Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Beijing to Jiamusi Slow Train 

Reading Walter Lippmann in a book called Readings for Citizens at War, which I picked up at my favorite used bookstore which used to be on top of the old Wudaokou Market, which was torn down because of the Olympics, but don't get me started:

It is all very well to say with Voltaire, "I wholly disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it," but as a matter of fact most men will not defend to the death the rights of other men: if they disapprove sufficiently what other men say, they will somehow suppress those men if they can.

Boy isn't that the truth! Freedom of speech is a great ideal, but I'm afraid Lippmann is right. Most people value freedom of speech for themselves, but are much less enthusiastic about preserving it for everyone else.

I was expecting an old train, because of the train number. The "K" trains are faster and have fewer stops. K stands for "kuai." But this train (1489) has a regular number. It is the slow train. Slow in that it stops at every little station yard. Even stopped once at Fengtai before we left Beijing. I didn't even know that Fengtai has its own station.

But it's not too bad, actually. Riding the slow train is the price I paid to get a sleeper, because all the berths were taken on the K train. If you have the bottom bunk in the soft sleeper section, the little table is right by your head. You can set your glasses, or cup, or phone on the table and lie down anytime you want to. All the soft sleeper births have individual reading lamps. The time just goes a lot faster. And I am right next to the dining car, which is handy. The chef was showing me the menu. He asked me what country I was from and then wanted to know if I needed something sweet. I told him I wanted some bai cai (Chinese cooked cabbage). Pretty good meal, actually, and only 20 kuai. I can live with that.

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