Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tony & Dad Can't Hide Anything from Mom.

At 7:50 PM on a Monday evening, Tony told Dad, who was lying in bed reading a book, that he wanted to ride the subway. Dad reacted with exasperation because looking at the time, he saw that it was late. The subway ran till about 9:20 PM. Be that as it may, Dad decided to honor Tony's request because this was the only week night that he could get Tony out of the house. So he got dressed quickly and told Tony to do the same.


Dad ran to get the e-bike which he parked in an apartment basement where it was recharging, and then picked up Tony from the apartment. It took ten minutes for the two of them to get to the nearby Yanqiao Metro station. After parking the e-bike, they waited about six minutes on the platform for the Metro train. Instead of waiting to board the train at the rear, they walked all the way to the other end of the platform to board the train at the front.


The clock said 8:15 PM when they boarded the train that would take them to downtown Wuxi. And it was only then that they began to discuss where exactly they would go. Tony told Dad that he wanted to go to the Apple store in the Hen Long Plaza, but Dad told him that there wasn't enough time to do that. So, Tony instead asked to go to the Sanyang station and look at toys at the Parkson's department store. But they had done this the Monday before and Dad thought that it would be boring to go there again.


As they discussed the question of where to go, Dad noticed how very empty the train was. Dad counted eight people boarding the train at Yanqiao: less than the number of cars that the train was pulling. So Tony was able to run three car lengths and back on the train without passing anyone.


As the train got close to the downtown, Dad tried to convince Tony to go look instead at toys at the Far Eastern Department store which could be accessed from the Shenglimen Station which was one stop earlier on the line than Sanyang.


"You can see the wide selection of Ultraman toys there! It's the best in the city" Dad said. This argument convinced Tony who was in a phase of wanting to buy Ultraman toys.


They got off at Shenglimen and through a series of tunnels walked to the Far Eastern Department Store basement. Dad then had to convince Tony to take the elevator to get from the basement to the fifth floor toy department. (Usually, Tony was gung-ho to take an elevator) When the elevator door opened at the fifth floor, Tony saw the Toy department and sprinted excitedly to it.


Having convinced Tony two times in a row to do something, Dad patted himself on the back for his power of persuasion with his son. But he hadn't considered that Tony assumed that a toy was going to be purchased.


Tony began looking for a certain model of Ultraman figure. The number 22 model to be precise. He couldn't see it on the shelf and so he asked the clerk to find it for him. Dad, who was daydreaming and looking at all the idle clerks on the fifth floor waiting for their shifts to end, only noticed, when it was too late, that Tony had a clerk helping him. Dad felt embarrassed as he saw the clerk crouched down at the shelf looking through all the Ultraman figures as Tony stood beside her. Dad moaned to himself that it would be such a shame to not buy anything, considering that the clerk was acting on the possibility that there might be a sale. He didn't want to waste the poor woman's time.


The clerk found Ultraman Model 22 – it was in the back of the display shelf behind the other models – and handed it to Tony. Then to Dad's horror, Tony and the clerk walked over to the service desk and the clerk filled out an invoice form, for the toy, which Tony then handed over to Dad.


"I can't buy this!" Dad said. "Mom will kill us!"


So Dad, realizing that a firm "no!" to any toy purchases was an impossibility, tried to convince Tony to buy something cheaper. He first tried to get him to buy an Ultraman egg toy that was half the price of the Ultraman model 22, but Tony wasn't interested. He tried then to get Tony to buy a toy matchbox car which was one fifth the price of model 22 but Tony again wasn't interested.


But Dad persisted.


"Buy a toy car!"


"I don't want to buy a toy car!" Tony said.


"Buy the toy car! It's cheaper!"


"I don't want to buy a car!!"


Tony began to cry in an inconsolable manner.


Dad was whooped. He decided to buy the Ultraman Number 22 for Tony. He tried to quickly calculate how he would be able to pay for lunch while he was at work for the next week.


Dad was miffed as he pulled money out of his wallet and presented the invoice to the cashier. So he slapped Tony on the shoulder and told him two things. First, that this was to be the last toy he would get for Tony before Christmas (it was September). Second, that Tony & he would not tell Mom about this. They would not say a thing. Mum's the word and all that.


They walked back with a receipt to pick up the toy and Dad looked at his watch and saw it was 8:55: time to catch the train back home. So Tony and Dad took the elevator to the basement and walked to the Shenglimen train station. All the while, Dad harped about how they mustn't tell Mom and that this was to be the absolutely last toy Tony would get before Christmas.


