Saturday, August 5, 2017

July 2017 Notes

* * * * *

Dominion Day is what I like to call Canada's National Day.

The parliament of Canada changed the name of the holiday, which had been called Dominion Day, to Canada Day in 1982. I have come around to the opinion that it was a stupid thing to do.

Canada was not established not July 1, 1867. What happened that day was that Canada became a confederation and established a federal government. Canada existed as a colony of the British Empire long before that. The British loyalist colonies that were north of the United States were referred to as Canada probably even at the times of the American Revolution.

* * * * *

I showed my son Tony the old Canadian flag and he said he liked it better than the new one.

Tony likes flags.

* * * * *

On July 1st, I was in Wuxi. I posted some patriotic Canadian things on Wechat, the popular Chinese social app. I didn't meet any Canadians that day. I did meet a tattoo artist from South Africa. He was a very friendly gregarious person so I politely didn't tell him about my distaste of tattoos. So, I was very Canadian.

* * * * *

In a salon class, many of the students told me they felt guilty when they were playing computer or video or phone games because they felt were wasting time. The full-time students told me they had a notion that they should instead be studying or doing homework.

These thoughts annoyed me. One shouldn't feel guilty about having a little leisure, I was thinking. I pointed out to the students that the video games they were playing were the product of people actually studying – the activity they were thinking they should always be engaging in so as to not feel guilty of wasting time. These computer programmers had to study their craft and what's wrong with others enjoying the fruits of their study?

To me it seemed that these students were saying something akin to it was okay to cook, because it was work, but not to eat because eating wasn't working. You work to serve others; I told the students, and so it isn't wrong if we let others serve us.

Of course, the students should only feel guilty about playing computer games when they are overdoing it.

* * * * *

The students' lack of imagination. I hadn't been thinking much about this topic recently and if you read my recent blog postings, you will see my complaints have been about the local drivers and their cheating and their selfishness in traffic.

The fact of of the students' lacking of imagination struck me as I returned to the slog of just doing classes with adults and teenagers – no more primary school classes. All of these classes with the older students for me are an exercise in running out the clock as I just can't expect any of these people to engage me in anyway. To burn time, I spend my class time pretending to be Don Rickles to them. It at least keeps me engaged.

My awareness of the lacking of imagination became more pronounced after I listened to an Adam Carolla podcast. [I had stopped listening to Ace for a while, but started listening to episodes again when I read an article ranking his podcast with that of Andrew Klavan whose podcast episodes, I told you last month, I always listen to from start to finish.] Adam and his co-hosts discussed a question which I thought I could use for a warm-up in a Speaker's Corner: What is the biggest animal you could beat up in a fight?

Stupid me. I, despite twelve years of doing this, thought I could get an interesting discussion going full of imaginative answers. I instead had a student tell me he could beat a whale in a fight and another telling me he could beat a tiger. They either didn't understand the question or they had the lamest of imaginations.

* * * * *

How bad are the students' imaginations?
  • They can only imagine girls with their clothes on.
  • They can't imagine anything outside of their homework.
  • They think homework is useful.
  • They tell me they can't remember their childhoods is an answer they give me when I ask them about their childhoods.
  • They like to make sentences where everyone should do something. “Everyone eats vegetables because it is good for their health.”

* * * * *

The students tell me that they don't want to move to America because it is too dangerous. As proof, one student used the story of the Chinese academic visiting America who disappeared recently making headlines in the Chinese news sites.

I told her if that was the case with America, then was she not aware of how dangerous China seems to foreigners because of the news stories that come out of it all the time? They would think China was a selfish society because of the woman who was run over twice because no one would help her after she got run over the first time. They would think everyone in China was being poisoned to death by the bad environment and the fake products. They would think it was dangerous to drive in China because of all the stories of stupid drivers that come out of there. They would think it was a dictatorship because of all the stories of internet censorship and the Great Firewall.

* * * * *
AKIC's pedestrians complaints and anecdotes:

  • I was crossing the street heading towards Ba Bai Ban. An Audi, instead of waiting for the group of pedestrians I was among to cross, honked its horn and cut in front of us. I was doubly annoyed to see the driver because he was dressed up like a hot shot , had one hand on the steering wheel while clutching onto his mobile with the other. What a prick!!!
  • Another time I was crossing the same stretch of intersection, heading away from Ba Bai Ban when two cars tried to make a right turn in front of me. I didn't yield and I could see that the first car's driver was still trying to sneak ahead of me until she had to come to a stop. I gave her a middle finger. I saw that the second driver, who was male, was smiling and laughing as he gave me the middle finger and then a thumbs up to which I returned the latter gesture. I am doing that female driver a favor if the report I read of the authorities clamping down on drivers not yielding to pedestrians is true.
  • How many times I have seen a car gone through a crosswalk at high speed and swerving to avoid crossing pedestrians. Prick, prick, prick, prick, pricks!!

* * * * *

I had a chance to walk along the Grand canal, near Taihu Square, because Tony was participating in an English speaking contest and it was decided that it was best if I wasn't present.

[It was Jenny's idea for Tony to participate. I'd rather he hadn't because there could be no good result. He could win which would only mean he had an advantage in having a native English speaking father or he could lose which meant that he was not as good as he normally should be. Jenny couldn't take him herself to this contest and while she did agree with my reasoning, she thought his participation would be good for him since the contest was being filmed in front of a big audience.]

I drove Tony and his buddy to the contest site which turned out to be a ten minute walk from the Maoye mall and just across the street from the canal.

So I saw I had an opportunity to walk along the canal, get on some bridges, and take pictures and video (which you can see at my Wordpress blog and on my Youtube channel). As I explored, I sweated profusely because it was very humid; but the parks were nice to look at, I got some good photos and I was the only person in the area.

The Grand Canal walk, as well, would not have happened if Tony had accompanied me because he would have whined. Having not a whining Tony at my side also made it worthwhile.

I was thinking that these parks were almost a waste to have been built because I couldn't conceive a time when locals would had the time to walk in them because they were always so busy. Kids couldn't wander them because of the summer heat and because they would be doing homework when the temperatures would be comfortable.

Details that I noticed included the puke green color of the canal water which was a result of algae bloom, trash, lots of public bikes strewn about, dead fish in the canal and a man who was living under one of the bridges.

Because I braved the humidity and recorded it in picture, video and writing, you don't have to explore this area. So thank me very much.

* * * * *

Are the expats who live in Wuxi any better than the locals? Maybe in some ways, but in many ways they exhibit what is becoming bad about the West.

We had a trainer we had to fire, and who should have been fired much sooner than he was, because of his alcoholism. On a regular basis, he was coming to school drunk His finally being fired was a relief and I very much looked forward to seeing the last of him because I assumed that no one in Wuxi would hire him as a teacher.

But he came back to Wuxi. That wouldn't have been a problem except when encountering him on the street or in an establishment. But this person keeps visiting our school premises.

What the hell is wrong with this guy? From what I can observe, it has never dawned on him that he has committed shameful actions for which he should face consequences and maybe show some remorse. He seems to feel that the people who judge him and his actions are the people at fault. A very 2017 thing.

Another question is what the hell is wrong with the locals who abet him? Can't they see through his lies? Can't they see the wide gap between the things he says and his actions?

* * * * *

There was a parade of freaks at the KFC by the Qingyang Road Carrefour where Tony & I were having lunch one day.

We first saw a man who seemed normal enough till you noticed that he was clutching onto a rain jacket on a very sunny and hot day, and that he was screaming in an agitated way at no one in particular. I thought he had had lost something and was trying to remember where he put it, but as he continued on with his visible contemplations I could see he was off his duff.

