Saturday, February 7, 2015
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Having a wife who doesn't care one fig for western New Year's, I stayed home on New Year's Eve.
Mature people stay home on New Year's Eve. And I must say that I am fortunate to have a wife who is mature beyond her years.
I started 2015 with Jenny & Tony at the Lavit Mall which we can easily get to now that the Wuxi Metro Line #2 is in operation.
My first day of work in 2015 was spent organizing my work area at my school's new location. I taught my last class at the old location on December 30th. On December 31st, the move to the new location took place.
I didn't feel all that sentimental about leaving the old location even though I had spent ten years of my work life there. When I started there, I hadn't meet Jenny and Tony wasn't even a twinkle in my eye. Those events didn't happen at the school and in fact happened in spite of it. My years at the place really only served to further reduce my faith in the human race.
Our school's new location is not that far from the old location. In fact, I will be able to see the old location when I teach classes. We are located one floor down and across a lane from the old location.
The new school location affords all a great view of Zhongshan Road. We lost, however, nice views of the church, of a nearby park as well as of the Ba Bai Ban department store.
It will be my honor to be able to sit next to the redoubtable Edith, star of the school's commercials which appear on the Wuxi subway train video screens. [As it turned out, those commercials are coming to an end. They didn't do anything to increase enrollment at our school. Also, getting what I wished for has turned out to be a curse.]
I have a new computer at the new school location. My eleven year old Compaq Presario will sit on a shelf at Casa Kaulins. [I have three laptops now. The old Compaq, a three year old Dell, and a new MBP (my birthday present)]
One of the hosts of a podcast, I was listening to, said he celebrated his fiftieth birthday on Christmas Eve. So, I wasn't the only one.
I awarded myself the Wuxi Expat of the Year Award in 2014. Previous winners of the award included Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Gorzo the Mighty, my son Tony, and a blogger named Andrew Cowlinch.
Meanwhile, Paul Rudkin won the Shanghai Expat of the Year award for the second year in a row.
At the new school location, the foreign trainers and the Chinese teaching assistants are now in the same office, and so there will be a battle about whether to keep the windows open or not. Foreigners want the office to be warm, or not so cold, and so would like the windows to be closed. The Chinese want the windows to be open because they want fresh air. So, there has been an opening, followed by a closing of, followed by an opening of windows all the day long at the office. I have no strong opinion on the matter either way. If I am dressed for the cold, I want it to be cold.
Tony has been been saying s*** when he has an accident or mishap. He also has been saying WTF to express surprise at situations. Who has he picked up these bad habits from? From his parents and his video watching habits, I would suspect.
I did a commercial, for our school, in which I got to introduce baseball. I was filmed pitching a ball to an actual catcher and I didn't do so bad, managing to lob the ball over the plate with my unpracticed pitching motion. The players I was with were locals: one of whom told me his favorite player was Ichiro (who I have seen play in Seattle.) [The video is on my Youku Channel and will soon be on my Youtube Channel.]
In a Speaker's corner I did – topic Germany – one of the students said that the Germans shouldn't be ashamed of WW II. I immediately asked him why and he said they had apologized.
I boarded the 637 shuttle bus the same time as this old man, whose appearance made me think to write this blog entry. As he sat down on the bus, he looked at me and gave me a thumb's up sign. And so I studied his appearance. He was dressed in tightly fitting clothes. On his knees, he had strapped on these pads which e-bikers wear to keep their legs warm; on his feet, he had cheap thinly-soled cotton slippers that were ready for the trash heap. I reflected how he was a more interesting specimen of humanity than all the fashionable working and business types that I see on a constant daily basis.
I first heard about the Charlie Hebedo attacks when reading an email newsletter from the National Review. The reaction to the attacks has been intriguing and I have to admit that I can't give you a specific opinion on what I think about the attacks. But that won't stop me from trying. Here is a collection of thoughts that I do have about them:
I should say, right off the bat, that the murders were wrong.
I say that because, be that as it may, I don't join in with the "I am Charlie" crowd. This Charlie Hebedo magazine did things that bordered on bad taste. This doesn't mean I would want to suppress what they did, but I would heartily denounce them all the same. And from what I have heard, this magazine was France's version of South Park , a TV show which I mostly hate.