As they waited at the Shenglimen platform, Dad removed the Ultraman Number 22 from its package and threw the package into a trash receptacle in order to hide any evidence of a toy purchase being made. Tony, who liked to keep the toy packages, reluctantly went along with the disposal.


At 9:10 PM, they boarded the train headed to Yanqiao.. For the entire ride, Dad told Tony that this was the last toy he was going to get before Christmas, and they would have to hide the fact of the toy purchase from Mom.


The train arrived at the Yanqiao station at 9:30 PM and Dad & Tony took the e-bike back home. As Dad rode the family e-bike back home, he kept telling Tony to not tell Mom about the toy and that they would maybe hide it from Mom by putting it in Dad's bag for a day or so.


As they were on the e-bike, they got a phone call from Mom who said that she had locked the door to the apartment because she was about to take a shower. This was fortuitous, thought Dad because it meant that they could more easily get into the apartment without Mom noticing the toy.


They then arrived back at the apartment complex and Dad parked the bike and continued to pester Tony about the toy. He took the Ultraman Number 22 from Tony and hid it in the big and deep front pocket of his Jeans. He ended the talk and the warning and the proclamations to Tony as they got to the apartment building entrance.


It is a three flight walk from the Apartment building entrance to Dad, Mom and Tony's apartment. Ascending the stairs, Dad pulled the apartment key from his pocket in order to open the door that he had assumed was locked. But he discovered the door was open and that Mom hadn't gotten into the shower yet, and was at the bathroom sink washing her face.


Dad crept into the living room and decided on a stratagem of putting the Ultraman Number 22 in a pile with all the other Ultraman figures and Ultraman eggs that Tony already had. Tony, for his part, played with toy cars instead of playing with the new toy.


The ruse seemed to be working. Mom was silently sitting in the bathroom. But Dad was feeling sheepish and in the back of his mind, a voice said that he wasn't going to be able to pull the wool over Mom's eyes.


Still, for five minutes, he thought that was a chance that they could get away with it.


Mom continued to sit calmly in the bathroom, playing on her Iphone.


Dad took a rest on the bed.


Mom, all of a sudden, asked if the boys if they had bought toys. She wondered, she said, because she had heard the two of them arguing as they came into the apartment building. Dad, not wanting to say yes to Mom's query, said nothing. It was Tony who spilled the beans, telling Mom about the toy he had gotten.


Tony and Dad had done themselves in by thinking that Mom was in the shower.


"Tony! I hate you!" exclaimed Dad.


Mom had strong words for both of them.


Dad in turn criticized Tony and Tony started to sob. Just like he had when he was in the department store.


And so when Tony starting sobbing in the innocent way that children can pull off, Dad felt remorse and let Tony sit on his lap.


"You can't hide anything from Mom" thought Dad. There is no point in even trying. Even if Mom had been in the shower, she would have suspected eventually that Dad & Tony were up to something.



Sunday, September 21, 2014

To Have or Not Have a Car in Wuxi, China?