The next person to stand out was this obese man who passed our table, stared at me and Tony, and then crashed into the swinging entrance doors.

Finally, a man with a small plastic bag and hesitant manners, came up to us. I thought he was either going to ask us for money or try to sell us something, but he instead, after an awkward moment, asked us for the chicken bones on our tray. We gestured our permission and he picked the bones up with his bare hands. Tony even handed the man the bone of the chicken wing he had just finished. It was a new one on me, but before I could begin to think of why the person did this, Tony told me that he probably had a dog that he wanted to feed.

Tony's observation showed a quick wit that I honestly didn't think he had. Telling him I wouldn't of thought of that explanation, I gave him a high five.

* * * * *

Some of our students are contemptible. One such student was with us last year. His English was poor and so he had a habit, when in class, of always asking the students beside him for translations when he was asked a question. I initially made efforts to help him but I gave up after he seemed to resent my efforts. As well, I continually observed him sit in the library and play on one of many electronic devices his parents had given him.

His English was so bad and his efforts at conversation so minimal that I only just learned before he left that was going to school in Quebec. By that time, I hoped I had seen the last of him.

But he came back to our school this month. He did the English level testing and was found to still be a basic beginner. This is good for the foreigners because we don't have to have him in our classes. Still, we have to observe him sitting in the library eating junk food and playing on several of his mobile devices. I make a point of not talking to him. His parents are rich and so he is a visibly lazy piece of poo.

I have been told that he is said to be good with robots.

* * * * *

Doing a speaker's corner about things annoying, I had some students tell me that nothing happened in traffic annoyed them. I found this hard to believe because I had students voice complaints about traffic that were similar to mine.

Either those uncomplaining students didn't know how to voice their complaints in English, didn't understand my question, didn't want to voice complaints about their countries to a foreigner, or were the most tolerant people I had ever meet.

* * * * *

I have passed many the aftermath of a collision between an e-bike and a car. What I have often seen is the driver of the car, while talking on a mobile, picking up the e-bike and anything that has fallen off the bike, while the e-biker sits on the pavement in pain or in bewilderment. The picking up of the e-bike that the drivers do seems either a case of the drivers feeling genuine remorse for what happened to the e-bikers or desperate attempts to reduce the amount of money that the e-bikers are going to demand from them.

* * * * *


For the last two weeks of July, Wuxi was in the midst of a horrible heat wave with temperatures getting up to 40 degrees Celsius. Thanks to most places having air-conditioning, I survived and had but a few horror stories to tell. One noon-time, I walked to the closest Mall from Castle Kaulins and became absolutely drenched and blinded by sweat. I also experienced the phenomenon of my glasses fogging up after I got out of my air-conditioned car. The students I had to teach were lackadaisical, because their summer routine involved them having to do lots of summer homework. I didn't have any summer homework when I was in school, I told them.  

Friday, July 7, 2017

Saturday, July 1, 2017

June 2017 Notes

June 1st was Children's Day. A holiday I hadn't heard of till I came to China.


Reasons to hate Children's Day:

  • Children are not angels.

  • Children should not be made the subjects of some sentimental cult.

  • Children's day was started by the UN.

  • The Mainland Chinese, who celebrate the day really don't like children. They have the one-child policy, they make their children do too much homework and they don't believe in giving them freedom to be children. On the last point, I would even venture to say that the fact that there is such a thing as children's day in China is due the fact that really they are deep down ashamed of how they treat their children.

  • A healthy civilization that is under no illusions about who and what children are would never feel the need to have a special day for Children.

  • All the idiot adults in the world were once children.

  • Chinese drive like children.

  • Capitalism and Socialism and Communism have made Chinese culture infantile. This should not be celebrated.

  • To be fair, it is best to say that the Chinese attitude to Children is schizophrenic. When it comes to children, the Chinese will spoil them, get sentimental about them, and even dote on stranger's children; and the same time they torture children by schooling them instead of trying to educate them, and they suffocate them with too much supervision, not allowing them any freedom whatsoever.


* * * * *


I wrote a screed titled "Screw Children's Day!" on Wechat that generated, for me who is always unsuccessfully trying to make a splash on the Internet, a splash.


It is not a comfortable feeling to have done this, because the mere fact that there has been a reaction has preoccupied my thoughts, in an uncomfortable way all the day long. You have to admire people who can do controversy while all the while being happy warriors. People like Andrew Breitbart and Anne Coulter.


I have realized that it feels best to be obscure on the sideline and not subject to scrutiny.


* * * * *


I should have written Children's Day, Schmildren's Day.


Or: 六一快乐!不!六一坏了!


* * * * *


My wife Jenny tells me that while she was at the vegetable market near Casa Kaulins, a young girl came up to her and was asking how to cook shellfish.


Jenny later saw that her handbag had been broken into, but thankfully nothing had been stolen.


* * * * *


According to one of the Americans in our office, the temperatures were getting into the nineties in early June.


Ah. Fahrenheit! In the good old days, they used Fahrenheit in Canada. I remember this changed while I was in primary school and at the time I hated it because I liked this talk of temperatures going into the nineties and hundreds.


* * * * *

Car parked besides us in the parking garage had a flat tire, passenger front side. I noticed this when I was taking Tony to school. When I came back, I saw that the car had made grooves in the pavement.


Many of the locals don't know how to change tires. What they will do, in the event of, is drive the car to the repair shop.


* * * * *


Driving a car here and witnessing my son Tony's primary school experience has really soured me on China.


* * * * *


I read someone, who I consider to be extremely wise, say that civilization consists not of big ideas but of manners. Mainland China is currently the aftermath of the end of a civilization if that is so. Mainland Chinese are noted the world over for their lack of manners.


* * * * *


Can you jump over five pencils? Twenty grade three students in a class very much wanted to show me that they could.


* * * * *


I can't help but think that there are many people in Wuxi who feel that they shouldn't be subject to parking tickets because they are who they are.


Why do I get this feeling? Around where I work, I witness these cars continually parking on the sidewalk in front of a convenience store being tickets without the illegal parking ever actually abating for even an hour.


* * * * *


As I type this, there is less than two weeks – or sixteen actual classes – left at the Big Bridge Primary School where I supposedly teach English. I am elated at the end of what has become, if not torture, but a pointless activity where I am running out the clock by trying to get young Mainland Chinese to talk to me. The children in the classes behave so abominably that I have to be willfully blind to them, gaining solace only from the fact that I am strait-jacketed from actually being able to do anything about it.


I am hoping I can get through these classes without losing my temper or physically hurting a child.


On a Wednesday, the third and final class of the day is definitely the worst. This class truly gives me nightmares and keeps me awake at night on Tuesday night as the prospect of teaching them looms. I don't think there is even one student in that class who responds to anything I try to do to teach them English. I have had at a few classes, stood in the front of the class, said nothing, and waited for the clock to tell me it was time to leave.


* * * * *


Listening to a podcast, of the conservative libertarian bent, I heard the story of a man whose dream was to be a teacher. What he did was go directly into teaching after finishing university. It turned out that he had never seen what kids were actually like and so his fantasies of them being enamored with his knowledge and wisdom quickly turned into a resignation to stick it out for twenty years as teacher so he could get some benefit, maybe a pension. Two days after he made it, he died of a heart attack. The kids killed him in the end.


Teaching can be a life of misery.


* * * * *


My drinking has increased. One day, on my last weekend, I had three beers. And on weeknights, I have sometimes gone to the fridge to drink a cold one.


I have to stop doing this.


