Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Monday, July 25, 2005

"In 1954 Simon Zhao and the other members arrested in Kashgar were transported to Urumqi where he met those arrested in Hami in 1952. The Public Security, People's Procuratorate and People's Court set up a special committee of investigation. Uncle Simon knew that as he and his co-workers were innocent the whole matter would soon be solved. But he was wrong.

"Not only was he not speedily released, but it was 36 years before he was able to meet up with those members of the Band who had survived prison. Some had died in prison or labor camps. For years he was separated from family and friends, and through the endless suffering he often called on the Lord's mercy in his utter loneliness.

"Day after day, year after year Simon toiled in the reform-through-labor camp, tilling the land and repairing dikes. He carried endless baskets of earth, dug up by hand, on shoulder poles for miles on foot. Often he was so exhausted his legs gave way and he could only crawl on the ground with his load. His body deteriorated, but his mind became sharper. He had not forgotten his commission and so secretly told the other prisoners about Christ."

It is all but impossible for me fully to appreciate the suffering that Simon Zhao and men and women like him endured for the sake of bringing God's love to people very different from themselves. And it is especially hard to comprehend the difference between then and now. China is still a controlled society. But today the government of areas like Xinjiang seems to be much more on the order "live and let live. If you keep your head down, and especially take pains not to create the impression that you have political ambitions, you are pretty much left alone in today's China. But while the treatment of people like Simon Zhao has changed somewhat, the government has never gone back and cleared the reputations of folks like Simon Zhao. Justice demands that this be done. I believe it is time, now, for China to set the record straight, and give such men as Simon Zhao the honor that is due them.

Sunday is Market Day in Kashgar. Lonely Planet estimates that upwards of 50 thousand people swarm in from all over the surrounding countryside. It is really something to see. Yesterday morning, we took the free bus from John's Cafe to the market, but three of us wanted to see the livestock market first. We happened to run in to a young Uygur man who spoke excellent English, and offered to show us how to get there. So we hired a motorcycle taxi, and he rode with us.

Lots and lots of sheep, donkeys, horses, and cattle. Donkeys are definitely the main beast of burden in Kashgar, so they were quite abundant. But there were lots of sheep, too. Mutton is a very big part of the Uygur quisine, and the wool is used for the strong and very traditional carpet industry.

But for me, the people are more interesting than the animals. With livestock sales, there always seems to be a middle man helping to negotiate the deal. Buyer will always check the teeth of the animal--the seller usually offers this service for the seller. There doesn't seem to be a lot of fighting or argument, but the process does take some time, so one can assume that there is quite a bit of discussion about the matter. And there always new animals being brought in. Constantly, you will hear the sound of someone calling "Bosh, Bosh" to tell you to get out of the way. If that doesn't work, there are other methods. At one point, I felt something on my behind. A farmer was tapping me on my butt end to get me out of the way. I moved, of course, as any good mule would.

Many different booths are set up to offer to food to those who are there. One of my favorites is a little hard shell dumpling filled with lamb. Really delicious.

I met a guy from Albania who lives in Italy and monitors elections for a living. He had just finished monitoring an election in Kyrgyzstan, and told me it was a very, very beautiful country. I don't know...I may go there some day, but not now.

Last night at John's Cafe, I ran into Michael, my neighbor from the foreign teachers' dormitory. He had been up to the Pakistan border, and tried to reach the pass in the "no man's land" between the checkpoints. But the Chinese would not let him past the check point without a visa. So he turned around an hitchhiked back to Kashgar. We were talking about this in John's Cafe, when he saw one of the other guys who had been with him. That guy mentioned something about hashish. Michael told me the truck driver had stopped to smoke some hashish. I told them about the time last summer, when a lady in Dali tried to sell me some hashish. The other guy laughed, "You don't need to buy hashish in Dali. You can pick it!" Well, I'm not into drugs, so I can't verify that, but it wouldn't surprise me. Dali has the perfect climate for that sort of thing. It's sorta the Greenwich Village or Haight-Ashbury of China.

I don't know why Michael decided to come to Xinjiang. I never really tried to talk him into it, but I have been telling him since last fall that I would be coming here. Actually, it probably doesn't have anything to do with me. Xinjiang has mountains, and Michael is definitely a mountain man.

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