Saturday, December 23, 2017
Sunday, December 10, 2017
Sunday, December 3, 2017
The first major news story of November was the Terrorist attack in New York City where the Islamist rented a truck to mow down cyclists. I mentioned it to the students and one of them said she was glad in live in China. I could only wonder to myself about where she got her news.
November is going to be my no WeChat month. (I mentioned what I will be not doing at the end of my October entry.) There are two reasons I am doing this. The first is that I realize I have been wasting lots of time looking at the app. The second is this compulsion I have always had to re-enforce my isolation from others. That is, to further keep myself alone from others.
I will make a log, written in the present tense, but how I am getting along with this vow.
As of November 2, I have looked at WeChat once but I haven't looked at any group postings or moments posting. Moving the WeChat icon away from the home bottom App row of my Iphone screen has so far helped me with this vow. So, I have avoided accidentally getting onto WeChat.
It is November 7th. I wish I could make a posting about the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Coup in Russia, but I made a commitment and I must stick to it. It's not like anyone cares what I think about that event. [No responses to my plea at the end of the October 2017 entry for correspondents. So it looks like I will have to be a correspondent with a better and more-listened-to blogger.]
On or about the weekend of 11/11: Remembrance Day (single's day in China), I decided to extend my WeChat moratorium from a month to forty days. I was listening to a podcast where the host sought to explain a duration of not podcasting by stating he had spend forty days in the wilderness. He obviously got this line from the Bible and the forty days spent in the wilderness (or was it the desert?) of our lord and savior. So, forty days of staying away from WeChat is what I will now do.
At 6:00 AM on December 11th, I will be posting a Nicholas Gomez Davilia aphorism to WeChat moments. Will anyone on WeChat have noticed my absence? I doubt it but it is always good to confirm.
On the weekend of the Grey Cup Game, I started toying with the idea of extending my WeChat avoidance through the whole month of December, thus avoiding contact through Christmas and Western New Year's. Seeing how that the truth is I haven't completely avoided WeChat because I sometimes have to go to it to get messages from my wife Jenny or from people at work, I could say that sixty will make it seem more like the forty that our Lord endured.
I have made no Chinese friends in my 13 years here in China. I find their company, with a few small exceptions, to be boring.
I have no friends in the Wuxi expat community as well, for which I can offer many excuses. My location in Wuxi and the worn paths I go on to get through my day: both seem to serve to isolate me. The Wuxi expats with whom I do have acquaintance are on the other side of town and even having a car, it is too much trouble to go see them. Through the years, many of the Wuxi expats I have known have been too left-wing, too drunk, too perverted, too dishonest, too untrustworthy, too middle of the road (the most untrustworthy), too screwed up in their personal lives, or too atheist for me to stand their company or for them to stand mine.
I could also offer many mea-culpas. I have to face the fact that I have never fully recovered from my adolescence which was very lonely for me. In fact, I had no friends as a teenager. This loneliness I have come to see as a cross I must bear, so I have, through my years in Wuxi, made efforts to further isolate myself. I have chosen to not talk to people. Now some of these people did do things to irk or annoy me, and some of these people were best avoided anyway; but the fact is I deliberately made myself unlikable to a whole host of expats.
Tony made a middle finger gesture to me and asked me what it meant. Geez....
My school is not getting many students these days. On the first Thursday evening of November, I had one class with just one student in the evening. I am supposed to have three classes with many times more students.
Why has the school's enrollment declined? Many reasons. The fashion for learning English has gone away in China. The Chinese school system, thanks to Xi Jing Ping, has placed less importance on learning English in its High School qualifying exam process. The Chinese government also has made it more difficult to bring foreign teachers into the country.
Specific to the school itself, there are many more reasons as well. Our location is no longer so ideal. I say this because I have seen many businesses in our complex shut down and because the big department store we are close to, Ba Bai Ban, has been eclipsed by Sunning plaza as a place to go downtown. I also don't think we offer a very good service. The education model is based on the superstitious belief that talking to foreigners will make Chinese students speak English get better. It doesn't for most Chinese students. Learning another language is a lot of work and the students have to be committed in a big way to doing it. And many students just don't have the ability to do it and there is nothing we can do for them. Language classes are tortuously boring as well for the students and the teachers. Most attempts to make the classes interesting don't work because the teachers and students have very different interests. It is almost like a dog trying to teach cats how to be dogs. Also, our lesson plans are not very inspiring for the teachers or the students. Sometimes, I am getting them to make sentence after sentence. Sometimes, I am just running out the clock. Sometimes, I am showing flashcards and trying to make talk about them. I often leave the class thinking I wasted my and the students' time and that they didn't learn a damn thing.... And it is very rarely that I like the classes....
I was in our third floor apartment, sitting by its entrance, getting ready to go to work, when someone came to our door and turned the handle of our front door which was locked. I heard the person quickly let go and I then heard what sounded like rapid footsteps going down the stairs and out the apartment building. I opened the door and then looked out our window but I didn't get a glimpse of the person.
When I left our apartment and went downstairs I saw that a brick was holding open the front door to the our apartment building. I kicked it away and shut the door. I didn't seen anyone suspicious when I continued down the lane on my way to the bus stop.
Have I ever been part of such a pair?
Or larger group?
Thinking back, I recall not and despair.
Take all the people away.
Let me walk about their rubble.
It would be akin to a walk in nature.
I could easily commune with spirit.
It was very sunny today. There must have been four suns in the sky.
It was very cloudy yesterday. I lost count around a million.
I try to read a poem every day, for as some wise men have said some truth is only available to poets and some truths are only accessed through poetry. Something about school introducing my to poetry turned me off poetry for a long time because of the exercise where they would ask you to explain the poetry and find its symbolism. They should have just told me that poetry has effects on us that often can't be explained by only appreciated.
