Sunday, December 10, 2017

Traffic Jam in front of Casa Kaulins in Wuxi, China

42 Seconds of Tony & Andis at the Hui Shan Train Station

45 Seconds of Tony & Andis at the Hui Shan Train Station

Sunday, December 3, 2017

November 2017 Diary

Comments about my blog or general enquiries can be sent to andiskaulins@qq.com or andiskaulins@hotmail.com.

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The first major news story of November was the Terrorist attack in New York City where the Islamist rented a truck to mow down cyclists.  I mentioned it to the students and one of them said she was glad in live in China.  I could only wonder to myself about where she got her news.

* * * * *

November is going to be my no WeChat month.  (I mentioned what I will be not doing at the end of my October entry.) There are two reasons I am doing this.  The first is that I realize I have been wasting lots of time looking at the app.  The second is this compulsion I have always had to re-enforce my isolation from others.  That is, to further keep myself alone from others.

I will make a log, written in the present tense, but how I am getting along with this vow.

As of November 2, I have looked at WeChat once but I haven't looked at any group postings or moments posting.  Moving the WeChat icon away from the home bottom App row of my Iphone screen has so far helped me with this vow.  So, I have avoided accidentally getting onto WeChat.

It is November 7th.  I wish I could make a posting about the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Coup in Russia, but I made a commitment and I must stick to it.  It's not like anyone cares what I think about that event.  [No responses to my plea at the end of the October 2017 entry for correspondents.  So it looks like I will have to be a correspondent with a better and more-listened-to blogger.]

On or about the weekend of 11/11:  Remembrance Day (single's day in China), I decided to extend my WeChat moratorium from a month to forty days.  I was listening to a podcast where the host sought to explain a duration of not podcasting by stating he had spend forty days in the wilderness.  He obviously got this line from the Bible and the forty days spent in the wilderness (or was it the desert?) of our lord and savior.  So, forty days of staying away from WeChat is what I will now do.
At 6:00 AM on December 11th, I will be posting a Nicholas Gomez Davilia aphorism to WeChat moments.  Will anyone on WeChat have noticed my absence?  I doubt it but it is always good to confirm.

On the weekend of the Grey Cup Game, I started toying with the idea of extending my WeChat avoidance through the whole month of December, thus avoiding contact through Christmas and Western New Year's.  Seeing how that the truth is I haven't completely avoided WeChat because I sometimes have to go to it to get messages from my wife Jenny or from people at work, I could say that sixty will make it seem more like the forty that our Lord endured.

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I have made no Chinese friends in my 13 years here in China.  I find their company, with a few small exceptions, to be boring.

I have no friends in the Wuxi expat community as well, for which I can offer many excuses.  My location in Wuxi and the worn paths I go on to get through my day:  both seem to serve to isolate me.  The Wuxi expats with whom I do have acquaintance are on the other side of town and even having a car, it is too much trouble to go see them.  Through the years, many of the Wuxi expats I have known have been too left-wing, too drunk, too perverted, too dishonest, too untrustworthy, too middle of the road (the most untrustworthy), too screwed up in their personal lives, or too atheist for me to stand their company or for them to stand mine.

I could also offer many mea-culpas.  I have to face the fact that I have never fully recovered from my adolescence which was very lonely for me. In fact, I had no friends as a teenager.  This loneliness I have come to see as a cross I must bear, so I have, through my years in Wuxi, made efforts to further isolate myself.  I have chosen to not talk to people.  Now some of these people did do things to irk or annoy me, and some of these people were best avoided anyway; but the fact is I deliberately made myself unlikable to a whole host of expats.

* * * * *

Tony made a middle finger gesture to me and asked me what it meant.  Geez....

* * * * *

My school is not getting many students these days.  On the first Thursday evening of November, I had one class with just one student in the evening.  I am supposed to have three classes with many times more students.

Why has the school's enrollment declined?  Many reasons.  The fashion for learning English has gone away in China.  The Chinese school system, thanks to Xi Jing Ping, has placed less importance on learning English in its High School qualifying exam process.  The Chinese government also has made it more difficult to bring foreign teachers into the country.