I also think the "I am Charlie" crowd are all hypocrites. They don't support unbridled free speech. They would gladly silence white right wingers. And they would probably not have the courage to put their lives on the line for freedom of speech. These hashtag gesturing folks are probably all pacifists.
Some of those Charlie Hebedo staffers who were murdered did have some courage. I have heard that they prophesied their murders.
Were The CH staffers martyrs? I would say not. They did immoral things.
One commentator, who I read regularly, said that the rally at Paris, where the leaders walked arm in arm, was another case of Princess Diana dying hysteria. I would have to agree. The mobs were responding to a media driven event. They may as well have been celebrating the victory of a Football team for the connection that it had to their life.
There is a clash here between Western Progressive Secularism and Islamic Fascism. But the Western Progressive Secularists don't seem to realize this. Or don't want to. Some of their first thoughts after hearing of the shootings were that they didn't want Westerners to hate Muslims and how they feared that nefarious right wing elements would even carry out reprisals. They were wrong of course. It was the Jews who had to worry about being attacked by these same Fascists who had attacked that magazine. The secularists are blind, probably willfully, to the nature of these Islamists.
Moderate Muslims have to worry more about being killed by extremist Muslims than by right wing westerners.
In fact, right wing westerners are the least of a moderate Muslim worries. Left wing secularists who are cowed by Muslim extremists are their biggest problem.
In another article I read, it was pointed out that the vast majority of Muslims argument used against voicing concern about Muslims in general would be akin to arguing that the vast majority of Germans weren't Nazis as a reason for not feeling concern about Germany in 1938.
The Bolsheviks were a minority of a minority in 1917 but look at the damage they did to the world in the 20th century.
For what cause were people going to the huge rally in Paris? Free speech? Secularism? Anti-terrorism? Pacifism? It's unclear to me.
Someone read my list of books read in 2014 and asked me where I got the time to read all sixty of those books, especially since I have a family to support. Well, I can say that I have a lot of down time at work thanks to preparation for classes that I have done over ten years. Also, I have a long commute at work which I take advantage of to read; and, as I said in my ten years in Wuxi article, I have abandoned the dissolute ways of the English teacher who goes to the pub every night or sits at home and plays computer games. [I read 60 books in 2014 and watched 61 movies. Late in January, I published the second list.]
I looked at my 2014 and lamented that I hadn't travelled much. The last time I got out of the Wuxi – Beixing corridor was in February.
Student working in a hotel was telling me how hotels will give discounts to people who don't want tax receipts.
To make some extra money, I have been transcribing videos of lectures. This month, I have been transcribing these journalism lectures from an Australian University, Latrobe. The lecturer is a fellow named Chris Scanlon. His Australian speaking patterns and his habit of saying "you know," "kind of" and "sort of" drive me crazy. This is the way that a modern university professor speaks?
A student tells me that she borrowed money from her mother to attend classes at our school. Another tells me that a teacher taught her the words "hung over," and "vomit."
From a classroom, I was able to look down and see a woman push an e-bike which had a pair of crutches propped on one of the handle bars. She pushed the e-bike to a parking spot, locked the bike up, and then took the crutches which she proceeded to use. One of her legs was bent at an angle. It was possibly broken.
I very rarely entered the squatter stalls at our old school location. Now that I have to use a squatter, I have seen some disgusting things. I hope I don't see anything more disgusting than what I saw one Saturday when someone had left a nine inch long, 1.5 inch thick piece of excrement behind the hole in the ground of the squatter stall. I couldn't close the door to the stall quick as I was quickly overtaken with nausea by the sight.
I mean like, who misses? I can say with full confidence that I don't, and I am a rank amateur.
I told a colleague[sic] about that sight. He went to take a look, said "wooo!" and quickly closed the door. He then went back to take a photo of it. We also got a Chinese staff member to look and he was disgusted as well.
So the mystery. Who is Long Dung?
Moderate Muslim is a patronizing term. The people who say such things would call any religious person who prayed constantly and gave off an aura of sanctity, an extremist or a religious nut job. [I get this thought from David Warren's blog.] These moderate religious types are in fact extremely religious. You have to be extremely religious to achieve any sort of sanctity.
I happened to see an old man at the 85 Bakery, grab a thick was of napkins, put them in his pocket, take a cursory glance at the cake display case, and then walk out of the store.