There is sponge cake but why isn't there cloth cake or rag cake?
[November 7th] The school is shrinking in size. The old school location, which is nearby the new school location, had been turned into a school of Sinology and then into a daycare and then into a kid's school. None of these operations got enough students to make it worthwhile to have such a large premises. So, the staff from the kids school have been moved to the new location; and under-used offices and classrooms at the new location are being converted into classrooms for the kids school. By the middle of November, the school, both adult and kiddies, will be under one roof.
I am not sure about what is going to happen to the old location. The speed at which the school was moved out [only half a year after it had been decorated to be a kid's school] seems to indicate that someone else got the premises.
On November 7th, I have but two classes to teach. Ideally, there would be five.
It seems that this English-teaching gig of mine is coming to an end. So what will I do if the school shuts down? Hopefully, I will go back, with Tony, and hopefully Jenny, to Canada. It may be late in my life to start on a new path, but I can't curse my fate. I choose it.
Do I have any skills I can offer to anyone in Canada? I do have some good personal habits. I am reliable. I don't do drugs. I don't drink to excess. I never call in sick for work. I never come to work late. I keep myself busy as my language study and the fact that I have kept a blog going for so many years shows. I am loyal and I will put up with a lot of inconvenience and indifference from the world rather than give in to it. Surely, that must mean something in this world.
Another mass shooting in America. This time at a church in Texas. A lot of good Americans killed. It's the price you have to pay for freedom, I would suppose. China could boost about those things not happening in China but then the numbers of victims of the Communist government's misrule are probably many times greater as a proportion of the Chinese population than of mass shooting victims in the U.S.
Think of it this way: these shootings could happen every day for a year in the States and they will still not close to matching the victims of Chairman Mao's Great Leap Forward.
Sometimes I get annoyed at other drivers because they are just in my way. This I shouldn't be doing because it does take the ground from under my feet for when I do have legitimate reasons to gripe about the local drivers.
On the morning of November 8th, I was driving Tony to school. I was in the long lineup of cars going down the road by Tony's school. I got to an entrance to an apartment building complex where, as I told my rare readers in a previous entry, the road becomes a uncontrolled T-intersection. Confusion results as cars try to turn into the intersection or go through the intersection, and no driver dare yield to another. My yielding to one car, that had beaten me to space, resulted in a black sedan, coming from my left and behind, passing me. The black sedan then proceeded rightwards into the bike lane to stop. Our car was then besides the sedan and Tony wanted me to stop so I could drop him off. It has been my practice to never go into the bike lane when I drop Tony off because I would only end up screwing up the traffic even more by trying to merge back into it. (Merging is hard to do because of the local drivers' desire to never yield.）The black sedan was in Tony's way. My annoyance at the car being there resulted, after Tony had gotten out, in my making faces at and giving a finger to the black sedan's driver who was a male with a cigarette drooping so low from his mouth that it might has well have been glued to his chin.
I really shouldn't have been rude.
The weather in November has not been anything to complain about. It has been sunny without excessive heat or humidity. I think it is a shame that young people in Wuxi have to be in school. Really, this should be holiday time for students and their parents. Summer in Wuxi is a time when people should be shut indoors or attending school. Autumn in Wuxi is when it is ideal to be outside and not in a classroom.
November 11th in China is single's day though recently it has turned into a shopping holiday as bad as Black Friday in America and Canada.
Tony is being bullied at school. Jenny is angry. I have these questions: What are the teachers doing? Is the bullying because Tony is different? Should I be angry about it?
On the 10th of November I learned that all the taxi drivers in Wuxi were on strike. Reason? Didi, which is the Uber style app in Wuxi. I didn't know about the strike till a colleague told me about it. Apparently news of the strike was suppressed on WeChat. (Which reminds me of the news blackout that initially happened during the Wuxi Water Crisis of 2008. No bad news happens in Wuxi...)
Tony wants to listen to Beatles songs. A stage in a boy's development? I think I discovered the Beatles at a similar age.
Hearing about the taxi strike gave me something to talk about with students. One student told me that she was able to get a taxi driver to come pick her up at her company but the driver came in his personal car and gave her a pre-printed receipt. The driver, I told the student, was scabbing which I found interesting because it re-enforced this suspicion I had that the locals will cheat whenever they can.
A student guessed that the population of the USA was 2 billion, after I had told her that the population of China was 1.3 billion.
On Sunday, November 19th, I took the 25 bus all the way downtown, instead of transferring to the subway. I listened to a Mother Angelica podcast and looked out the window where it seemed to me that the economic development I was looking at was spotty. I would pass some finished construction projects alongside vacant lots full of trash and subsistence farming; and as I got closer to downtown, I saw a lot of closed storefronts in buildings that had been around since before I had moved to Wuxi thirteen years ago. The older storefronts closed down were an omen, I thought, of what was going to happen to our school.
On Sunday, November 19th, Tony lamented that he had to go to “frigging school” the next day.
His lament was mine. I mean I hate it when he goes to his school.
Down the road, that Casa Kaulins faces, is the Hui Shan District Government Building. It has been a site for protests, and as I was about to drive past it on Monday, November 20th, I saw a group of older locals walking towards its entrance with signs. I would have loved to have seen what would have transpired but I was in my car and had no place to stop, along with the fact that I am too conspicuous as a white foreigner to be a lookie-lou.
I phoned my mother in late November and we got onto the topic of her family's escape from Latvia and the Soviets in 1944. The Soviets and Germans were shooting at each other from opposite sides of a river near my mother's family farmstead. Her mother faced with the prospect of the Soviets coming and sending all her family to Siberia, decided to put my mother, my mother's three sisters and my mother's brother on a wagon and horse with a few possessions, and head to the coast of Latvia. From there, they were able to board a boat to Germany. They spent some time in Germany and Poland, and were able to get out of the Soviet occupation zone and apply to immigrate to Canada, which they were able to do in 1955.