* * * * *


But on the brighter sides of things, I read things that are reactionary in bent. So there are many things for which I have no illusions. And I am honest enough to think I suffer from delusions.


* * * * *


Are environmentalists trying to save humanity or the planet?


The planet will survive nicely without humans and environmentalists. The planet will survive global warming and human extinction. All the bad effects of the environmentalists prophecies would only destroy humans and other life forms, but the planet will pull through.


So why do they talk of saving the planet? They really haven't thought out their positions.


* * * * *


The Primary School class that I could not get any response from responded to doing physical activities in class like running, jogging and doing the "wave."


* * * * *


In China, people seem to think that slower moving things should yield to faster moving things.


* * * * *


The VIP student Tom, who has a great mastery of English and whom with I can have interesting discussions about matters geo-political told me that he didn't understand the talk about Trump and Putin colluding. He didn't see any "there" there.


* * * * *


A strength of Western Culture is that it is capable of self-criticism. It is hard to imagine anyone saying Western Culture is perfect without reservations.


Chinese culture doesn't seem to be capable of this. I was doing a class on culture and asked the students to tell me things that they didn't like about their culture. None of them said anything and when I raised the issue of how the manners were not what they should be in modern China, I had a student tell me that Chinese culture was so great because everyone was so polite. When I asked about an incident where a woman laying on the pavement after being hit by a taxi was ignored by passersby resulting in her being run over a second time and killed, they said that it probably happened in other countries as well and that this was a rare incident anyway.


* * * * *


I had VIP Tom for two hours on the second Saturday morning of June. He had a lot of interesting things to tell me. Some of which I pass on to you below


  • If you visit my photo blog, you may recall I published two photos of book racks that were on display at the Nanchang Metro Station. I can tell you that these books are obviously copies of books published in the Cultural Revolution time. I know because I have bought a few copies of these books at a store in Nanchang temple that sells Cultural Revolution memorabilia The books are picture books. Each page has a picture and about three sentences of writing. I bought them because them seem a perfect vehicle for me to learn to read some simplified Chinese characters. I asked Tom if he had seen the book racks at the Metro station and he told me he did. He then told me how these were the only books he could read when he was growing up. He would read these books at a street vendor's table. Not being able to afford the book, he would pay the man running the stall a small amount for the privilege of being able to read it. He would read the book then and there, and hand it back to the vendor. He recalled this experience with fond reminiscence, like people in the West would talk about television series they had watched while growing up in the seventies.

  • In Japan, if a worker gets caught committing a traffic violation, he will be reported to his company boss and could lose his job. Tom who has spent time in Japan told me this. It jibes with a story I heard of a foreigner in Japan who was beat up by an old Japanese lady when he decided to ignore a don't walk signal at an intersection where there was no traffic to be seen. He was chided by the lady for violating the social order.

  • Tom also told me that he had been driving in Japan but gave up because he was used to driving on the left side of the road.

  • Tom told me about reading Chinese classics in ancient Chinese and modern Chinese. Showing me a classic text he was reading on his phone which had classic and modern Chinese side-by-side, I saw that the ancient text, rendered in simplified Chinese script, used fewer characters than the modern text. He told me he had to read the ancient text twice before he could get the gist of what was being said. It seems that the ancient text used words whose meanings had changed or evolved over time so that more modern characters were needed to render its meaning to modern readers. It seemed similar to how many modern readers deal with Shakespeare who used words that have changed in meaning or have fallen out of usage.

  • I asked Tom why it was that while the Chinese spoken language has broken up into many dialects, the Chinese written language had not. He attributed it to two factors: an emperor who made the supreme effort to make the written language universal and the civil service examinations which were administered using only one written language


* * * * *


Tony likes browsing through some of the cultural revolutionary books I have bought and talked about with Tom.


* * * * *


The Primary School classes ended very unceremoniously and very unsentimentally as well. The last week, I did the classes like they were the the fifth of a series of ten, and I didn't mention anything about them being the last. I wish I could have been nice to some of the better students, but because they were part of the mob that overall was crappy, I didn't bother.


* * * * *


Not being able to control the primary school student class made the whole exercise a futile educational endeavor. Because, I couldn't get the mob to listen to me, I would go around the class and talk to individual students. Some weren't paying attention to me anyway but if the whim struck me, I made them try to read the text of the story being covered in the lesson. When I found a student who wanted to interact, students in the next seats would be engaged in activities that a stern teacher would not tolerate like throwing paper balls and paper planes at classmates.


To put up it with the final weeks, I had to adopt an attitude of not giving a tinker's tuss and just running out the clock.


* * * * *


How can ice hockey be so popular? It is boring. The end of the recent Stanley Cup Finals was a snoozer. And the goals that were often scored were often the result of the luck. The skilled goals had be to seen on replay to be appreciated. As well the goals happen so quickly there is no buildup to them. They happen. And the fans react in a surprised fashion without the benefit of being able to anticipate it happening.


* * * * *


Pat from Thailand.


In a salon class I do about flags and nationalities, I have a list prepared of different people and the different countries in which they live. I go through the list and ask the students to tell me what the person's nationality is. Example: I say Susan is from Japan; I expect them to say Susan is Japanese.


On the list I mention that a Pat from Thailand. It is a little joke I put that alludes to the phenomenon of lady boys.


Now in school there have been a few times where I am not sure of the sex of one of the students. In one class, I don't know how many years ago, I mistakenly assumed that a student was a boy till halfway through the class, she told me she wasn't a boy but a girl.


We have such a student attending school now of whose sex I am not certain. The student happened to be in the class when I going through the list of people and their countries. I was going round the room, looking at the list when I came to Pat from Thailand. I looked up and guess whose turn it was? The very person of whose sex I was not certain. I was momentarily startled and chose to go to the next item in the list.


* * * * *


General Marshall visited Wuxi.


The Japanese occupied Wuxi for about seven years. They were able to control the city by virtue of the wall and moat that surrounded the center of the city. Look at a map of Wuxi: the center of city is surrounded by Jiefang lu. That is the wall's approximate location.


The Communists came in and took over the big houses in the area of Zhongshan Road and the Wuxi government used to be located.


* * * * *


An article I read on the Internet talked of Wuxi entering the Plum rain period where it rains and rains and rains and is very muggy.


I was fortunate to have avoided a really bad Plum Rain period a few years ago as it happened while I was in Canada.


Anyway, I don't like summer in Wuxi. Too humid.


* * * * *


I shouldn't complain about my life here in China. I have lots of spare time. I can read books, watch all sorts of tv shows and I can listen to lots of podcasts.


I listen to podcasts about history, politics (US mostly), pop culture, learning Chinese, lifestyle and religion. I regularly listen to the Andrew Klavan podcast; the Ben Shapiro podcasts; the John Derbyshire podcast, podcasts from Ricochet, National Review, and the Weekly standard; a podcast about the history of the English language podcast; the Gilbert Gottfried podcast; the Clearey podcast, a podcast about the TV series Fargo and podcasts from EWTN, the Catholic TV network.


I just listened to a podcast of an old Mother Angelica talk. She said something that helped clear my thinking about why I object to how the Chinese raise their children. Mother talked about the man who was a doctor but wasn't a very good doctor. He was a doctor because his parents decreed that someone in the family should be a doctor. It is what can go wrong if parents, because of pride, impose their desires on their children instead of waiting to see what gifts the child had been given from God.


So more than ever, I can see what is wrong with that Chinese mother I know who forces her four year old child to spend an hour practicing violin every night. This mother is imposing her pride on her child She wants her child to be well rounded in a way that she is not.


