Tag Archives: Wuxi

Ciuitates mutantur

I only turned my back for a minute.

Even if very little else changes in China (e.g. Have people in Jiangsu stopped wearing pyjamas in public? No. Are Chinese motorists considerate of other road users and pedestrians? No), cities never stand still. They perhaps don’t change quite as rapidly as the clichés would have the world believe. For example, it’s taken five years for the buildings to the east of me to reach their current unfinished state, and in Chengdu, the area around 大慈 has managed to go almost nowhere in the past eight years. The original development stalled, and the current one is making glaciers look like Usain Bolt.

But when I got back from Chengdu on Tuesday, I found there had been several changes while I’d been away. The 85° shop opposite Baoli has reopened after being refurbished. I must go in and see whether they have the tiramisu log which Linda introduced me to in Chengdu. Then via my former colleagues, Joe and Lucy, I learnt that the Metro has started running.

A couple of weeks ago, the entrances all seemed to have been opened. There was one from the Parkson building where Burger King used to be, and another from the Far Eastern where the posh wine shop once was. I need to go and have a look at a map to see what course it takes. I know it runs along Zhongshan Lu, which bisects the centre of the city, but I don’t know where the line has come from or where it’s going.

[As an aside, I now suspect that Jiefang Lu marks the line of the old city walls. The Metro exit from the Far Eastern is called 胜利门 (Shenglimen “Victory Gate”), and I see on the map 东门 and 西门. There seems to be no southern gate.]

When I went out to Ikea yesterday to buy a bedside lamp, I did see that there’s a station being built not far from there. I’m not sure whether the line, which is elevated, is going to be part of the Metro, or some sort of light rail link. At the moment, getting the bus to Ikea is no real bother beyond the length of time spent waiting at either end, and the slowness of the journey, which takes about half an hour.

Another new development was the roadworks on 学前东路 (Xue Qian Donglu) alongside Yaohan (aka, Ba Bai Ban). The road is completely blocked off at the moment as they rip up the surface, but that whole section to the next intersection has needed seeing to for a long, long time.

Things have also changed out at Ikea with the opening of the Livat shopping mall. This appears to be run by Ikea, and there are connections between the two buildings, but the shops in the mall are the usual sort of thing, and include a cinema, Auchan (a supermarket), and yet another Suning. The place also has Subway and Burger King, which both used to be in Parkson before they vanished. I’ve been wondering whether either place might reappear in town, but at the moment, they’ve been banished to the New District, and although it’s not difficult to reach them, the journey vacuums up quite a chunk of time.

Livat is also a good deal more expansive than it seems. From outside the building is reasonably large, but that also disguises the depth behind it. Most of the shops are up and running with a few blanks in between. I notice, though, that once again, there’s never anywhere to sit down. Perhaps this is to stop the local bumpkins swarming into the place for free air con but for little else. (They were already lolling all over the beds in Ikea.)

I wandered around the building, but by that time, I’d bought the lamp from Ikea and had had lunch, and there was no reason for me to linger. I note that there is ultimately nothing special about Livat. It’s the usual sort of shops, most of which don’t interest me in the slightest and most of which are already in town – apart from Subway and Burger King. I also note, once again, the complete absence of any bookshops.

One thing I noticed when I was in Chengdu was just how different the Far Eastern is there from the one here. In our one, there is a central space with the shops around it. The one in Chengdu has no central space, which makes it feel very different. It seemed more claustrophobic and more like those vast clothing markets in Beijing which I visited once or twice, where everything is packed in like sardines on floor after floor. On the other hand, the IFS building in Chengdu has a central space which, I assume, is some sort of psychological ploy intended to improve the shopping experience. (That’s probably what the brochure said, but probably didn’t say “ploy”.) Along with many of the shopping malls in town, Livat is based on the same principles.

Map of Wuxi Metro, Line 1

When I go shopping later, I’ll venture into one of the Metro stations to have a look at a map to see where the line goes, and perhaps where it’s supposed to be going. Is Line 1 the usual north-south affair or is it a circuit? What were they doing outside BuyNow on Wu’ai Lu, which seems to be a bit removed from the rest of the Metro system? I thought it was going to be another entrance, but that now seems highly unlikely.

[A little later. I went into the Sanyang en­trance outside Parkson and took this picture of Line 1. I suspect that Line 2 will run east-west and will include the station out near Ikea, though currently nothing heads into the New District (新区).]


