Thursday, December 10, 2015

December 2015 Notes (Part 1)

This blog entry, from the first half of December 2015, presents some thoughts and observations made by me, a few thoughts and observations made to me, and some reportage of things that just happened to have happened or occurred to me while I was in class, driving, listening to podcasts, walking down the local streets, hanging out with my son Tony, sitting at my desk at school, reading, or surfing the internet.


A student named Angela said her company was dealing in leashes and dog collars.


I rolled down my window, raised my arm outside and flipped the bird at a driver.  He had honked at me as I was trying to get out of our apartment complex.  Impatient so-and-so.


I was in the left turn lane.  A driver behind me was steering his car so he could pass me when the light turned green.  I steered mine to stop him.


I fantasize about doing the following:  a local driver behind my vehicle honks an unnecessary impatient honk.  I stop my car.  I get out of my car, walk back to the car and confront the driver.  I grab his head and plant his face in his steering wheel so that the horn is blaring.  Hopefully, he learns to curtail his honking.


Listened to an "expat" podcast from Beijing and heard that it is now said that the term "expatriate" is racist.  Why are some saying this?  They say the term is only ever applied to white people and so it must be bad.  People from Nigeria who live in America would be called immigrants.  



My voice in early December was very hoarse.  Everyone was saying that I had a cold.  I told them that I didn't and all that was wrong with me was my voice.


I have never called in sick in my eleven years in China.  

The last time I called in sick for any job I had was in the 1990s.


In a previous entry, I mentioned that the our room in the Yixing Kempenski had a deluxe toilet with automatic lid lifting, automatic flushing, and ventilation that stopped odors; and that we were all quite taken with it.

Talking about it later with Jenny, we agreed that maybe we should have bought an expensive toilet for our home instead of having bought a car.


If I had choose between Paris being attacked by some terrorists or Paris being the site of a Climate conference, I would opt for the terrorist attack. Less people's lives would be destroyed that way.

[No students seem interested in the Paris Climate Conference.]


Christmas, I tell the students, is a shopping festival that begins on the evening of American Thanksgiving and ends on December 25th..  It is about four weeks long.

Some students are puzzled why the first full day of the Christmas shopping festival is called Black Friday.  I tell them that Christmas shopping is an activity that is considered vulgar and ugly, over-commercialized as it were, and so the first day of it is not looked on with much joy.  [Other students have told me that they think the "Black" in Black Friday comes from the "black" of the accounting expression "being in the black."  They reason that black means making money and so Black Friday is the start of the retail making money season.]

Crass and commercial as China has become, it is blessed by the fact that the Chinese have only slightly gotten into secular Christmas.  And for that reason, I am glad to be in China in December and January, content to read Catholic liturgical books about Advent and Christmas.


I saw an Audi sports car parked on the sidewalk near the corner of Xueqian and Zhongshan Roads.  I took a photo and published it in my AKIC Wordpress Photo Blog.  Security guards who have to shoo away e-bikers who try to park on the sidewalk, seemed to be ignoring the Audi.


Once a fortnight, on a Friday, when it there is no cancellation, I go to #6 High School (in the area of Tai Hu Square) to make a speech or do a class (I'm not sure how to classify it.) for a forty five minute period (between Chariots of Fire bumper music which is pumped over the PA system to coordinate the end of class periods.).

The classroom I am in is a typical Chinese classroom.  It has many desks so that the aisles in between are narrow.  The teacher's desk, which of course faces those of the students desk, is on a slightly raised dais on one end of the room.  On either side of the classroom are windows so that when you walk in the corridor past the classroom, you can see a class in session.

The class I do is an elective.  So, I can imagine the numbers attending these classes dwindling as time goes on because they may not like me asking them questions or I have nothing to say that may interest them or be understood by them.

The students who have attended my "classes" are what I have come to expect from Chinese teenage students.  They are shy and trying to get them to talk is like pulling teeth.

And yet they are teenagers.  As I was finishing a class, a male student, on his way to his next class, went down the corridor next to my classroom, and muttered a walk-by f-bomb.  


[Live Blogging]  Plans for Christmas?  

I would like to say none but that is not completely true.  It seems I have resigned myself to not having much of a traditional Christmas.

Christmas Eve, I work till 9:00 PM so I will get home about 10:00.  Maybe I will have some presents to give Tony, though currently I have been desultory in buying anything for him and for Jenny.

Christmas Day, if I am up early enough I will phone my Mom and maybe even talk to my brother Ron who will probably be with her in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada.  I will see the latest Star Wars movie with Tony if it is playing at the local cinema.

That's it.  So the correct answer to the question is yes, but nothing spectacular.


Hard as it can be to find a parking space, what is more annoying is when you find a parking space and and then return to it to see that you can't get out of your parking space because of double-parkers.