The problem with the Chinese manner of raising children is that it is full of parental pride. This Chinese parent pride does not want to accept the fact that children are what they are, and cannot be engineered into something they are not. The best we can do for our children is help them to be good souls.


* * * * *


I started watching the film Katyn about the Soviet massacre of Polish officers in WW2. Tony watched a scene with me and was startled to see Soviets and Germans meeting and saluting in one scene. He had assumed that they had always been enemies. I tried to tell Tony the history of the thing.


* * * * *


Riding by Taxi to the company class I was teaching, I was able to see a fast train ride past as the taxi took me on a road that was close to the high speed rail track. On at least three instances, like clockwork, the train came by at a certain spot and the sight was quite spectacular because the train was right beside the taxi. It would have made for a great photo to publish in my photo blog.


I had done ten of the twelve company classes we were scheduled to do, and so for my final two taxi rides to the company, I had the camera ready on my Iphone to take a photo of that high speed train at that particular spot. It would seem that this was a silly thing to do because it had been sheer luck that I was able to see the train three times so close at that particular location. And in fact, I wasn't able to take that much-desired photo because there was no train passing as the taxi passed that particular location to take me to the last two company classes. What happened was that the train passed the location but the taxi was, on both occasions, five to ten seconds away. I saw the train but frustratingly from a distance and could only lament about the timing.


* * * * *


In the last week of Tony's Grade 3 School year, Jenny & Tony & I all were in our car for the morning drive out to drop off him at the school. We would always make a left turn at a controlled intersection that is by a gas station. The gas station being on our left, on the corner at which we would turn.


As we were approaching the left turn lane, a few vehicles turned left to enter the gas station lot. I assumed that they were going in to fill up with petrol, but Jenny told me they were taking a shortcut through the gas station to avoid having to wait at the lights to go left as we were about to go.


I never would have thought that they would have done this because the road onto which we were turning left was fenced in the center. While there was a gap in the fencing, to get to it from the gas station meant going the wrong way for about 100 meters or so – something I would say was just not cricket and rather very risky. But these drivers have figured that the stretch of road on which they would go the wrong way was not so busy and so they could safely cut through the gas station lot and gain a time savings and avoid having to wait at the lights.


It reminds me of the time I saw a car drive on a sidewalk near a corner, make a right turn, and then got off the sidewalk to avoid having to be slowed down by a red right turn signal.


The extent to which the locals will game the system must either be a sign of their having high IQ's or an audacious selfishness.


* * * * *


Near the Xi Bei Canal Metro Station is a massive apartment complex where there are at least twenty tall apartment buildings. They were all built in the time I have lived in Wuxi. I had a chance one day to enter one of the buildings which was thirty three floors tall. Jenny was wondering if Tony would be doing an art class with a teacher who did her classes in her 25th floor apartment.


The grounds of the complex were ugly. They were overflowing with parked cars. I passed a lineup of unhappy people lined up and holding buckets, waiting to get water. Apparently the water had been shut off in their building. The grass on the grounds wee dusty and the paths were covered with tiles that were already chipped and sagging and wobbling.


The building we entered made me think the word "Grenfell." The lobby of the concrete monstrosity was dark, dank, run down, and crowded with parked e-bikes. It was further depressing to see that the 33 floor building was only served by two tiny elevators. The apartment we went to didn't even have a nice view. Around the apartment grounds, there were pools of water covered in snot green algae.


The location was enough to make me hope that Tony would not find the art class interesting.



Thursday, June 1, 2017

May 2017 Notes

May Day, the K family went to the Hui Ju (Livat) Mall. The place was not as crowded there as I had thought it would be.

We had gone to met up with a mixed couple: husband from Montreal; wife from China.

*

"The f***ing English Teacher gave me so much goddamn homework!" said Tony who told me that he likes the cartoon show Rick & Morty for all the swearing.

*

Can you take a toy gun on the Wuxi Metro? I wasn't sure about this because all the metro stations in Wuxi do have X-ray machines that you have to put your bag through before you can enter the platform area.

This question arose on two occasions in April when I had bought Tony toy guns in Nanchang Market. I bought Tony a toy pistol that looked very realistic and later a toy AK-74 (not AK-47) rifle. Each time, I thought it best to take the bus back because the driver doesn't check your bags. And I had seen a person forced to open his suitcase and take out a kitchen knife set that he obviously purchased.

*

A kid in one of my primary school classes didn't want to read a passage from a story I was covering with his class. I decided to tip over his desk in order to knock the contents on the floor. A minute later, he begged me to let him read.

Another kid gave me a "no why" answer to one of my questions. I screamed at him and the whole class to let them know in no uncertain terms that this answer was unacceptable because it was rude, bad English and lazy.

I had never heard that expression before I came to China. Many Chinese students seem to want to use it because it seems to me that they are never called upon by their teachers to think. They are just expected to regurgitate what the teacher tells them.

[I got some blow back from the first instance but it didn't make any sense because the kid claimed he didn't understand what I wanted. But what happened was, I wanted him to read and he said that he didn't want to read... The kid was lying and the teacher who will side with a Chinese parent over a foreign teacher had to join in.]

*

When it comes to how I approach my classes, I am like Burt Reynolds in many of the movies he did in the seventies. I am going through the motions, running out the clock.

*

No why. I hate these two words. They are often used by students who don't want to answer my demanding of reasons for the things they have said or done. This way of answering, I believe, is bad because it is bad English but more importantly it is stupid, lazy and rude.. A couple of instances in my primary school classes, I have busted the balls of students who have used these words.

And then I had to have an adult student say these two words in a company class. I had to let it go.

*

On a more gratifying note, some the children did show me that I had taught them something. One boy told me he want to catch an aircraft carrier when he went fishing. It was the kind of nonsense answer I was expecting.

*

Tony wants to buy a German world war 2 style peaked cap that he saw for sale in this army surplus type store near the Nanchang Temple market. When I asked him when he would wear such a thing, he said at Halloween.

*

While doing a class on adventure, I reflected how my childhood was filled with so much more adventure than Tony's. Tony spends all his waking hours, when not at school, being made to do homework or doing something involving a video screen. He has yet to have gone into woods by himself.

*

Chinese like to sleep at the beds in Ikea, a student told me, because they don't care what others think. I found this a strange answer because I find the Chinese to be a strange maddening combination of selfishness and conformity. They seem to do things without considering that what they are doing is inconveniencing many others and yet at the same time, they don't have an original thought or opinion on any subject.

*

On a Saturday morning, I was entering the Xizhuang metro station. I found that the very wide stairway at the front of the station was completely blocked by e-bikes and bicycles. The people running the station had placed roped off one part of the area in front of the stairway in order to mark it off as no parking, but these four cyclists couldn't figure it out. Talk about selfishness and lack of self-awareness.

*

One Friday evening, I left the Yanqiao metro station and was walking through a nearby bus stop area when an SUV coming from behind, turned in front of me so that I the passenger side back was right in front of me. Angrily, I pounded the the vehicle's window. The vehicle stopped and I walked around the rear end of the window and so as to be beside the driver's window so I could make a rude gesture. And the idiot had the temerity to roll down his window and yell at me when he should have been profusely apologizing. What is wrong with drivers in mainland China?

I walked away from the driver and like Dustin Hoffman declared I "am walking here!!"

The guy was an idiot and at least I could take joy in his being angry.

I should pray that he and other drivers of his ilk (who are mostly from Mainland Communist China) would have more consideration for pedestrians.

*

Hojo. Howard Johnson. Anka. Andis Kaulins.

And to think that Anka wrote a song that the great Sinatra made very popular.

*

I got my visa renewed which meant I had to re-register at a nearby police station.

