Tuesday, November 17, 2015

November 2015 Notes (Part 1)

In this entry, written in the first part of November 2015 (the 1st to the 15th actually), I discuss my driving, I complain about the driving of the locals, I actually mention something that was agreeable to me, I notice the brainwashed nature of the locals, I canvass for David Warren fans who happen to be in China, I tell you what a student told me about algae in Lake Taihu, I quote Theodore Dalrymple, I update you on the plan to homeschool Tony, I tell you why Tony must be homeschooled, I confess and note some things about me, I report on how I avoided foreigners, I disclose how I later talked to an actual other Canadian living in Wuxi, I plead guilty to Remembrance Day negligence, and I surprise myself with my brilliance.


I picked up Tony and school and drove right into the midst of the jam of other parents getting their kids at the school. Jenny had already done this and so I didn't want to seem a wimp.


Chinese drivers will make right turns without looking, but do they have to make wide two-lane turns when they do so?


We can't get a card that can be used to open the security gate for cars at our apartment complex and so we have to have the guards open the door for us. We want a card but aren't willing to backpay monthly charges for the card since 2008. We have permission to use a parking space from an owner who doesn't use it, but the apartment complex company wants us to back pay monthly charges (50 rmb a month) for the card since 2008. (By my calculations, they want us to pay 5,000 rmb)

Sometimes, the security guards hassle us about not having a card but Jenny tells them to stuff it and so they back off.


Walking through the People's Square near Casa Kaulins is agreeable for me. I can see cultural differences that make China seem attractive like the public group dancing and the Tai Chi.


It is forbidden! When Chinese say this, I feel like I am being admonished by a Red Guard. Something brainwashy about it. Of course, it could also be that those are the only words the Chinese know to express that statement. This expression has often been used by students in my classes during discussions about what can or can't be done in Wuxi.

It really got at my craw though when I was playing with Tony in the pool, sort of horsing around as it were, and some other swimmer came up to me and said something Tony was doing was forbidden. I didn't quite understand what the swimmer meant and I don't deny that we were in the wrong, but his full-eyed expression and his stern manner of saying that expression was creepily big brotherish.


Am I the only person in China who reads David Warren's blog Essays in Idleness? If you are also in China and read his blog, you can email me at andiskaulins@qq.com.


"I am marrying a young girl!" said a student in one of my Speaker's Corner. Wrong choice of words I should have told the student. The story I got from him later was that he was 25 years old and he was marrying a girl who was 20. The numbers are unusual in China. I then told the student that his statement sounded to my ears like he was going to marry a 14 year old.


Jenny scratched the car again. She backed to close to the pillar on the passenger side of our parking spot and scratched the mirror. Damage was cosmetic.


Student tells me the algae at Lake Taihu was very bad and that the odor could be smelt in the western part of Wuxi.


Something Theodore Dalrymple noticed: He was a large man, both physically and in personality, with a booming voice, and I dare say some people found him egotistical; certainly he exuded self-confidence and enjoyment of life which, however, I found neither offensive nor excessive, since he was a man of accomplishment. He rose in my estimation when he told me that he did not drive; I have found that men of high intelligence who do not drive are almost always distinguished. Why this should be so I do not know; but it is so.

[Link: http://www.newenglishreview.org/Theodore_Dalrymple/Let_Us_Now_Praise_Famous_Men/]

Here's what I have noticed about drivers: the bigger the vehicle, the more vulgar the driver appears.


Live Blogging: In early November, the problem with Tony being homeschooled is that we have to find some doctor to sign a note saying that Tony is sick and can't attend school for a year. This note will be fake.


I hear that Tony falls asleep in Chinese class which explains why he is handing in blank test papers to his teachers.


I hear that Tony was hit on the hand with a ruler for some bad thing he did in class.


News from China was a warmup topic for one of my speakers corners. I try to emphasize that I don't mean News in China. Could the students guess what it was? One did: China ends the one-child policy.

I then asked the students if the one-child policy had been a good idea. Most of them said it was because China had too many people. A few of the woman said that the policy was a boon for women because freed them from the drudgery of looking after children. I guffawed mentally when they said this. You need the government to stop you from having children? You are incapable of making your own decisions? Having children is drudgery?

I openly oppose the one child policy in class by saying that I love the Chinese people and would like to see more of them.


One Monday morning in November, I was in line with five other cars waiting at a set of lights, when I saw a Red Audi come from behind the lineup and pass, on the left, all the cars, including mine, in order to make a left turn. The Audi then, at the interesection, forced the oncoming car, which had just started off on the green, to stop. The Audi, continuing on with its left turn, then had to skirt around pedestrians and e-bikes who also had started off on the green. I was completely aghast, especially since I was waiting in the lineup to make a left turn myself. With resorting to using bad language, I would say the driver of the Audi was overly aggressive and deserved an admonishment that was verbal and physical.


Will there ever be a day when driving in China doesn't make me angry? That such maneuvers, as the Audi driver did, are done in China only serves to prove what a corrupt country it is. It was breathtakingly brazen, but the driver has probably been getting away with all his life.


5,000 years of civilization and that is how the Chinese drive? [This gushing admiration of China based on it having a long history. Bah. 5,000 years of being human. China has had its moments of greatness. But what ever came of the Classical Greeks? Look at Greece now. And for that matter, look at China.]


Lunch Money Day is the tenth of each month. On November 10th, I was going to go to a foreign-operated restaurant that is down a back alley near our school and the #2 Hospital. I was all set in walk in and order a bowl of their perogies when I saw an unshaven foreigner on the patio talking to other unshaven foreigners... I kept on walking, and decided that I was going to eat at Burger King instead. I am so unaccustomed to meeting white foreigners except at work that when I see them, I turn shy.


Jenny told me that "Tony was number one in his class's English Test," while holding up her small finger. "Well isn't that nice!" I said not immediately detecting her sarcasm. Tony in fact was #55 out of 55 students in the English test, a most embarrassing result.

How could this be?

1) Tony doesn't seem to care at all about school. Proof of this is that he didn't seem to care that he had the worst result in his class.

2) Speaking English at home will not equip one to pass an English test in a Chinese school. It may well be an hindrance. There have been times when students have justified their English mistakes by saying that their English teacher at school (a Chinese person) told them it was so. This poses a dilemma for them when writing English tests: write the correct answer or write the answer that will pass the test.

3)I have been negligent about his reading. I am going to have to start teaching him English phonics because his reading is atrocious as I discovered when I spent some time with him, the night Jenny told me of his last place test result.

4)Tony may not be all that bright. While he doesn't care about his school, he didn't seem to understand that he was the worst student in his class.

5)Tony may well be stuck in an impossibly stupid and inhuman school system which is the product of a very dysfunctional society. [More about point 5 anon.]


I want my Tony to be a Saint, not a success.


Would taking Tony to Canada to be schooled a solution? From what I have heard, the school system in Canada has vices of its own which are the product of insane progressivisim that has taken over Western education systems. While going to Canada can rid Tony of the enormous workload and long school days that make him want only to play the Ipad as an escape, it is incapable of giving Tony the discipline and challenges that the Chinese system does give its students. But on the other hand, the problems with the Chinese system are that it robs children of their childhoods, controls them too much so that even leisure time is depressingly drab, and destroys their souls so that even the successful children are unimaginative and lacking in spiritual depth. I would homeschool Tony forever if I could.


Jenny has found some doctor who can make a note to allow us to take Tony out of school. Hurray!!


I meet a Canadian in Wuxi. I haven't spoken to one in the flesh since I was in Canada in June.

He lives in Wuxi, has a Chinese wife and a child who is being educated in Wuxi. He hates the Chinese education system, wouldn't put his child in it and has the child in an international school (This is not an option for Jenny & I with Tony because we can't afford it). Like me, he thinks the Chinese system insanely overdoes it making primary school students go through a tough regimen at so young an age. He didn't however share my concerns about the vices I see the Canadian education system having. In response to my concerns, he immediately cited surveys he had heard that said that Canadians were the happiest and most satisfied people in the world. They must not have asked all the people I knew in Canada in these surveys. People are miserable everywhere. Some are just doing a better job of fooling themselves than others.

