Thursday, October 27, 2016

Our Tenth Anniversary

Thursday, October 13, 2016

September 2016 Notes

Better late than never.


Here are the few notes I made during the month of September 2016.


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Tony cried on his first day back to school.


Tears came to my eyes as well.


I also swore a lot as I got to experience, instead of just witness, the traffic jam by the school as parents drop off their children.


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I vowed to stop blogging about local drivers and just become resigned to their ways in order to spare my rare readers lots of carping. But I need to vent and that are breeds of idiot drivers on the road in China that one would never see in Canada unless they immigrate there from mainland China.


One type of local driver is always honking the horn out of sheer impatience. If they are behind several other cars stopped at a light, they will immediately honk when the light turns green. And they will honk at the car that slows to make a turn. And they will honk at a car that slows down for pedestrians or cycles. Why? They are very impatient I suppose.


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A student was showing me videos of security guards and parents fighting, first, at Tony's school and, then, in front of the government building that is down the street from the Kaulins Family China apartment.


This fighting was on account of the bad materials that were used in making the sports field at Tony's school.


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Thirty one students in Tony's class. Better than forty, but because it is a odd number, Tony is sitting by himself. He has no deskmate.


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A fellow foreign trainer who has driven in many places in the world tells me that the mainland Chinese are the worst drivers in the world, only exceeded in badness by the local drivers of Papua New Guinea.


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Long days in September and I'm hating it. I am up before six so I can drive Tony to school. I have three days of the week where I teach English to primary school classes of 35. Some of the classes have been okay as some individual students are good, but overall, it hasn't been a satisfying appearance. Most of the classes have been full of rowdiness, and many of the students haven't been paying attention or are not motivated. I had to whack one kid -- he kicked me -- and I wish I could whack a few more. And at the end of the day, I come home to see Tony still doing homework and being tiger-mothered.


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One morning, after dropping Tony off at school, I was driving back home in busy traffic and I had this fellow cut in front of me, annoying me greatly. He was driving a cheap gray beat up Hyundai. In a fit of pique, as some space opened, I drove past him and then cut in front of him. I wasn't at first sure if he understood the meaning of my maneuver. Looking in my rear-view mirror – he was stopped in line behind me – I couldn't make out an expression on his face. But he then decided to drive into the bicycle lane as the boulevard just so happened to have a gap in it. It was a maneuver – an illegal maneuver – that I had seen many a local driver do in order to get out of traffic jams. As he did so, I looked over, to my right, and I saw he was was definitely looking at me. He then looked forward and I could see him laugh to himself in a hearty way. I gave him the middle finger salute but he had turned his head and driven away too fast to see it. I guess he figured he had "beaten me" because thanks to his maneuver, he was going to clear the intersection before I did. But the way I saw it was that he had proved the point that I had made by my maneuver. He was an inconsiderate S.O.B. By his manner of response, he showed that was a coward because he drove away without apologizing and was dishonorable by his very act of cheating.


That's Mainland China and the Mainland Chinese for you.


As for me, I should resign myself to Chinese traffic behavior. I am not going to win in Chinese traffic because I don't play by their rules or rather their lack of rules. And maybe one of these idiots will want to fight me.


Even if I win and even if I am in the right in these situations, I will lose.


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Offer the students the straight goods. If they don't like it, there is no point in trying to appeal to them All that can be done is to hope they go away and to flunk them if you are in fact grading them. Give all your attention to those who might be interested and award them generously.


These ideas came to me from a David Warren Blog entry which just so happened to be published after my first week of teaching primary school and after a second Saturday of trying to conduct a speaker's corner with these kids from Meicun High School whom I despise.


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Drove to Xinjie one day. Had lunch, hung out, then went home. It was a rainy day. Why don't the local drivers turn on their headlights? I wondered.


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I am deplorable. How? Let me count the ways.


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I have discovered that a Cubit is eighteen inches or the length of my forearm. Back in my couriering days (oh! how certain assholes who were in Wuxi have held that against me.), I had a quick way of measuring box dimensions by stretching my thumb and little finger nearly perpendicular to the other fingers. I had determined that from the tip of my thumb to the tip of the little finger, the length was 9 inches or as I now know, half a cubit. Two of these half cubits are equal in length to my forearm.


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Tony had a reprieve in the middle of September. It turned out that the protests about the sports field were heeded and the authorities redid the sports field. While this work was being done, Tony had a week away from school.


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But because of this reprieve, Tony will be having a series of six day weeks at his school.


Poor Fella!


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One way to meet a foreigner in Wuxi is to just knock on the wrong door in an apartment building.


What had happened was that Jenny had lead me on a wild goose chase. She was in a spa while Tony was doing a writing class at a teacher's residence. Having got there early – that is before Tony's class was finished – she had me go pick him up. Problem was that she didn't know the exact address. She said it was in apartment 801 in building 16 or building 18.


I went to the apartment in building16 and knocked on the door. To my surprise, as well as the person who opened the door, there were two foreigners staring at each other. I had to tell him how it came to be that he was answering the door. I learned that he was from Kenya and was teaching Math at the #1 High School. I got his Wechat ID and who knows, maybe we will be friends.


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As I was saying, I am doing a primary school gig, teaching English to grades Two to Five at Big Bridge Primary School which is on the same campus as the high school where I did my history teaching gig last year.


Do I like doing it? I can't say as I do. The children aren't at all very nice or respectful. I was delusional to think that by being nice to them, I could teach them something and have fun while doing so. After the first week, I had to take into account that anything I did do with them should not get them excited or even amused because anything that was amusing or exciting for them turned them into a loud unruly mob. Being nice and humorous to them the first week was probably a mistake from which I might never recover with these groups. To try to soften the blow from this mistake, I tried to ignore them as much as I could after the first week by not responding to their hellos to me and not answering their questions in the hallway. I tried to overlook their many acts of disrespect to me, but I couldn't hold my temper when before a class, they swarmed my desk as I was trying to set up a projector and my materials. I whacked one kid of the mob on his back. [I should have gotten the assistant to deal with them.] After the class ended, another brat grabbed my backpack, twice, and I very much lost my temper so that it looked like I was going to beat her. It was just my luck, that this incident happened in front of six or seven female teachers. The incident immediately had people talking. As I was in the car taking us back to school, my assistant was already answering a phone call from someone at my school about it. I was brought on the carpet as soon as I got to my school and made to explain myself.


The Chinese teachers do whack the students at the school. They also speak in the strongest language to them to get them to behave. As a foreigner, I cannot do this. I have to rely on the assistant but even she can't do much about the unruly students it would seem. As a laowai, I am going to have a hard time controlling the students, and it would seem that my only recourse is to walk out of the classroom or have the assistant do more.


And then there is the question of actually teaching them something. Some of the children I have discovered can't even read the text and maybe can't speak more than a few words of English.