It must why I have always felt I have a lead a charmed existence.
Maybe, I will have Tony move to Canada in time to start his junior high. I don't like the idea of him living in dormitories for his middle school life.
This gives me two years or so to plan.
I made a joking sort of Christmas/Birthday* wish list for my Speakers Corners which went as follows:
Size 47 shoes
a leather bound edition of the complete works of Shakespeare
a Donald Trump tie
a Hamilton Tiger-Cats t-shirt
a “Make America Great Again” hat
Dove Chocolate with almonds
Crown Royal Whiskey
an AR-15 rifle
a Lugar pistol
Starbuck's gift certificate
a Fred Astaire poster
a map of Latvia.
You many be surprised my wanting a Hamilton Tiger-Cats t-shirt. I saw a person wearing a Hamilton Tiger-Cats cap on the Skytrain and I have to admit it looked good. It was probably the first time I had seen anyone wearing Tiger-Cat stuff.
You may also be appalled by my wanting weapons. Well, gun owners are persecuted and so having some guns would be a great way for me to carry a cross for Christ and defend myself from the atheistic state.
*My birthday is December 24th.
It stabs my heart to the quick to hear that Tony is being bullied at school. The who is not so important to me as the why of this? Is it because Tony is a little different? Or is Tony asking for it?
I was annoyed by Jenny telling me that I was seen to have not been watching Tony at a swimming class. All the other parents, Jenny told me, were. First off, this was annoying because someone reported this to Jenny. Second off, the idea of closely watching Tony in his swimming class is totally anathema to my idea of what kind of parent I want to be. I don't want to be a Chinese style, Helicopter Chairman Mao, Xi Jing Ping, authoritarian style parent. And anyway, Tony needs time to be by himself and he doesn't need me to be tiger-fathering him. It is enough that Jenny tiger mothers him six nights a week.
I love my parents so much for just leaving me alone when I was growing up. Now, it could be argued that I suffered a lot because of their just letting me do what I wanted to do, as I did a lot of bonehead things when I was growing up and adopted a lot of stupid attitudes and failed in many ways. But these failures would have destroyed a lesser man, and if my mediocre fate is what I deserve that I shouldn't complain or let it get me down. Wanting freedom means you can't be blaming others for what is wrong in your life.
As November comes to an end, I look ahead to the next holidays which are Christmas and the Western New Year. I have decided to throw in the towel for planning or wanting something interesting to happen. Last year's Christmas dinner at the Kempenski which I had so looked forward to and ended up being so disappointed by** has made me resign myself to letting Jenny plan what we will do at Christmas. As far as I am concerned, I will be happy to not go out during those two holidays. The only things I will care about is that Tony is happy with the Christmas presents he gets and that I observe the holiday in my solipsisticly religious way.
**The dinner was a money making exercise for the hotel. They packed as many people as they could into the banquet hall so the end result was a Christmas dinner with 500 Chinese buffet attendees and my wanting to get out of the place but not being able to because of the money we had shelled out.
The government office got word that they were about to get a surprise inspection visit from a higher-up. The woman who got the heads-up informed everyone but a person who had closed his office door. When the inspector came, everyone put on an appearance of doing something except the man who behind the door. He was discovered to be watching a video on his computer and was given hell for it with his name being posted on a big shaming poster. The woman felt bad for having not told him. When she made this confession, she also said that the surprise inspection was creating an atmosphere of extreme tension at work. Anyway, it is said to be one of Xi Jing Ping's initiatives, these surprise inspections.
November also ended with news of suicides of Chicom government officials like a mayor who was caught embezzling funds and a high ranking military officer who was also said to be facing charges of corruption. Talk of Xi Jing Ping wanting to take China back to the 1970s can maybe be replaced with his wanting to bring the Cultural Revolution. It seems that the level of suicide in China is approaching Cultural Revolutionary levels...
Since, I won't be publishing another blog entry till 2018, I'll wish my rare readers and even rarer readers who have managed to make it to the end of this entry, a Merry Christmas.
Merry Christmas! And that's all you're going to get!
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Saturday, November 25, 2017
Sunday, November 19, 2017
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Sunday, November 12, 2017
Thursday, November 9, 2017
Thursday, November 2, 2017
The first six days of October were a holiday for me:
I didn't do much. Fear of crowds made me reluctant to go anywhere.
On October 1st, I made a point of not wishing a Happy China Day, as it were, to anyone; unlike I would have for Canadians, Americans, and people of other countries of whose national day I might have been aware. I don't do this because I believe the establishment of the People's Republic of China was a tragedy for the Chinese people.
We (that be my wife Jenny, my son Tony & I) drove to Jenny's hometown, Xinjie, for a day. Driving to Xinjie was slow and annoying. Coming back, it was much worse as traffic got clogged at an interchange leading to Nantong and the Jiang Ying Big Bridge. It ended up taking us nearly three hours to drive 97 km on road that was basically all freeway with a speed limit of 120 km/h. At one point coming back, we got very angry at one driver who rode on the shoulder (illegal and drivers caught will be fined) and then tried to shove (very aggressive cut off maneuver) his way ahead of us. Jenny rolled down her window and screamed at this man (who we could see quite close up since he was about a foot from the passenger seat of our car.). I honked the horn and gave him the finger. His reaction was typical Chinese inscrutability, although there might have been a small glint of his knowing he was in the wrong as I am sure I saw a pleading look on his countenance asking us to let him in anyway. He persisted in trying to get ahead of us but I wouldn't let him and so he eventually went further down the road where, sadly, he was able to cut himself back into the proper lane and off the shoulder. So, in the end he accomplished his goal, but hopefully the aggravation we gave him was enough to stop him from ever trying that maneuver again. Of course, he may be subject to that Chinese way of thinking where we were the ones in the wrong because we made him lose face by not tolerating his wrong actions... One day, I fear, I am going to punch out some Chinaman driver. [We saw why the driver was so desperate to get into the proper lane as just an instant later when we saw a police vehicle stopped on the shoulder.]