Canadians are a laid back people, my fellow Canadian continued. I had never thought to describe Canadians that way. In fact, I think this joke from National Lampoon best exemplifies the Canadian spirit: What is the difference between a boring white guy and a Canadian? The Canadian is wearing a parka. Canada, before Trudeau came along, was a boring place but didn't seem to be in self-denial about it. After Trudeau, there came along this sort of "I am Canadian" nationalism that didn't much change the fact that Canadians were dull, and didn't make Americans or Chinese (as I have learned in my over ten years in China) any more than passingly aware of Canada's existence.

Finding out he drove a car in Wuxi, I had to discuss Chinese driving with him. His philosophy for going on the roads in China was just to drive fast. I haven't formulated my philosophy. I can't decide whether to drive slowly or quickly or aggressively only when a victim of some other driver's rudeness. The Canadian gave me a anecdote which I will tell every student whenever I talk about driving. There was foreigner who lived in China for 14 years and loved China very much. He then got a car. Driving in China caused him to leave the land he thought he loved. Road rage was making him hate the Chinese as well as what it was doing to his personality.

One of the reasons I was happy to not have a car in China because I imagined the driving in China would make me hate the Chinese more.

[One thing does bug me about this anecdote. How could this foreigner have lived in China for so long and not noticed what rude and inconsiderate drivers the Chinese were?]


[LIVE BLOGGING] Tomorrow, (Friday, November 13th) Tony, if all goes to plan, will attend his stupid primary school for the last time till September 2016 and hopefully longer. Jenny says that a lot of other parents are watching her. "They'll all laugh at me if Tony does not do well!" she told me last night. I said something to her along the lines of: Who gives credence to what a bunch of fools have to say?


November 11th, I didn't shop on the Internet for bargains and I didn't post a poppy on my website. I didn't do the latter because I was lazy and had read Peter Hitchens discuss how he felt a contrarian urge to not wear a poppy because of the intent of doing so has probably taken on a phony modern sentimental posing.


About me: I have bouts of dourness and silliness. I tend to be both Jeevish and Woosterish. I want to be a staunch reactionary Catholic and a complete rebel against everything that Canadians take for granted.


About me: In the ways of the world, I am pathetic. I was embarrassed to say that I had worked at the same school for over ten years when I talked to that Canadian. Later, I got depressed when I thought about other embarrassing aspects of my life story like how I spent seven years in university like a career student (But at least, I did pay off my student loans though unlike some English teachers in China who I learned hadn't.) and was working in a fast food restaurant in my thirties (At least I was working unlike the types I saw sleeping in the streets of Vancouver saying they were doing so because they couldn't work for corporations.). I sometimes hug Tony and think I should be pathetic for being his father. And yet strangely, I have been blessed in this life because I do feel shame and embarrassment.



1)Today, (Friday November 13) will be the last day Tony goes to a public school this year. Jenny is angry at the school's English teacher who told her or insinuated to her that Tony is dumb. I was curious how good this English teacher's English actually was. Jenny said I would have to talk to her.

2)Last night, I worked through a phonics textbook with Tony. He needs to learn to read by sounding out the words, not knowing them by sight. We then read a Star Wars Rebels comic book. Funny, how some things he knows dead-on like the names of all the characters in the show while my grasp of them is fuzzy.


I have got to be more mischievous in this Blog. [Jenny worked in Pubs selling Chivas Whiskey. She was Miss Chivas girl. I want to be a Mischievous Blogger.]


Friday night, I had gotten off the train at Yanqiao Station. One of the exit gates had a big red "X" on it, meaning it was not working. I went to the next one over which had five people waiting to get through and went to the back of the line. As I stood in that lineup, I saw a woman approach the gate with the red "X" on it. When she saw it wasn't working, she shuffled over to the next gate and basically cut in front of all the people who were lined up, including me. It was just so mainland Chinese.

[To those who say, that this was a unconscious blunder on the part of the woman, and not a trait that I can attribute to the mainland Chinese, I say that I have witnessed so many examples of a selfish mainland Chinese person lacking situational awareness whether they be on roads (mainland Chinese drivers who park their cars so as to cause traffic jams, mainland Chinese drivers not sure where they are blocking two lanes of traffic and so on), on escalators (how many times I have had mainland Chinese blocking me by standing in front of escalators at both the top and bottom), at elevators (a mainland Chinese person who will wait for people to get off elevators before getting on is a rare person indeed), and in queues (cutting in queues is so bad that even some locals comment on it).]


At my apartment complex, I took a photo of this sign featuring a photo of Xi Jing Ping (known affectionately as Xi Da Da). This sign which was full of patriotic slogans had previously had a photo of two young students, dressed like young pioneers, striking a patriotic pose. I took a photo of this sign because it has been my experience that images of Chinese Chairmans being posted in public are very rare in China. I have only ever seen one photo of "the Great Reformer" Deng in public, a few photos of Hu Jiantao when he was the Chairman, on a billboard, and now this photo of Xi Da Da on a sign at the security gate of the Casa Kaulins apartment complex. I wonder if Xi Da Da is trying very hard to make himself the figurehead of a Chinese patriotic movement and if perhaps I will see a lot of photos of him posted in public places.


I heard the news of the Paris Attacks just five minutes before I was to start a class. It made it hard for me to teach. Thankfully, in the second class in the next hour, the student wanted to talk about it.


On the 15th of November, I couldn't even get out of the parking garage without having another driver annoy me. I am always careful getting out of our parking garage and turning onto the lane because you can't see vehicles coming from either way, and there has been a serious accident there in which a car hit an e-bike. As I was pulling up to the entrance, I had a driver come from behind me, pass me and cut me off as I was trying to get out. I blared my horn at the white BMW in an angry manner.


Another reason to homeschool Tony. I don't have to deal with the zoo that picking him up at the end of the school day is. Jenny tells me that I would be swearing at other parents every day like the one I swore at in October.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

October 2015 Notes (Part 2)