Everyone smokes here

The Airpocalypse continues.

A picture of a smoggy day in Wuxi, China, December 2013.The air quality in Wuxi has continued to be vile for a third day, having risen by a hund­red points to an AQI reading of 352 at 4.00am this morning, since when it’s per­sist­ent­ly been above 340 all day. I assume that this is the consequence of an inversion layer sitting on top of China causing the smog to build up. (As I write this, some thoughtful person is making things just that bit worse by setting off some fireworks; but in­tel­lig­ence and consideration are not really qualities of the average imperial citizen; in fact, if Descartes had been Chinese, he would’ve eaten the dog after killing it so brutally, and would’ve said ‘I pollute, therefore I am’.)

Yesterday, the PM 2.5 and PM 10 readings were over 300, but at the time of writing, they’ve dropped to a less lethal 239 and 272. I should take up smoking since I’m sure that would be less injurious to my health than the stuff thickening the air like lethal cornflour.

Now that the temperature has dropped, wearing a mask while I’m riding my bike is not such a trial as it used to be. In fact, I notice that quite a lot of people have been wearing masks today, including many of the pupils at school.

I see the PM was in China recently. He complained about a Bloomberg reporter being excluded from a press conference, but I assume he phoned his boss (Li Keqiang) who phoned the emperor, who said it was all right for Cameron to complain so that (to a domestic audience) it would look like Britain was standing up to China.

The Smogpocalyse drags on. (06.12.13)

Smog in Wuxi, China, December 2013Things have got worse. At the time of writing, the AQI is 354, PM 2.5 440, and PM 10 545.

Meanwhile, outside, there’s some sort of student market. Instead of the school banning such a thing and telling children to remain inside, their lordships seem quite happy for all of them to breathe the vile and unbreathable air. Of course, the students aren’t helping themselves by opening the windows of their classrooms.

In fact, in any reasonable country, we would all have been told to stay home. On the other hand, if we were told to stay home, we’d probably end up having various weekends stolen from us.

As far as I’m currently aware, there’s no end in sight.

Today’s picture was the scene looking east at about 5pm. At the current time of writing, the AQI is 387, PM 2.5 379, and PM 10 494. What is being done about this?

Shuffling off this mortal miasma. (10.12.13)

Yesterday morning was very dull and grey, and the AQI had started rising again after hitting a peak of 387 about 24 hours earlier.

It was, though, the arrival of a cold front from the north that has finally seen off the smog, and this morning, the air is comparatively less filthy in that I can see the buildings in town clearly, although I can’t see the line of 锡山 to the east. Still, this is a vast improvement over the view out of my window for the past week.

Off to the eyot

Or, Blast from the Past.

For some time now I’ve been meaning to go back to 江尖公园, which is the island I can see from my window. I probably went over there about three years ago to have a look at the fake ancient street only to find that the money had apparently run out and the place was being left to slowly decay. A man was practising the flute there at the time.

Soon after my trip, the street was fenced off, and when the fencing was removed, I assumed that the work had been finished and had been filled with pretentious boutique shops populated by bored, low-achieving girls.

And thus I toddled off this afternoon to see what had been going on since I was last year. Answer? Nothing. The place remains an unoccupied shell apart from a functioning (?) restaurant. I could also hear some people, probably security guards, playing majiang in an upstairs room as I went through the entrance.

I then took a turn round to 县前三号, which is this group of three buildings which have been under construction for the past two years or so. Before they started on those, they built some buildings in what I’d describe as a sino-colonial style. I thought they might be small shops and restaurants, and the sales office for the project itself, but I’d never been over there.

What I found was that these were also shells of buildings. The entrances are boarded up, although all the windows are wide open. It seems to be a rather extravagant gesture, reminiscent of the mouldering buildings outside 大慈 in Chengdu, which had obviously been mothballed and which have now been demolished without ever recouping the money expended on them. Like 江尖公园 there was a restaurant, which does appear to be open, but that was all.

I had been chiding myself for not being inquisitive sooner, but all I found was the same oriental folly which was there on the previous occasion.

Clarity if not enlightenment

Rain and typhoons?

While Beijing has been washed down the drains and Hong Kong has been blown out into the South China Sea (where it bolsters spurious imperial claims to the region), we’ve had nothing but a string of clear sunny days with fluffy white clouds chased about by the wind. I assume that the weather systems to the north and south have been contriving to give us some decent, but rather hot (35°) weather. It’s been clear enough to see the hill to the east without having to squint through a curtain of haze, and as I write this, there’s not a cloud to be seen in the sky from my place.