There are many police stations near Casa Kaulins. Probably two on my street.

But it was at another police station that I had to register. There was a lineup there of people trying to register themselves in the Wuxi area. I didn't know where to go but with the help of the first uniformed person I could find and Jenny on my Iphone, I was shuffled into a lineup.

The queue was very oppressive. The people in line with me were a little too close to me for comfort, but there was no way I was going to make a scene about it: it was a cultural difference that I had no right to get upset about.

*

Ask the kids a question, I get one or two takers in the class. Ask the kids to greco-roman wrestle and I get 40 volunteers.

Lesson: there are ways I can motivate the students to participate, but the chances of my teaching them anything about the English language is practically nill.

*

Tony has been annoying the teachers at his primary school by declaring often that he isn't Chinese and so he shouldn't have to do some things the teachers ask him to do.

The truth is Tony is at least half-Chinese and his father is not all Chinese. I expose him to all sorts of western things that make him take a dim view of being a student in a Chinese school. Tony also has witnessed his father curse and denigrate many things that the Chinese do.

But still, who can blame him for not wanting to be Chinese? I would never want to be Chinese in a million years. I wish I could have been Jewish, English, Italian and American; but never Chinese.

*

Reading a book of Tang Dynasty Poetry translations is enough to make China alluring. But there isn't anything poetic about Mainland Communist China.

The kids are made to learn some of that poetry but it doesn't seem to make them poets. Poetry here is a subject that they have to learn to pass a test.

*

By mid-May, I was looking very forward to the end of the Primary School term.

Try as I might to keep my temper, and to ignore the bad behavior in class, something always happens that causes me to snap.

Through the class, I have to put up with the kids ignoring me, the kids talking to their classmates, the kids making paper balls and paper airplanes, watching kids doodle, the kids throwing their paper balls and paper airplanes at other kids, the kids making rude gestures at me, the kids giving me flippant answers to my questions, the kids mocking the things I say, and the kids making rude gestures at me.

I no longer want to enter the classroom till it is time for me to start the class so I don't have to witness their antics and have kids walk up to me and be rude.

But compared to the students from Meicun, who are the absolute worse, I do have a few students who do follow my classes and answer my questions properly.

*

I paid a parking ticket at the bank where I had gotten the parking ticket in the first place. The first time, I had gone to the bank to make a withdrawal of my pay and was ticketed while I was in the bank. I had parked on the corner of the intersection below a no parking sign. I took a chance and got caught. I hadn't been caught the other times I had stopped there. But the next time I went to the bank, I walked and was interested to see that a car parked where I had parked had also gotten a parking ticket.

The parking ticket was a red one which meant three points deducted from my driver's license.

*

Our staff of foreign trainers could be reduced to three in July which would be a big problem. Teachers have always come and gone at our school for whatever reason and so recruiting them has been very difficult, but the powers that be in China have made the process of getting teachers visas more stringent.

When I first came to China, I only needed an ESL certificate and a degree to be able to teach. I wouldn't be able to do that now. One now has to have two years teaching experience. I got those two years in China so now I can stay. Because this requirement had been very minimal, a lot of incompetents, alcoholics and other assorted weirdos were able to come to China, and so it was in China's interest to clamp down on this.

I can say I came to China at the right time.

As well, many teachers could come to China, quit a school and move on to another school. There are teachers who have taught at all the major training centers in Wuxi like HyLite, Web, EF and Wall Street English. As of May 1st, this month, teachers already in China or in Wuxi cannot do this. If they join another school, they will have to go back to their home country and go through the application process from scratch which will take at least two months. So hiring teachers who are already in China and want to come to Wuxi is now even harder. And teachers are stuck with the school that brought them to China unless they can afford to go back home for two months. So, they have to hope that the school that hires them would exploit them. [This is another aspect of teaching in China that may not be clamped on but should: teachers being brought into horrible situations with crappy accommodations or horrible working conditions.]

And so our school may be down to three trainers for the summer months because of another teacher leaving and one having to be let go.

*

No Why

No Y

NoY

An noy

Annoy

I will just have to run out the clock on the primary school. The kid who I reamed out for using that expression, felt compelled to say it three or four times in a row in a recent class.

*

One thing I am thankful for in China is the fact that they don't have government liquor stores like they do in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Manitoba. In China, you can buy booze in at a mom & pop, at a chain convenience store and at a supermarket. Totally brilliant.

*

Some Chinese female student made a speech, at the university of Maryland, that generated lots of negative comments from Chinese internet commentators. The reaction proved the point that the student was making in the speech that there is a severe limit on freedom of expression in Mainland China.

*

Another driving anecdote. I was taking Tony to school one morning when I came upon an accident scene where the positioning of one car was just so inexplicable. This VW sedan, facing the completely opposite direction of traffic, had crashed into a center barrier fence thus hitting a van, on the other side of the traffic barrier, that happened to be stopped, waiting to make a left turn. With this sedan facing in the same direction as the van so that one had wonder if the sedan had driven in the wrong way for a long distance [the nearest intersection was a few hundred meters away] or the driver of the sedan had chosen the dumbest place to try to make a u-turn. [I ruled out that the car had been turned about by the force of a collision with another vehicle because that was no other vehicle at the accident scene, and the van was on the other side of the barrier and was no doubt in the wrong place at the wrong time but hadn't done anything wrong.] What I suspect happened was that the sedan made a right turn into the wrong lane from the intersection that was hundreds of meters away, and was able to proceed the wrong way until it got close to the next intersection where an oncoming car, probably making a left turn, came upon the sedan so suddenly that its driver reflexively drove into the barrier fence to avoid a collision.

After dropping Tony off, I was returning home and was about to drive past the accident scene when I got cut off by a police van. My instinctual reaction was to blare my horn but seeing it was a police vehicle, I held myself. I then found it ironic to see that the police van was driving to check out the accident scene I had passed earlier.

*

I learned the news of the Manchester bombing from an Englishman who works at our school.

*

Bertrand Russell wrote this about the Chinese in 1923:

"Is it really wise to be always guarding against future misfortune? Is it prudent to lose all enjoyment of the present through thinking of the disasters that may come at some future date? Should our lives be passed in building a mansion that we shall never have leisure to inhabit?

The Chinese answer these questions in the negative, and therefore have to put up with poverty, disease, and anarchy. But, to compensate for these evils, they have retained, as industrial nations have not, the capacity for civilized enjoyment, for leisure and laughter, for pleasure in sunshine and philosophical discourse. The Chinese, of all classes, are more laughter-loving than any other race with which I am acquainted; they find amusement in everything, and a dispute can always be softened by a joke."

I can't say if I have met any Chinese person who is like this. So, perhaps Russel was wrong or met some Potemkin Chinese. But if what he wrote was true, it tells you that a lot has happened in near 100 years since Russel wrote it; like the war against the Japanese, the creation of the People's Republic and the Cultural Revolution. Events have perhaps conspired to destroy this sort of Chinese person.

Or as David Warren wrote, China has been destroyed by a combination of capitalism and socialism.

*

Leaving the primary school one day, the handler and I could hear a class chanting en masse. "They're singing a Communist Party Song!" she told me. I stopped in my tracks and made some comment about indoctrination. The handler then told me how when she was in primary school, the teachers were always making them watch propagandistic films about how bad the Japanese were.

The Chinese that Russell talked of had probably been killed off and crushed by the Communists.

Evil still reigns in this land.

*

Tony read a book on the ride to Primary School one morning late in May. He had always been playing on my smart phone. Pleasing to his mother but I wonder if the powers that be are getting to him. He has also taken on this attitude of being busy which you would expect from an adult having entered the work force.