We went clothes dryer shopping. We first tried to buy a used dryer that we learned of in a WeChat group. We drove to an apartment in the Wuxi New District on Chang Jiang Road. The Aussie and his Indonesian wife were asking1300 rmb for their dryer which they were selling because they were leaving China. Jenny wanted to pay them 600, and so after a little bit of dicussion, it turned out to be no dice. We then went to a few appliance stores around the Hui Ju mall area. Interestingly, I saw a dryer, that would be standard in Canada and that my mother has in her house, that was priced at over 7,000 rmb. I didn't know the make of the model we saw being advertised as coming from Italy, but we definitely were shopping for something smaller and cheaper: around 1100 if we could find it, 2000 if we couldn't. [Jenny got one later in October. It cost about 1100 rmb and is a 6 KG model which is bigger than the 3 KG model we looked at originally. We have put it in the kitchen. We will still dry the majority of our laundry by hanging. We will only use it on rainy and cold days when laundry gets backlogged.]
We went to Metro (sort of a Costco) and bought some groceries. Not something we normally do.
Having beers with a colleague from school was the extent of my socializing during the six days.
* * * * *
How bad were the Communists in Latvia? After a year of being occupied by them, during the time when the Nazis and Soviets were allies, Latvians then welcomed the Nazis, who were invading the Soviet Union, as liberators. [I was watching a video about it.]
* * * * *
Tony was pleased to learn that Canadians and Brits were allies during WW2.
* * * * *
I learned about the Las Vegas massacre from a WeChat foreigner group. The person who was announcing it seemed full of righteous glee as he immediately went into a rant against America and its guns.
I didn't watch all that many videos of the shooting, but I did eagerly await details about the shooter and what he was up to before he did the evil deed. Hearing that the guy had the financial means, the will and the ability to do what he did, I concluded the shooting was a black swan incident in the manner of the Brevik mass shooting that took place in Scandinavia.
* * * * *
It is easy to hate these people. I give into the temptation to do so, and I know damm well, from Christianity, that I shouldn't. But is there a way that you can justify their rude manners? There is something to be said for different strokes for different folks. And you can forgive because their actions though extremely crude, aren't at all that important in the universal scale of things... But they do these dangerously rude actions with cars which really are hard to forgive.
* * * * *
One of the students went to a Mayday concert in Nanjing. From what I can make out when talking to her, there must have been a crowd of over 50,000 people in attendance. From the student, as well, I learned that t-shirts were 400 rmb and that the band did three encores at the end.
* * * * *
One morning, Tony was forty minutes late for school. I did drive him and we did leave home on time. What happened then was that the traffic lights were out at a few intersections in the area around Tony's school and there was complete traffic chaos. The locals not knowing how to behave at uncontrolled intersection, and how to be patient, resulted in the intersection I normally go through to get to Tony's school being so messed up that I decided to make a u-turn and try getting to Tony's school from another direction. Because local drivers can't just stay in their lanes and wait, instead choosing to jostle and weave in some futile hope to get through the jam quicker, no traffic can get through an intersection until the authorities can bring in temporary lights or get the normal ones working.
This failure of traffic signals to work is constant problem in the district that I live. About three times, this school term have I had to deal with this traffic hell. [On the the 30th, it happened yet again.]
* * * * *
In the week after the holiday, I asked every student how their holiday was. With exception of one, all the students told me they stayed at home and didn't go anywhere. So based on anecdotal evidence, I could have said that the Chinese mostly stayed home for the holiday, but reports were that hundreds of millions of them took trips around China and places were overcrowded. As Yogi Berra would have said, no body in China went anywhere during the Golden Week because it was too crowded.
* * * * *
One student had a sad story to tell me from his holiday. Three neighbors, whom he had known for over twenty years, were all found dead in their next door apartment. The man of the house was found to have hung himself, and his wife and child's bodies were found cold. I said "Holy Crap!" and was full of questions.
The student told me about this story in a very matter of fact way. He even made a joke about it. We might well have been talking about an accident he had witnessed.
* * * * *
My ideal life? To be a devout Catholic attending mass every day.
What kind of friends do I want to have in this ideal life? Friends that I can love. Friends who I can tease. Friends who aren't moonbat. Friends full of good will toward everyone. Friends who aren't as much a part of this world as I am. Friends who like poetry. Friends who aren't heretics. Friends who aren't poets. Friends who don't see themselves as artists. Friends without pretense. Friends who are reactionary. Friends who appreciate Catholicism. Friends who are philosophers. Friends who don't do drugs. Friends who aren't like Harvey Weinstein. Friends who don't know what they want to do with their lives. Friends who are impractical. Friends who aren't rich. Friends who are gentlemen. Friends who aren't feminists and sexpats (That is either or, or both.) Friends who are one-woman men. Friends who are honest. And friends who are devout Conservative Catholics.
Of course, I pity the fool that would have me for a friend.
* * * * *
I was walking down a street one rainy morning when I saw, walking towards me, a foreigner who was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, but was not carrying an umbrella and thus was soaked to the bone. When we passed each other, he was staring at the ground and so we made no eye contact. Did he see me from afar and chose to deliberately ignore me on account of his appearance? Or was he so self-conscious that he didn't want to make eye contact with anybody?
I have to admit that I have done a similar thing when passing foreigners on the street in Wuxi. Something about them, perhaps their youth or their having an appearance of the ugly Westerner, makes me not want to acknowledge their existence. I avert my glance.
