Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Saturday, October 18, 2008

As the nation was perishing I was born. Thirty thousand Frenchmen were vomited onto our shores, drowning the throne of liberty in waves of blood. Such was the odious sight which was the first to strike me. From my birth, my cradle was surrounded by the cries of the dying, the groans of the oppressed and tears of despair. You left our island and with you went all hope of happiness. Slavery was the price of our submission. Crushed by the triple yoke of the soldier, the law-maker and the tax-inspector, our compatriots live despised.It's a bit puzzling, at first, to read Napoleon's rant in his letter to Paoli. We are accustomed to thinking of him as a Frenchman, so why this anger toward the French? But Napoleon, you remember, was a Corsican. His nationalism was never really the same as Paoli's (as he was later to discover). Napoleon had been sent to study in France by his father, and he never really advocated a complete separation from France. This does not mean that his expressions of loyalty to this homeland were insincere. But they were the sentimental musings of a young intellectual who thought of Corsica in his homesickness, while he was at a boarding school in France. His Corsican childhood influenced his thinking, but so did his French education. But I'm boring you. You don't like French history? That's OK. Bring your own book. It's nice up here.

Fragrant Hills. It's about a 90 minute bike ride from Wudaokou. The sky was cloudy, so I wore my jacket. But I got delayed, because I had to stop by the lab for a bit. They ghosted the machines last night because of viruses, and I wanted to check to see that the Oracle image was intact. So by the time I got going, the sun had burned off the morning fog, and the sky had turned to deep blue. I wasn't on the road more than 15 minutes before I was down to my T-shirt. That's autumn for you. You really can't beat a North China autumn. And Fragrant Hills is covered with leaves turning color. This time of the year, the tourists are mobbing the place, so if you sit in the front part of the coffee bar, you will hear the noise (and I do mean noise) from the street. So go out into the back yard and grab a table under a tree. Put your feet up. It isn't everybody's cup of tea (or coffee) I guess; lots of folks can think of better things to do on a pleasant Saturday than sitting in the autumn leaves reading a good book. I sure can't.

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