*

I have uploaded about thirty short videos to my Youtube Channel this month. Check them out! Type wuxiandis in the Youtube search engine.

*

The month of May ended with the Dragon Boat Festival. The K family did things in Wuxi. Two nights, members of the family spent time at the Nanchang Jie Bar street. The place was packed; so packed in fact, that Andis regretted having decided to go there. Tony found the place so crowded that he wanted to go home. One the last day of the holiday, the K family went downtown again. Tony had some photos taken and so while Jenny and he were doing that, Dad wandered around the nearby Hen Long shopping center. Again, Dad found the crowds annoying and he found a quiet spot on the mall's fifth floor which was far away from the crowds and had a bench to sit on so he could read.

*


Comments? Questions? Email me at andiskaulins@qq.com.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

April 2017 Notes

For Qing Ming Festival Day, we drove out to Jenny's hometown. We spent more time getting to and from her hometown then actually visiting with her parents. The traffic was horrible. What would in theory be a 70 minute drive took us 150 minutes. The sources of the delays were the toll gate area at the Jiangying Bridge and a turn-off near the bridge which was but one lane wide. Three lanes of traffic were trying to get into it and this was a cluster lanes became blurred.

A few good things came out of the ordeal One was news from Jenny that the 3,000 drivers who tried to cheat and get around traffic slowdowns by driving on the shoulder were all to be punished severely. Two was Jenny's vowing never to go to the hometown for a day trip on a holiday.

*

Restaurant at the Wu Culture Park. Coming back from Jenny's hometown on Qing Ming day, our plans to visit a military museum in Jiangying were scuttled by traffic and so we decided to check out this restaurant at the park near Casa Kaulins. We had quite an enjoybable time. The restaurant was situated so that it overlooked a pond and thus afforded a great view. And it also had good food. If you look at my wordpress blog, you can find some photos I took of the place.

*

On the day after Qing Ming Day, we drove out to to a park near the Ling Shan Buddha. I wish I could tell you the name of it, but I am too lazy to check on the Internet.. All I can say is other than the nice drive to it , the park was forgettable. A pedestrian walk street with a phony park next to it built for the sole purpose of attracting tourists.

One detail about going to the park struck me as interesting. The road to it was narrow: one lane either way with bike lanes on both sides.

I have seen how these roads can be nightmares at busy times because cars will try to pass other cars by driving in the bike lanes. To stop this from happening on Qing Ming Day, the powers that be decided to lay lots and lots of traffic cones on the dividing lines between the lanes in order to bring some order to the traffic.


*

Tony tells me he has work to do on the Iphone. He just wanted to play a driving game.

He must have heard me say that I had work to do on my computer so I could get him off my computer.

*

On the train one evening, I saw this older local woman eating a banana. How boorish I thought to myself. I then saw that she had noticed me and my foreign colleague who I was standing by, and that she was pointing us out to her child.

*

On the Shanghaiist site, there was a report of a “blatantly racist” (against Chinese) leaflet being distributed on some campus in Texas. I saw the leaflet in the report. And all its complaints about Chinese behavior were true. I showed it to another foreign colleague and he said that it could have said more. I found the whole report troubling because, the school authorities were treating the whole incident as racist without dealing with the real and justifiable complaints that the leaflet had presented. As well, the response from a Chinese student group was focus on the “racist” aspect of the leaflet and make a statement of being proud of being Chinese, without any acknowledgment that maybe their behavior needed some modification.

It was a clear example of truth being suppressed and a real injustice being done; and so I found it very troubling. This calling people racist is being used as a cover for some people to behave boorishly.

Alas, I am becoming a person who can be accused of being racist. And I am also very confused about what racism is exactly. I thought it was a hatred of a group of people because of their skin color. That kind of hatred is stupid and irrational; and it is evil if it involves wanting to do actual harm to these groups. But racism is currently viewed as more than just that and even people who mean well or who have truthful complaints can be called racist.

*

I realized I can take an alternate route on the days when I have to walk to Tony's classroom to pick him up.

Instead of going up the stairwell everyone else does, I realized I can go down a hallway to another stairwell that no one else would think of taking. The route isn't shorter than the popular route, but I don't have to deal with squirts yelling “laowai” as I pass them.

*

I was hyping a meeting between Xi and Trump but it was overshadowed by Trump's decision to bomb Syria.

I have no opinion on the bombing but I can appreciate the arguments that both sides, pro and con, are making for their positions

*

Just let it go! I was telling myself this as I drove Tony to school in the morning because I didn't want to get carried away with road rage. But sure as heck, I got angry as I was driving back home. Some prick in a BMW cut me off.

*

Breaking rulers and overturning desks so that the contents of the student's desk fall on the floor.

Whatever it takes to get the primary school students to be quiet and respectful.

*

When taking the subway, I choose to board cars that are at the ends of the train. So when waiting for the train, I stand at either end of the platform; and usually the end that fewer people will stand at. While I wait, it is my habit to pace back and forth and not to stand in a spot.

I would think that if I came upon another person doing this, that this person would have dibs on boarding the train before others. In Wuxi however, I have discovered that locals will walk up and take up the spot that I think I am entitled to by having gotten there first. The local mind sees nothing wrong with this. Talking to other foreigners in Wuxi, they have noticed this behavior as well and taken it as being rude and selfish.

So from the time of this entry, I am going to have to stand my guard as I wait for the train.

*

Tony and I have been watching Rick and Morty.

*

Don Rickles R.I.P. To a Canadian, he said “Why don't you put skates on your face and go play hockey somewhere.”

*

Got two more traffic tickets. One of them we got when we were stuck in a traffic jam returning from that day at the park near Ling Shan. I found myself in a left turn lane and no one would let me in a straightaway lane. Some idiot then got on my left and I was wedged in between cars so that I was straddling a line. A traffic camera caught this and so a message was sent to Jenny's phone.

The damn thing about the roads in China is that you are always having to change lanes to avoid getting stuck in a turn lane. Every once and while, you find yourself in a left turn lane and stuck in heavy unforgiving traffic that won't let you change lanes. I know how to avoid this on familiar stretches of road, but if I am an area of town that is new to me, I will often make this mistake.

*

It has been pointed out to me that the disruptive students in the primary school classes are often stuck at the front of the class. Getting a close look at them, I can report that they are a mixed bunch. That is, the disrupters come in all shapes, sizes and personalities.

One of the kids in a grade three class is too clever for the material I have been teaching. He sits towards my left. I got great joy at being able to get him to cry when I took his desk and dumped its contents on the floor to stop him from acting like a baboon.

A male classmate of this boy who sits on my right, looks like a mental defective because he has all the teeth on one side of his mouth missing as well as a cereal bowl haircut. When he approaches me, I have to fight the urge to swat him away. He is like a mosquito

Near the boy on my left sits a girl who always scowls and refuses to answers any questions. If I had to teach her everyday, I would want to take a ruler and smack her on each side of the head to put across the notion that only low-grade people answer questions in monosyllables.

There is this boy, in a grade four class, who looks like he will grow up to be a criminal – he seems to enjoy being able to leer and scowl like a devil. Nothing in this devil child's countenance suggests he is capable of anything but malevolence. I see the other kids mock him as something of a freak.

*

On the road betwixt Casa Kaulins and the Hui Shan Wanda Shopping Center there are many government buildings including a tax bureau and a police station and a law court.