Specific to the school itself, there are many more reasons as well.  Our location is no longer so ideal.  I say this because I have seen many businesses in our complex shut down and because the big department store we are close to, Ba Bai Ban, has been eclipsed by Sunning plaza as a place to go downtown.  I also don't think we offer a very good service.  The education model is based on the superstitious belief that talking to foreigners will make Chinese students speak English get better.  It doesn't for most Chinese students.  Learning another language is a lot of work and the students have to be committed in a big way to doing it.  And many students just don't have the ability to do it and there is nothing we can do for them.  Language classes are tortuously boring as well for the students and the teachers.  Most attempts to make the classes interesting don't work because the teachers and students have very different interests.  It is almost like a dog trying to teach cats how to be dogs.  Also, our lesson plans are not very inspiring for the teachers or the students.  Sometimes, I am getting them to make sentence after sentence.  Sometimes, I am just running out the clock.  Sometimes, I am showing flashcards and trying to make talk about them.  I often leave the class thinking I wasted my and the students' time and that they didn't learn a damn thing....  And it is very rarely that I like the classes....

* * * * *

I was in our third floor apartment, sitting by its entrance, getting ready to go to work, when someone came to our door and turned the handle of our front door which was locked.  I heard the person quickly let go and I then heard what sounded like rapid footsteps going down the stairs and out the apartment building.  I opened the door and then looked out our window but I didn't get a glimpse of the person.

When I left our apartment and went downstairs I saw that a brick was holding open the front door to the our apartment building.  I kicked it away and shut the door.  I didn't seen anyone suspicious when I continued down the lane on my way to the bus stop.

* * * * *

Kindred spirits.
Have I ever been part of such a pair?
Or larger group?
Thinking back, I recall not and despair.

* * * * *

Take all the people away.
Let me walk about their rubble.
It would be akin to a walk in nature.
I could easily commune with spirit.

* * * * *

It was very sunny today.  There must have been four suns in the sky.

It was very cloudy yesterday.  I lost count around a million.

* * * * *

I try to read a poem every day, for as some wise men have said some truth is only available to poets and some truths are only accessed through poetry.  Something about school introducing my to poetry turned me off poetry for a long time because of the exercise where they would ask you to explain the poetry and find its symbolism.  They should have just told me that poetry has effects on us that often can't be explained by only appreciated.

* * * * *

There is sponge cake but why isn't there cloth cake or rag cake?

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[November 7th] The school is shrinking in size.  The old school location, which is nearby the new school location, had been turned into a school of Sinology and then into a daycare and then into a kid's school.  None of these operations got enough students to make it worthwhile to have such a large premises.  So, the staff from the kids school have been moved to the new location; and under-used offices and classrooms at the new location are being converted into classrooms for the kids school.  By the middle of November, the school, both adult and kiddies, will be under one roof.

I am not sure about what is going to happen to the old location.  The speed at which the school was moved out [only half a year after it had been decorated to be a kid's school] seems to indicate that someone else got the premises.

On November 7th, I have but two classes to teach.  Ideally, there would be five.

* * * * *

It seems that this English-teaching gig of mine is coming to an end.  So what will I do if the school shuts down?  Hopefully, I will go back, with Tony, and hopefully Jenny, to Canada.  It may be late in my life to start on a new path, but I can't curse my fate.  I choose it.

Do I have any skills I can offer to anyone in Canada?  I do have some good personal habits.  I am reliable.  I don't do drugs.  I don't drink to excess.  I never call in sick for work. I never come to work late.  I keep myself busy as my language study and the fact that I have kept a blog going for so many years shows.  I am loyal and I will put up with a lot of inconvenience and indifference from the world rather than give in to it.  Surely, that must mean something in this world.

* * * * *

Another mass shooting in America.  This time at a church in Texas.  A lot of good Americans killed.  It's the price you have to pay for freedom, I would suppose.  China could boost about those things not happening in China but then the numbers of victims of the Communist government's misrule are probably many times greater as a proportion of the Chinese population than of mass shooting victims in the U.S.

Think of it this way:  these shootings could happen every day for a year in the States and they will still not close to matching the victims of Chairman Mao's Great Leap Forward.

* * * * *

Sometimes I get annoyed at other drivers because they are just in my way.  This I shouldn't be doing because it does take the ground from under my feet for when I do have legitimate reasons to gripe about the local drivers.

