Monday, October 9, 2017

Thirty Seconds from Wuxi China #25 Bus

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

September 2017 Notes

The Kaulins Family China spent the early part of September 2017, recovering from our trip to Canada:

  • Tony told me that he would miss Canada and his uncle Ron.
  • Tony also missed his Canadian grandfather. One of the strangest and saddest things for me to witness was Tony sitting in the living room of Casa K in early September, crying because he realized his grandfather was dead. Tony had been shown photos of his grandfather wearing military uniforms and was very impressed. When he cried over Grandpa, he was with Jenny and somehow he must have dawned on him then that Grandpa was gone and never coming back. [Moral to others: The earlier in life you have children the better it is for them because they can spend more time with their grandparents. It also gives you one less thing to regret later in life.]
  • Back driving on the roads of Wuxi, I immediately experienced spasms of road rage. Three weeks of being in a driving environment, I could understand, wiped away what little tolerance I had for the Chinese way of doing things. I was back to honking horns and giving fingers.
  • Jenny complained of not being able to sleep well. It must be jet lag, she said.
  • I returned to find the menu of the Expat restaurant, I had been eating at as a treat for myself, to be boring and unattractive.

* * * * *

It seems, as September is in its early stages, that driving Tony, who is in grade four this term, to school and picking him up will be more annoying than it had been when he was in grade three. Xishan School has two campuses for the primary school grades. The newer campus, that was built in time for the previous school year, is for grades one to three; the older became the location for just grades four to six. So Tony's being in grade four means having to pick him up at the old campus where there are less places about to park and stop. Indeed, the first day of the school year at pick-up time, cars were double parked up and down the street. Because Jenny was with me, I had her go to the school to pick up Tony while I stayed in our vehicle which was in a double-parked position. The school location we drove to last year, while not being a picnic as for parking, did have a long enough road leading to it so that one could park without having to worry about being blocked by a double parker. Last year, one also could easily turn around to drive away from the school. This year, the road by the school has a fence barrier in the middle and so, unless one tries to make a u-turn at a gap in the barrier, one has to endure a slow slog as there are a lot of cars on the road as the students are let out.

* * * * *

I had been buying German beers – what I supposed were German beers – in cans from local supermarkets. Some have been quite delicious, but some result in my having a horrible hangover the next day. And this is after having drunk only one beer the night before. Why should I get these painful hangovers? Is the beer way past its best-for date? Is the beer counterfeit? Are German beers that strong?

* * * * *

As I told someone, Trump is a two is a sea of one, zeroes, and I add now, minuses. All the things said about him being a boor and a nincompoop and a vulgarian and an ignoramus are no doubt true; and yet the people who loath him are so unhinged in their criticism of him that one feels one has to say "Viva Trump!"

So here it goes:

VIVA TRUMP!

If this causes you to froth at the mouth in rage, so what. You are the one who's nuts.

And there is some good to be said about Trump. 1) He is an American. Unlike, Obama who seemed ashamed of the country that gave him the chance to lead it, Trump is an American. If it is okay for the Chinese to be ruled by a Chinese person, Japan to be ruled by a Japanese person, and for Africans to be ruled by Africans, why can't America be lead by an American who likes his country and feels no need to please European snobs? 2) He is not the wife of Bill Clinton. 3) He is sui generis. That is, he is one of a kind. Unlike Obama, who was a dime-a-dozen liberal who was very much banal, moral-preening and full of himself (but I will credit Barry for maybe having some political skills), Trump is an original who is, hopefully, breaking the mold of what a politician can be like. Trump fights and never says he's sorry. He doesn't pretend to take the high road. He thinks aloud and doesn't choose his words carefully. He seems more concerned with doing things than putting on a show of saying the right things. 4) He is driving Leftists our of their minds. He is bringing out the true traits of Leftists, and showing how bigoted, rude, ignorant, petty and lacking in proportion they really are. And he is doing this despite being as unideological as Bill Clinton was. The Leftists are criticizing Trump for what he isn't, which is a Racist and a Nazi. They are criticizing him for fueling something which he hasn't, which is the white supremacist movement which is fringe movement incapable of filling a junior "c" hockey rink in Canada. By being this way, leftists have shown themselves to be more boorish than Trump. 5) Trump is great for comedians. There was a fear to lambast Obama, but I conjecture that he had he not been put on such a pedestal and treated like every other president, Obama would have quickly been a bore to mock. As I said before, he was a dime-a-dozen liberal and you can only make so many jokes about someone's boringness. Eastwood's depiction of Obama as an empty chair was very accurate. If a world without PC, the chair would have been the prop used for Obama on an SNL skit.

And if what I have said doesn't convince you, which I expect it won't, consider this: The people who hate that Trump is president of the United States really brought it on themselves. Popular culture has coarsened in my life time so that even people who should know better are engaging in the coarsening. Be that as it may, this coarsening is a leftist project. In rejecting the constraints of a bourgeois society, they created the culture where a Trump could thrive and become elected President. Trump became a celebrity in that constrain-free, undignified culture. He gave money to leftist politicians who didn't mind and probably found him to be one of them until he didn't go along with their program. The bitterness of the Left against Trump is akin in irrationality to the bitterness launched at Trotsky by Stalin, and at Lin Biao by Maoists.

[*Two days after I typed this, I heard complaints on conservative right-wing podcasts, that I regularly listen to that Trump was going Left. Does my "Viva Trump!" still stand? As long as the Left keeps vilifying Trump in an unreasonable manner, it will. He is the best there is under the circumstances. One of those circumstances is the existence of the Left. If the Left wasn't as stupid as it was and if it didn't contribute so strongly to the culture we are currently stuck with, Trump would not have been elected.*]

* * * * *

Why is it that I am most influenced by writers and thinkers that are Catholic? They are more thoughtful and more capable of penetrating observations than the people who espouse ignoring religion and thinking for one's self.

* * * * *

"In 1915," said Tony, "Australia and Turkey went to war." Amazing the things he learns surfing Youtube.

I never knew anything about this till I saw the movie, that starred Mel Gibson, called Gallipoli. And I was in my thirties when I did so.