This happened to me one morning when I parked near a school. Coming back, I saw that a whole line of cars had double parked along cars, including mine, that had parked next to the curb. I assumed and hoped that there was a short event happening at the school so that parents were double parked for a short time. (This double-parking happens at the 4:00 PM pickup of students by their parents at primary schools.) I tried to reassure myself that my wait wouldn't be long.

This didn't stop me from cursing to high heavens. The way cars were parked around mine, it seemed, as I inspected the situation, that with some maneuvering, I could get the car out of my spot. What there was was a car parallel-double-parked to the front and a little ahead of me. This car was preventing me from turning out of my spot. Behind me was a SUV that had angle-parked into a space behind me. (Because parking is hard to come by, many drivers park their cars at angles in spaces, where it is wide enough to do so, between parallel-parked cars.) The SUV was preventing me from backing up and then turning out of the spot I was parked. I thought that I could maybe angle myself out between the car and the SUV. But alas I kept banging my tires against the curb and I wasn't about to drive on it to get out. Not being able to get out, I swore aloud.

I had to wait for one of the two vehicle drivers to return.

It was the driver of the SUV, a middle-aged woman, who came first. I screamed at her and told her to get her damnable vehicle out of the way. She may have recognized some of my coarse words.


My eight year old son Tony likes bacon cheeseburgers.

I made this discovery when I took Tony to Burger King one Monday.  I had gotten him the usual fries, chicken nuggets and cola, but he saw a poster advertising the Texas Smokehouse Burger and asked me to buy it for him because it had bacon in it.  That burger was 38 rmb which is expensive for a burger in a fast food restaurant in China, so I told him I couldn't buy it (and if he didn't like it, I would have had to have to eaten it.)  But he was insistent.  So I had to get him something cheaper.  Going to the counter and looking at the menu, I saw that a burger could be custom-made.  So I ordered a Junior Whopper, and speaking in Chinese, I got them to hold the vegetables (没有 蔬菜!), and to add bacon and cheese.  

When I brought the burger to Tony, he asked what the white sauce in it was, which made me nervous.  I had thought that I had forgotten to ask them to hold the mayo.  [meiyou mayoI  Ha ha ha!]

But when the burger, which was freshly made, cooled down, he took a bite and expressed much satisfaction at the taste.

Will I come to regret this later because Tony weighs 300 pounds?  Have I introduced him to the sin of gluttony?


I am more reading than doing these days.

What have I been reading?  I have just completed a book on the history of China by John Keay.  It gave Mao a small slap on the hand for his leadership.  I am working through a fifteen volume series of books published over a 100 years ago about the Catholic Liturgy.


At a Tuesday (which is my Monday), I sat at my desk and noticed something was strange about the surface. There were little footprints on it. With further inspection, I saw little turds behind my computer and my file stackers. A mouse had been spending some time there.

Looking around the office, I saw many of the other desks were littered with the little poo bits as well.

Mice coming to my school is nothing unusual. I remember in the old school location, mice would sometimes come into the classrooms. One mouse was discovered dead in our office but only after it had decomposed enough to attract bugs and to cause some workers some itchy unpleasantness.

The mice come because there are scraps of food about making it a buffet for them. They come from nearby restaurants. Our office is in fact above a 7 + 7 restaurant. (7 + 7 is a popular chain of cafeteria style restaurants).

It makes one wonder why they come to our office for scraps when they have many restaurants in which to scavenge. Is there something wrong with the food there?


Police in Wuxi don't pull over drivers for speeding. At least I have never seen it.

What the authorities do do is have traffic cameras and sensors everywhere to catch speeding and other traffic violations. The fines can be paid for when you renew your vehicle's registration, or so I have heard.

Hearing this I thought that this was unfair if someone was accumulating lots of these traffic ticket violations and not knowing about it. I worried that I might have accumulated a whole slew of violations.

Mentioning this to a student, he told me that there was a mobile phone app I could get that would tell the driver of any violations and the fines that had been assessed to a vehicle being driven. I told Jenny about it, I downloaded the app and after getting her to enter the necessary information from our vehicle's registration to activate the app, we found that we had not had any violations. This was a big relief.


I will finish this blog with a recollection from last month.

I was in a double-left-turn lane making a turn with many other cars somewhere in downtown Wuxi. Midway through the turn, I narrowly missed hitting an old man who was pulling a long cart and was positioned between the two lanes of turning cars. Stuck in the momentum of traffic, I felt that I couldn't stop for him

He had a look of exasperation on his face. It seemed to me to be a look of bewilderment of a man from another age trying to make his way through one that had become inhuman.

Surely this man encountered traffic lights before. But at his age, the coming of them must seem to have been an overnight thing. I say this because I am sure I saw the man muttering oaths under his breath at the mechanical monsters getting in his way. Hopefully, his actions were of defiance.

The old man was Chinese. The cars were not.

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