On the morning of November 8th, I was driving Tony to school.  I was in the long lineup of cars going down the road by Tony's school.  I got to an entrance to an apartment building complex where, as I told my rare readers in a previous entry, the road becomes a uncontrolled T-intersection.  Confusion results as cars try to turn into the intersection or go through the intersection, and no driver dare yield to another.  My yielding to one car, that had beaten me to space, resulted in a black sedan, coming from my left and behind, passing me.  The black sedan then proceeded rightwards into the bike lane to stop. Our car was then besides the sedan and Tony wanted me to stop so I could drop him off.  It has been my practice to never go into the bike lane when I drop Tony off because I would only end up screwing up the traffic even more by trying to merge back into it. (Merging is hard to do because of the local drivers' desire to never yield.)The black sedan was in Tony's way.  My annoyance at the car being there resulted, after Tony had gotten out, in my making faces at and giving a finger to the black sedan's driver who was a male with a cigarette drooping so low from his mouth that it might has well have been glued to his chin.

I really shouldn't have been rude.

* * * * *

The weather in November has not been anything to complain about.  It has been sunny without excessive heat or humidity.  I think it is a shame that young people in Wuxi have to be in school.  Really, this should be holiday time for students and their parents.  Summer in Wuxi is a time when people should be shut indoors or attending school.  Autumn in Wuxi is when it is ideal to be outside and not in a classroom.

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November 11th in China is single's day though recently it has turned into a shopping holiday as bad as Black Friday in America and Canada.

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Tony is being bullied at school.  Jenny is angry.  I have these questions:  What are the teachers doing?  Is the bullying because Tony is different?  Should I be angry about it?

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On the 10th of November I learned that all the taxi drivers in Wuxi were on strike.  Reason?  Didi, which is the Uber style app in Wuxi.  I didn't know about the strike till a colleague told me about it.  Apparently news of the strike was suppressed on WeChat. (Which reminds me of the news blackout that initially happened during the Wuxi Water Crisis of 2008. No bad news happens in Wuxi...)

* * * * *

Tony wants to listen to Beatles songs.  A stage in a boy's development?  I think I discovered the Beatles at a similar age.

* * * * *

Hearing about the taxi strike gave me something to talk about with students.  One student told me that she was able to get a taxi driver to come pick her up at her company but the driver came in his personal car and gave her a pre-printed receipt.  The driver, I told the student, was scabbing which I found interesting because it re-enforced this suspicion I had that the locals will cheat whenever they can.

* * * * *

A student guessed that the population of the USA was 2 billion, after I had told her that the population of China was 1.3 billion.

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On Sunday, November 19th, I took the 25 bus all the way downtown, instead of transferring to the subway.  I listened to a Mother Angelica podcast and looked out the window where it seemed to me that the economic development I was looking at was spotty.  I would pass some finished construction projects alongside vacant lots full of trash and subsistence farming; and as I got closer to downtown, I saw a lot of closed storefronts in buildings that had been around since before I had moved to Wuxi thirteen years ago.  The older storefronts closed down were an omen, I thought, of what was going to happen to our school.

* * * * *

On Sunday, November 19th, Tony lamented that he had to go to “frigging school” the next day.

His lament was mine.  I mean I hate it when he goes to his school.

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Down the road, that Casa Kaulins faces, is the Hui Shan District Government Building.  It has been a site for protests, and as I was about to drive past it on Monday, November 20th, I saw a group of older locals walking towards its entrance with signs.  I would have loved to have seen what would have transpired but I was in my car and had no place to stop, along with the fact that I am too conspicuous as a white foreigner to be a lookie-lou.

* * * * *

I phoned my mother in late November and we got onto the topic of her family's escape from Latvia and the Soviets in 1944.  The Soviets and Germans were shooting at each other from opposite sides of a river near my mother's family farmstead.  Her mother faced with the prospect of the Soviets coming and sending all her family to Siberia, decided to put my mother, my mother's three sisters and my mother's brother on a wagon and horse with a few possessions, and head to the coast of Latvia.  From there, they were able to board a boat to Germany.  They spent some time in Germany and Poland, and were able to get out of the Soviet occupation zone and apply to immigrate to Canada, which they were able to do in 1955.

It must why I have always felt I have a lead a charmed existence.

* * * * *

Maybe, I will have Tony move to Canada in time to start his junior high.  I don't like the idea of him living in dormitories for his middle school life.