* * * * *

Some leftover bloggings from my trip in to Canada in August:
  • I had coffee with the former King of Wuxi. His son, he told, was in the cadets in Winnipeg. This is something I would like my son Tony to do.
  • I saw this very earnest old man in Vancouver. While we were riding the Skytrain, the man came up to Tony and offered him some candy. The candy was old, and to be honest, Tony was creeped out by the old man; but I told him to accept it and not to read anything into it. I then saw the man offer assistance to this old woman who had also been on the train. The elderly woman was hunched over as the aged often were and was pushing a shopping cart. She was a sad sight because someone should have been looking after her and she shouldn't be fending for herself on a subway. The man, full of zeal made pathetic by his elderliness, was clearly jumping at the opportunity to help this woman.
  • I asked Tony what was the best store we went to Canada. He told the big toy store in BC. I thought he was talking about a store in Van, but when he told me it wasn't, I had to rack my brain to recall that we had gone to the Toys R Us at the Willowbrook Mall in Langley. That was a mall I spent a lot of time making deliveries at when I was working as a relief courier driver.
  • At Winnipeg Polo Park, there was a Lego store where they had a display, full of lego blocks of human bodies, arms, heads and hair with which one could built a Lego figure on one's own. It was actually three for twelve dollars. They wouldn't let Tony build just one so I had to swallow the expense because it was sort of Tony's birthday.
  • At the St Vital Food Court, I had an interesting interaction when I was queueing to be served at a KFC counter. Being in China for as many years as I have, I can testify to how the Chinese don't know how to queue and how confusing it can be in China when you come to a counter with a bunch of Chinese people already there because you don't know where the front or the end of the queue is. Sometimes, the Chinese don't know when to move. Sometimes, the Chinese are standing in the midst of the queue, but really they are looking, having not made up their minds about what to order, and are in fact standing in the wrong spot. Stand back and try to decide what is going on and another Chinese person will come from behind and cut in front of you! Anyway, perhaps this is why I was confused at St. Vital. There was a woman standing about five feet from the counter. I couldn't decide if she was still thinking or was waiting to place an order. Unsure, I stood beside her. When the serving of the person in front of us had taken place, the woman did an amazing thing. She asked me what was happening. I told her that I was unsure as to whether she was ready to order or was still thinking of ordering. She responded that she was ready to order and she went to make her order; I going next. I really couldn't ascertain the woman's attitude towards me, but I did appreciate that she cleared the air of confusion. In China, doing what she did would probably have amounted to a loss of face.
  • Tony's 10th birthday was a bit of a dud. It was the day on which there was that typhoon that screwed up our travel plans.

* * * * *

I received a newsletter email from the New Republic asking if the readers were missing Obama yet. I couldn't imagine there being any reader of the New Republic who didn't miss Obama as soon as Trump was inaugurated. So I wondered what the New Republic was on about, but not enough to actually open the email.

Perhaps they were mocking the "Are you missing me yet?" billboards featuring W that were posted sometime during Obama's term.

* * * * *

I have been so long in Wuxi that I don't think of it as an outpost. When I see a foreigner, my attitude is "who are the fuck are you!"

* * * * *

We had a stint of assessing the English levels of workers at Johnson Controls in Wuxi.
Here are some things I observed:
  • I saw what looked to be a Communist party manual on a rack in the cafeteria.
  • The food in the cafeteria was horrible.
  • The tests were done on the fifth floor of a seven floor adminstrative building of what seemed to be a massive factory complex. Could a company like this in West support such a seemingly large administrative staff? I asked a colleague. He answered that he doubted it. Western companies would surely cut such things to the bone.
  • Assessing English ability is a hard thing to do in a strict quantitative way. You can tell who has good english, so-so english, bad english and who can't speak the language at all, but for me to explain why I gave a 51/60 to one person and a 48/60 to another is something I can't easily do except to say I was using my gut and the student said something that struck as worthy of a higher sore.
  • When I asked some the students to tell me about a famous person, I had a few tell me about Chairman Mao. "Old China was bad and its society was full of problems, New China created by Chairman Mao was good " was basically what they told me. You would think that Chairman Mao would not be the first famous person to pop in these person's minds. From what I have observed, Chairman Mao is not crammed into the people's imaginations anymore. So, why did they bother to tell me about Chairman Mao? Was it something about me being a foreigner, a devil as it were, and they're wanting to show national pride in the only way they have been conditioned to think about it? Was their imagination that stunted? That is, they know their political indoctrination and study nothing but engineering manuals for their work?


* * * * *

Thanks to Radio Derb, I read this magnificent travel book, by George Gissing, entitled By the Ionian Sea: Notes of a Ramble in Southern Italy. What is so great about this work is that the writer travels to these out-of-the-way places, not to check off an item on a bucket list but because of an actual spiritual yearning brought on by a reading of classic Latin and Greek texts. To experience these yearnings, he goes though a great deal of discomfort that no modern day tourist would be capable of enduring.

And along the way he sees some magnificent things and observes novel behaviors that would put 1960s counterculturists to shame. One such observation was the habit of a town in Southern Italy where locals would anonymously pay the hotel and restaurant bills of travelers to whom they never introduced themselves. Actions as far away from virtue-signaling as you can get.

I should perform those acts myself and not blog about them.

* * * * *

I have a nephew who is coming to China. He will be doing QC in Xiamen for the Canadian company that employs him.

Good for him and I hope his mother is proud.

* * * * *

On the 7th of September, in the morning, I drove Tony to school. While still at home, I worried that we were a little slow in getting out of the house, and I was bracing myself for an annoying experience by telling myself to not be, but I got very annoyed and displayed rage anyway.

On the drive to Tony's school in the morning there are three congestion points we have to go through. The first point is an intersection between Hui Shan Da Dao (a major road) and a road I am on, coming from Casa Kaulins. If we can get on this road early enough in the morning, we can breeze through the intersection; if we don't, we can be in a long lineup that takes five changes of lights to get through. This morning, the lineup was long and it was all in the right lane where people were trying to either go straight through or get into the right turn lane. What is most annoying about this long lineup are the cars that drive in the unoccupied left lane and try to cut into the right lane. You curse at these drivers and wonder why they don't just get into the back of queue like you had just done. Nobody wants to let these drivers in, so some pretty harrowing games of chicken are played every time traffic jolts forward because no one will yield to these queue-jumpers. The second point of congestion is at the next light that is about a block after the first one. If traffic is heavy, you have to play the same game of chicken with people trying to cut in from the left lane. But if you get there early enough, it is not much of a problem. At this second set of lights, I make a right turn on the road on which I am to drop off Tony and where there is a third point of congestion caused by an entrance to an apartment community. There is a resulting T-junction intersection where anarchy prevails because there are cars trying to making left turns onto the road from the apartment complex, cars coming from the opposite direction trying to make left turns into the apartment complex, all sorts of cars passing by the entrance and through the intersection as they drop off their children, no traffic lights or traffic monitors, and no rules as to who has precedence. It makes this congestion point the worse aspect of the drive to school. This particular morning, the 7th, I came to the intersection and a White VW coming from the opposite direction, trying to enter the apartment complex, started to make a left turn in front of me. It blocked my path and I had no choice but to let that car turn. At the same time, there was a small car exiting the apartment entrance on my right-hand side that was trying to make a left turn onto the road and it blocked the VW and me as well. These two cars had a stand-off which was resolved with the VW making room for the small car exiting the complex. But then an impatient idiot driver of a black sedan who was behind the VW decided he was going to do a passing left turn on the VW that he was behind. (This maneuver, that I have only seen in China, involves one turning car passing another turning car) This "brilliant" maneuver resulted in a jam that could only be ended by someone reversing; and this standoff only ended when the female driver of the small car got out of her car and got the driver of the black sedan to move. So, the small car made its turn, the VW made it turn, and I proceeded through the intersection by blocking the black sedan and preventing it from turning. I established eye contact with the driver of the black sedan and gave him a middle finger. I was knocking on the glass of my window as I did so; doing it so hard that Tony told me to knock break the window.

