Friday, 31 December 2021

Chapter 365 - The End

Last day of the year. I woke up a bit before 7, took the dog out, and went to work. Same scenario you read about hundreds of times.

We got a message from the principal, school will end at 3:30 today, to extend the three-day weekend even more. That means no Crazy Class. Part of me thought about this will affect my planning for the final exam review but I was also glad I could just leave earlier and kick back at home.

Lunch was quite a feast, I assembled a bunch of stuff I got at the imported food grocery store in Shanghai, with fried halloumi, hummus, tortilla bread with cream cheese, olives, pickles, hard-boiled eggs, salami and nuts. Then I went back to school. I only had three class periods with twelfth-graders and they went okay, I guess. I shook hands with coworkers, wished them a happy new year, and went home.

I spent the rest of the late afternoon and early evening watching documentaries, losing at online chess, listening to music, and drinking red wine. The girlfriend went to a wedding in another city, so it was just me and the dog. At around 9 or 10, I pondered whether or not I should go to the bar, see all my pals who’d sure be there, and do the whole cheesy countdown thing, but decided that staying put was a more desirable option. Fuck, I’m almost middle-aged now, I value my me-time above a lot of things.

I did go on a long walk with the dog, though, enjoying the quiet streets and crisp winter air. I walked along the canal, which is seriously picturesque, all lit up at night but with still gritty edges to it. The city built a pedestrian boardwalk just at the edge of the water, and when I walked under a bridge, I looked across and finally saw it, the legendary hermit dog. He dwells in a pile of rubble under the bridge in an area that can’t be reached on foot, and survives on food that benevolent old people lower there with a bucket and a rope. I heard about him but never could catch a glimpse, now he was there at the edge of the water. That filled me with heavy sadness, poor little guy.

My guess is he got thrown off the bridge as a puppy by some scumbag who didn’t want him, perhaps with the rest of the litter, and instead of drowning he made his way to his new living space. I heard about him for a while now, when I’d walk there I’d see old women leaning on the guardrail, gossiping, talking about that one time they saw him briefly, wondering if he’s even real. I once considered going there with my boat, but then what? He might be feral and full of diseases, and even if he let me “rescue” him, it’s not as if there will be a line of people looking to adopt him. His fate would be the same as all those bastard unwanted stray dogs, and what was awaiting my own little ugly bastard unwanted stray dog, if we hadn’t picked him up as he was living on garbage and little snack sausages the apartment complex’s security guard were chucking him.

That was as good of a time as any to reflect on the past year, and my own lot in life. It could definitely suck more, and all things considered, I have it good and am happy. My life is a bit mundane and even mediocre in a way, but with FOMO and social media and survivorship bias and some kind of hussling culture, it’s too easy nowadays to compare oneself disfavorably to abnormally successful people (or, people who project such a façade) and feel inadequate. I’m not very ambitious, I don’t particularly want to be rich or famous or leave a lasting legacy, I’m happy just drifting through life doing things I find interesting, and be left alone.

Which brings us to this diary. This is the last entry, and I still haven’t thought about how I’ll fill this void of free time. Maybe write a novel, maybe level up my Chinese, maybe I won’t plan anything and just be happy I stuck to it till the end. I’ll keep the 330 000-word file somewhere, and will decide whether I nuke the blog itself, or let it float on its corner of the internet like a piece of driftwood.

So this is it, then. Happy New Year to you and your loved ones, health, prosperity and all that.

Thursday, 30 December 2021

Chapter 364

I took the dog out for a walk, and he played with his little Pomeranian friend. Well, not sure if they’re friends or enemies, but they like to play fight and then sniff each other’s genitals.

I was in the office, and one mouthbreathing student I don’t know walked in. He must have not felt the temperature rise by 20 degrees when he went from the unheated hallway to the air conditioned confines of the closed space, because he left the door wide open. I told him to close it, he started mumbling fragments of broken English “Uh, I..., derp, uh, uh, nigga, uh...” before just saying in Chinese “I’m going soon” in a tone that was a tad bit too brusque for a snotty teenager to address a teacher, before grabbing a pile of homework papers and leaving. A Chinese coworker heard it and instead of yelling at him, she started guffawing like a goose. “WOAH!!! HAHAHAHA!!! YOU JUST SPOKE TO IT IN OUR LANGUAGE!!! HAHAHAHA!!!” This shit is infuriating. When my own students do it I give them an earful, or when they speak Chinese to me in what is the equivalent of the Apu accent in the Simpsons. But is it worth getting mad over it? I can also just shrug.

In the afternoon I was also in a bad mood, usually Crazy Class is in the lab, which means they’re upright and blood is flowing to their brains, but now they were still dead asleep from their midday nap. Teaching them feels like a mix of trying to create a hole in a ball pit and talking to a brick wall, and one student yawned audibly twice. The first time I warned him not to do it again, because it’s rude, but he did just that. I don’t think he was being impolite on purpose, he just doesn’t possess the social intelligence to know what is rude and what isn’t (and please spare me your fucking cultural relativism de mes deux) and also doesn’t have the analytical intelligence to at least learn how to overcome or alleviate his social awkwardness. I expelled him, and he looked happy, as if it was a reward.

Soon after that, I taught the strong eleventh-graders’ class, and it was night and day. They’re so good, I’d teach them for free.

I went home, downloaded a bunch of new podcasts for my mp3 player, and went to the gym. I listened to the first episode of Les Pires Moments de l’Histoire (the worst moments in history), a funny history podcast by a young Quebec comedian, and then an Chris Williamson interview with a psychologist dropping some uncomfortable truths about human nature. I did my shoulder workout, went home, ate a salmon burger and some halloumi cheese. I hadn’t had halloumi forever, it’s some kind of Mediterranean salty cheese that doesn’t melt when fried or grilled, and I love it.

Then I rode the longboard with the dog and met the girlfriend at her workplace. Back home, I started listening to some underground old-school hip-hop albums and mixtapes that dropped this year, from a Top 25 list on They were great, I really, really dislike most modern rap but it’s good to see there are still underground gems. I played online chess for over two hours. I won one game with a sneaky checkmate, one game by stalling and having the opponent run out of time, and one by resignation after eliminating a few strong pieces early, but lost more games than I won. Ah well.

Wednesday, 29 December 2021

Chapter 363

362 down, 3 to go. I took the dog out in the cold, rode to work and taught my grade-12 classes. A video made the rounds of the WeChat shitposting groups I’m a member of, an English-speaking foreign resident of the city of Xi’An was filmed going on a profane rant after being told to wait in the snow for hours for a Covid test. The plot thickened later, as the video was wiped off the Chinese internet because it shines a light on the incompetence of the health officials there, and also because of some angry Chinese guy hurling racial abuse at him, notably calling him a “white-skinned pig”. Still, the guy is heard yelling “Fuck China” and other vociferations, gotta be careful with that.

I made ribs in the oven and spaghetti for lunch, it was awesome, and I rubbed my belly in satisfaction. Then I went back to school, taught Catatonic Class and Crazy Class, and hung out in the office in between.

