray and the ground was covered with snow: all that gray hurt my eyes and so my sunglasses were useful. But since I don't drive anymore, I have no need for sunglasses. So why people wear sunglasses as they walk down the street. Are their eyes bloodshot? Do they not want to be noticed? Are they still adolescent or of the adolescent mindset?
  • Tony gets me to help him put together the train set.
  • For lunch, I got a bucket from KFC.
  • For supper, the K family is going to stay home.
  • David Warren is on Twitter. Mentioning this in his blog, I clicked on the link to his Twitter page. I immediately clicked on the follow button. I wasn't logged onto Twitter however when I did it. I was prompted to enter email addresses and what not. Instead of entering the email address for my first Twitter account which is my gmail address (, I entered the address for my qq mail (, and so I now have two qq accounts. I decided that a second Twitter account was a good idea using the logic of “what the heck!”, but I now I regret it. I decided to follow David Warren twice and follow everyone who was following David Warren's Twitter account. This has lead to David Warren or his Twitter account rejecting one of my followerships. Unfortunately, my original Twitter account was rejected. I would cancel the second account but I don't want to lost the followers I have garnered from following David Warren's followers.
  • So I was a complete twit when I decided to get a second Twitter account.
  • David Warren has 160 followers as I type this. I was the 101st. I am proud to say. I am part of very exclusive company.
  • I try to listen to Catholic podcasts as I walk the area Sunday morning.
  • I will end this week's diary in the afternoon. If anything happens tonight, you can read about it in the next diary entry.

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