I then dropped off Tony, at a crosswalk where a uniformed person stood without doing anything useful like direct traffic at the T-junction. Continuing down the road by Tony's school is annoying as well because e-bikes and cars are all doing their own thing, getting in the way of others without there being sense of order or courtesy. From the road by Tony's school, I make a right turn on another long road where there is another congestion point that is annoying, if only in an afterthought sort of way. The road intersects with Hui Shan Da Dao, that major road I mentioned above. At the intersection, there are two lanes for turning left, one lane for going straight or making right turns, and a right-hand lane used for parking or bicycles. When there is a long lineup of cars by the intersection, some impatient drivers will try to get around the lineup by driving in the right-hand bicycle lane, and then if they are blocked by parked cars or bicycles, try will budge their way back in the proper lanes for cars trying to go straight or make right turns. The impatient drivers making this maneuver are squeezing themselves tightly against the cars in the proper lane. If they beside me, I won't let them in but again it is another game of chicken with these drivers.

What is it with Mainland Chinese drivers? Has the Chinese Communist Party so ruined civil society here that no one can drive like civilized human beings? The stupidest animal in the world is the Mainland Chinese driver.

* * * * *

Every time I go to Canada and drive, I find myself making a thank-you gesture, in the form of a military salute to another driver who has done me a nice turn in traffic.

Not once, I have done this driving in China. Not once. And I have encountered thousands and thousands of Chinese drivers., there being more of them than in Canada.

* * * * *

I happened to talk to a Wuxi Expat who was hanging it up, as the expression goes. Ten years in Wuxi and he was going back to his Anglosphere country. I take he had many reasons for leaving, like homesickness, but I could tell that he was also leaving Mainland China because he was sick of the bad manners of its residents and how dirty its environment was.

As I said in last month's entry, I would like to go back to a third country that doesn't exist. So I stay here as a result of a certain stasis. As well, I am not sure if my wife would want to move to Canada. She sometimes exhibits patriotism to her homeland.

* * * * *

By 9/11, we were back in the boring Wuxi routine where I went to work and did my intellectual hobbies, and Jenny did her business and tiger-mothered Tony with his homework every night and seemingly free moment of the week.

* * * * *

A new part-time teacher, who had some experience teaching English in China, expressed his frustration at how the Chinese students were just so dull and lacking in spontaneity, and how it was like pulling teeth to get them to talk.. He asked me (alluding to how I had been in China so long while doing so) what insights I had into dealing with it. I had nothing to tell him other than I did try some drills with them (tell me about some topic off the top of your head) and to appreciate the precious few who were not in the typical Chinese mold.

He did agree with my contention that the Chinese Communist Party was responsible for the deadening of thought.

* * * * *

This September, I don't have primary classes to do (or should I say to teach?) and so I have lots of free time which I am devoting to language study and reading. I am spending a little time studying French, Spanish, and German every day using the Duolingo app on my Iphone. I do a little more study of French via a podcast I listen to everyday where the teacher speaks mostly in French at a pace I can easily handle. However, I spend the majority of my time studying Chinese. I listen to podcasts and recordings, and I practice reading Chinese characters. Thanks to the Pleco App and Google Translate, I have an easy time identifying characters. I practice typing Chinese characters on the computer with the help of a Chinese text application that transforms my pinyin typing into characters.

I should spend my time doing something that makes me money. I had vowed that in September I would do some serious exploration of ways to earn money via the Internet. I haven't got around to it.

Here is a sample of my Chinese typing:

我是Andis。我是加拿大人。我住在无锡惠山区。我有一个中国的妻子Jenny。我们有一个儿子。他的名字是Tony。他是十岁。

我想大陆中国驱动程序是白痴。

我爸爸出生于拉脱维亚。她在2012年在加拿大去世。

中国司机是混蛋!

* * * * *

I did a conversation class with a pair of women about America. They didn't know much about America so I felt like a veritable expert when I talked about it. I also thought about what I really liked about American culture. To the students I mentioned that I loved American music, tv shows and movies. Thinking about it after class, I should also mention that I love following its sports and its politics.

Thinking about what I like about China, I would have to say I find its entire history very interesting as well as some poetry and Kung Fu. Chinese history is particularly interesting because it is like watching a train wreck. The hubris of Imperial China lead to a comeuppance and humiliation. The attempts to rectify these bad times has only resulted in more tragedy and darkness. The emergence of China as an economic power is not really something for which the Chinese can be proud. Their affluence is the product of the crassest materialism. If the Chinese Communist Party can keep its grip on power while maintaining this affluence, it would be a tragedy for the soul of humanity. Man needs freedom to reason and revelation to know his proper place in existence.

* * * * *

Because I had heard of a campaign the local government would conduct in order to warn drivers to have respect for pedestrians or be fined, I asked a female student in a Speakers Corner if Wuxi motorists were in fact stopping for pedestrians. The woman told me that they were; to which I expressed flabbergastment. I told her that I had never seen a driver do such a thing unless the pedestrian happened to be a position where the driver had to stop or was unable to swerve about the pedestrian. But she insisted that this happened a lot. We argued about for fifteen minutes. The woman said I only saw the bad. I told her that that was all I ever saw and that if there was courtesy I would have noticed it and celebrated it. She continued to insist that the drivers were becoming more courteous and if they weren't, it was because there were so many people in China. That was an excuse which I should have responded to by saying that if that was so, you would see Chinese people practice courtesy in times when there weren't so many people, but this was just not so. I further should have cited an example of my witnessing, on many occasions, situations where a Chinese drivers will cut off other drivers even when there are no other cars on the road.

Anyway, I was aghast at the woman's attitude and I couldn't tell if she was lying to me or was so completely unaware of how others see her culture.

* * * * *

A white sedan comes barreling onto the road, making a right turn, without looking, in front of the bus in which I was riding. The bus blared his horn at the car: an action I would I done but the driver of the bus was Chinese. I thought that being cut off by cars blindly turning right was water off a duck's back to the Chinese; but the bus driver was clearly annoyed at the driver of the sedan. So how is it that blindly turning right is so common in China when it does inconvenience other drivers so much that they will use their horns to indicate disapproval?