The Italian blue belt sent us a message, he injured his back and can’t go to BJJ training. The other blue belt, and the new guy are also busy. I was a bit bummed out, but could definitely take a day off, the DOMS from the deadlift workout compounded with the long bike ride were taking their toll. So I played a bunch of online chess games and watched chess instructionals to suck less at the game.

The girlfriend arrived home late, and we took the dog out. She told me a story, how she saw an old man in the underground parking lot doing something “almost wenming (civilized)” by picking up his dog’s poop with a paper towel, but instead of dropping it in a garbage can, he left the paper-wrapped turd at the edge of the wall. I used to draw a webcomic that got a moderate following among expats in China, and made one about this exact scenario many years ago, based on a true story.

We went to measure (or, as she says with her endearing imperfect English, measuralize) the dimensions of our board in the car to order some padded mattresses. The whole project is going to be completed soon, I’m looking forward to tour China with it!

Tuesday, 28 December 2021

Chapter 362

I’m actually writing this two days later. Throughout the whole year, I would sometimes lag behind and catch up on my diary, especially if I had been traveling or after a lazy weekend. Four more entries, and I have to say I’m somewhat looking forward for this to end and have 2021, and this commitment to write a daily journal, in the rear-view mirror.

So now I’m trying to remember what I did on Tuesday. Well, I went to work, I guess. I had a few classes. I yelled at idiots who walked in the office and left the door open. I got annoyed by the loud yell-chatting of my coworkers during the short bursts of time between walking in and putting on my headphones, or vice-versa. I escaped home, played with the dog, watched mindless YouTube videos and ate a homemade lunch for a bit over an hour at midday. Same old.

First period after lunch was with twelfth-graders. I turned on the lights at 13:00 and went to the office to gather my stuff. When the bell rang at 13:05, over half were still sprawled on their desks like larvae, so without a word, I just went back to the office. I’m not their goddamn mother.

I started putting the final exam together, and listened to music. I’m putting together a top 12 of best metal releases of the year, and narrowing it down. One of my favorites is Alpenpässe by Minenwerfer, a great WW1-themed black metal release with elements of prog rock and old military songs, I’ve been listening to it quite a lot recently.

After work I took a quick nap, took the dog out so he’d do his toilet duties, and went to the gym. I did my deadlifts, good mornings, lat pull downs, leg raises and shrugs, and then rode to a bar on the west side of the city for chess night. It’s the last time I’ll ever go to this bar, because they’re closing at the end of the year. It’s a bit sad, it’s a decent bar and the two sisters who run it are nice, but a part of me is also glad in a way, because it’s far from where I live and now the social gatherings taking place there will likely move closer.

We played a few chess games. I lost most of them but I had a good time anyway. Then I rode half an hour home in the bitter cold and was in bed just a bit before midnight.

Monday, 27 December 2021

Chapter 361

I woke up a bit before 9, packed my stuff, and went to Boom Boom Bagels. I had a salmon and cream cheese classic, and got a pulled pork sandwich to go, at the girlfriend’s request. I’m such a good husband.

I rode to the train station and sat in the massage chair for half an hour. The waiting hall was deserted compared to usual, only then did I remember it was Monday, a normal workday. I got one day off for Christmas, and in fact, as I was sitting there getting my shoulders and back kneaded by the robot chair, my students and Chinese coworkers still had to go to school.

The train started boarding at 10:30, though it was scheduled for 10:49. I still had a few minutes left on my massage, but after the huddle of peasants finished pushing through the gates, I made my way there, not wanting to be locked out even if there are minutes remaining, bEcAuSe it’S tEh pOLiCy. I walked downstairs to the platform and saw that the train was waiting several hundreds of meters away. Why?! It’s a train. Scoot it over. If there’s a reason, I’m either too smart or too stupid to understand it.

In the train, a rent-a-cop asked for my passport. He seemed to acknowledge my excuse for being maskless (eating raspberries) and also controlled a few people in the carriage who did have their face diapers on. Still, I put on the glass fogger for the remainder of the hour-long journey, probably the longest I’ve worn one since the plane ride in May.

I took a taxi home. The dog was stoked to see me. I ate a lunch composed of various goodies we bought in Shanghai (hummus, flat bread, salami, nuts, olives) and then took the dog out. I rode the longboard to the girlfriend’s school, got in the car, and drove to the furniture store where we commissioned them to cut a board for our camper-car. They also said they would assemble it, but of course the mouthbreathing fucktards didn’t do it, and the pieces of laminated wood were still packed in cardboard. The boss wasn’t there, I gave his minion an earful and stormed out of there, mad I just wasted over an hour. In China you can get some of the best and also some of the worst customer service.

So I went back to the girlfriend’s workplace, and rode home. At least the dog got a good long walk out of it. I then sat around a bit longer at home, editing a video I made with bits of live sets I saw over the weekend, and went to the gym. We trained various takedowns and rolled a few rounds. I took a knee to the balls and had to walk it off, I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often, given the chaotic nature of the sport and how clumsy I am. Then I went home, and met the girlfriend in the underground car park. She went to the furniture store and got those champions to assemble our shit like they were supposed to, and now we’re moving closer to our goal. Here’s to hoping we can make a nice road trip during the winter vacation, and that some Covid-related stupid shenanigans don’t come and cockblock us.

I ate a big dinner of canned fish and various leftovers, and went to bed.

Sunday, 26 December 2021

Chapter 360

We slept in a bit, enjoying the warmth of the blankets in our poorly insulated old slummy building and getting awakened just a few times by the drilling outside. Then we got dressed, went to a small imported grocery store to stock up on rare goodies, dropped it in our luggage, and walked a few kilometers to a brunch spot and ate crepes, a savoury one with egg and cheese and ham, and a sweet one with lemon butter. I also had a glass of warm bourbon with apple juice. It was great.

My earbuds stopped working yesterday night, on the ride back from the show. That angered me, but hey, that’s what happens to electronics, they eventually just die. So after the girlfriend and I split (she has to work tomorrow, the poor soul, and I do not), I rode a rent-a-bike to a store we found online called “Headphone King”. It’s located in a shopping plaza just off East Nanjing Road, a pedestrian district of the city I used to wander in often but haven’t been to for a long time. Normally, it’s crawling with touts and annoying peddlers constantly harrassing every white face they see to buy some useless junk and it’s Ground Zero for scams, like the infamous tea house switcharoo and other honeypots. Now, I assume the scumfucks crawled back to whatever shithole they came from, I can’t imagine business is good for them now that the clueless tourists are gone and that nearly every foreigner in the city is an expat who knows about their shit.

I found Headphone King, a small shop on the twelfth floor, and it was like you can imagine, with hundreds and hundreds of models on display, ranging from a handful of dollars to several thousand. I tried out a few, and asked the guy if I can also try the ones with a 15 000 yuan price tag. The sound was incredibly crisp, but not literally 50 times better than the 300 yuan pair I settled on.