This gives me two years or so to plan.

* * * * *

I made a joking sort of Christmas/Birthday* wish list for my Speakers Corners which went as follows:

Lego
Iphone
Ipad
Macbook Pro
Size 47 shoes
a leather bound edition of the complete works of Shakespeare
silk sheets
dryer sheets
rosary beads
a Donald Trump tie
a Hamilton Tiger-Cats t-shirt
a “Make America Great Again” hat
Dove Chocolate with almonds
Crown Royal Whiskey
an AR-15 rifle
a Lugar pistol
Starbuck's gift certificate
a Fred Astaire poster
a map of Latvia.

You many be surprised my wanting a Hamilton Tiger-Cats t-shirt.  I saw a person wearing a Hamilton Tiger-Cats cap on the Skytrain and I have to admit it looked good.  It was probably the first time I had seen anyone wearing Tiger-Cat stuff.

You may also be appalled by my wanting weapons.  Well, gun owners are persecuted and so having some guns would be a great way for me to carry a cross for Christ and defend myself from the atheistic state.

*My birthday is December 24th.

* * * * *

 It stabs my heart to the quick to hear that Tony is being bullied at school.  The who is not so important to me as the why of this?  Is it because Tony is a little different?  Or is Tony asking for it?

* * * * *

I was annoyed by Jenny telling me that I was seen to have not been watching Tony at a swimming class.  All the other parents, Jenny told me, were.  First off, this was annoying because someone reported this to Jenny.  Second off, the idea of closely watching Tony in his swimming class is totally anathema to my idea of what kind of parent I want to be.  I don't want to be a Chinese style, Helicopter Chairman Mao, Xi Jing Ping, authoritarian style parent.  And anyway, Tony needs time to be by himself and he doesn't need me to be tiger-fathering him.  It is enough that Jenny tiger mothers him six nights a week.

I love my parents so much for just leaving me alone when I was growing up.  Now, it could be argued that I suffered a lot because of their just letting me do what I wanted to do, as I did  a lot of bonehead things when I was growing up and adopted a lot of stupid attitudes and failed in many ways.  But these failures would have destroyed a lesser man, and if my mediocre fate is what I deserve that I shouldn't complain or let it get me down.  Wanting freedom means you can't be blaming others for what is wrong in your life.

* * * *  *

As November comes to an end, I look ahead to the next holidays which are Christmas and the Western New Year.  I have decided to throw in the towel for planning or wanting something interesting to happen.  Last year's Christmas dinner at the Kempenski which I had so looked forward to and ended up being so disappointed by** has made me resign myself to letting Jenny plan what we will do at Christmas.  As far as I am concerned, I will be happy to not go out during those two holidays.  The only things I will care about is that Tony is happy with the Christmas presents he gets and that I observe the holiday in my solipsisticly religious way.

**The dinner was a money making exercise for the hotel.  They packed as many people as they could into the banquet hall so the end result was a Christmas dinner with 500 Chinese buffet attendees and my wanting to get out of the place but not being able to because of the money we had shelled out.

* * * * *

The government office got word that they were about to get a surprise inspection visit from a higher-up.  The woman who got the heads-up informed everyone but a person who had closed his office door.   When the inspector came, everyone put on an appearance of doing something except the man who behind the door.  He was discovered to be watching a video on his computer and was given hell for it with his name being posted on a big shaming poster.  The woman felt bad for having not told him.  When she made this confession, she also said that the surprise inspection was creating an atmosphere of extreme tension at work.  Anyway, it is said to be one of Xi Jing Ping's initiatives, these surprise inspections.

November also ended with news of suicides of Chicom government officials like a mayor who was caught embezzling funds and a high ranking military officer who was also said to be facing charges of corruption.  Talk of Xi Jing Ping wanting to take China back to the 1970s can maybe be replaced with his wanting to bring the Cultural Revolution.  It seems that the level of suicide in China is approaching Cultural Revolutionary levels...

* * * * *

Since, I won't be publishing another blog entry till 2018, I'll wish my rare readers and even rarer readers who have managed to make it to the end of this entry, a Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas!  And that's all you're going to get!

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If you have any comments on anything you have read in this blog, please send an email to andiskaulins@qq.com or andiskaulins@hotmail.com.  Please mention that you are making a comment on my blog in the email title space.