I suppose I ought to make the most of it.

It reminds me of the summer when I first came to Wuxi, which was such a contrast to the typically cloudy weather of Chengdu. It also reminds me of summer in Hong Kong a couple of years ago when it was clearer than I’ve ever seen it.

There’s still much of the summer left to go, and yet it seems like an age has passed since term ended. I do mind a little bit that I’m still here, and yet in other ways I don’t. I’ve got things done that holidays would otherwise interrupt.

But there goes the rice cooker announcing that it’s teatime.

Sunny, sunny again, and then…

Grey and hazy.

I returned to the Empire yesterday after a journey which involved rather a lot of inertia as I waited to resume my journey. For example, it took me seven hours to get home from the time the plane landed at Pudong. Four of those were simply waiting at the airport, first for the ticket office at the coach station to open at 8.30am and then for the first bus to Wuxi, which left at 10.10am. Unlike last year, I didn’t have a hotel room to which I could retreat, and I ended up almost falling asleep on the seats near arrived in Terminal 2 because there’s no seating along the paths between the two terminals, I didn’t fancy sitting around in the squalid waiting room. The other three hours were the journey to Wuxi, which is punctuated by a stop at Hongqiao to collect passengers from there.

Contrary to the forecast which I looked up on Baidu a couple of days ago, the weather was bright and sunny with barely a cloud to be seen. After New Zealand, of course, the air lacks that sparkling clarity. Even the temperature wasn’t so bad and it wasn’t until I did some shopping late yesterday afternoon that I recalled my thermal knickers and found that I didn’t need them.

That was yesterday. This morning, though, the forecast has been less amiss. It’s very, very grey and moderately hazy, and as I write, it could be any time o’clock.

As for the flight itself, there’s little worth mentioning. It was an overnighter, which meant that I spent a lot of the flight nodding off, tipping forwards, and waking up again. I need to find some way of strapping myself to the seat so that when I do nod, my head doesn’t tilt and the rest of me doesn’t try to tumble forwards. Actually, vertical straps would sort of do the trick although that leaves my rather wobbly head flapping about like a mad woman’s knickers on a clothes line in a force 9 gale.

I did have one weird dream, though. I was sitting on a chair in a room when a mortar bombardment began. It was so heavy that the chair and I were shaken several metres across the floor. The my wobbly head probably wobbled and I woke up. (As a side note, not unrelated to mortar bombardments, there has been a plethora of fireworks going off this morning. No sooner did one lengthy barrage end a couple of minutes ago, then a new one commenced. Lantern Festival today?)

Anyway, the washing has done, I’ve inflicted more trivia on the world, and there’s an empty drying frame out there which isn’t going to hang the washing out itself.

The poster boy for irony

Or, as we know it, China.

wuxi_ironyI wasn’t going to mention the outcome of the climate change talks in Copenhagen or my utter lack of surprise that it was sabotaged or the identity of the saboteur. What was the rest of the world expecting? But when I got back from lunch this afternoon, I decided to re-enter the building through the lifts from the lower ground floor. As I was passing the notice board just near the outside door, I noticed this poster, which I couldn’t resist snapping for its irony value. There’s some double irony because the English is real English and not Chinglish as I’d expect. 

Of course, the poster is ambiguous because it could be a call to combat change for the better; and after what happened in Copenhagen, I’m inclined to suspect that’s its actual intention.

Meanwhile, it seems to be painting week in Wuxi. The local council is having 江尖桥 painted, and the posts on the outside of the walkway on the island. There were some council workers repainting the road markings at the intersection last week. In fact, the work at school, which currently seems to be the upgrading of the piping at the front and the renovation or demolition of buildings on the north side, may be part of all this. Scaffolding went up around the lighthouse on the island a couple of days ago, and there are now some people on it who appear to be cleaning the rust (?) off the metallic bands that run around the circumference between each set of glass panels.

I guess that the redecoration is early preparation for the Spring Festival, although that’s about six weeks away. As for the work at school, there’s no sign that we’re about to be moved yet. That should really be done during the holiday or after the final exams when it’s going to cause the least disruption. I did wonder why anyone would have us moving this month.

Meanwhile, the sun continues to shine and the weather continues to be as cold as charity. Perhaps we’re in for an early spring next year.