The depths of the Chinese mind is unfathomable to me.

[Or have the drivers been told to follow the rules of civilized driving?]

* * * * *

At this stage of my time in China (I am my 13th year) to complain about the local driving is to risk sounding like a broken violin. As one about-to-be-former Wuxi expat said, when I got on the local driving and complained about a recent outrage I had experienced, he had seen it all and there was no point in me continuing....

But the local drivers always find a new way to get me lathering in pure road rage.

One Sunday, I drove into a gas station lot to put more fuel in the K family Citroen C3XR. I noticed, after I turned into the lot and was approaching the pumps, that a car was trying to pass me on my right-hand side. He then managed to cut in front of me to get served at the one pump that was available for filling. I was livid. I was tempted to punch the driver. I instead blared my horn at him, opened the door of car so I could stand and give him the middle finger while repeating the one English swear word the bumpkin (for that was what he looked like) would understand. The driver's reaction was one of typical Chinese inscrutability. He looked at me and then looked straight ahead and drove very quickly off the lot. Coward.

* * * * *

The students, when I ask them, tell me they have no enemies. (I then tell the students they have no enemies because as as soon as a person becomes their enemy, the person is eliminated.) This answer, which is always the same, is very telling and a further proof of a lack of imagination on the part of the students.

Jesus Christ, a son of God, walked the face of the Earth and had enemies. He never told his followers to not have enemies, but to love them. The students, not being raised on Christianity, brainwashed by the Chinese Communist education system and modern saccharine be-niceism that they are allowed to be exposed to, would think it a loss of face to admit they had enemies. Meanwhile, I could think of many that I had, like Leftists, Atheists, the North Korean leader and local drivers; and I would not think of myself as a bad human being for declaring that I did. I would only be bad if I didn't hope that these people could change their ways.

* * * * *

The Democrats (I am talking US politics now) should be called out for their KKKism which is real unlike the KKKism they say that every Republican has. Besides being anti-black and anti-legal-immigrant, the KKK in its heyday was extremely anti-Catholic. Who is the anti-Catholic party today? The Democrats. That questioning of a Catholic judge nominee by that senator Barbara Boxer must surely have been out of the KKK playbook.

* * * * *

I went to Tesco on a Monday morning. I took a photo of a shelf of Bear Beer which I published in my Wordpress photo blog. I then experienced surreal lineup behavior while waiting to pay for my purchases. First, I witnessed was the woman in front of me evidently deciding that she had forgotten to pick up something, so she left her basket on the ground and walked to some shelf. Meanwhile another women got in lineup behind me and stood so close that she kept brushing against my elbow and making me feel like she was breathing down my neck. I had to tell myself that Chinese people sense of personal space radius is smaller than ours. Meanwhile, a family in front of me decided to turn around their shopping cart, which was beside the register , and leave the checkout aisle. It was like watching someone make a u-turn with a car on a very narrow road, say the width of one car with not many inches to spare. It would have made more sense to pull the cart out backwards. Meanwhile another group that was in front of the family with its u-turning shopping cart had a member come from the store with a bottle of cooking oil that they must have forgotten to pick up earlier. It was disconcerting for me to have people cut in front of me in the lineup. I even had a feeling that the woman behind me was with that group in front of me but I wasn't sure and I wasn't in the mood to have yet another person move ahead of me. In fact, it seemed that she wanted me to get out of her way but I didn't budge from my position right by the cashier who was close enough to serve me.

Queueing up and lining up in Mainland China is – I will use that word again – disconcerting.

* * * * *

One day, I got on the subway to notice I was on the train that had Chinese communist Party plaques and images decorating its interior. I looked at the TV screens to see video of Wuxi Metro workers holding a meeting of its communist party members. All the workers were attentively listening to what the meeting leaders had to tell them and some of them were then shown to be happy at be awarded some awards from the communist party. I got off the train and walked to my place of work and saw those 14 or 15 pair of patriotic characters that can be seen everywhere since President Xi took control of the Chinese communist Party. Rather grim, I thought to myself.

* * * * *

I liked the excerpts of Trump's UN speech that were played on the Andrew Klavan podcast. I particularly liked it when Trump talked about the current failure of Venezuela's socialist state and then added on about how Communism had failed everywhere including places like the Soviet Union and Cuba. It was a nice sentiment but how I wished he could have been really ballsy and talked about how it had failed and been abandoned in the People's Republic of China.

* * * * *

A student told me she had a pet turtle. The turtle was a family pet before she was born, and so this woman could tell me that she had a pet that was older than herself which was a rare thing indeed.

* * * * *

Mango Six, the cafe that moved into a part of my school's location shut down. The business was a complete bust. After a busy opening weekend, word got around that the place was expensive, people rarely came. I know this because I had watched the cafe from our school's new location and it rarely had any customers. Why it stayed open as long as it did was a mystery.

* * * * *

Sure, I read my bible every day. For myself, I put on a show of being sympathetic to Catholicism. But it entitles me to no claim to be a better person, for it has not translated into any virtuous actions. It hasn't even garnered me any criticism. To be thought less of by the people around me for even being sympathetic to Christianity, for rightly seeing me as a Christian who acts selfishly, would be a start for saving my soul.

* * * * *

Tony asking me questions about history was the highlight of September 2017. In particular, he was asking me questions about WW1, WW2 and other wars.

* * * * *

The last Monday of September 2017 was a day of torrential rain. I also was feeling less than tipper because of some bug I had caught or maybe some bad food I had eaten. My symptoms were lethargy, mild diarrhea, profuse sweating and a mild nausea that had my on the verge of vomiting. It was the worst day of the month.

Tony then caught the bug. He vomited at school, then at home and got to not go to school for a day.

I then told Jenny that she was probably going to catch the bug next. [As I type this, I just recently made the prediction. And really, I hope I am wrong. Because even if I am proven to be right, Jenny will blame me for the bug going around and will hate it that I was proven right. [Later: Jenny has succumbed to the bug, as I predicted.]]

[Tony returned to school, only to be sick again. This time, Jenny had to take him to the hospital...]

* * * * *

Did a BMW driver perform a fuck you maneuver towards me?  Or was it just his aggressive style of driving?

Here's what happened:  On the last Tuesday of September 2017, I was making a left turn out of Jia Zhou Yang Fang, the apartment complex which containeth Casa Kaulins, and the BMW driver who was behind me tried to make a passing left turn on me. [A passing turn is a maneuver I have only seen done in China and it involves a turning car passing another turning car.  I find this to be not cricket in the least]  I didn't yield to him.