In this entry, the second one from October 2015, I will blog about my driving in Wuxi, the Baoli Carrefour, Jenny's driving, Canada's New Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (JT), JT's father the Antichrist, interesting sights, some Chinese female opinions of our new Prime Minister's looks, scratches done to the family Citroën, possible nicknames for the new Canadian Prime Minister, my being a mover, English names of some Gissing company students, the ratio 1-4-4-1 as it applies to students and Wuxi expatriates, driving in the countryside of Wuxi, a Wuxi girl who went to London, my ninth wedding anniversary and when I celebrate it, homeschooling Tony, what I think of Chinese complaints about Japan, and a spanking.
  • I shouldn't talk about driving.  I shouldn't talk about driving!  I AM going to talk about driving!
  • LIVE BLOGGING:  I have driven the Citroën to work for the first time on Saturday, October 17.  From the school, I have gotten a parking pass that is good for four hours at a parking complex underneath the school.  But I need nine hours of parking for work today.  What am I to do?  Jenny tells me to leave the parking lot for a short time and come back.
  • LIVE BLOGGING LATER:  It turned out that I was able to park the car at the school building without paying.  At lunch, I took the car to the Baoli Carrefour and did some shopping. I returned to the parking lot with no problems.
  • The Carrefour was surprisingly empty.  I had heard rumors that the Carrefour Baoli will soon close.  If it is Saturdays are that slow, it may well be.  This is too bad because I like how easy it was to find parking there.
  • Jenny & I went back to the Citroën dealership (which is not far from the Wuxi Ikea) to have a camera installed in her Citroën that will record "incidents."  There are kamikaze bikers and pedestrians it is said who love to be hit by cars in order to extract monetary compensation from car owners.  And there are just so many idiots who don't know how to drive.
  • Jenny, when she picks up Tony, does something with the Citroën that I wouldn't dare do on my own initiative.  She will drive the car close to the school and deal with all the e-bikes and cars that are there.
  • Came into work on Tuesday, October 20, and immediately got onto the Internet to find out the results of the Canadian federal election.  I wasn't pleased.  The result I feared had actually happened.  Justin, the son of Pierre Trudeau is now our Prime Minister   The father was such friends with Fidel Castro that the dictator was a pall-bearer at his funeral.  Oh!  God help us all!
  • Pierre Trudeau was the Antichrist, the devil in the flesh.  Canadian history since the late 1960s was as follows:  Trudeau was Prime Minister from 1968 to 1984 more or less.  Trudeau did such a terrible job that succeeding Prime Ministers like Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien and Stephen Harper had to spend a lot of their administrations cleaning up the damage he had caused.  And some of this damage hasn't been repaired.
  • This begs the question why Trudeau's son could be elected PM on the basis of having his father's last name.  The answer is very easy.  A majority of Canadians are idiots, or left-wingers.  I say this despite the fact Trudeau's party actually only got 39 percent of the popular vote in the election, meaning 61 percent of Canadians didn't vote for them.  But of that 61 percent, a little over half were conservative.  A big chunk of the rest of the vote was for the NDP which is a very socialist party.  NDP and the Liberals (who are socialist as well when it is the glamorous thing to be.) together got a majority of the popular vote in the election.
  • I remember the first Trudeau saying that deep down he really was a NDPer.  His son probably is as well.
  • Rather then getting upset about what is happening in Canada, I will have just have to think about my life in China and hope my relatives in Canada are doing well.
  • I saw seven old men, thin and weather-skinned and looking to be of peasant stock, piling in the back of an old-fashioned e-bike pickup while all around people were most driving solo in their much bigger automobiles.
  • I visit Facebook occasionally when I can get my VPN to work.  The day after the Canadian election, I visited the site and had to look at a bunch of postings celebrating Justin Trudeau's victory.  One proclaimed that change was good, to which I could say change is good except when it isn't.
  • I have shown a couple of the girls a picture of Canada's new Prime Minister to get their opinions.  Crystal said Justin was handsome, but young and not to her liking.  The second girl I asked, whose name I can't recall, said he was young and handsome but a little fat.  Justin reminds her of North Korea's Kim Jung Un?  It seems that they were very struck but Justin's being so young.  And their comments on his good looks could be translated into them saying he was a pretty boy.
  • How should I refer to our new PM?  JT?  PM Trudeau II?  Son of PET?  Trulander?  Son of the Antichrist?  Jethro?  Justhro?  Justru? [These are a reference to the Beverley Hillbillies]  JT Un?
  • Jenny made mention to me of JT's being elected.  Jenny and I never discuss politics; and I never mentioned anything about the election to her.  She got the news of it on WeChat from an acquaintance who was living in Canada.   "Canada has a new president!" Jenny said.  "He wants to legalize prostitution!"
  • Jenny scratched the mirror on the Citroën   She did this when she was trying so hard to find a parking spot that didn't require her walking so far.  When she told me, I felt pangs even though I had actually been thinking the day before I learned of the scratch that the car was destined to be dented or scratched, and that I would just have to resign myself to it.
  • Tony is not doing well at school.  Jenny says he is humiliated by his teacher giving him back his work later than the good students.  The idea of home-schooling him was aired but never acted upon.
  • I am not a traveller.  I am not a tourist.  I am a mover.  I can say that I have lived in many places in my life:  eight or nine towns, two countries that are thousands of km from each other, four provinces in Canada which are the equivalent of four large countries in Europe.  The number of addresses I have lived at, I am sure, is over 25.  But while I was at these many addresses, I didn't tour or travel much.  I stayed close to home.  When I was in Winnipeg, I rarely got outside of the perimeter of the city.  [Thoughts come to me after I read a David Warren blog entry deriding the Universal tourist.  The type who travels with the modern comforts like Internet and vehicles, and doesn't really suffer enough to actually experience the lands where they travel.]
  • On Friday evening, October 23, I went to Gissing company in the Dong Bei District of Wuxi where I did two hours of speaker's corners with about 14 students.  Some of the students gave themselves interesting English names:  Tandy, Jersey, Roy and Raul.
  • Saturday, I took the Citroën to work.  On the way back home in the evening, I got onto a faster road with a speed limit of 80 km/h.  I was riding in the left lane of this road when I saw a young boy jump over the barrier fence (that separates the lanes going in opposite directions).  I easily avoided him but got close enough to see that he had a stricken look on his face.  My first thought was that he was mad at his parents for some reason and was running away.  But what did I know?  He could easily have been lost.  Being in a car, there was no way I could have stopped and tried to help him.  It would have endangered me, the boy and other drivers.  The road is set up so that cars just can go-go, go-go, go.  This anecdote shows how cars and the infrastructure to supports them are so dehumanizing.
  • As a driver, you have to wonder about the locals who take their e-bikes on these roads; and even more you have to wonder about the people who walk on these roads.
  • Around the Hui Shan Wanda Plaza, drivers will park where ever they can to avoid having to pay for parking in the mall's basement levels where it is said to be expensive.  One of the places they will park is this road that runs along the nearby People's Square which is across the road from Wanda.  The road is narrow:  about three car widths wide.  Local drivers will park in any nook they can and so they park on both sides of this road leaving a narrow lane in the middle for cars to move.  I hate having to park there but Jenny insists.  I have already hit a mirror on another vehicle because some other idiot parked his van so that his back-end was sticking a couple of feet out into the already narrow enough lane.  
  • Another problem with the road, that is about 500 meters long, is that it only has three points of exit and entry: two at the ends and one in the middle.  Sometimes, you can end up in a stand off if you have cars approaching each other like I did on Saturday night.  What happened that night was that I had parked near the entry point that was farthest from the Wanda Plaza.  I find that as you get closer to the Plaza, the cars are packed much tighter together:  too tight for me.  When I parked the Citroën  I thought I would be able to back up a bit and exit from the entry point.  But when I returned, I was chagrined to see that all around where I had parked, the area had filled up with more parked cars and that were more cars looking for parking space.  Parked cars and moving cars behind where I was parked left me no choice but to try to go forward and try to exit from the middle entry point.  But after I had driven forward about 50 meters, a car approached me and wouldn't back off.  There was a car behind me and I thought that being in the majority the car facing us would back off.  But the car behind me backed up.   So I was forced to back up, ending up by the parking spot I had just left.  Needless to say, I was cheesed off at all the drivers of China.
  • Being in a foul mood, I decided to blare my horn at every person who cut me off or didn't put on his turn signals when changing lane.
  • The next day, Sunday, Jenny parked the Citroën on that road.  She did a good job actually when I walked past to see how she did.  Continuing on, I met Jenny at Wanda for lunch.  Afterwards she stayed at the Wanda and I took Tony with me to the Citroën so we could go for a Sunday drive in the countryside of Wuxi and Jiangying.  When we got to the Citroën, I was stricken to see that someone had scratched the driver side front corner of the car.  The damage was strictly cosmetic thankfully, and once I cleaned the dust, I saw that the scratches didn't stand out so much.  I was upset, but I was struck by how I wasn't so upset.  I had had premonitions that this was going to happen.  
  • I can say that the accident happened because we were parked on a road where its sheer narrowness of space between the two sides of parking increases the odds of being hit.  Parking on the road was asking for it.  But was the Citroën hit by a car, a three-wheel wagon or an e-bike?  Was whatever hit us trying to avoid something?  Was whatever hit us trying to park?  Was whatever hit us trying to get out of a parking spot?  That I will wonder about for a while.