Seven police motorcycles, driven by a uniformed cop and a uniformed passenger, ride around the government building in the area near my apartment.
Tony & I got a ride home one day from a motorcycle cab (peddycab) driver who had MS. At the end of the ride, the driver asked me, in Chinese, where I was from. After answering his question, I told him that Tony was my son and that his mother was Chinese. The driver said this was good, and he seemed elated at meeting a foreigner. Dumb sentimentalist that I am, I decided to shake his hand.
After getting off the train one night at the Yanqiao station, I was walking to the shuttle bus stop and listening to music (Plastic Bertrand) on my Iphone 4, when I noticed a man beside me trying to get my attention. I wasn't sure what he wanted. I at first thought that he was someone wanting to practice his English on me. But the man said to me, as I took off my earbuds, that he was a foreigner too. He was from the Philippines, he told me, and was teaching math and English at the Xi Shan High School.
Jenny was moody this month. She has been alternately kind and angry with me. It has me on edge.
Much was made of Obama or any high-ranking American official not having attended that rally in Paris. The rally being so full of hypocrisy, self-congratulatory moral preening, and self-exultation, I won't hold it against any politician who did not attend. So I would give Obama a pass on this. Though from what I heard about Obama's motivations or lack of motivation for not going, it was a case of a broken clock being correct two times a day.
Obama is great at self-congratulatory moral preening.
I came home one evening from work (I work late four nights a week) to find Tony in bed studying a Lego catalogue. Seeing me, he asked me something about glasses. Not knowing what he meant, I asked him to repeat what he said. He asked if I had my glasses and I realized he wanted me to put on my eye glasses so he could show me something in the Lego catalogue that he liked and thus that he wanted me to buy him. He remembered another instance when I had told him I needed my glasses because I couldn't see what it was that he was trying to show me he liked then in the Lego catalogue. I told Jenny about this the next morning and she was amused.
A student told me that her company was holding a Chinese New Year Company Dinner for its senior level staff only. This company was too cheap to hold one(s) for their entire staff. The owner of her company, said the student, was Chinese and cheap. I was surprised to hear this because I had always assumed that companies in China hold Spring Festival dinners for all their employees as a matter of course.
Someone has broken into my blog sites and posted entries. The entries are spam like and not meant to be read but to make the site looked like crap. So, after having deleted the entries, I have changed passwords and whatnot to stop 'em.
A student tells me that the Chinese are the second most taxed people on earth after the Swedes. I don't believe that the Chinese are now, but I believe they will be when the government discovers that its stimulus won't be paid for by market forces.
The student also told me that businesses in our area are being broken into because the thieves need money to get back to their hometowns for the Spring Festival.
An aphorism attempt: Only two kinds of people are talkative: women and imbeciles.
I talked to a student who had more bathrooms than bedrooms in his apartment. There were three bathrooms and two bedrooms in the apartment he rented, he told me. Each bedroom was equipped with a bathroom and these was an outside bathroom.
As far as I can recall, he is the first student to ever have told me he was in such a situation. I remarked on his uniqueness to me and then told him I envied him. (In my apartment, there are two bedrooms and one bathroom)
Instead of taking the subway home, I took the 25 bus on the last Saturday evening of January. I did so for a number of reasons. Firstly, I wanted to see how the area along the 25 bus route had changed since I last ridden through it. Secondly, I wanted to save some money and see if I could possibly save some time. For less than a yuan, I realized I could take the 25 bus and get to the Hui Shan Wanda Plaza, where the wife and my son were having dinner. Taking the subway to meet up with them would cost me at least 3 yuan and not get me directly to the Wanda Plaza. Once I got to the Yanqiao station, I would have to decide on one of three way to get to the Hui Shan Wanda Plaza. Firstly, I could wait fifteen minutes for a shuttle bus and spend another one yuan. Or I could grab a peddycab and spend another five yuan. Or I could walk to Plaza which would take about twenty minutes.
The area that the 25 bus went through didn't seem to have changed much other then that were more empty apartment buildings and more vacant areas being prepared for the construction of more apartment buildings.
I did a get a seat on the 25 bus and happily read a book on the Ipad while taking occasional glances up to do my survey of the area. I had planned to take the subway and incur the extra expense to get to dinner with the wife and son, if there were no seats to be had on the first 25 bus that pulled into the stop near my school. But there were. And my being on the bus did result in a few of the passengers saying laowei. And as luck would have it, the 25 bus was, as it took me home, for a brief instance, right next to– less than 10 feet from in fact – the subway train I could have taken.