* * * * *
After expressing skepticism about Xi Da Da's ability and true desire to fight corruption at the start of a class, the student I was talking to told me he was a member of the Chinese Communist Party. I couldn't quite glean what his true attitude to the party was because he first talked, in reverent tone, about how people who were good students and exhibited good habits could join the party, before then telling me that part of the reason he joined was that it was a good career move in the PRC.
I asked him if he got to vote in party elections and he said he did, but he then told me his vote really didn't seem to matter because the slate was put forth by the higher party powers.
We got onto American politics and he said that he thought Hilary Clinton was an experienced candidate for the US presidency. He also seemed to express envy at Americans being able to openly criticize their leaders.
* * * * *
Thank God, I was a loser and ugly so that I could never end up being like Harvey Weinstein.
If dealing with the likes of him is what you need to achieve worldly success, I should be thankful I am a failure, I am ignored and basically a loner.
[Actually, I choose to be alone for so long, without a woman, because I was always pining for woman who were out of my league.]
* * * * *
Tony came home from school one day, took a deep breath and said "I need a break!" before heading to my computer so he could watch Youtube.
* * * * *
Tony asked me where his Yigo Beego toy I was.
I told him I didn't know.
"It's gotta be somewhere!" he then said. I thought it was an interesting turn of phrase to be coming from his mouth.
* * * * *
The old 85 Bakery location near our school, which has an all-glass front, is still looking for a tenant. As well, I can report that the old location, as I type this, has a broken and shattered section of glass. Instead of boarding the pane up and/or replacing it, someone has put a beam that leans against some twine which was tied to two ends of the store front. The beam's bottom is placed against the bottom of the store front and the beam's top sticks out about two feet. I can watch the location all the time as I teach and so I have imagined that someone not paying attention can whack his head against the pole.
The odds of human nature being in my favor, my imaginings of course came true. One Saturday, I chanced to see an e-biker who had just whacked his head against the beam. He wasn't hurt seriously or even majorly chagrined. He shrugged his head and went back to looking at his smart phone which had been taking up his attention. Some people never learn.
After this, I saw a boy walk to the shattered window pane and stop to look. He then walked under the twine, picked up a shard of grass (fallen since the expedient of the pole had been dreamed up I would imagine) and threw it through the opening in the broken window. Kids....
* * * * *
Tony said he didn't need to wear a jacket. When he went outside with me, he then began to complain that it was cold.
When I told him that he should have put on a jacket, he asked if I was calling him a dumbass.
When I was his age, I was exposed to swearing from hanging out with others. He is now exposed to swearing from watching video. So what's the difference?
* * * * *
Driving done a road after having picked up Tony from school, I came upon a truck backing up on to the road with the assistance of a ground guide and I stopped to wait for the truck to go on its way. Other drivers, not wanting to even slow down, tried to weave and avoid the back end of the truck. The ground guide who was guiding the truck backwards with his arms, walked backwards into a van that was unsuccessful in its attempt to get around the truck.
It was another example of stupid, uncourteous and impatient local drivers.
* * * * *
On a Wednesday in the middle of October, I could see that Xi Jing Ping had made a big speech at the 19th Commie Party Congress (十九大). I first saw video of him making the speech while I was waiting on the subway platform. I then saw his ugly face on video screens in the train and on big public screens all over the city.
Later than day, I asked the students if they had watched or heard the speech. Most said they hadn't. One student said it wasn't his business. A younger student talked about some sarcastic postings she had put on WeChat about Xi Da Da saying that everyone should look after the poor. She said, in her posting, that she was poor and wanted to be looked after.
* * * * *
Tony was asking me who the leaders of various countries in WW2 were. I love it when he asks these sorts of questions.
* * * * *
The evening before the Ping speech, I noticed that the Internet was not working so well. I couldn't download some of my favorite podcasts and some my apps were taking a lot time to download files, if at all.
Seeing Chairperson Ping's image everywhere, the next morning, explained to me why my Internet was crap.
The day after the speech (which was three and a half hours long! Who does the guy think he is? Castro?), I was in a fine fettle. Bad Internet and an asshole in a white VW sedan shoving his way in my lane while I was dropping off Tony made me miserable. I trailed right behind the VW for a kilometer or so and I blared my horn constantly. I wanted the driver to know in no uncertain terms how irate I was. I couldn't tell if the driver was a man or woman.
That incident and accounts of the speech I saw which said Da Da was wanting to take back China to the 1950s and 1960s with the Communists controlling all aspects of their subjects' lives had me thinking the gloomiest of thoughts. I resolved that I didn't want Tony to spend the productive times of his life in the People's Republic of China. I imagined myself being deported for my political and religious beliefs. I thanked God for my job as an English person trying to have conversations with dimwitted Mainland Chinese people, I wasn't do anything to productively help the People's Republic of China.
* * * * *
Who are these idiots who think that Socialism can work? And why are they running a huge country like China? Is the Devil to blame?
* * * * *
A thought about the Vegas Killer.
It was his misfortune that he was living in the United States from 1960s onward instead of in Stalin's Soviet Union. Reading a book about Stalin's major henchmen, and what I can gather about the Vegas Killer, this man would have been a perfect candidate who help Stalin. While some of Stalin's henchman were openly psychotic and violent, some of them were quiet and efficient, the sort of people who would sit at a table and not strike anyone as formidable. The Vegas Killer seemed like the latter kind of man Stalin would employ.
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At a bakery one morning, I went to the register to buy some bread when a women cut in front of me. She then saw me and what she had done. She then said sorry and moved behind me in the line. This was an extraordinary thing in my China experience. I should have thanked her. As it was, I was stunned.