  • The scratches didn't stop me from carrying on with my plan to go for a Sunday drive to explore the areas where previously Tony & I had gone on e-bike and then to go to areas that were just a little beyond.  
  • What struck me was how in the countryside areas, you have to drive among e-bikes.  Poorer areas, more e-bikes.  And then there was an idiot do 80 km/h on the road.  He seemed to be from the city, looking for a place to throttle up his sporty Honda festooned with spoilers.  As I approached him, I thought he would have slowed down since the road was narrow but he just kept driving at that speed.
  • How I love the poorer areas.  They seem authentically Chinese.
  • 1-4-4-1.  These numbers, if I am reading David Warren's blog entry right, are the distribution of humanity in the following categories: exemplary, okay, not okay, should be hung.  His classification was people he would trust his life with, people he would trust his luggage with, people he would not trust his luggage with, and people who should be hung.  When I think of the students I have meet, that distribution would seen about right.  That is, one in ten are really nice people.  
  • When I think of the distribution of expatriates I have met, the distribution would be as follows:  .01-2-2-5.99.  [Ha ha ha. Controversial I hope.]  
  • Who am I to judge? you ask.  Well, I would ask:  who are you to judge?  You are welcome to disagree.
  • Anyway, I will say that I don't think I 'm not part of the first "1" or the first "4" of 1-4-4-1.  I hope it is not a false modesty, borne of a deep-sown sense of righteousness, when I say this.  I hope I am just being honest.  And I think that I can say, without boasting that I am probably part of the second "4" of 1-4-4-1 or the second "2" of my expatriate distribution.  
  • I am as self-serving and as unable to live up to my high ideals as the next guy, I am sure.  But I am not Stalin or Hitler or Pervert actively trying to rationalize his bad ways.  I am aware that I have bad tendencies that I have to battle, and I should be thankful that I have Jenny and Tony to take up my time.
  • Is parking talking about driving?  I ask this because my thoughts are full of driving and I want this blog to be more observing than complaining.  Driving and complaining do go together like a horse and carriage.  
  • So, how about I talk about my cursing?  That is more confessional than complaining. Here is the story.  Monday afternoon, I accompanied Jenny as she drove to pick up Tony.  Unlike I would have done, she parked on the road by the school, drove into a parking spot (instead of backing in).  She can back out of the spot into the jammed street, unlike I who can't do it calmly...  But anyway, that is the not point of this anecdote.  It is about why I used foul language.   In way of explanation first, I will say that some Chinese drivers don't parallel park properly.  They no scruples about driving into a parking spot and having the back end of their car stick out into traffic.  I remember how, on that road near the Wanda Plaza, one parked van with its rear-end sticking out caused me to hit a mirror of a car I was trying to pass...  But there was no parallel parking in the anecdote.  But the point of my general observation was more broadly that many locals have no consideration when they park.  And it was proven by a driver who parked sort of alongside where Jenny had parked the Citroën but more so that he was blocking us.  It seems he saw a open space beside us but hadn't taken into consideration that there were e-bikes parked along the curve.  So he quickly decided to stop and park at an angle so that his back end was sticking out into traffic and so that that his car was blocking our car and the e-bikes that were parked along the curb.  He left his car running and ran so that we presumed that he was quickly going to get his child and return.  Since the time was about 16:05, we thought he would be back before 16:10 when we would pick up our Tony.  But  at 16:10 when Tony was with us and we were ready to leave, the guy hadn't returned and his black VW Sedan was still blocking us.  And then one of the e-bikers parked beside us, a woman who had just picked up her child, came on the scene.  I stood in the narrow path between the Citroën and the VW to stop her from trying to get through it because she would have most certainly scratched our car.  The e-biker and Jenny ended up commiserating in only the way strangers who have been inconvenienced can.  And then at about 16:15, the driver of the VW finally came with his child.  Jenny said something to him and I swore at him so that he winced.  I guess he knew what English word I was using.  I suppose I should have been merciful but really I think he deserved to admonished.  It wouldn't have surprised me if the guy kept his car running as a way of stopping us from telling him to move his car in the first place.  Nothing has happened in China to spare me from being cynical about how people operate.  [But if a Martian came to my planet and admonished me for something, how would I react?  [As I the guy got back into his car, I looked around and noticed some guys in a police car having a laugh at me.]]
  • One of the new students in one of my company classes is a girl who spent a year or so at a university in London, England (not London, Canada) studying marketing.  It was quite the experience for her getting to go to pubs in England and seeing all sorts of live bands.  How I would have longed to do such a thing back in the day.  As it is, I don't go anymore because it was a desultory life.
  • It was my ninth wedding anniversary this month.  Jenny & I agree that our official wedding anniversary is the day we got our wedding license in Nanjing.  I would rather forget the actual wedding party.
  • In a previous entry, I discussed homeschooling Tony, and I said that it appealed to me in so many ways.  And I may have mentioned that it was Jenny's idea that we do this.  That talk came to nothing.  We just carried on with our routine of sending Tony to school and having Jenny make him do his homework while I would try to help Tony when I could.  It turned out that I didn't much help Tony, and that now, Jenny tells me that Tony has made no progress in school, and is in fact handing in blank test papers to his teachers because he just doesn't understand them.  His constant refrain now is that he doesn't want to go to school.  Jenny further tells me that Tony's desk mate is being really hostile to him.  So, something has to be done.  
  • Tony is wasting his time by going to school because his teachers can't or won't help him.  I suspect it is probably a case of can't because there are 39 other students they have to teach as well.  So what to do?  Jenny again talks of wanting to homeschool him and to find ways in which he can get more of the help he needs.  And I think she is serious about it.  But there will be problems.  Jenny & I will have different ideas about how to help him.  I like to think that I would be more open-minded and willing to give Tony some freedom, as well as give myself some freedom of approach when teaching him.  
  • I take my ideas of educating Tony from David Warren who is a traditionalist Catholic with a heavy distrust of public schooling and the modernist tendency to over-coddle children.  Warren's parenting style is neo-medieval.   Jenny would be more stern in her approach, and she has a bad temper and a woman's emotional temperament.  She worries about "face" and lacks my alienness to not give a darn. She criticizes me for my lack of sternness and I will readily admit that those criticisms are valid.  And there is  the problem of Tony himself.  Maybe, he is just not that smart.  Maybe, he is addicted to the Ipad.  Maybe, he has got me for a father.  He doesn't seem be interested in much but playing GTA.  He doesn't seem open to other things.  He can't be reasoned with. [I can say he got that from his mother.  Pardon, my moment of comic levity.]
  • Tony sees me working on this blog entry.  He looked at all the writing and said "You wrote all that!"
  • After the evening in which Jenny talked about homeschooling Tony, I wanted to talk to Tony.  My opportunity in the morning is when I walk Tony to the spot where he gets picked up to go to school.  I wanted to ask Tony about school and try to get his thoughts on being homeschooled.  But as soon as we closed the door of our apartment, Tony spoke first  and said he loved me because I let him play the Ipad.  Mom must have broached the idea of homeschooling to him in Chinese beforehand.  And all Tony could say about it was that it sounded like a great opportunity for him to play more Ipad....
  • I want to homeschool Tony.
  • Talking geopolitics about the USA, China, Japan and the Middle East with a student can get me worked up.  I find that I have to defend Bush and his ultimate sincerity about what he wanted to do in the Middle East.  America's problem was it went into Iraq wearing idealistic blinders.  Trying to instill democracy in Iraq was a dumb idea; toppling Saddam Hussien wasn't however.
  • The Chinese Communists should really be thanking the Japanese militarists.  For one thing, during WW2, the Japanese militarists by fighting the KMT softened them so the Communists could beat them in the ensuing civil war.  Secondly, the grievous behavior of the Japanese during the war makes them the perfect subjects for "two minute hates" which the Chicoms can fan when it suits them such as times when they don't want the Chinese population hating them.
  • Strange things to be witnessed every day in China.  The last Friday of October, I was heading to the 85 Bakery to buy a coffee and a loaf of bread, when I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of a young slightly chubby man, who was drawing up the hood on his jacket, deliberately and menacingly approaching a young woman from behind.  A thought flashed through my mind that he was going to pull out a knife and stab the woman who was attractively wearing tight blue jeans and a leather jacket.  He instead, when he got close enough, bent down and  proceeded to spank her bottom with one hand.  The woman, who was slim and pretty, immediately turned around and I will never forget her facial expression: her mouth was formed into a big "oh!"  The man, wearing sweat pants and sneakers, quickly turned around and ran right past me.  I stared at him the whole time he made his escape.  He had a strange look of amusement on his face.
  • Now, I would mention my thoughts about the spanker.  I thought it fortuitous for my blogging that I was able to witness the incident from start to finish.  How often, is it that you see the tail end of the incident and not be able to watch it from buildup to climax?  I wonder what the man's motivations were.  Did he know the girl and was playing a prank on her?  Or was he a strange person who had this urge to spank women's bottoms?  I wonder also if I should have done anything.   If this guy had done this to Jenny, I would hopefully have chased him down and given him some admonishment.  As it was, it was slightly amusing and I imagine that it would have in olden times be dealt with with a slap in the face with no need to bring in the constabulary.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