I continued on my merry way. That is if you can call taking Tony to school in the morning is a merry thing for me to do and for Tony to endure.  The BMW was behind me, making a right turn as I did onto a certain  double-laned road whose name I couldn't tell you.  Approaching some lights with me in the right hand lane, the BMW then raced in front of me, coming so closely to my front end that I, who was in a passive state of mind, reluctantly honked my horn.  

The BMW after doing this then went into the left turn lane.  So the end result of the BMW's driving had me wondering if he was mad at my not yielding to him earlier.  Why swerve around traffic when there was no advantage to be had by doing so, except to show your rage at some other driver?  

The problem with this surmise is that Chinese drivers are often aggressive in a counter productive way.  How often have I seen Chinese drivers never take stock of a situation and just impulsively make an aggressive maneuver that is counter productive or makes a traffic snarl even worse.  And when I didn't yield to the BMW, the driver didn't honk his horn, as even a Chinese driver would do if some other driver annoyed him.

* * * * *

I used to say that NFL football was a game for men. No longer.

The NFL has become Leftist. Sad.

And the NFL isn't a private business, but in fact a quasi crony capitalist racket acting like a institution. By seeking to identify itself with local governments, it has tried to make money by identifying itself with the local communities these governments are supposed to represent: while at the same time holding these communities hostage if they don't shovel them tax dollars to build expensive stadiums that no businessman would in his right mind build with his own money.

The NFL needs to be held to account, and if Trump brings this about... Viva Trump!

* * * * *

Escape the totalitarian impulse.  If only were so easy as to get out of the Peoples Republic of China.  But as David Warren said in a late September blog entry, there has been an irruption of the totalitarian impulse in Anglo Saxonia.  So there may be no escape for me.

* * * * *

I wanted to talk about the NFL kneelers; the student wanted to talk about North Korea.  The student had seen a report stating that Trump wanted to destroy North Korea and that China was concerned.  I went on a rant about the duplicity of the Chicoms in the whole affair.  If there is a nuclear war, it is China that must bear the blame.  It has been aiding and abetting the evil Nork regime all these years. Later, I told the student, who is an NBA fan (hoo-hum!!) to watch how the kneeling controversy affects the NBA which has had a spat of its own with Trump.

* * * * *

I told the students that Chinese eat a lot of rice. One of the students, who had told me earlier in the month that Chinese drivers yield to pedestrians (see above), said that it wasn't so. "You only see the Chinese eating rice and don't see the Chinese who aren't eating rice!" she told me.

This argument didn't happen. But I should have used the example in my argument earlier in the month. It wouldn't have clinched the issue with logic instead of just facts.

* * * * *

The truth is that teaching English to Mainland Chinese students is tedious. It is a rare thing indeed when I find myself not feeling like I am running out the clock. I have been told that in other countries, this is not the case. The students have things to say and things that they want to say.

I can even give an example from when I was studying with a Chinese teacher of how I used my imagination when speaking. I remember once that I wrote a dialogue in Chinese of Xi Jing Ping and I in the bar, and the teacher was amazed by it. While I made many errors, I tried to say things that the Chinese teacher would have never thought of herself.

Disillusioned but persisting.

* * * * *

As September 2017 came to an end, we had the golden week holiday, in the first week of October to look forward to, and so I asked others what their plans were. Some told they were going back to their hometowns, and many told me that to go anywhere in China that was touristy in nature was worth the bother because they would probably be over run with people.

Jenny had thought to go to a place called Chocolate Town in Zhenjiang Province but I vetoed the idea and got Tony to agree with me by telling him that it was going to be way crowded.

We will go to Jenny's hometown for a day but I am not looking forward to the drive to get there and back. Last time, it took us over three hours to go about 97 km on a freeway.





Friday, September 1, 2017

August 2017 Diary

We – that be I, my wife Jenny and my son Tony – spent most of August 2017 in Canada.


My account of our trip will be divided into three sections: the time we spent in the province of British Columbia, the time we spent in Winnipeg, which is in the province of Manitoba, and the time we spent in Brandon, Manitoba. [There was an annoying unplanned fourth part to our journey which I will relate to you as well.]


* * * * *


The start of the journey: on the evening of July 30th, we hired a driver to take us to Shanghai Pudong Airport as our flight to Hong Kong (on Hong Kong Airlines) was to leave at 7:00 AM the next morning. We didn't stay in a hotel; we waited in the airport till we could check in at 5:00 AM. We weren't the only ones to do this. The airport was full of people and it was hard for us to find seats to while away the time.


We flew to Hong Kong so we could catch a Hong Kong Airlines flight to Vancouver. Jenny booked it this way because it was cheaper than flying directly out of Shanghai.


The flight from Hong Kong to Vancouver was an ordeal. We weren't given seats together. Two of our seats were in the center row; the other was a window seat. I took the window seat, sitting next to a Miss Li, a pretty girl, and so I felt even more constrained as I tried unsuccessfully to find a relaxing position to sit and sleep. Leaning my head against the side wall and away from Miss Li just didn't do it.


* * * * *


Once in Canada, we spent five nights in British Columbia. We spent three of them in Vancouver and two in Abbotsford. The big city and the little city are about an hour's drive apart. We stayed at a the Raddison in Richmond which was near the airport and stayed with some friends in Abbotsford.


Vancouver seemed crazily up-to-date to me. It was fill of very affluent, good-looking trendies and lots of weirdos. We saw people parking their expensive sports cars on Robson and then others sleeping on sidewalks. We walked through a cloud of pot smoke twice and I had to explain to Jenny what the smell was. The second time, the pot smoker heard my explanation and went on a rant about how great BC pot was. Vancouver was also filled to the brim with Chinese.


Walking along Robson street, the trendy street in Van (I believe), we came upon a restaurant called the Holy Crab. Jenny has always loved eating crab so we went to the restaurant the next night and then the next night after that, which was the night before we caught our plane to Winnipeg. So, Jenny ate lobster there for the first time and it seemed that Jenny was in heaven.


On the way to Abbotsford, in a rented car (a Hyundai), I drove the family along "0 "avenue because our attempt to get Jenny an American visa didn't pan out. [The application had to be made online and the way the forms were set up, there was no way that a Chinese person, with a Canadian visa, could indicate that she wanted to spend a couple of days in Seattle. ] And so it was the best I could do to drive Jenny on a road running along the US border. Heading eastward, Canada was on the left and the US on the right. At that point, Jenny & Tony could at least say they have seen the United States.


Arriving in Abbotsford, I saw that the sky was like it was in China. It was gray and the horizon were tinged in a dirty brown because of the forest fires that were ravaging the province.