On the #1 Wuxi Metro line, the point where the track rises above ground is just alongside Xicheng Road: a road I had been taking often to Casa Kaulins for many years before the Subway was operating and even being constructed.
Less than a month and I have already gotten used to the new school location. I like it because it is a change and it has heating that works. I can't complain much about being able to sit next to the redoubtable Edith. My only complaint is the lack of western toilets. Worse than not having become anywhere near fluent in Chinese, I have not acquired a passable squatting technique.
Two English teachers walk into a bar in China. One says to the other: How was work? The other was mystified and asked what was work. The other teacher then went on to say that he had been drunk in his classes.
You know, I actually got a good thing going with this teaching in China gig. But I can't say that I take any pride in it.
The gig has made me cynical. I have become like Benjamin the Donkey, in the novel Animal Farm, who having seen it all, laid his head low and maintained a cynical attitude, not buying the bosch put forth by the pigs while at the same time not doing anything to rebel against it.
It snowed briefly in late January and the snow stayed on the ground in the Hui Shan district for a few hours. It just so happened that one evening I had to ride the e-bike home and thus had my first experience of riding a bicycle in snowfall. I didn't care for the sensation of having snow strike my eyes like cold pins.
After all these Chinese classes, I despair at the prospect of my ever being able to have a proper conversation in Chinese. I find that if I think about the tones of the words, I am not thinking of their meaning; and conversely when I think about the meaning of the words, I forget about their proper tones. My habit of speaking, in any language, I have discovered is to talk in flat but rising tones. The fourth tone in Mandarin, which falls quickly, requires my speaking very fast in a nattering manner to say it properly. I would find this hard to do in a conversation for even a minute without getting tired and annoyed.
The bus, I was riding, was three quarters of the way through the intersection when a car made a left turn in front of it. Incredible.
I then saw an e-bike do this to another bus I happened to be riding. Even more incredible.
Democracy went off the rails when they gave votes to women and the uneducated. There is no way of salvaging civilization as a result.
Thank God, I am married. If it wasn't for Tony and Jenny, I would do things that I would quickly regret.
At the Chinese New Year Dinner, it was the best that I could do, to keep silent. I didn't have an excuse to not attend it this year. [Last year, I was in Hong Kong.]
From now on, if anyone wants to make a comment about my blog they can email it to me. It is cowardly to insult me and not put your name behind it. That is something I have never done to other people on the Internet. Never.
If I must suffer in this life, I hope I deserve it. If I must suffer in this life, I hope it is for a good cause... To be honest, the first sentence is true of my life now. The second isn't. My right attitudes haven't translated into right actions. I am still too much of a secularist. My convictions haven't turned into actions and so my suffering is merely deserved without even the tiniest bit of righteousness.
I thought it would be amusing to put on my balaclava (which I had bought for riding my e-bike in winter) and pose for a photo holding one of Tony's toy guns. The idea was to use the photo for mock stickups on social networks. I am not completely at ease which having gone through with the idea.
I got an newsletter email that mentioned that Chairman Mao's Little Red Book was turning fifty years old. Rather auspicious for me I thought, having celebrated a similar milestone recently. So, I am older than or practically just as old as Mao's Little Red Book. No one I know of takes that book seriously now. It is considered a joke in the manner that North Korea is a joke. And yet during my lifetime, millions upon millions of people, in the land that I am in now, had to know this book or die.
On the last day of January, someone tried to steal our e-bike which Jenny had parked at the Wanda Plaza. The bike which we have had since 2008 is a piece of crap now. The thief while not being successful in stealing it, did succeed in breaking the only part of the e-bike that hadn't been broken: the back wheel lock. The e-bike is held basically together with tape. But the tape does have a second purpose. It serves as a sure means for us to able to spot the e-bike when it is parked in among hundreds of other e-bikes. Our e-bike is so distinctively ugly looking that I have to wonder why anyone would want to steal it. But someone did. Thieves, needing money for the Spring Festival could get 200 rmb for our bike, said Jenny.