October 2015 Notes (Part 1)

In this entry, I blog a lot about driving: mine and my wife Jenny's. I also make mention of a question my son asked me about Star Wars, our Citroën's license plate number, a student wanting to throw up, Tony's opinion of school, the Civic Center Metro Station, and a forked lineup at Tesco.

  • On October 1, I drove a car for the second time ever (first time legally) in traffic in China. Four things, I quickly figured out. 1) I will have to always be on the lookout for e-bikes. 2)A lot of Chinese drivers drive very slowly. 3)A lot of Chinese drivers are stupid. 4)About the same amount of them are impatient and inconsiderate.

  • On my first drive in our new Citroën, I got stuck behind a driver who slowed down, to a practical crawl for no particular reason, in the middle lane. He hadn't put on his turn signals, but it seemed, from his looking about, that he was wanting to change lanes. I was flustered by this because all the cars around us were unforgiving, honking at the car I was stuck behind and at me in the Citroën. The other cars were then quickly passing that car and my Citroën, and I couldn't see a break in traffic so that I could pass. Not used to driving and still having initial timidity, I was stranded as the idiot in front of me.

  • I saw a considerable number of foreigners at the Hui Ju mall on October 1.

  • I binge-viewed the series Homicide Hunter with Lt. Joe Kenda. You have to like that name Kenda. It is a good name for a boxer.

  • When you come to traffic lights on a Chinese road, you may be surprised by what is on the other side of them. Sometimes you find that the lanes are a little off-kilter. That is, the lanes on the other side of the intersection don't line up exactly with the lane you had been in so that you have turn slightly to the left or the right in order to be driving between the lines of a lane. And then you are not sure if you should go left or right. Sometimes, you are in a lane with a straight arrow and find that if you continue on through the intersection in the direction the arrow indicates, you will come to a dead end. One time when this happened to me, I had to look 45 degrees to my right to see the road I could head towards. And when I went on the green toward the road, I had to skirt all these e-bikes coming from my right.

  • When the light turns green in China, you quickly learn to not expect the intersection to be clear. Not seeing a driver or cyclist blatantly run a red light in China is as rare as seeing a driver blatantly run a red in Canada. Many times on a green, cars coming from the opposite direction will try quickly to make a left turn before you get through the intersection. It is a maneuver that I have never ever seen done in Canada where left-turning cars wait for the cars coming from the opposite direction to get through before even trying to complete their turn.

  • A humorous sight for me, till I had to deal with it as a driver, was the light turning green at the same time that some old person would be one quarter of a way through an intersection. If the old person is on the crosswalk close to you, you just have to wait; but if the old person is on the crosswalk on the other side of the intersection from you, it can be quite the shock to be accelerating only to see an old person, in your path, looking at you like a deer in headlights. You have to stop, and the cars behind will honk and quickly pass you, stranding you and the pedestrian.

  • Tony asks me a head-scratcher of a question: Are the storm troopers, in Star Wars, police? I had always thought of the ST's as military but they do serve security purposes like policeman would so....

  • Jenny had her driving license though she has never driven since she got it five years previously. Then, she took her driving course in Beixin, her hometown which is in the countryside where the price of a driver training course is much cheaper than in the city.

  • There are roads in the area of Casa Kaulins where the traffic is light; and thus are great for new drivers to practice driving. This can be attested by the fact that many Driver's Ed cars are on those roads. It was there that Jenny did her first driving with her Citroën

  • Jenny quickly progressed from driving in circles on a dead-end, four-lane road to driving down a six lane inter-city highway with a speed limit of 80 kmh. Nevertheless, it was nerve-wracking for me because I had to fight this irrational fear that Jenny was no better a driver than eight-year old Tony would be. In fact, her instincts for driving in China are better than mine.

  • During an evening class, I had a young female student tell me repeatedly that she wanted to throw up. I had to fight the urge to ask her if she was experiencing morning sickness.

  • The license plate number for the Citroën has a 'K" in it. Very good.

  • The night before school, Tony said he didn't want to go to school. I couldn't blame him. And then that morning, the weather was dismal.

  • Jenny drives the Citroën to Tony's school to pick him up in the afternoon. The first time she did it, I was at work and I quickly phoned her to see how she had done. Much to my relief, she did well.

  • I did my first bit of freeway driving to get to Jenny's hometown. The speed limit was 120 km/h and I was able to say that I had driven on a bridge going over the Yangtze River.

  • Other big rivers I have driven over: The Fraser River, the Mississippi, the Red River and the Assiniboine.

  • I hate driving in Wuxi for many reasons. One is that making right turns is scary because I can't let go of my Western need to look before I turn. Local drivers turn right without looking instinctively. One time I was driving out of my apartment complex and hesitated to make a right turn. A driver behind me passed me so he could make a right turn, cutting me off as it were. It was a very inconsiderate maneuver but that is the way they drive here. Any hesitant driver in Wuxi cannot expect any consideration from other drivrers

  • The Civic Center Metro Station, with its long and wide tunnels, is looking more and more the white elephant. On October 13 when I went to teach my LKF company class, I couldn't help but notice that paint was cracking on the upper portions of the pedestrian tunnel walls. I also went down this exit tunnel which was brightly lit but had dust accumulating on the floor from neglect. Anybody happening to walk through the wide and empty tunnel would leave footprints which stood out very prominently because of the bright lighting.

  • This driving is taking away from things on which I had been concentrating. So, I will make one last observation about it: I hate driving on freeways where there are lots of flatbed trucks. They move at many speeds, take up every lane so that one is always slowing down or changing lanes to get away from them, and one can never tell if they use turn signals or mean it when they do.

  • I went to the Times-Century Plaza Tesco – the one that is near Casa Kaulins – to buy some drinks one Monday evening. It was so crowded that the lineups at the registers went into the aisles between the product shelves. I joined a lineup that was about six shoppers deep into the drink aisle. As I proceeded to the end of the drink aisle and into the daylight of the aisle that runs perpendicular by the front of the registers, I saw that my lineup had forked. That is, there was a man with a shopping cart who was standing beside the people I had been standing behind the whole of the time I had been in that line. He was trying to merge into "our" lineup. Behind this man with a shopping cart were about another six people. Behind me there were about six people as well. And so there was a question in my mind as to who – that be I or the man with the shopping cart – was to go into the cash register aisle and take up that spot behind the people I had been following. I am proud to say that I stood my ground and that the man with the shopping cart had his face turn red with what I assumed was embarrassment as I shuffled into the actual register aisle leaving him stranded Realizing that he had been trying to cut into a long lineup, he left and I could detect laughter and guffaws from the people who had stood behind him. Chinese are bad at queueing.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

September 2015 Notes (Part 2)

For the purpose of making an entry for, more or less, the second half of the month of September 2015, I will blog (or have blogged) about the following: the second Republican Debate, drinking a can of Coke very fast, composing an email to Mrs S, parking aggravation in Wuxi, something I saw while e-biking, Scott Walker, an Anne Coulter tweet, listening to a Keynesian, my son Tony not doing well at school, homeschooling Tony, reading the Captive Mind by Czesław Miłosz, reading David Warren on raising children, Chinese children being able to roam not, a pair of stooped old men, a stolen shopping cart, Chinese men's caveman approach to walking with their girlfriends, an attempt at a joke, and Emily.

  • The Republican Presidential Debate took place while I was editing the September 2015 Part 1 entry. I suppose that opening my blog entry with a comment about old news is not the thing to do in a medium that seems to demand immediacy, but I, seeking to emulate my blogging hero David Warren, hope to be creating another sort of anti-blog blog by discussing things that happened more than five minutes or five hours or five days or five weeks ago.

  • I also didn't watch the debate live. I downloaded the video of the debate and watched it over a stretch of three days during which I published the September 2015 Part 1 entry. I have a number of comments to make about the debate, and because I can't indent them in the blog platform I use, this number of comments is numbered.

  1. Actually, I watched the first hour of the debate and gave up. I had more interesting things I could watch for two hours on my computer like the movie Carousel. So, I make but one comment.

  • We bought a blue Citroen C3 XR. They don't have a blue model in stock unfortunately so we going to have to wait a fortnight before we get it.