One Sunday I could not help but notice that there was something going on at the law court. There were crowds of people there, and a heightened security and police presence. I saw seven police motorcycles (that usually cruise the area around our apartment) parked near the entrance of the courthouse grounds, two vans full of black uniformed security types parked across the street from the courthouse entrance, a firetruck with fireman inside parked in the court parking lot, and a very officious looking uniformed police who seemed to be directing the whole affair. The actual civilians standing by were older types who didn't seem angry and who definitely didn't seem just curious. They seemed to have been cowed into quiescence by the increased security presence.

I asked my wife what was going on and she told me that an unpopular decision had been made by the court.

*

I got to see Wuxi from 64th floor. Jenny took me and a friend to lunch at a buffet restaurant on the 64th floor of the Hyatt Regency. The view was great. I was struck by how I seemed to be on top of things that I knew to be many blocks away from the Hyatt's location. The food at the buffet was just okay however, and so as I sat vegetating, I recalled my visit to the Space Needle in Seattle. I went to a lot of trouble, spending lots of money on parking and admissions, to get to the famous landmark's observation deck. The view from the Space Needle was great but after two minutes I was bored. But it seemed a waste to go down so soon so I hung out on the observation deck with nothing to do for a further twenty minutes. Looking out from a skyscraper is something you'd only need do once in your life.

The deck was setting for a scene in the Warren Beatty Film the Parallax View in which a politician is assassinated.

It was the third assassination spot I had been too. The others being Dealey Plaza in Dallas and the Trotsky compound in Mexico City.

*

My grilled cheese sandwiches are quite the hit with Tony & Jenny.

*

Not much to say for myself this month. The world goes on and while I observe as avidly as ever, I don't have the same emotional investment in these events and so feel less compelled to say anything about them.

Besides, it doesn't matter what I think about them away. The sad fact about Andis is that he concerns himself with events that are far removed from his actual physical real world circumstances because he is too mediocre to deal with the things that should matter to him.


This realization should be liberating. Why waste time trying to be something I am not?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

March 2017 Notes

One morning in early March, I took photos of the traffic chaos around Tony's school and I was hoping that the drivers were wondering what this foreigner was doing.


I took the photos as I returned to my car after having accompanied Tony to the school gate. I especially made a point of taking the photo of a car that had parked behind me. This car had its ass stuck out into traffic big time. The driver was sitting in his car and noticed me taking the photo. He then had a look on his face that was priceless. I then gave him a big smile.


*


To become March, I binge-viewed the Lemony Snicketts tv series. I loved the style in which the series was shot. It was full of the elegant shots that I associate with films done by Wes Anderson. I as well loved the dialogue which was full of the wordplay of instant misunderstandings and the constant mentioning of synonyms of words that the characters had just used. It was a delight for this so-called English teacher to watch.


*


What is the problem with the Chinese aircraft carrier?


There is one pilot who likes to park his plane so that none of the other planes can land or take off.


*


I was hoping that Tony & I would be able to watch the Lego Batman movie in the cinema.


This won't happen because of our schedules and the fact that the movie is only getting limited show times in China (because it is a kiddie film). Tony is going to see the movie by himself. :(


*


Tony & I ended up going to see Lego Batman together after all. :) It was in Chinese and I could only understand a few sentences of dialogue. But I could definitely tell that it was Mandarin Chinese being spoken. No doubt had I about that.


So now, I have got impetus to again restart studying Chinese. This time, I will try to watch some Chinese movies with subtitles.


*


Is the world going mad? No. It is mad and always has been.


*


I ALSO binge-viewed a second Netflix series: 3 percent. The Process against the Cause. I highly recommend the series. It is basically a story about what people will do to try and get privilege and become part of the 3 percent that have it. The story of the series has candidates to join the elite try to get through the Process, a series of tests that determines who is elite and can thus live in a place called the Offshore. There are some plot conflicts though as there are people from the Cause, who are against the Process, who are seeking to infiltrate the Process as candidates. Meanwhile the committee overseeing the process is trying to unseat the manager of the Process...


*


This year in reading I have read some long novels. So far, I have gotten through Don Quixote and Kristin Lavransdatter.


*


The wonders and perils of technology. My wife Jenny does a lot of internet shopping. In China, I say she loves to go on Taobao, the big Chinese internet shopping site, or I say she loves to taobao, my attempt at creating a Chinglish word. Because of Taobao, I often have to pay a visit to one of the many lockers around our apartment complex which are set up for delivery drivers to conveniently drop off parcels and FOR internet shoppers to more conveniently pick them up. This errand I go on for Jenny is fraught with peril because something always seems to go wrong. Often, I go to the wrong locker – there are so many around the complex – or I screw up the pick up process by not being able to understand the prompts on the locker's keyboard which are in Chinese. A new wrinkle was added to this peril because people going to pick up their parcels, instead of entering passwords into the keyboard screen can press a key on their mobile phone that opens the locker door directly. The first time, I used this feature, it worked like a charm. The second time, it worked fine as well for the first of the two packages I had to pick up. But for the second package, I had a problem. I pressed the open door button and nothing opened in front of me. Fearing that I had opened a locker door somewhere else, I ran back to Jenny and she then noticed that the parcel had been dropped off at another locker. This delivery company had two lockers at our complex. So I had to run like a bugger to the other locker where the door was opened but the package was not taken!


*


One female student works at a factory in the purchasing department. She tells me she is so busy that she finds herself avoiding taking on more tasks. She admitted to me that she would tell people she wasn't available if they were looking for her... And thing about the factory is that is robotic. She tells me that her factory has more people in administration than in production, and that she would love in to be in production because they have less work to do.


*


I have been taking photos and publishing them in my Andis Kaulins in China photo blog (at wordpress) that show the little details I see living in China everyday.


*


I used to care a lot about the number of views that I got FOR my blogs, but when it became obvious that the numbers would never amount to much, I stopped paying attention. If one of my entries can get a hundred views, I am happy.


Of course, one hundred views must mean I have really one or two real readers.


*


A podcast I listen to mentioned that they had 40,000 listeners. Being a near regular listener to this podcast, I felt privileged.


The podcast in question is the Federalist podcast which must be made in Washington D.C.


*


I should really write an essay about something and make a blog entry about it. But what topics do I have anything interesting and original to say?


*


For the first time, I used the GPS on my Iphone to get me around Wuxi. What had happened was that Jenny had bought a second hand lamp on WeChat and I had to drive out to the New District to get it. The directions, to the apartment of the seller, which were given to me by the maps app worked like a charm. I got there with few problems.


*


They have these new types of public rental bikes in Wuxi. Unlike the previous type of public bikes which are to be picked up and then left at a bike stall, the new rental bikes are tracked by GPS and can be left anywhere once the rider is done with the bike. The bikes can be rented using an app on one's smartphone.


I am keen to try the bikes but haven't gotten around to it. There are five companies renting out these bikes which means one has almost too many choices. And because each company requires a deposit on an account before you can rent the bike, the prospect of making more than one deposit is not attractive. As well, Jenny tells me that there have already been people gaming the system so they can basically hog one of the bicycles for themselves. These hoggers can do this by physically hiding the bicycle as well as removing the bicycle's scan code. The latter tactic can be employed because the hogger already knows the code that will access the bike.


*


The kids at the primary school I teach at have been asking me for my signature, aka autograph. Unthinkingly, I accepted the request in one class and the result was that in next class, I was mobbed by twenty kids all wanting me to write my name on a piece of paper or in their notebook. It was an ordeal that made me glad I am not truly famous. And what was very annoying was how disorderly the children were when crowding around me, as well as how greedy they were. Like Chinese adults, they couldn't form an orderly queue and like Chinese adults faced with the prospect of free stuff, they got really greedy. Thinking that there were not so many kids wanting me my signature, I expected the mob to get smaller and the ordeal to end; but I then noticed that some kids were coming to me to again for more and more of my signatures. One kid actually tried to get a third signature off me.