Then I had a few hours to kill, and though it was cold, the sun was out and the air was crisp. I walked a few blocks east to the waterfront and gazed at the Pudong skyline, which has got to be the most impressive skyline in the world. At least I can’t think of another one, maybe Hong Kong, or Rio de Janeiro if that counts.

I looked at my phone, and saw a text message from the organisers of the metal show I was heading to, and around which I pretty much centered this little Shanghai escapade. I squinted to decipher the parade of complicated Chinese characters, and saw the words “cancelled” and “refund”. My butthole puckered, but then I read the whole thing and saw that it’s just one band that cancelled its participation after one of its members was flagged as a possible Covid case. The show was otherwise going to happen as planned. Great.

It had been only two hours since we had brunch, but I was starting to feel a bit hungry again. I went to eat roast chicken, bought some cans of microbrews, and headed to the Mao Livehouse, a large concert venue I hadn’t been to yet. I was there half an hour ahead, as the bands were still doing their soundchecks, so I plopped on a beat-up leather couch, drank my IPAs and read some Thailand sexpat trashlit on my phone.

Eight bands were scheduled, the first one being Hematemaesis, a brutal death metal/slam quartet with an overly enthusiastic female bassist. A large number of emerging Chinese bands have a girl in their ranks, and she’s nearly always handling the bass, no idea why. Then it was Execution, in very much of a Bay Area thrash vein, one track reminded one of Testament, and the next was a clone of Megadeth, or maybe even a cover of Megadeth, I wouldn’t know. I do know they closed with a cover of Exodus’s War is my Shepherd.

Incremate rocked my socks with some more brutal death goodness, followed by the hardcore kids of Gaiwaer. Between sets, I started bantering and bullshitting with other attendees, and it seemed like the Dummy Toys were very eagerly anticipated. The all-female quartet, all dressed in over-the-top punk rags and with insane hairstyles, indeed turned out to be awesome.

Then, for some reason, there was an hour-long intermission. I didn’t want to get my coat out of the storage locker, so I headed out in the night in my thin hoodie and took refuge in a convenience store, where I bought some junk food. The show restarted with Skeletal Augury, a black/thrash metal outfit I’d been looking forward to catch live for the first time, in fact, all the bands on the bill are new to me, which is why I was looking forward to this show. They were evil and uncompromising but lacked the energy of the more punky bands on the bill, like Demerit, who came next and truly stole the show, starting enormous mosh pits. I’d been listening to their album in the past months and I recognized the insanely catchy tunes, like

Holokastrial was scheduled to close the show, but I’d seen them barely 24 hours prior and they were not that great anyway. I had my fix, so I just rode home in the bitter cold and read in bed, sipping a wheat beer.

Saturday, 25 December 2021

Chapter 359

The girlfriend and I woke up reasonably early, took the dog out, and headed to the train station. I parked the car underground and we got on the train to Shanghai soon after.

My assigned seat was 2C, and there was a bald, elderly, senile looking man already there. “Oh, I’m supposed to be in 4B”, he said after pulling his ticket out and squinting long and hard at it. So I went to 4B, and lo and behold there was another 老头 sitting there. “Oh, I’m supposed to be in 5D” I guess I can only laugh at the situation, as he was gathering his stuff to get up I told him to not bother and did the triple-swap.

So the two of us were separated, but it’s only a one-hour ride. I started reading a book called “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” by Haruki Murakami, on a friend’s recommendation. I think Murakami is the most overrated contemporary author, his novels are mundane as hell, with nothing happening for hundreds of pages, until there’s a talking cat or a portal to another dimension or some other mystery trope lazily dropped in there with no explanation whatsoever, and also creepy sex scenes he was clearly masturbating to when writing them. Kafka on the Shore is the only novel of his I liked, Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and 19Q4 can eat a fat turd. However, this collection of essays on marathon running is quite interesting.

We arrived in Shanghai and took a taxi to the French Concession. She had booked a room in some old crumbling building turned into a hotel, and the clueless-looking guy there said we can only check in at 2. I argued a bit, “It’s the policy, it’s the policy” but he eventually just gave us a room, which was all ready and made up to begin with. If I was a non-confrontational carpet like I’m sometimes condescendingly told to be (you know, in our Chinese culture, people value harmony, do u knwo~) we would have frozen our testicles off for a few extra hours.

(Also, gotta love how much they value harmony, as if you don’t constantly witness impotent rage shouting matches here)

Anyway, the spirits were high at the beginning of our mini-vacation. We dropped our bags, the girlfriend went to meet a friend and visit an art exhibit, and I went to the jiu-jitsu gym. There was a Christmas open mat followed by a little party. I got smashed pretty hard by all those strong grapplers, except one, who was at my level and whom I had a nice back-and-forth with. A good time was had by all. Then we ate pizza, I was ravenously hungry but only ate a few slices, wanting to keep some room for dinner.

I had a chat with the Polish guy who teaches the gi class. “Are you considering moving to Shanghai?” It sure would be nice. I really like the city and all that can be done there. Let’s see what the future has in store.

Conveniently, our room was a few minutes walk away. I dropped my sweaty rags, took an icy shower and headed out on a rent-a-bike. I found the restaurant she had booked, a French bistro called La Pétanque, and ordered a kir apéritif. She arrived soon after, and we had the set Christmas menu for two: salmon tartare, little pieces of toast with foie gras, a steak, a halibut filet, a tiramisu, and some overly decadent ball of chocolate, with a glass of red for me and white for her. The portions were comically small compared to the amount of food I usually pour down my fat gullet, but we were quite full at the end, given how rich the food was. It was absolutely delicious, but not much more delicious than a meal at a Sichuan restaurant which would have commanded one fifth of the price tag, or even a som tam/lab moo/sticky rice combo on a Bangkok side street that would have cost twenty times less. Still, it was worth it, we can splurge a bit sometimes and do something special. Also I have to nod with approval at the music that was playing in the restaurant (at an appropriate volume), some great stuff like Suprême NTM, Massilia Sound System and a bunch of French oldies.

We walked for half an hour in the bitter cold to a bar with a wide selection of bottled beers, she got some fruit ale, and I got a Belgian quadruppel clocking in at 10.5%. Then she went back to the hotel and I crossed the street to go to the Yuyintang for the second time this month for some good live metal action. Four bands were on the bill, first were Conch, once again playing their crushing sludge metal with their backs to the crowd, and then Loudspeaker, with their rage-fueled crust assault. Fucken hell, it’s the second show in a row where the booker starts off with those two amazing bands, it’s a bit unfair for whoever is set to follow them.

...or at least that would be the case if the said band playing third wasn’t the mighty Tractor! I bought their self-released demo Sexy Big Butt in 2011 and fell in love with it, and now I was finally seeing them live, a decade in the making. In fact, I didn’t even know they still existed, I thought it was just a side project. They were absolutely great, with their fast riffs and d-beats at the crossroads of punk, 70s heavy metal and hard rock, led by a short chubby unemotional bassist in a helicopter pilot jumpsuit and sunglasses.