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Not much to do in the afternoons at school. I spend my free time reading, studying Chinese and sometimes editing my October diary.
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To keep track of: that is a collocation that the students have to make a sentence with in one of the lessons. They never can. So, what I tell them is that I keep track of the books I read. I read a book and make a note of the book's title and author in an excel file.
I finished reading my 58th book in the middle of October.
My 59th book I am reading on the recommendation of my favorite blogger David Warren. [My second favorite writes the Duff and Nonsense Blog.] It was written by a Catholic Frenchmen in 1962. (Or I should say, published.) It was a call to arms for Christians against Modernism, Marxism and Atheistic Humanism. It's still relevant today. From it I got an answer for a question that I would never expect to be posed to me, but one that came to me after I reflected on what the Catholic writer wrote in his 1962 book: What would I like to say to Xi Jing Ping if I ever meet him? Hitherto, I would have said that Socialism has failed every time it has been tried. Now I would say this: "You will one day be judged by Jesus Christ and this trial is the only one of importance in your life and in the life of the people you purport to represent."
[You can browse this blog to see what books and videos I have read and watched in previous years.]
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Like I said, Xi Jing Ping's speech was 3 hours and 23 minutes long. I joked about this with the student who had told he was a member of the Chinese Communist party. I wondered to him how the people, in the hall where Chairman Xi was making his speech, could sit so long without falling asleep or being able to look at their smart phones. For these people, said the Communist, it was a solemn occasion. Yeah right! I said.
I should have told him that it was a blasphemy against the human condition that a political conference could have solemnity. Solemnity should result from the contemplation of God.
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Getting off the elevator on the second last Sunday of October 2017, I experienced the worst case of Chinaman elevator rudeness since I came to China in 2004. This "gentleman" rushed on the elevator so fast that he blocked me from getting out. If I had had my wits about me, I would have spread out my arms to block him. As it was, I could only scream "Why don't you f***ing wait for people get off first!" Off the elevator and thus looking behind me, I had the impression that he hadn't heard me. He seemed absorbed in something his female companion was saying to him.
As I walked away, I was so angry that I was shaking and the sight of every local I passed disgusted me. They were all Chinese like that guy getting on the elevator.
How would a Saint — a Christian Saint that is — deal with this? Well, I suppose the Saint would be praying for China and the Chinese, and be saddened by its atheism and state power. I suppose the Saint would be be able to teach the guy getting on the elevator proper manners in a way that was full of Christian love. But as Mother Angelica says, Saints aren't perfect and have to battle their imperfections. One of them being having bad tempers. Would a Saint have felt the anger that I felt?
And why did I feel angry? Was it because my dignity was violated? My sense of worth was trampled on? The thing about Chinese rudeness that sets me off is how it involves shoving people aside. My life experiences are such that I can't accept this happening to me. What I can't understand is how the Chinese seem to accept it and put up with it.
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For some silly reason, I had it in my mind that October 23rd was my anniversary when it was in fact the 27th. Of course I have a photo from that day where the date is prominently shown and which I make a point of publishing in my blog and on social sites annually, so I would have caught myself.
[Perhaps, I thought of the 23rd because my son Tony was born on a 23rd and for whatever reason I think more about his birthday than I do my anniversary.
Also, our anniversary was not originally supposed to be on the 27th. There was a paperwork screw-up that caused us to make two trips to Nanjing to get our wedding license way back in 2006. (Foreigners and locals marrying in China can only their wedding license at the capital of the local's province of residence.) The first time we went which was early in the week (Monday was the 23rd that October of 2006), some mistake on Jenny's documents made by the police station in her hometown meant we couldn't get married until she went back to the hometown and had it corrected. So during that week, Jenny went back to her home village, and on the Friday, which was the 27th, we got our wedding license. So maybe the original date still sticks with me after all these years!]
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When it comes to politics there are people who like to say they are too cool to get involved with it. Or at least they say something on those lines.
Men are sheep, say these sorts of people. But men, unlike real sheep, are smart enough to know that they are like sheep. [Bohemians gather in herds!] Anyway, the people who say that people are like sheep don't have any answers for how men can cease to be sheep-like. If they think it can be done by eliminating hierarchies that they are fools. The best way I would think to deal with it would be the Catholic idea of subsidiarity. Each hierarchy is free in its legitimate sphere to deal with its problems which means as much decentralization and localness as possible
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I didn't suffer road rage driving Tony to school one morning but I did observe these things:
A car drifting from left lane to right as if the driver was on his cell phone.
A empty plastic bottle being thrown out the a driver's window in the midst of a lineup.
Cars being driven in the bicycle lane and bicycles being ridden on the sidewalk leading me to wonder where pedestrians could go.
Cars parked at an angle to the road so that their ass ends were taking up half a lane meant for traffic.
A car drivers changing two lanes leftward (to get into a turning lane) without using turn signals and without checking to see if the lanes were clear of other cars. And so about four cars were a-swerving.
Getting to the entrance of my apartment complex, some driver (a male) stopped his car so that it was blocking half the entrance causing exiting and entering cars to narrowly avoid colliding with each other.
And this is what I typically see every time I drive Tony to school.
* * * * *
At some of the intersections on the way to Tony's school, left turn signal green lights have been done away with, and so there is resulting confusion whenever there is a green light. Turning cars won't yield to cars going straight ahead which results in the straight ahead moving cars either stopping or swerving. Some turning cars will impatiently pass from behind the other turning cars, that are in front of them that do yield to straight on traffic, resulting in further confusion (and much consternation for me). Some even more impatient drivers, wanting to turn, will cross the double yellow line and try to quickly beat oncoming traffic.