  • We bought the car when we went to this promotional event at the Citroen dealership on the day we made the purchase. I got roped into participating in a drinking a can of Coke race and I don't know what I accomplished by doing that.

  • Waiting for the vehicle, I am filled with foreboding. Or rather I can't get very very enthused about it.

  • As we wait for the Citroen, we have a small hope that it will arrive before the October 1 holiday. [From now on, I will refer to our vehicle as the Citroen or the C3 XR or the C3. That is, if I ever refer to it. I don't want to blog about driving in China. I am sure that it has been done before, and done badly, and I don't need to add to it.]

  • I write a reply to Mrs S who is a brilliant blogger and who sent me the email about considering Catholicism. It took me ten days to reply to her email. It was so beautifully written – her email – that I wasn't at all happy with what I had to say in my reply. On Mrs S's advice, I am reading The Confessions of Saint Augustine.

  • Parking! Aggh!!!!!!!!!! We aren't going to spend 36,000 rmb to buy a parking spot at our complex. We will have to find another arrangement. One option is to not buy or rent any parking and just take our chances everyday of finding free parking around the complex.

  • I was e-biking along Wenhui Road, which my apartment overlooks, when I saw two very stooped old men walking down the street. Blessed these men are for being pedestrians, I thought. One of the old men then pointed ahead, indicating the way to the other, and I had a sight that would have made for a great photo. As it is, I have recorded that I saw them and yet can't convey how remarkable the sight of them was to me.

  • I was disappointed to hear that Scott Walker had dropped out of the U.S. presidential race. Of the twenty candidates, including the Democrats, who were running, he was in my top five, and probably my top two (the other being Ted Cruz). It is not a good sign and I can't help but think that this election will have a disappointing result in the end: Hilary wins.

  • The Democrats don't have any viable not-so-stupid options besides Hilary. That one candidate Bernie Sanders makes her look like Ronald Reagan. [Over at my WCE blogspot sight, I have a theory about why Walker resigned.]

  • Is it possible to be anti-Semitic and pro-Israel? That is what people who jump on Anne Coulter because of that one tweet she made, where she used the words "Jews" and "______," are going to have to believe. She praises Israel's immigration policies but doesn't think that Israel, a subject which all the Republicans are generally agreed on, should be taking up such a huge chunk of debate time. She wants immigration to be the number one issue in the 2016 presidential election and hates discussion of what she sees as unimportant and minor issues.

  • As September ends, I am glad to report that there are still women wearing short skirts and shorts.

  • A self-professed Keynesian, on a recent Milton Rosenburg podcast, asked how it could be that there were so many poor people when there was so much money around. It drives me crazy when people say such things about money like it was some sort of magic pixie dust. What is money? It is a tool. Money can't be eaten, it can't get you home faster.... Money is paper or plastic or special bits of information. It is an abstract concept that can't enrich people just because it is there. If the case was that there was lots of resources and many poor people, the Keynesian would at least be asking the right question.

  • Thought experiment for the Keynesian. Send a person to the Moon with nothing but a lot of gold. How will this person do? Probably not well, but it would be a mystery to the Keynesian as to why it is because, after all, the person has a lot of gold.

  • I have no complaints; I just have problems. Does this make any sense?

  • My son Tony is not doing well at school and so my wife Jenny is contemplating home-schooling him for the rest of the school year and then having him start grade three all over again next September. I am all for the idea. From what I understand, he is not learning anything. He doesn't understand what his teachers are saying; and his teachers, who have 39 brighter students in class, are ignoring him. The teachers only want Tony to be quiet and not disturb the other students. The teachers do put pressure on Jenny to get Tony to read and understand Chinese better but the result is that Tony says he hates school and only wants to play computer games all the time. When I asked what other things he is interested in, he is sullen and says "I don't know!"

  • That Tony should be falling behind his classmates is not an earth-shattering disappointment or shock to me. There are several factors for his falling behind which I had suspected would cause this to happen. The first is the fact of his birth date. He was born on August 23 which is but a week before the September 1 cut-off date which determines what grade a child can enter in China. Tony has always been behind in development from his classmates who are older than him. The second factor is his living in a cross cultural household. While he is bilingual, he is mediocre at both languages. In a classroom atmosphere where English is a minor subject and one has to be very good at Chinese, Tony is sitting in class, not understanding and falling farther behind. The third and fourth factors, I can think to mention, have to do with my being his father. I was 42 when Tony was born, rather late for me to father a child, and Tony may not so bright as a result. Such as he is, I can only hope that he is as he ought to be. [This phrasing I am copying from Mrs S] That is, I want him to be good whatever his talents and intelligence are or are not. For him to be good, I have to raise him so, and so the second factor in his unsatisfactory development that I can attribute to my being his father is trying to be his friend and not an authority. [I was going to say that I was negligent in my parenting style, but that is not true. I don't neglect Tony. Far from it. I spend my time with him trying to indulge him.]

  • I welcome the chance to home-school Tony in reading and writing English but it won't be easy. Jenny is only home-schooling him so that he can be in more conformance with the Chinese education system. I don't want that. I would like to home-school him forever. I want a keen kid, who is comfortable in his skin and not at all a cypher. I want to home-school him to the possibilities of learning without succumbing to its stupidities of progressive education or whatever the Chinese Communists want done in their schools. [The chance to home-school Tony also gives me a chance to do one thing on which I can rightly say I have been negligent with Tony: his spiritual development. I have to teach him to pray and think about God.]

  • September 25, the conclusion of the book The Captive Mind by Czesław Miłosz,and an older David Warren blog entry really hit home with me.

  • The Captive Mind's stirring concluding chapter discussed Latvia. (I am of Latvian descent) The book compares the fate of Latvians in World War Two to that of the Incas being conquered and then hunted down by the Spanish. The author made the observation, that he thankfully disavowed in his book's final pages, that the exterminations of many Latvians and the Incas was a minor thing on the pages of a history book, and that in the long run, it could be argued that they were necessary to allow historical forces progress toward a kumbaya world. It only took the sight of a rustic peasant from a backwater pouring tea for his child to squelch that notion for the author.

  • The Warren blog entry discussed raising kids. I had actually copied it from the Internet, a few months ago, and placed it in a file that I was to work with for an English Corner I was to do about raising children. I read the entry again after earlier reading the final chapter of Milosz's book. The Warren entry really hit home with me because I also came upon it again only hours after I had had a big argument with Jenny about the entry's very topic: raising children. If we home-school Tony, it would seem that Jenny and I are of not of one mind on how to educate him. I want to teach him English but also give him even freedom to find the skills he needs to get on in this life. I don't want to be drilling him to read some textbooks, just so he can get high marks. I do have – and on this score Jenny is right to be angry with me – to be more stern with him. However, after admitting this and other errors to Jenny, I got frustrated because Jenny didn't have any suggestions to correct the problems. So, the Warren entry was an answer to my prayers. Warren advocated a counter-intuitive (at least to me who has been poisoned by progressive notions) sort of tough neglect when raising children. His approach is tough and yet gives children the freedom to deal with the consequences of their actions.

  • Warren in that entry wrote that his mother was very laisez-faire (malapropism: lazy fair) with him about school. Warren's mother was quite willing to accommodate his truancy from public school, but she did teach him to read and write. This is how I would like to be with Tony (I say this between looking up how to teach a child to read on the Internet). I don't want him to be an ideal student in a Chicom system, but unfortunately Jenny does.

  • Thinking about the home schooling of Tony and re-reading Warren's entry about raising children, I am bubbling forth with ideas about how to school him. I want him to take more responsibility for himself. I want him to be able to clean up after himself. I want him to be able to do some things in the kitchen. I want him to teach him to be an adult who can look after himself till he finds a wife. I want him to be able to take some initiative. I want him to help me clean our new car.

  • Chinese children aren't allowed to roam free. When I make this observation to Chinese parents, they tell me how dangerous the urban environment is. For example, when I told Jenny that when I was in grade three, the opening of the back door of the house was all that was needed to send me and my sister off to school, she balked and asked if I could imagine Tony dealing with all the cars and e-bikes if he walked home by himself. She has a point. Chinese drivers being what they are, I would have a hard time letting my one child roam freely in any neighborhoods where there are cars or e-bikes.