The next band, Holokastrial, was the only one moving away from the power trio format, a five-piece playing some rather generic brutal death metal. They were not very tight unfortunately, and as such the rhythm section wasn’t always perfectly on time and their music lacked the punch it could have had. Still, it wasn’t that bad, like I said in the past when brutal death metal is done well it’s the best musical genre on this planet, and even if it’s done imperfectly, it can still be enjoyable.

I rode a rent-a-bike in the bitter cold all the way home and crashed. 

Friday, 24 December 2021

Chapter 358

I woke up at 6:30 and started my day. I browsed WeChat a bit and stumbled upon a news piece. A foreign resident of China was working illegally and when the rent-a-cops raided the kindergarden where he was teaching, he tried to escape by jumping over a fence. He got thrown in jail for 100 days and then deported and separated from his three Chinese-born children. You’re not supposed to be working on a tourist or spouse visa, and even if you do have a work visa, you can’t have any part-time employment. Usually the penalties are not that severe, for instance his coworkers just got fined a few thousand RMB, I assume it’s because he tried to flee. There was a time when it seemed every laowai in China had a few side gigs and expat bars were full of Europeans teaching English on the wrong visa, but word on the street is it’s riskier and not worth it now. I sometimes get offers for part-time work but I decline, I’m a law-abiding citizen and also I don’t need much more money, and enjoy my free time.

Between two classes, I ran into the Ugandan math teacher at the water dispenser. I showed him a meme which featured his fellow countryman TV inteviewer, famous for asking his guest about his homosexuality. I said out loud “Why are you geh?” just as a grade-12 student came out of the bathroom, and he stopped in his tracks to look at us all puzzled. Oops. I had to explain to him I was quoting someone, not literally asking the question.

I had a few review classes, and they went okay. Some students are getting lazier and lazier, and in need of a vacation and/or a serious dose of self-discipline.

In the afternoon, the internet gargled shit so I was forced to listen to the very limited selection of music left on my hard drive. I used to keep a variety of offline albums, familiar and new, for this frequent contingency. But now, the internet and VPN has been (mostly) working well in recent months so I’m not as prepared. I’m sure there’s a bigger, over-arching lesson to be extracted from this.

I taught Crazy Class, a last tough hurdle to jump over before the weekend officially starts. I still had to sit in the office until 5 but I was all mentally checked out, so I played a few games of chess. I won one, and lost three, though I can’t say I made as many stupid mistakes as before, it was just a long grind that ended up in an inevitable checkmate.

I went home, relaxed a bit, downed a pre-workout, and went to the gym. Chest day is everyone’s favorite. I listened to various bits and pieces of albums on my mp3 player, a notable one being the rapper Daibaojing (who also goes by Double J). Unlike most rappers who talk about consuming drugs and murdering people (and being unjustly targeted by rayciss police), her lyrical content is about her periods, how much she hates taking the subway, teenage love flings, and other concerns in the life of a young urban Chinese girl, but her flow is quite sick. I also put on Gravediggaz’s 6 Feet Deep, a great piece of NYC hardcore hip-hop with a dark soundscape.

Then I got home, ate the last of the pasta I made yesterday and packed my bag. Merry Christmas.

Thursday, 23 December 2021

Chapter 357

Another day of joy and prosperity. I had a lab in the morning, one girl spilled a beaker of hydrochloric acid on her hand. Normally they manipulate only low concentrations, which might sting a bit and not much more, but this one was 3.0 mol/L, which could cause burns. Thankfully, she rinsed her hand right away and was fine. I then hung out in the office, writing homework and listening to the Metal Minded podcast. When it was over, I went home and joined the guys in a little Zoom after-party where we discussed new metal releases and all sorts of debauched interests of ours. I then whipped up a quick pasta dish and ate before going back to work.

I had a lab with Crazy Class, and then another lesson. Can’t say much about them. Then I sat in the office, and didn’t go home at 5, as there was the Christmas show soon after. I played a few online chess games and listened to an album recommended by a few friends on Facebook, the new offering by old-school Swedish death metal band Wombbath.

Then I went downstairs to the auditorium. I was lucky enough to find a spot in the third row, rather than being lined up front row with the other foreigners, and also I was glad I’d had the presence of mind to bring my Kindle. So I read the novel Tout Est Ori while the students did their boring and uninspired choreographies or sang their sappy songs. I’ve had to sit through at least one, if not two such “talent shows” every year and I’m always there, smiling like a donkey, clapping at the right time, and saying “Very good!” if asked how it was, but I still have the right to find it boring as hell, especially if it’s taking place during what is supposed to be my free time.

The last show was the only one with a modicum of originality, as a bunch of twelfth-graders took the stage wearing giant masks with their teachers’ faces on them. Then I was mercifully freed. I went home, took the dog out on our usual little circuit, he was a bit recalcitrant, as he remembered a scary interaction with a gigantic German shepherd a few days ago. The big dog was a sweetie and only wanted to play, but it was enough to traumatize our little twelve-pounder. I got home, ate reheated pasta and watched some chess instructionals. I’m not sure if I acquired that much in terms of techniques and moves, if anything I just saw how colossal the task is if one wants to get really good at chess, in terms of memorizing tons of openings and reactions to the opponent’s moves. I must have learned a bit though, because after that I went to play a bunch of games and won all of them. The only one I lost is when my shit-fucking third-world gold-plated turd internet disconnected and the website treated it like an abandoned game, something I refuse to take as an L, as I was moving in with a queen and rook on a nearly undefended king. I was wondering why he wasn’t moving, and before I could disconnect my malfunctioning VPN, it was too late.

For some reason, I established the tradition of listening to the most violent and harsh of grindcore and powerviolence when I play chess, so after the Magrudergrind and Insect Warfare debuts finished, I put on a few tracks from my hard drive to make sure to not rely on the gargling internet.

Wednesday, 22 December 2021

Chapter 356

I opened the curtains and there was a thick yellowish fog, I could barely see the silhouette of the buildings not even 30 meters from my window. It reminded me of my Jinan days.

The walk with the dog felt a bit apocalyptic. As he was running through the short hedges, he bent down and picked up a nugget of dried up shit. I yelled at him, dragged him home prematurely, and brushed his teeth. I left him in jail.

I had twelfth-grade classes in the morning. Can’t really say much about them. I have been doing mostly review for a few days now, and it’s a bit of a challenge to keep them all engaged, some students have their shit all neatly packed together and don’t need much reviewing, some sleep on their desks, and everything in between.

At lunch time I didn’t go home, I brought my old digital camera to the Samsung service shop. There must be something wrong with the battery, it can’t charge at all, and I can’t even pull it out of its socket. The guy tried to extract it but said it basically melted and fused in there. Ah well, it’s an old little machine, and has served me well through these years.

I made a quick detour to the Shaanxi noodle shop. Those north-central provinces make amazing thick flat noodles, like we had the pleasure to experience during the big road trip last summer. I also ordered a roujiamo, a flaky flat bread filled with shredded meat, and it was so good I ordered another one.