What do I believe? The Nicene Creed.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Saturday, January 3, 2015
|The Rise of Modern China (Part 1)||Immanuel CY Hsu|
|Canada under British Rule 1760-1900||Sir John George Bourinot|
|Our Culture, What's Left of it: The Mandarins and the Masses||Theodore Dalrymple|
|The U.S. Civil War||John Keegan|
|Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics||Charles Krauthammer|
|Jeeves and the Wedding Bells||Sabastian Faulks|
|Lord of the World||Robert Hugh Benson|
|Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America||Mark R. Levin|
|With Lee in Virginia: A Story of the American Civil War||G.A. Henty|
|Richard II||William Shakespeare|
|The Niomachean Ethics||Aristotle|
|The Man Who Loved China (Audio Book)||Simon Winchester|
|All's Well That End Wells||William Shakespeare|
|The Orphan Master's Son||Adam Johnson|
|Homage to Catalonia (Audio Book)||George Orwell|
|Outer Limits of Reason||Noson S Yafonsky|
|Travels in West Africa||Mary H Kingsley|
|Antony and Cleopatra||William Shakespeare|
|Johnny Carson||Henry Bushkin|
|Under the Skin||Michael Faber|
|American Gun||Chris Kyle|
|Infinite Ascent||David Berlinski|
|Beauties of Tennyson||Baron Tennyson|
|A Concise English Grammar for Foreign Students||C.E. Eckersley|
|The Politically Incorrect to Western Civilization (Audio Book)||Anthony Esolen|
|As You Like It||William Shakespeare|
|The Comedy of Errors||William Shakespeare|
|The Seven Storey Mountain||Thomas Merton|
|Jesus Christus||Romano Guardini|
|The Tyranny of Cliches (Audio Book)||Jonah Goldberg|
|Everyday English||Michelle Finlay|
|President Me||Adam Carolla|
|The Story of the Greeks (Yesterday's Classics)||H.A. Guerber|
|Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China||Ezra F Vogel|
|Twilight of Abundance||David Archibald|
|Routledge – Teaching English as a Foreign Language||Many Authors|
|I am Pilgrim||Terry Hayes|
|Alexander Hamilton||Charles A. Conant|
|Prayer in Practice||Romano Guardini|
|Treasure Island||Robert Louis Stevenson|
|The Passing of the Turkish Empire in Europe||B. Granville Baker|
|The Hall of Uselessness: Collected Essays||Simon Leys|
|The Story of Magellan and The Discovery of the Philippines||Hezekiah Butterworth|
|Learning the Virtues That Lead to God||Romano Guardini|
|The First Circle||Alexander Solzhenitsyn|
|People's Republic of Amnesia||Louisa Lim|
|The God of the Machine||Isabel Paterson|
|Among the Believers||V.S. Naipaul|
& William Johnston
|Interview with History||Oriana Fallaci|
|Please Stop Helping Us:
How Liberals Make It Hard for Blacks to Succeed
|Jason L Riley|
|Leisure the Basis of Culture||Josef Pieper & Alexander Dru|
|Breakfast with Benedict: Daily Readings||Joseph Ratzinger|
|The Blessing of Christmas||Joseph Ratzinger|
|True Grit: A Novel||Charles Portis|
- I was born in December 1964. Do the math.
- The first thing I witnessed of interest in December was the public safety bully boys of the Hui Shan District surrounding the driver of a three wheeled pedicab taxi. They had used two pick-up trucks to corral the pedicab so that it was against curb on the side of the road. Five of the black uniformed men stood around the pedicab driver as he stood, his head lowered, beside his vehicle. I have heard that the pedicabs are illegal but I have used them on numerous occasions. They are cheaper than a car taxi on a rainy day.
- Within a period of twenty hours, I had two men come up to talk because they had seen me appearing in those short commercials for our school on the Wuxi Metro television screens. One of the guys was gushing and said that I was handsome. He also said that he saw from the commercials that I was teaching pretty girls English. What he meant was that I was appearing in these commercials with the redoubtable Edith who is a very attractive girl. Anyway, this kind of celebrity recognition seems strange to me because I find I am in the midst of a spiritual crisis and mostly feel isolated in my life. Really, this “fame” I have does nothing for my soul or even my earthly self-esteem.