  • What spurred all the thoughts about home-schooling was my coming home at 9:00 PM on evening and seeing Jenny tiger-mothering Tony as she was helping him do his homework. It seemed to me that Jenny was being hard on Tony and I grumbled. The fireworks then started to fly. I won't attempt to paraphrase what was spoken during the discussion but relate this one anecdote. Jenny told me that when she was young, she did poorly in a math test and her mother knocked her on ground and then dragged her by the hair for two km home. Jenny grew up a decade or so after the cultural revolution.

  • I was all gung-ho, full of spit and vinegar, to home-school Tony in the morning, but when the evening came and I was tired and Tony was wanting to play computer and Ipad, I quickly compromised on all that I thought I would do with him.

  • Nothing much happened to me in the last days of September, 2015 that was bloggable. We saw our vehicle but weren't able to drive it because it wasn't insured yet.

  • On the last day of September, I saw two sights pass by the window of Casa Kaulins that faces onto Wenhui Road. First, a grandmother was piggyback-carrying a big child on her back. Talk about spoiling a child! Then, another older woman was pulling a shopping cart containing bags of groceries. It was the first time I had seen someone use a stolen shopping cart in China. And she took it down Wenhui Road, which runs in front of a big police station and then past another government building, in broad daylight.

  • From my desk at school, which allows me to look down on Zhongshan Road pedestrians, I see a man walking with his girlfriend and holding onto her ponytail. Chinese men walking with their female companions can look quite brutal to this blogger's eyes. I have seen local men have their arms around a girl so that it looked like a head-lock, or as if the fellow was genuinely scared that his girlfriend was going to leave him.

  • A possible funny exchange. Me (To a co-worker): Did you ever write a letter, put it in an envelope with an address on it, put an stamp on the envelope, and then put in a mailbox? Co-worker: Ah. Yeah.... How old do you think I am? Me: 24, 25. Co-worker: What ho! I'll have you know I am 37. Me: 37? You gots to be joking. I mean, like how do you measure your age? The metric system? Everyone: Ha Ha Ha.

  • Marketing workers at our school have a dirty job. They have to go on the street to try and get people to come into our school. One of the girls seemed sweet enough in a forlorn sort of way and was making an effort to study English. They let her go for some reason and she has been coming to the school to get the pay owed her. Heart breaking to see her walk to the pay office.

Monday, September 21, 2015

September 2015 Notes (Part 1)

In this entry which covers my first half of September 2015, I will, as always, try to make comments that are cryptic, and I will definitely make entries about: my son Tony going back to school, getting my Chinese driver's license, seeing pictures of Chairman Mao on prominent display in some Jiangsu countryside homes, the big parade held in Beijing on September 3rd, seeing Putin and Xi Da Da at the Beijing Parade, taking Tony to the Grand Canal, Tony always scheming to play computer games, people being cattled around at a shopping center, picking up Tony at his school, an email from a Mrs S about Catholicism, a beggar at a Starbucks, my getting high scores doing the Chinese driving practice test, fatal consequences to the crowded scenes of parents picking up or dropping off their children at school, security guards in a bakery, book bags with wheels, going to and from the Gissing company, being told to get unnecessary documents by the government, the atmosphere of a government place making me feel ill at ease, the Citroen C3 RX, traveling around some different parts of Wuxi, double-parking on a massive scale, a student's project at work, economic anecdotes, and getting criticism from Tony.

I also hope to make you laugh.

  • Tony was back to school – he is now in Grade 3 – on September 1. That date, I was up at 6:00 AM to help get him out of the house by 7:00 AM.

  • I started studying to get my Chinese driver's license. I need to get it because I couldn't renew my license in Canada and so I need to renew it in China so I can drive when I am in Canada.

  • I got a score of 73 out of 100 on my first practice test for the license.

  • On the second day of doing the tests, I improved to 85.

  • I told the student named Brandon about relatives I had seen in my wife Jenny's hometown who had pictures of Chairman Mao on prominent display in their homes. I had mentioned it to him because he told me that poor people in the faraway provinces of China only still did this; and so when I told him about two I knew in Beixin, Jiangsu, (including my in-laws) he was very much surprised.

  • To watch or not watch the military parade from Beijing on September 3? That is [was] the question.

  • I passed the practice test on my second day! So! Not only am I going to pass this test, I am going to win the Mao Medal!!! Ha ha ha! Yeah!!

  • September 3rd (Thursday), September 4th (Friday) and September 5th (Saturday) were public holidays in China to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII or, as the Chinese call it, the War against Japan. So, everyone would be back to work on September 6th (Sunday) and thus had a six day work week to look forward to. I had the 3rd off, but worked the 4th and 5th before taking my usual Sunday and Monday (the 6th and 7th ) off.

  • I watched small snatches of that big military parade in Beijing on the 3rd. I watched first at home and then at the Wanda Shopping Mall where the parade was being shown on the big video screens outside and inside of the building. Some locals were gathered around a big outside screen watching the goings-on in Beijing, but indoors, shoppers were going about their days not paying attention.

  • I noticed that Putin seemed to be the foreign guest of honor and that the parade looked like all the national day parades that I had seen.

  • Xi Da Da, as he in affectionately called by the students, stood like a mannequin, his heads and shoulders sticking out the top of a limousine that drove past the assembled troops and the vehicles that would later parade past him as he stood in the reviewing stand atop the Tienanmen Square portrait of Chairman Mao. I noticed the lines marked in the pavement that his limo had to follow. The detail struck me as interesting.

  • During the holiday, I tried to get Tony to walk along the Grand Canal for something different to do, but he wasn't at all interested and became whiny. All he wanted do, when I could get him to admit it, was play computer games.

  • It is now the SOP when I take Tony anywhere that we have to have a battle of wills where I alternately lose my temper and try to console him, and he either cries or rolls his eyes at me. We also have these fruitless arguments where I either beg him to tell me what he wants or I scold him, and he either says he doesn't know or engages in mimicry of everything I say.

  • Another thing with Tony is that he is always scheming to get more computer game playing time. One time, he suggested that I let him play Minecraft on the Apple TV. Somehow, to his way of thinking, this did not constitute playing games on the computer or Ipad, even though you need a computer or an Ipad to play on the Apple TV. He has also started to press his hands together in a pleading gesture when begging for me to let him play. And when Mom's away....

  • On the first Saturday night in September, I was at the Wanda Plaza where I had chance to witness a large number of people walking through a twisted path of cattle gates. A further survey of the scene made me realize that something was being given away for free and the masses were keen on getting free stuff. If it wasn't for the bad lighting conditions and my iPhone's inadequate camera I would have taken some grand photos.

  • Traffic jam by a kindergarten. I got on my e-bike and went to pick up Tony from school. The route I took was to take me pass an "experimental" kindergarten. However, I got to within 500 meters of that school and saw that the road was so jammed that drivers were getting out of their cars in order to raise their hands in frustration. I tried to make my way around the cars but had to give up because the cars were not lined up, but instead were strewn every which way because their drivers' efforts to evade the jam only got them more stuck. I could only escape by raising my heavy e-bike onto the sidewalk and taking an alternative route.

  • I still got to Tony's school ahead of time, but as the jam at the kindergarten foreboded, the area around the primary school entrance was crammed with people, e-bikes and cars making it hard for me to find a spot to park my e-bike.

  • Because of the September 3rd beating Japan in WW2 holiday, I had to pick up Tony from school on both Sunday and Monday. The second day I went was the second day of a change in procedure for parents to pick up their kids. The first day was a bit a smozzle the authorities must have decided, for the second day there were black uniformed security guards keeping the pick-up areas, where the children were to be brought, clear.

  • I got an email from a blogger who I had decided to follow after David Warren had linked to her blog in one of his blog entries. Mrs S. poked around my blog, read my proclamation that I wanted to be Catholic, asked why I hadn't become one yet, and offered to help me, citing her experience with the Catholic programs that educate adult converts. I was thrilled to have gotten her email. It was the first time any visitor to my blog had made mention of my Catholic declaration. I was glad to have her challenge me on my inaction, but I was intimidated to receive an email from someone so intelligent and literate in their writing style. My loneliness and isolation have fostered for me a confidence in my level of discourse that I shouldn't have. [I suspect my Catholic declaration has maybe lost me a few regular readers but I am not looking for quantity of readers, I am looking for quality.]