*


A story in a textbook I was using with one of the primary school classes I do had a sentence in it that went as follows: "Roy had a budgie named Joey." So, I did a substitution exercise with the class in which I got the students to tell me something like "I have a dog names Spot." This exercise was quite popular with the students and many raised their answers to give me answers. Frequently, the students try to give me wise guy answers. One student said the following: "I have a monster named Mother."


*


A student told me she was tired because she was trying to teach her daughter some math. It was hard because the girl wasn't interested, she added.


I asked her how old her daughter was, thinking of the trouble my wife was having teaching our nine year old. The student told me her child was two, as in two years old. Her child was going to enter kindergarten soon so she wanted to prepare her, she added.


I thought she was nuts. I didn't tell her that but I did tell her child was still very young, would figure it out and for the mother to not to worry about it. I then complained to this mother about how parents these days spent far too much time supervising their children and not giving them a chance to figure out some things on their own. She responded that she was Chinese and didn't have a problem with these way of doing things.


*


I asked some of the students if they thought their parents were happily married. A few said they didn't think so because of one of their parents having a bad temper. I asked them if it had been suggested to these angry parents that their temper was a problem. They told me that these bad-tempered parents thought they were always right about everything.


*


Is Christianity true?


My imagined response had been that smarter men than me believed it was and that smarter men than me believed it wasn't. I know think that better men than me believe it and better men than me don't.


*


Class 5-1 at the Big Bridge Primary School all bowed in apology to me at the beginning of one class. They had not done well the previous class. I really could have done without grovelling. I would rather have had the class just behave better. I am certain that if they had, I would have noticed and said something complimentary.


*


Tony tells me that he doesn't have to do homework because he is Canadian.


*


The Chinese are frothing at the mouths over THAAD in South Korea, I have read on the Internet. From the students, I heard mention but have avoided the topic because their reactions are predictable in that they trumpet the government line. What struck me as strange about it was how it suddenly came up after the half-brother of Nork's Fat Boy had been snuffed out in strange circumstances. Talking about that incident, I had students trying to tell me about THAAD.


*


Looking back over what I have blogged so far, I see I have made but one mention about local drivers. Now I will make my second.


We uber it to get to the primary school. That is, instead of taking taxis, we use an uber-like app to get private cars to take us to and from the primary school.


Unlike the taxi drivers who are all overly aggressive, the local uber drivers have varying styles of driving. Some are aggressive and some are inexperienced and thus drive passively.


One day in March, we had a driver who was very aggressive. I tried to ignore his driving by concentrating on a e-book on my Ipad, but one instance, the driver swerved and caused me to look up and ahead. I saw that he was heading, at too high a speed, towards the end of a line of cars stopped at a light. He had to brake the car hard and just as he got close to the stopped cars, he thought to use his horn. I thought then that he was trying to get the cars to get out of his way and that he was being very stupid. I shook my head and talked about it to my colleague as we left the car at the entrance to the primary school. I then thought that maybe he was trying to warn them and that thus there was some logic to his using the horn. But after more pondering, I don't think it would have saved him from hitting the car if he hadn't been able to stop in time.


*


Overbearing parents have been a problem since time immemorial. But I am certain that the one-child policies whether enforced by authoritarian governments or cultural norms have exacerbated the problem.


We have at our school this one student, name of Hannah, who has such a parent. Hannah's English is not so good. In fact, we are getting her to repeat the entire beginner level of classes because she isn't ready to go to the next level. She can't make a sentence to help herself and it is hard to get her to say anything that she hasn't memorized beforehand. She also seems to be very inhibited. Many Chinese students are, but she is an extreme example. Our suggestion to have her repeat the entire level was met with resistance from Hannah and/or her parents. It was then that I learned from Hannah's Chinese tutors about her mother.


Her mother is not so much a tiger mother, as a monster mother. She is constantly supervising every moment of Hannah's existence. She personally accompanies Hannah to our school and is waiting for her when she is finished her class. And so being forced to lay eyes on the mother, I am struck by how permanent the scowl is on her face. The mother's countenance suggests that Hannah is subjected to non-stop, seven days a week and every waking hour of the day bullying. Poor girl.


One Friday evening, I had Hannah in a conversation class, the topic was "In the kitchen." Hannah told me that every time she wanted to do something in the kitchen, her mother would tell her to read a school book.


So her mother doesn't want her to learn a practical skill. Does her mother think that cooking is too lowly with her precious one and only daughter?


Anyway, other complaint about Chinese students is that they don't have any life experiences.


*


Meicun TOEFL students.


These students from Meicun high school are attempting to pass a TOEFL test so they can go to university in America. They are a pretty useless bunch actually and teaching them is a waste of time because they aren't interested in participating in classes. I have hated teaching them as did every other foreign teacher.


Still, I have some sympathy for them. It would seem that it's their parents that have these lofty academic goals for them and so they are forced to come to our school on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays so they can try to achieve this quixotic goal. Despite the kids not being academically inclined, they are stuck in a system where not going to university means they can't make their way in Chinese society.


This sympathy I have for them though is in the abstract. Practically, I despise the sight of them and would be happy if I never saw their faces ever again. Like every other lazy students, they are on their mobile phones all the time. Now, I wouldn't care about this so much except they have to occupy classes next to classrooms where I and other foreign teachers are trying to conduct classes.


One Saturday in March, I had the misfortune of having to teach a class of eight students while this group of Meicun students occupied a class next to mine. [Our classes have glass walls] I would have moved but there was no other classroom I could use. And the Meicuners were loud. I had to tell to interrupt my class and tell them to keep quiet. They didn't. So I had to go again and I called them a bunch of shitheads. At least, it got them to speak some English.


The incident hasn't changed anything other than those kids instead of having ignored me, now are a little more aware of me and are staring at me.


Apparently, some of their idiot parents are friends without someone in the Chinese management of our school.



*


Driver goes into right hand bicycle lane so he get around a lineup in the car lanes and make a left turn.


Another driver is on my right at an intersection. He wants to go straight while I want to make a right right. The lane he is in is really a cycling lane.


*


This though occurred to me as I was in traffic: do the locals use their horns so much because it is a form of self expression that isn't censored?


Of course, it could be that frequent use of horn is part of Asian culture.


*


A 112 rmb taxi ride. It was the most expensive taxi ride I can remember taking. I went from Johnson Controls which is located near the Wuxi Airport in Shuofeng to Casa K in the Hui Shan District near Yanqiao. The distance was 34 km. And the students keep telling me that Wuxi is a small city.


*


I ended March with a renewed effort to improve my Chinese. Instead of just learning characters and reading, I am trying to improve my listening by concentrating on certain recordings and listening to them over and over again till I know every sound by heart and can understand each word as easily and casually as listening to English.


*


Wind and underwear.


I left the laundry hanging on rails outside the window of our third floor apartment. It seemed a safe bet to leave them out there while all of the K family went to the nearby shopping mall.


But about two hours later, Tony & I started to walk back home from the Mall and saw that it was now very windy. As we got close to the apartment complex, we saw that sheets and what-not, that had been hung by other residents, had blown off and were resting in bushes.


Tony seeing this became very panicky. He wanted us to run home and take in the laundry we had hung out.


When we got home, I saw that one pair of Tony's pajamas/underwear had blown off the rails and was resting on the roof of the first floor neighbor's veranda. Seeing this as well, Tony started crying. I assured him that I would be able to retrieve them, but this didn't stop him from crying and saying that he really liked that underwear.