As I ponder this question, I make the following thoughts and observations and statements:
  • Cars are nice things to have and they do cause those who don't have them to feel envious of those who do.
  • I don't have a car.
  • Be that as it may, the first Wuxi foreigners to have cars, with the exception of one German I knew, were insufferable to be around because they had cars. If there was any sense in this world – and there isn't much – those people should have had one of their digits cut off. This would have may be tolerable and even figures worthy of admiration.
  • My wife doesn't appear to want a car.
  • Many of my wife's relatives have cars, including one of her sisters.
  • So many people in Wuxi now have cars. I would even go as far to say that too many people in Wuxi now have cars.
  • The mob having cars is all the more reason than in individual shouldn't.
  • Wuxi has bad smog. Not as bad as Beijing or Shanghai but Wuxi's smog would be a scandal in Canada or America.
  • The fact that so many people have cars makes many places, including those that you can only get to by car, not worth going to because cars and crowds take the romance out of even the most scenic spots.
  • When I initially came here, I liked how I could live in Wuxi without owning a car. I could take buses and cars anywhere, and it was easy to hire a car with driver.
  • An e-bike is much cheaper than a car.
  • An e-bike is a pain in the ass to recharge and it is even more of a pain in the ass when it has a flat tire. It is easier to change a tire on a car than on an electric bike. And an electric bike that has a flat tire is a pain in the ass to try to push to the repairman.
  • Riding and e-bike or bicycle in the rain is not enjoyable, in the least.
  • Parking. The problem with cars is that they have to be parked. It has been pointed out that most of the time cars aren't moving but just taking up space. At my apartment complex, this is a very noticeable problem as cars will block paths meant for pedestrians and bicycles.
  • Living in my apartment complex, which has not enough speed bumps, I can see why speed bumps were invented.
  • Parking in downtown Wuxi is a pain, the students who own cars have told me. One student told me that she had to drive around the downtown for ten minutes before she could finally find a parking spot.
  • Some students tell me they pay as much as 800 rmb a month for parking in their apartment complex.
  • There is something ugly about a structure that is surrounded by parking space. Examples: Shopping Malls and Stadiums.
  • Cars give the average person freedom of mobility but they also seem to be an excuse for the government to exert more control. Governments like to mine car owners for money with speed cameras. Never are people more subject to the totalitarian impulses of the supposed democratic state than when they own cars
  • A neighborhood that you can walk through is more attractive than one that you have to drive through. I like the tight compact old neighborhoods in Wuxi where the lanes are as wide as apartment hallways.
  • Have a car and you have to go somewhere with it, even when you would rather stay home.
  • You need a lot of money to operate a car.
  • The opportunity costs of what you could do with the money you spend on owning and operating a car are high. In my case, I wouldn't be able to go back to Canada with my family if I owned a car.
  • Chinese drivers drive rudely and selfishly. If I drove about Wuxi, I would experience road rage. Chinese drivers like to drive on sidewalks and honk at pedestrians in front of them to get out of their way. In my apartment complex, drivers will do 50 kilometers per hour, oblivious to pedestrians, when proceeding along the narrow lane ways between the apartment buildings.
  • Chinese drivers cheat with their cars the way cyclists cheat with the bicycles.
  • I don't want to associate or have anything in common when persons who will not take into account the presence of pedestrians when making turns.
  • Many of the road are six lanes wide in the area of Wuxi where I live. It overwhelms a pedestrian and makes him feel like an inadvertent trespasser.
  • Public transportation in Wuxi is not bad, especially when you compare it to anywhere in Canada. In Wuxi, buses are plentiful and cheap to ride. Taking the subway is the best way to go to downtown Wuxi. I can take a shuttle bus without having to wait long for to get to the Subway which leaves every ten minutes for downtown.

I hope I have supplied a good list of the pros and cons of owing a car in Wuxi.

Weighing what I have said, I declare that currently I have no desire to own a car because I want to go to Canada and I want to own a Macbook computer. As well, I can get by quite nicely with the Wuxi public transportation system and using an e-bike. But more importantly, my wife doesn't appear to want to buy a car. If she is fine with not having a car, then I am happy. It is nice to not be alone when defying the world and the mob with it's materialistic impulses.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

To Have or Not Have Breakfast at 7 + 7?




In late August of 2014, I had breakfast at the 7 + 7 restaurant for the first time.

7 + 7 is a cafeteria style restaurant chain that is popular with the locals. Customers go in the restaurant, pick up trays and go along a line asking the servers to hand them various dishes just like they were in a cafeteria or a mess hall. 7 + 7, known as qi jia qi (七加七)to the locals, offers simple local fare, a lot of vegetables and meat dishes, at a reasonable price, or so the locals have said to me. I eat there sometimes, often for supper, but find it dull. If anything, it is a good place to get a big portion of plain white rice at a very cheap price.

One Thursday morning in August – Thursday morning is when I have an early shift at my school – I found myself having breakfast at the 7 + 7 that is near my school. I hadn't intended to do. What happened was this: I was getting off the train at the Metro station near my school when I ran a young woman with the English name of Sophia. I knew her from the bus I used to take back home in the days when there wasn't a Metro. Recognizing me and not having seen me for a while, Sophia invited me to have breakfast at 7 + 7.

I joined her but not before buying coffee at McDonald’s. In my over ten years in Wuxi, it has been my constant habit to have breakfast at McDonald's; and since I like to think of myself as a conservative reactionary, I needed someone, like Sophia, to get me to try something different.

When I walked into the 7 + 7 in the morning hours for the first time ever, I saw that Sophia had already gotten her food and had sat down. So I walked to the cafeteria line and picked up a tray. What I then saw was a revelation to me. 7 + 7 had a good selection of tasty breakfast food and so I had a big bowl of porridge, two youtiao (fried dough sticks), three fried dumplings, and two fried eggs. This all cost me less than a typical breakfast meal at McDonald's, and so I thought that I had found a new place to have breakfast every morning. I sat down and mentioned this to Sophia who also answered my queries about the progress of her pregnancy.

The next day, I returned to 7 + 7, and found that there wasn't as much breakfast food to choose from as there had been the day before. I figured this was because I went there at 9:00 AM instead of 8:00 AM as I had the first time. So I saw that I really had to get to 7 + 7 early if I wanted to have a big and satisfying breakfast.