Tales from the School of Irony

Are you sure that’s the title you want, Mr Kearns?

I went to the Xinhua Bookshop on 人民中路 this afternoon. It was for an unofficial, semi-official visit. As I was looking through the rather eclectic collection of foreign-language books on the shelves, I espied the title How Tiger Does It. Yeah, how that Tiger [Woods; the golfer] does it. I wonder whether Brad Kearns is regretting his unfortunate choice of title. I should’ve checked to see whether it was sub-titled “And who he does it with”.

Meanwhile, from a non-ironic school I see the spam pests are having a good shit over my blogspot blog, and there’s not a thing I can do about it. These nuisances are clearly from Taiwan (trad. chars.) and probably targeting any blogs written by people trapped on the mainland because they know that we probably can’t do anything about it. Meanwhile, I found that Project Gutenberg is now viewable for the first time in years. I wonder if that’s because there’s been a change of management and thus a change of IP address.

My big day today was not my big day. We were merely auditioning in front of a group of teachers who were deciding whether Class 15’s act should be included in the Christmas concert. As things stand, our little drama needs much more work.

Meanwhile, this seems to be demolition season in Wuxi. Not only are the old houses on the far side of the island being demolished, but some other blocks of flats a bit further over on the other side of the canal have suddenly been turned to rubble. The flats next to the nursery school in our complex appear to have had their roofs removed, but that seems to have been the sole intention of that exercise. I’m sure if Marco Polo had headed this way in the 13th century, he would’ve written in this diary:

We rode towards the town of Wuxi, but when we got there, there were only piles of bricks. When our guide asked a local man whether we were actually in the town, he replied that it had been demolished, but would be rebuilt shortly. Our man asked him whether he was at all inconvenienced, he said with a shrug that such things happened there at least once a week.

Incident at Jinma

Conflagration at Corruption Towers!
Local twit burns washing.
Clothing retailers predict an increase in November profits.
wuxi_fire01 I got home for lunch to find a group of people, including two camera crews and a couple of policemen, standing around in the turning circle outside Building 36. They were looking up at some­thing, but I couldn’t tell what until I got up to my place and had a look out of the window. It appears that someone either on the 16th or 17th floor set fire to their washing. Whether it was done deliberately or was an accident, I don’t know, but I’d say the latter seems more likely since the police didn’t seem especially bothered when I entered the building. The charred remains of whatever caught fire are on the window ledges and the fire, it seems, was wholly external.
So there you are. A world exclusive from the Mr Bamboo News Agency (a wholly independent subsidiary of Mr Bamboo plc).
Intrepid local reporters cover the story.
© 2009 Mr Bamboo News Agency
No truth ever knowingly left unembellished.

The Open Day

In the aisles.

I’m allegedly meant to be at a top school in Jiangsu Province. Well, a top school in Wuxi, perhaps. Yesterday was the school’s open day when hordes of parents [insert slight pause here] and teachers from other schools came by the coach load to observe classes throughout the school, including ours. I was expecting a few people to turn up to the AS class, but ended up with them right along the back wall, right alongside the windows down to the front of the class, and about half way down the aisle beside the doors. People took pictures and a cameraman appeared at the back door briefly at one stage.

Obviously people had heard of me and wanted the chance to see Mr Bamboo in action.

[The truth is somewhat different. The pupils in Colin’s class told their parents to go to Mr Bamboo’s class, hence Colin had no observers during the course of that lesson. –ed.]

Dave, who can only be described as a dozy prune who sits at the front of the class, got dragged out of the room by his mother, much to everyone else’s amusement. It was interesting that Dave then started participating in class, knowing that his mum was there somewhere in the background.

I got to the end of the class and gave the little darlings their homework only to then be informed that they were sitting their SATs this weekend, which put paid to their homework – for the time being. The AS class are going to have to get used to writing essays in English, although to them longer means anything over 200 words.

Danwei II has an interesting piece about the experience of a foreigner banged up in a Chinese jail (A foreigner’s life in a Beijing jail.) Prison life sounds every bit as dull as I’ve heard it is. No idea what he was in for or where he was from.