In the afternoon I had Catatonic Class, and later I had Crazy Class. They were particularly crazy. If all my classes were as disruptive and hard to corral, my life would suck donkey shit. But as it is now, with only two periods a week plus the lab (where they behave better), it’s a bit of a breath of fresh air, and I can’t be mad at them for finding a bit of humor in the otherwise joyless life of a not particularly academically gifted student forced in a school program not adapted to their needs. God knows I can empathize with that attitude. In between I graded papers, listened to Clown World news, played online chess games, and played a bit of badminton with a student who invited me.

I went home, the girlfriend was in bed, with a severe gastroenteritis. I took care of her for a bit, and went to the gym. Leg day sucks, but I powered through it. Back home, I took the dog out, ate a big plate of bacon, hard-boiled eggs and dumplings, and watched videos about chess. I sometimes wonder if I should really, really put my focus on getting good at one hobby rather than half-assedly dabble in fifteen different hobbies at once, but nah, life would be dull if I did that.

Then I played a bunch of games, while listening to some powerviolence albums at a low volume. I won about half of them and eventually went to bed. The dog cradled his small body against mine, which brought me a lot of warmth in the winter night. Even though I often discipline him when he steals my food or eats feces, he has unconditional love for me. This, added to general good spirits and the endorphins cruising through my veins after my workout, made me very happy as I drifted to sleep.

Tuesday, 21 December 2021

Chapter 355

I slept terribly, with my upset stomach, resulting dehydration, and my neck and left shoulder preventing me from snoozing peacefully. I also made all sorts of weird-ass dreams.

I still dragged my carcass to work. The flatscreen TV at the entrance of the school had a picture of Stalin (or, as they call him, Sidalin) with “Happy 143rd birthday!” The mustachioed Georgian was born in 1879, and the Chinese always add one year to ages. Oh, and though they adhere to an authright state capitalist model bordering on enlightened fascism, they also revere old commie figures from the past.

I had a lab period with the strong eleventh-grade class, and though the antiquated alcohol burner/timebomb kept malfunctioning, it went well. Then I got home and saw that the dog had managed to open the drawer and eat my dried pineapple chunks. He got swiftly thrown in jail. In the afternoon I had more classes, with the eleventh-graders I need to crunch the syllabus in order to save time, and that sucks, I much prefer to teach at a pace that makes sense, using logical links to build on previously acquired skills, rather than just cram. Not that Chinese students aren’t responsive to pure rote memorization and cramming, far from that.

During a break, I played a few online games of chess. I suck ass, and lost most of them, only winning a few. Some of my fellow 600-ranked n00bs try some dumb moves like wayward queen attacks that I now see from a mile away, but I also commit stupid mistakes or am vulnerable to other textbook gambits.

I was very sluggish, I think the weakened state of my body welcomed some shitty germs in. After my last class, I went home, dressed in warm long underwear, and played a few more chess games. Speaking of germs, I put on a Jocko Willink podcast, and he was talking about Unit 731, the absolutely evil group of research on bacteriological warfare from the Japanese Imperial Army that did research on human guinea pigs during the 1930s and 1940s. It’s about the most horrific thing you’ll ever hear about in your life, I did visit the Unit 731 museum near Harbin a few years ago and for hours afterwards, I was walking in some kind of zombified state and if I had crossed paths with a Japanese person, I’d have punched him straight in the face and stomped his body until he’d turn into hamburger. And to make things even worse, most of the culprits never really got punished, due to the Americans not wanting the (admittedly scientifically valuable) results of those experiments to be given to the Soviets, and not wanting to jeopardize Japanese collaboration.

Though I felt like boiled shit, my appetite was back in force, so I cooked a meal of steak, asparagus and baguette bread with cream cheese and watched a few more UFC fights. I was in bed by 8, book in hand and mug of rum, hot water, honey and lemon on the nightstand. I crashed at 8:30.

Monday, 20 December 2021

Chapter 354

Another day in paradise. I can’t believe I wrote an entry every single day, no exception, since January 1st.

I took the dog out and headed to work. I had two classes in the morning, and in my free time, I wrote and printed a practice sheet, and listened to music. There’s a big metal show in Shanghai next weekend I plan on attending, and I researched the bands I don’t already know. One of them is a hardcore band from Chengdu called Gaiwar, I watched a live show they played in a McDonald’s. Another band has a name in Chinese which translates as Execution, and looking the name up, the first result on YouTube was of an actual public execution that took place in 1995. I waited until I got home and watched it out of morbid curiosity, it was astonishing. It was filmed by a handheld camera, probably illegally, and we could see four people (one woman and three men) being paraded in a flatbed truck in a village with a large sign around their neck. The video quality was too grainy to make up what was written on those public shaming signs, but reading the comments, it seems like they were drug dealers. They were marched to the middle of a field, and the video cuts to their inanimate bodies being checked by a doctor. One of them must have shown signs of life, because a policeman came and shot the man in the head. Then the bodies are being carted away in body bags. Throughout the whole thing, there’s a big crowd of onlookers, and you even hear children chirping in their sing-song voices. I knew China applies the death penalty, but I had no idea it happens publicly. Twelve years here, I missed out.

I ate a baloney sandwich in a baguette bread and rode back to school. I taught a twelfth-grade class, and they were all dead asleep, their brains embedded in thick Jell-O. Also the computer kept malfunctioning, freezing, restarting for no reason. It sucked and I was wondering what the hell I was doing there, but then I reminded myself it’s only an hour and a half and then I can do fuckall for the rest of the afternoon afterwards. I’m Catholic by culture, I work to live, I don’t live to work.

I got home and watched the main event of last Saturday’s UFC. Derrick Lewis blasted his opponent and then obtained the record of most KOs in the history of the UFC. I ate a bowl of yogurt with nuts and dried fruit before going to the gym for jiu-jitsu practice, and that proved to be my demise. My stomach was grumbling throughout the training session, and after the second round of sparring, I felt like I was going to vomit. I went home and had very little appetite, in fact I kept dry-heaving and vomiting little strings of bile. To make things worse, a neck pain started to settle and become increasingly searing, as the adrenaline wore off. I took a steaming hot bath, forced myself to eat something, and went to bed.

Sunday, 19 December 2021

Chapter 353

I woke up around 10 and stayed in bed a bit, petting the dog. Then I got up and checked my emails. I was astonished to see I sold an album, I put my cybergrind EP on Bandcamp and set the price at $1, but buyers can pay more if they want, and someone paid $5 for it. After PayPal and Bandcamp took their cut, it was only $3.91, but still, I’m moving up in the world.

The girlfriend was a bit hungover, and wanted to walk it off and eat Muslim noodles. We had to go get the car anyway, so we walked there, it was another beautiful sunny day. She told me that in her school, some students are developing severe anxiety due to face masks, and it’s not because of Covid directly. They’re so used to have this little piece of shit hugging the lower half of their face that they’re too shy to remove it, and feel weird when in a room with too many maskless (normal) people. So they have the exact opposite syndrome as the one I’m at times suffering from. This pandemic truly is taking a toll on people in more bizarre ways than I thought possible. I’m still thankful to be in China, a quick glance at the news or at the Quebec discussion board on Reddit shows utter bleakness and despair in the face of their upcoming 735th lockdown, as the cases skyrocket.