Driving in BC, I got to experience how it compared to driving to China. My verdict: driving in BC was annoying, like China, but in a different way. I found the BC roads to be narrower and I didn't like having to either ride the ass of the car in front of me or having my ass ridden by cars behind. My BC friends complained that there were so many idiot drivers on the roads. When I asked what was so idiotic about them, my friends told me that they were impatient and would tailgate, even at speeds of 120 km/h. [Manitobans had the same to say about the drivers on their roads.] Still, I told them, they had no idea how stupid and inconsiderate Wuxi drivers were.


Overall impression of BC. British Columbia wasn't paradise. It would be more apt to call the province British Columbine. It was too expensive. Taxes, added on at the time of purchase were so much.


Meanwhile Tony always wanting to play games on my Ipad or Macbook.


* * * * *


We flew via Air Canada from Vancouver to Winnipeg. As we went to check in at the YVR, I learned that when I booked the flight online, I had gotten the order of Jenny's Chinese name wrong when I entered her information. The check-in person gave me heck for it and said that she could refuse to allow Jenny on the flight. But she then corrected the information and Jenny got her boarding pass. I very much resented the threat made by the attendant. I made a honest mistake filling out a form and I was felt to have been guilty of some sort of fraud.


Upon arrival in Winnipeg, we then had to go to the Air Canada ticketing place and get the information changed for Jenny's return flight and we got the communist, you papers aren't in order, third degree, again. They shouldn't have let Jenny on the plane to Winnipeg, said the attendant, as she corrected the information. And as she was typing in the corrected information, Jenny was thanking her, to which the attendant said "Oh it hasn't been corrected yet" before it eventually was.


Anyway, it is enough reason for me to hate the bureaucratic world we inhabit. I am just a guy trying to get home to see his mother.


Also, in the dealings with the Air Canada, the airline personnel, comments were made about having booked the flight through an online service. It was to haunt us later in the trip, this not booking with the airline directly.


In Winnipeg, we stayed at my younger brother Ron's house. My "didi" is plumber.


The three Kaulins boys: Ron, Tony & I went to the Railway Museum located in Winnipeg's CNR station. The building was quite nice and must have been quite the place back in the day when Canada's passenger rail service was a transportation option instead of the tourist thing it is now. I was impressed with the domed area of the station.


We then went to the nearby Forks tourist area. Before the place was constructed, a friend of mine and I wandered the area. It was run down. Now, it is an area of shops, restaurants and riverside walkways. Okay if you like that sort of thing, but I have seen too much of it in my modest travels around the world. Tony did say the slice of pizza he had from a Greek restaurant was nice.


Jenny, Ron, Tony & I went to Assiniboine park, the big park in Winnipeg. We sure saw a lot of non-traditional immigrants.


My Cousin's husband Pat. He has the right idea. He retired at 46 and spends his time at his paid-for Winnipeg home, reading and rereading Dickens. He has given up following the news and is happily watching the decline, for as he says despite its seeming wealth, the age is one of moribund decline


Jenny got to go a Costco for the first time. I didn't care much for the place. Though the place was big, the selection really wasn't that wide. Everything was sold in bulk.


We went to Grand Prix Amusements on the Perimeter of Winnipeg. Tony got to play mini-golf and drive bumper cars, go-karts and bumper boats.


I made some flag purchases for Tony. I bought three flag pins of the Canadian flag crossed with another country's flag. Those countries being the UK, the US of A and The PR of C As well, we bought a small American flag, a small British flag an old pre-1965 Canadian flag that had a Union Jack in the top left corner, and a fridge magnet with the Manitoba flag on it.


* * * * *


We then spent about two weeks in Brandon visiting my mother, aka Tony's grandmother.


My mom, a widow, lives by herself in a house that has four bedrooms and two bathrooms. It is too bad, we couldn't switch our residences. Jenny, Tony & I live in a two bedroom, one bathroom apartment in China.


To get to Brandon from Winnipeg, we drove, in a rented 2017 Nissan Pathfinder, the #2 highway. A few years back, my brother suggested it as an alternative to the #1 highway which I had taken many, many a time and which was quickly boring me. The #2 offered the usual boring flat field scenery, but along the way I enjoyed that the skies were big and blue, the fields were lush and green, the properties had immaculately mowed lawns and the traffic was light with not a single idiot driver to annoy me. The scenery has no doubt caused many a younger person to have the honky tonk blues as the song goes. And so, one has to spend many years in China to appreciate it. [One also has to drive it in August.]


To get to Brandon from the #2, one has to go North on the #10 highway. I was struck by how quickly one enters an urban environment when approaching Brandon via the #10. The first thing one sees as one approaches Brandon is a hotel. About thirty seconds later, one sees the city's big shopping mall from which its 6,000 seat hockey arena is only a block away. This Keystone Centre arena is about two blocks from my Mom's home. This sudden entrance to an urban environment is striking to someone who has spend over then years in China where it is hard to see where a city ever ends or a town ever begins because the human habitation never stops as one goes about one's way.


We went to the Royal Canadian Artillery museum in Shilo. Tony impressed Jenny & I with his familiarity with World War Two firearms.


We then went to a Manitoba Lizard Museum that was on the way to Shilo. It was located in what I thought was a rather strange location on someone's farm property. One had to drive down a dirt road for a kilometer or so and make a turn down another dirt road. When Jenny saw it was on a private property, she thought it was a joke. When I went in, the entrance door was locked. The lady running the place ran in and I bought three tickets. Tony and Jenny were turned off by the smell of the place and ran out. I went in and explored. T&J were right to wonder about the cleanliness of he place. It was dank like an old basement. Still, the crocodiles ( or alligators?) were interesting to behold. I was amazed at their being able to be so still that so that you had to wonder if they were alive or mannequins. Embarrassingly, I had to get T&J's tickets refunded.


I took Tony to a public pool in Brandon. The adults were wearing tattoos and trying so hard to look original. I did see a girl with a haircut from the 1980s whose appearance seemed so striking. [especially when I saw her again, a day later, at Clear Lake.]


We went to Riding Mountain National Park on a Saturday. Jenny & I sat on the grass near the beach and watched Tony swim and play with sand on the beach of Clear Lake. The weather was rather odd. We were at times felt scorched by the sun, comforted by the shadow brought on by the overcast clouds, and made quizzical by the rain that had a sun shower aspect to it. A bit of this rain caused Jenny to get us to put our stuff back in our rental vehicle. We wandered around Wasagaming, the town in the park, looking at all the shops, but didn't buy anything other than a fridge magnet to add to our collection. We then drove on the #10 highway which could be driven through the park. (It's a big chunk of land, this park) We hoped to see some wild life, but other than a pelican in flight we didn't see much. We did come upon some nice lake scenes and parts of Manitoba that weren't flat. The lakes were surrounded not by walkways but forest. At one point, we drove through a spot of torrential rain and then pulled into a nice boat launch lake area where it had not rained and we got strange looks because our vehicle was drenched.