I then tried to go to 7 + 7 a third time on Saturday and was thoroughly disappointed. There was no youtiao and no fried eggs and no dumplings. There was porridge, but eating it all by itself without any of my other favorite dishes, I felt like I was in prison, eating gruel.

But what really ruined that third visit was this loud, barbarous, wrinkly-faced, obnoxious, impatient woman who along with her friend barged ahead me and some others who were lined up and trying to get food from the cafeteria line workers.. She caused me to feel stranded as I stood waiting to get served and then to pay. Seeing her force her way to the front, I couldn't decide if it was good etiquette to move ahead of some people standing still in the cafeteria line. Were they waiting to be served? Or were they waiting to pay like I was? That loud ugly woman seemed to have not pondered that problem for a second. She had the single minded focus of a Wuxi driver or a Wuxi cyclist making a right turn without looking to the left to see if there was oncoming traffic.

Anyway, it was all enough to quickly dampened my enthusiasm for 7 + 7.

I may well go to 7 + 7 again, but the circumstances have to be right. I have to be downtown before eight and not on a weekend, and I have to hope that there isn't some man or woman hell bent on getting served before people who had come earlier.

So, I am stuck with McDonald's for breakfast for the foreseeable future.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

August 2014: Taking Tony to Work Day, Robin Williams, Simon Leys, Wuxi Metro Disenchantment

[I wrote most of this in August and so it isn't very timely. Be that as it may, I am publishing it since I took the time to write it.


I have written an addendum because my carping about a shuttle bus was answered.]


AKIC blogger took August 2014 off. He had some vague ideas about recharging his batteries and spending some time seriously rethinking how to change how he had been doing his blog.


He instead withered the month away and couldn't come up with any ideas for how to write his blog except to use headlines in his entries and talk about himself in the third person. [Which he will stop doing now. Now. I am now writing about myself in the first person!]


Restaurant Fight

I got to take Tony to work with me one day in August. I fancied that there would be great father son bonding moments and that I would be able to show off my son to all the women at work who would all be impressed by his cuteness and charm. (I couldn't give a damn what the men, all foreign, thought) However, all Tony did was play computer games on my Ipad; and he was shy to all those who wanted to meet him and to all those to whom I tried to introduce him.


When one particularly attractive girl from the school tried to talk to him, Tony ran away fast. Maybe, he was shy or was displaying a preternatural ability to detect trouble – that is women – but I hated to see him do that.


While teaching a class, I had female co-workers mind him. When I came back after my class, 55 minutes later exactly, I came back to see Tony staring at the Ipad, being ignored by the girls, and looking very disconsolate. When I asked him what was troubling him, he said he was losing at his computer game. He had proudly gotten through the first five levels of an Ultraman game but was stymied by the sixth level. (His being consumed by the computer game must have quickly bored the women who had been minding him.)


For Lunch, I took him to a nearby noodle restaurant. My spoken Chinese is awful so, using my mobile phone, I had Jenny tell the staff what to order for Tony.


While we ate, there were two incidents.


First, Tony caused a huge puddle to appear on the table top and floor by knocking over his bottle of ice tea. We had to get staff to clean up the mess with rags and a dirty tablecloth. Oh! How Tony always does the clumsy thing!


Second, we sat at a table near the entrance to the kitchen and staff rest area. As we were finishing our meals, we heard two male voices turn very loud and combative. We then saw and felt the thump of two bodies striking the partition wall that was just behind where Tony was sitting. Itching to leave the restaurant anyway, the chaos made me leave the place even more quickly that I planned as I reasoned that I didn't want Tony to see the fight and that we were too close to the fight for his safety.


As a result of this take-my-son-to-work day, Jenny doesn't want Tony to accompany me to work ever again. Not because of the violence he witnessed but because he will do nothing but play computer games.


Robin Williams and Simon Leys

The death of Robin Williams was of interest to me till I read an Theodore Dalrymple article about it. Dalrymple said he had no idea who Robin Williams was and so felt out of place with those of whom he knew who knew of Williams.


Thinking about it, I realized that Dalrymple was a fortunate man. Having just listened to some recordings of Williams doing very crude comedy routines and hearing of his personal lifestyle troubles, I didn't think Williams death was a big deal, sad though it was. I was envious of Dalrymple being able to inhabit a cultural milieu where he never encountered mention of Williams. Dalrymple doesn't watch television, proudly boasts of never having owned a television, and probably doesn't waste his time watching too many or any Hollywood movies. His books are very enjoyable and addictive. He has lived a very rich life, and observed many things with an incredible observational ability and profound wisdom.


