Thursday, June 1, 2017

May 2017 Diary

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.


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"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.


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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.


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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.]


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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Hojo. Howard Johnson. Anka. Andis Kaulins.


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


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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


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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.


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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.


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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.


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


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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.


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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Tony and I have been watching Rick and Morty.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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?