One instance, I did have the satisfaction of making one of the latter type of impatient drivers have to come to a full stop. I was heading straight through an intersection, left most lane, when a male driver of a white Audi which was four cars back in line coming from the opposite direction, got impatient and crossed the double yellow line so that he was heading directly at me. I had no intention of yielding to him and so he had to come to a complete stop. I then stopped and then got into the right lane and passed by him as he was still stupidly stopped on the wrong side of the road and thwarted in his wanting to quickly made a turn. He had a look of chagrin on his face which even his Chinaman inscrutableness could not hide.
I still get no end of satisfaction recalling the incident. And I don't think I ever will.
* * * * *
I am playing around with (studying?) four languages: Mandarin Chinese, French, Spanish and German. Which language is the most difficult and annoying for me? Of course, Mandarin with its tones and script. Which language is the easiest for me to understand? French having been exposed to it since an early age. Which language sounds the best? German with Spanish coming in a distant second.
It is embarrassing for me that after all these years of studying Mandarin, I am still not very good at it. A major reason is that I don't make an effort to converse in the language with anyone. For a while, I even gave up on trying to speak it and instead tried to learn to read it. But it is a major pain in the ass to try to read Chinese and come upon characters you don't recognize. Sometimes, I can spend five minutes trying to determine what the character is. Looking up these mysterious characters is difficult because you can't figure out what the character's radical is.
* * * * *
A good name for a communist newspaper? The Compost. Get it?
* * * * *
I don't like running for the bus. And in Wuxi, the bus system is good enough that if you see your bus pulling away from a bus stop that you didn't get to in time, you generally don't have to wait long for another bus to come.
So, one day in late October 2007, I was walking to the bus stop, but was still a good 50 meters away, when the bus I would have like to have caught pulled up beside me. The driver was looking at me and I was fairly certain that he recognized me from having boarded his bus before. (We laowais stand out like a sore thumb on Wuxi buses.) I suppose he was expecting me to up my pace and run to catch his bus. I didn't. The driver then pulled up at the bus stop and I was still too far away to get on the bus. And so I left the driver no choice but to pull away just as I got to within ten meters of the stop.
* * * * *
Walking down the street, I saw someone discard a torn package into a bush. The someone, who was walking towards me, was a man, swarthy and dusty in appearance, who had rolled up his pullover stripped sweater so that his midriff was exposed. I then saw him stick his finger in the back of his mouth to dislodge some food stuck in his back teeth.
Uncouthness like this is not at all an uncommon sight in the parts of Wuxi I frequent, but was this was really in-my-face like that guy, I told you about earlier in this blog entry, who had rushed into the elevator.
* * * * *
Older locals are usually the guilty ones when it comes to queue jumping. Late in October, I was waiting in line at a busy time at a bakery near my school. The woman in front of me was asking the cashier all sorts of questions. When she finally finished and left her space by the counter, I had to block an older woman who was coming from behind and my left from getting in front of me. I didn't lose my temper but I made a mental note to blog about it.
* * * * *
Tony will dress up as a Pirate for Halloween. You can see some photos of his costume at the wuxitony blog.
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Things I was told by Tom, a student whose English is very good and has stories from Wuxi in the 1970s:
The Wang's Dumplings current location (on the corner of Xueqian and Zhongshan Roads, and across from Ba Bai Ban) used to be a bathhouse. Before the economic reforms, Wuxi residents didn't have showers or baths in their homes and so there would be long lineups at the bathhouse. In the 1970s, Tom got to have a shower once a week.
Tom used to pass the time in the 1970s standing near the intersection of Renmin and Zhongshan Roads waiting for the sight of the occasional passing vehicle which would have been either a car or a military jeep.
At the Xinhua bookstore back in the 1970s, customers could not browse for shelves of books. They would instead go to a counter, ask for a volume that they had seen the cover of, and then usually be told that the volume would not be available till the end of the month. If he couldn't get the book he was looking for, Tom would go down a narrow side street to find an old man with a table of books. He would take one of the books, usually the one he couldn't buy at the store, and pay the old man for the privilege of being able to read the book, sit at on a nearby chair, read the book and then return it. The old man, though technically doing a capitalist and thus illegal activity, was tolerated because he then wouldn't have to get a pension from the government. (And it cost more to read the book than buy it, which tells you a lot of Communism's ability to produce anything.)
In the 1970s, farmers with baskets of eggs (you can still see hawkers on Wuxi streets these days with baskets of fruits and veggies for sale.) would come from the countryside, and go door to door in Wuxi looking to sell them. At the time, this was an illegal activity as the farmers were supposed to sell all their produce to the government which would then distribute it in a socialist manner to the citizenry. One instance, a farmer coming to Tom's house was caught by an apartment cadre. The cadre, who Tom said was a sweet old man, got his ribs busted by the farmer who then fled.
At Chongan Market Square (near the bank of China and the Moresky360 Building) there is a old style building tower with clock that serves as a scenic touristy addition to the whole shopping area. This was the location of the Wuxi library. During the 1970s, the library building was closed and boarded up because its interior had been set fire to by the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution.
Tom told me that a government friend of his had recently gone to North Korea and spent some time in the capital Pyong Yang. His friend reported that the streets of Pyong Yang were very quiet, and at night, the city got very dark. All there was to do at night was watch three channels of TV which showed nothing but the same government news reports over and over again. So it was a very boring place.
Tom didn't think that Xi Jing Ping merited being put on the pantheon of PRC leaders alongside Chairman Mao and Deng Xiao Peng. Said Tom: Mao could be put on the pantheon because he did succeed in uniting China under one government. Peng could be put on the pantheon for having brought in the economic reforms. But what had Xi done? His efforts at ending corruption seem really an excuse for ditching political rivals. His efforts at making China a world power don't matter to most Chinese who really only care about their economic situation. I added that if Xi could instead have worked on making Chinese government more democratic and consensual, he really could have earned himself a place on the pantheon. But that is not to be. Xi is a Communist after all.