- It is early December and I am befuddled as to what I should buy Tony for Christmas. It had been an easy and enjoyable task to do this previous Christmases, but in 2014, I find it very problematic. I can't think of a toy that excites me, and now Tony has suddenly changed his mind about what excites him. He had been on a Ultraman kick but it suddenly ended when Jenny bought him a yo-yo in late November. He now doesn't want more Ultraman toys for Christmas and wants a yo-yo, even though he can play with the thing properly (I can't either I must confess). He doesn't care for Matchbox toys anymore. I would buy him Plarail accessories or even more engines, but the toy stores that I frequent don't sell them anymore. (Has Takara TOMY Plarail given up on China?) I would buy him some Lego but Jenny opposes the idea because Tony's habit is to play with toys and not put them back when they bore him. What Tony really wants is an Ipad but that would be like buying a drug addict cocaine for Christmas – not done.
- A lot of our students have the Iphone 6.
- With so many Chinese having cars, there will of course be fighting about parking spots. At my apartment building, the people living above us bought a Suzuki Swift and seem to be zealously trying to keep the parking spot in front of the building. On many occasions, they have parked their old e-bike in the spot as a way of trying to hold it. But for a few days, a white Toyota has taken up the spot and I can certainly detect the look of consternation of the face of the owner of the Suzuki Swift. One Saturday morning, I could hear screaming in front of our building and I looked to see a woman pointing in the direction of the parking spot. Jenny tells me that the owners of the Suzuki Swift have not paid for the parking spot... Which explains why they bought a Suzuki Swift.
- I was with Jenny & Tony riding the subway when I noticed that these young women, who were sitting down from us, were looking at Tony. I could have sworn that one of them got on her phone and called some other friends, who must have been sitting in another car on the train, about Tony. Tony sensed that the girls were staring at him and looked away. The girls, eight of them, as a group, then came over and asked Tony & me if they could take a photo with Tony but he ran away into the corner of the car and looked away. I had never seen him so shy and scared. [I took video which can be seen on the Internet.]
- David Warren's description of Saint Nicholas was inspiring. The son of a rich person, Nicholas was not a rich spoiled brat (like some of our students). He lived simply and gave his inheritance away, anonymously tossing bags of gold coins into people's houses. Sometimes, he even sneaked down chimneys to deposit the inheritance. He was also so orthodox that he decked the leader of the Arian heresy, who was really an enlightenment (we can figure it out all on our own) type. A very un-bishoplike thing to do but it was something he did for the love of Jesus.
- Do you have a form showing you changed your passport? I was asked this question by a bank worker. I suppose she meant, or maybe my recollection was wrong, to ask if I had proof that I had updated or renewed my passport. My thought at being asked that question was incredulousness. Could there be such a form? My next impulse was then to say sarcastically, that here was my current passport: all the proof I needed to show I had changed my passport.
- I had to go into the bank and be served by human beings and deal with the bureaucracy because our school had told us that the bank was updating their plastic cards, making them more high tech and all that. If it would improve our service, I had in theory no objection to going to the bank and getting the card updated. I did worry about the time it would take – especially if I had to wait in line longer than it would take to have the card all changed and updated. I was told it wouldn't take that long, just bring the old card and the passport, and all would be looked after.
- But of course, I had to deal with the bureaucratic curse. To get my new card I had to make two trips and spend nearly two hours in the bank.
- On the first trip, the process seemed to be going along smoothly enough. (I did forget my password, having transposed two digits of it in my memory, but a phone call to Jenny set me right.) The clerk – or I should say one of the clerks – noticed that the passport number they had on their records did not match the number on my current passport. This, I told them, was because I had gotten the account over ten years and – as I would later discover – two passports ago. It was then that I was asked if I had any other identification I could show them or proof that I had changed my passport. That ended my first trip to the bank. I was to go home and find my old passport.
- I phoned Jenny about this and she told me that I should have just gotten a new bank account. I felt dumb at first after she said this and wondered why I hadn't thought of doing this myself. And so for a short time I was committed to getting a new account at the bank. But then I wondered why the bank workers hadn't suggested this either.
- One of the reasons to not get a new bank account was that it was a stupid and bureaucratic and onerous process that was best avoided. So, in the evening after my first trip to the bank, I got Jenny to retrieve my old passports. She in fact realized that I had to bring two old passports – not one – to the bank because I had in fact renewed my passport twice while in China.