 The quick grey wolf jumped over the wooden gate. This picture won the Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award for 2009. (BBC story.) It’s a great image and yet I thought it lacked any personality because there’s no interaction between the wolf and the viewer or the wolf and anyone or anything else unlike, say, your typical big cat shot where the lion / tiger / jaguar looks at the camera and makes eye contact. It contrasts with the pictures of the squabbling yellowhammers because there’s action and drama in that picture, and the same can be said of the picture of the cat seeing off the fox. I’m sure that I could devise some pretentious interpretation of the picture of the leaping wolf, but I think the picture is merely what you see – an impersonal moment in the life of a Spanish wolf. [02.12.13. I know there was some controversy over the authenticity of this picture, but can’t recall whether it was proved to be fake or not.

Meanwhile, Madagascar, which I had thought was one of those places which seldom features in the news, has been in the Guardian a couple of times recently. The previous story was, I think, about the island as a travel destination while today’s story is about the effect of climate change on the country (Ravaged by drought, Madagascar feels the full effect of climate change). As you can see from the story, the southern parts of Madagascar have some serious environmental problems which are not being helped by the current political situation.

Is it really twenty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall? Blimey. I know that when I was young, I couldn’t imagine such a thing ever happening, or the reunification of Germany, or the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Windows 7 is out and, it seems, an improvement on Vista even if it’s what Vista ought to have been (or even Vista 3.0). I think I’ll see about getting an upgrade the next time I go to Hong Kong. I was never happy about having to buy a laptop with Vista on it, but because I needed a new machine about a year ago, I won’t be due to buy a replacement for this machine for another couple of years.

Speaking of computers, I see my hit count has dropped dramatically this week (about a fifth of what I’ve been getting on average for the past few months) and my visitors are back to coming almost exclusively from searches. Then again, I haven’t been posting here so frequently because there’s been little worth mentioning. The PAL classes give me no cause for concern; the AS1 class is still behaving like a less bad version of any of the Senior 2 classes I’ve taught since I came to China. Caleb told me that we’re going to be moving to another building in December while the building we’re currently in is actually going to be demolished. I thought that we wouldn’t be moving until the very end of the term and that the building was merely being refurbished.

Lunchtime has arrived, after which I’m off to check out a DVD shop which Rob recommended to me. I’m hoping to get the 4th series of Weeds and that there’s other stuff worth getting.

Lies, damned lies

And pgn files.

I haven’t done a lot this weekend. I went for a brief adventure yesterday only to confirm that in Wuxi you’ll end up back where you started your journey sooner rather than later. I did see a drunk man who seemed to have been causing a commotion at a bus stop. He was red-faced and unsteady, but the policemen who were there when I passed through didn’t seem to think it was a big deal. Perhaps it was a despondent droning-top man, who was back in action today after a prolonged absence. As I think I suggested, he was probably advised to be quiet because the last thing a corrupt official wants is a tired, irritable concubine. [01.12.13. I haven’t heard a peep out of droning-top man in quite some time. Either he’s moved on or the police moved him on.]

Meanwhile, it appears that work might be resuming on the half-built buildings on the island. Fences have gone up, blocking access, and someone set off a barrage of fireworks from the empty ground on the far side last night. 

It’s been an uneventful weekend apart from Mr Bamboo pursuing his nerdly activities. I’ve been using ChessBase Light to have a look through the pgn files I’ve downloaded from the pgnmentor site and finding that they seem to have been compiled inconsistently. At best, they contain sets of related openings, but the method I was using for generalising the opening I suppose was the common theme of each file was merely producing the most frequently used opening without revealing the others. 

And just to muddy the waters further, in the course of my investigations I’ve found that there appears to be some inconsistency from one source of openings to another. Perhaps. Not every opening necessarily follows the standard order, but I wonder what the correct answer is when an Old Indian Defence (thus ChessBase Light) is classified an English, Smyslov Defence (thus 365Chess.com). The openings have two moves in common and the Old Indian could become the Smyslov Defence.

A21 English: Smyslov Defence
1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 d6 3. Nf3 Bg4

A53 Old Indian Defence
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 d6

I don’t suppose I’ll ever know or even ever really be that bothered. Nonetheless, my inclination for classificatory rigour is disturbed by the apparent casualness with which the pgn files have been compiled. One opening, one file, kids.

I’ve also come to the conclusion that when an opening is rather vague, the following move is whatever.

I finished watching the first series of Mad Men the night before last. I’m not sure whether it’s really doing anything different or whether the setting – conservative, sexist, chain-smoking America of the early 1960s – is merely disguising the same old human drama. It’s entertaining enough, although the revelation that Don Draper is not who he claims to be ended up being a damp squib when the firm’s senior partner declared that it didn’t matter.