"So. You have spent ten years in Wuxi? Are you nuts? Why would you do such a thing? And why work at the same school for all those years as well?"
Sheepishly, I think this is what many who have spent any time in Wuxi, but not as much as I have, would ask.
So why have I spent so much time in Wuxi? I got married to a local girl and obeying the local marriage customs, I bought an apartment in Wuxi. Why move and pay rent when you have an apartment? And why keeping switching teaching gigs like a free agent prostitute? As a family man, I got to keep things smooth and changeless.
So my choices in life are to stay in Wuxi or move back to Canada with a wife and son in tow. The latter option has crossed my mind many times but I haven't acted on it. It wouldn't be easy if I did and I wouldn't know where in Canada I would move.
But this essay is a look past, not towards to the future. What do I have to say about the ten years I have lived in Wuxi?
I have a lot memories for which I don't think I can provide a coherent overall theme. I have spent ten years in Wuxi, simple as that. I couldn't entitle this essay a Chronicle of Wasted Time because it most certainly hasn't been. I couldn't entitle this essay a Chronicle of Failure because I have achieved the few goals I had when I came here ten years ago.
Again, all I can say about my time in Wuxi is that it has been ten years.
So what I am going to do for the rest of the essay is ask myself some questions about these ten years. It will be an interview of myself, as it were.
Can you give a brief outline of your time in Wuxi?
I will do it in the third person.
Andis came to Wuxi in September 2004. He had been living in British Columbia, Canada where he had been a relief driver at a company called Loomis which was then bought up by DHL. Upon arriving in Wuxi early that September, Andis started working at Canilx English School where he immediately began to lead the dissolute life of a bachelor English teacher spending too much time in pubs like True Blue (which changed its name to the Blue Bar). In 2005, He started the Andis Kaulins in China blog. In 2005, he met Jenny at the Blue Bar. In October 2006, Jenny & he got married in Nanjing. In December 2006, they spent their honeymoon in Peking. In August 2007, Tony was born. In 2008, the K family, after living at several apartments in the area of the intersection of Renmin and Wu Ai roads, moved to their apartment in the Hui Shan District of Wuxi where they have lived ever since. For Andis, this meant the complete end of his life as a dissolute Wuxi Expat. His life became a long commute between the Casa K apartment, and his school which changed its name to HyLite. For the first year in Hui Shan, he took an e-bike downtown till three flat tire incidents made him give up that form of commuting. He then took many a bus and pedicab home. It was also about that time (2008) that he became head trainer at his school but it never worked out. In 2010, he took his family to Canada for the first time. In 2012, he took them again but his father died during that trip. In 2014, a subway line was opened in the Hui Shan District and Andis signed on for his school for another year.
What is your first memory of being in Wuxi?
My first memory of Wuxi was walking through Nanchang Market and being stared at by the people working the stalls. My next memory was walking down Zhongshan Road and being completely disoriented as I tried to find my way to my school the first day.
Was living in Wuxi, a big change for you?
No. I had moved around a lot in Canada and I spent my last ten years in Canada, in British Columbia where being with the strange people there gave me an immunity to culture shock.
What have been the biggest disappointments you have experienced in Wuxi?
There have been so many, but that is just the way life is. There hasn't been one major downer, so I will just have to rattle off all the little ones as they come to me:
There have been professional disappointments which I won't go into detail. Suffice to say, I am not meant to be a manager.
There is always the disappointment you have in observing human nature. Why is it that the drunks and perverts you meet, end up being the most loudly sanctimonious and morally preening?
I have hated to see the lack of soul in the Chinese. They are generally good people and I have been the recipient of great kindnesses from them, but the China of today is very materialistic and seems to be adopting the secular vices of middle class westerners. And the Chinese drive without thinking that the other people in traffic are in fact other people. (If I didn't complain about Wuxi driving at least once in this essay, I would be guilty of gross negligence.)
I haven't learned to speak Chinese fluently. I went about my Chinese study all wrong. I didn't stick with a teacher and I didn't try to learn to read Chinese till six years after I came here.
I haven't gotten to see as much of China as I would have liked. I have only been to a couple of other places in China.
I have never been able to make much of a presence on the Internet.
The many students whose final class I have taught and whose level of English, as far as I can determine, hasn't improved much.
I didn't sock a bunch of people who deserved it.
Having had to meet so many ass-hats.
I am not such the great husband or father I thought I would be.
What do you mean by number ten?
I am not a husband like Bill Clinton. Perish the thought! What I mean is that I have been selfish. I got married at a later age and I have found it hard to shake my bachelor habits which are often very self-centered.
What was the saddest moment?
It happened when I went back to Canada in 2012 for a three week visit and my father died on schedule, so that I was able to talk to him the first week and deliver a eulogy at his funeral in the second week without having to change my itinerary. (I have gone back to Canada twice in my ten years.) It was good that I was able to see him on his death bed. I will forever admire the courage in displayed when he was given the news that he was about to die. But because of bad timing, I wasn't in the hospital room when he died and that moment really shook me that in a way from which I haven't yet recovered.
What were the best moment?
There were two best moments. One was getting married to Jenny; the other was the birth of my son Tony.
Have there been some other nice moments?