Later in the article, Dalrymple mentioned that a famous Belgian Sinologist and Essayist Simon Leys had died on the same day on Williams. This bit of news lead to my finding and devouring quickly an epub copy of a collection of essays by Leys. Leys liked Chesterton, Waugh, Orwell, and had lots to say of interest about China. Leys's writing is as engrossing as that of Dalrymple whose books I eagerly devour too. And so I quickly lost interest in this Williams character.


Wuxi Metro Disenchantment

X-ray security machines have come to the Wuxi Metro stations and I am not happy. Instead of being able to go quickly to the turnstiles and onto the platform as I have become accustomed, I have my short path to the turnstiles blocked by barriers and have to walk an extra distance so I can have one of the many security guards at the station look at an image of the contents of my bag. It is all so stupidly pointless.


Telling the students about this, I was told that the security had been put in place on account of some World Youth Games being held in Nanjing! The students insist on calling the games the Youth Olympics.


Since I have one carp, I might as well mention another I have about the Wuxi Metro. In my area there is no shuttle bus which takes one directly to the Subway Station. My choices are to walk to the station, which takes twenty minutes; to take the 617 bus which drops me about three hundred meters from the subway station; to take the 602 bus to the Xi Bei station, the second station on the line, where the bus just happens to stop the station; or to just take the bus downtown.


[Addendum: In early September, the security checks are still in place and still annoying. At the Nanchang station for instance, turnstiles that were easy to access have been barriered off so that I have to walk an extra 50 meters to get to them.


But there are now all-day shuttle buses that can take me from a stop very near my apartment to the nearby Yanqiao Metro station. However, they aren't quite as convenient as I had hoped and imagined.


When I catch the shuttle bus in the evening after coming back from work, I wait seven minutes for a bus that goes on a route that takes me in a direction away from my apartment before it finally gets me to it, and so I don't save any time. I can walk home and arrive home at the same time as the Shuttle bus gets me there.


When I take the shuttle bus in the morning I have three complaints.


First, the stop where I catch the shuttle is the simple kind that just has a sign posted into the sidewalk without the accompanying shelter; and so when I stand and wait for the shuttle, I feel rather forlorn especially as people walking past me stare me as I wait for the bus. Why not have the shuttle bus go to the stop, with shelter, that is already in place?


Second, the shuttle bus route first takes you very close to the subway station without stopping and then makes an aggravating loop around a block that takes about three minutes before you are taken to the actual shuttle bus stop where you can finally get off the bus and try to catch the subway. The reason for the loop is that the shuttle bus station can only be accessed from one direction. But why don't the Einsteins who designed the route allow the bus to stop on the first pass by the subway?


(Also this morning [September 5], the shuttle driver was deliberately driving the bus slowly as he got close to the subway station. If I knew more Chinese, I would have said something. As it was, I wished my Tiger Mom wife Jenny had been with me. She would have said something and that driver's ears would have been ringing!)


My third complaint was about the Wuxi Bus App on my Ipad. Testing it out early in the morning, it worked fine. I saw the bus I was tracking drive past my apartment window just as the App indicated it would. But then the App seemed to stop working when I wanted to catch that bus. Was the shuttle driver being lazy and not pressing some buttons to relay information. Was internet traffic high? The App not working meant I couldn't minimize my wait time for the bus which was why Apps like that were created in the first place!]

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I Have Spent Ten Years in Wuxi, China!

"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?

Sure.


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:

  1. There have been professional disappointments which I won't go into detail. Suffice to say, I am not meant to be a manager.

  2. 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?

  3. 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.)

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. I have never been able to make much of a presence on the Internet.

  7. The many students whose final class I have taught and whose level of English, as far as I can determine, hasn't improved much.

  8. I didn't sock a bunch of people who deserved it.

  9. Having had to meet so many ass-hats.

  10. 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!




Sunday, August 31, 2014

Tony is Back to School!

Monday morning I took him to be picked up by the car that takes him to school. He is in grade two now and he is attending a local elementary school

This means my four week hiatus from blogging has ended.

During my hiatus, I was going to think of ways to change how I would write my blog entries. I had been publishing a diary more or less on a weekly basis, but I began to find the format stale.   I would spend the month figuring out a new way of AKIC blogging I imagined.

But I frittered the month away. Right now,  I have not the vaguest idea of how I will now do my blog entries. I have thought to abandon the diary format entirely, and write shorter entries which would be essays or even briefer eyewitness accounts of things that strike me as odd as I putter around Wuxi.

So.

It looks like I am going to be writing shorter entries.


P.S. Turning the calendar page to September means that I have spend ten full years in Wuxi. I should write an essay about that....

Saturday, August 30, 2014