Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Saturday, July 23, 2005

"Eager to plant the gospel on virgin soil, Zhao headed south with five fellow workers to Hetian, a remote oasis town in the far south of Xinjiang, in the winter of 1950. But two weeks after they arrived the Public Security Bureau ordered them to leave. So they were forced to move even further west to Kashgar, where in September 1949 the Band had set up a preaching station at Shule and where there were quite a few Han Chinese. (In those days the vast majority of the population of Xinjiang were Uygurs or other mainly Muslim minorities.)

"They arrived in January 1950 to a chaotic situation. The gospel compound had been taken over by armed soldiers who claimed there had been a ?counter-revolutionary incident.? Uncle Simon did not know what to make of it. But within a few days he was arrested and placed in prison. He had with him only a pocket Bible, a notebook and a pen, but even these were confiscated. Not until his release thirty years later in 1981 did he see a Bible again.

"Uncle Simon thought his arrest must be a mistake and that he would soon be released. But later, when let out of his cell briefly, he saw two of his co-workers had also been arrested and only then realized his situation was grave. Two years later he found out that members of the Band back at Hami had also been arrested. Clearly the arrests concerned the whole Band, not just him personally."

I'm sitting here at John's Cafe in Kashgar. Kashgar is a welcome oasis after spending the past 24 hours cruising across the most lifeless, mountainous desert you can imagine.

Joy's brother-in-law kindly brought me to the train station and put me on the train. He is a banker by profession, so I was interested to hear his thoughts on the news yesterday morning that China had moved off the dollar peg. The news is very significant, but it will take a while to determine just what it means.

Last night, I went to the dining car, to get something to eat. After I had finished, a PLA guy across from me invited me to sit with him. He was very friendly and conversational, but I was somewhat surprised that he didn't speak English.

This afternoon, when we pulled into the station, I got off the train, and started looking for a taxi. Usually, whenever I get off a train or plane, I wave off the people who offer a taxi to me, because they are invariably black-market taxi drivers who charge unbelievable rates, in addition to which they are not legal, so I always look for the regular taxi line. But I was in for a surprise. There is no regular taxi line. All the taxis look like legitimate taxis, but none of them have meters. I finally asked one of the drivers how much he would charge to take me to the Seman Hotel, and he quoted a rate of 10 yuan. He opened the trunk so I could put my backpack in, and then, to my immense consternation, he disappeared. I did not realize it then, but he was rounding up other customers. He did not manage to find any, so we got in the car to go. To make sure there was no misunderstanding, I asked him the rate again. It had doubled. I promptly ordered him to open the trunk so that I could get my backpack out. Well, another driver was glad to get my business. He quoted me a rate of 10 yuan, so I got in his cab. Sure enough, he started yelling out the window, to other people looking for a taxi, and managed to get some other customers. A couple of guys got in. I noticed that he made a point of dropping them off first...not sure if that was really in proper order. But I was not surprised when he dropped me off and asked for twice the original price he had quoted me. I suppose I should not complain about 20 kuai, but fraud is fraud. I gave him the price he had originally quoted.

So where, exactly, is Kashgar? Five thousand kilometers west of Beijing. Due north of India. Northwest of Nepal. Surrounded by Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgystan, and Kazakhstan. Mongolia to the north, the rest of East Turkestan (now Xinjiang Province) to the east, and Tibet, of course, to the southwest.

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