- So the next morning, having no classes at school, I went to the bank with my old bank card and three of my passports: two expired and one current. (I have another old passport at home but that had expired in the 1980s.) It took them one hour to change the passport number in their computer system. The clerk who was processing this change didn't want to make any mistakes and evidently, had never seen a Canadian passport before. She continually asked questions of other clerks and supervisors (there was one supervisor whose job it was to stick her finger into an electronic fingerprint reader in order to authorize whatever it was the clerk was doing. I saw the supervisor stuck her finger in the machine four times.) The clerk was confused with how to enter my name (Andis Edmunds Kaulins) because she was wasn't sure which name was my family name and which name was my given name, and she didn't know what to make of my middle name Edmunds. (This confusion is a result of a differing practice of placement of family names in the West and in China. In the West, the family name is the last name; in China, the family name is the first name.) When asked to print my name, I caused further confusion by printing “Andis Kaulins” and they made me change it to “Andis Edmunds Kaulins.” A further delay was caused by my not knowing my address. They had to ask around to get the address for my school. Yet another delay occurred and I was then asked it there was an address on my passport. Having gotten annoyed at this point by the clerk's constant questioning of her co-workers and her evident confusion at looking at my passport, and her further studying line-by-line some kind of page-long directive she was consulting which must have dealt with how to change passport numbers in the system, I told them there wasn't. The clerk who spoke English – not the clerk who was processing the passport number change – told me that they needed a Canadian address in their system because five letters, not three were require in the system's computer data base. I told them that I had been in China for ten years and would have to make address up. I then swore at them, saying that I had been told that this card change that I was told that I had to do would take no longer then ten minutes. I can't recollect whether it was before or after the swearing bout that I noticed a back log of people were waiting to be served. So, I decided to make a show of it for them and got up and started pacing, my hands on my hips. This caused one of the people who had been waiting a long time because of me to approach the window I was being served at and to ask what the delay was. Mercifully for them and for the clerks and for me, I finally got my new card and was able to go on my way. With a sense of relief that the process was finally finished, I thanked the clerk and sheepishly apologized to her for my swearing.
- I had hoped to get my Christmas shopping done the day I had my bank card changed. I wanted to buy Tony a Tomica Parking Garage. There was one at the Sunning Grocery Store but it was 599 RMB. So, I thought I would ask Jenny to see if she can buy it on the Internet. I also looked at Lego toys. Tony would love them but Jenny had expressed strong opposition to buying them – Tony would be leaving the pieces in every possible nook and cranny of our apartment. [Jenny vetoed my wanting to buy the Garage on taobao saying it was a stupid idea.]
- When I go to 85 degrees to buy coffee, I always have to tell the clerk to not put my take out coffee in a bag. When I go to McDonalds to buy a meal, the drink gets put in a bag because I can't be bothered to tell them to not bother. I mention this little detail because it is a cultural difference between China and the land I had lived over a decade ago.
- What is the point of me following news or politics? Having a view on it does necessarily make me a superior human being. Having the proper view of President Obama or even Prime Minister Harper is easy to do and requires little effort on my part. And really they don't matter a fig to Jenny or Tony or anyone else I come into contact with.
- In a Speaker's Corner I did about the topic of blindness, a student said that the United States had been discovered to have tortured some people. Later, this same student then understood what I meant when I when I talked about how blindness was not only physical and involuntary, but could be willful and chosen. However, he managed to show he got what I meant about this kind of blindness while at the same time demonstrating he was blind in this way. “The Japanese,” he said, “were blind to the truth about the islands.” He was referring to those disputed Fishing Islands.
- Every once in a while, a student embued with political emotions will expose himself to me and the other trainers bringing up issues of political controversy in the midst of a discussion. I sometimes choose to parlay with these students but mostly I don't bother because I can't speak in a manner about these topics that the students could understand. In the case of the student at my Blindness SPC: I had taught him in a the class the evening before, and I saw that he loved to talk, but had poor listening.
- All the best restaurants in China serve white rat meat, I was told.
- December 13th was a solemn day in China, especially in Nanjing where the anniversary of the Nanking Massacre was marked.
- December 15th, I went to the underground of an apartment building in our community – that is, not our building – to retrieve our e-bike which was being recharged, and discovered that the extension cord we had been using had been stolen. We had had the charger for six years. Likely culprits? Some other e-bike owner or maybe some worker who needed an extension cord very quick and knew that e-bike charging areas are a great place to find one quickly.