* * * * *
On the last day of October, I drove Tony to the school. It was just my luck that I got stuck behind three cars stuck together after a fender-bender incident. To get from behind the cars to the next lane, which was to my left, was not easy. The cars kept honking at me as I tried to get in the other lane and I even saw one driver scowl at me. Of course like me, the drivers weren't aware there had been an accident. So all was forgiven once they realized.... Perhaps.
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My problem is not that I want to avoid pain, but that I want pain on my terms and not to be inconvenienced by it.
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At the end of October, I resolved that I would try to use the social app WeChat as little as possible in November. For some practical reasons, like work and communicating with my wife Jenny, I cannot not stop using it completely. But I will, for the month of November, not make postings on the moments feed and not browse any of the chat groups to which I belong. On December 1st, I will resume my practice of posting a Nicolás Gómez Dávila aphorism at or around 06:00 every morning.
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Or do you think I would make an interesting email correspondent?
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Use the heading: I read the AKIC blog.
Tuesday, October 3, 2017
- Tony told me that he would miss Canada and his uncle Ron.
- Tony also missed his Canadian grandfather. One of the strangest and saddest things for me to witness was Tony sitting in the living room of Casa K in early September, crying because he realized his grandfather was dead. Tony had been shown photos of his grandfather wearing military uniforms and was very impressed. When he cried over Grandpa, he was with Jenny and somehow he must have dawned on him then that Grandpa was gone and never coming back. [Moral to others: The earlier in life you have children the better it is for them because they can spend more time with their grandparents. It also gives you one less thing to regret later in life.]
- Back driving on the roads of Wuxi, I immediately experienced spasms of road rage. Three weeks of being in a driving environment, I could understand, wiped away what little tolerance I had for the Chinese way of doing things. I was back to honking horns and giving fingers.
- Jenny complained of not being able to sleep well. It must be jet lag, she said.
- I returned to find the menu of the Expat restaurant, I had been eating at as a treat for myself, to be boring and unattractive.
- I had coffee with the former King of Wuxi. His son, he told, was in the cadets in Winnipeg. This is something I would like my son Tony to do.
- I saw this very earnest old man in Vancouver. While we were riding the Skytrain, the man came up to Tony and offered him some candy. The candy was old, and to be honest, Tony was creeped out by the old man; but I told him to accept it and not to read anything into it. I then saw the man offer assistance to this old woman who had also been on the train. The elderly woman was hunched over as the aged often were and was pushing a shopping cart. She was a sad sight because someone should have been looking after her and she shouldn't be fending for herself on a subway. The man, full of zeal made pathetic by his elderliness, was clearly jumping at the opportunity to help this woman.
- I asked Tony what was the best store we went to Canada. He told the big toy store in BC. I thought he was talking about a store in Van, but when he told me it wasn't, I had to rack my brain to recall that we had gone to the Toys R Us at the Willowbrook Mall in Langley. That was a mall I spent a lot of time making deliveries at when I was working as a relief courier driver.
- At Winnipeg Polo Park, there was a Lego store where they had a display, full of lego blocks of human bodies, arms, heads and hair with which one could built a Lego figure on one's own. It was actually three for twelve dollars. They wouldn't let Tony build just one so I had to swallow the expense because it was sort of Tony's birthday.
- At the St Vital Food Court, I had an interesting interaction when I was queueing to be served at a KFC counter. Being in China for as many years as I have, I can testify to how the Chinese don't know how to queue and how confusing it can be in China when you come to a counter with a bunch of Chinese people already there because you don't know where the front or the end of the queue is. Sometimes, the Chinese don't know when to move. Sometimes, the Chinese are standing in the midst of the queue, but really they are looking, having not made up their minds about what to order, and are in fact standing in the wrong spot. Stand back and try to decide what is going on and another Chinese person will come from behind and cut in front of you! Anyway, perhaps this is why I was confused at St. Vital. There was a woman standing about five feet from the counter. I couldn't decide if she was still thinking or was waiting to place an order. Unsure, I stood beside her. When the serving of the person in front of us had taken place, the woman did an amazing thing. She asked me what was happening. I told her that I was unsure as to whether she was ready to order or was still thinking of ordering. She responded that she was ready to order and she went to make her order; I going next. I really couldn't ascertain the woman's attitude towards me, but I did appreciate that she cleared the air of confusion. In China, doing what she did would probably have amounted to a loss of face.
- Tony's 10th birthday was a bit of a dud. It was the day on which there was that typhoon that screwed up our travel plans.
- I saw what looked to be a Communist party manual on a rack in the cafeteria.
- The food in the cafeteria was horrible.
- The tests were done on the fifth floor of a seven floor adminstrative building of what seemed to be a massive factory complex. Could a company like this in West support such a seemingly large administrative staff? I asked a colleague. He answered that he doubted it. Western companies would surely cut such things to the bone.
- Assessing English ability is a hard thing to do in a strict quantitative way. You can tell who has good english, so-so english, bad english and who can't speak the language at all, but for me to explain why I gave a 51/60 to one person and a 48/60 to another is something I can't easily do except to say I was using my gut and the student said something that struck as worthy of a higher sore.
- When I asked some the students to tell me about a famous person, I had a few tell me about Chairman Mao. "Old China was bad and its society was full of problems, New China created by Chairman Mao was good " was basically what they told me. You would think that Chairman Mao would not be the first famous person to pop in these person's minds. From what I have observed, Chairman Mao is not crammed into the people's imaginations anymore. So, why did they bother to tell me about Chairman Mao? Was it something about me being a foreigner, a devil as it were, and they're wanting to show national pride in the only way they have been conditioned to think about it? Was their imagination that stunted? That is, they know their political indoctrination and study nothing but engineering manuals for their work?