At a used book store, George Strange's Bookmart, in Brandon, I bought two books about China by Simon Leys. Something I had hoped that I would be able to do. As of this typing, I can't decide whether I will take them back to China with me. [Later, I have read them both in Brandon. Leys is very, very critical of the Chinese Communists.]


I didn't talk to many Brandonites. Truth is I don't have any friends and few acquaintances here. Il left the town in 1987, having a bad case of the honky tonk blues.


I did talk to my mother's neighbor Bruce. The one who lives on our right on Queens Avenue. (when you're facing the street. The ones on our left are immigrants from El Salvador and mother can't stand their habits. They don't look after their yard very well. They are making noise at all hours of the night. They like to do things on their front lawn instead of their backyard.) Bruce had a lot to tell me about what was going on in Brandon and in Canada, and how a lot of it wasn't very good. Trudeau II was pissing money away. Contrariwise, Bruce, who had just come back from a trip to the states, told me how he was so impressed with American's ability to do infrastructure improvements on a big scale. Back to local subjects, Bruce told me that he wasn't very impressed by the school system. Kids were not learning basic arithmetic or grammar, but more about putting on condoms and gay being okay. He informed me of a change in grade groupings. Instead of the primary, middle and high school divisions that I grew up with and are still used in China, Manitoba (the rest of Canada for all I know) now has just two divisions: K to 8 and 9 to 12. Bruce said that it has resulted in kids being exposed earlier to drugs and other bad influences.


The one Brandon acquaintance I do have is Ramon Perron who I would describe as a legend, but one whom is avoided. If I was in contact with him all the time, I would get sick of him. As it is, I will make a point of having coffee with him every time I do come to Brandon. In Old China, Ramon would be a coolie. In Canada, he is a social economic failure working part time in the military reserve in which he has never achieved high rank. Because Canada is cutting back on military expenditures such as training for part-time military, Ramon is not working this summer. He tells me he is working on cleaning his apartment.


I will qualify all I say about bad Chinese parking. On a walk from my rental vehicle to the Brandon Walmart entrance, I saw many badly parked cars. Many drivers could not park between lines. One vehicle seemed to have deliberately taken up two spaces. It seems that Westerners parked badly as well. But at least they keep lanes clear.


I had trouble parking as well. In China I am used to rubber or metal stoppers to help guide my parking. No such things in Brandon. Also, my rental vehicle, a Nissan Explorer, is bigger than our Citroen. The Explorer is tall and so the ground all around it is a big blind spot.


The Explorer doesn't have an ignition key. To start it, I simultaneously press the brake and an ignition button.


The kids are ugly here in Brandon. Not that I care for Chinese kids, but the Canadian things don't do anything for me.


Perhaps, I just hate kids.


Still, Brandon is much cleaner than Wuxi.


There are lots of dirt roads in the rural parts of Manitoba. I don't see any in Jiangsu province. Driving in MB, I feel constrained because I don't want to drive on them. I suppose they can't pave them because the brutal weather conditions would make it expensive to maintain them and the tax base is so small.


Charlottesville. Hearing about it, I almost want to quit following news. Hearing and reading the reaction, I am reluctant to record my opinion on it. As always, David Warren had the best observation. Everyone involved in the incident was rabble.


The three of us went to the Keystone Center, a six thousand seat hockey arena. It has a new corporate name: Westman Communications Group Place. We saw some Arabian Horses prancing about the dirt laid in the hockey rink. Watching the horses was a novelty for me. Seeing the Keystone Center brought back memories of curling and hockey and stick swinging incidents.


We drove to Spruce Woods Provincial Park. We went to the start of the Spirit Hills trail. Jenny did not have the proper footwear and Tony was a bit of a wimp. He didn't want to go that far on the trail.


Says Raymond Pero: "Brandon is a city of transients. They come to Brandon to escape warrants which have a radius."


I sometimes rail in my thoughts at my father for deciding to retire in Brandon. I have painful memories of living in this town. And after spending ten days here,in August, I am bored. The people I do know in Manitoba don't live here; they live in Winnipeg. Coming to Brandon is a duty and try as I might, it is hard to make the best of it.


Brandon Hills. A hidden gem, they say. It is so hidden, I couldn't find it on two attempts. The map I got from the tourism place was not very clear. The roads, around where I think the hills are, are not marked at all. It also doesn't help that the roads are gravel which I am reluctant to drive them on because I have a rental and don't want to damage it. [I had to get Ron to show how to them to it. And then I was able to give Tony the experience of walking in real woods.]


We, that be I, the rest of the K family China, went to the US border for the second time. This time, we were accompanied by my brother, Tony's uncle, Ron. Instead of Zero Avenue in BC, we went to the border south of Brandon. We took Highway 10 passing through Boissevain, one scenic valley and lots of flat farmland. We brought along a pair of binoculars and I discovered an interesting effect as I used them to look straight ahead on the road we were traveling: traffic seems to slow down. Put the Binoculars down as you have looked straight ahead and traffic speeds up.


There is no road running along the stretch of border to which we went. Instead there was a special park called the International Peace Garden. There, we took some photos at border markers, visited a Game Warden's Museum, looked at steel girders from the former World Trade Center and bought some souvenirs at a gift shop. Going to the Peace Garden allows Tony and Jenny to say that they have been to the USA. Leaving the park, we had to go through Canada Customs.


* * * * *


The end of the trip was a mixture of sadness, boredom and nightmare.


It is always emotional to say bye to my Mom. She is getting old.


I make a point of stopping by my father's grave when I leave Brandon.


It is always emotional to say bye to the people you genuinely like.


And there are the regrets of not being able to see some people.


* * * * *


We spent a couple days in Winnipeg before taking the plane to Vancouver. I got together with my old friend Ed Chalmers who is a police officer in Winnipeg. He is doing well. I particularly enjoyed him telling me that the police are always nailing drivers who have just come from China. One such driver couldn't believe that he would be fined for running a red light.


* * * * *


I found that I had retained some Chinese pedestrian habits when I was in walking about in Canada. On a few instances, I would approach a pedestrian crossing at the same time as a car was. If the car was in a lane close to me, I would expect the car to stop and I would continue to cross the street; but if the car was in a lane on the opposite or far side of the road from me, I would become rather discombobulated because the Chinese pedestrian in me was expecting the car to continue on its way and so I would slow down or even stop when the car would instead come to a full stop. Thus the car and I would both be stopped. I would then either wave the car through or embarrassingly run quickly across the crossing to let the car continue on its merry way.