We ate our noodles, then drove to an area with a bunch of furniture stores by the highway. The girlfriend commissioned a guy to build a platform for our camper-car, but instead of being just a normal carpenter, it’s a company that makes laminated shelves. We argued a bit, I suggested to go to a place that sells cheaper planks of wood and have them cut to the dimensions we want, but eventually settled on her first choice. They’ll even assemble the hinges for us, and it doesn’t even add up to that high of a price, in fact it’s pretty damn cheap.

We stopped to buy more odd construction materials, then went to Metro and bought over 2000 yuan worth of imported groceries like the hedonists that we are. That filled up three enormous bags, the days when I used to lug all those groceries on a bicycle are not so distant but I can barely recall what it was like.

Back home, I chopped up a big chunk of beef into cubes, seasoned it, browned it, and put it in the slow cooker with hot peppers, orange zest and milk. Sounds weird I know, but holy hell does it make tender chunks. Then I chilled a bit, doing some reading and writing, I wanted to listen to some stuff from various metal top 10 lists but the girlfriend wouldn’t have taken kindly to it, so I put on something that aggress her less, some French hip-hop albums I hadn’t heard from lyrical powerhouses such as Hugo TSR, Scylla and Furax.

I went to the gym and did my shoulder workout. Towards the end I felt a bit drained, sure, I was not cripplingly hungover but I did drink quite a lot of beer and wine the previous day, and my diet wasn’t very optimal either. I had to force myself through the last few sets.

I got home, finished the beef carnita chunks in the oven to crisp them up a bit, and made tacos with homemade salsa. They were so delicious they made my toes curl. Then we watched the new South Park in bed.

Saturday, 18 December 2021

Chapter 352

I got up at 4:30, with two hours of sleep, and sluggishly made my way to the computer in the cold apartment. My dad and uncles were having a Zoom chat, and I thought I’d drop by and say hi. They mostly talked about the virus and the vaccine doses, seems like Quebec is going on its 473rd lockdown soon, and that Christmas is for all intents and purposes canceled. One of my uncles is wintering in Florida, and he was complaining that the Americans there don’t really comply with masking rules and social distancing and all that. I don’t know what to say really, one day we’ll have to just keep on living.

Then I played just one (just one) chess game, and before I knew it the sun was up. I went back to bed as the girlfriend was getting up to go to some kind of school function.

I woke up at 11:30 and ate a big plate of scrambled eggs with broccoli. Try it, it’s a great combination. I packed a little bag with supplies and headed out with the dog, listening to a podcast by an American political commentator who goes by RamzPaul. He makes some interesting points about the Clown World we live in and speaks in a southern accent that’s pleasant to listen to, but he’s very libertarian for my tastes and though he doesn’t say extreme things to avoid being banned from YouTube, he gives off racist vibes in how he talks about civic nationalism being destined to fail. I can’t say I disagree completely, but for sure given the cultural currents and the way the political system is structured now, the USA are likely headed to Balkanization.

I met the girlfriend at her school and then we kept walking and met the small group of hashers for a short winter trail. It was a bit chilly, but I was dressed well and it was a beautiful sunny day. The trail brought us through newer residential areas and through a large park that has extremely zealous rent-a-cops enforcing anti-dog policies, so the girlfriend volunteered to just walk around the park as the rest of the hash group went through. Then we drank a bunch of beer in the circle. A good time was had by all.

With a bit of an afternoon beer buzz, we walked the 3 km home, and as soon as we arrived, the dog fell dead asleep on the couch. We had an hour to chill before heading out again, and the girlfriend asked me for a white Russian so she could maintain optimal inebriation. Then we headed out and caught a taxi with a South African coworker, to go to a Srilankan coworker’s birthday party. It was at a cute little restaurant I had already been to just once (see Chapter 22), opened by a lovely ever-smiling Chinese woman who likes Western cuisine, and there was a big spread of food and drinks.

We gorged ourselves and hung out with old and new friends, a good time was had by all. The girlfriend was starting to get rather drunk, which is a bit of a cause for concern since she’s skinny as a chopstick, but she insisted to keep downing shots of Fireball with her multiethnic crew. At some point I went to check on her, and she was in the toilet, with a vomit carnage in and around the bowl. Ah well, happens to the best of us. I cleaned up with paper towels, got her to drink water, and we headed home after a quick goodbye.

I put her to bed, and when I gave her a glass of water, she drunkenly dropped it, flooding my side of the blankets. Then I went to play chess for about three hours, I lost most games but once in a while I’d get the checkmate or won by default because the other person’s internet disconnected. Chess is great, and if I want to level up, I think I’ll start reading and watching instructionals.

Friday, 17 December 2021

Chapter 351

I woke up at 6:30 and started my day. Going downstairs with the dog, I saw a new ad in the elevator’s TV screen. It was for Lay-Z-Boy, and featured a light-skineed black girl and a white guy, alongside a few Chinese people. Pretty much all the ads in China feature only Chinese people (what a head-scratcher, I know) and sometimes a celebrity like a basketball player and that Israeli actress with a big forehead, so it was a bit weird to see this “diversity”.

My day went by like my days normally do. I taught classes and the students mostly didn’t piss me off. I can’t really say much other than that. In the late afternoon, after I finished teaching Crazy Class, I created an account on and played a few games against bots and against real people. I stuck around a bit longer in fact, and a bit before 6 I headed to the Marriott for our Christmas dinner.

As I approached the doors of the luxury hotel, I was overtaken by a shockwave of anxiety. I thought there would be some shurgwaydinger at the entrance telling me to put a face mask on, and I’m tired of all that shit, it’s been nearly two years now. But thankfully there were none, and I just waltzed in like a normal person and took the elevator to the 35th floor.

The Christmas dinner was pleasant, I piled up all the somewhat mediocre but varied and abundant buffet food on my plate and had a few glasses of wine. Corporate office in Shanghai pulled out some excuse to not pay for it, but the principal and the liaison officer footed the whole bill from their pockets, which is extraordinarily generous of them, they even paid for the significant others that came (like mine). We talked about various topics and stuck around drinking more wine before going home.

I got on the computer and played more chess games, and stayed up way, way too late. It’s easy to rationalize by saying chess is an intellectual game and becoming better at it is a worthwhile pursuit, but it’s still an addiction that can get in the way of my sleep or possibly my social life. And yeah, maybe being addicted to online chess is better than being addicted to shitty phone games or heroin, but still, I’ll have to discipline myself.

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Chapter 350

I woke up at 6:30 and started my day. I played the song The Way by Fastball, a forgotten late-90s one-hit-wonder, and one that was everywhere at the time but somehow didn’t get overplayed like some other one-hit-wonders. It put me in a great mood. Then the girlfriend left to go to work, and I put on some violent death metal to further enhance my mood.