- Refer to the first bulleted item of this entry and you may guess my feelings of bemusement are the fact that I may be going to the 60th birthday Party of Someone's grandmother this month.
- Tony's Canadian grandmother had cataract surgery done on one of eyes this month. I have confess that I feel guilt that she is living by herself in the harsh climate of Brandon, Manitoba while I am here in China. For 24 hours, her eyes were bandaged and she had to pay someone to look after her for that time. [Tony's Canadian grandfather had similar surgery done on his eyes. He had to go to Minnedosa (a hour's drive from Brandon) to have the surgery done. There were no local operating rooms available. Mom had her surgery done at the Hospital where Dad had died.]
- The Damnedest thing. Some buildings in Wuxi are heated. You would think this was a good thing and that I would love going into those buildings, but I in fact hate them. I don't mind cold weather because I can dress for it. What I really hate is being overdressed. So when I go into a heated building when I am dressed for a cold building, I suffer.
- One of my students works for a company that designs satellite dishes. The users of his products are in the poor and rural parts of China that don't have access to cable or internet. I asked him if he could point his satellite dish at foreign satellites and he told me “it was forbidden.” [How often students tell me something is forbidden.]
- The Wife is on the ball. Jenny is already thinking of booking a flight to Canada in June. I have floated the idea of her and Tony staying in Canada for an extra week. I only have three weeks to spend in Canada. She wants to spend a month.
- Someone gave Tony a Lego Fire Rescue Helicopter toy. It took an hour for me and Tony to put the thing together. When I say “me and Tony,” I mean to say that I tried to get Tony to help in the building but as it got to the end of the process, I lost patience and did the finishing assembling touches myself.
- With the two cops being shot in New York, I can't help but be tempted to say the Left in the United States, starting at the top with Obama and working down to De Blasio and Sharpton and the hash-tagging mobs have blood have on their hands. For they have all been propagating a lie that the police are out to kill young black men every chance they can get. So big a lie it is that has been advanced, that you would have to think they were crazy, like the cop killer was, to actually believe it. In their sane moments, the Left, from Obama on down, surely does recoil from the assassination of the two cops. So it probably is over the top to say the American Left has blood on its hands in this particular incident, but it doesn't excuse the stupidity or willful blindness of the irresponsible rhetoric the Left has advanced in their stupid lie-filled campaign against supposed violence of cops against black people.
- Before Christmas, Tony spent many an evening leafing through the Lego catalogue I had snagged from a toy store in the Hen Long Plaza.
- For the secret Santa exchange held at our school’s Christmas Party, I bought a Lamborghini.
- A toy Lamborghini.
- On December 27, Tony & I rode the Wuxi Metro Line #2 for the first time. We took it to the Ikea station where I bought much needed shower curtains and was gladdened to see that Tony liked eating Ikea hot dogs.
- I walked past what looked like protesters at the big government building near our apartment complex. As I was approaching, I decided to cross to the other side of the street and get as far away from the scene as I could.
- Stupid man walks into elevator entrance blocking those trying to get out. I swear at him and turn around and give him the evil eye as the door closes.
- I worked Christmas Eve. Thoughts of the modest circumstances in which the nativity happened made me enjoy the fact of it.
- I buy Tony a lot of Lego toys for Christmas.
- Tony watches the Lego movie twice.
- On a Saturday morning, I parked the e-bike in front of our apartment building for Jenny and I later learned that it had been knocked down so that both its mirrors had been smashed. I suspect that a car may have backed into it.
- Part of the Wuxi Metro Line #2 runs above ground along empty fields which are surely going to be developed.
- Christmas Day was a day off for the Kaulins Family China. We slept in late, did some chores around the house, and then had a big supper at a Japanese restaurant in the Hen Long Plaza. I did post a lot of nativity scene paintings to a social app to try to impress upon my Chinese contacts, the real reason for the holiday. Most of the students I talked to however, told me they weren't going to do anything to celebrate Christmas. They saw it as a foreign holiday that had nothing to do with them. Feeling somewhat annoyed at one student who said this with a smirk, I said that Spring Festival was a parochial Chinese celebration that had no significance, no positive message for humanity in general.
- Come to think of it, almost anything Chinese is only of significance for the Chinese, not humanity in general.