* * * * *


Taking the plane involves lots of waiting coupled with anxiety about what things can go wrong like having too much weight and plane delays. Coming back all these things went wrong and more. I thought the weight limit on bags was 25 kg. Turned out it was 23 kg. So we had to unpack and shuffle things about the Winnipeg Airport. In the Winnipeg Airport, Jenny received an email about a Typhoon in Hong Kong. We were going to have to wait till we arrived in Vancouver and see what this entailed. It certainly meant delays and the question of where we were going to be stranded.


When we got to Vancouver, we were not allowed to check in because we had a connecting flight to Shanghai and they didn't want us stranded in Hong Kong. We were then told that our travel agency would have to take care of getting our flight rebooked. So, we were stranded in Vancouver and couldn't immediately deal with the travel agency because it was night on the other side of the world.


First problem was arranging accommodations. Using our phone we were able to find a hotel near the airport with a shuttle service but the bloody place was expensive.


Then Jenny had to rebook the flight which wasn't easy. For 24 hours we were on tenterhooks because it seemed that the travel agency didn't believe that we had been declined check-in by the airline. At one point, my wife suggested that we were going to have to get our return ticket refunded and book a direct flight to Shanghai which was going to cost us more money. But finally we were able to get August 25th flights to Hong Kong and then Shanghai.


The first day being a lost day, we had two full days to spend in Vancouver. We wandered around the downtown area at Canada Place and in Stanley Park. We rode the mini Stanley Park Railway and Tony got to play on the beach by the Vancouver harbor.


I saw more Vancouver weirdos. There was a guy dressed in a dog suit that Tony didn't want to give money to. I saw a fat guy wearing a suit with pants that went only as far down as his ankles. The beggars were very thankful when I gave them some change. One old man was so thankful, he wished me and "my son" a good day. But then I saw man, who must have been about my age, sitting on the pavement near the liquor store drinking a beer.


* * * * *


The flight from Canada to China (Van to HK) was the usual ordeal. The only agreeable parts of it for me were being able to finish a book about Sinatra that I had bought years ago and that I had found in my Mom's house, and being constantly brushed by cute air stewardesses going up and the down by my aisle seat. (And I thought that it was quick access to the bathroom that was the main attraction of aisle seats.) The food served was horrible. I had hitherto never taken up the complaint about airline food, but now I do. Before the flight, I saw the airline person who had made our life horrible by telling us we couldn't check into the first flight we had booked to Hong Kong. I looked away as I passed him though I really wanted to give him the evil eye and a rude gesture.


At Hong Kong where we caught a flight to Shanghai, I saw no sign of damage that had been wrought by Typhoon Hato. I did discover that I had been unfriended on Facebook. (by whom I will not reveal. Keep reading my blog and you may find out one day.)


Our plane landed in Shanghai at about 9:40 PM on Saturday, August 26th. On the flight from Hong Kong to Shanghai, we were again separated; so, Jenny sat by herself and Tony & I sat together. The two of us slept the whole way back from Hong Kong and we didn't bother taking the food that had been offered on the flight.


Clearing customs in China was fairly easy.


We got back to Wuxi about 2:00 AM, having hired a driver. After some unpacking and checking our our car (it was covered in a lot of dust), I went to bed to 4:00 AM. I got up at 6:00 AM. I was at work at 9:00 AM.


* * * * *


Tim Horton's is a Canadian institution and the one thing I miss about Canada when I am in China. And I am happy to say that my wife and son like it too. I couldn't give you an exact count of the different Tim Horton's locations we visited. I am certain we visited at least ten. I can say for sure that we went to Tim Horton's in the Vancouver Airport, Richmond, Vancouver city, Abbotsford, Mission, the Winnipeg Airport, Winnipeg, Brandon and Portage La Prairie. Some of these places, we went to more than one Tim Horton's, so I could say that I went to many as many as 15 Tim Horton's altogether. At Timmy's, I mostly drank coffee and ice caps, and didn't eat that many donuts. Jenny loved the bagels and the steeped tea. Tony liked the steeped tea.


* * * * *


When you buy airline tickets from travel agencies or discount internet sites, the airlines treat you like you are a scalper.


* * * * *


In less than 24 hours of being back in Wuxi, the rudeness of the locals got to me. It first started when I got cut off trying to drive our car out of the apartment complex. Driving only for a minute in China, I already was using my horn. I never used the horn once when driving for three weeks and over a thousand kilometers in Canada. Then I was at the Family Mart convenience store nearby our school and a couple cut in front of me after I had opened the fridge door to buy a drink. I grabbed one drink and was about to get another when they moved right in front of me. I muttered curse words under my breath.


* * * * *


The topic complaints. I asked the students what complaints they had about the Internet. Half of them mentioned the Great Fire Wall and the impending ban on personal VPNs.


* * * * *


Presumption.  That is why I think the Chinese are like weasels when they say "sorry" after a habitual act of rudeness has been pointed out to them.  Their sorries seem so presumptuous.


Am I not guilty of this sin?  Of course not. 



* * * * *


Less is more.


* * * * *


As August came to an end, the prospect of Tony returning to school (he'll be in Grade Four) is not pleasing to me. I don't look forward to the traffic at his school when I drop him off and witnessing him being tiger-mothered by Jenny. Jenny says that Tony hasn't learned anything in school. (To which I retort that we should home school him and save the expense and aggravation of having him attend school in China.)


* * * * *


Driving in Wuxi after returning from Canada, I have been filled with utter road rage. So much so that Tony has asked me why I am so angry. And so I am wondering why I am in a rage too. Perhaps, reading those two books about China written by Simon Leys which depicted the utter evil of the Chicoms contributed to the rage. Perhaps, all the thank-you's, the excuse-me's, and the have-a-good-days that I experienced in Canada and the yielding of Cars to pedestrians starkly reminded me what utter rude shits Wuxi drivers and Wuxi locals are in public.


* * * * *


On the second last day of August, I saw that the local police had placed some temporary signs at the intersection near Casa Kaulins. With Chinese character knowledge, the Pleco app on My Iphone, and Google Translate, I learned that the police were warning e-bikers (scooter riders you could also say) and pedestrians that they would be fined for not obeying traffic rules.


The next day, the police were out in force at the intersection stopping the e-bikers.


While something has to be done about e-bikers and their disregard of traffic rules and red lights, I shudder when I see totalitarian way in which the government goes about it.


* * * * *


To live in Canada or China? For me, that is the question. But to answer it, I will avoid the question altogether. Both countries are sick in their own ways. I would really like to create a third country where the people are polite, no one tries to cut in line, every town has a Tim Horton's, liquor can be bought in grocery and corner stores, the form of government is a monarchy, people go to church and try to please God, people can survive without a car, people have minimal material desires, and the creative energies of the population are devoted to poetry, not the creation and greedy accumulation of electronic gadgets.


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.

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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.

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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.