I had a lab in the morning and it went okay, then I rushed home to make the most of my (slightly extended) lunch break. I joined a friend on his metal podcast, and together we dissected four new releases. Quebec City’s Guerre plays a slow, crushing, beatdown hardcore, a style I really don’t have much affinity for, but I gave them their dues. Montreal’s Fracturus (fronted by Alex Leblanc of Atheretic, Neuraxis and Point Blank Rage fame) dropped a superb EP of tightly-knit modern death metal that is a great continuation of the Quebec tech-death sound that has been a staple of the scene since the turn of the millenium, and left us begging for more. The next two were lukewarmly received by both of us, Thulcandra being a poor Dissection clone and Carthage churning out some rather paint-by-numbers brutal death metal lacking the punch of some of their genre counterparts. It was good to shoot the shit with the guys.

I barely had time to wolf down a bowl of R. n’ S. before rushing back to the lab. Crazy Class does much better in practical sessions than when they’re sitting in a classroom, bored out of their skulls and at the brink of exhaustion, but I still have to keep an eye on them. Today’s practical involved burners, a 3.0-M solution of hydrochloric acid, and plenty of glassware, as always. I told them to stay away from the HCl fumes but one girl caught a strong whiff and went to vomit in the toilet. Another girl went to check on her, the sight of her classmate’s half-digested lunch made her retch and puke too, and they were to queasy to come back in. So they sat on the steps outside.

I notified the head teacher and the principal of that incident, and checked on them later, they were fine. Still, next time I’ll make it even more clear, and perhaps even turn on the fume hoods.

The rest of the afternoon went by normally. At night I went to the gym for the fourth night in a row, I felt a bit stiff but I had to go, since I have something tomorrow night. I did my deadlift 5/3/1, and the huge muscular personal trainer who’s always there, sneering, gave me a nod and a thumbs up after I one-repped the heavy-ass weight. I’ve been to that gym at all sorts of hours and never not seen him there, I imagine he sleeps on a cot (or on the bench) at night, eating only trays of hard-boiled eggs and creatine powder.

Then I went home, took the dog out, and ate a big plate of dumplings and fish. I watched a 7 Jours Sur Terre video about the geopolitics of Canada, and how its doors wide open to immigration are part of a plan to increase its population drastically and eventually have the means to occupy the northern part of the territory. Yes, I’m sure “refugees” from Pakistan, the Caribbean and East Asia are lining up to go settle down in Nunavut and Yukon. It’s all very post-national, part of a paradigm change that is observed elsewhere in the Western world, and I’m glad to see that good ol’ Quebec is the thorn in the side of the engineers of that plan (which seems doomed anyway, it’s not as if the USA or Russia or whoever ends up being the superpower in the year 2100 won’t just come and take the northern passage if they want it).

I mixed a cocktail for the girlfriend and delivered it to her in bed. I heard canned laugh tracks coming out of her phone, she was watching the Big Bang Theory for the nth time. Chinese girls love that show, in fact for the longest time I thought it was “the Big Bang Series”, with how they pronounce the /th/ sound.

Then I did something I’ve been meaning to do for some time, I inquired about what I’d need to be a teacher in Canada. I went on the Ontario Ministry of Education and called the toll-free number, which put me in some kind of endless limbo of menus and robotic voices. When someone would finally pick up, I’d explain why I’d call, and they’d transfer me to another menu, rinse and repeat. I eventually got a hold of some guy from the Teacher College, and he was quite helpful. The whole process wasn’t very encouraging, it involved a river of paperwork, hundreds of dollars, and though I have a British PGCE, I’d have to jump through tons of hoops because I don’t have a Canadian bachelor’s in education. I’d need to be a certified teacher in England, which sounds impossible or very hard. He gave me the phone number to the office in charge, and with the time difference I imagined they would still be at work. This time, no endless string of menus and annoying elevator music, a woman picked up immediately. She was also quite helpful but didn’t quite know how to answer my strange request. Ah well. Teaching in Canada isn’t my Plan A for many reasons but I thought I’d check anyway. The picture they painted is quite bleak, I guess I’ll go work in the mines instead.

Wednesday, 15 December 2021

Chapter 349

In the morning I took my sweet-ass time so much that I didn’t even take the dog out, I had to rush to school. So when I came back during lunch, he had peed on the floor. I suck at life, I told myself as I was mopping the yellow liquid with paper tissues.

I had a bunch of twelfth-grade classes in the morning, and they went okay I guess. For lunch I went with the dog to a neighboring restaurant and ordered a bunch of spicy Hunanese food. At some point I wondered where the dog had gone, and saw that the cooks were by the kitchen door, trying to attract him with a piece of meat. The joke was too easy to make, and I made it, to general hilarity.

(And if you think oHmYgAwD tHaT’s rAciSt, well, they had dog meat on the menu, so it’s not as if they would get offended)

Full of oily peppery goodness, I went back to work. I taught Catatonic Class and then Crazy Class, one boy was wearing a hat and refused to take it off, something about a botched haircut, and one girl spent the whole lesson sobbing in the corner. I tried to raise her spirits or at least make her feel comfortable but the scars were too deep it seems. I heard later that she got shouted at by a Chinese teacher for not doing her homework. There’s this idea that Oriental folks are all about harmony n’ shit, and they will gladly lecture your barbarian ignorant ass about that and other aspects of their superior culture, but they sure do like yelling at their subordinates down the Great Confucian Human Centipede. Between classes I listened to metal albums I have to review for the Metal Minded podcast. The internet was intermittently sucking shit and preventing me from doing so, but eventually it unclogged.

Speaking of clogging, for a few days there’s been a nasty ever-expanding puddle by the luxury hotel where the gym is located, caused by an overflowing sewer. It reeks to high heavens, and reminds me of my trip to India. The first time I just rolled through it with my bicycle and carried the smell home, absorbed by the rubber of my wheels, now I try my best to circumvent it. There were six of us on the jiu-jitsu mat, a damn near record. The Italian blue belt showed us some rather basic moves for the benefit of the new guys, but I’m also still a n00b so I also got a lot from it. Then we rolled several rounds, a great time was had by all. I plugged my mp3 player on the huge speaker and played the album 8 Diagrams by the Wu-Tang Clan, and it was much better than the other post-36 Chambers material I’ve heard from them. Then I put on some good bangers by Immortal Technique for the free sparring session.

I rode home, took the dog out for a spin, and ate the fish dish the girlfriend had just baked. It was good, though it’s always annoying to have to pick the tiny bones out of the flesh.

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

Chapter 348

Again, I took my sweet-ass time and had to cut the dog’s morning walk short if I wanted to get to work reasonably on time. I’m becoming a slacker.

I listened to a bunch of metal and hardcore albums a friend sent me, and that I’ll have to review for his podcast. None particularly excited me, but they weren’t repulsive either. I’m becoming a bit bored with metal, I’m much more interested in exploring dubstep, vaporwave and other forms of weird electro music. Still, I’ll do what I have to do with as much utmost professionalism as I can muster.

I had a lab with the eleventh-graders. They were supposed to heat magnesium hydroxide powder to decomposition, which involves using annoying and scary powerful alcohol burners. Because of a Chinese law, high school labs can’t have gas lines, so we use those old pieces of shit. I tried changing the protocol so that they just heat the Mg(OH)2 using mild heat but for longer, and there was a mass loss as expected, but smaller than what it should be. So, next time we’ll use the strong burners.