  • At a Starbucks on Zhongshan Road (the one that is near our school and next to Ba Bai Ban), I saw a beggar kneeling right by the entrance. There seemed to be blood on his face. I looked closer at him and then recoiled. It looked like he had cut a web of deep gashes on his face to shock people to give him alms.

  • As I type this, I plan on doing the actual test to get my Chinese Driving Test on Tuesday, September 15th. This very moment when I type this sentence (almost a week before the 15th), I am getting 98s and 99s on the practice tests.

  • I complained to a student about the crowded conditions at schools at the times where parents were picking up or dropping off their children; and she told me of a tragic story in Kunshan. (Kunshan, if you take the train from Wuxi to Shanghai, is just outside of Shanghai but part of Suzhou district.) At a school there, a child was getting out of his parents car when another car, driving by, hit and killed him. Such an awful thing. I shudder to imagine the pain that causes the parents. Such stories really hit home with me because it is something I always worry about with Tony here in China.

  • I walked into the 85 Bakery on 9/11 and was startled to see two security guards standing in the at-ease posture. I must have twitched when I got startled because the guards made gestures indicating that it was safe for me to enter. It seemed to me that they were in the bakery guarding all these boxes that were piled up in one corner of the store. This bakery had two security guards watching the stock!!! [The boxes contain lots of mooncake for the approaching Mid-Autumn Festival.]

  • I have noticed that more and more public school students going to school are pulling book bags with wheels. [Apparently this had already been happening in America for ten years, but it was new to me. The reason that they do it is because it is now believed that heavy backpacks loaded with books are bad for students backs.] In my mind it looks like these kids are posing as jet-setters who are above the level of back-packing proles.

  • Does a no-stopping sign in China mean no parking? I ask this because studying for the driver's license has made me aware of traffic signs. There is a sign that is blue and circular on which there is the red outline of a circle surrounding an X made with thin red lines. From practicing the test, I know that this sign means no stopping. But at the beginning of an alleyway near the school, there is such a sign and in the alleyway, there are cars parked all down one side. I would think that this was in violation of the sign. But could it be that parking is not stopping? That is, to be stopping, you have to be moving, and so if you are parked, you aren't moving which means you can't be stopping. Or you could say that the car is only parked there and not stopped because it will be moved later?

  • I finally got a 100 on my Chinese Driving Test Practice App. [I say "finally" because it was my goal to do so.]

  • Every second Friday evening, starting in September, I go to a company called Gissing which is in Wuxi's Xishan District, just East of the Hui Shan District where I live. As far as I was concerned the company wasn't all that far from where I lived. To get to my apartment from the company would be fairly easy: take a road to the freeway, then turn onto the freeway, then get off the freeway and viola, we are in my district. But the Gissing students told me that I lived far from their company; and when I took the taxi back, it did cost me 43 rmb: an expensive taxi ride.

  • Should it surprise me that one part of Chinese government doesn't know what the other part is doing? I went about the process of getting the paperwork I needed to take the test to get my Chinese driver's license. A local Expat website had said that all I needed was to get a resident registration form from my nearby police station, and a notarized translation of my Canadian driver's license. I got the resident form and then I went downtown with Jenny to another government office where foreigners renew their visas. Workers there told her that I needed to get another document from my school. We went through the rigmarole of getting this document, which took us four days, only to have Jenny take it to that downtown government office and be told that it was no good because it didn't have enough information in it. Jenny got angry and decided to phone the motor vehicle office where foreigners can take the test they need to pass to get the driver's license. They told her that she didn't need that form from the company which we had spent four days getting.

  • Looking back at the Expat site where I had first gotten the information about getting the driver's license, I noticed that someone had made a comment about having to go through all sorts of hoops to get the driver's license. One of these hoops of was getting some document from the company. And yet someone I know who had recently gotten the driver's license said it was no hassle at all and didn't need any document from the company... [It seems that foreigners who don't go to the downtown Visa office but instead contact the Driver's Licensing office are saved that hassle of being told to get that form.]

  • I finally got a Chinese driver's license after taking two trips – of course, it wasn't going to take one – to the Licensing Office which is in the Hubin District of Wuxi, not far from the Tangtieqiao Metro Station of Line #1. The first day, with Jenny's help, I presented my documents, had my eyes checked, had photos of my face and the back of my hands taken, and then learned that I could come the next day to take the test. The next day, I went back, took the test and to my disappointment, got 99 out of 100. I only needed to get 90 to pass but it was my stated goal to ace the thing. I was done in by a question that was worded differently from the question I had seen over and over again on the Internet practice app: the guide line in the intersection on the Internet was, on the government computer, called a guide line for non-motorized vehicles, which didn't seem right.

  • But at least I can brag that I did the test quickly, using only 12 of the allotted 45 minutes.

  • When I walked into the licensing office the first time, I was intimidated (or felt out of sorts). The place's atmosphere was bustling, but oddly of a mass impatient feeling of a mob wanting to get the process over and done with.

  • Jenny & I also went vehicle-shopping during these two trips! Jenny wanted to get either a Citroen or a Peugeot brand vehicle. She was definitely not going to buy any Japanese brands! The two French brands she was set on because they seemed to have good reputations among those of her acquaintances who had cars. We went to both brand's dealerships and we considered buying their basic sedan models and their small SUVs (which I thought of more as being large hatchbacks).

  • From these trips, it looks like Jenny is keen on getting a Citroen C3 RX SUV-slash-hatchback. It has lots of trunk space and lots of sitting room in the back for Tony. It as well looks cooler and less boring than a sedan. Tony wants us to get something blue and cool. He hates sedans, and has told me he likes Porsche Boxsters, BMWs and Jaguars.

  • Getting my driver's license and shopping for cars has me looking closer at traffic and at parking in Wuxi, and I see that I sure as heck am not going to have a Shangri-La life just because I will have access to a vehicle. The drivers do dangerous things and parking is at a premium.

  • Looking for cars with Jenny has had me going to parts of Wuxi that I hadn't seen before or hadn't seen in a while. Wuxi's development is strange and uneven. New buildings, including countless shopping plazas have been built beside old houses, old factories and the ruins of old houses and factories.

  • A second Citroen dealership we went to was across the street from what looked to be an abandoned factory.

  • One evening, I walked home from the Metro Station. There are several routes I can take to do this. One way is to follow the lit main roads, another is to walk through the Olympic Apartment Complex, and yet another, which I took that evening, takes me through a park and down this street of businesses, above and behind which are apartments. I was struck, because our imminent automobile purchase has made me sensitive to these things, of how difficult parking was to come by on this street. I guess that were at least twenty cars double-parked on this road which is about four or five car widths wide with parallel parking on both sides taking up two widths. At one spot, double-parked cars were parked across the street from each other leaving only a narrow lane for traffic to pass through. One has to wonder if the cars are double-parked temporarily, if perhaps they made arrangements with other drivers in order to double park, or if, as Jenny suspects, they don't want to pay parking fees.

  • I had a student, weak on vocabulary it turned out, who was telling me about a company project she was working on which involved her having to change a delivery system. No longer could they use a third party to deliver goods for them. They were being made to deliver the goods themselves in hopes of saving money.

  • Here is some anecdotal evidence of a slowing Chinese economy. One student told me she was feeling sad because her company was doing layoffs because of a decrease in orders. Another student with whom I had a weekday daytime class told me that he was only working three days a week , also because his company was getting less orders.

  • There was this amusing scene in the film Top Hat and I got it into my head to teach the students to use the royal "we." And I was happy to see that the students found the usage to be amusing.

  • Jenny has her driver's license for several years now, but hasn't driven a car since she got it. I am going to have to teach her.... Another thought that occurs to me as the purchase of the car approaches.

  • Tony had just gotten out of the shower. I walked in, without my shirt on, to give him a towel and his sleeping clothes. He looked at me and told me I was fat. [Later, he said I was bad because I had restarted a laptop while he was in the midst of playing some game.]

  • I think I have written enough for my first entry of September 2015. Stay tuned for my next entry to see how I progressed with regards to the car purchase and my correspondence with Mrs. S.