I have had a celebrity status at times.
I have had a pretty girl ask me questions about English.
I have had my name mentioned on the China History Podcast.
I have had my blog mentioned on the Commentary website, the True Git blog, the Duff and Nonsense blog and Sea-blogger's blog.
I have been recognized because of commercials I did for the school.
I have made a few television appearances.
I have seen girls swoon over Tony.
I have had Tony & Jenny tell me they love me. I have had my picture in the paper.
I have received many kindnesses from the locals.
I have seen many strange and exotic things.
I have see peasants.
I have eaten many exotic and delicious Chinese meals.
Has anything you have done in the past ten years made you proud?
I am proud to have gotten married and to have become a father.
I am proud to have put with the commuting to and from school for all these years. I am proud that perverts and leftists will shun me.
I am proud that I don't go to pubs anymore.
What do you think of teaching English in China?
I often can't help but think that it's a mug's game.
What do you think of the Chinese?
There are a lot of them and it is not easy to have a simple opinion about them. Anything I can think to say about them in general is not entirely true because I would be able to think of some Chinese person who would contradict it. All I can say is that the Chinese do things differently; and that maybe they are shy, hard working, incapable of speaking frankly, incapable of driving considerately, able to put up with things I wouldn't put up with and lacking in imagination.
What do you think of the foreigners who you have meet here?
I have been told on a few occasions that I shouldn't criticize foreigners in my blog, but I can't help myself. I have met too many drunks, mountebanks, perverts and sanctimonious preening Leftists to not feel compelled to say something. Why are most foreigners here? I suppose some are here to make money, some are here to sleep with Chinese woman, some are here to get out of their dreary existence in their home countries, and some are here because they like China. Though of the latter variety, I can say I meet two: one who told me he came to China because he liked Confucius and another who really loved the food. So they aren't all bad.
You're a political animal. What can you say about the political experiences you have had in Wuxi?
I have had a few students tell me that Chairman Mao wasn't all that good and that it would be nice if the Communist Party gave up its hold on power. But to be honest, I haven't thought that much about Chinese politics because I don't watch much Chinese media in my spare time. I find following US politics to be much more compelling. Two memories I wish to relate: First, I was here during the 2004 US presidential election campaign and remember someone in the office at school boldly predicting a Kerry landslide victory. Second, I had the chance to witness a pair high-fiving each other after Obama won in 2008. In retrospect, I have gotten some smug satisfaction from being able to observe these two episodes of foolish behavior.
Have your politics changed?
Ten years ago, I would have said I was a conservative libertarian. I would now classify myself as more of a Catholic reactionary though I am still very much anti left wing as when I made my conversion to the right side of things over twenty years ago.
Have you made many friends in Wuxi?
I have made one, but I have made more enemies because of my cheapness, my innuendo filled blogging, my aloofness and my political views. (How many times I have had people talk to me because of my blog, only to have them dump me when they become aware of my reactionary or conservative views.) I can say that I have made some friends through my blogging but they are not in Wuxi.
What's it like being married to a Chinese girl?
Having only married once and to a Chinese girl, I can't answer that question because I have no basis of comparison. I assume it is just like marrying any other woman where the best approach to it is in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church: you marry one woman for life, and she will always be the wrong woman and so you learn to adapt because, after all, you are the wrong man.
How do you feel about the internet presence you have tried to build for yourself?
It is negligible. I get about one comment a month to my blog entries. My blog's first moment was during 2008 during the Wuxi Water Crisis and the great snow storm. Since then, the blog has drifted into irrelevance.
What do you think is the future of China?
It will develop along the lines of Mexico, seemingly on the brink of collapsing but never collapsing till it finally does so in a way that will be unexpected by all the experts.
How has coming to China changed you?
China has turned me into a husband and more of a cynical misanthrope.
What new perspectives do you have from being in China?
People can do things differently in ways that seem alien, but yet understandable if you think, but not as a sociologist, about them.
Do you have any regrets?
I love the music of Frank Sinatra but I would never go along with the lyrics of his supposed signature song My Way. I have had many regrets. In fact, I have had too many to mention. I very much rue my being a passive guy in person. Some may say I prefer trolling on the Internet so as to avoid confrontations. So my biggest regret has my not doing anything to change this perception. I also very much regret not having spent more time talking to my father during in his final years, especially as I learned how much pride he took in my marrying Jenny and being a father to Tony.
Is there anything else you would like to say about your time in Wuxi?
I hate the Great Firewall! How much time I have wasted because of it!
I have seen lots of empty apartments and store fronts.
I have been stared at a lot.
I constantly hear the locals say, "Look! A Foreigner!"
You never know what the locals know or don't know.
As a pedestrian, I have been cut off by cars and bicycles so, so many times.
The Chinese use their horns more than Canadians do.
Temples here are templates.
Chinese students lead dull lives.
You have to get the students to think of subjects to talk about before you can get them to speak in English.
What grading letter (A to F) would you give to the time you have spent in Wuxi?
I have to give it a B minus. Having some faith, being married to Jenny and being a father to Tony has kept me from falling into despair. So my time here if it weren't for Jenny & Tony would otherwise have received a D grade. God! I love those two!