I went home for lunch and ate some fried rice the girlfriend made. I was all giddy to see a documentary on Harald Hardrada on my YouTube front page, and immediately clicked on it. It was excellent, covering the legendary Viking’s early life, from his first battle at age 15 to his exile in Ukraine and long stint as a mercenary chief for the Byzantine Empire, which brought him all the way from Jerusalem to Sicily. He’s my favorite historical character and though bits and pieces of his saga are likely to be exaggerated or fictionalized, he’s interesting as hell and they should absolutely make a movie or a well-produced TV series about him. In fact, he will be one of the characters in the upcoming Netflix reboot of Vikings, but my hopes are very low, it’s almost guaranteed they’ll write him as an effeminate buffoon controlled by a Strong Independent Woman.

I had a class with the twelfth-graders right after lunch, and surprisingly they were all awake, having just come back from some presentation by the principal in the auditorium. I went over exam problems I gave them as homework last week, and checked half the books. A bunch of them had done nothing, so I told them to leave and come back when they’re finished. So, the left half of the classroom was sparsely populated throughout my review.

We had a meeting, and the first order of business was the Christmas dinner, that the head office said they wouldn’t subsidize this year. The principal and liaison officer decided it will still take place, and they’ll pay it out of their pockets. Pretty nice of them, especially since the bill will be quite high, it’s a fancy buffet we’re talking about. There were also a few other points on the agenda, and some grievances were raised, especially by the English department. Some Chinese teachers and “college counselors” (who couldn’t counsel their way out of a plastic bag, they’re more like glorified secretaries sending applications for the students) told the kids that learning English isn’t important, and they should focus on math and science. Other Chinese teachers (who don’t have a chip on their shoulder at all) told students explicitly that if they need to take time to rehearse their dances for the Christmas party or study for the TOEFL exam, they should do it during the foreign teachers’ classes, because they’re not as important. And there’s the good ol’ “the Chinese co-teacher has been teaching my half of the curriculum, did a half-ass job of it, and when confronted, said she wouldn’t do it again, just to do it again the following week”.

I know better than to get angry at dumb shit like that, as infuriating and demoralizing as it is. I realized long ago (albeit too late) that I’m paid to be there and not cause a fuss, the rest is secondary. Nihilistic? Yes, but also the key to happiness, and as it happens I’m quite happy and don’t want to jeopardize that state of affairs.

In the stairs, I was following three twelfth-grade girls, one had a hoodie with SUCRE EN POUDRE written on it.

“Why are you wearing this?”

“Uh, I don’t know... what does it mean?”

“You don’t know what is written on your shirt? What if it’s something biantai?”

They all start laughing. One of them interjects in Chinese “Oh yeah, our English teacher told us not to wear things with words we don’t know the meaning of”

Over the years I’ve seen some of the most jaw-dropping (and knee-slapping) cases of Chinese people wearing clothes with absurdly vulgar or disgusting slogans or sentences in English. But now, I reassured her, it just says “powdered sugar”.

I went home and cleaned the floor while distractedly watching a weightlifting instructional. Beyond the basics, it seems like a lot of fitness coaches argue or contradict one another, and YouTube being YouTube, they put clickbaity titles like “How to be SURE to LOSE your gains!” or “15 gym mistakes!!!!!!” or “The only exercise you ABSOLUTELY need” but there’s good info to be had in there as well. Then I headed to the gym and did my chest day.

I came back and took the dog for a spin. He made a new friend, a black poodle called Xiaoqi, being walked by two old women. We talked about our dogs, like middle-class suburbanites do. Then I went home, ate, read, and slept.

Monday, 13 December 2021

Chapter 347

I woke up at 7 and took my time, so I cut the dog’s walk short. I wasn’t in too much of a rush though, and though I made it to work a few minutes late, I didn’t have first period so I settled in the office, drank tea and finished preparing my lessons. The morning went by normally.

At lunchtime I rode back home, and saw that the elevator was broken. So I started walking up the stairs to my eighth-floor abode. Halfway, I saw what caused it, some brain-damaged nong fucknuggets were moving and had propped the doors open with one of their cardboard boxes. When the doors stay open for more than a few seconds, they start beeping, and those Mensa candidates didn’t think anything of it. Now the elevator was stuck with its doors opened halfway and a constant high-pitched beep. Great.

In the early afternoon I had a double with the twelfth-graders, and then I got a message from the principal at the Canadian school I had interviewed at two weeks ago. He said they can’t match my salary demand (which is no more but no less than what my current school offered) and also their art teacher is not leaving, which means there’s no position for the girlfriend. Ah well. So I printed my renewal offer, signed it, and sent it to HR. One more year.

It’s a bit bittersweet, I was somewhat looking forward to a change of environment, after four years in this small city, but now I’m saved the hassle of moving, the awkwardness of having to announce my resignation, the joyless paperwork that comes with changing employers, and also I don’t have to worry about the possibility of “jumping out of the proverbial frying pan into the fire” and find myself in a workplace riddled with worse problems than the ones I have to face now, which are pretty minor. The girlfriend is a bit more bummed out, her job went from shitty to shittier, and only now do I realize it would have been a good idea to do a full-scale job hunt for the sake of her well-being, rather than just applying at my friend’s school for the hell of it. Now it’s too late. So, golden handcuffs for this boy.

I went to refill my water bottle and use the toilet. I heard voices coming from a stall, and two boys came out, bursting in laughter when they saw me there at the sink. The first few times I witnessed something like that, I was a bit weirded out, but now I don’t even think about it. I don’t even think they are gay, or going in there to smoke cigarettes, it’s just one of the strange quirky things Chinese people do. Then I went to the lab prep room and mixed the solutions for this week’s practical.  

I got home, relaxed a bit, and went to the gym. The Italian blue belt couldn’t come, so it was just me and two guys, a strong newly minted blue belt who constantly smashes me, and the new guy. We taught him a few techniques and live practiced them. A good time was had by all. I’m very happy with just giving back instead of being in a focused class where I can slowly level up, but I also have to say one of the reasons why getting a new job in a bigger city could have been a blessing is that they have actual BJJ schools there. Still, I’m grateful I get to train at all, even though this arrangement is hanging by a shoestring. I printed some little flyers and stuck them in the gym (with their permission), hopefully we’ll get new guys coming in eventually and sticking with it.

Then I went back home, walked the dog, and ate a plate of blood sausages and broccoli. I watched a Japanese deathmatch wrestling a friend sent
me, and it was absolutely bonkers, even by deviant Japanese standards. It took place outdoors, in a ring with an unpadded wooden floor that eventually got lit on fire, and involved a car and a semi truck. A teenage Jun Kasai was one of the protagonists, and at some point he dove off the truck’s roof, missing a table and landing on the asphalt. What a strange form of entertainment.

Chapter 365 - The End

Last day of the year. I woke up a bit before 7, took the dog out, and went to work. Same scenario you read about hundreds of times. We got...